Again I find myself writing this in my room watching snow fall steadily outside. Calmly covering everything in a layer of white. Erasing everything that was underneath from sight and starting afresh. We are at the halfway point for World Championships and under the serenity of that layer of snow lies a tumultuous last week. The team and myself have certainly had its ups and downs.
When we arrived I was still struggling with my health. My energy was good and I was eager to train but I was blocked up in the head and basically suffering. Luckily I had a few days up my sleeve to recover but it still wasn’t enough. The day before the sprint race was a qualification race for the athletes that hadn’t qualified for the championships yet. Casey Wright skied to an Impressive 3rd place so congratulations to her! Sadly our boys didn’t make it through in a very tough field. I watched from home and then headed out for my race prep for the sprint the next day feeling like an elephant with superglue stuck up its trunk. Heavy and unable to breath! The next day I was feeling better and I eagerly got ready for the race. The race basically consisted of two big hills and two smaller hills with some seriously tough downhill. One of the corners is actually called Murder Corner and someone broke their leg on it a year or two ago. The snow was super soft and slushy, think Spring skiing in AUS so by the time I got to start at bib 69 (plus 100 women before that) the course was a mess. When the snow is so churned up it’s tough to get grip and I battled my way though the course but didn’t ski the race as well as I would of liked.
After the race I felt beat up and so I decided I need to really recover 100 percent before I raced again. The day of the 30km Skiathlon came and I was feeling pretty good, 90% ready but I knew with such a small, tough field of men it was best to withdraw from the race and focus on the 15km in a few days. That night, everything changed. Sadly one of the other male athletes, Callum Watson got a stomach bug and so had to be hospitalised (he is already out again and recovering well!). This meant that there was a spot open for the team sprint the next day. The team sprint is a race I’ve been really excited to compete in for a long time but had never been picked.
I woke the morning of the team sprint and I got a text from one of the coaches “How are you feeling, you ready?” and I replied “yep I’m good to go” and in return he replied “you’re in, get ready” and that was it. I had a very nervous few hours to have breakfast and wait around the hotel before heading to the track to prepare. I was so excited but very nervous!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with a team sprint, it’s a two person relay where each skier, skis three legs of the same course tagging off to the other each lap. Basically its go flat out for 3 minutes, recover for 3 and repeat. To add to all the excitement you also are instantly put into heats. We were in a heat of around 12 teams, all off at once. It’s a huge spectacle and I thought 25,000 people had come to watch but I have also heard reports of 60,000 but either way you can imagine thousands of flag and cheering fans going wild! We had the host nation of Sweden in our head to make it even better.
Phil Bellingham took the first leg and I was going to be the anchor to the team. Basically the plan was we would do everything we could to hang on for as long as we could. Phil did a great job on the first lap and we tagged off in the middle of the huge pack in 6th. I managed a really solid lap and tagged again off to Phil in 6th. Phil pulled out all the stops and over the first small and big hill attacked and brought us up to 3rd! For a while everything was crazy, the commentators were talking about these Australians!
Over the next two hills the others attacked and we dropped a number of places. We tagged in 7th (I think) and for both our last two laps be just battled to stay in contact but as more attacks at the front came we slipped off the pack. It was such an awesome experience to just be able to be in the mix racing with some of the best guys in the world at such close quarters. As Phil said at the end “next time we’ll be in contact for 3 laps each”.
The whole team seemed stoked and our girl’s team also did a really good job (they had to do a quick swap to with Esther Bottomley out and Casey in)! Luckily our whole team is on the mend and those that were sick are bouncing back so fingers crossed they will be fit to race soon.
I’m looking forward to the 15km now more than ever and I hope I can carry the moment forward. But for now I’ll be content to sit in my room and watch the snow cover everything once again.
Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.