This past week, I wrapped up a series of 3 RMISA races here in Anchorage. It was fantastic to have such high quality racing just miles from the comfort of my AK home! Here’s how they panned out.
Monday, Feb 20: Skate Sprint
We were super fortunate to kick things off with an absolutely beautiful day, which made it all the more enjoyable. I had my best sprint qualifier to date, finishing closer to the winner and most everyone ahead of me than ever before. I was also pleased with how I linked the whole course together. Unfortunately, in the quarterfinal, whilst I was having the best finishing skate sprint kick of my life, I poled my own ski and sent myself into a “super-man” belly flop a mere 20 meters from the finish line! Thus my sprint day came to an end. Of course I was disappointed not to move on, but in the end, the positives of the day: having a solid skate sprint qualifier, and my closing speed in the quarter, I was, overall quite pleased.
Tuesday, Feb 21: 10km Classic Mass Start
Another absolutely beautiful day, but man, what a frustrating day it was. When I had decided to focus on these races in AK rather than travel back to the Midwest for the Super Tour, this was the main race I had my eye on. I knew the course, how it skied, how the venue typically skis with a mass start, and I had a game plan. It was simple… I wanted to win. The pace went out hot, and around 2km, after a fast downhill, I was caught just a couple positions back, and a split happened 2 skiers in front of me. The gap quickly opened up to almost 10sec, but then around the 4km major climb, I made a big move to close that deficit. I got to within 2sec of this lead pack, and I’m not sure if they saw me coming, but the leader put in a surge over the top of the rise, and I was not able to make contact. I really needed to connect with this pack before the descent, to maximize the drafting effect of the pack. The chase pack that I was in, remained 3-4 seconds behind the leaders, until about 8.5km, when the lead pack pace surged again. I crossed the finish line with 4 of us within 1 sec of each other in 7th, 20 seconds out of 1st. A decent result, but not fully satisfied. The frustrating part of the race was how the dynamics of mass start racing panned out on the day. I kept getting boxed in, and never had a window to try to close things back up to the leaders, after my first attempt. But that’s racing for you! I guess next time I’ll just have to make sure I’m right at the front so that the only splits that can happen are behind me. 🙂
Friday, Feb 24: 10km Skate Individual Start
Given how close I was on Monday and Tuesday to having the race I wanted, I was out for blood today. I started behind a guy whom I thought was a likely favorite for the win (and he did end up winning). I knew that if I could start to close in on him, I would more than likely have a good day. With fresh snowfall overnight, the conditions were a little bit soft. After a super soft race earlier in the year at Sun Valley, I had learned that it was better to average a harder pace from the start than to stay super controlled and then really kick up the pace the last kilometers. So I started off at an aggressive pace I thought I could hold, and would be fast enough to challenge for the win. At 2.5km’s-ish into the race, I was leading by a second. By the time I came through 5km, I was 3 seconds down, and on the second lap, well, the legs came off. At the finish, I was slightly surprised to see that I still had a decent result despite feeling like I absolutely died, 9th 38sec out of first. I am proud of how hard I fought even though things weren’t going quite as planned. Regardless, there are many positives from the day. The first is that I have the raw pace to go the speed necessary to be fighting for the win. I always say, “If you can’t ski 1 kilometer at the winning pace the fastest guys are skiing, then how do you expect to race and contend for 10k?”. I was not so far off being able to hold that pace. On a different day, under different conditions, who knows, I might’ve held it. The big takeaway for me, which has solidified a trend this season, is that I need more leg strength, specifically for really hilly courses requiring a lot of V1 skate technique. Not much can be done between now and the next races for that, but by next season, you better believe it.
Next up…… I’m headed to Europe!!!!!!! I’ve been selected for a team to race for the “US of A” at OPA Finals cup, which is like a 2nd tier world cup. I travel over on 3/6, arrive on 3/8, and ski in 2 Italian races on 3/11-12 before the OPA Cup finals kick off in Toblach, Italy on 3/17-18-19. There I will race a skate sprint, 10km skate individual start, and a 15km classic pursuit. After that, I’ll jump back across the pond to Craftsbury Vt for the final big race of the season at Spring Series, (aka Super Tour Finals, or Distance Nationals) where I’ll round out my season with a 40km class mass start.
Until next time,