By last summer, Anchorage skier Rosie Brennan was finally over the mononucleosis that ruined her first Winter Olympics and turned what began as the best ski season of her life into a months-long grind.
In June she broke the long-standing course record at the Alaska Run for Women, a five-mile race that marked the 30-year-old’s first footrace since high school. Brennan was back, as strong as ever, and when the new ski season started she was more than ready.
Brennan’s sixth-place finish Sunday in a World Cup 10-kilometer freestyle race in Davos, Switzerland, was the best individual result of her career. It capped a splendid run during the first period of the World Cup season, which will take a brief break before resuming after Christmas.
Brennan ranks 16th in the overall World Cup standings and is one of three Americans in the top 16, along with Anchorage’s Sadie Bjornsen (10th) and Minnesota’s Jessie Diggins (13th). The Alaska Pacific University team member has scored World Cup points in eight of her nine individual races, owns four top-15 finishes and skied a leg on the U.S. relay team that finished fourth — one spot off the podium — last weekend in Norway.
“Today was a dream finish to Period 1 for me,” Brennan said by email after Sunday’s race. “Davos is a perfect course for me with lots of work and not much recovery and a little bit of altitude thrown in so I had some high expectations for myself today.”
Norway’s Therese Johaug, the World Cup’s dominant distance racer this season, won the 10K in 26 minutes, 6.9 seconds. Diggins led the United States in fifth place, 61.1 seconds behind Johaug, and Brennan was next, less than four seconds behind Diggins and 64.9 behind the winning pace.
So yes, Brennan is back. But she hasn’t fully recovered from that bout of mono.
As sweet as this season has been, it has come at a considerable price — about $15,000, Brennan estimated in a blog post before the season started.
The financial hit is a lingering symptom of the mono, a virus Brennan thinks she caught around New Year’s and which went undiagnosed for months.
Brennan tried to ski through the illness — which can cause severe fatigue, among other things — but her results suffered so much that she lost her spot on the U.S. Ski Team.
She recovered her health last summer and continued to train. She was able to earn a spot on the World Cup tour, but she went to Europe as an unfunded athlete — someone who isn’t being supported by the U.S. Ski Team. That means Brennan is paying for her own travel, room and board, as well as room, board and wages for a ski technician who helps her with waxing and other things related to her equipment.
“I was very stressed all summer wondering if I had recovered from Mono, if I could have a good race again, and then once I got a start spot for period 1, if I could find a wax tech and pay for one,” Brennan said in her email Sunday. “I am very proud of myself for making everything come together, finding a way to make things work, and for making the best of the situation I was in.
“I am also thankful for the tech I found, an Estonian named Karel, who helped me immensely all period. Now, I am looking forward to a white Christmas in Utah with my family.”