So the Under 23 World Championships are done for another year. Today was the 15 km skiathlon, which is actually a 30km race. The first 15 km is classic and then you change skis mid race and then do 15 km skate. I’ll admit I have some mixed emotions in some ways it was a good race for me, I’ve never worked so hard in my life or pushed so hard. On the other hand I’m left feeling a little empty which I’ll explain why a little later on.
So as usual we woke early and went for our morning but unlike other morning where we have tab outside we went to the gym instead and did it on the treadmills. Recently quite a few athletes have been chased by wild dogs and one American was bitten, not to mention we live on the side of a huge hill and it’s either straight up or straight down so it’s hard to take it easy.
Warm up was a little tough to focus and get charged for the race I was feeling a mixture of tiredness and nerves. Mass starts are always extremely chaotic and at the first few hundred meters can make or break your race. Also you don’t know what the race leaders will do, if they’ll steam out hard from the start or I’d they’ll take it a little more easily and then do a hard attack for the finish. I was hoping for the latter of the two, which meant I could hang on the back for longer.
Before the race even started things were an absolute mess. Each racer has a bib, a leg bib and then a transponder on each ankle, which match the bib number of the racer. Some how the people distributing all the transponders had messed a few up and bibs and transponders didn’t correlate so this had to be sorted out. After a 5 minute or so delay we all jogged out to our allotted grids in the start line. Here was the next little stuff up however it worked in my favor. They had mucked up the back of the start grid and I was starting in front of people that were ranked better than me. We didn’t really have any time to sort this out because 30 seconds later the gun went and we were off.
Out of the blocks all was going well and I was sticking to Andy Pohl the New Zealander whom we have been helping wax. Around the first corner things were going from intense to total shit storm! I’m not entirely sure how it happened but there was a 8 man mile up in the middle of the track. I thought I could squeeze past it all and was in the left track next to it but as I passed the mess one of the racers was trying to untangle himself and stuck his ski out across my track. I had nowhere to go with athletes being all around me so I was forced to ski into it. Luckily for me the racer that had just struggled to his feet and was blocking my track was not balanced well and as I hit the ski I knocked him completely off balance and he fell back into the mess of bodies, poles and skis. Not my best or nicest moment but racing is racing and I guess that’s just how it is.
So for the first lap I was on back of the whole pack but as the second lap went the groups fractured and I found myself slowly losing contact with the bunch. I should say that the laps have changed from the 15km and that we were doing 4 laps of a 3.75 km course which removed all the flats that was in the 5 km loop.
In laps three and 4 I was just chasing I knew a lot of athletes had pulled out already and I was just trying to keep within contact. This week I’ve been either just in front of or just behind of the Brits so I was keen to beat them today and one of their skiers was also slipping off the back with me.
I was starting to lose a little grip and as I got more and more tired I found I had to really focus on good technique to keep grip on the hills. I was fairly happy when the last lap rolled by and I skied into the change over zone just 10 or so seconds behind Platty of GB. Normally when you change skis for the first kilometer or two you ski like a muppet with skis and poles going everywhere. For once this didn’t seem to happen to me I transitioned well into the skate and found I could close the gap to Platty slightly on the first hill. On last hill of the 5thlap I was truly starting to hurt with my legs in serious pain! My lungs were holding out still but I was hurting. Into the descent I was finding tucking hard as my legs were hurting so much. On the last part of the descent I was so tired that when I was handed my feed from Team mate Mark Pollock I couldn’t grasp it and I dropped it. I was pretty worried about not taking in any fluids as I made my way around the stadium but soon my mind was taken off my feeding problem due to the Officially standing in the middle of the course waving the dreaded red flag.
I mass start races, depending on the quality of event they have what we call the lapping rule. Myself and Platty were pulled just as we had started to make our second lap. The reason for being pulled was that the considered the lead pack to close and that we would of interrupted the flow of the race. The two extremely frustrating things about this was: One we still had a good few minutes up our sleeve and could of easily made one more lap and two, In theory the only three races that have the lapping rule is the Olympics, World Cup and Senior World champs not juniors or U23’s. The rule was brought in last night when some of the Russian coaches complained.
Any way, all a little frustrating but in the end just means I have to ski faster. On two positive notes this race was actually my best out of all three coming 58th out of 72. Also going through the time of the 15 km I worked out that I was averaging 2.9 minutes per kilometer, so there are lots of positives I just have to work on them a bit more!
Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.