A Different Kind of Year
I have to admit, after so many years of traveling on the World Cup circuit, it gets difficult to be creative and find new things to write about. It's hard to know what people think of your blog or if anyone finds it interesting at all in this strange form of one way communication that seems to be the norm in our world these days. This has led to the death of many blogs, mine included...
Then 2020 happened and things became far from the usual and I felt that this might be a year I want to have the ability to look back on some day, hopefully with lessons learned and perspectives gained. So here I am, starting up the blog again and doing my best to record the many mixed emotions of the 20/21 season.
For better of worse, I have learned that my way of dealing with stress and anxiety is to exercise and often exercise hard. As a result, motivation for training was not something I struggled with, if anything I struggled to give myself a break every once in awhile. On the other hand, I wasn't completely sure what I was training for so while the motivation was high, the direction and focus was often a bit convoluted. This was only exacerbated as the season drew closer and changes were not made to the existing schedule, putting it at risk of many cancellations not to mention no possibility of creating a "bubble." Then Covid cases began to drastically rise around the world...
I then, and still do, feel a strong ethical dilemma on whether or not I should, as a global citizen, be embarking on international travel at this time. I feel a responsibility to not want to exacerbate the problem and to keep the often small communities we visit safe. Not to mention, that with the unknown effects on the heart and lungs, I am very fearful of contracting the virus myself. I pushed the decision back as long as I could and went back and forth at least 5 times over the course of the last two weeks before departure. It was honestly one of the hardest decisions I have made as a ski racer and to be honest, I have no idea if it was a good decision or not.
But here I am sitting on the couch in Ruka having just finished some classic intervals, happy for another day of good health and nervous for the uncertain future. In the end, I decided to give it a shot. There were a few underlying thoughts that in no means justify my decision, but hopefully provide some clarity on the many things we must balance in making these choices. I feel the financial pressure to race. After losing some sponsors this summer, the majority of my income will hopefully come from prize money and bonus schedules. My health insurance is provided by the USOPC and I fear losing that. My hometown is experiencing extremely high Covid transmission and I didn't feel particularly safe at home so staying home wasn't going to be the escape I was looking for. I have had a very good summer of training and I am really craving the challenge of putting it to the test on the World Cup. That's what gives me energy in life. My boyfriend was given World Cup starts that he has worked very hard for and really wanted to make the most of that opportunity. We felt going in together would be our best way to support one another and hopefully help keep each other safe. All this, in the end, tipped the scale to going.
I will say traveling from Alaska to northern Finland is never easy, but sealed up in a mask, avoiding people at all costs, and trying to shove meals down in the minimum amount of time possible made the travel quite miserable. But we all made it in one piece! Our whole team received a negative Covid test before departing and then immediately upon arrival were tested again. Obviously, this will not pick up any transmission during travel. This is one of the many challenges of racing in a different country every weekend. I am disappointed that FIS did not make drastic changes to the schedule to try to minimize international travel and develop more of a block system in which we could have a bubble for a period of time before breaking and starting over again. I do not feel that they have put the teams' health first this season and that certainly has me worried.
As a result, we are living in two to three person pods in apartments next to the race course. Any time we leave the building, we mask up and do our best to keep our distance (with the exception of training). We have a team of health care providers through US Ski and Snowboard that have done their best to educate us and put as best of protocols forward that they can. I'm not naive enough to believe this is the secret to keeping everyone healthy, but we can only control so much so I have chosen to focus on what I can control, the actions I can take, and have to believe in that.
Despite all the challenges, I am excited to put the bib on and race. That's what I love! I do hope that some racing action can both entertain those seeking an escape and inspire people to take the time to get outside during these difficult months.