Monday, February 16, 2015

Next Stop, World Championships

Last night I boarded a bus with a variety of countries and athletes, and headed to Falun, home of the 2015 World Championships. We just completed a short weekend of racing in Ostersund, where I competed in the sprint race, one of the more unique courses I have ever raced on during the World Cup.

Soph and I in the stadium after our quarterfinal on Valentines Day.

Some of the unique qualities included racing through the middle of stands, packed with nearly 10,000 screaming fans. It was a two lap course, that spent the majority of time in what we call, herring boning technique, a technique we don't use so frequently as racers. It had a short start zone, which meant for a new starting method for sprint racing. It had a narrow course which allowed for little passing, and few places to make moves. It featured a screaming fast downhill into a sharp corner that provided some entertainment for the screaming spectators. And finally, we had no ski testing on the course before the start… so an added challenge for the techs and athletes! Here is a video from the race. My heat starts around 8:50


I also found some footage of this weekends racing on the FIS video from the week. I love this Inside the Fence! There is so much "behind the scenes" on any given World Cup Weekend. One huge piece of it is picking skis, working with your wax tech, and balancing the chaos and stress! It means trusting your tech, believing in your feelings, and finding confidence in the challenging selection of skis. I just want to say a big thanks to the US Waxing Crew!


As the bus left the hotel parking lot and headed for Falun for two very important weeks of this season, I took some time to step back and think about what is coming. For two weeks of this long 18 week racing season, we focus many of our largest goals. It is a goal to race at our best all season long, but for two weeks in the middle, we want to be at our ABSOLUTE BEST. For two weeks we are fighting for the chance to be World Champion, to win World Championship medals, and to reach our highest places possible during the Championships. Much like the Olympics, for two weeks, the world tunes in to our sport and our competition. Suddenly there is great honor in reach new PR's, winning medals, and being the best!

Over the course of my racing, I have realized that during this high pressure, high stress, and exciting two weeks, I have to find the right place for my brain. Rather than focusing on the "outcome", I have found myself trying to narrow my brains focus down to the "process". How am I going to perform my best? By focusing on the steps that I have taken to get me right here, right now, I can arrive on the start line, ready to fight!

It begins with the training. For 48 weeks of the season I have dedicated and committed all my energy and mind to this sport. I owe a huge thanks to many people for allowing this to work. My family, my coaches, my team, my friends, and my sponsors! I have a family that supports my goals and aspirations since I was 5 years old, 

This year I started working with a company that shares very similar values and missions to my sport. With strong roots in both Washington and Alaska- this company has a very similar backbone to me! Their support has given me the platform to achieve my goals as well as allowed me to dedicate myself to my training and becoming the best in my sport. Awarded one of the World's Most Ethical Companies in 2014, Saltchuk shares the belief in clean sport, clean business, and honest methods of achieving success.  As I stand on the start line thursday, in my first World Championship race, I am thankful that this company has supported, believed in me, and inspired me to reach new heights of success. They have shown, they are committed to the communities they serve! Thank you Saltchuk!

Aside from having an incredible family, training hard, and supportive sponsors, it takes the reenforcement of a team. This includes the coaches, athletes, PT's, massage therapists, Sports Psychologists, and many more. I am lucky to have two incredible teams that have weaved a platform of support and commitment to this dream. My incredible Alaska Pacific University Team that I spend the many long summer and fall training weeks with, and secondly, the National Team that I spend the winter racing with. Both of these teams have kept me committed to this chase towards my goals, and encouraged me to push through many tough times!

The World Championship Team

As I spend these next two weeks chasing some of my largest goals of the season, I know I have done the work. I have trained incredibly hard, I have committed my mind and body to this goal, and I have surrounded myself in the people and teams that have believed in me.

I can't wait to get the World Championships started!!

I encourage everyone to tune in and watch. See message below just released by US Ski Team:

Nordic Worlds Live in USA

PARK CITY, UT (Feb. 14, 2015) – Live action from the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Sweden is coming to America Feb. 18-March 1. Fans across the USA and Canada will be able to follow the action at the World Championships with both live and video on demand highlights through an innovative new partnership from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. Every cross country, nordic combined and ski jumping event will be streamed live on usskiteam.com, as well as through the official Falun2015 Live Arena app.
The Feb. 18-Mar. 1 World Championships will mark the first time U.S. fans have had comprehensive free access to an English language broadcast of World Championships. Each event will stream live on usskiteam.com, with parallel transmission on universalsports.com. Video highlights will also be available on the USSA Network on YouTube.
L.L.Bean will be the presenting sponsor of the live coverage from Falun. L.L.Bean has always had a love affair with cross country skiing, beginning decades ago when it first began offering skis to its customers, as well as sharing its passion for the sport by offering a wide variety of courses, trips, tours and clinics and demonstrations for skiing. Most recently, L.L.Bean has teamed up with Kikkan Randall, the most decorated cross country ski racer in U.S. history, to be its newest product design and testing partner. As part of its support of the live streaming coverage, L.L.Bean will feature a 30-second spot featuring Randall, as well as additional content that will be integrated into the broadcasts.
The U.S. Ski Team will feature athletes like cross country World Champions Randall and Jessie Diggins, rising World Cup star Liz Stephen, as well as defending world ski jumping champion Sarah Hendrickson, plus a Nordic combined team featuring Olympic champion Billy Demong and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher. Over 700 athletes from more than 50 countries will compete in the Nordic World Championships in cross country skiing, ski jumping and nordic combined events.
The Falun2015 Live Arena app is powered by Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), the World Championships’ digital experience partner, who has created a platform that will collect a vast amount of data and information from myriad sources throughout the championships.
Most notably, the app will provide a context for the data by correlating static maps and athlete information with competition tracking information alongside the live streaming. It will provide a much more engaging experience than simply watching a video stream, allowing users to be more involved with the event itself.
The Falun2015 Live Arena mobile app is expected to provide the best ‘second screen’ application ever for a skiing event, allowing fans to use the app as a single source for following the race, or a complement to watching live web streaming on usskiteam.com or universalsports.com.
The app is available for iOS devices.
Falun2015 Live Arena Features
Track view: Take part in the competition from the point of view of your favorite skier, or from the TV camera of your choice.
Ski jump: Follow the ski jumping live.
Lugnet: Take a tour around the ski stadium at Lugnet and take part in the events on-site.
Medals plaza: Join the celebrations and medal ceremonies at the main square in Falun.
Interactive camera: Follow the action and zoom to points of interest from your free-flying virtual camera.
Connected Snow: Through sensors and connectivity, app users can experience a heat map, showing where the snow is coldest – an important parameter for skiing.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Russia and Beyond


SInce arriving in Russia January 21st, it has been a serious series of events. Beginning with a bumpy plane ride, a marginally sketchy landing down into Moscow Russia, a patient trip through Customs, where you cross your fingers and just hope your Visa was done correctly as the Border Control Officers seem to stare at your passport for way too long…. and finishes with a long and seriously bumpy 6 hour bus ride up to the famous Rybinsk, Russia. Arriving and traveling in Russia is always unique. It is very different than your normal experience, and requires a fair amount of patience. Somewhere during this unusually long plane, customs, bags, sketchy bumpy bus experience I noticed I no longer had my phone…. so to make this wonderful travel day even better, my drowsy state of travel allowed me to leave my phone on the airplane seat, only to be snatched up by someone immediately. That is a good way to turn "tired Sadie" into an emotional downward spiral! For the six hour bumpy bus ride driving across roads that resemble bumpy fields rather than highways…. I went through this airplane ride, reliving my responsible self… just wishing I had used my brain a little bit more than I had chosen to. In the US, the flight attendants often say in English "please check your seat and make sure you haven't left any belongings". Something I may have brainlessly blocked out in the past…. will now become the true reminder every time I exit the plane!

OK…. it may suck to lose a phone when you are in Europe because retrieving another US Sim Card, and buying a new phone from afar is not that easy…. but at least I didn't lose my Passport!! That would have been a lot worse! So, I tried to just relax, and finish this long day without getting too bent out of shape.

The next six days it was back to business…. training well, recovering well, finding some Russian food to fill me up, staying warm in the frigid cold temps of Rybinsk, and racing hard! I quickly gathered my focused self after an early bump during the travel and dove back into the racing focus. As temperatures hovered below zero degrees F, combined with super high humidity… staying warm was the focus. Breathing masks, kinesio tape, and 3 layers of pants, 5 layers on top, two buffs…. and down pants were the solution. Spending time racing in Europe this winter has meant that we are often above 32 degrees…. with this funky warm winter. So, it took a bit to adjust to these freezing cold temperatures. Not only is the temperature different, but the skiing is very different as well. The snow becomes much slower to ski on, and even trickier to kick classic skis on.

Staying warm and looking silly.
Mass Start Race- USSA photo
The weekend ended up going well, as I made it into the semi finals, finally, only my second time ever on the World Cup. Rybinsk is challenging racing, even if a huge portion of the World Cup Field is missing. Somehow, 20 Russian woman fill in the empty spots and keep the competition level high! There were so many highlights from the weekend including Liz on the podium, Rosie scoring her first World Cup points (13th!!!!), Jessie matching her individual best, both in the sprint and the skiathlon (5th!!!!!!!), and MY BROTHER SCORING HIS FIRST SPRINT POINTS in 19th. Super cool, and super fun weekend!
celebrating Ida's birthday with some Russian made goodies.
Link to some quarterfinals that you can watch both Erik and I. (My heat starts at 7:50)




Next stop, back to central Europe, and a little preparation time before World Championships. Somehow I convinced Jo to come visit for a little 10 day break from work, and a 10 day break from "focus" for me. So, Jo got to join me for my "World Champ pre-camp". He did a good job of keeping me training hard, and keeping me happy. Even though he hasn't cross country skied so much in the past 10 years of his life… somehow he can still manage to stay in front of me… darn!! We managed to fit a few days of "less skinny skis" into the preparation schedule, which was a fun little treat. Jo just finished his full licensing in ski instructing, so I always love to see a different side of him when we go out into the mountains and he goes into his ski instructor mode! 

Enjoying the powder from a higher place.


Awesome to have my wonderful Physical Therapist from home, Zuzana Rodgers, on the road for 5 weeks! She used to be an amazing alpine skier in her past life... so her and Jo were keeping each other good company on the down!
The APU Crew.
12 great days of recovering, training, recovering, training, and we are back at it. We just arrived in Sweden for our final World Cup Weekend before World Championships begins, February 19th in Falun, Sweden. There will be live streaming available, so be sure to tune in.

Erik, making friends in the sunshine as he waits for the girls to catch up on an easy distance ski.
Rosie and I pushing through some slow powder on a speed day.
Morning French Lessons.
Enjoying a date night with a garden of Frogs... my favorite!!!
Sunny ski with my Alaska buddies!
Marine joining us for interval day!
Funny to see him on skinny skis!
Strength training!
Keeping my French wax tech, JP, happy!
The argument continues.... skinny vs. fat!

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Welcome to Estonia"


In all three times I have been here racing in Otepaa, Estonia- there is one song that plays over and over again in the stadium and get's stuck in my head as I ski around the courses in the "grey tint" of Estonia. This is the song called, "Welcome to Estonia". You can listen to it here:


I feel like this song just sums it up! I have always loved coming and racing in Estonia, because I feel like it "keeps me real". As a World Cup athlete, we are often racing in beautiful places, staying in cute little hotels situated in the Alps…. and sometimes I find I need a little "check". Estonia has always been that place for me. Although it is often grey, and more times than not, the sun is hidden behind layers of rain or freezing cold temperatures, it is still fun! The food may not be gourmet, but it tastes good! The Estonians are friendly, helpful, (often beautiful), and they just seem down to earth in the best way! They love their little grey home, and they are proud of it! I have a great deal of respect for that- and honestly, I love that they find their own "beauty" without the mountains, sunshine, and chaos! 

Welcome to Estonia- the view of the stadium from our bedroom window.
Soph and I found some fun and random hats in one of the two stores we could find in town.
So, as this little upbeat song gets played on repeat for the five days we generally spend here in Otepaa;  in my own way, I am always reminded of the true "pleasures" in life. 

Tech Races- best part of the week. Watching our wax tech's thrown down in a team event against all the other waxing teams!! So fun!! Here is JP all ready to go with a waxed mustache and all!

And their off!
Dream Team! Matt, Oleg and JP
OK, on to the racing! It has been a fun week of training and racing here in Estonia. First off, my best friend from home, and the continental cup leader, Rosie Brennan, arrived to join the group. She just got done crushing Nationals back home; so I have been so excited to get her over here to join us. Not to mention, I have missed my roommate and best buddy from back home. So, we have been having a little reunion this week being hotel roommates. It has been awesome to catch up with her and get all the updates about my teammates back home. 
Rosie and I running through the rainy afternoon.

Racing came quickly, beginning with the classic sprint. I had one of my better heats, and just missed qualifying onto semi's by a photo finish….. darn! As frustrating as it seems now to have two weekends missing moving on in a photo finish… I have some confidence it is coming! If at first you don't succeed… try, try again! If you want to watch, it is on youtube. My heat starts around 15 minutes:


Photo finish... soo close!
Day two was team sprinting, one of my favorite events in skiing. I love the perfect combination of both speed and endurance you need for an event like this. I have always really enjoyed team sprinting in the past, so I have been looking forward to this one for a while. Soph and I finally got to make a SODIESPECIAL team sprint, but a series of unlucky events left us standing on the side cheering on our teammates Ida and Rosie for the finals, rather than joining them. With some variable and slowing weather conditions combined with some falls… it just wasn't the magic we were capable of. But, that's ok. As with all racing, sometimes things just don't work out right. It was incredibly exciting to watch Rosie and Ida race their hearts out and finish 6th!! So impressive and fun to watch!

Always the best of crowds here! Nordic Focus photo

We now have two days of training here in Otepaa before heading to Rybinsk, Russia for next weekends period of "cold racing". Hopefully the warm weather gods will grant us one last "warm weather wish" and keep Rybinsk from freezing over!!

Happy Snow Day- FIS photo

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tour de Ski


For the first time, I participated in the Tour de Ski… otherwise known as the "big battle". For years I have been watching this race, and dreaming of the challenge of participating in it. Never did I really realize what exactly it entailed though. I knew that there was somewhere between 7-9 races. I knew that it ended with a hill climb. And, I knew that it entailed racing in several different locations.
Dinner with the Haub's in Obersdorf- some of Erik and my WONDERFUL supporters! So wonderful to share an evening with them!
Not until starting it did I realize that it is a constant RUSH of testing, racing, sleeping, resting, packing, traveling, racing, sleeping, eating, driving, resting, racing, etc., etc.  There are very few seconds to turn your brain off, and truly relax. 

My tour roommate J.Diggs enjoying some nice views and beauty sunshine!
One of the road trips between venues. Race, come home and grab your bags, and jump in the van for a 3 hour road trip to the next venue. Fun stuff!
With such quick turnover... sometimes it just isn't worth it to unpack
The first two races of the Tour were in Obersdorf, Germany, somewhere I had never been. The French Team was friendly enough to bring Erik and I over to Germany, so we quickly jumped back into the swing of racing after a wonderful break! After a nice streak of cold, snow, and wintery conditions… conditions switched just in time to rain and tropical storm as the racing began. Although it seemed to be a constant downpour in Obersdorf, somehow we found ourselves lucky enough to never race in the rain! While it was warm, it wasn't soaking us! Obersdorf was overly exciting for me, because I had my very first top 10 of the season… in SKATE skiing. Something I wasn't even dreaming I would achieve this year, so I was pretty stoked. Starting on a good note, I was ready to "head to battle" with a smile!

Hanging out waiting for the "Tour de Ski Opening Ceremonies"

Skate Prologue in Obersdorf- Marcel Hilger Photo
Knocking Knees.. always! Marcel Hilger Photo- 10k Classic, Obersdorf
The four days of racing included:

3.3k Prologue- Obersdorf, Germany

10k Classic Mass Start- Obersdorf, Germany

Skate Sprint- Val Mustair, Switzerland

5k Classic- Toblach, Italy

Enjoying some sunshine with my buds in Val Mustair
Some Val Mustair Sprinting.
It was an exciting 5 days of traveling, racing, staying healthy and strong, and putting our best efforts down each day. I found it so fun and exciting to race, and know we were having another chance the following day!

Recovery Methods... massage, ice baths, contrast baths, stretching... and SLEEPING

Before the Tour, my coach, Flora, and I put together a plan for Period 2 of racing. This included doing the first four stages of the tour, resting in Ramsau for a week, and then racing in Estonia and Russia the following two weekends. Not knowing how the tour would go, I was excited and set with this plan. When day four of the tour came around, the 5k Classic in Toblach, I finished the race, and found myself sitting 7th overall in the Tour. Suddenly this plan I had made didn't sound so fun… I wanted to keep going! As I did my warm down, I took a step back, and thought about my goals for the season. Some of the top ones on the list revolved around early February, in Falun, for World Championships. While it seemed so tempting to keep going in this incredibly fun pursuit, the Tour de Ski, I stuck to my guns, and kept the same plan. I have many more years ahead to take on "the big beast". 

Givin' it all!
Sometimes it just feels so good to go to exhaustion!
I have watched the Tour de Ski for many years now, but I now feel like I have the true appreciation for it. I have so much more respect not only for the people that win it, but everyone that completes it!! It is incredible to watch people just tough it out, and keep fighting, day after day… when it seems impossible to have that much energy for so long! I only did four days, and it felt HARD! Not only that, all the staff are having a race of their own!! For them, they are working like crazy, driving us, going to all the meetings, and hardly getting any rest. They have our job, except without the rest and recovery! Yikes! Big thanks to you guys!

JP and I doing some testing (Anatolii Tsymbalov photo)

I am now in Ramsau, Austria trying to enjoy 5 days of rest and recovery, before jumping back into the swing of things and heading to Estonia for a sprint weekend. 

More racing to come soon!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Holiday Break

APU Christmas Fun

Growing up, Christmas was my favorite times of the year. I loved the holidays. To me, it meant family time, playing in the snow, presents, yummy meals, and lots of holiday spirit. In the Bjornsen household, we celebrate in full force! For the past two years, I have spent Christmas away from my family, and overseas. Having a french boyfriend, and his french family nearby- I have learned to appreciate the "french christmas" a bit more. While it is very different, it has become something to look forward to in a new way. They put together an amazing meal, and like Americans, surround themselves in lots of family! I learned that Santa actually comes and brings presents to children in France…. he doesn't just show up in the middle of the night when the children are sleeping. Neat!

Christmas Dinner Party at the Saquet's
Jo helping the little guy's unwrap their gifts from Santa
I asked Santa for snow.... but it didn't quite come as I was hoping.
Christmas in Meribel
Having a ten day break from racing meant that I had a small opportunity to get some "away time". I have learned my ski racing depends on being happy. Being happy means getting a little time away, and finding some time to turn my "professional/serious brain off". I am lucky to have my boyfriend living over on this side of the pond, so I get to go have a little break with him. He is always working a lot during Christmas, so it just means a lot of resting and catching up on life. There wasn't much snow in Meribel, so I was finding myself doing more hiking and jogging than normal, but it was just a nice "mental vacation". I did manage to force myself to ski once a day on the mini .5k loop of ice… but it was the hiking on dirt that I was most enjoying!
Not much snow, but a whole lot of enthusiasm! Love meeting up with my little "Meribel Ski Club buddies"
Enjoying some good wine and good food "while in France"
The awesome Meribel Ski Club girlies
Discovering some cabins in the hills while out running.
After 5 days in Meribel, I headed towards Villard de Lans, where my brothers girlfriend and her family live. Holidays are a prime time to get extremely home sick, so it was really nice to meet up with my brother. It was also really fun to meet Marine's family, who took me in and made me feel right at home! I quickly fell in love with Villard and the Dusser's! The skiing is some of the best skiing I have done, the area is really beautiful, and the people are all wonderful in Villard! There are many french biathletes and nordic skiers living in Villlard, so we were in great company as well! It is definitely a place I will go back to!
Polar Plunge...
Skiing in Autrons (just a few k's from Villard). Maybe my new favorite place in the world to ski!!
One evening we went bowling, and made bets with each other. I won my bet, so Robin (one of the skiers on the French Team) had to wax my skis for training... he is not quite as good as my French Tech on the World Cup.. but I had some good training skis!
Running through the streets of Villard with Erik and Marine
A view of town.
Marine soaking in some evening sunshine.
Interval day, getting chased by Marine
Pretending we are in the Methow for the day.
Marine's sister, Fanny, getting my fingers ready for some golden Tour de Ski days.

After five short days, Erik and I jumped in with the French team and headed to the Tour de Ski. Updates from the Tour de Ski coming soon..!!

Headed for Obersdorf with the French Squad.