After another really long, international travel day, and getting into Craftsbury at 1:40am, I managed to get a few hours of sleep before heading to the venue with the team for my first of 6 days of skiing in Vt. Tuesday-Saturday were all largely the same in terms of training…easy distance ski, short run and core strength. On Thursday I did a few short intervals just to shake any post travel cobwebs out and felt surprisingly good, all things considered! The day before my race, we received an email from the organizers stating that the race times had been changed to 10am from the original noon start. After reading this good news, it seemed like a switch flipped in my head, and for the rest of the day I was absolutely buzzin thinking about the race to come. Man what a crazy day it was, but maybe not for the reasons you would think.
3/26/23 US National Champs – 44 km classic mass start, 9th overall/7th American
This was a 4 lap race, and a super tricky day to make the skis fast because of the new & falling snow conditions. In addition, the course had lots of rolling & gradual terrain so it was challenging to take the lead. Therefore the 100+ group of men were more or less together for the whole first lap, strung out in a long line. Coming through the first lap, our entire APU crew led the first 4 positions in front, which was pretty sweet. At about 14k into the race, a decisive attack to break away from the pack was made by a Norwegian. The pace went from a comfortable and manageable race pace to me thinking, “dang, I don’t know if I can do that for another 30k.” He got a decent gap pretty quickly while I stayed in the second group. For a while, we were actually closing the gap back down from 30 seconds to 15 seconds, but then it really started to open up again. I was focused on trying to conserve energy, and taking in all the fuel I could at the feed stations, in hopes of distancing our chase group in the last couple km where the climbs are steeper. Things were going pretty well… I hit my feeds, and I felt pretty good, but given that this was my longest race this season, the last 14km meant I would be in unknown territory. I took a more conservative approach than I might normally take for a race, and I’m glad I did. On the last main climb, with 2k remaining, I wanted to make my move. I hit the hill and thought, “alright, this is it, time to shine”. I went from third to first in my group, was feeling good but within 30 seconds of accelerating my vision started to blur, and shortly thereafter my legs went too. Over the course of the next kilometer I ended up losing about 13 seconds to the leader of our 3 man chase pack. This is when things got weird. After finishing (2hours and 18minutes later), I put on dry clothes-a big puffy coat, downed some calories, and went for a cool down. During my walking- pace cool down, I was breathing harder than I was at any point during the race, & I started to get very cold. I thought to myself, “man, I am not quite all there right now”. So I turned back, grabbed my stuff and headed to the team car hoping I wouldn’t black out somewhere in the woods en route. After I made it back to the car, I scrambled to change all my clothes, putting on everything I had with me. I was shivering, breathing like a freight train, seemingly super emotional, and my vision was splotchy while the world was spinning. With the help of my parents on the phone, coaches, a ham sandwich and 2 liters of coke, I finally started to come around. So what the flippin ‘heck just happened? I bonked, and bonked hard (exercise induced hypo-glycemia)! The race was fine enough given the week of illness, international travel, racing, etc… Another top 10 US National finish was good, but to be honest the post race experience was arguably the most valuable thing I learned on the day.
Well, it’s crazy to get past the fact that this race was my last of the 2022-23 season, but in an effort to keep it just to a race recap and from getting too lengthy, I’ll save the end of season conclusion, thoughts, etc for another newsletter. 🙂
Now though, I’m back in AK where I’ll take some easy recovery days after a season filled with lots of travel and racing. Blood work will be done to assess how things are looking post illness/season (which I am very keen to see) and I will finish up my spring semester of school. Besides that, I’m just generally stoked to take advantage of the fantastic spring skiing (all varieties) that we will undoubtedly have!
Until next time!