My first commercial for Under Armour!

From my podium in Kazakhstan

Thankful to see an old friend in Kazakhstan

Thankful to see old friends in Kazakhstan

As I sit in Frankfurt airport for an eight-hour layover after a nine-hour flight from Chicago, I reflect on my journey so far this season.

Whenever I travel overseas I love finding a good vantage point where I can think, do some people-watching, and take in what's happening outside with taxis, shuttles and departing planes. Parked in an airport lounge, passing the time until my flight, I find some tranquility and peace of mind. Then it hits me: my next blog entry! I grab a pretzel with some delicious Bavarian brown mustard and a sparkling water and I start writing...

In the last blog, I hinted about a major commercial I was filming. Pretty sure its ok to talk about it now since it debuted during Monday Night Football! It was a 60-second Under Armour spot highlighting UA's Cold Gear (trust me it works!) and their speed innovation technologies. If you blinked during the commercial you may have missed me (after spending eight hours filming!) but — to paraphrase Muhammad Ali — I was just that quick and fast! Seriously, the commercial — my first — was something I was thankful for and proud to be a part of! The Chicago Bears even won that weekend, so I was doubly thankful that night.

In my last blog I was also gearing up to start the season. The U.S. Single Distance Championships were first up, and I was very anxious for it since I wanted to see what kind of shape I was in from summer and early-fall training, following the injury I had last year. This year's event was particularly important as the first competitive steps of many that lead to the Olympic Winter Games!

I skated well — faster than I have in years — and my teammates were even right on my heels! Most importantly, I worked out the rust and nervousness that usually accompanies the season's first races, and I qualified to skate the fall world cups, where my teammates and I can qualify Olympic spots for ourselves and our country.

Our first world cup stop was in Calgary, where I kept skating fast, then we went back to the home ice in Salt Lake City, were I skated even faster! Although I was a bit off my world record form, I finished the 'North American' swing three gold and two silver medals richer.

I left the States feeling enormously thankful to start the season healthy and strong, unlike the previous year were I was injured before the first world cup and hampered the entire season. What a relief!

So now I'm a six-hour flight away from Kazakhstan and there's only an hour left of this monster layover, which again I'm thankful for: I'm that much closer to a (hopefully) comfortable hotel with a nice warm shower and a bed that can accommodate my long limbs. By the time I arrive I will have traveled over 24+ hours!

This trip overseas also marks one of the many times I've been away competing during one of my favorite U.S. holidays: Thanksgiving! Sometimes when we're on the road missing a holiday at home, we celebrate anyway. For Thanksgiving some skaters bring turkey jerky (sometimes flavored), cranberry sauce and other luggage-friendly food. Got to admire the creativity and the tradition!

Funny how when I was younger I couldn't have cared less about missing Thanksgiving, since instead I'd be traveling, seeing the world, and doing what I love most — competing! Now I really miss those things that I once took for granted: family togetherness, throwing the football with friends, secret recipes for double-stuffed turkey or sweet honey-glazed yams. I truly understand the importance of the holiday now, and I definitely prefer homemade Thanksgiving cornbread over any world delicacy.

But right now I have business to take care of here in Eastern Europe (or is it Western Asia?). My races in Kazakhstan contrasted with the races in Calgary and Salt Lake. Here (and next in Berlin) the track is at sea-level, like the track in Sochi. It's different ice, different air, and the times are always much slower. But the goal remains the same: winning and improving! I didn't attack my 1,500-meter enough for the ice conditions, but I adjusted for the 1,000-meter and skated as fast as I ever have at sea level. More to be thankful for, since I have a better idea of what I'll have to do to get ready for the Sochi track.

Bottom line: I'm endlessly thankful to have started the season on the right skate, heading in the right direction. I'm also thankful they are now in the final phases of boarding!

Stay thankful everyone,