A Short Lived Retirement:
My transition from Supertour to Marathons
Hi Ski Post,
Annika here! It’s been a while since I’ve posted an article, so I wanted to give an update on what I’ve been up to. Last spring, I made the decision to “retire” from Supertour racing and move on from professional skiing. I have been skiing competitively for at least ten years, the last two with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project in Vermont, so the decision to move on was incredibly challenging for me. A few factors went into my decision, (I’ll spare you the months of back and forth inner dialogue), but the most important was that I wasn’t enjoying racing itself in the same way that I had in the past. Nerves that I hadn’t experienced since my early days of racing resurfaced and a majority of my races felt like an uphill battle against myself. I couldn’t find that flow state that makes racing so brutally fun.
(Getting a big hug from my mom after the 50k classic at Super Tour Finals, which ended up being my last race with the GRP. Photo: Lazenbyphoto).
For me, the cliche “skiing is a lifestyle” has a lot of truth to it, and I made a deal with myself when I first started skiing out of college that if it ever started to feel like racing was detracting from my love of skiing, then I would stop, or at least drastically change what I was doing. I still
love skiing, I always will, but my relationship with the competitive aspect was fraying, and my mental health and relationship with myself along with it. It was time for a change.
And then Andy Gerlach called.
“Do you want to be the first athlete on a new Enjoy Winter Factory Team and race domestic marathons this winter?”
I’m not sure how long I hesitated before answering, but it wasn’t long. I wanted to do some marathon racing this upcoming winter anyway to stay connected to the ski community and hopefully restore some of the joy of racing I had been missing. Andy was offering me the opportunity to do it with support and a purpose, so of course, I said yes.
The transition out of professional skiing is a difficult one, as many former skiers have attested to much more eloquently. The eat, sleep, train, repeat structure of my life since I started training full time at 11 years old suddenly vanished. For many, the freedom from that rigid training structure is liberating, because you can do whatever you want, whenever you want and fill your time with things other than rollerskiing and recovery.
As a person that thrives and, quite honestly, depends on structure, this loss was terrifying. Even my sense of time felt oddly warped in a wider world that doesn’t operate in 1.5-1.75 hour segments within three week periodized blocks. A Saturday morning without an interval session felt incomplete and I felt guilty for not training regularly. It might sound a bit dramatic, but when you’ve lived by roughly the same foundational schedule for ten years, having it change is destabilizing and confusing.
What excited me about the Factory Team was partially the comfort of having some of the structure back, but more so the emphasis on getting the domestic ski community even more stoked about skiing. Some of the few races last season where I felt unfiltered joy were the community marathons, the Boulder Mountain Tour, the West Yellowstone Rendezvous, the Craftsbury Marathon, and of course, the Birkie. The energy at these races is unmatched and I absolutely loved competing in them. My physiology happens to be well suited to distance racing so it felt like the perfect match. Racing a handful of marathons and being immersed in the heart of American ski culture sounded pretty good to me.
But first, I had a full summer of retirement to fill!
After spending most of the spring backcountry skiing some big lines in California and Idaho, my partner Adam and I scraped together our meager savings and headed to Europe for two months on a trip that I still think about at least once per day.
(Skiing the face of Hyndman Peak (12,009) in March. An objective that has been on my bucket list for a long time).
(Descending what ended up being 1500 ft of stairs from the “Trail of the Gods” to the Mediterranean Sea on the Amalfi Coast).
(Taking a shower and washing some dishes and clothes at a gas station in Italy).
We rented a camper van in Brussels and drove through the Dolomites, then through Tuscany, finally dropping off our van in Rome. From there, we spent a few days on the Amalfi Coast before heading to the French Pyrenees to watch the Tour de France. The Tour was unlike anything I had ever seen, but it also felt oddly familiar. It had the same energy, and nerdy fervor as the Brikie, and it was an event that brought so many different types of people together over their love of endurance sport. It was a good reminder of how good being part of a community like that feels, especially when you know that spandex is an established part of the dress code.
(The biggest Tour de France Fan. Unfortunately I did not get any autographs, but I did come within a few feet of Wout Van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard and Sepp Kuss so that was pretty darn cool.
Europe wasn’t all carefree, and there were times when I really missed my teammates and the grind of summer training. You know you’ve been in the game a while and invested a lot of yourself into something when you are sipping espresso in the Dolomites eating the best meat
and cheese you’ve ever had (and ever will have) and are suddenly emotionally derailed because the GRP did a workout that you always loved and you missed it. But then you remember that you are in the Dolomites sipping espresso and the twinge of FOMO eases.
(Me in Alpe di Suisi, about to consume the best cheese board I ever expect to consume in my lifetime)
(Riding the famous “Strade Bianche” white roads of Tuscany).
After an incredible two months of mountain runs and rides, Tour de France spectating, and more pastries than I can count, it was time to head back to the states for a few weeks to see my family. My mom’s side of the family all got together for a reunion in Utah to celebrate my grandmother’s 95th birthday. It had been a long time since we had all been together and it was meaningful to me to be able to spend that time with them. We ate good food, admired the Alta wildflowers, and even went white water rafting with Grandma held tightly by her two sons through the rapids.
(My 95 year old grandma, center, about to head down the river for some white water rafting!)
What struck me was that this was a trip that I might not have been able to attend if I was still skiing full time. And even if I had been able to fly West, I would constantly feel the pressure to make time to train, which would take away time I could spend with my family members. It was a moment where I was reminded of one of the good things that comes from stepping away from full time sport, even if it leaves you feeling a bit lost.
(Camp for the night. Part of a two-day run adventure when I was visiting home in Idaho).
Another big part of this transition was a big change of scenery - I moved to Boston in September and it still is a shock to the system. Can you name two places more different than Craftsbury and Boston? Living in a city is a big shock for me but there is a great ski community here if you know where to find it. I have been helping to coach the Harvard Ski Team, alongside Sam Benzing and Hannah Halvorsen, which has been a very cool and empowering experience so far and has allowed me to explore the other side of the coach/athlete relationship. My personal training has looked a LOT different from past years and I can’t wait to share how it's going with you in my next article.
(My first week in Boston I got to go to a Yankees/Red Sox game which felt like an appropriate Boston initiation. If anyone can answer why Bostonians drink exclusively iced coffee even when it's super cold out please let me know).
(On the hunt for new mountain bike trails with fellow nordic transplants, Hannah Halvorsen and Avery Ellis).
For now, I just want to reintroduce myself and reiterate how excited I am for this new chapter of ski racing and to work with Enjoy Winter to generate as much stoke as possible for domestic ski racing.
If you’re interested in staying up to date on my training and racing this season, you can follow me on Instagram @annika_landis & @enjoywinter ,on Strava, and, of course, by reading the Ski Post newsletter.
I can’t wait to see you out on the trails and at the races this winter! Annika