December 1, 2014

Racing Begins!

I arrived in West Yellowstone about a week ago and it's one of those places that feels like you never felt as soon as you arrive. Overly excited to ski on some nice snow, I quickly changed and headed to the trailhead, remembering instantly all parts of the trail. I have been coming to West Yellowstone for Thanksgiving since I was in 8th grade and I have amazingly only missed two since then. I actually largely learned how to ski here when I was in eighth grade so this place always holds a special piece of my heart. I did, however, forget just how busy the trails can be having not come last year. There are thousands of avid skiers of all ages and abilities that flock here from all over the country to enjoy the early snow, equipment demos, and clinics put on over the course of the week. Running into someone you know around every bend of course brings feelings of joy, but also frustration as it feels like training takes twice as long when everyone wants to catch up. I suppose I am also a little faster now, making getting around people more of a challenge. Needless to say, it's great to see such enthusiasm for the sport!

While most people are focusing on putting in hours and hours of on snow time, us elite skiers are actually focusing on toning the hours back and getting our bodies race-ready. West Yellowstone holds the first races of the year, which always brings an extra set of nerves and anxiousness as there are so many unknowns. We started with a sprint, which adds an extra element of nervousness as sprints can be rather unpredictable even at the end of a season. The course here really emphasizes a lot of my weaknesses so I really worked on skiing well, rather than fast. It was a good tactic and I actually surprised myself with how well I thought I was skiing. I feel like I made some good improvements over the summer and I pleased to see them applied in a race setting! I skied a good qualifying round, placing third. The heats started off well as well. I won my quarterfinal without too much stress and skied well in semi-final as well, winning that round as well. I was psyched to have the confidence in my skiing going into the finals. There were a number of timing issues delaying the race for some extended periods of time, making it challenging to stay warm and psyched up for racing. For some reason or another, I let it get to me and found myself sluggish off the line, fighting for the end of the pack. I am still lacking in tactfulness during races and struggled to pass people. I did my best up the last hill and into the finish but could only pass one person, ending the day in 5th. It wasn't what I was hoping for, but I felt good about how I was skiing so I did my best to keep my confidence up.

I enjoy individual start distance races the best because I actually enjoy being in my own head and racing my own race. It is a very good strength of mine. I used my strength to start hard and attempt to maintain that pace throughout the race. It worked and I eeked out a win by just 8 seconds, over a very talented junior who is sure to keep us older girls on our toes in the years to come. I am pleased with the weekend for a number of reasons. First, it seems like a big victory just to be here racing, let alone be in contention for winning after the fall I have had. I have to continue to remind myself of that and continue to take each day one at a time, working hard to make that day the best it can be. Second, I feel my technical improvements really showed in the races. For the first time in my life, I don't think I lost time on turns or downhills!

We are spending a few more days training here before moving on to Bozeman for the next set of races.

Hanging out in our new race suits, thanks Craft!

Packer getting after the turkey

Skiing with teamies

Classic, under the arch photo

Check out our new uniforms!

Our coaches adorable kids

Thanksgiving feast

Racing time

Lots of racing

and more racing

My semi final heat