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Author Archive

Olympic Reflections

4.Mar.2014 by Ida Sargent

After a whirlwind three weeks, the Olympics are over.  The finish lines have all been crossed, the medals spread out to nations around the world, the fireworks which blasted over the stadium during closing ceremonies leaving those of us inside with the feeling of being in a war zone have ended, and the Olympic flame was extinguished.  For many of us, though, the racing has continued and there has barely been a moment to catch our breath and recover from the excitement, adrenaline, emotion, and action.  Finding time to reflect on this big moment has been hard as we immediately jumped back into the World Cup season and are continuing racing in Scandinavia. This continuation of movement had reaffirmed to me that the Olympics was not a destination or an endpoint but rather an amazing stop along this incredible journey.  I left Sochi with more excitement than I brought with me and treasure the memories from these Olympic Games.

 

It was a rollercoaster Olympics with the full spectrum of emotions and sensations.  From the extreme heat in the 10km classic race to the bone chilling cold of the airport terminal in the middle of the night for our Sochi departure, I felt it all.  But the emotion that resonated the strongest and the one that propels me forward with new beliefs, goals, and insight, is inspiration.  Inspiration from the complete exhaustion that I felt racing over the top of the last hill after having pushed harder than I ever thought possible.  Inspiration from watching Sophie smoothly ski into the final in the sprint.  Inspiration from being so nervous that I could barely talk before the first race.  Inspiration from the pride of being apart of team USA as we walked into the opening ceremonies dressed in our over the top flag sweaters.  Inspiration from the sound of the stadium during this unforgettable march.  Inspiration for watching medals hung around the necks of fellow athletes.  Inspiration from the disappointment of standing on the sidelines in events which I believed I could do my best.  Inspiration from cheering myself hoarse for teammates as they put their all into the snow, slush, and ice.  Inspiration from the never ending smiles from the friendly, helpful, and colorfully clad volunteers who made this event possible. Inspiration from the peace which prevailed through the Games despite warnings of violence and threat.  Inspiration from the support I received from so many caring friends and family at home.

 

Thank you to all who supported me along the way and made this unbelievable experience possible.

 

Olympic Stadium panorama

 

The Endurance Village

 

The village under a full moon

 

 

Rings and mountains: What a backdrop

 

Susan, Hannah, and I in the rings

 

The chalets where we stayed

 

Team training before the sprint

 

Sprint heats

 

Snowy Rings

 

Go USA! Relay cheering

 

Buddies

 

Watching Hannah and Susan in the Women’s relay and Mixed Relay

 

 

 

Not just sunny weather

 

Palm trees in the Coastal Village

 

The torch!

 

Holding up the flame

 

Closing Ceremonies

 

 

Craftsbury in the front row

 

Let the Games Begin

9.Feb.2014 by Ida Sargent

For a long time, I’ve tried to imagine what it would feel like to walk with Team USA into an opening ceremonies, to conjure in my mind the sights, sounds, and emotions that I would feel.  Finally two nights ago, I had that chance and the experience blew away any hopes or expectations.  Even with the tightest and itchiest turtleneck around my neck, the goosebumps were chilling.  I still have not found the words to describe the how unbelievable it was but I will cherish the memories of holding on to my teammates Sophie and Jessie as the three of us screamed, jumped, danced, and laughed in a burst of happiness, shock, excitement, elation, tears and more.  Even a sweater that we once considered laughable has now become my favorite piece of apparel.  Without any knowledge of the Russian alphabet, we couldn’t understand the order in which the countries marched which just added to the excitement watching each new country emerge into the special stadium which was designed specifically for these ceremonies, and then join the other countries, adding to the cheering and energy filling the space.  “Hot Cool Yours! Hot Cool Yours,” the motto of these games rang loud and clear, chanted in unison as the lights flashed and music blared, bringing everyone together.  And when the Russians walked out the sound of the cheering was deafening, and my excitement and joy reached a new level.  The 2014 Games are less than 48 hours old but it has already been an indescribable experience.  I feel very lucky to be in Sochi with my teammates and coaches and to have such wonderful support from friends and family at home. And most importantly, I am very excited to compete for Team USA and officially become an Olympian.  My racing starts this week on Tuesday with the freestyle sprint and then again on Thursday with the 10km Classic.

 

Sophie, Randy, and I with the rings in the stadium

Perfect ski conditions every day so far!
USA Nordic team dressed up before we left the Endurance Village for the Opening Ceremonies
Team USA athletes showing their skills while we waited for the ceremonies to begin.

Inside the stadium

 

Team Jamaica entering the stadium

Russia enters under thunderous applause

A little TV time on NBC!  It was so fun to hear from everyone who was watching from home.
The outpouring of community support has been unbelievable.  Thank you all!
Looking forward to these next couple weeks of racing with this incredible team!
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Watching Susan and Hannah in their first race right now and I must say I’m more nervous than for most of my races! Go GRP!

Craftsbury Training Camp in Italy

27.Jan.2014 by Ida Sargent
GRP Girls skiing together in Italy!

After the last World Cups in the Czech Republic and Poland, the US Ski Team travelled to Seiser Alm, Italy for a pre-Olympic training camp.  Seiser Alm sits above 2000 meters and after a long training block at altitude over Christmas, I wanted to be at a lower altitude to get speedy and quick, peaking for the Olympics!  So I headed separate ways from the team and headed to Toblach, Italy for a Craftsbury training camp in Europe.  Pepa flew to Toblach to coach me during this time and it has been incredible to have her here for the past eight days.  She’s leaving tomorrow and I will be sad to see her go but excited by the progress that I have made.  Half training camp and half vacation it has been the perfect for me both mentally and physically.  On the ski trails we put in the hard work focusing intensely on technique work, hard intervals, and fast skiing.  The afternoons and evenings have been the relaxing vacation time and the mental break as we spend the time drinking coffee, eating delicious Italian food, and soaking in the sunny mountain scenery.  Liz was here preparing for the Under 23 World Championships so it was awesome to have a GRP training buddy again.  She’s skiing fast and it will be fun to see her kick butt this week in Val di Fiemme.  Hannah and Susan were competing in biathlon World Cups in Antholz, Italy which is about 40 minutes away and Dick and Judy came over to watch the races so the Craftsbury presence made it feel like home!  Hannah, Susan, and I all spend the winter in Europe but the biathlon and XC circuits keep us separate so seeing them here was a real treat.

 

Pepa has her Ipad out at every session.  Seeing the video while I ski allows me to make changes quickly.  Here I am working on my V1 in skate speeds.
Craftsbury reunion in Italy!  We enjoyed a perfect day of skiing and lunch in the sun together.
Mountains and the church in the center of town
GRP girls together in Italy!  So fun to spend time with Susan, Liz, and Han and just missing Clare and Caitlin!

 

Today’s lunch!

Intervals in the sun on my birthday in my “birthday suit” courtesy of the USST ladies and Annie Pokorny.  I got some crazy looks especially when I face planted on the last interval

Very chocolaty birthday cake!  This was actually one of two cakes because our hotel wanted to make sure we had enough!  We have definitely been eating well here!

I usually don’t see Pepa for the entire winter so this week has been great!

This weekend I will be racing in to World Cups in Toblach and then headed to Sochi early next week!  So excited for what is to come!  Thanks for all the cheers and support!

Home away from home

6.Jan.2014 by Ida Sargent

It’s laundry day which sure sounds like nothing exciting to write home about but when you live out of a duffel bag for 5 months of year as an organized migration, rambling from one ski area and hotel to the next in a caravan of rental vehicles, it’s a BIG deal.  Clean clothes, which were not simply washed in a sink and hung to slowly dry in a bathroom which was likely recently flooded by an odd European shower system lacking any walls or curtains to contain the water, become a rare commodity and a comfort in this winter long road trip far from home.  Lately I have lucked out and had plenty of opportunities for clean clothes and have easily found that sense of a familiar routine while still being many miles away from what I normally call home. Davos, Switzerland has become my home away from home.

 

I have spent the last few weeks living at the Hotel Kulm in Davos, taking a winter training block before the next period of World Cup races.  I opted to skip the Tour de Ski which was a difficult decision especially after low snow conditions in Oberhof, Germany led to the addition of a second sprint into the race program.  My love of this lifestyle stems from the excitement found in the travels to each new race venue and the opportunity to lay it all out on the snow and race as hard as I can each and every time I step up to the start line.  Each race and each day are a new challenge.  It’s the reason we train hard, setting goals and chasing crazy dreams.  So it’s really hard to sit on the sidelines but sometimes that is the best choice.  We have a LONG season starting in November and continuing through March so it’s impossible to race week in and week out without taking a break.  In order to prevent a plateau or an early peak, you have to create some variation in the training plan allowing your body to recover and then rebuild for racing at an even higher level.  We all love to race or else we wouldn’t be doing this but it takes patience to plan for the long run and look forward to top performances not just in this moment but later in the season when the stakes are raised.

 

The Hotel Kulm! The US Ski Team has been staying here for year and Heinz Kessler and the rest of the staff are some of the most wonderful people.  They have taken such good care of me during my stay!

 

After great races in Asiago, I was confident in my fitness so it was hard to not continue racing.  But with beautiful sunny weather and perfect ski conditions in Davos, it was also easy to transition into training mode and set my sights on races at the end of January and February.  Most of our team was starting the Tour so I had over a wekk ofalone time in Davos, which was a huge change from normal life on the road where our lives are so closely intertwined that we happily share everything from the smallest European beds to hugs to a rainbow of emotions to stuffed animals to clothes to hand sanitizer to training plans and every insignificant or monumental daily occurrence in between.  As an intorvert, the first 24 hours were refreshing and relaxing but then I quickly began to miss my winter family.  With a solo week ahead, I challenged myself to make each and every day exciting, to make this time energizing and different from the normal race routine, and to take full advantage of being in such a wonderful place.

I soon found the time actually flying by and it felt great to train a lot, ski kilometer after kilometer while also relaxing in one place and taking a break from the long van rides and plane flights which litter a normal week in Europe.

 

So much snow and sun! The valleys were groomed with perfect tracks day in and day out.

The ski conditions couldn’t have been better.  I was a little worried to be responsible for all my waxing as I am usually spoiled by a hard working group of wax techs taking great care of all my skis.  But luckily every day was extra blue skiing and Swix LF6 so I could easily handle that.  When we race a lot there isn’t always a chance to ski very much, focusing instead on intensity and recovering to race fast.   I loved being able to go out on long cruises and explore the valleys and trails of Davos.

 

 

Without a vehicle, I memorized the public transportation system and even with very very minimal German skills felt like a champ choosing which trains would stop at my hotel and which ones would continue on toward Zurich, or timing my afternoon ski perfectly to catch the last bus.  At home in rural VT having a car is a necessity so it was really nice to easily get around in a more sustainable way.

I powered through my book list and enjoyed the time to read uninterrupted.  Some of my teammates had given me the book A House in the Sky for Christmas.  I think they simply thought it was the memoir of a Canadian woman in her mid-twenties who loved to travel solo which would have been the perfect book for this time.  The meat of the story, though, was actually recounting the true story of her abduction while travelling in Somalia and the year she spent in captivity being raped, tortured, and abused.  Her inner strength and will to survive created an incredible and fast paced story but I continually had to think of a happy place and remind myself that Switzerland was very far from Somalia and that there are lots of kind people in the world.  I can laugh at the irony now that my teammates accidentally gave me this boo to read while I was alone in a foreign country.

 In Europe skiing and other snow sports are a big deal and broadcasted live on television so I had lots of races to watch on tv and enjoyed yelling at the screen for my teammates and other friends, being inspired by their impressive performances.  Simi won his first World Cup and the Americans had a slew of top ten finishes in the Tour de Ski!

Winner! 

 

Kikkan was staying in an apartment in town so I can’t actually say I was alone in Davos.  We met up almost daily for training sessions or to hang out.  She celebrated her golden birthday turning 31 on the 31st and I set up a birthday scavenger hunt for her which would lead her around the ski trails and eventually to Café Klatsch in town where I would be waiting for her for a lunch date.  The hunt turned into an epic fail though when she couldn’t find the last couple clues.  Her two hour workout almost doubled in length while I waited at the Klatsch trying to guard her seat during the lunch rush on the busiest day of the year, feeling more and more stood up as each minute passed.  We both gave up at about the same time and returned to her apartment to compare stories and laugh.

Kikkan getting her pump on at the beginning of the scavenger hunt

 

I have really appreciated the extra time for the chance to catch up with friends and family at home.  I’ve connected via phone, Skype, and email with so many people back at in the US and it is great to hear all the stories so keep them coming!  All of the support and encouragement makes a huge difference for me and the rest of our team.  I love to be connected to the community and the cheers from the ski world back home keep me going!

 And the best part of this training block is that my excitement level for the next races is now through the roof!  My stoke level is super high so watch out!  On Wednesday I will drive to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for the next World Cups with a freestyle sprint and a classic team sprint this weekend.  Can’t wait!

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Inner fire burning strong! (Lynn Jennings photo)