|Alaskans loving the heat|
Having not had a stellar prologue last weekend, I was ready to learn from my experience and make this one a good one. It was a two lap race on a 1.5k course which made it interesting because I got to ski with someone lapping through my first lap and then someone starting my second lap. I lucked out because both people were really good skiers and I was able to try to hang with them. I felt I did a good job pacing myself and I ended the day in 9th place which I was satisfied with.
|Skiing with Liz|
|Mass Start Action|
|Skiing with Ida|
Next up was the 10k Classic Mass Start which is one of my favorite races. We woke up to some lovely dark skies and cold drizzle. The boys went before us and after doing 6 laps in the rain, the tracks were pretty much destroyed so we would be skiing through some real slop. In order to preserve what little snow we had, we were only allowed on the course for 10 minutes to test to our skis. This was a little nerve wracking as I was using a pair of skis I dont' know well and have struggled with a lot in the past. We have a very talented and hard working waxing crew at APU and they did a remarkable job adjusting our skis to perfection despite only having 10 minutes to feel out our boards. I had a perfect start position behind Sadie, but somehow found myself unable to keep up out of the start and was passed my many more people then I would have liked. As we started climbing up out of the bottom of the loop, I put my head down and started to just pick people off one by one. I found that I was strong in the flat sections and could really pass people through those rolling parts of the loop. I was having just a great time because I had so many friends out there so every time I would catch up to a friend and was able to ski with them for a little before deciding to push some more. On the 3rd lap, I was feeling like a rock star and really started to push and I found myself passing some big names. As we went through the stadium for the last time, I caught my teammate Holly and realized our other teammate Sadie was the only one ahead of us. I told her we had an APU sweep going and we should keep pushing. I think realizing we could sweep gave me a little extra something and I continued to push hard. At the bottom of the biggest hill, I caught Sadie. I was just ecstatic. Sadie is one of my best friends, teammates, housemate, and incredible skier and for me and her to be leading the charge with less than 2k to go was almost a dream. I told Sadie it was just me and her and we had to keep going hard. At that point I took the lead and just went as hard as I could up the hill hoping to defeat anyone behind us hoping to catch us. With about 500 meters left Sadie took back over and used some incredible toughness to dust me up the last rise to take the win. This was most certainly my best race of the season and gave me the confidence that I still have it in me despite not meeting all my goals this season.
|Leading Sadie up the big hill|
Next, we had a classic sprint. I had a good quarterfinal, skiing behind Olympic Gold Medalist Chandra Crawford and making it to the semi-finals. I have yet to master the time between the quarters and the semis and seem to get off my rhythm in that time. So once again, I didn't have the semi I was looking for and wound up in the B-final. I was able to compose myself for the B-final and race my way to 8th place on the day!
Lastly, we did something most people in this world find absurd. We raced about 2km up an alpine mountain with sections so steep all you could do was basically hike with skis on putting one foot in front of the other. I like going uphill, but this was a whole new uphill experience for me. We also didn't preview the course so I had no idea where the top was. We started in a pursuit format based on the last three days of racing. I started in 4th place with an exceptional climber right behind me. I skied my own race, knowing it would be more costly to blow up than to be more conservative. But it was steep enough that it didn't really matter, I was in pain the whole way. The boys went before us so they were lining the course yelling at us trying to tell us where the top was, but when you are screaming in pain 400m sounds like a long ways. I think I was a little to conservative up the 2nd half, but was only passed by one person who happens to one of the best in the world at hill climbing. I ended up in 5th place overall in the tour. I am very happy about this and am exciting to build upon this next season.
Now if that wasn't enough racing for the week, we had 1 rest day before embarking on a 30km race on a 1.5km loop. Yes, we did a 20 lap race. 30km skate is probably my weakest race, but since I knew I was skiing well I had some high hopes. I was unable to hang with the group I wanted to though and was quickly dropped. I skied with another group with many of my former teammate for most of the race before they dropped me too and I had to hobble my way around alone for the last couple of laps. It was really soft snow and in places I was sinking up to my ankles trying to push through. This made doing 20 laps very challenging as each lap it became even softer and my muscles grew increasingly tired. Finishing 30km, despite not being happy with my race, gives a sense of accomplishment and did mark the end of the season.
The best part of the season to me was not feeling completely burnt out at the end. I still have a little race fever in me. This assures me that I am truly doing something I love and made a good choice in pursuing racing post-college. I am extremely thankful for my parents unwavering support of this decision and feel lucky to have this opportunity. I completed 37 races this season, each one being a learning experience and trained much more than I ever have before giving me high hopes for next season! Thank you all for following me and supporting me in the many ways you all do. Keep following for some spring adventures!