I’m finally on a plane, heading down south for my first racing trip. I was fortunate to leave Anchorage as the sun crested the mountains, bathing everything in a perfect pink alpen glow. It’s not often I get to fly in the morning and it was beautiful to see.
I had my first FIS races of the season mid December. After a month of illness I wasn’t expecting much of myself. I had begun solid training again, and was really trying to just get back into the routine and have my body get accustomed to hard efforts again. I had two simples goals for the weekend of racing (a classic sprint and a skate 15km mass start). I wanted to have a really strong sprint qualifier where I felt fast and dynamic. In the 15km I wanted to hold my technique together without falling apart, even when I got tired. I was just trying to keep it basic and simple.
The classic sprint was on the “old course” the one that they have raced on for many years. However since I’ve lived in Alaska we have never had enough snow for that course. That’s 3 or 4 years and amazing in that time classic skiing and sprint have changed so much and evolved that the course perhaps needs to be redesigned. There is a extremely steep hill early on and then a ripping downhill which runs into rolling hills. Now that athletes are so strong and clued into the fact double poling is so fast, all the men and even some of he women chose to double pole the time trial and heats. The first hill that’s meant to deter double poling in fact encourages it because it’s so steep everyone has to herringbone, meaning it’s better to have skate skis and rip the downs and flats.
Anyway, enough of classic ski evolution.
So the aim was to hit the first hill solid and then really go for it after the downhill. It all worked out really decently for me. I qualified 10th which, I was pretty happy with and I even caught and passed the starter in front of me. But importantly I felt good.
The heats weren’t quite as good. The Kincaid organisers just do a lot of things differently, the start commands they use aren’t the normal FIS ones, so I was thrown by that at the beginning. I started slower than I wanted to and was boxed out on the steep climb. Coming over the top I was in 6th out of 6 with a lot of work ahead of me. I managed to move into 4th and begin a drag race up the finishing straight with 3rd. I was gaining on him but running out of realestate. I was out lunged on the line by a boot length. Another thing that the organisers do weird is “lucky loser” (how the determine the final two pots in the heats) is done by bib place, not time. So instead of both of us potentially moving through due to having a super fast heat we were both knocked out because of guys in other heats with lower bib numbers being third or forth. So I was knocked out in the first round but still satisfied to of just raced reasonably well and with a bit of snap.
The next day was the 15km mass start. I had a fantastic start and managed to avoid any of the carnage. I was sitting in the top 10 and in a happy position. I guess you can fake fitness a few times over 3:00 minutes but when it comes to 15km there is nowhere to hide. It hit me pretty quickly and I just started to bleed places. I just couldn’t find the energy to keep pushing hard and hold my tempo. I ended up limping across the line in 19th. Not a satisfying result but nonetheless I managed to keep my form and technique so I was pleased with that.
To add insult to my suffering, at the time of the race, the snow cover on the trails was pretty marginal and I managed to blow out an edge on my race skis on a rock. Pretty disappointing considering how much work I have put into them recently but luckily I have been able to repair it and it think it’ll be ok.
Since then I’ve just been hitting the training and trying to get into better race shape. Things have been going well and it’s been nice to put a few weeks of good training together. Aside from that I have been getting up to the usual. Night time pond hockey games each week, rock climbing and finally a few days of backcountry skiing. I have gotten out twice now to hit up some fantastic skiing. Alaska is finally having a respectable season, not huge amounts of snow but more than the last 4 years and it’s been a blast. We watched a storm on the radar roll in towards the end of this week and managed to time it really well, heading out to the backcountry just after the storm hit but before strong winds came in and made the snowpack too unstable to ski on. Even so we managed to trigger one small avalanche so we were certainly on our toes for a while as we negotiated getting off an unstable face.
I’m now flying down to Salt Lake City and from there I’ll drive to Soldiers Hollow. I have 7 days to acclimatise before the first race of US nationals. I’m really really excited to be heading south and into the real racing.
Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.