Minnesota Youth Ski League
 
 

Jessie Diggins blog for kids

May 23, 2013 Hey MYSL Kids!

I’m back! After a short break to rest and recover from last season’s racing, training and fun times on skis has started up again, and so has the MYSL blog.

I’ll be writing every month during the summer, and a couple times a month during the race season. If you’ve never read my blog before, here’s what you’ll find in every post: I’ll tell a short story about what’s been going on – a race story, crazy travel story, or tell you about what we’re doing for training. I have a section about skiers and kids from different places around the world, so you can read about what skiers are doing in Norway, Canada, Russia, and more. I’ll tell you some cool things about whatever place I’m in when I write the post, and I’ll end with a training tip or challenge for you to work on. I promise to write them as long as you promise to try them!

Right now I’m in Bend, Oregon, at the US Ski Team’s first training camp of the year. It’s a cool setup because we stay down in town where it’s usually pretty warm and often sunny, and every morning we drive up the mountain to ski at Mt. Bachelor. As we drive up, it gets colder and the side of the road turns from green grass to snow banks. We even had a snowstorm going this morning!

I love the US camps for a variety of reasons, but maybe the most important is how it feels like my second family. Since I’m on the road for so long and barely ever in Minnesota anymore, it’s important to be traveling with people I like who I can have fun with and hang out with. Luckily for me, I really like all my teammates and coaches, and I know that every camp we’ll have fun times. For example, every year in Bend we have a baseball game against the Canadians, who are training here at the same time. We go out to a movie, cook team dinners, and go to outdoor concerts. We also meet and talk about goals for the upcoming year; what results we want to get, how we want to act as a team, and what we’re going to work on every day and every week to meet our goals.

Skiers from Around the World:

This spring, I was in Truckee/Tahoe Donner, California for Spring Series, the last big races of the season. Before the races started, I got to meet a lot of the kids from the ski club, which was really fun. All the skiers were really excited about improving their skiing technique and having fun outdoors with their friends. It reminded me a lot of the MYSL program, although these kids were a little older.

Bend is another really active town, and while we’re here we’ll do a Fast and Female event and get to meet another group of girls. It seems like most of the people here in Bend are really into enjoying the outdoors, and there are a lot of great trails for running and biking, and a fun river to paddle down.

Cool things about:

Afton, Minnesota

My hometown! I spent about a month at home before leaving for Bend, so I got some quality time in. I love how Afton is a really small town, with many of the houses spaced out so far that you can’t see your neighbors through the trees. There are much more hills in Afton than anywhere else I’ve been in Minnesota, so the roller skiing is really great and you’ll see lots of people out biking, roller skiing or running every weekend. When I was training during the summer with the Stillwater Area High School’s program, we’d end most of the our workouts by the river so we could jump in right afterwards. It felt so good!

Training Tip:

Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over again can get really boring. And this spring, with all the crazy weather and snow falling then melting, it can be hard to want to go outside and have fun being active because by now you might be tired of snow, or too cold to want to run around in the mud! So the challenge for this month will be to find and try out a new activity, one that you’re excited about.

 Maybe you’ve never tried indoor rock climbing, or maybe you’ve never taken a dance lesson and want to sign up for a kids Zumba class at the YMCA. Maybe you live near a gymnastics area that has open hours so you can try jumping into the foam pit (my favorite activity!). Never tried baseball? Grab a few friends, a bat and ball and head outside. Set up an obstacle course around the house. Treetop ropes course? Do it! Whatever it is you want to try out, find something new and ask your parents to help you find something fun. 
 
Till next time,
***Jessie***

 

March 15, 2013 Hello MYSL Kids!

This is my last post for you for a little while, so it’s a longer one. I want to share with you the story from World Championships, where Kikkan and I won the Gold medal in the skate team sprint race. It was a big deal for the USA because it’s the first gold our country has ever won at a World Champs!

A little over a month before World Champs even started, I saw the sprint course for the first time, and I started visualizing the race in my head. I guess you could call me crazy, but I think I’ve played the race in my mind around 100 times.

Race morning we did our usual routine…both Kikkan and I stuck to what we’d been doing all year, not changing anything. We got to the venue and practiced a few tags in the zone, and I tested skis with my tech, Jason Cork, who picked the pair for me when I got too nervous to be able to feel my feet anymore.

For the semifinal, Kikkan and I wanted to ski tactically smart and save as much energy for the final as possible. So I tucked into 2-4th place whenever I could, and stayed out of trouble, often accelerating a little into the tag zone so I could get a clear line to my teammate. We moved on through to the finals without a hitch, but what I was most excited about were my skis – they were SO fast, and I kept telling the techs what an incredible job they’d done. In between the semifinal and final, we had just enough time to chill out and put our feet up, and try to relax as much as possible. Then it was time for the final!

The first leg was a much more relaxed pace, and I started out in front to stay out of trouble but then settled into third or fourth. Again, I was thrilled to notice that my skis were running super fast, which was especially good since the course ended on a downhill and flats. Kikkan and I had smooth exchanges – we’d tag off and immediately pop our skis off and hand them to the techs in the pits, who would brush them out and keep them running fast. It was kind of like a pit crew for NASCAR, only in a ski race!

On my last leg (the 5th lap total of 6), I knew I had some extra energy kicking around, and I wanted so badly to tag Kikkan off into a great position. I knew that with the way she’d been skiing and how strong of a sprinter she is, I really just had to tag her into the first pack of skiers and she’d be able to pull it off, but crazy things happen in sprint races and I wanted to try to get her a lead if I could. So on the big hill, I skied absolutely as fast as I knew how, and started to drop the skiers behind me. But near the top, before we went under the bridge and around the corner, the Finnish girl behind me stepped on my pole and it came straight off my hand!

A couple thoughts flashed through my mind – first, a little irritation because I was trying so hard to get a lead and skiing with one pole isn’t usually the way to get a lead, then secondly I thought “well, the course is mostly flat and downhills from here…I can totally finish this thing up with one pole”. Truthfully, I wasn’t thinking much beyond “go, go go!” And I guess because I skate a lot with my legs anyways, I was able to keep the pace up till I got under the bridge, where the coaches were standing at the top of the hill.

And that’s when Erik Flora did his amazing 50m dash down the hill with one of the spare poles – he got it to me so fast, it was incredible! I was able to tuck behind the Finn and slide my hand into the biathalon strap, and re-boot mentally for the second half of the course. A quick note – the Finnish girl didn’t mean to take my pole off, and she came up after the race and apologized. But I wasn’t mad at her – that kind of thing happens in sprint racing! And it all worked out ok anyways.

We came flying down the steep downhill of the course, and I was able to slingshot into the lead and somehow hold it until I tagged off to Kikkan. Then she flew around the sprint course and crossed the line with over a 7 second lead! The whole team’s efforts made that race possible – and as I ran over to the finish pen I could barely breathe I was so excited. I hugged Kikkan and then realized that my parents and friends and family were watching that race on TV, and I started crying as it hit me that we really won.

Winning a race feels really awesome, but the podium ceremony lasts a couple minutes, and to get up there, you have to train for years and YEARS. And if you aren’t loving what you’re doing, enjoying each and every day of training with a team that you like and respect, then it’s not going to be worth it. Because having a gold medal doesn’t change you. It doesn’t make you happier or smarter or more successful. It means you have a shiny piece of metal that will end up in a drawer somewhere! What stays with you are the memories, the friendships, the great moments over the years with your team. So, if you’re dreaming about winning a gold medal someday – find a team you like, with people you like, and make your goal not just to win a medal but to enjoy every day and every step of the way there!

Skiers from Around the World:

At World Champs, countries who almost never come to the regular World Cup races show up, with their athletes totally excited to race. In order to finish some of the mass start races, however, you can’t get lapped. Because each race goes around a set loop a certain number of times, if the leaders of the race catch up with the skiers at the back, the slowest skiers have to step off the trail and don’t get to finish the race. They have this rule so that the fastest skiers don’t have to weave in and out of traffic, but because sometimes just finishing the race is so hard for countries who haven’t skied much before, it’s a big deal to be able to not get pulled. So when we were cheering for the men’s 50km race, where they did six loops, we yelled especially loud for the skiers going really hard on lap 5 so they would be allowed to finish the race. And a bunch of them made the cut-off!

Another interesting difference between all the countries is how they prepare before the Championships. The Scandinavian countries always go to high altitude in the Italian Alps. They have been doing this for years and are superstitious, and won’t change their routine! And I guess it works, because Norway and Sweden took home a lot of the medals. Our team also went to altitude, but we were in Davos, Switzerland, which is a little lower.

Cool things about World Championships:

The World Championships are the highlight of everyone’s season. It’s like at home how everyone prepares for Minnesota State, or the Birkie, or the Vasaloppet. It’s the BIG race that everyone’s been waiting for! So there’s a lot of excitement in the air, and at the end there’s a sense of relaxation in the air, since everyone’s done with the most important part of the race season.

The defending champion of each race gets to start with a special bib, that says “World Champion 2011” (because the last World Champs event was in 2011). So next year, the US skiers racing the team sprint will get to wear the “World Champion 2013” bibs! Because you get to keep your bibs, many people get them framed or hang them up on the wall, to remember the event by.

The awards ceremonies were a pretty fun event. There were bright lights flashing around an outdoor stage, that illuminated the big crowd that contained fans from many different countries, all proudly waving their flags for their favorite athletes. There was loud music and to open each ceremony a group of dancers performed a routine of the history of skiing, through dance. It was pretty neat! In addition to the snowflake medal that is always awarded to World Champions, each venue gives out a trophy that’s special to that region. Because the wood from that area is used to make famous violins, the awards were made of wood shaped like the curve of a violin.

Training Tip:

The final training tip for the year is for when you are in the middle of a longer race. Sometimes, it’s so easy to start thinking “this is hard, I don’t want to do this anymore”. This happens to even the best skiers, and they practice different strategies for thinking about racing differently. Here’s a couple ideas of what you can think about during a race to stay motivated and focused!

One way is to focus only on the trail you can see right ahead of you. I like to do this – instead of thinking “oh, I have so much more left to ski!” I think only about the snow in front of me and how I can ski the hill I’m on as well as I can. Another strategy is to think what your favorite sports hero would do. How would they ski up the hill, and down it? What would their technique look like? Pretend to be them, and soon you’ll start skiing faster just thinking about it! Another skier I know likes to think of herself as a different animal every few kilometers. She’ll start the race thinking about skiing the way a panther would, attacking each uphill and skiing fast. Then she’ll switch to skiing like a coyote, trying to scamper up the hills and sneak around other skiers. It helps to distract your mind sometimes! So next time you’re in the middle of a long ski or race, try one or all of these, and see what happens!

I hope you have a great spring, and enjoy getting outside as much as you can! There’s a lot of fun activities to do with family and friends, and I challenge you to get outside every single day.  I’ll write one post a month all through the summer, so you can hear the inside details on what it’s like to train year-round as a professional skier, and how much fun it is!

Have a great end to your winter!

***Jessie***

 

2.24.13 World Champions in the house. This is Jessie's latest post, written the day before she became the World Champion in the Team Sprint with Kikkan Randall.

Hello MYSL Kids! This week something pretty special and exciting is going on
– the World Championship races! Everybody knows that the Olympics are held every 4 years, but the World Champs is every 2 years – the year before and the year after the Olympics. This year the World Championship series is in Val di Fiemme (where I wrote to you from the Tour de Ski) and once again the US Ski Team is staying in Predazzo, a town near the race courses. There are Ski Jumping events, Nordic Combined (ski jumping + cross-country skiing) and Cross Country races.

                Everyone has been training hard and preparing all year for these races…they are the highlight of the season, and this week some people will reach their goals, some will be disappointed, some will have a surprise breakout performance, and everyone will have a chance to race against the very best in the world. In Cross Country, the races being held are (in order): classic sprint, 15km skiathalon (where you ski the first half classic, then switch to skate), skate team sprint, 10km skate, 4x5km relay (first two people classic, second two people skate), and the 30km classic. The men race the same events but the distances are longer (30km skiathalon, 15km skate, 4x10km relay, 50km classic) and their sprint course is 0.3km longer as well.

                The events I am most excited about are…the team events! No surprises there. I even chose to skip the classic sprint and skiathalon events in order to rest up for tomorrow’s skate team sprint. I will be racing with Kikkan (who also skipped the skiathalon in order to rest) and we know that if all goes well, we have a chance to medal. Sprinting can get crazy, and you never know what will happen, but believing in yourself and your teammate and knowing that you can do it bring a lot to the start line. So hopefully all the pieces fall into place tomorrow! The other events I am racing in are the 10km skate, the 4x5km relay (I’ll be one of the skate legs), and the 30km classic race. I’m really excited to see how the week plays out.

Skiers from Around the World:

                In order to get a start right at the World Championships, you need to have skied a FIS race and scored a certain FIS point-value that is low enough. So there were skiers from some countries that hadn’t yet skied fast enough in a race to qualify. To give them a chance to earn a starting bib, there were qualifying races right before the start of World Champs: a 5km skate for girls, and a 10km skate for boys. The top-10 finishers from each race would be allowed to start in the individual races at World Champs. I think that’s really cool because it lets even more people get a chance to race!

                The fans of Nordic Skiing in Europe are pretty amazing, and especially the fans from Scandinavia. Right by the side of the trail is the Norwegian “Viking Camp”, where about twenty tents are set up with Norwegian flags all over the place. The fans of the Norwegian skiers take up their own section of the stadium, and I think it’s pretty fun because although they’re not cheering for our team, they still make a ton of noise!

Cool things about Predazzo/Val di Fiemme:

Every day, from about 1-3:30 in the afternoon, all the shops here close down, and the owners go home to eat lunch, take a nap, have a coffee. It definitely slows down business, and you have to time your shopping just right because a number of times I’ve walked to the store only to remember that it’s closed, and then I have to sit and wait!

The USA Women’s Ski Jumping coach, Paolo Bernardi (pronounced “Pah-low”) is from Predazzo, and has a house here! He has been working with the women’s team for a couple years now, and before that he worked for the Nordic Combined USA athletes. This week, USA’s Sarah Hendrickson won Gold in the ski jumping competition, and is now the World Champion! This was extremely exciting for the whole team, and especially Paolo, since he saw his athlete win in front of his hometown crowd. It was definitely a very inspiring moment!

The race venue at Val di Fiemme was the site of the 2003 World Championships, and the race organizers here are no strangers to big races. Since the Tour de Ski ends here and they’ve hosted World Champs before, the race trails are really hard, challenging, well-groomed, and wide enough for 6 classic tracks!

Training Tip: I hope you got a chance sometime in the last few practices to try using the 3-point checklist we talked about in the last training tip! Training your mind is just as important as training your body to go fast, but this week’s tip is more about what to work on while you’re skiing. Speed! In honor of the sprints going on this week, when you are at practice this week try doing some ten-second speeds. When you only do a sprint for ten seconds, it’s not enough to make you super tired, which means you can do a couple of them, as long as you rest well in-between. Sprinting for a short time teaches your arms and legs to move fast and be coordinated. And maybe best of all…going fast is FUN!  

Have fun powering up those hills!

***Jessie***

 

US Ski Team sporting their MYSL tshirts
 

Star Tribune article about Jessie from 2/8/13 http://www.startribune.com/sports/190315491.html

2.10.13 Hey MYSL Kids! Last time I wrote to you, I was in Russia, checking out the Olympic venue for next year’s Winter Games.

It was very exciting and different to be in a country with some customs that are similar, and some totally different than ours. I raced twice last weekend; the skate sprint, and the 15km skiathalon. In the skate sprint I was feeling ready to go fast, and I was very hopeful that I would make it through the quarterfinals to the next round. But after a slow start off the line, I wasn’t able to get around the other skiers in my heat, and only the top two from each heat move on. I still had a good result at the end of the day but initially I was disappointed that I hadn’t performed to my full potential. And with advice from my parents, I realized that it’s actually ok to finish a race and not be satisfied, as long as you plan to fix whatever went wrong so that in the future it can be better! That’s why I do a 3-point checklist at the end of each race, which I’ll tell you all about in the “training tip” section.

The Skiathalon was a 15km race, where we started all together in a mass start and raced the first half of the race on our classic equipment, then finished the race on our skate gear! Here’s how it works: in the stadium, there is a long row of boxes, or “pits”, with a number on each one that corresponds to each racer’s bib number. Before the race, each skier loads their skate skis and poles into their pit. Then the race begins, and after 7.5km of classic racing the skiers come into the stadium, and ski into their box, where they quickly take off their classic poles and skis and put on their skate ones. Then they ski out of their box and finish the next 7.5km of the race. It sounds like fun, right? It definitely is a blast, and you have to practice switching your skis and poles beforehand if you don’t want to lose too much time in the pits!

After finishing the race weekend in Russia, our team traveled to Davos, Switzerland, where we’ve been training and living at higher altitude. This weekend some of us decided to jump into a race – the Swiss National Championships! The girls took 4 out of the top 5 spots, and the boys took 3 out of the top 6. It was a fun day, for sure!

But even more fun than racing in Switzerland was making this music video! We got the entire team to pitch in and sing, dance, and just do funny things to Taylor Swift’s song “I Knew You Were Trouble”. If you want a good laugh, you should check out the best skiers in the US falling into snow-banks and trying to lip-synch! Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0zD8dAguIk&feature=youtu.be

Skiers from Around The World: One of the very best male skiers in the world, Dario Cologna, is from Switzerland. So when we went to the Swiss Nationals, his own personal fan club was there! I’m sure you’ve heard that cowbells are great noisemakers when cheering for ski events, but can you imagine cowbells as big as you? That’s what Dario’s fan club had on – they had to wear the bells like backpacks and every step they took the bells would make a big clunking noise. So they marched together along the side of the course, and they were great cheering for everyone, but they were especially noisy when Dario came by. The fan club members travel to a lot of Dario’s races so anytime the World Cup comes near Switzerland, you can be sure you’ll hear the gigantic cowbells, too!

Cool things about Davos, Switzerland: Switzerland is famous for extremely good chocolate, and cheese! However, at the restaurant/hotel we are living at, the food has been amazing yet they have not served us ANY cheese fondue or chocolate! How is that possible? I think they are saving it for the last night.

Switzerland is also famous for being efficient and timely (they make watches here, for goodness sake!) and so whenever I want to go into town I know that the trains and buses will be exactly on time – they always are! The town here is fairly long (not as long as Sochi is, though) and there are a number of coffee shops and bakery-tea-rooms that are always jam packed every afternoon with hungry skiers. Because there are amazing cross-country trails and tons of chairlifts for the alpine skiers, you see a lot of people in their training clothes carrying skis along the streets.

Training Tip: Every single time you put on your skis and go race, train, or cruise through the woods, you have a great opportunity to get better! Which is why after every race, and some practice sessions, I do my 3-point checklist. I think of three things that went well; maybe I timed my warm-up perfectly, maybe I had really good technique on the hills, maybe I got into a really nice tuck on the downhills and didn’t fall. Then, I think of three things to work on for next time so that I can learn and get better. Maybe I want to warm up more before a race, maybe I want to be thinking more about my V1 technique during the race, maybe I want to try and start the race faster than I’m used to next time. This way, every race experience, no matter how the results come in, I am recognizing that I worked hard and did things well, and I have ways to get better!

So next time you go to practice, or do a race, afterwards take a moment and run through your own 3-point checklist. Even better – write it down! That way, you know a lot of things you did well and you have a few things to remember for next time so you will be even better.

That’s all for now!

***Jessie***

1.29.13 Hello MYSL Kids! This post is written to you from Sochi, Russia – the longest city in the world! It runs along the black sea, and I’m staying up on top of a mountain, at the ski venue where the 2014 Olympics will be held next year.

It’s pretty exciting to see all the buildings pop up in the woods, and everything here is brand-spanking new. The houses we are living in are very big and nice, although when the boys upstairs take a shower the water leaks down through the floor and drips from the ceiling of the common room downstairs! So there have been many Russian plumbers coming through our house, trying to fix the pipes and in the meantime we have a collection of bins on the floor to catch the water drips. 

Last week we spent training in Les Saisies since there was a weekend off from World Cup racing. It felt really nice to get to spend week without any stress of racing and just go for long skis in the sunshine and mountains! It’s important to be able to take some recovery time and not be racing every weekend, otherwise we get “burned out”, which is our way of saying too tired and grumpy to want to race anymore!

While I was in France, I received a bunch of great letters and questions – thank you guys for asking whatever you’re curious to learn about! I’ll answer a couple of them this week as best I can: 

Question: “Don’t you get tired of racing every day?”

Answer: Yes! But only after a long time. During the Tour de Ski there was so much excitement that I didn’t feel really tired until after it was all done. But then it is important to take some time off to ski slowly and do some easy training, and after a couple weekends of racing in a row we usually take a weekend to just train so that we don’t get too tired and every race can be a fast one! 

Question: “What is the fastest ski technique in skate skiing? And which do you use to go uphill?”

Answer: The fastest technique depends on if you are going uphill or on the flats. When you are skiing on flat ground or a slight uphill, V2 is definitely the fastest. You pole once on each side as you skate along, and with good push-off from each side you can get moving very fast! And when you come to an uphill? V1 is your best technique, as you can pole on just one side and your feet are a little wider apart to help you climb up the hill. 

 Skiers From Around the World:

 

Here in Sochi there is a little bunny hill for alpine and snowboarding, on top of the mountain. We walk up the side of the hill to get to the dining hall, and every morning there are at least 20 kids under 10 years old learning how to alpine ski. They are crashing and getting back up, learning how to be coordinated on skis, just like you guys had to first learn how to stay upright!

And in Les Saisies, there were groups of kids your age skiing behind their instructors, doing drills like skiing with no poles and making step-turns around downhill corners. It was fun to see all the groups of skiers, and it looked just like MYSL practice! Once again, it doesn’t matter where in the world you happen to be – most skiers are the same in all the ways that matter. Although because the Nordic Trails come close to the alpine hills, these kids had on bright yellow safety vests so that skiers and snowboards coming down fast could watch out for them. 

Cool things about Les Saisies: It is a small town in the mountains in France, and it’s where they have the Olympic venue from the 1992 Albertville Olympics! So there is a great ski stadium, and biathalon shooting range, and all the trails are very wide and well-groomed. It’s also at higher altitude, ranging from 4,200-5,000 ft above sea level (Minnesota is about sea level). So it’s harder to breathe up there, and even walking up the stairs you arrive at the top breathing much harder than normal. That’s why we made sure to ski a little slower than normal for the first day, because it’s easy to accidentally go too hard and then make your body super tired for the next few days.

And, since Les Saisies was in France, there was very fresh bread and good cheese everywhere. Of course! Each morning we would walk to the bakery and buy hot baguettes straight out of the oven, and tuck the steaming loaves under our arm and run back to the house so everyone could have some hot bread and jam for breakfast. The food in France was pretty spectacular. 

Cool things about Sochi, Russia: There are crazy transportation systems here! To get to meals you can either walk up the side of the bunny hill, or jump on the back of a snowmobile. The drivers go fast through the icy snow and we always end up bumping along. Or, if you take a van ride, you end up going through a tunnel with a huge deep mud puddle in the middle. I always cross my fingers and hope the van doesn’t get stuck, or else we’d end up wading in mud up to our knees!

Also, there are guards everywhere here. They have grey uniforms, or blue jackets (for the volunteers) and they have big fur hats, and most of them don’t smile. They will stop the van or snowmobile at checkpoints, and look at your credentials to make sure you are allowed in. When we arrived in Russia, we were all given credentials – a plastic card that has our picture on it and words letting the guards know where we are allowed to go. It’s very important not to lose the card, otherwise you might not get let back into your house! There are also lots of rules here – having your credentials everywhere, rules about transportation, rules about having meal tickets to get your food. So if you thought there were a lot of rules to follow at school, just imagine being in Russia for a day! 

Training Tip: This time the training tip is about going downhill fast. If you think about it, when a race starts and finishes in the same area, half of the race is going uphill and the other half must be downhill, right? So, it’s very important to learn not only how to go fast up the hills but how to go fast down them, too!

Here’s how I go about making my downhills as fast as I can: when I come to the top of a hill, I take one last push with my poles and then get into my best tuck. I bend my knees and fold forward so that my head is low and I bring my arms and poles in so that my hands are up by my chin. When there is a corner, I think about looking where I want to go, not looking off into the woods! If I look where I want to turn, and “steer” my hands in that direction, the rest of my body follows as I step my skis around the corner. The last thing I think about is to be fearless! It’s okay to fall down once in a while, because that’s how I learn and get better. So next time you’re out skiing, pick a hill and try going down it as smooth and fast as you can, in your best tuck. It can be really, really fun to go fast! 

Till next time…happy skiing!

 

***Jessie***

 

1.14.13
 
Hello MYSL Kids! 
Last time I wrote to you was the first day of the Tour De Ski, and I was in Oberhof, Germany. Now I am writing from Predazzo, a small twisty-turning town in Italy, in the Val di Fiemme (a big beautiful valley in the mountains with many other small towns). Well, the Tour is finished, and I am a very tired but happy skier!
 
Our team did well, and after the 7 races were combined I placed 21st overall, which is fun but not nearly as satisfying as the feeling of accomplishing a big challenge – to make it through so many races and travel days in one piece, and with a positive experience and attitude. Still, a big goal of mine this year has been to be skiing fast enough to be one of the top 30 racers in the world, and this was another step towards that goal.

Think about what goals you’ve set for yourself this year, some big goals that might be a little scary or challenging at first, but will feel so good once you work on them! Maybe you want to ski a certain number of kilometers, or race a couple races, or ski every weekend all winter. Every time you go out on your skis, and practice, you are taking a step towards meeting your goal. It feels really good, right? I definitely think so, and my teammates are feeling the same way right now since everyone challenged themselves with the Tour.

The Tour had so many fun experiences that it’s hard to narrow them down! But I’ve picked out the best ones to share with you. The Tour started in Oberhof, Germany, then went to Val Mustair, Switzerland. From there it traveled to Toblach/Dobbiaco, Italy (the town has split names, one of them is German and the other Italian) and ended in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

One of the cool things was the tour buses. Some of the teams (Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland) have wax buses where they keep all their equipment and the techs drive the buses from one venue to the next. But there were also a couple buses there just for the tour, and our friends the Canadians had one! It used to be rented by a rock star – Snoop Dog, in fact – and came with a British Bus driver who was super friendly and let us come on the bus to check it out. It had two tv’s for watching the races live and results, two bunk beds so the skiers could rest after their races, a living room with a table and small kitchen. It was pretty cool, and although the US team won’t be getting a bus anytime soon it was fun to check out the Canadian one.

Recovery after each race was very, very important – both mental and physical recovery! After each race I’d think about three things that went well and three things that I needed to work on, and write it all down. Then I would forget about it and focus on tomorrow’s race, because whether the race that day went good or not, there was not time to dwell on it! We also had to eat SO much food, it was ridiculous. I think I ate about three times as much as I normally needed to, just to keep my energy day to day!

And then our bodies got more and more tired after each race. You know how it feels the day after a race, or a really big ski, when your body aches and it’s hard to stretch? That’s how we felt towards the end of the Tour. We had a massage therapist on the road with us, and every day she would try to smooth the knots in our shoulders, legs and arms out, but by the last race my body was so tight after racing that it felt like someone had put rocks in my legs!

The last race of the tour is a hill climb up Alpe Cermis, a mountain that is an Alpine ski area. Think of the biggest hill you’ve ever skied down – maybe Buck Hill, or Afton Alps? – and multiply it by 10. Then imagine skiing up it! In parts of the hill it was a 28% grade, which meant that it was so steep even the best skiers in the world had to herringbone and walk up it, and the spectators on the side could run up the hill faster than we could skate. It was maybe the most painful race I’ve ever done, but once I saw the finish line it was all worth it. Everyone was so tired and happy at the top, it was like a little party on top of the mountain.

Skiers from around the world: In the Val di Fiemme stadium in Italy, there was a big group of skiers the same ages as MYSL kids, doing the same things you guys are! They were practicing their turns on the downhills and their tucks, they were working on learning V1 and going uphill, and they were practicing balancing. It was fun to see a “MYSL” group of kids all the way over in Italy! It definitely made my day.

Cool things about Val Mustair, Switzerland: The night sprints we did there were super fun, and they had huge globe lights in the stadium that lit it all up almost like it was 2 in the afternoon! But driving through the town was very, very scary. It seemed like the buildings came first and the road second, because it twisted around the buildings and was only about one car wide, and you could never see around the corner. But that didn’t stop the Swiss from driving super fast! It felt like we were on a rollercoaster when going through all the towns.

Cool things about Tobach/Dobbiaco and Val di Fiemme, Italy: The women’s race in Toblach/Dobbiaco was a regular 15km in the stadium, so we did 3 laps of a 5km course. But the Men’s race was much longer so they got to do a cool point-to-point race, starting in the streets of the closest town, Cortina, and skiing all the way to Toblach/Dobbiaco. It looked really fun, with road crossings and everything, like the Birkie! And Val di Fiemme is a beautiful stadium with a triple-climb hill and a fast downhill corner.

Training Tip: Racing in a new place can be sometimes a little nerve-wracking. If you have never seen the race course you don’t know what to expect, and you might be nervous about not knowing where the finish line is. At least, that’s what I thought when racing the tour! So when going to a new place, here’s some tips: first, look at the start area and the finish area, if you can. See where the line is drawn in the snow so you know where to go and when to stop! In your warm-up before a race, ski some of the course if you are allowed. That way, you will know if the snow is slippery, or soft, or fast. Then when the race starts, be confident and be looking down the tracks. Remind yourself that you are a great skier and if you just remember to look ahead at the course, you’ll be ready for whatever comes next – whether it’s an uphill or downhill!

Till next time, happy skiing!

***Jessie***

 

 
12.29.12
Hello MYSL Kids!

 

I'm writing to you from our hotel room in Oberhof, Germany, 3 hours before the start of the Tour de Ski! I flew over December 23rd and spent Christmas here in this little rainy city, which is the center of biathalon training for the German team. It was different being away from my family on Christmas day, but I was with my teammates and we are like a little family on the road, so we had fun doing "secret Santa" gifts and making decorations for our hotel rooms. 

 

The stadium here in Oberhof is a big cement arena, bigger than a football field. And this is where the Tour de Ski starts, in only a few more hours! It's a total of 50km that the women race, in 7 races over 9 days, in 3 different countries! We'll move from Germany to Switzerland, to Italy, where we finish with a huge hill climb up the Alpine slopes. It's going to be a big challenge, but everyone here is very excited to start and just finishing the Tour will be a big goal of mine. 

Skiers from Around the World: 

In Germany, Biathalon is the biggest sport and is watched even more than American Football is watched in the US! The skiers on the German National team are all members of the Army, and they have the option of living and training at the Army base. Although they are never called into action and asked to fight for their country, being part of the Army is how they make their salary and get paid, and they have fairly high rankings in the army. 

 

 

So when we needed to get into the gym to do our strength training, a friend of ours on the German Biathalon team who is ranked high in the army was able to bring us to the base to use the gym. It was pretty cool getting to drive in with her and see the guards wave her in without even checking her ID! 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Tour de Ski, many nations have wax buses, where they can keep all the skis and waxing benches in their trailers so that they don't have to unload and set up everything at each new venue. And some of the high profile athletes have Tour Buses, where they can hang out before and after the races and stay warm. They are very fancy! The Canadians have a "rock-star" tour bus. The US team doesn't have any buses or wax trailers, but we can race fast without any of it because the US skiers are tough! 
 

 

 

Cool things about Oberhof: 

 

 

All the houses and hotels here are covered with moss on the roof and walls because it rains so much here! I don't know how there is still snow on the trails because it has rained every day, but there is still good skiing and the race organizers have taken good care of the trails, so they are very skiable. 

 

 

They have an indoor Ski Hall here, where the athletes can train on snow during the summer. They have 1.2 kilometers of snow in a horseshoe loop, and it's all in an enclosed hallway that is refridgerated so that it's sometimes colder inside than out in the winter months! 

 

 

They have many waffle and crepe stands on the streets here, and for an afternoon snack people will walk by and get waffles covered in nutella, whipped cream, or cinnamon-sugar. Yum! But for dinner here they serve a lot of meats and cabbage, and the food is very salty, so sometimes you need to eat some bland vegetables with the meal in order to balance out all the salt and acid in the rest of the food. 
 

 

 

Ok, it's time for me to get to the venue now so that I can start testing my race skis, pick the best pair, and warm-up for our first race; a 3km skate prologue. 

 

 

Wish us luck in the tour, and I'm hoping for more snow back home! 
 

 

 

Till next time, 
 

 

 

Jessie

 

 

 
12.19.12

Hello MYSL kids!

 

The last two weekends were pretty exciting for North American skiers, with the World Cup races coming to Quebec City and Canmore, both in Canada. Although not every skier in the world came across the ocean to race, many of the best racers made the trip.

 

I got sick in Canmore and had to sit out all of the races, but the weekend before in Quebec was exciting enough to make up for it! On Friday Kikkan Randall and I partnered to race the Skate Team Sprint together – and won Gold! It was the first time a team sprint relay from the USA had ever won before, so we got to celebrate another history-making weekend with the team.

 

A team sprint is where your starter leg (me) will race the sprint course, which was two laps of the track, and then tag off to the anchor leg (Kikkan). Kikkan would then ski her two laps and tag back to me, and we kept switching until we’d both skied 3 legs of the race (a total of 6 laps!). Since I started the race, Kikkan was the one who had to do the final sprint to the finish and lunge across the line.

 

The race was very exciting with crashes, tactics and strategies, and people switching positions every couple hundred meters. But Kikkan and I stayed calm and relaxed, stayed out of the crashes, and when the time was right we sprinted around the other racers to take the lead. It was one of my favorite races this year!

 

The course was extra exciting because the race organizers built a jump into the snow! This was the first time skiers ever had to go over a jump in a World Cup race, and although the jump wasn’t very big you had to be aware and stay light on your feet if you didn’t want to trip. Some of the skiers thought it was “silly” or “annoying”, but I loved it and thought it spiced up the race!

 

Skiers from around the World:

 

While skiing in Canmore, I came around the bend in the trail and saw the Norwegian men with their skis and poles off, trying to sneak off the trail. I thought “are they really so tired from training that they’re going to run away from their coach???”

 

But then I saw the huge deer right on the side of the trail, behind a tree. The Norwegian boys were trying to get close enough to catch the deer! I laughed because it was a very funny sight (and they didn’t end up getting the deer). Later I asked one of them if they had ever seen a deer before and they said that yes, they have deer in Norway, but they had never seen one so tame and so close to the ski trails! I guess we are very lucky here in the Midwest to see so much wildlife that will let us get close.

 

Another time I was skiing in Canmore, one of the men from the Russian team pulled up alongside me and introduced himself as Nikita Kriukov. He was the winner of the Olympic Gold medal in the last Winter Games that were held in Vancouver, and I was very surprised that he had come to talk to me! Nikita said that he heard the Russian Eurosport commentator say (from an interview I had done this fall) that I didn’t really know any of the Russian skiers and hadn’t gotten to talk with them. Nikita said, in broken but good English, “I here to fix that…now you say you know Russian skier”. We talked about Russia, the Olympics, and the skiing in Canmore. So just like that, now I have a friend from another country!

 

Many of the Norwegian, Swedish and Russian skiers and coaches came up to me and my teammates while in Canmore and said how much they liked watching the US girls win races, because we are always so excited and happy in the finish pen and on the podium. They said that when we were so happy we cried – that’s what sport is supposed to be like! It should be a big celebration after every race. So it’s fun to know that other countries are also cheering on team USA.

Cool things about Quebec and Canmore: 

Quebec City is the closest I have ever felt to being in France while in North America! The Old City is surrounded by a stone wall, and the streets are relatively narrow and winding. The Chateau Frontenac is one of the most beautiful and famous castles in North America and is now a hotel – opened in 1893 and named after Count Frontenac, who governed the colony of New France from 1672 to 1682 and 1689 to 1698.

 

The mountains in Canmore are some of the most unique looking and gorgeous I have ever seen! The town is small with many tourist shops but also some amazing spots for tea, muffins and hot chocolate. Canadians have a good reputation for being very nice people (like Minnesotans do!) and so walking through town is always a pleasant experience.

 

Training Tip:

 

I hope you tried last week’s challenge to imagine yourself accomplishing a big goal! I definitely tried it out, and it helped me in the last races. This week’s challenge is another training tip that has helped me out a lot: stretching! It’s important to take care of your body and stretch after a long or hard ski, or race, so that you don’t get sore the next day and so you stay injury free. I know…you’re young, and you don’t need to worry about injuries yet, for goodness sake! But I challenge you to take 10 minutes after your next ski and try stretching – your legs, your side, your back, your arms, your shoulders – everything! Then see how you feel afterwards. Remember to never stretch so much that anything hurts, just so you feel a nice pull.

 

That’s all for this week…enjoy the awesome snow in Minnesota!

-Jessie Diggins

Pictures of Quebec Team Sprints and Canmore Stadium

 
12.1.12 
Hey MYSL kids!
I'm writing to you from Ruka, Finland. Last week I was in Gallivare, Sweden, and some exciting things happened! My teammate Kikkan got a Bronze medal in the 10km skate, which was the first time a Woman from the US ever reached the podium in a distance event. And our girls 4x5 relay also reached a Bronze medal, which was the best a relay from the US has ever done! So we made history in Sweden while kicking off the first weekend of the World Cup races. 

In our relay race, the first two legs of the relay were classic, which Holly and then Kikkan skied. The last two legs were skate, which Liz and I skied. I got to sprint down the finishing stretch neck and neck with Norway 2's anchor leg, and I just beat her out by half a second. In such a close race, every single second really does count! 

Skiers from Around the World: 
Our wax tech's daughter, Lina, is a cross-country skier, but her favorite thing to do is go ski-jouring with her dog. She enters competitions and practices all winter! Some of the Finnish kids we met at the school in Muonio drove three hours to watch us compete in Gallivare, and it was really fun to see them there. They were very dedicated fans! 

Here are some cool things about Sweden: 
In Gallivare, we were living in cabins at the top of an Alpine resort. Because we were still very far North, there wasn't much daylight, so the ski trails and stadium were lit up most of the day. The Scandinavians are very space efficient with their houses, and the shower is a corner of the bathroom - the water runs all over the floor, so you have to take a squeegee and move all the water towards the drain. 
The Swedes love their dogs, and there were small hunting dogs and other small dogs all over the race course (on a leash, of course!). The Swedes also love hair salons...I think there were three salons in the small town we were in! So many of the Swedes follow skiing on TV that when the Swedish Sports channel broadcasted a clip of my summer training, about 1 million people saw it. As a result, there were many more Swedish fans cheering on the American team as well! Another different food thing going on in Sweden is the fish paste - a salty, super fishy paste that they have in little toothpaste-like tubes at breakfast. People put it on their eggs and crackers. I didn't try it though! 

Some cool things about Finland: 
Inside they like to either wear slippers or socks but in schools and houses they always take off their shoes and leave them at the door. Most of the houses and cabins have saunas in them, because the Finns love their sauna time! And in both Sweden and Finland, people on the streets use "spark" sleds; they look like dogsleds but without dogs, just a chair and runners that people push off and then stand on while the sled is gliding. We saw many Grandmas going to the grocery store on their spark sleds...it's the quickest way to travel on the snowy sidewalks! 

Training Tip: 
Last week, I challenged you to practice balancing and gliding longer on your skis. This week's challenge is about the power of thinking you can do it. After all the girls on the relay team decided they could ski as fast as the rest of the world and believed that they were ready, they were able to have good races. So it's pretty important to believe in yourself and to tell yourself that you can reach your goals! 
This week I'm going to challenge you to take five minutes to practice visualizing yourself reaching your goal; it doesn't matter if your goal is to race fast, to do well on a test, to play well in a music group recital...as long as it's something you want to do well in. Lay down on the floor or sit in a comfy chair and get relaxed, then shut your eyes and picture yourself reaching your goal. See yourself skiing up the hill fast, writing down the correct answers to your test, or playing your instrument perfectly. Practicing seeing yourself doing well will actually help when the big day arrives. So try it out!

 
-Jessie Diggins
 
11.17.12 Hello everyone, greetings from Finland! This will be the first post in a series of travel and skiing blogs for the MYSL kids. I hope you enjoy reading! 
 
Cross-country skiing is a great way to be able to see the world, visit other cultures, and meet skiers from across the ocean! I just traveled from Minnesota to Munio, Finland, which took at least 30 hours of flying on different airplanes and then driving on snow covered highways. It's already winter here! The airport right on the Arctic Circle that we flew into, Rovaniemi, is the official home of Santa Claus. There were pictures and signs pointing to Santa's Workshop everywhere, and reindeer on the road. But we had to continue driving so we didn't get to stop, unfortunately. But it was cool to see that this is where Santa is officially from! 
 
Munio is a really cool and beautiful place. It's above the Arctic Circle, which means it's pretty chilly and the sun rises around 11:30 and sets around 3:00. There's not very much daylight here! But at night we get to see the Northern Lights, which stretch across the sky in a bright green ribbon. They have a lot of reindeer here - on the road, and being served for dinner as well (but don't worry, they don't cook Santa's reindeer, just the wild ones). There are lots of pickled veggies served with lunch and dinner, and at breakfast the Finns make sandwiches and serve pickled fish in jars. Can you imagine eating fish for breakfast? I tried it the first morning just for fun, but after that I had oatmeal or cereal. For dessert they serve waffles or fruit or jello. So the food is a little different here, but it's very tasty. 
 
There is lots of snow here and we are skiing on the trails every day. Often we are skiing in the dark because the sun hasn't come up yet or it set before our afternoon ski, but they have lights along the trail so the downhills aren't scary. We also lift weights for training, and the weight room is in the local police station, so we run to the Police station to do our training twice a week! 
 
We got to visit the elementary school here in Munio, and the kids were very excited to hear about the USA. They wanted to know if we had winter in the USA, and they were very excited about football, soccer, basketball and skiing of course! Most of the kids knew how to ski, but not all of them raced. However, this weekend we had races in Munio and many of the kids came to spectate and cheer on their favorite Finnish athletes, whom they watch on TV most of the winter! 
 
Training Tips: 
This week I'm focusing on balance. Balance is very important if you don't want to fall down too much on your skis! So, one easy way I work on my balance every day is when I brush my teeth; I stand on one foot. It's easy to remember and easy to practice! And when I'm skiing on a gradual downhill, I try to see how long I can balance on one ski. So I challenge you this week to work on your balance at least once! 
 
Next time I write will be from Sweden! Till then, have a good start to the winter and MYSL! 
 
-Jessie Diggins