The Last Ski Races

There is truly something to be said for being able to put on an old comfy pair of pants and sit on the old couch in your living room and just put you feet up for a little bit. There is no place like home and it’s nice to finally be back in my Alaskan one.

Lauren and I flew in at 11:30pm on the 27th of March after a week of racing in Craftsbury. We were at the US Spring Series, the final four races on the Supertour calendar and the end of the competitive ski season. It’s now been over a month on the road racing.

I flew down from Calgary after a few days of light training after the Ski Tour Canada and settled into my new accommodation at Craftsbury. When I arrived and drove up to Craftsbury it was not a very pleasant scene, it was raining pretty hard and I couldn’t see any snow.

A beautiful sunset in Vermont.
A beautiful sunset in Vermont. Just missing snow…
The stadium. Photo credit Falcon Filming.
The stadium, the white in the top right is actually a lake.. Photo credit Falcon Filming.

The next day dawned beautiful and sunny and basically set the tone for the next ten days. Cold nights and warm sunny days. Perfect spring skiing. The course was a 3.75km loop through the forest on an entirely man made loop. The amount of snow the organisers had made and then spread out was amazing! It was ridiculous how much work they had put in and it was the only reason why the event was such a huge success. I don’t think any other venue in the US could of pulled it off.

the race course winding through the forrest of green. Photo credit Falcon Filming.
The race course winding through the forest of green. Photo credit Falcon Filming.
The trucks and digger moving more snow.
The trucks and digger moving more snow.

I had come into the event quite well rested after the tour, obviously it had been really hard and then I took four or five days really easy just skiing for an hour or two each day with the odd jog and gym session thrown in. Coming into Craftsbury I had no idea how I would race and if I would have high enough energy level again or if id be flat and too tired from racing.

I was just loving being back on the circuit though. Being with all the teams and skiers is just like being with a big family and everyone was so pumped to be almost done with the racing season that everyone was very relaxed and happy. To add to the good vibes I was working with Justin Beckwith again along with Sun Valley and MSU for waxing which basically equals a great group of people and techs that all love a good laugh.

Winner! A mate of mine won the Spring series Ping pong tournament. Bagged himself a high quality home made trophy and 10 dollars!
Winner! A mate of mine won the Spring series table tennis tournament. Bagged himself a high quality home made trophy and 10 dollars!

I was doing three races, a 15km skate, a classic sprint and a classic 50km mass start. I decided to skip the relay mainly because I didn’t have a team and didn’t really feel like scratching up a mixed team.

I was really eager to race, with all the positive vibes I was psyched to charge into the racing and that was the aim for my 15km skate. I did just that for the first two laps of the 4-lap course but coming up the main climb on the third lap as I tried to keep the pace high I realised my legs were pretty empty. They were still going but a bit of residual fatigue was still there it seemed. I ended up having a really solid 15km race. In paper one of my best for the season but I was a tad disappointed I wasn’t able to blast away like I’d planned but I was still really happy with a solid start.

The next day was a classic sprint and for me I always have a massive battle in these races. Do I double pole or do I stride. I always find it a really hard choice and often I seem to get it wrong. I eventually opted for striding. However a lot of the men’s field were double poling. I went out super hard from the start and was psyched to find my skis were absolute bullets on the first downhill section. I hit the first climb and had great kick. I put the hammer down and just ran up the hill as fast as I could. Cresting the first climb I could see the skier in front of me was really close and as we came to the finish straight I overtook the skier. In sprinting it’s generally a great sign if you can catch the person in front of you. It turned out I’d actually had my best spring qualification ever and I had qualified in 19th place to make it to the knock out rounds, something I hadn’t done in a Supertour this year let alone Supertour finals.

Early morning in the stadium with Lauren starting in the shadows near the massive pile of reserve snow.
Early morning in the stadium with Lauren starting in the shadows near the massive pile of reserve snow.

It was great to get a few high fives and fist bumps from coaches and other athletes. Especially from JB he knows exactly how much I tend to struggle in qualifiers so it was a great morning. In the afternoon heats I drew a pretty hard heat and was knocked out in the first round. I had the fastest heat of the quarter finals and the two lucky losers came from my heat too. In other words it was just super fast. Still a wonderful positive experience.

Classic sprint. Photo credit Lauren Fritz.
Classic sprint. Photo credit Lauren Fritz.

The next race was the relay and I happily watched from the sidelines and cheered everyone on. There were some really impressive performances and for the thirds straight year APU won and managed to get two teams onto the podium! I was living with one of the only other international athletes, an Italian world cup skier called Virginia De Martin Topranin. She had been roped into a relay so I headed out and cheered for her as well. Gotta support the foreigners!

Virginia and Myself stayed in this massive house by ourselves!
Virginia and Myself stayed in this massive house by ourselves!

The last race was a 50km classic and we were in for a treat. We didn’t start till 12:30pm on a day when the mercury passed 10C. It was crazy warm and slushy for the race. 15 laps of the course also meant it was getting seriously churned up. I had an awesome start and charged forward through the pack moving up originally to the top 15 or so skiers. On the second lap I managed to accidentally pole myself and crash but I quickly regained my feet and settle into another pack in roughly the top 20. I was having a great race, crushing the climbs, just feeling super energetic and fast. On the downs I was struggling my skis weren’t quite as fast but on such a wet day nothing really was. I was going great for 30km until lap 9. Then things went south. I’d burnt too many matches too early and had nothing left. All the big pushes I’d put on the climbs had taken it out of me and I was toast. I bonked hard. I realised this and was content to just ski the remaining 6 laps out, I was going backwards but I wanted to finish. A lap later I started to cramp terribly in my right hamstring and I realised my race was done. Other parts of my body were cramping and so I retired from the race after 37.5km. I was bummed to quit the race early but actually also really happy to of raced so well for so long until I’d hit the wall. I walked away from spring series feeling really happy with how it went, by far it was the best one I’ve ever had so it’s a really great, positive way to finish the season. I later realised I’d also made a mistake with my nutrition and during the race, the feeds I was taking were sugar free. I thought the drink mix I had had sugar in it but it turned out it didn’t so the energy I thought I was putting back into my body was basically just straight water. Still A great outcome for me and the event I think.

The 50km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz.
The 50km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz.
Lauren having a feed during her 30km
Lauren having a feed during her 30km

A massive “thank you” to Justin for looking after me for the week and Craftsbury for putting on the event!

As always thanks to the Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club, Falls Creek, the Australian team coaches and techs, Rossignol, Rudy Project and Swix for all the support during the season!

I think it’s been a great season for me and I’m really motivated to charge into summer and really keep the momentum and good vibes going forward!

Flying home. Photo credit Lauren Fritz.
Flying home. Photo credit Lauren Fritz.

I now have two weeks off before a trip to the Arctic Circle where I’ll live in the town of Wainwright (you should Google the town) for a week teaching the local native children to ski. It’s always a lot of fun and an adventure!

 

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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