Tahoe to Alaska, a change in pace and scenery!

So as always time has slipped me by and I’m late with posting a blog, I had actually written a blog post during the Super Tour but never got around to posting it…. So hey why let good (or I hope good) writing go to waste, enjoy a small step back in time and then I can fill you in and get you up to speed on my rather crazy journeys!

The old blog musings.

I’m lying in my bed on a sunny Californian morning recovering and slightly dreading having to stand up on my legs and test if they will hold me! Yesterday marked the final race of the Spring Super Tour with a brutal 6km hill climb.

To wind the clocks back a little to prove I’m not a complete softy I’ll explain a little more. Thursday the 4th of April started it all off with a 3.3 km Prologue. 3.3km of racing I know it doesn’t sounds that bad but the tough thing is that it’s done at a sprint speed with the fastest guys (and girls) hammering it out it in less than 8 minutes, add on to that a brutal A climb, fresh wet slow snow and elevation of over 2200m (as high as the highest point in AUS) and you have a perfect suffer fest storm! To be honest I loved it and posted a great result of 30th over all and 8th U23 athletes so for a while there I was thinking Spring Series could actually be really good! Clearly the race gods decided I needed to be brought back down to earth and lined up the 15km mass start the next day to be exactly that!

Prologue, coming up the start of the A climb. Photo credit Mark Nadell.
Prologue, coming up the start of the A climb. Photo credit Mark Nadell.

Because of a bad spring the race organisers moved the races up higher to chase quality snow. This meant we were racing on very narrow trails and when you send 90 men down a narrow trail only carnage can result. I was ranked terribly because I don’t have a USA racing license and so was out the back. The course was fairly flat and fast to start off with. The only changes were a series of almost 180 degree turns before  hitting the same brutal A climb as the prologue before descending back to the stadium and starting the loop again. A 5 km loop, 3 times round. The weather was the exact opposite of the day before, hot and sunny.

I knew that it would be crazy and so I was keen to try and avoid any crashes or broken poles. The gun went and with it the snapping of poles, not mine but everyone around me it seemed, I watched one athlete break 2 poles in the space of 20 meters. I survived the first switchback corner and started moving up the field. As the second corner approached I decided to be aggressive and try and take a group of skiers on the outside. It was all going perfectly to plan until the guy next to me got spat wide in the turn and couldn’t hang onto his line. He then basically hip and shouldered me off the track, down a 2-foot drop and I ended up hugging a tree. Not the sly “jump the pack” move I was hoping for.

I got up and check nothing was broken, I was just a little winded but remarkably injury and broken equipment free.  I got back on the course and put the foot down hoping to recover some ground, I managed to get back in sight of the pack I was originally with but didn’t quite have the energy to close the gap.  I still made solid ground picking off a bunch of skiers as a small group formed with me in it. On the last lap myself and another athlete dropped the pack on the A climb pushing hard but as we crested the hill he accidentally stood on my pole in the narrow tracks and it caused me to stumble breaking my other pole. I limped across the line with two broken poles and the frustration of having to concede an average at best race when I was actually feeling great and hoping for a whole lot more.

The next day was a 1.5km classic sprint and I just hoped my bad luck was behind me and it would be clean fast racing. It all went really smoothly and fast and I came across the line satisfied with how it went. However it seemed I didn’t really get out of 1st gear because on paper I had no speed and was a long way down the result list.

Sprinting.  Photo credit Mark Nadell.
Sprinting. Photo credit Mark Nadell.

Thankfully we had a rest day the next day and a chance to relax, sleep in and recharge the batteries before the final, brutal hill climb.

The race start was pursuit style, so our collective race times created our position and start times. Because of my lackluster performances I was ranked 55 and 8:48 minutes back. I started with 4 other guys and we created a pack, moving hard at the start. For the first 3km racers did a lap of a meadow and then hit two solid hills before one last flat section and then the 3 km of climbing as we followed a series of switchbacks up a downhill run to the top of the mountain. Just to keep us on our toes there was basically gale force winds all morning. It was so strong that the downhill gates they were using to mark the course were pushed flat to the ground.

I made sure I sat at the back of the pack with as we raced through the meadow, letting them take the brunt of the wind. I was not feeling fresh and I was starting to get worried that I was going to get dropped, as we hit the first two foot hills! As we hit the hills I was hurting a lot and they started to gap me, I managed to hang on and just stay in contact. As we skied the last flat before the main climb I started to come good and as we hit the hill I was feeling in much better shape, I settled for a while sitting behind the others but as they slowed I decided to go, dropping them. For the rest of the climb I moved up behind athletes, sat behind, settled and then went again. This approach seemed to work really well and I managed to have a really decent climb for someone my size!

Gives a little perspective of the wind in the hill climb.  Photo credit Mark Nadell.
Gives a little perspective of the wind in the hill climb. Photo credit Mark Nadell.

We have now two days off before the 50km national distance race. It’s predicted to be extremely hot so it’s going to be a brutal slush fest by the sounds of thing.

Till then I’m going out to enjoy the Californian sun!

Enjoying Lake Tahoe with Lauren (L), Gus (C) and Callum (R).
Enjoying Lake Tahoe with Lauren (L), Gus (C) and Callum (R).

So this is what I originally had hoped to post but realistically I got preoccupied and forgot. I’m actually now sitting in a café in Anchorage, Alaska.  So as I mentioned in the original blog we had the 50km race to come, which is the last of the season. As predicted it was BRUTAL! Five laps of a 10km loop in crazy slush! The temp hovered around 13 degrees C which I know sounds cool, however  in those temps cross-country skiers basically suffer heat stroke! Normally a 50km takes 2:10 for the fast guys, on the day the snow was so slow that it took everyone one an extra 20 odd minutes even though the course realistically wasn’t that tough. It was just one of those days when you have to push just as hard on the downhill as the up hills. I had an ok day, nothing special just happy to finish and be done with racing for a few weeks.

The not so lucky 15km mass start.  Photo credit Mark Nadell.
The 50km was also a bit of a laugh for some athletes and I though I’d add a little color and steeze to the race. Photo credit Mark Nadell.

I then spent my last day and a half enjoying Tahoe and it’s amazing surroundings before packing my bags and heading North! I had an offer to stay up in Alaska for a week that I couldn’t resist. That plus some amazing hikes in the Mountains has made this last week of my trip absolutely amazing!

Phil getting some hang time in the backyard...
Phil getting some hang time in the backyard…

I have heard back home there has already been to snow flurries up top so a winter down under is close at hand. I’m hoping I can squeeze in a week of warm surfing before the snow settles but realistically bring on winter, I can’t wait!

For more awesome photos of the races check out all of Mark Nadells photos at http://macbethgraphics.smugmug.com/NORDIC-RACING/Supertour-Tahoe-2013

Home on April the 22nd, 6 months and 2 days since I walked on Australian soil.

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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One thought on “Tahoe to Alaska, a change in pace and scenery!

  1. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences of the last 6 months, I really enjoyed reading about them. You’ve come a long way this year (and not just in distance), and gained more life experience in 6 months than most people do in a lifetime! Hope you have a good flight home and I’m sure you’ll receive a big welcome when you get there!

    Best wishes,
    Hans

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