Cancer Couldn’t Keep This Gold Medalist Indoors (Kikkan Randall)

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One moment she was riding high off taking gold in nordic skiing at the olympics, a first for the U.S., and the next she was receiving a breast cancer diagnosis.

But Kikkan Randall doesn’t take life’s challenges lying down. Not only did she fight cancer, she did so while staying active, proving that spending time outside and moving your body isn’t just possible no matter what, it’s necessary.

Kikkan joined us on The Humans Outside Podcast to talk nature therapy, kid raising, fighting cancer, body image and even a sneak peak on what’s next for her.

Some of the good stuff:

[1:23] Kikkan’s favorite outdoor space
[3:18] Kikkan’s cancer story
[4:14] Does having cancer bring a sense of betrayal?
[5:35] Finding peace with cancer
[6:44] Importance of staying active
[9:26] The value of being active outside daily
[12:33] The importance of sports to women
[14:50] The value of healthy habits
[17:45] The value of trying new things
[22:45] What it’s like to marathon train on a cruise ship track
[24:25] Kikkan’s outdoor story
[27:30] How to avoid burnout as an athlete
[32:28] What’s next for Kikkan
[35:23] Kikkan’s favorite outdoor gear
[35:50] Kikkan’s most essential outdoor gear
[38:27] Kikkan’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Happy Socks, designed by Kikkan during her cancer fight and made by Darn Tough:

Kikkan’s favorite piece of outdoor gear:

Her cross country skis (surprise!), Fischer Speedmax 3D Skate Plus:

Kikkan’s most essential outdoor gear: 

LL Bean Neoshell Jacket (designed with her help!):

Bonus! Kikkan’s LL Bean page:

Follow Kikkan on Instagram:

Register for our newsletter for a chance to win a free Humans Outside decal: 

Don’t forget to follow @HumansOutside on Instagram:

Share your own outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Connect with us on Facebook:

How are you spending your outdoor time? Leave us a message and we might feature you on our weekly Outdoor Diary episode. Call ‪(360) 362-5317‬. 

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite Podcasts.

Amy Bushatz: In 2018, the US women’s cross country ski team gripped the world with the kind of high drama racing we count on the Olympics to provide as they took the first-ever gold for America in Nordic skiing. On this team skiing their hearts out during that race was Kikkan Randall – Anchorage, Alaska’s hometown hero. As an athlete, she has a special connection to the outdoors that we can’t wait to talk about. Kikkan, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast. We are so incredibly honored to have you here today. 

Kikkan Randall: Well, thank you for that wonderful introduction. It’s great to be a part of this community. 

AB: So we always start our show by imagining ourselves talking to our guests in their favorite outdoor space as if we were just sort of hanging out there. So where are we talking to you today?

KR: Well, it’s tough a little bit because, before having kids, I would have said out on a wide open plain in the springtime and Alaska, down near Portage Glacier. We’re floating on top of the crust on cross country skis. It’s a brilliantly sunny day and we’ve gotten up early to get out and enjoy this special condition — just flying along the snow with friends, just having a great time. 

But now that I have kids – my son just turned four – he’s not quite ready for that kind of adventure yet. So I think probably in the snow, exploring with him and my husband would be one of my favorite places these days.

AB: Do you anticipate him being up for that kind of adventure soon? Is that something you guys are working on? 

KR: We actually just got him on his first cross country skis yesterday and had a pretty good outing. You know, I think the key is not having too many expectations. We kind of went out for a little bit, ate some snow for a little while, threw some sledding in there. But he seemed to enjoy it and think it was fun to chase Mom and Dad around. So I think that we’ll call that a good start. 

AB: Hey, yeah, no pressure having mom who’s an Olympic gold medalist on that, I’m sure. Not that he knows that yet, but he will!

KR: Well, most importantly — my husband’s quite an athlete as well, and we both love all kinds of skiing — and we just want Breck to enjoy that have that same love of the outdoors that we do. And you know, if he decides to take it to a competitive level, that could be exciting, but we’ll just have to see how that unfolds.

AB: So over the last year Anchorage, and really all of America, has been pulling for you as you face a different kind of physical test fighting breast cancer. So you no longer call Alaska home, but we still consider you ours. I hope that’s okay. By the way, it sort of makes me sound like a stalker now that I’m thinking about it.

KR: No, once an Alaskan, always an Alaskan!

AB: So what was it like to come off of such an incredible victory at the Olympics to that kind of diagnosis? Did you feel sick at all leading up? What was that like?

KR: I mean, it was total shock and just disbelief, because I felt amazing. You know, I was coming off some of the best shape of my life. I was so excited to have concluded one amazing chapter of my ski career and I was looking forward to doing new things in a new place. And the last thing on my mind was that something like cancer would be lurking. 

But once I got over that initial shock and disbelief, I realized that it was real and I was just gonna have to tackle this as my newest challenge. It was weird to wrap my mind around the fact that I was going to have to make myself feel worse to get better, because I just didn’t feel sick at all. But that was the reality and I just kind of took it on.

AB: Is there a sense of betrayal at all there? That this body that helped you become a mother and took you to such incredible highs as an athlete, that it’s now giving you cancer — is there any emotional betrayal there?

KR: I haven’t felt any betrayal in that sort of sense. You know, certainly some frustration and a lot of feeling of unfairness, because I kind of felt like my body was this incredible machine that has allowed me to do so many incredible things. And the fact that I tried to take such good care of it by exercising, eating right, staying away from drugs and alcohol — I couldn’t believe it. But at the same time, I had a lot of confidence in my body, because I had done all the right things and because I knew it was strong, that I could get through this.

AB: I think as women in particular, we struggle with that sense of body confusion. Not to be like cliche, but just digging the skin you’re in for all its wins and losses and coming to terms with that. But in the midst of cancer, like you just said, you felt that it was kind of unfair. How do you find peace with that?

KR: Well, you just realize there are things you can control and things you can’t, and spending too much time on things you can’t control doesn’t get you anywhere. One of the big things that you can control is your attitude and your outlook. 

And so I can choose to feel betrayed by my body, to be frustrated, to really center on that. Or I can say — you know what, I’ve done some really incredible things. I have this strong body. I’m going to be able to get through this. I’m gonna use the motivation to get back to all the things I love to do to get me through whatever I need to put up with throughout the treatment. 

I think being able to just really think about the conversation going on in my mind and constantly reframe it back to the things that I could control, and always be kind of optimistic and hopeful. I think it’s been the biggest asset and getting through this challenge.

AB: One of the things you’ve really focused on as part of your recovery is something that a lot of people don’t think of as even being an option, which is staying active while going through cancer treatment. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that changed your journey and and how that’s important to you?

KR: Well, I had learned through several experiences with some illnesses and injuries in the past how important staying physically active was for helping my body process the act of recovery. It helped me physically but it also really helped me mentally. And so as I was looking down some pretty aggressive treatment for this cancer diagnosis, I knew that physical activity was only going to be helpful for me, it’s so core to who I am. It makes me feel somewhat normal going through this totally foreign process. I just wanted to stay true to something, again, that I could control. 

I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay active at the same level that I was used to. I knew that I would have to listen to my body and respect the signals — if I was feeling really tired, that meant now wasn’t the time to push. 

But I set this 10 minute rule for myself. I would try to get out and do something for 10 minutes a day. And if after 10 minutes, I was just feeling totally wiped, I would respect that and go home. But most often, that 10 minutes was just that little bit of coaxing I needed to get out and then it turned into 20 minutes and it would progress from there. 

Staying active, however small, each day helped me stay more mentally positive. It literally helped my body process the treatment. I would get a lot of water retention the day after chemo infusion. If I got out and did something easy like a roller ski or a bike ride, I would have less fluid retention than if I didn’t do anything. 

I knew that physical activity was going to be important going into it. But now that I’ve been through it, I can tell you, it is so important. And I wish that medical professionals were talking more about what you can do, and not just leaving that off the table.

AB: So one of the things I’ve been doing since September 2017 that we started talking about here on this podcast is spending 20 minutes outside every single day. Now, I have not been battling cancer. But, I and many others sort of use going outside as a mental health help. So when you’re saying staying active, you’re doing a variety of things, but many of them are outside right? How do the outdoors in particular factor into this? Is it just the act of being outside that you find helpful?

KR: I would definitely agree with you that making that commitment to get outside every day is important. Whenever I could, with my 10 minutes or however long it ended up being, I tried to do it outside. Where we live now in BC we were battling some forest fires last summer when I was going through treatment. So there were a few days when, as much as I would have loved to have been outside, I actually had to stay inside for health reasons. But every day that I could, I got out. 

I love being outside, but I love moving through the outdoors. Whether it’s climbing a mountain, running passed trees, sliding on snow, feeling the surf, or being in the water. 

I feel more content when I’m out in the outdoors. It feels so natural to be out there. Generally I’m out with family and friends and to me, that was a big distraction from how crummy I was feeling inside or all the negative emotions about frustration or bitterness or being scared. 

It seemed like when I was outside, I could focus on the positive emotions. And it’s amazing how just sometimes stepping out the door can just completely change your mindset.

AB: Absolutely. I love what you said about that 10 minute line. I find that if I can get out for just a few minutes, even if it’s, you know, sub zero, negative 20, within five or six minutes of being out there my attitude changes, my perspective changes. And even if it’s really cold, no bad weather just bad clothing, right? 

You can power through and get to that moment where you are seeing the benefit. And yes, coming in after the time is over is nice too, right? Because it’s warm inside or whatever. 

But I see that in my son, too. I don’t know if you notice this in your son, but I have a seven year old who has a terrible attitude if we’ve interrupted something that he considers to be important, like playing with his toys. But within just a few minutes of being out there, he has forgotten all of his sorrows. He’s sprinting down the path, without a care in the world. You never would have known that he was basically being dragged out of the house just a few minutes prior.

KR: Yeah, I can totally relate. It’s so funny. You know, sometimes you have to remind yourself that you’re the parent and you kind of know some things that are good for them. They’ll protest, but they’re always happier when they get outside.

AB: One of your primary efforts is encouraging women and girls in sport, both inside and outside. So I want to turn back just really fast to what we were talking about earlier with our relationships with our bodies. And, you know, women in sport is a complicated issue. It comes down to society and culture and all of these things. But when we talk about loving the skin you’re in, how is that connected to the women in sport issue and getting girls outside?

KR: Well, I’ve never delved into any specific research. But if I were to make a guess, I would say that girls and women involved in sports probably have higher confidence levels and less issues with body image than the general public. And I think that is because when you’re doing sports or an activity, you realize what your body can do. And you realize, in a sense, kind of why you’re built the way you’re built. I heard a great quote from an alpine skier once who said — yeah, I have a hard time buying jeans, but when I’m going 80 miles an hour down a hill, I need these legs to keep me on my skis.

I think that sports are a great way to keep you healthy. If you can find that good balance with your body where it’s operating the way it should – it’s in a good state where it’s getting the exercise, getting the nutrition, and everything works the way it should – then you really appreciate your body as opposed to feeling at odds with your body. 

It’s not to say that athletes don’t have issues, as we certainly do. You can switch to the other side where athletes are trying to maximize that body to be to get the competitive edge and sometimes it goes too far. But I really think that athletes are able to appreciate the strength by habit of daily activities and being physically active. It just helps create a better body image.

AB: I’ve heard you say that part of the reason you were able to move through your cancer treatment with such a healthy mindset was that you’re used to doing hard things. You’re used to asking a lot of yourself and and powering through when things don’t feel good. Because you know that it’s temporary based on your physical activity and your training. 

Are there maybe other mental strength or physical strength benefits that that kind of training gives you, as a woman, and that you hope to pass on to girls in sports?

KR: I really think that good, healthy habits of physical activity are just such an important base for anything you do in life, whether it’s chasing after big athletic goals, going after career goals, wanting to live a healthy, happy life, or being able to get through challenging illnesses or injuries. If you built that daily habit of physical activity, your body is strong, and you are prepared to take these things on. That’s the physical part. 

And then the mental part is that every day we’re going out there, we’re going through all these different situations. You’re constantly gathering experience. And there’s not a single athlete out there that has had the perfect road every step of the way. 

I think those days when it’s hard to get outside because you’re tired or the weather’s not great, but you go out there and you do it and you end up having a great time or you have a great workout, that teaches you that things aren’t always as they seem. Get out there because you just never know what might be waiting for you. 

You also get through those challenging sessions, maybe some days where you don’t feel very good. And then – aha! –  on a race day or a competition day, everything comes together and you see that it’s all worth it. 

And to me, those were huge themes that played through my cancer journey as well. You know, there were days when I felt absolutely miserable – only to have things turn around the next day. It’s kind of like — oh, man, you know, I wasn’t sure I could get through today. But I was able to get through one step at a time and now I’m feeling better. Or just looking at all the things that you have to face, just kind of going — okay, I have to get through this, but it’s going to get me back to where I want to go. 

Being active just just teaches you so much. It prepares you to take on anything. And it’s just the best way to spend your life. It’s just so amazing.

AB: I find that extends to all activities outside, not just sport. If I am willing to try something new outside, that becomes a muscle that grows over time. If I’m willing to try backpacking overnight once, now I’m willing to maybe try things that I thought were hard in other aspects of my life. This is something that I can take to the inside, into my job, into my family. I know I can do hard things because I’ve done this one hard thing in nature, or in a place that I’m not entirely comfortable. And that translates to the rest of my life.

KR: I totally agree. I think that every time we go out and try something that is a little success, it kind of builds our confidence. And then it’s something in our human nature that goes — okay, I did well at that level. Let’s take it up a notch. And that’s so cool. 

I love seeing people who have maybe not grown up active or they haven’t grown up spending a lot of time outdoors, and watching them discover it for the first time and just seeing it go like a snowball. It’s like you get your foot in the water and then all of a sudden — wow, that’s cool. Let’s try this and let’s do this and all of a sudden, it changes their outlook on life. I think you see the most successful people in the world and often they have some sort of either athletic or outdoor experience in their background. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

AB: Now that we live in Alaska, I have found myself trying all sorts of new things, if only because in the winter, if you’re going to be outside you best be moving while you do it. 

I am from a beach in California. I never skied a day in my life before moving here. And now I own skate skis, classic skis, downhill skis, you know, we’ve got all the skis! My husband somehow owns even more. I’m not even sure what all of them are for. And I’m not a fantastic skier, but I’m willing to try it now that I have a reason to and now that I’ve sort of given myself this challenge of getting out and doing new things.

You recently staged an incredible physical comeback during your recovery as a first time marathoner. You finished the New York City Marathon with a jaw-dropping to 2:55 marathon, which, for my non-running listeners, is really, really fast; much faster than the average runner. Way faster than me. Was running a new thing for you? And are you surprised by how well you did?

KR: I actually have quite a bit of running in my background. I mean, I have some awesome memories of being on my dad’s shoulders at a 10k at four years old. Maybe running about half the way and and then also getting a bit of piggy back. 

But growing up in Alaska, we had a great series of local races. And so I grew up doing those and always loved the community feel of it and loved pushing myself. I actually thought I was going to be a competitive runner in college when I was going through high school, and then I ended up meeting this coach at the end of my sophomore year who turned me more in the skiing direction. 

But running has always been a big passion of mine and it was fun to turn my efforts towards the marathon. We were kind of curious to see what the effect of all the treatment was going to be on my fitness. Certainly coming off my ski career, I had a great engine. 

So I ended up working with my high school running coach, a guy named Harry Johnson, who was a super influential coach for me at East High. We worked together to build a program that I started last April. We just gradually built up the mileage and it was tough. I set that goal of running under three hours without really appreciating how far the marathon distance is. When I started the training, I realized that 26 miles at that pace was going to be tough, but I put in the time. 

About two weeks before the marathon, I ran a half marathon that went pretty well. So I had some excited feelings, and then and then on race day, man, it just all came together. I was kind of blown away by how well it went to be way under three was just fantastic. I ran with two of my Olympic teammates and we just had a great time running together through the boroughs of New York.

It was cool. I mean, well, marathon running isn’t exactly the same training as cross country skiing. There’s a lot of crossover in the fitness aspect and I think, because I was able to kind of gradually build up my mileage, I got my legs ready for the pounding. And it was just so cool to be able to tackle a totally different goal like that.

AB: And you did a bunch of your training on a cruise ship if I remember correctly, which I have a new appreciation for, as I have just come back from a cruise myself. I took a careful look at that running track and I thought — wow, she’s intense.

KR: You know, I’m gonna give credit to cancer for that one. Because before, I would have been like — oh, come on, I gotta run two hours around this dinky track? But I just kind of went — you know what, I’m excited for this marathon. 

I was speaking on Princess Cruises this summer and they just happened to fall on all my long run days. And I wanted to follow the plan. So I just got out there and I had people join me for some of the workouts for a few laps and I listened to some podcasts. And you know, it wasn’t actually so bad.

AB: That’s great. For those who don’t often run on a cruise ship, which I think it’s probably everybody, it is eight laps to a mile and if it’s anything like the track on the cruise ship I just got off of, it’s not like a square. It sort of squiggles along the ship. I think they’re trying to make it more interesting, but I’m looking at it thinking —  this is just gonna make your hips hurt.

KR: It was actually good practice for New York because there were people walking along the deck not realizing it was a track, so I was dodging some people and if it had rained overnight, you know, the corners were a little bit exciting and yeah, it was interesting. But you know, you got a new view every 45 seconds, so that was great.

AB: Well, Humans Outside is all about exploring our relationship with the outdoors and of course, pushing each other to get into nature and see what it has for us. So I’m wondering if you could talk about your relationship with being in nature, but both as an athlete who competes outside and as an Alaskan, is there a love hate relationship with it a little bit, or do you just love it?

KR: If I think back to my childhood, I will admit there were some times my parents had to drag me out the door. Because, as you know, Alaska can throw all sorts of things at you, and it’s tempting to stay inside. But I am so grateful that my parents did drag me out. Because if I think back to all my favorite memories as a kid, they’re all outside. They’re hiking up to Crow Pass or ice skating on a frozen lake in the fog. Alaska is such an incredible outdoor playground. 

Because we always got out no matter what the weather, it just instilled in me this love of the outdoors and this attitude that no matter what, you just get out there. So many times, even if I was a little pessimistic to start, I always ended up enjoying it. It just made me really good at dressing for the elements. You know, it’s all about layering. And if you have the right gear, that certainly makes it a lot better. 

AB: Maybe this is because I’m relatively new here to Alaska, but every year I notice in early January that I want to not do the thing. I really just want to stay inside and watch TV or eat an extra snack. The harder you have to try to go out, the more meaningful it is and the more important it is. But when it’s hard is the time that it actually matters; the rest of the time, maybe it doesn’t matter as much, but when you have to try harder is when it has the bigger impact on you as a person. Do you find that to be true?

KR: Yeah, I think so. I look back to my time at high school. We’d go to school by 7:30 in the morning, so it’d be dark when you got to school. And as we got done with school, we’d head straight to sports practice, and by the time we were done with ski practice, it’d be dark again. And so I realized how if you went straight from school, indoors to a job, or just home and hanging out, you would almost completely miss the day. And I know people who work face the same thing. Being able to get out, even for 30 minutes of daylight before the before dusk fell upon us, or even just skiing under the lights, I think that was just normal. 

That’s why I think I enjoy living in Alaska so much and enjoy the winters. I can’t imagine how hard it would be if you just stayed inside the whole time. I think that would be harder than getting out on those colder days.

AB: How do you keep away from burnout? As somebody who does training outside, how do you keep away from not wanting to anymore?

KR: I’ve always found it’s really helpful to have a team of some sort. And sometimes you naturally fall into a team if you’re part of an organized group, whether it was school or my professional team. But sometimes you have to create your own team. You’ve got to find some people and you gotta say — hey, let’s meet up. Because if you create that little bit of accountability, it gets you out there on those tough days when you might not have gone yourself, but then you get out there and you also enjoy the experience more with people. At least, that’s the way I am. I think a team is super important. If you’re out doing stuff with people, it keeps it fresh, there’s conversation and there’s different perspectives. I think it just really keeps it interesting. 

The other thing for me has always been having a goal, having a little bit of a reason why I’m getting out there. That got me through some of those tough training sessions. It’s like when I was training for the British Olympics. You’re just putting in so much work, and you’ve already done this route 100 times in the summer, but you’re going to go out and do it again, because you know what you’re working towards. 

That was the same thing with the marathon, right? Okay, shoot, I’m on a cruise ship. Well, this isn’t the exact workout I’d like to do. I’d rather be on a beautiful bike trail somewhere. But this is going to get me to my goal, so I’m going to do it. I think that really helps get through some of those sessions that can get end up getting monotonous. Ultimately, if you do find yourself kind of hating to get out there, then maybe it’s time for a change of pace. You know, pick up something new. If you’ve been running outside all winter, try going out on snowshoes. Similar fitness, totally different perspective. Or get out on skis or switch to the bike. I mean, there’s so many different ways you can switch it up. That’s what I loved about my cross country ski training, we got to do a lot of different activities.

AB: What you described about having a team is exactly one of the things that we’re doing here at Humans Outside. We’ve got a group of people who are looking to spend a certain amount of time outside every day. We ask everybody to #humansoutside365 as a way to look at what other people are doing and create that accountability we’re talking about, mostly on Instagram, and just share what they’re doing. 

The inspiration for somebody on your right and on your left virtually to see how you’re spending your time outside and get others out with you. That’s been really helpful for me as I’ve been getting outside, just to have that accountability, that I know that I committed to posting a picture of me doing something outside every single day. And – so help me – today will not be the day that I don’t do that!

I recently spent my 20 minutes outside walking along the sidewalk at the drop off area of the Seattle Tacoma airport, because I had a three hour layover. It seemed like a good time to get some sun and a good time to avoid having to do my 20 minutes when I got home at 6pm in Alaska, and it was ridiculously cold. It helps to plan it out and build it into your day. But I think that team aspect that you’re talking about is really, really key with that. It’s just knowing you’re not alone and trying to do something, that someone else is watching out for you. It’s so huge.

KR: Yeah, well you are very clever. I mean, sometimes I think we build up in our mind what an outing has to be, that it has to be this big adventure where we’re going to be out there for hours. But it can be a 20 minute walk during an airport layover, and that is worth doing – versus not making it out for that grand adventure. We always say, aim for the grand adventure, but also know that it can take many shapes and forms.

AB: Oh, absolutely. I think through the effort that that took; I had to go back through security again. It’s sort of a pain in the ass, but it was fine. And I got to get out of the airport, which was great because I’d been in an airport and an airplane for a super long time. But guess what, the sun outside the Seattle Tacoma airport felt really good on my face the same way it does when I’m walking down a path in the woods felt exactly the same.

So I could close my eyes and forget that I was surrounded by cars, shoving people out of their doors on their way to wherever they’re going. And just think — I’m out here breathing in some fresher-than-inside-the-airport air, and the sun – man, it felt magical, right? And it didn’t matter that I was next to a bunch of cars. It was perfect the way it was.

So what’s next for you? What’s coming next?

KR: Realizing that I love to be motivated by new goals, I’ve signed up for a couple of 50 kilometer ski races this winter. One’s coming up next weekend, and I haven’t been able to get in quite as much skiing as I’d hoped. I’ve been doing some travel and stuff, but I’m meeting up with some friends. It’s a race called Ski to the Sun. It’s in the Methow Valley in Washington and I’m pretty excited to get out there and explore the trails and see if I can still ski 50k! That will set me up hopefully for another 50k in three weeks in Wisconsin called the Berkey. I raced it last year, about a month after I finished radiation. It was my first 50k and I want to go back and do it again when I know I feel kind of normal, so I’m excited about that. 

But right now, just figuring out the next step post-ski career. I’ve been doing some motivational speaking, kind of sharing my story. I’m doing some work with the International Olympic Committee, I was just over at the Youth Olympic Games and Switzerland. 

And then working on growing the project that my husband and I started with our inspirational happy socks. We have these really brightly colored socks that we sell through my website, and we donate $2 from every pair to AKTIV Against Cancer. We have a couple other products as well, some headbands and neck wraps and things. We started that as a way to help people keep the mindset positive when they’re going through something challenging. It’s been pretty cool to hear the stories of how the products are helping people. We’re excited about expanding that side of the business. Other than that, just really trying to make sure I create time every day to get outside. Stay active.

AB: Yes, well we’ll absolutely link to said socks and other products in the show notes so everyone can find those. How can listeners follow your journey going forward other than checking out your website?

KR: I’m most active on Instagram. I’m @kikkanimal on Instagram. That goes to my Facebook athlete page as well, and I occasionally pop on Twitter. It’s trying to share, share the trials and tribulations of being an Olympic champion and now being an active mom and someone who helps people get physically active.

AB: As one of your, you know, non-creepy Instagram stalkers, I can testify that your page is fun to follow. I suggest that to anybody who is looking for a new person to follow. It’s been fun watching your journey and just sort of being silently in your corner. Good vibes, good vibes. 

So we’ve come to the part of our show that I like to call the Lightning or Leftovers Round. It’s just a bunch of questions that don’t really fit anywhere else in the show that I just really want to know the answer to. 

So, with no further ado, can you tell us your favorite outdoor gear?

KR: Well, my favorite outdoor gear is my cross country skis. Because when I’m out on those skis, I feel like I’m flying. It’s just such an amazing feeling to be out there. So I have a few pairs of them!

AB: We’ll link to those for everyone. You can check out the show notes for links to that stuff, too. What is your most essential outdoor gear which, honestly is not always the same thing.

KR: I have this jacket that I helped design with LL Bean. They actually even did it in pink for me, and it’s this jacket that’s a shell that is breathable. So it can be like something I can go out in cross country skiing or mountain biking. You know, when the elements are kind of hammering down on me, it can be a great winter jacket. I mean, I find that I just pack that thing with me all season. It’s called the neoshell jacket. It’s gone through a couple of renditions; they found a material now that’s even more breathable. So I think having a solid shell like that, I find, especially living in Alaska, you just need it. You just never know, you might need it every single day.

AB: Yeah, well, like we said, no bad weather, just bad clothing. I think that’s especially hammered home here or in other climates that are a lot like Alaska, but it’s truly true everywhere. If you’re prepared and you know what to wear, you can really get outside in any kind of weather. There’s no excuse to avoid, for example, even rain in the south, if you have some rain gear that keeps you dry without making you just sweat to death, right? So it’s just a matter of making it a priority to source the right thing and to do some research and know what the right thing is that works for you. Which by the way, isn’t necessarily the right thing that works for your friend sitting next to you. So some of its trial and error.

KR: But eventually you find those items that are really versatile, stick with you. Then, when you have the right gear, it makes your experience outdoors so much better.

AB: It really does. I am embarrassed to admit that it took me several years to really bite the bullet and buy all of the jackets. I mean, in every weight that you can imagine. It has made such a huge, huge difference this year to my willingness to be out when it’s really cold outside. I just thought that I alone in the universe could do without those things. And as it turns out, that is not true.

KR: So I see it as something kind of fun. You know, when you have gear that you’re excited about, you’re excited to put it on and go out and do adventures. So I use it as a little bit of an incentive.

AB: Absolutely. Everyone likes a cute outfit. Yeah, come on, you know.

So, finally, your favorite outdoor moment. If you think about your love for being outside and just close your eyes, what is that favorite moment that you see, something that just comes to mind, if you could describe it for us.

KR: So it’s the spring of 2018. Right after the Olympics happened. We had packed up and moved down to BC. We were just setting up our new house and the new location. Where we bought a house, we ended up having this hillside straight across from us. So my husband and my son and I went out for a hike just to kind of check it out. There were all these flowers blooming everywhere. They were balsamroot, so they had these big yellow flowers. My son had just turned two at the time. So it’s a beautiful day, it’s probably in the mid 70s. We’re out there hiking, my son is just running down the path. I remember in that moment kind of feeling so content; I was excited to have just closed that amazing chapter as a skier and was looking forward to the future. You know, there we were outside in this beautiful place on a beautiful day. And ironically, it was that night, that when I was getting ready for bed, I found the lump in my breast and that kind of all changed from there. But that day was amazing.

AB: Thanks for taking us there for a second. Kikkan, thank you so much for joining us on the Humans Outside Podcast. I really appreciate your time and I was so excited to talk to you today and for you to share your story with our listeners. So thank you.


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