So I was really hoping to post a pre and post race blog on West Yellowstone but sadly the Internet at the Hotel we were staying at was horrid. The blog I wrote for the pre race is sitting on my desktop and fairly redundant, seeing as the race has already been run. But before I write about the races and West Yellowstone I need to rewind even further and write a more compelling blog to make things a little more spicy! This bad boy of a blog is a little on the large side so if your up for a solid read and have a some spare time up your sleeve read on!
So on Wednesday Callum and I crawled out of bed at 4:30 am and quietly drove over to Augusts house and repacked his car with all our gear. We had borrowed his Girlfriends car which is fairly decent sized Subaru, but even with the extra space the three of us managed to fill the entire car and things were jammed in tight!
By 6:00am we were on Interstate 80 in a convoy with Far West Nordic and cruising through some amazing country. Some of the guys back in Tahoe had warned me on how boring the drive was, on the contrary I think both Callum and I found it one of the easiest and most enjoyable car trips we have ever done even though it was over 12 hours of driving! We Managed to see a few quirky things like where Evel Kinevel tried to jump Snake Canyon and the only legal place in America to base-jump.
After half a day of driving we finally arrived to what seemed like a ghost town. West Yellowstone is clearly a tourist town that only turns on in Summer. The town has huge wide streets for Campervans and RV’s to travel down but in winter they just look like desolate strips with a few car tracks and foot prints being the only sign that there are locals about.
Clearly Australians do bring snow because as we arrived that night the heavens opened and we got a few inches of snow to help hold the base of snow that was clearly thin!
Due to the terrible snow in the area the races were up on the “plateau” and the 10km interval start turned into a 9km point to point mountain climb. The sprint was cancelled but then the organisers decided to do a sprint time trial but no heats.
So the altitude up at the plateau is almost 9000 feet which meant everybody was hurting a whole lot more than usual. If you went out too hard and blew there was no coming back from it, and that your race would turn in to a acid suffer fest. Another issue with the lack of snow was that there was very minimal opportunity to ski the course and because it wasn’t a lap race like usual it wouldn’t become more familiar as you skied it. Before the race I had only managed to ski the whole course from point to point once and this was fairly worrying, not knowing where to drop the hammer and go into the acid zone for the last few K’s.
I always hate the first race of the season, I get stupidly nervous and no one ever races well nervous. Arriving late Wednesday night meant we couldn’t run our standard pre race protocol because two days out form a race we normally rest, then the day before the race spark up with a few efforts then the next day throw down. So pretending we had rested on Wednesday we tried to spark up on Thursday for Fridays race. It wasn’t to bad and my legs felt ok but not great, I could also feel the altitude sapping away the oxygen. Friday came and Cal and I headed out for a pre breakfast jog to try and really wake up our bodies, then we headed off to the Plateau. To add another little complication we had to do a running warm up not on skis because of the lack of snow. August came up with a great variation of our standard warm up and I managed to time it really well leading into the race. So after quickly changing shoes and jumping on my skis I was suddenly in the start gate about to compete for the first time this Northern Hemisphere winter. Out of the start the first think I noticed was my skis were rockets! Always a great feeling so a massive ‘thank you’ to Ben, Martin (Big M), Marry and August from Far West for waxing, time splits and overall team support!
The plan for the race was to go out solid but not crazy and build up until I dropped the hammer and went over edge towards the end somewhere. I had a vague idea of the course and knew that there was three climbs at the end of the course that I was hoping crush. I started out as planned and was skiing well. The first time split I got was reasonable and I tried to turn it up a little from there. The course was super quick with the winner doing the 9 kilometers in 22 minutes. I started to hit the big hills and my legs felt very heavy all to quickly and I muscled up the hills instead of skiing them and conserving energy.
All too soon I reached Big M and knew I was in the final section of the course. I tried to turn it up again here but I found my legs had other plans for the race. I had thought Big M was a few kilometers from the finish but as I bombed down the hill and tried to rally my legs for the last few hills I saw a sign saying 100 meters to the finish. Not what I was expecting. I dropped the hammer there but the race was finished and I was left with dead legs and feeling flat and rather frustrated. Needless to say I was crushed in terms of results. Not at all what I was after. At lunch I sat down with the Boss (August) and we came to the conclusion that I was very flat from the previous weeks training and travel and that mixed with nerves killed my legs and then my lack of preparation killed the rest.
Not at all the opener I was after, however luckily its just one race that didn’t mean too much and this was the very reason we did it, a race to get rid of the rust and cobwebs.
For the sprint, I was determined to have a better race and not make any of the amateur mistakes I did the day before. As soon as I arrived I headed out and checked out the course. It was a 1.6km sprint, almost the entire course was flat or downhill apart from the finish which pinched for the last 450 meters. This kind of course suits me extremely well. Being the size I am really helps a lot in these situations. Heading out for the warm up my legs weren’t in great shape, I was still feeling all the acid in them and I wasn’t sparking much. I slightly miss timed my warm up (I know I said no amateur mistakes but they happen) and I had a little wait before my start so I started a little cold. Big M as the name suggest is also a very tall guy and we has once a great sprinter, his advice was “ski tall and hammer down!” With that in mind I hammered form the start and went for it. Surprisingly my legs felt solid and I was moving pretty well. The pinch to the finish wasn’t as sparky as I had hoped but I managed to catch the skier in front of me so I was satisfied with that (its fairy uncommon in a sprint to catch the starter in front given we are separated by 15 seconds).
On the results I didn’t have an amazing race but it felt a lot more solid and gave me a lot more confidence in my fitness. I need to rest up and prepare a lot better for the next set of races but I’m confident with the plan August has put me on for the week and I’ll be able to find my spark again for this weekends races.
That night was awesome, a lot of skiers I met in Europe and at last years World U23’s were racing these last few days and Saturday was a chance to forget about the races, maybe swap a few race stories (a lot of people had similar issues to myself) and just catch up with a sweet bunch of skiers and relax.
The next day we had leisurely rise but once we were up things got rather busy, we packed the Subi once again and headed out on the road. After 14 hours of driving, countless games of Monopoly (of which I have won zero!), amazing view, a ‘interesting’ border guard, a conversation with a local Calgary driver about surfing in California as we drove through downtown Calgary lost and dinner in a Sushi restaurant in Calgary we have finally made it to Canmore, Canada!
I’m on a recovery day from travel (26 hours of travel in two trips is a killer!) and preparing for intervals tomorrow but things are looking up and the snow is much better up here so it should be a great week. Stay tuned.
Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.