December 3, 2012

You win some and you lose some

After a great start to the season in West Yellowstone, we migrated north a few hours to Bozeman, MT. We were staying up Bridger Canyon where cell service is non-existant and internet was pretty much hopeless so trying to get anything done was just silly. So now I find myself sitting in the Bozeman Airport with a to-do list longer than my childhood wish-list to Santa Claus. My classes end this week so I have a plethora of projects to keep me occupied in the next few days. But back to the racing...

We started on Thursday with a skate sprint, a make-up for the race we couldn't hold in West Yellowstone. While there was some snow in Bozeman, it was marginal and the weather forecast was not in our favor. Barely reaching below freezing every night and occasional rain showers, left us a course with the occasional grass patch, rock, and mud puddle. However, the race did happen and I was pretty excited about the course with a big hill, no technical downhills, and a newfound confidence in my skating abilities after my victory in Yellowstone. I qualified in 7th, enough to move on to the rounds where I tend to excel in the head to head racing. Skate sprint heats start with a double pole zone of up to 50 meters in which we must keep our skis in the prepared tracks using only our upper bodies to propel us. This is because skating takes up a lot of space so most ski stadiums aren't big enough to have 6 lanes wide enough for everyone to skate from the start without obstructing one another. Anyway, this is great for me because I am a big girl and a strong double poler so I got myself right out in front of my quarterfinal. As the tracks ended and we were allowed to start skating, I did something, what I'm not exactly sure, but before I knew it, I was on my butt on the ground with my skis turned backwards. I was turned around enough that it took me a little while to realize what had happened and get myself upright. My coach saw what happened, went sprinting across the field and started yelling to just go, I could catch them. Knowing that things happen in sprint races and there could be another crash, I took off in pursuit of the 5 others in front of me and actually caught and passed 2 people before the big uphill was over. Unfortunately, the other three were far enough head I couldn't even come close to them. The course was less than three minutes long making any bobble a costly error let alone a full on crash. Knowing that only the first 2 to finish move on the semi-finals, I was helplessly distraught and crossed the finish line only to collapse in Sadie's arms in a pile of tears. Somewhere between the embarrassment of taking myself out in a race, a World Cup start on the line, and my new found love for skating left me more discouraged, upset, and frustrated than I have felt, maybe ever, after a ski race. It was just not my day and a tough one to take at that. Race Report HERE
The girls final consisting of most of my best friends! Sophie took the win with Sadie close by in 2nd. While its really hard to watch a race unfold that I took myself out of, it was also awesome to see my friends kill it. Sophie is one hell of a beautiful skater and she skied the most perfect race. Fasterskier Photo 

The weather continued to stay warm with rain and the snow began to melt more and more everyday. We were forced to move the next races up even a little higher, up the hillside to find enough snow to ski on. Saturday brought us a classic sprint, something I have traditionally done well in. The course was relatively flat with only one hill which made everyone have to decide between using classic skis, that are slower due to the kick wax on the bottom but allow you to stride in a traditional classic skiing method or skate skis, which are much faster but force you to double pole the whole course. Being on the bigger side of the women's field and enjoying the double pole challenge, I was torn for some time, but ultimately decide to ski with traditional classic skis. I qualified 5th and won my quarterfinal giving me a birth into the semi-finals and seeking redemption from Thursday. Struggling in semi-finals in the past, I decided to ski aggressively from the start. It worked out and I made the final. My team had a killer day and 5 of us made it to the final, making only 1 girl in the final not from APU. While this is exciting, it is also challenging to race teammates sometimes. I knew my weakness was on the corners and downhill sections (and knew that was many of my teammate's strengths) so I made a plan to ski really aggressive at the start and try to be in the lead so I could control the corners and not let anyone pass me in my weak spot. This work just as planned, but as I swung into the last corner and began up the last hill into the stadium I skied far too passively and suddenly people started passing me up the hill. I tried to match their tempo but couldn't handle it, leaving me to struggle to the line in 4th place. On most occasions, I would consider this a strong race, but with the stakes so high (World Cup start rights), I am a little disappointed in myself. I needed to be on the podium to even stand a change of getting those start rights (why did I have to fall?!?!?). Race Report HERE
Start of the Final, 5 APU girls and 1 from Dartmouth, who actually spent the summer in AK training with us. I am the one with the white headband. Fasterskier Photo

The finish, Sadie taking the win with teammate Lauren lunging for second and Corey Stock in 3rd. I am the next one limping my way in. Fasterskier Photo

So I turned to the distance race, I was having good luck in distance racing with a win already under my belt. It happened to be my birthday and a 10k classic mass start, probably my favorite of all races, how could things go wrong? Well, still holding on to a glimmer of hope that I somehow made the World Cup sprint team, I was shot down hard as I was impolitely told minutes before that start I didn't make the cut. Having a goal come crashing down in front of you as you head to the start of the last race that might get you a spot on the team is really not ideal. I shed some tears and did my best to shake things off as I lined up for the start. The pace started out excruciatingly fast and I knew I couldn't maintain that pace. I truly feared all my hopes were dwindling away as I moved to the back of what was already a lead pack, to ski my own pace. As we came into the stadium for lap 2 of 3, I started to feeling more like myself and was able to counter an attack up a hill to secure a spot in what was now a pack of 4. I started feeling stronger and attempted to break away with another girl. We gave it our all to get away from the other two but plagued with slower skis, we were caught as we headed into the last lap. Not out of it, I made plan to attack as hard as I could on the last big hill. I did my best, but Sadie had more in her and took my move out from under me, skiing beautifully into the finish for the win as Chelsea and I duked it out for second. She got the best of me chasing Sadie down hard leaving me in 3rd. With a win and a 3rd place, I got my World Cup start rights in the distance races!!! Race Report HERE
Sadie leading out the pack, I am the one with the white headband and with boots with the black and blue APU suit. Fasterskier Photo

Coming through the first lap, fearing I was done for...

Getting back into it, here I am leading into the last lap. 

While I am still longing for the incredible feelings I had racing in Yellowstone and that satisfaction of winning, I am really proud of myself for staying mentally strong and not letting disappointment get the best of me. I have made skiing my main focus so trying to make some money and get the results I need to move up in the rankings, I have seen the pressure increase exponentially. I know I have never felt this much passion, put this much pressure on myself, or given anything in my life this much dedication as I have put into ski racing this year.

I am headed home now for a little R&R before flying to Canmore, Alberta to meet the rest of the U.S. National Team to compete in 2 World Cup races. These will be my first distance World Cup races so I am very excited. This is a huge opportunity for me so I am doing everything in my power to make my preparation flawless and take advantage of this opportunity. Now, pray for snow in Utah so I can train well!

I will be racing December 13th and 16th and results can be found here:

Thanks for following!