Off we go...
Well, I've made it through one full weekend of racing! Despite the dark, I have learned to enjoy racing in Ruka. It's a unique course that definitely took my a number of years for me to figure out, but once you get there, the mini tour format provides for some fun racing.
The set up in Ruka was also ideal for the first World Cup in times of Covid. We stay in apartments that are trailside so there was no transit involved once we were there. We had little kitchens in our apartments that allowed us to cook breakfast and lunch, and the dinner was delivered by the restaurant that we would normally eat all our meals in. We did grocery delivery to avoid spending time in the store as well. This meant that we didn't need to be inside with anyone other than our roommate for the entire time we were there. I went as far as to also avoid all bathrooms and took advantage of my trailside apartment before the race. I warmed up in a mask and kept it one until I had to head to the start and did my best to get back to my mask as quickly as I could upon finishing. It's definitely a little different pre/post race routine, but I find comfort in taking actions that are in my control, like wearing a mask almost all the time.
It felt so surreal to actually be warming up for my first race that I didn't find myself getting nervous. I truly didn't know if any racing would happen or if I would take part in them. I was definitely excited to put my fitness to the test. One of the other exciting (or nerdy) parts of this season is that I did have a different prep season with no camps, no on snow time, and no gym access and I find it very interesting to see the impact of these things on my results versus how I feel about my prep season.
I felt like I was winding up the whole weekend with each day giving me more comfort with race feelings and a greater desire to push hard. This culminated with a strong finish and my best ever World Cup performance. I was thrilled to know that my fitness is where I thought it was and maybe more importantly, that I still could race despite the increase in stress and anxiety that Covid has brought since March. For the most part, I was able to keep my attention on the race, my technique, and my plan, but I did catch myself in a train at one point and wonder/hope that no one had Covid. I think this will be the name of the game this winter as it is for everyone, everywhere right now. I feel fortunate to have a sports psychologist to work with and to have worked on and develop mental strength over the years to constantly be redirecting my attention to things that are within my control and help me feel grounded. Nothing makes it go away and there is no running away, but accepting that it's there and redirecting my attention definitely helps me navigate these challenging times.
Another challenge of Covid has been that there are just significantly less flights so traveling from one location to the next is surprisingly difficult right now as we are often in small towns like Kuusamo that don't have many flights to begin with. Luckily, FIS was able to organize a charter plane that took teams directly from Kuusamo to Munich. It's certainly a hit on the budget, but cut down on travel time significantly and made it so we had close to no interaction with the public. This is not fool-proof as we don't know what other teams have been doing, but it certainly helps reduce risk. Upon landing in Munich, we picked up our rental vans that will be with us throughout the season and drove to Davos where I will be based out of through Christmas time assuming everything continues as planned. In order to again minimize exposure to people and minimize moves, I rented an apartment in Davos that I will stay in for the whole month. Call me a control freak, but I find I can ease my stress and anxiety so much by having a living situation in which I am in control of who I am exposed to and what I'm eating. The thing I am most grateful for is to have Tyler join me here in Davos so we can form our own "pod" and not get too lonely. We have spent an incredible amount of time together since March and haven't gotten sick of each other yet so I think this should be a good situation for both of us! I do miss spending time with my teammates, but who doesn't miss spending time with friends and family right now?!?! As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder...
As has been highly publicize, Norway, Sweden, and Finland have pulled out of the last two weekends of racing before Christmas. The ADN published my thoughts on that if you are interested: https://www.adn.com/sports/skiing/2020/12/03/in-her-words-anchorage-skier-rosie-brennan-grapples-with-whats-safe-and-what-isnt-on-the-world-cup-circuit/
In the end, it's the same start and the same finish and I will be racing my best when the time comes. 'til then, let it snow!!!