America done, Europe here we come!

So chapter 1 of this huge six-month trip is now over and done with. We have just finished up with US Nationals in Soldiers Hollow, Utah. To describe the last 10 days as a roller coaster would be an understatement! We arrived into Utah with a bang on New Year’s Eve and had a very fun evening setting off fireworks with the Far West ski team! There is a certain danger when you’re driving past firework factories and you know you have a great excuse to go wild for a night. Surprisingly no one suffered any burns or rockets to the face.

The next day, still buzzing from last night’s fireworks we headed to the trails and did our race prep for the classic 1.3km sprint. Warming up I was feeling great and my skis were rockets so I was really keen to throw down for the event. It’s my first proper classic sprint since pinching a disc in my back in Australia, so I was really keen to see how my form was! I have to admit I’ve been sprinting like a goat on ice lately so I knew I’d be asking a lot to have a great race, but I was still keen to go for it and see how I went.

Prepping for the race I was still feeling good but that firework feeling I’d had the day before was gone. Coming out of the block I was feeling ok and I tried to drop the hammer. Well I think the hammer fell and hit the goat because by the end of the race I wasn’t even scrambling on ice, I was spent but with little to show for it. Clearly with a change in technique I still had not had a change in my sprinting form.

A chilly morning run with Callum Watson.
A chilly morning run with Callum Watson.

I wasn’t too surprised I didn’t race like a rocket. This year I have entirely turned into a distance skier. So knowing in two days time, the 15km skate individual would be my revenge, I was content just to prepare for that. Between each race we had a rest day and I’ll admit I’m not keen on this style at all. I seemed to get very tired very quickly, even though I had only done one race.

Most morning we hit -20 C which makes for some chilly morning running!
Most mornings we hit -20 C which makes for some chilly morning running!

The day of the 15km skate came, and again, like the sprint before it, I went out of the start gate hard. I tried to drop the hammer early on, knowing a good friend of mine was starting just 15 seconds behind, but again nothing. I skied the whole race hard and in a semi respectable time. But it still really wasn’t good enough for a distance skier. I just never got out of third gear. It was a very tough race to even keep going and finish, I was just so out of it.

After a big talk to the Boss August, it was decided that I would take the day off before the 30km classic mass start and try and find my spark again. Normally we go to the tracks before each race and do pick ups but because I was so flat it was decided I’d just put my feet up and chill!

With my talk with August we decided I would go into this race and try a few new things, nothing crazy, but if I found myself flat again then I needed to try and do tactics I’d normally never do to just try and get me racing harder. The other major focus was to stay relaxed in the race, especially the start. I was ranked way out the back in 91st place. So often it’s easy to go out like a raging bull, (which I sadly have done far too many times before) to try and get to the front of the pack  and then blowing up, instead of slowly moving up the field. So for once I nailed the timing of my warm up and went into the starting pen ready but also feeling a little flat.

The gun went and the pack surged out of the stadium, all 120+ of us.  Again I have a terrible reputation for being a erratic skier in a pack jumping around the place trying to find the fastest skier to sit on instead of just calmly moving up. The boss had really reminded me to relax and be smooth and for once I did it and surprise, surprise it worked! I found myself moving steadily up the field. The first major hill came and I skied it well. But more to my surprise, I felt great and recovered quickly after it. For the rest of the race I just kept feeling better and better and managed to ski into one of my best mass start races. I finished a respectable 40th but more amusingly my time behind the winner for the 30km race was less than my time behind for the 15km race. Goes to show how bad an “off day” of racing can be.

30km Classic Mass start, Photo by Ben Grasseschi
30km Classic Mass start, Photo by Ben Grasseschi.

A massive thank you to The Boss, Big M and Ben for all the hard work and waxing, all week i’ve had amazing grip and super fast skis. Not to mention all the support and cheering on the tracks! Thanks again Far West Nordic.

I’m off to Europe tomorrow to prepare for the U23 World Championships. The whole U23 and U20 team is already in Liberec preparing so I’ll be the last to join up before the event starts in late January. Feel free to check out the official page at

It’s been a crazy few months here and I’ll miss the US a lot. Racing here now feels like home and I’m already looking forward to returning to Tahoe for the Spring Series in March. It’s going to be a lot of fun! For now I’m off to pack bags.

Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.


5 thoughts on “America done, Europe here we come!

  1. Hi Paul,

    I’m pleased for you that you had a good race in the 30km. Good advice from August to have a relaxed start in a distance event, settle into a comfortable pace and slowly rev it up if you feel good. By now you’ll probably know, by which guys are around you, as to how well you’re doing. I think it’s good tactics to aim for catching one or two who you’ve never beaten before rather than trying to stick with the fastest guys in the race right from the start. Unless of course there’s a particularly narrow part of the course early on when you virtually have to get through with the leaders so as not to lose too many places ……. then ease off for a while to avoid the dreaded lactic acid build-up, and settle back into your own rhythm. If you can creep up one or two spots every race or so you’ll be up there with the leaders by the time you get to Sochi.

    All the best for Europe!

  2. Another honest and well-written report, Paul. Your approach to your training and racing and your self examination of your tactics and results, plus your use of your coach and support team team, show a growing maturity and can only bring on long term improvement. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, but you are definitely building the foundation of a stronger and wiser PK. Good luck in Europe. Paul and I will be following with great interest.
    Best wishes from us both and from all the Birkies here at home.

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