With the season well and truly behind me, there are a few final thoughts I wanted to get down before they escape me. Racing finished almost two months ago in Fairbanks for spring series/US distance nationals. Since then, life has been a whirlwind of power runs (my favorite spring activity), crust skiing, and pulling shots at the Dot. All of a sudden training season is upon us, and I haven’t even had a chance to write about my final races!
Before Fairbanks, I traveled to Quebec to compete in World Cup Finals. These races weren’t part of the Australian Team plan, but lucky for me, I was able to get support from the APU staff that was working with the US Ski Team for the week. APU had five athletes qualify to compete in Quebec (in addition to the four that are already on the US Ski Team), so we had quite the contingency there! Unlucky for me though, there was a massive storm that affected the east coast of the US/Canada on the day I was supposed to fly.
I was notified that my 8PM flight out of Anchorage was cancelled that morning, and spent the entire day in a panic trying to reroute it. I basically turned into Karen from Mean Girls; just call me weather woman. I attempted to track the storm in an effort to figure out which airport I could fly into that would remain unaffected by the weather. Turns out, this was impossible- this was no 30% chance its already raining– it was blizzarding literally EVERYWHERE… something like 800 flights were cancelled in the US alone. Long story short, I was put on at least 7 cancelled flights, had one plane turn around because the weather was too bad to make an approach, had to sleep (for all of 30 minutes) on the floor of Toronto airport surrounded by hundreds of other stranded passengers (there were NO hotel rooms available in the Toronto airport area), stood in line for 3 hours (from 3-6am) only to be told I couldn’t get on a flight to Quebec until Friday (which was two days later, and AFTER the first race of the tour…and if you don’t start the first stage, you can’t start the second), and eventually caught a train to Quebec (that had two stops and took 12 hours…longer than air travel from Anc-Quebec should have taken) because the roads were closed so renting a car wasn’t even an option! Well, long story not so short, which is quite fitting with my travel experience. If I hadn’t discovered Pilot Coffee Roasters, a small coffee shop in Toronto train station, its possible I would have given up entirely and headed home to Anchorage. That cappuchino was a life saver.
There is a point, beyond complaining, that stems from retelling my travel woes. By the time I made it to Quebec, I was the most tired I have ever felt after travel. I got to my hotel at about 11pm and had to wake up the next morning to do race-prep, which was to be followed by three super hard tour stages. I awoke groggy, dehydrated, achey, and miserable- feelings that all haunted me during my ski that morning. It was hands down the worst I have ever felt the day before a race, and I grew increasingly concerned about surviving the weekend. By some miracle, however, I woke up the morning of the sprint feeling like a new human. Somehow, three days of travel and countless crying breakdowns along the way were just what I needed to have an amazing race. I ended up in 32nd place in the skate sprint- just 0.3 seconds out of top 30/qualifying for the heats, which is by far the closest I have ever been (with the exception of in Korea). While I was bummed to be so close, I was equally ecstatic that making top 30 in deep World Cup now felt like a tangible goal for next season. The next two stages of distance races also went really well for me, and on the last night I got to celebrate with delicious stuffed crepes (that I still couldn’t order in French, even after six years of studying the language…yikes).
Having three of the best races of my entire season after such horrendous travel was a really valuable experience overall. It made me realize that “feeling” the worst doesn’t always translate into racing the worst; in fact, it can mean quite the opposite. I also won’t stress about long travel in the future, as a) nothing can ever be as bad as this experience (unless the plane crashes, fingers crossed) and b) if anything, it seems like a little forced break from skiing mid-season can actually be pretty restful… even if its spent in an airport with no sleep. Sometimes our poor,overworked bods just need a break!
After Canada, I headed back to Alaska for spring series. Multiple consecutive years of racing on alternate courses/ venues due to lack of snow made Fairbanks feel like a dream come true. The skiing was amazing, AND the sun was (mostly) shining- two things that rarely come hand-in-hand at spring series. The first half of the week was awesome for me; I even had a fleeting 7.5 kilometer long career as a classic skier in the skiathlon, where I somehow managed to ski in the top five. Like I said, this career was short-lived after I experienced an epic blow-up in the classic leg of the relay four days later. I was right back to being a die-hard skater. But hey, it was fun while it lasted!
Unfortunately, by the time the 30k rolled around, I had succumbed to some sort of stomach bug. I raced anyway, thinking it might go away, but then spent the entire race feeling like I was going to vomit. The voice in my head told me I wasn’t allowed to drop out since it was the last race of the season, so I sucked it up, then went home and watched an entire season of Sex and the City in the fetal position. It was a fairly anticlimactic end to my season, but then Big ditched Carrie on her wedding day and Samantha got diagnosed with breast cancer, so things were put into perspective for me. Life isn’t so bad; in fact, I had the best season of my ski career by a long shot- complete with performances I didn’t even believe I was capable of. Because of that, I am inspired to train hard all summer in preparation for the Olympic year, which brings me to where I am now.
Although summer hasn’t quite gotten its act together yet (well, it started to, but then I got snowed on twice last week), I have already been training hard with my APU sistas for the past month now. I am motivated to improve upon my results from last year, and my goals for next season fuel me during every workout. Now all that’s missing is the sun, and sweet little Kip, who is currently en route all the way from Perth (with SQ and Jeff) to save me from crazy moose on my mountain adventures this summer!
Some pics from spring adventures: