Monday, January 27, 2014

sometimes dreams unfold like this

If there was a soundtrack I'm trying to keep on repeat day after day, it's Ice Cube's It Was A Good Day. To re-hear those lyrics laid over or those silky smooth Isley Brothers inspired beats from Footsteps in the Dark press play.

After US Nationals in Soldier Hollow, Utah - the 2002 venue for cross-country, biathlon, and nordic combined non-jumping efforts - I headed back to Washington after a little send-off from my friends from the University of Utah back in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake at sunset. Not enough snow in the mountains yet!

Getting back to Washington, even if it was for less than a week for the first time since August, felt good. Sometimes I really think back to the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy clicks her heals three times and says, "There's no place like home." Because there really is no place like home.

One of the reasons to head to Washington was to visit my In The Arena class. I grew up with the teacher Carl Haberberger so it was especially cool to see how much of a command he had over the students. You could tell the kids respected him, and gave him as much attention as 6th graders could be expected to.

A much more digital classroom than I remember back in middle school!

The kids were pretty savvy with computers and technology. After I left, several of the kids sent me posters they made for a class assignment. Check them out. I particularly like the one that reads, "Torin Koos Olympics Beast." Hitting Beastmode on the trails of Sochi would be the culmination of a dream, for sure.

After a week filled with long but easy morning and evening training sessions, visits to Orchard Middle School, and mom's home cooking, I headed back to Switzerland. I cashed in the frequent flyer miles in a bit of blind faith that I would get the call to represent Team USA at the Sochi Olympics. And if I did get that call, I owed it to myself, to my supporters, and to those not chosen to the team to represent as best I can in Russia. For me, that meant getting back to a closer time zone as Russia, at a similar altitude, and with the opportunity to train with many of the athletes that I have all fall and winter, and that I will see in Sochi, now as part of the Swiss Olympic Team. 

Until the next time. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Scenes and Stories from the Road: SoHo 2014 Edition

For the second year in a row, the USA cross country racing community descended upon the city of Midway, Utah and the SoHo 2002 Olympic trails for the US Championships. These four races were the last races to count for the selection of Team USA for the 2014 Sochi, the keenness and performance of the competitors was plenty high. Fortunately, it was a very big banner week for the athletes of In The Arena. Brian Gregg picked up (I believe) his first US Nationals podium. Sylvan Ellefson broke apart the 30km field and held on for his first US National title, Caitlin Gregg absolutely crushed the women's field (winning by 3:36) in the skate distance (in addition to two other podium finishes), and I picked up my eighth national title in the sprint discipline in winning the skate sprint. 

I'm sure there are plenty of stories from each of these performances, and I can't wait to read about what they all have to say about experiences.

Fortunately, in the skate sprint I was able to stay out of trouble, even with the tightly contested races on a very fast course. Here, I lead going into the final corner as Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess tries a risky slingshot from third position and trips himself up on the tails of my skis. My day started out with its own bit of misfortune, breaking a pole strap in the qualification round. I held on tight, and made sure I qualified. I knew after this that the rest of the day would go better.

The classic sprint day brought the convergence of two tropical storms to the west side of the Wasatch mountains. With fresh snow glazing throughout the day, I had a hard time making my skis work in the conditions and missed the A-final in a national classic sprint for the first time ever. It's a little dissapointing to end my racing days on the trails of Soldier Hollow this way -- though I know I put everything I had out on the race course, and the crew at Bridger Ski Foundation were working hard and pulling for Jennie Bender and myself to earn a trip to Sochi. I honestly think I have more kilometers racing on these trails than anyone, starting way back in 1999 with the University of Utah Utes, to the 2001 Pre-Olympics, the 2002 Olympics, a NCAA National Championship, and my four US National Championships here this week. As a skier, SoHo feels like the closest thing to my own Hayward Field of Fenway Park.

Now, I guess the Olympic waiting game begins. The USA cross-country contingent won't be named until January 22, 2014. If you want to read about how the team will be selected, you can find the official selection procedure here. It seems pretty complicated, so I won't even take a try at trying to explain it!

I am really looking forward to tomorrow, when I finally get to get back into the classroom with Mr. Haberberger's 5th graders on Monday. I'm interested to see what they have been up. I think I should have a few stories to tell them as well. I've been away from Washington for so long (almost four months) that getting back to the Evergreen state feels like, well, home.

Home. Almost.