March 5, 2013

Nove Mesto, Czech Republic

It has taken me a little longer than I hoped to report from over seas. I didn't have the weekend I was looking to have so I have taken a little longer to process all the goods and bads.

I met up with some of my APU teammates and former Dartmouth teammates in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for some Slavic Cup races. This is their version of the SuperTour, however, typically more competitive due to the number of countries involved and the larger number of ski racers in the area. Nove Mesto is right in the middle of Czech Republic and hosted biathlon World Championships a couple of weeks ago so their were still many remnants like the giant bleachers still set up in the stadium. Of course, having hosted World Championships, the trails were challenging and the stadium was large, and despite the lack of snow in the area, the trails were in good shape with snow making capabilities. I had heard horror stories of the lack of sun in Czech, but am very please to report that we only had one really foggy day, the sun made an appearance most of the other days!

We started by visiting an english class in the local high school where we were treated to a presentation about the area and where we shared our own stories and hometowns in the United States. It was great to meet some locals and learn a little about the area. There are lots of pretty rolling hills and old buildings, however, there is still constant reminders of the Soviet era with tall apartment buildings totally daft of style and architecture breaking up the skyline. I am terrible at taking pictures so you will have to use your imagination!

Then we began racing. We started with a 3.3km skate prologue. This is an odd distance that we don't frequently race, but is very challenging to pace. Having suffered some set backs after the sprints in Madison with my chronic back injury, I was unable to do much training so this race was the first hard effort I had put in since the Madison sprints and I just couldn't find my racing rhythm so I ended the day in 5th place, about 10 seconds behind the winner (my teammate Fitz!) Luckily, the second day was a pursuit start, meaning we started based on our time back from the day before, so I had an opportunity to turn it all around. Starting only 10 seconds behind, I was able to catch up to the leaders pretty quick. I stayed with the leaders until the end of the last lap, where I started to reach my limit. I was holding on hoping I would catch a 2nd wind, when I caught an edge and hit the ground. I really struggled to find my rhythm up the last hill after that and was fighting hard, hoping not to get passed. I was really angry at myself and was skiing a little frantic, not paying attention to where I was going. I ended up skiing into the lap lane instead of the finish and didn't realize until I came up on the finish line and realizing I wasn't going to cross it. The rules read you must return to the spot you left the course to reenter, however, in all my frustration and lack of Czech speaking skills (the course workers were yelling at me), I simply cut across the course markers and went across the finish line. I knew the rules and thought I was probably getting disqualified so I was not a happy camper, to say the least. I hadn't skied technically well in the race and had made a real amateur mistake.

Thankfully, there was an english translator in the jury office so we worked everything out and I walked away with a written reprimand, the equivalent to a yellow card; another mistake will result in a disqualification. Despite my errors, I did make up two places to finish the pursuit in 3rd. However, more than the results suggest, I was hoping to improve on some technical aspects of skiing that I know are my limiting factors and will cost me a lot of time on the World Cup and I didn't feel I accomplished this, the silly mistakes only adding to my frustrations.

My teammates Sophie and Fitz lunged for the win, Fitz got it by not much!



The Girls Team

US Sweep!
I have decided that this was why I came over early to compete in the these races, I needed to get the bugs out before joining the World Cup so let's just hope that was all the bugs...I have moved on to Lahti, Finland where I will race in the World Cup on Saturday and Sunday. Finland is pretty far east so we are actually 7 hours ahead of EST and 9 of MST and both my races are at 10AM Finland time so while they will be shown on Eurosport, only the most dedicated fans would dare watch.