Well, the perpetual "Road to Sochi" has finally come to an end now that Team USA has touched down in Sochi, Russia. I can distinctly remember the countdown ... 365 days, 100 days, 30 days. The anticipation is coming to a close and within the next two hours my USOC charter flight will touch down in Sochi!
The last month has been busy with the "naming of the team," travel and competitions. After a short state-side break in the United States, I hopped a plane to re-join the rest of the U.S. Ski Team for our final tune-up, an altitude training camp on a large snow field in the Italian Dolomites called "Seiser Alm." Located at an elevation higher than our competition venue in Sochi, our team, along with at half of World Cup, trained there for 10 days. The purpose was to boost our red-blood cell values (which gives you a better performance) as high as naturally possible before the "Big Show."
Seiser Alm was heaven on earth with crystal clear blue skies, tracks and four-star food. It took considerable mental strength to not "over-ski" or train too much, thereby making myself tired for the next month. Someday I hope to return to Seiser Alm when I can ski as much as I want. I find it ironic that as a World Cup skier we don't get to ski nearly as much as I'd like too. When you're racing hard, training volume must drop if you hope to race well.
After 10 days of camp we were ready to leave our cappuccinos and pasta behind, anxious to return to competition. Having witnessed low snow levels throughout Europe and in the U.S. we were ecstatic to arrive in Toblach, Dobbiaco (Italy) where nearly a meter of snow fell during our time there. It felt like we were in a Christmas snow-globe, having the snow pound down upon us during training and the classic race.
I was happy with both of my races for the weekend, scoring World Cup points in both the 10K classic and the skate sprint events. With a short week to go before the first Olympic race everyone is theoretically in top form so the competition during the races was "as good as it gets!"
Directly following Sunday's race we stuffed our sweaty race clothes into our duffels and caravanned to Munich, Germany, to join up with the rest of Team USA. The following morning I went on a jog, initially having absolutely no idea where we were. You can imagine my excitement when I realized that our hotel was located directly adjacent to the 1972 Munich Olympic Park! Despite the drab hue and low blanket of fog that covered the entire city, I was energized to run by the Olympic track and peer in through the glass walls where swimmers won medals on the world stage nearly four decades ago.
After a morning of packing skis (14 athletes x 25-36 pairs each equals chaos!) we took the athlete shuttle to Team USA processing. Upon walking through the doors each athlete received a clipboard with a checklist of Olympic sponsors and "stations" we had to visit in order to collect our team USA schwag.
"Processing" was a fond memory from Vancouver and I remember cruising through aisles with a grocery store shopping cart, picking out my Team USA gear. This year was similar in that we had stations with Nike, Ralph Lauren, Olympic rings, Sunglasses, P&G products, Olympic-specific race suits, etc, etc. ... After nearly four hours of collecting stuff and trying stuff on I was exhausted, and teammates were "bonking" right and left. ("Bonking" is usually a term for completely running out of energy, specifically blood sugar while exercising.)
The wait is over, we're fit, outfitted and ready to go! Thanks for your support and we're excited to represent both Alaska and Team USA!
Holly Brooks of Anchorage is a two-time Olympian, a member of the Alaska Pacific University nordic program and winner of Mount Marathon in 2012.
By HOLLY BROOKS
Daily News correspondent