So I headed from the frozen north, down to Bozeman, Montana to spend a few nights before heading to West Yellowstone. Landing in Bozeman I felt I was greeted cheerfully with a one-two punch combination. Firstly I went from sea level up to almost 2000 meters and so skiing around the trails I felt like someone had stolen my lugs because I was sucking it in hard! The second punch, which in a lot of ways was a positive, was the sun and the heat. So being the perpetual winter-chaser that I am, it went from being -20’s to being around -1 or -2 and it felt hot, super hot! So hot that during intervals instead of wearing the customary facemask, jacket, vest and my warmest thermal, which I had been sporting in Alaska, I was wearing just a light thermal and rolling up the sleeves, I was baking!
The few days in Bozeman were almost what I’d describe as classic ‘merica! Just the locals and some of the customs they had I found funny. Now I’ve been driving a few people crazy recently because apart from my moose obsession/fear I’ve been super curious about the gun laws in the States. Now instead of being a bystander to the whole gun debate I thought why not test things out a bit in a fairly right-wing state. I mean what can go wrong? One in 4 Americans carry a concealed gun with them at all times so doing a bit of poking around can’t hurt right? So I headed into a men’s sports store, the sports being shooting, fishing and camping. I headed to the gun section and talked to a sales man. I told him I was moving next year to Montana and was wondering if I could buy a gun and how I’d go about it seeing as I wasn’t an American citizen. Well he looked at me and said “you need a drivers licence and a address in Montana. Oh and you need to fill out one form”. Yep that’s it. So slightly amazed and disturbed I realised it’s far more effort to sign up for a weekend of cross country racing than it is to buy a gun. Interesting stuff.
So after my brief stop in Bozeman I again hooked up with the APU crew for a ride and headed deeper into Cowboy Country. Now if I though Bozeman was interesting well West Yellowstone is just classic. Skidoo’s nuking down the main street, ignoring all road rules, often driven by kids that couldn’t even see over the handlebars. Skiers sliding each and every direction on the streets, more cliché cowboy boots and hat stores than you can lasso and authentic cowboy hotels with more taxidermied animals than a museum. To make the experience even more real they keep a nice little colony of bed bugs to keep the people on the third floor entertained. I feel like it’s a pretty funny, wild crazy place and in winter when all the tourists leave and the locals come out it makes for some great experiences.
So enough of all that cowboy talk, I was there to race so I probably should mention that!
It was the first time I have ever raced on the proper West courses, last year there was minimal snow so the races were moved. Basically the course is a series of flats, grinding false flats and climbs with then two very steep descents. 3 laps of basically non-stop work at altitude even higher than Bozeman! The sprint was a 1.2km skate taking the fastest around 2:25 to complete. The sprint was fairly average for me, basically the same standard where I have been the last year or so. Being up at altitude and not at all my kind of course I just happily looked forward to the Saturday, which was the 15km Skate on the course I mentioned above. The Saturday was defiantly the focus for me and I was really keen to put a good race on the board. The first lap I went out strong but I thought conservatively enough for the altitude and it felt great. I was skiing well and was psyched to think I was having a great race. Well the second lap came around and it seemed someone lassoed my legs together because I don’t think I have ever gone from feeling so good to so bad so quickly. My legs just stoped moving fast. The next 10km I just quietly suffered on the flats and grinding sections and only looked forward to the two main climbs for some respite. The race ended with my legs feeling like jelly and my whole body just lacking any energy or efficent movement. It wasn’t a terrible race for me but it wasn’t the big race I was hoping to put on the scoreboard. I guess you don’t ever finish a race and feel like you can keep going, I was just hoping for more from my body. So I’m now jetting my way across the World again. First to Germany and then to Austria via train. But before I dive into that part of the World and the second chapter beguins.
A massive thank you needs to be sent out to Jessica Yeaton and Dave Norris for hosting me in Bozeman and the Far West team for looking after me and giving me absolute rockets for race skis in West Yellowstone! I’ll be shooting an update soon from Austria!
Train hard. Rest easy. Live for the moment.