The choice between pursuing a family and pursuing a sport is an internal debate Rudy Project athlete and World Champion Nordic Skier, Kikkan Randall, is all too familiar with. This three-time World Cup Overall Sprint Champion was not ready to give up her dream of Olympic gold when she and her husband, Jeff Ellis, decided to start a family of their own earlier this year. Below, Kikkan highlights her decision to become mom and her big dreams in the future:
Following my fourth Olympics, especially after an intense run into Sochi as a gold-medal favorite, I had some serious thinking to do about the future of my ski career. Either I could retire on top after a solid 13-year run and move on to some other goals in life, or I could find the motivation to continue on for another Olympic cycle and keep chasing after that elusive Olympic medal.
I quickly realized that I was not ready to leave ski racing behind just yet, and I still felt plenty motivated to keep going for another Olympics. But at the same time, I wasn’t ready to put off starting a family with my husband for another four years. So we took a look at the competition schedule and decided to target the 2015-16 season, where there is no major championship, as a year to try to have a baby and return to competition in the 2016-17 season. It wasn’t a guaranteed plan, as it can be difficult to get pregnant, but it would be a good compromise if it worked.
As the new training season began for the 2015-16 season, I resumed training as normal while we started trying to get pregnant. It took a few tries and at times I was concerned that my training load was affecting my chances of getting pregnant. However, on our third try things worked out. I didn’t find out until just after I had completed a 4-race series in Norway at the end of August and for the first month I really had no symptoms. But after getting that positive home pregnancy test, my focus quickly shifted from preparing for the race season to adjusting my training to support a healthy pregnancy.
The good news was, although I would miss the full winter of racing, I got full clearance from my doctor to continue training as much as I was used to. In consulting with my coach, we decided to reduce my weekly volume slightly (by 20%) and focus the intervals on aerobic threshold intensity. This would allow me to keep a good energy reserve in my body while still maintaining fitness. My strength coach coincidentally had just had a baby the year before, so she is designing my strength plan to also maintain strength and fitness while also preparing my body for the demands of pregnancy and the birth. The goal with all the training is to listen closely to my body and avoid overload.
The first month of the pregnancy, I didn’t really even know I was pregnant and I don’t recall anything feeling that different. I was still training as normal. In the second month, I definitely experienced more tiredness and had a queasy stomach on and off throughout the day for a few weeks. Thankfully that began to clear up in the end of the third month and through the first trimester my training remained pretty normal. I continued to run, roller ski, bike, hike and lift weights.
In the second trimester, I have been feeling great so far. The extra tiredness and queasiness is gone and I’ve had really good energy in all my sessions. After joining the US Ski Team for our National Team camp in October, I have returned to my home in Alaska just in time for the first snowfall and have been getting lots of kilometers on my skis. My plan for the rest of the winter is to train as much as feels comfortable and enjoy my first winter at home in 16 years.
Missing the race season is not going to be easy. I love racing and the competitive spirit inside me is as strong as ever. However, I think not being able to race this winter may just increase my motivation and excitement for racing when I return. I’m also excited for the opportunity to interact with the US ski community more this winter. For the last 8 years, I have been spending the winter primarily in Europe and I’m looking forward to getting back in touch with the industry and the fans here at home. And of course, I am really looking forward to becoming a mother in the spring and having a new focus in my life. I am glad that I will get the opportunity to blend two of the things I love the most, my family and ski racing.
I really want to thank Rudy Project for standing by me while I take a year off to start a family. Rudy Project has been incredibly supportive throughout my career, celebrating both my top results and also supporting the many other passions I have for giving back to my community. I am fortunate to work with a company that looks after its athletes in all stages in life, not just while they’re racing. I look forward to getting back in a racing bib next season and back on the podium rocking my Rudy Project Tralyx fluo frames!
About Kikkan Randall:
Kikkan Randall is a four-time Olympian and World Champion cross-country skier. She is a passionate “Get-Active”ist, promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles, and is the President of Fast and Female USA, an organization dedicated to keeping girls involved in sports. You can follow her on Twitter – @kikkanimal, Instagram – @kikkanimal, Facebook – /kikkanrandall and her website www.kikkan.com.