World University Games Recap

And just like that, my second race block of the season is complete.

There are days when the time seems to pass slowly, usually when I don’t have very much to do, which isn’t often, but when the trip comes to an end, it’s crazy to think that all those races have already come and gone. To conclude this block, I was in Lake Placid at the World University Games. Originally, I was only going to race the 30km skate mass start on 1/22. But on Wed 1/18 I was given the opportunity to start in the 4×7.5km relay on 1/20 as well.

Here’s the rundown.


Team USA 5th overall, I had the 5th fastest classic leg of the day.

When I was given the option to start this race, I’m not gonna lie, I was hesitant. I knew I would only be racing the 30km for quite some time and therefore had my plan and mindset dialed in for just that. I knew I could do well in the 30k and didn’t want the relay to have any negative impact on that performance. In the end we decided that doing the relay should be fine. So onto the race. I raced the first leg of a 4x 7.5k team for the USA. We did 3 x 2.5 km laps, and it was awesome! There was tons of support out there, and I’ve never heard my name called out so many times. The conditions were tricky to kick wax for and unfortunately I had very little kick which made the hilly course quite difficult. I did however have the fastest boards in the field which meant I was able to make up the time I had lost on the climbs in the descents and flats. I tagged off to my teammate in 3rd, just a few seconds behind the leader. I’m happy with my performance as I positioned my team with a shot for a medal. My body responded really well today, so I was optimistic that Sunday would be something special. I think the coolest part about the relay is that this was my first race to represent the Stars and Stripes, &

doing that in a relay was really fun!!

30 km skate mass start

6th overall, 2nd American, Tantalizingly close.

I started as bib 20 in the 7th row, meaning I’d have some work ahead to get to the front. Coming into the race my plan was to get to the front, analyze how the rest of the field was doing, and depending on how that looked, either go, sit and wait till the last lap, or in the worst case scenario, simply hang on to the leaders for the finish line. It ended up being a mix of all 3. I was able to make my way to the front within the first km, and since the pace was slow at first, I decided that if nobody wanted to go, I’d take the pace on and just make it a hard race. Coming over the high point on lap 1, maybe 3km into the race, I had a slender gap on the rest of the field. That lead didn’t last long as the dynamics of the pack in the downhill sections provided good drafting opportunities. For laps 2,3,4 and 5 I raced near the front to keep out of trouble, coming to the front for the climbs so I could ski how I wanted to without concern for other people’s poles, and skis. That way, I could keep my own rhythm rather than trying to match somebody else’s. Then, on the last lap, fellow American and eventual race winner, John Hagenbaugh made the move that I had been planning to make. He opened a gap immediately leaving a pack of 6 of us to chase him down. Just after he made his move, the gradient kicked up requiring a change in gears. It was at this moment that my legs started to cramp and it was all I could do to stay with the group. By the top of the climb, a small gap had opened between myself and positions 2-5, and there wasn’t enough time or working sections to bring it back. The race itself was not cardiovascularly too hard, but I needed 3 more minutes of good legs to have any hope of a win or podium. When you’re talking about a race that is over 70 minutes long, that’s not very much. And when you’re only 17 seconds out, we’re talking very small margins that determine whether or not you have the goods, on the day, that determine a win or a 6th. Hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear there were a few factors that I could’ve changed for a different result, but regardless, I was pleased with my approach and execution of my race, especially for the first 26.5k.

It was still my best FIS points result to date and it was a really fun race! Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve loved to take the win, and I don’t think I’ve wanted to win a race more, but nothing fuels the fire quite like being that close.

I’ll be thinking about that one for a while.

All in all, a great week! My family and some friends came out to cheer. I got to see my 96 year old grandpa for the first time in years and one of my best friends, who I only get to see a few times a year. Not too shabby I’d say. 🙂

I’m currently back in AK, ready for a bit of a reset after being on the road for months. It will be good to get back with the APU crew and I’m looking forward to getting in a small training block before the next races in the second half of February.

Until next time,

Garrett Butts