Houghton Part 2

It’s quite amazing what can happen in a few days, a few hours or just a few kilometres. Since my last post a few days ago, we have had quite crazy weather with snow, rain and sunshine all thrown together. For a lot of the teams, this has been a nightmare for them. During these Championships, a few of the major teams with huge budgets really missed the wax and during the races their athletes have suffered for it. On the other hand, (bar my bad judgment call in the first race), Pete and Cody our two wax-tech geniuses have been killing it! It certainly helps when there are just four athletes and all boys, which means each race they can really narrow in and focus on just one race. It certainly helps! A big thanks to them both for doing such a great job!

Cody and Pete hard at work or in Cody's case pretending to be hard at work.
Cody and Pete hard at work or in Cody’s case pretending to be hard at work.

So for me the 30km was an unknown. I wasn’t really happy with how I was feeling, in all honesty I was feeling tired with dead legs. So once Pete had helped me select my skis for race, I went out and warmed up, but with one slight change. I left my heart rate monitor in the bag. Normally when I warm up, I do a series of timed efforts each harder than the last, with a corresponding heart rate that matches the zone I’m meant to be in. I then push harder or ease off depending on what my watch says. I did my usual warm up and efforts. But instead of the exact zones I normally shoot for, I just went by feeling, and what I perceived as the effort level and zone.

Feeling surprisingly good after my warm-up I headed down to the start pen and took my place. No matter how wide a course is, 150 odd men trying to jockey for position and move up in the field always creates carnage. I love mass starts, the adrenalin and excitement of charging forward is a great feeling and I love winding my way through the field, finding gaps. The course for the skate in typical Houghton fashion is quite odd. It starts flat for a kilometre before a very long fast descent, turning into a tight, hard left-hand hairpin. It’s really sharp so of course heading down, everyone was on edge and as expected there were some massive pileups, but I luckily avoided it all. As I hit the main climb I settled into a decent rhythm. But a lot of the skiers around me were really jumpy and unsettled, still trying to move up the field more when there really wasn’t much room for movement. A friend of mine settled behind me and we both began to climb well, but two thirds of the way up a fool tried to jump between us and he snapped my left pole.

This is the main trail where the 30km fit goes through before descending to the hairpin.
This is the main trail where the 30km first travels, before descending to the hairpin.
On the first climb, I broke a pole very soon after this
A Middlebury athlete is tripped on the first climb, I broke a pole very soon after this.

Luckily two of the APU coaches were near by and one managed to get me a pole really quickly and then just another few meters up the climb my own support staff were there and handed me my own spare pole. I lost a little time, but it wasn’t too bad (Big thanks to the APU coaches and Pete for being so on top of it!)

The pack surging up the hill
The pack surging up the hill. I’m middle left in the picture behind bib 107.

For the rest of the lap I tried to make up time and push hard and by the end of the lap I was suffering but not in a good way. Perhaps I was a little unsettled, but I was really hurting and considered even pulling the pin for a second or two. However I managed to get myself behind a good skier who clearly had had some issue in the first lap too and we both skied together for another lap and a half making great time and pulling in a load of skiers. I tried to attack on the second last climb and pull away, but he held onto me and in the end managed to pass me in the finish. But I ended up skiing a great 30km overall. I ended up just outside the top 30, which going into the race was one of my goals. Considering how bad I’d been feeling and my poor first lap I was really, really happy with the overall race.

You can see me here to the right of the picture.
You can see me here to the right of the picture bib 168.

The last race of the week, just two days after the 30km was a classic sprint on the same skate sprint course I’d suffered so badly on earlier in the week. I was eager to have a good sprint and finish on a positive note for the championship. I had a great sprint and managed to almost catch the skier who started 15 seconds in front, which for me is a rare occurrence. In the end I was stoked with the sprint considering how rough my last one was.

Classic sprint day with fresh snow blowing in
Classic sprint day with fresh snow blowing in.

I left Houghton relatively happy with my races. I didn’t make any of my position goals I’d been aiming for, but I’m really pleased with how I felt for my last two races. I hope I can keep the good vibes going and charge into the next block of races with the same intensity!

 

Train hard, rest easy, Live for the moment.

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