From mid-november until mid-march team stays in Europe with only a week to ten days home for Christmas, and that is a long time to be away. This is my first year doing the full haul and at this point I have to say that I am getting pretty sick of all my clothes. Now that I am in Oslo it is hard to resist getting some new things to wear… too bad it is so expensive here! We don’t race every week and between the blocks of World Cups and World Championships I was very fortunate to go off on my own a bit and stay with family and friends. Looking back at photographs, I feel so lucky to have been in amazingly different places in such a short amount of time.
After the first set of World Cups we had a little break and I went on a train and airplane adventure to get myself to Amsterdam, where my Aunt lives. The best part of this day was that I had an entire train compartment to myself to sleep in and just be alone. It is a luxury to be alone when you are always surrounded by people.
My aunt’s apartment in Amsterdam feels like home to me. She was like my mom away from home for a few days and it was such a treat. She lives a block away from the biggest outdoor market in the city and it is my favorite place to wander around. You can buy anything there; from fish, to nuts, to clothes and shoes, flowers, chocolate delicacies, and Stroop Waffels. Nothing beats a Stroop Waffel hot off the grill. When I was here, it was an unusually cold period and there was ice on the canals and rivers. Dutch people are crazy and whenever they get the chance to ice skate, there are out there even if the ice is only a few cm’s thick. The other thing Dutch people are crazy about is biking. Everyone bikes. Everyone bikes everywhere for everything. It’s awesome. I climbed on my aunt’s trusty old Pugeot that is older than me and biked out of the city and along the Amstel on this beautiful loop called the Ronde Hoop which goes around a Polder field. I had the best time even though my feet got colder than they have been all winter.
The other reason to go to the Netherlands is to see my Oma. Five years ago she had a stroke and she now starting to get very old. It’s always so nice to see her because she is so sweet but it is sad too because I never know if I will see her again. She spent a lot of time with me as a child and I feel very close to her. I have so many questions for her about what her life was like when she was younger that I didnt’ know to ask when I was a child. I wish I could go back in time because I am so curious about her life. She has some really interesting stories to tell about being in the Dutch Resistance during the War and all I know are some vague details. I think she was a very brave woman but that it was also something she did just because she was there in that time. What I know is from a Dutch man who interviewed my Grandmother before her stroke. This is a translation of some of the stories he has.
The town of Wageningen, where my family is from, was completely bombed flat during the war because it was close to the important strategic city of Arnhem. Almost every house in the city was destroyed except the house that belonged to my Great-Grandfather. A town close by called Arnhem, had a bridge over the Rheine river that both the allied forces and the Germans wanted control of. During Operation Market Garden the British and Polish air division were given the task of securing this brige but failed in the mission. Later in the war in 1945 the British fought around this same bridge and was finally able to liberate Arnhem.
Early in the war, the resistance of Wageninen stole the registry out of the town hall and hid it in a farmhouse called Wolfswaard so that the identities of Jewish people and others were protected. In her early twenties, Ciny Ormel (my Oma) was a nurse in the hospital that held both British and German soldiers and also part of the resistance group called the Zwantje Bosman. This group was directed by the son of the farmer who owned Wolsfwaard and she would help them out when she was not busy nursing by carrying and intercepting letters of “suspicious people”, bringing nursing supplies for wounded British soldiers that were being hidden, and finding clothes to dress them in. In the Allied circles, the name of Wolswaard was well known as a place of refuge and pilots knew if they crashed they could seek protection at this farm.
In one instance, my Oma was asked to bring some clothes for a British pilot whose parachute had landed not far from Wolfswaard and who was being hidden by the resistance in a sailing dingy on the Rhein. After delivering the clothes, she was spotted by two SS and instinctively wanted to dive down, but they had already seen her so she could only whisper to the others to hide. She pretended that nothing was strange and walked up to the SS officers. Unfortunately she had just been speaking in English and addressed the officers so. She explained that she spent all day switching back and forth from German to English as a Nurse and they let her go. It was her nursing uniform that saved her life many times because the Germans had so much respect for someone who took care of their men. She carried letters of wounded German soldiers around with her to show how she helped them. Another member of the resistance nearby, who had seen the interview had false papers as a Policeman and he led the officers in a different direction to help them find the parachute that had just fallen down.
She was also part of missions to bring pilots that had crashed back to their command posts or back to the British army. It was very dangerous to ferry soldiers back and forth on the Rhein to the English line because the river was the war front.
After my short break to the Netherlands, I went back to Antholz, Italy for our Pre-world champs training camp. Nothing beats training in Italy where the food is good and the sun knows how to shine. It was pretty amazing to be in such different landscapes all in the space of five days. The best workout in Antholz was an incredibly beautiful ski in a high valley of the Dolomites. It was perfect classic skiing. And it wasn’t too bad to sit in the sun and drink a beer afterwards either.
Our training week in Italy finished, we got in our van and drove to Nova Mesto, Czech where they held World Championships. It was a great couple of weeks, but that is a post for another time.
For the break between World Championships and the last period of world cups, the rest of the team went back to Germany where they stayed in Ruhpolding but I went onwards to Oslo where I stayed with one of my best friends from my University of Utah days. Once again, I found myself in another beautiful place that was completely different from where I had been before.
I had so much fun with Ingvild and it was so relaxing to stay somewhere that felt like a home. No matter how close you are to your team and how nice of a hotel you stay in, it is not relaxing in the same way home is. I always notice that the moment I spend one night in my own bed at home, I feel like a different person. Staying with a best friend in her house was as close to that feeling that I could get. We cooked a bunch of food- I had been craving a real hamburger for a long time, drank some wine, and went on some awesome skis. I also had to get a Russian Visa, which was a bit of an ordeal and I felt very relieved when that process was done and visa in hand.
Oslo is such a cool city because there are ski trails all over the place. About 200 meters from her front door was the start of a network of trails that you could ski on for hours and hours without doing the same things twice. Three kilometers uphill takes you to a trail head that branches out in so many different directions. It was so much fun to ski down at night in the dark. Ingvild used to compete in biathlon, so she took me to a biathlon range close to her house and was my “coach” for the week. She is a tough cookie and I couldn’t get away with anything! We also went ice bathing; something that seems a lot crazier than it really is because you wear warms socks and hat and don’t get your head wet and when you jump out, you change all your clothes right away. The blood rushes to your skin so you don’t ever really feel cold. But it was exciting neverthless and I felt absurdly nervous to go in. I had never jumped in ice water without it having been warm or having come out of a sauna.
I am very grateful to have such wonderful people in my life and so lucky that I have the opportunity to see them even though they live so far away from me. I do my best to take advantage of the fact that I have to stay in Europe for such a long time and take every opportunity that I can to branch out from the team and do something different or visit with people I love. Lucky me!