The first 4 races were considered a mini-tour so there was an overall winner based on the cumulative times at the end of the 4 days.
Day 1: 3.5km Freestyle Prologue. We were welcomed by pouring rain, not the image I have when I think of California so certainly everyone's spirits were a little deflated. It was a brutal 3.5km course on top of that and I was the lucky one to have the famed Kikkan Randall starting behind me. Knowing this is my weakest event, I had a good feeling she would catch me, which retrospectively was probably not the best way to look at the race, but regardless, it happened and I did my best to learn from her and follow her into the stadium. It was certainly not my best day, finishing 12th.
Day 2: 10km Classic Mass Start. The sun came back out, but the interesting weather provided somewhat tricky wax conditions, adding to the stress of racing. I started off well skiing with the leaders, but as per usual, skied poorly in the downhill sections loosing a bit of contact. I unfortunately then broke a pole just as I was finding my groove to get back in the lead pack. It was a very bad place to break a pole as no coaches were out there so I skied for about a kilometer with one pole before I saw a male friend of mine who was cheering us on and I yelled for a pole which he graciously gave me. It was about 2 inches too long, but that is better than no pole so I continued onward. The hill featured on this course was something close to absurd. It was a wall so steep and so long, it left some of the best in the world in nothing more than a glorified waddle, panting like a freight train. I couldn't help but look up and laugh seeing Kikkan walking up a hill on skis while actually pulling away from the field. I skied a much better second lap and moved into 8th. I was looking for more, but it would have to do.
|The start of the race|
|The entire field waddling up the hill and this is only about halfway up!|
|Here I am reaching the top and trying to move from the waddle back to striding|
Day 4: Hill Climb. We skied all the way to the top of Sugar Bowl Resort, 1500 ft of climbing in about 3km. We started based on our combined time in the previous 3 races. The first 3 km were flat through a meadow and then we turned and headed straight up the alpine area. We were greeting by outrageously strong winds that made planting your pole and seeing the blue lines of the coarse a real challenge. I skied the first 3km very conservatively and was disappointed to loose time on this section but I was able to find a really good groove on the way up and started passing people one at a time while crawling up the slope. Eventually I was passed by Jessie who started behind me, but knowing she was going to have a good time on the day, I stuck with her all the way to the finish line, collapsing in a heap while the wind howled across us. I moved up 2 places in the mini tour, finishing 6th and had the 7th fastest climbing time on the day. I was pleased with this as I am much larger than all of the girls who finished ahead of me. It was so windy, I was too tired to even think about skiing down on skinny skis, but was shocked to see that the lift was even running. I took my chances and rode the lift down swinging like crazy.
|Wind howling across the mountain|
Day 5: U.S. National Championships 30km classic. 30km is a long and hard race so rather than hold it in January with the rest of the National Championship races, it is slapped on at the very end of the season, making it a true battle of grit as everyone is skiing with so much fatigue. It turned out to be the sunny hot day we were all hoping for earlier in the week. The snow became mush very quickly and staying hydrated was key. After the snow turned to mush, it was a serious slog fest as none of the downhills were fast enough to tuck forcing us to work hard and ski hard every one of those 30km, never getting a rest. For the first time in the U.S. we also had the option to switch skis in the race, however, at the penalty of a small loop that took about 50 seconds to complete. This adds a lot more in terms of tactics picking which laps to switch and which not to based on the pack you are skiing in and not knowing what they are going to do. I had one of my best races of the year! I had a great start and was skiing right with the leaders. As we turned up the largest climb, a couple girls started to pull away and I thought I might as well try to go with them as it was the last race and I had nothing to loose. They went through the stadium without switching skis so I too followed them and was able to ski with both Liz and Kikkan (both world cup superstars!) for another half a lap before there pace became too much for me to handle. I dropped a little ways back but held a steady distance behind them. The challenge then became skiing alone for another 15km while holding off the girls behind me. Every so often I could get glimpses of Kikkan that kept me chugging along. I dug really deep and pushed myself harder than I think I ever have and was able to hold on to 3rd place, something I am really happy with. It was great to end my season on a high note and finally prove to myself that I can indeed ski 30km well.
|Champagne toast for a season done!|
I am so happy to be done and to have had my best season yet. I am very thankful for my sponsors, mainly Rossignol, my team, coaches, family and friends for all the support and effort put into helping me have such a great season. Cheers!