Landing in Alaska, I was greeted with some welcome changes to the landscape. We had piles of snow everywhere and more importantly amazing sunshine! It was so wonderful to come home after being on the road for so long. Just feeling the warmth of the sun, and having day after day of perfect blue bird sky was fantastic.
Training was far from my mind, all I wanted to do was pull out my fat skis and go backcountry skiing!
So I did. I called the boys, and for the first week back after World Champs, I basically was either backcountry skiing, rock climbing or nordic skiing. It turned out to be a great week, and a great way to unwind from the pressure of World Cup racing. I ended up getting pretty addicted to chasing powder. We were really lucky to find an awesome bowl with some great stashes of untouched powder deeper in the mountains which we hit up on a number of occasions!
Intermixed with all the fun, I did put is some time training and nordic skiing. Since I have lived in Alaska, none of the nordic areas have ever been fully groomed. There has never been enough snow to pack. So it was also a very fun and novel experience to just ski on “new” trails in a place that I’ve actually trained at for years.
For two weeks we had perfect blue sky and cold -10C conditions making skiing perfect. With the sun now being up for more than 12 hours a days, I can finally feel the warmth of the sun and see things beginning to melt out. However we still have a metre of snow in the front yard!
After a few weeks at home I drove north for 6 hours to Fairbanks, the last major town on the road system in Alaska. Fairbanks was hosting the spring national champs and the last races for the season.
I competed in a 22km skiathlon, a skate sprint and a skate 50km. The skiathlon started off quite strong for me in the classic, which has been working so well for me this year. But I frustratingly had my first crash for the season, putting me out the back of the group and needing a lot of work to catch back up. I put in a big effort to close the gap and they were in sight, but we switched to skate at the same time and I just hit a wall. The organisers are very proud of the fact that the courses are very hilly and hard here. The 50km race here on Sunday had more climbing than most of the World Championship venues that have been used in the last 15 years.
The skate sprint, a 1.6km course that followed the trend of the other courses, being hilly and tough was perhaps one of my better sprints for the year. Perhaps it was so hilly, true sprinters couldn’t shine and I was able to have a better race, I’m not quite sure.
Finally the last race of the season was the 50km on a course with over 1800 meters of vertical climbing in it. To add to the challenge, the waxing was the most challenging conditions that I have seen all season and the snow was very wet and sticky. During the race one of the university students I have trained with a lot looked over at me and just asked “does it feel like we are skiing on honey to you too?” It was really hard work. For the first half I skied well but fatigue and cramps set in with 15km to go and I just skied to survive and finish one of the most challenging races I’ve ever done.
While we were in Fairbanks, Lauren and I were fortunate enough to be staying with the Drukenmillers, a wonderful local family. Patrick, is a Professor of Palaeontology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and a curator at the Museum. He was kind enough to take us back stage, into the museum and show us some amazing fossils! It was a fantastic experience and great to stay with them for the week. So a massive thanks to them!
I’m back in Anchorage now and I hope to spend a lot of time in the mountains over the next few weeks will I enjoy the off month of training plus rack up some hours of work.
Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.