The first two weeks of the season are over and to be completely honest, they were far from satisfactory. There are lots of factors that may or may not have contributed to sub-par races but the bottom line is that I just didn’t race well. During a few time trials back home in November I felt less than stellar, unable to tap into that race feeling and fitness. In the first Super Tours in West Yellowstone I had the same feeling. The sprint prelim was ok not great; I qualified 20th which was in the mix but I didn’t feel like I was sprinting. Fortunately that was good enough to make the heats and I felt much better in the quarterfinal. A new–and welcome–change on the SuperTour this year is the timing of heats. For the past several years, lucky losers (the last two to move on to semifinals after the first two in each heat automatically advance) were selected from the lowest bib numbers (based on qualifying placement) that placed third in the heats. So it didn’t matter if you placed third in the fastest heat if you had a high bib number from a slower qualifying time (i.e. Bib 20 but bibs 18 and 19 also finished third then you’d be out). By timing the heats, the fastest racers actually advance which is more fair. So I managed to out-lunge my teammate Fitz for third and luckily we had the fastest quarterfinal times so we both advanced! The sprint course was pretty twisty-turny and I got boxed out early on and never managed to make a move around and my day was over. So, not the result I was gunning for but 12th in the end was a good start.
Nearing the finish of my quarterfinal, I am far left, #20 (photo: PK)
Sunday’s race was a different story. I was looking forward to the 10km skate and had a good race plan. However, after a good warmup, I started out conservatively and was never able to pick up the pace and my race plan went out the window. I never felt relaxed and comfortable on my skis and finished way down in the results. I’ve struggled with short skate races the past few years and was hoping that things had changed but apparently not. Some of it is a mental block after having dealt with so much lower leg injury but it’s clearly something I still need to work on.
West Yellowstone is a funny venue. It’s at altitude, the course is deceptively hard even though it’s relatively flat, it’s the first races of the season and it’s also a ski festival over Thanksgiving holiday with more Midwest juniors and masters than you knew existed (no offense to anyone, it’s just a fact) and everyone is anxious to see how well their summer training has paid off, especially with the Olympics this year. So the stress factor is high. But more often than not, how you race in West is not a fair indicator of how the season will pan out.
Me and Claire, my college roommate, teammate and best friend!
West is the one time every year that Claire, our other college teammate/friend Em, and I are all in one place, so it’s a really fun reunion (I failed to get a group photo this year! So sad).
West is also home of the gear expo where all the industry brands showcase and promote their new products. My two main equipment sponsors, Rossignol (boots, skis, bindings) and Start (poles) have amazingly helpful and personable reps, Paul and Evan, and I want to thank them for getting me set up with some great equipment and hopefully I will do them proud with some good results here soon. I also helped at the NNF booth at the expo and they did a nice profile on me here. The NNF is an amazing organization that has helped increase funding for American skiing and subsidize international race trips across the board from juniors to the World Cup.
The week after West, Bozeman was frigid. I’m not talking ‘ooh, my cheeks and fingers are a bit nippy’ cold, I’m talking ‘wear two layers each of thermals, overpants, jackets, puffy jackets, hats, buffs plus a cold air breathing mask, mittens and overboots’ cold. I think the average for the week was -20F. We still got some decent training as long as you wore all the clothing mentioned above and went slow enough to not really sweat. I was really looking forward to the races, both classic, a sprint and a 10km mass start. But, FIS has a temperature limit of -4F/-20C for official racing, and come Saturday morning, it was still an icy -18F/-27C, so they had to cancel the sprint. The forecast called for warmer temperatures on Sunday for the distance race (warm being high of about 0 – +2F) but it never got that warm. The official thermometer was reading -5 to -7F in the stadium but the jury argued that it was warmer (i.e. at least -4F and legal) around the rest of the course and so after three 30-min delays, the race started. Unfortunately, after about 3km I decided that the air coming into my lungs was still too cold and harmful, even with my crazy pig-snout breathing mask, so I pulled over and didn’t finish. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it. If it was cold enough that my coach told me to race in my warmup jacket (which I did) then it was cold enough to do serious damage to my lungs, and this early in the season, I didn’t want to risk it. It was a bummer, but the right decision. I got to watch everyone lap and finish from the heated seat of my car! Kudos to the race organizers and volunteers, and racers, who stood freezing for hours to pull off the event. However, I still think it was a dubious decision to hold the race.
Nevertheless, racing goes on, and now we have made the ten-hour road trip across the border to the more balmy climes of Rossland, B.C. Canada. The temps are on the upswing with highs just around freezing forecasted for the weekend! The courses are legit, and will be tough, but I’m looking forward to some fun racing!
I also want to give a shout-out to my APU teammie Sadzarue (aka Sadie Bjornsen) who has been kicking ass on the World Cup over in Europe the past few weeks and has been such an inspiration. Sadie has finished 7th in both classic distance races, in Finland and Norway (meaning arguably some of the deepest WC fields) and helped the ladies relay team to a bronze medal in Lillehammer last weekend. It is incredibly inspiring to see someone like Sadie have such success because she has had so many injuries the past few years that have prevented her from training at full capacity until late this summer yet she still puts a smile on her face, goes out and skis like a bandit. It’s also awesome to know that I do virtually the same training, so somewhere in there I must have another level of racing, I just have to find it. I’m so happy for her, and can’t wait to see what else she and the rest of my teammates over in Euroland–Kikkan, Holly and Rosie–have to show us this year.
More photos from the past couple weeks!
Panorama of Bohart Ranch XC trails BEFORE it got wicked cold. Pretty spectacular.
Me, PK and Jess at Bohart…AUS reunion!Sunset in West Yellowstone
Getting creative with the shots…same sunset as above.
APU girls in Bozeman a few days before the races. New uniforms are sharp! (photo: Becca)
Having fun at the grocery store in Bozeman 🙂
Snow on arrival in Rossland!
Becca and I jumping for joy for the amazing skiing and warmer temps in Rossland yesterday