I have been training in relative seclusion for four weeks now, only
coming out to do the occasional citizen's race. I mentioned Rocky
back when I started this training plan and now I really feel like
him. While the rest of the skiers are racing in Europe or the Birkie
or other glamorous events, I am in the woods of Northern New Hampshire,
on my own. I am loving it. The beautiful snow, the quiet trails. I
feel like I should go out back and run through the snow and lift trees
over my head.
When are they going to vote Jerri off Survivor? I really can't stand
her. And how did all three couples on Temptation Island stay together?
Having been at it for over a month, I have a daily routine going
right now that I really like. As I mentioned when I laid out the
comeback plan, a routine is important. Usually, when I am in training,
I have a routine, but it is dictated as much by work and other necessary
evils as by my training needs. Here, however, I have the luxury
to schedule everything around my training. Now I know how much easier
Bjorn Daehlie's life is than mine. My current daily routine:
-Get Up and eat breakfast. It is so nice to wake up in the morning
and not feel rushed. If I am really tired, I can lay there a while
longer without worrying about being late for work. I know that this
a luxury I will hardly ever have again for this extended period
of time, so I am allowing myself to enjoy it.
the usual wakeup routine, I have time to relax, check email, and
read the paper (usually yesterday's). I have also gotten into the
habit of watching one of our World
Cup Race Videos each morning. I have learned quite a bit by
studying these tapes over and over and it helps get me psyched up
for the day's workout.
it is out the door to ski. It takes half an hour to drive to Bretton
Woods, where I usually ski, which is a bit of a drag, but when that
is the biggest complaint I have, life must be good.
skiing, I usually spend the rest of my day in front of my computer,
either doing work (if I feel like it) or working on this website
(hence the new look), or just catching up on all the surfing I haven't
had time to do.
the evening after dinner, I usually crash in front of the TV for
a couple hours before bed. I am usually not a big TV watcher because
I don't have the time and 90% of the stuff on it is garbage anyway.
But now I am kind of relishing catching up on all the garbage I
have been missing. I had no idea that "Norm" was so funny.
admit that this routine is kind of leisurely and that I am even
starting to get a little bored. But I am happy to be bored. I just
think back to my hectic, miserable work and training schedule last
fall and I could not be happier to sit on the couch after a good
ski and say, "I have nothing to do."
I had a hard time deciding what race to do this weekend. For a few
weeks I toyed with the idea of breaking my self-imposed retreat
by flying out to California for the Great Ski Race. I really wanted
to make the trip, but after a while I realized that I wanted to
go for non-skiing reasons. Among other things, after a month in
one place I guess I was itching to go some place. I miss the hectic
pace of a skier's midwinter lifestyle. But eventually I decided
that training-wise it was not the thing to do. High altitude, long
race, lots of travel. Plus it would be very expensive. So instead
I resolved to stay here and finish out my 6 week training plan.
With this decision made, I then had to decide which local race to
do. There was going to be a race weekend up in Rangley, Maine consisting
of "Pro Sprints" on Saturday and a 50K Marathon on Sunday.
I really wanted to do the sprints, but I had no desire to jump into
a 50K right now. My other option was the Jackson Jaunt, a well-attended
15K skate race in Jackson, New Hampshire. Since I am starting to
feel a little faster and more confident, I wanted to go wherever
the competition was best. The Rangley event is fairly new and the
results from last year's Jackson Jaunt showed that both Dave Chamberlain
and Marc Gilbertson raced, so I decided against the 50K and went
to Jackson. It was a good race for me to do, since I do feel left
out by not doing the Great Race this year. The course profile was
exactly like the Great Race, only shorter. The course climbed up
a mountain for 10K, then upon reaching the pass, dropped dramatically
for the last 5K back to the finish. My plan was to start easy and
feel out the field, following the stronger skiers until making my
move about halfway up the hill. But right off the start line I found
myself out in front with no one really challenging me. I thought,
"Oh what the heck" and decided to just go with it. For
the first 3K, I raced tactically. I maintained a gap of about 100
meters at a fairly moderate pace and if someone sped up to challenge
me, I would speed up to keep the gap. I was skiing well, and I was
confident that the race was already in hand. Then at about 4K, I
noticed someone behind me making a move. I picked up the pace, but
they kept coming. Soon the climb steepened and I was working very
hard, but I could sense that the skier was still back there, not
too far off. I was now very concerned that I had been too cocky
and was now going to suffer defeat for it. I hammered up the steepest
sections of the course, and finally at about 8K I no longer had
the sense that I was being followed. When the course made a U-turn
at one point, I could see the trail I had just come up and there
was no one within a minute behind me. I relaxed a bit, but now I
was tired and it was a chore just to get up the last couple Ks to
the top. Once at the top, I was relieved and excited about the downhill.
Having never skied the trail before, I had no idea what was coming
around each hairpin turn, but I charged forward, under the assumption
that it was a citizen's race so the course couldn't be too hard.
I almost paid dearly for this assumption on a couple of occasions,
but I managed to stand up and I made it down the final 5K in about
8 minutes. I ended up winning by about 1:30, which was less than
I had hoped for, but still good considering my dilly-dallying on
the first few Ks.
the race and awards were over, I went back out skiing. I love skiing
at Jackson because they have so many trails that wind all over the
picturesque New England Village. When I think of cross country skiing,
this is what I think of. Even though I was tired I couldn't pass
up the opportunity to explore some more of their trails. After an
hour and a half of exploring I had convinced myself that I wanted
to live in Jackson. I even picked out my house, right on one of
the trails, with a beautiful view of Mt. Washington. Unfortunately,
the fact that it is not for sale would only be one of my many obstacles
in buying it right now.
Wow, now today was fun day. Around my parent's house in Littleton,
and all throughout northern New Hampshire, there is a network of
snowmobile trails that are maintained and groomed by local clubs.
When I was in high school, I did a large percentage of my training
on these trails. They aren't perfect, but if you hit them after
they have been groomed and not too many bubbleheads have ripped
them up, the skiing can be great. Since they go on almost forever,
you never feel like gerbil in a spinning wheel, like sometimes happens
when you have been skiing at one place, on one trail, for too long.
So today I decided to head out the door, onto the snowmobile trail
and see where it took me. Since it is the Monday after a vacation
week for the local schools, I figured traffic would be minimal.
The traffic was less than minimal - I didn't see a motorized sled
all day! I skied for four and a half hours. I wound my way all around
the town of Littleton, through the middle of the forest with no
signs of civilization for miles, over lakes, across rivers, and
even right through the Wal-Mart parking lot. Along the way, I saw
two other skiers, tracks from three snowmobiles and that was it.
By the four hour mark I was getting very hungry and tired and it
was torture to have to ski right behind the McDonalds, but I kept
going and staggered home. I was exhausted by the effort, but also
thrilled that I could cover so much ground on skis without being
confined to a nordic trail system. There are so many snowmobile
trails out there, I could ski anywhere. Maybe my next big adventure
will be to ski from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border.
Or maybe from Vermont to Maine. The possibilities are endless. I'm
not sure if there are trails all the way, but I am willing to bet
that you can get almost anywhere in northern New England on snowmobile
Monday is usually my day off, but since I did a super-OD yesterday
instead of resting, I was more than ready to take today off. I was
more tired today than I have been in months. It felt great to get
up and have my muscles be so sore and tired. It let me know that
I was really pushing myself. After months of routine training, I
was really happy that I had gone out and done something that my
body wasn't used to.
This winter has been ridiculous. I simply cannot believe the amount
of snow that the east has received this year. Everyone talks about
how there was so much more snow when they were younger, but I doubt
anyone's memories include greater snowbanks that I am seeing right
now. It had already been an above average winter, and then yesterday
and today, a Nor'easter blew in and dumped up to two feet of snow
in many places. Up north of the White Mountains, where I am, the
high peaks blocked the storm coming in off the coast and we only
received about six inches, but at this point it doesn't really matter
how much we get - the skiing can't get any better. It has gotten
to the point where I wish I could say, "OK that's plenty of
snow to last until April, let's just save the rest of these storms
until November." I was pushing through a lot of new snow and
wind when I skied today, but I couldn't complain at all. The New
Hampshire winter that I have been waiting for years and years, is
finally here and by a crazy chain of events, I am actually here
to enjoy it! Plus I hear that the west is almost hurting for snow
in many places. Not that I want any place to do without the precious
white stuff, I do have this little voice in my head that says, "Finally,
for once the tables have turned."
Today was my weekly trip to the weight room. Now that I have been
back on the weights for a few weeks, I find that I usually feel
better the day after weights. As I have mentioned before, it is
almost a kind of active recovery because I am working the muscles
but in a different way than they are used to.
Pretty easy day of skiing. I plan on doing two races this weekend,
so an hour was plenty for me to loosen up and get ready. My legs
felt very springy and energized and the skiing was perfect so it
was hard to stop, but I managed to tear myself away.
This just in: Bill Koch was right: skating is faster than classical.
Because I am doing a skate race in Craftsbury tomorrow, I really
wanted to do a classic race today. But there were none on the NENSA
schedule. So I decided that I would do a local skate race, but do
it classical. This race would be against the same competition that
I had beaten the past few weeks by a couple minutes, so I thought
it would make for a pretty level playing field. Well, I may be a
good classic skier, but I am not THAT good. I got beaten by two
minutes. It was a flat course and I had no tracks, but I felt good.
I felt like I had a quick tempo and a strong double pole. So even
though I got beaten soundly, it was a good day.
Today was the Craftsbury Spring FLing race. It is a mass start even
and I hoped to have some good competition. There was a 15K and a
30K race (starting together). I knew that since I raced yesterday,
I should probably do the 15. But if someone good, such as Jesse
Gallagher or Marc Gilbertson, showed up to do the 30, I would enter
that one. But no one showed, so I entered the 15. I did not know
the whole course, so for my warm up I tried to ski the parts of
the course I was unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, due to an error,
either by the person who labeled the maps at the trail intersections
or by me reading said maps (I am SURE it was the map...), I ended
up at the far point of the 15K course with only 12 minutes to go
before start. When I realized my mistake, I began hightailing it
back. I was sure I was going to miss the start. I was going race
pace for about 4K just to get to the start. I arrived at the start
at 11:02, but fortunately they were three minutes behind schedule.
I had just enough time to grab my race skis, tear off my warm-ups
and take my place on the line. I was out of breath and when the
race started it showed. I was in about 10th place for the first
K. I felt like we were going so hard and I could barely keep up.
Plus all the masters skiers and junior were being recklessly aggressive
and I wanted no part of that so I hung back until I regained some
breath and all the other skiers had either calmed down or taken
themselves, and others, down. After the first K I noticed two skiers
inching away from the front of the pack. I figured that I had better
catch them now, because if I waited until they got away, it would
be much harder. I moved around the pack on an uphill and began to
reel them in. They were moving fast and I was still tired from my
pre-race race, so it took some effort, but by 3K I was with them
and we had left the rest of the field behind. At 6K, I was feeling
better and had regained my breath. I was unsure of wether the two
guys I was with were doing the 15 or the 30. The way they started,
I would have guessed 15, but our pace now would have suggested 30.
Rather than ask, I decided that I was feeling good enough to make
my move. As soon as I saw one drop a little and the other start
looking over his shoulder, I took off. I was able to get away and
I did it fast enough that they didn't really try to pursue. For
the rest of the lap, I maintained my lead and skied home for the
victory. As it turned out, they were both doing 30K, but they also
thought that'w what I was doing, so I think they were happy to come
through the lap and see me standing on the side of the trail. They
were back in the lead! So it was a good day for me. I won convincingly
despite a race yesterday and a very hard warmup. I think this is
a good sign for the future.
Day off. As I enter the last few days of my comeback plan, I want
to be well rested for the races ahead. Starting this coming Saturday,
I will do 10 races in 22 days. I need to do them all so that I can
get in at least 4 good points races to salvage my national ranking.
That's a lot of racing by any standard and I don't want to be too
tired before I even start.
Woah. Where did time go? I cannot believe that the season is almost
over. Because I am still in training, looking forward to big races,
it seems more like December than March. The weather has also contributed
to my sense of midwinter. The east has been getting so much snow,
and it keeps coming, that I cannot fathom that usually by this time
of the year, it is warm and sunny and the snow has started to melt.
Today as I was skiing, I was a little upset the trails were not
groomed and that my extra blue hard wax was slipping a little. I
cheered up after an hour or so when I realized that it was mid-March
and I was skiing through an inch of fresh powder on hard wax. I
think it has been good for my focus to not think about what time
of year it is. I am better off thinking that I am preparing for
the winter than preparing for spring.
Day off. I had wanted to do a long ski tour up Mt. Moosilauke today
and take tomorrow off, but yet another snowstorm meant that the
tour I wanted to do would be snowed in. So instead I decided to
take today off and do the tour tomorrow, hoping for better weather.
Today was an incredible day. Since I have been home I have wanted
to ski up Mt. Moosilauke, a mountain owned, in large part, by Dartmouth.
I have run up it many times in training, but I had never skied up
to the top on the Carriage Road, which was the site of some of the
first downhill ski races in this country. Now the trail is frequented
by backcountry skiers and, on the lower sections, snowmobiles. I
had been waiting for a nice day so that I could take some pictures
at the top, but with all the snow that has been falling here, clear
days have been hard to come by. Finally today, my last opportunity
to do it before leaving Littleton, it was sunny and the trail was
coated with a fresh two inches of snow. I had my day. The trail
climbs 3000 feet in five miles on the way to the top. I skied up
in just under two hours on a pair of old waxless racing skis, passing
two snowshoers along the way (why anyone would snowshoe rather than
ski is beyond me - it's slower and more work). I knew that backcountry
gear would be better for the descent, but since I am racing in two
days, I didn't want to lug all that extra weight and get really
tired. When I got about 10 minutes from the summit the wind was
howling about 40-50 miles an hour and had blown all the snow off
the peak, leaving only a solid layer of rime ice. I could barely
stand up, never mind ski, so I took off my skis and hike the rest
of the way, using my poles to keep me upright. I took a bunch of
pictures at the top, then did the screaming descent. The trail is
only about ten feet wide and about the grade of a "More Difficult"
alpine slope for the upper 2-3 miles. The snow was now very heavy
from the sun and my flimsy classic boots and skis were no match
for it. Turning was hopeless. My only way to descend was to go straight,
and hope I could make the corners. If it looked like I wouldn't
make the turn, I had to drop and throw my hip into the snow and
skid to a stop. In addition to turns I also had to dodge a few other
skiers and the snowshoers still on their way up (I saw five people
total). I had a couple close calls but fortunately I only hit tree
branches and not tree trunks and made it to the bottom relatively
unscathed in just under half an hour. It was a wild ride and an
excellent way to cap off my 6 week training program. That's right
today is the last day. Tomorrow, I begin the second phase of my
The comeback plan is complete. Six weeks ago, I sat down and realized
that I had two months of racing left. I also knew that the most
important races in the rest of the season were all in the last two
weeks. Therefore, taking a cue from the ground hog, who on the day
I was figuring this all out saw his shadow, I started on a six week
program to turn my season around and to be ready to roll in those
last two weeks. Through that time, I varied my training, worked
on technique, watched what I ate a little closer, studied World
Cup skiers and focused mentally. I am always pretty good at those
things, but during this time I stopped working and went home to
New Hampshire so that I could focus on solely on skiing and doing
things right. Six weeks are now history and all has gone, for the
most part, according to plan. Only one thing remains: To see if
the plan actually worked. Since I have been focusing on training,
technique, and feeling good, I have purposely avoided any races
that would put me in elite competition and possibly derail my progress.
Thus, I have no idea where I am at. Sure I have won a lot of races
recently, but not against my usual competition. So today I embarked
on the first leg of my "Back in Action" tour. Rumford,
Maine plays host this weekend to the Eastern High School Championships
and a couple of Eastern Cup USSA Points races for us older folks.
In my high school career, I went to two Eastern High School Championships
and won both the individual race and the relay in both of them,
so by hope was to recature some of my old glory by returning to
the scene of some of my most memorable victories. I knew that Chris
Klein, Jesse Gallagher, and Pat Cote would be racing, so it would
be a perfect field for me to test myself against before hitting
the FIS circuit again.
Today's race was a 12K classic race. I didn't feel all that good
before the race. I am staying with the New Hampshire Eastern High
School team because my dad is a coach for them and being on their
meal and race schedule has not been great for me. Greasy pizza for
dinner, sleeping on a futon, bagels for breakfast and arriving at
the race site at 7:30 am for my noon race was not what I had in
mind when I envisioned my return to the race scene. But I stayed
positive through it all and focused on the race. I really wanted
this one. A fairly short classic race - just what I wanted to start
off with. A good race here could get me on a roll. The snow was
warm and slushy by the time we raced, but waxing was pretty straightforward.
Most people went with a mix of red and silver klister. I went with
all red (Rode Rossa) figuring any slight loss of speed on the downhills
would be compensated for with better kick. Out of the start I felt
pretty good. Pat Cote started 30 seconds behind me and I could sense
that he was staying close for the first few K's. I was running scared
from him a little bit, which got me moving early. At 3K I got a
split that I was in second, 4 seconds down to Klein. This was good.
I knew my skis were not fast on the first few downhills, but at
least they still keeping me in the race. I was tiring a bit by now,
but I wanted to hang with Klein so when I started to fatigue and
slow, I turned it up a notch. I was kind of afraid I might be going
too hard to fast, but I wanted to stay near the lead as long as
I could. After one lap, I had a feeling I had put some time on Chris.
I could see him at one point where the course loops back on itself
and I didn't think he was 3 and a half minutes a head of me, which
was where he started. At the 9K mark I found out I was right. I
received a split there telling me that I was now leading by 20 seconds!
You know the part of Star Wars, Episode I where Annakin finally
gets his pod racer to start after months of working on it? Well,
as the engine roars to life he lets out a yell- "Its working!!
Its wooorrrking!!" That was all I could think of. I was fired
up. I was back in a real race against real competition and I was
winning! My comeback was working just as I had envisioned it for
six weeks. I tried to hammer through the last 3K because I knew
that 20 seconds was not a lot of time and besides, tomorrow is a
pursuit race so the more I win by the bigger my cushion tomorrow.
As I neared the finish I saw Jesse Gallagher just ahead of me. He
had started 2:30 ahead of me and had not expected to see him. But
now I really wanted to catch him before the finish. He and I had
a frantic double pole sprint to the finish in which I got him by
less than a ski length. In the end, I won by 22 seconds over Klein
and Cote finished third, 1:14 back. I tried to remain calm after
finishing. After all, it was not a huge field and I didn't win by
much. But I could not deny that I was very happy. I knew that today
would tell me a lot about where I am performance-wise, and what
it told me is that, at the very least, I am closer to my old form
than I have been all season. It was my best race of the season.
There is still hope.
Today I think there was a little letdown after yesterday's emotional
win. My goal coming into this weekend was to prove to myself that
I am on my way back up the ladder. I really wanted yesterday's race
and it took a lot out of me physically and emotionally. I was relieved
and finding it hard to motivate myself for today's pursuit. So now
that I have rattled off a bunch of excuses, you have probably figured
out what happened in the race. Klein and I raced all out for the
first 6K. Iwanted to hold him off and he wanted to close the gap.
The key in pursuit racing is to make your move early. If you can
destroy your competition's confidence early on, it make the rest
of the race easy. Unfortunately for me, Klein caught up to me at
about 6K. Once we were skiing together, I had two choices - continue
to lead or let him pull for a while. If I continued to lead I could
dictate the pace, but it would be easier for him to rest behind
me. If I let him by, I wasn't sure I would be able to keep up and
he might just ski away. I decided to slow to a comfortable pace
and wait for him to make a move. For the next 5K we skied fairly
easily, even talking back and forth a bit. I was feeling better
and I thought I might have enough left to pull it out in a sprint.
However, with one kilometer to go, Chris made his move around me
and I had no counterattack. I hammered, but he got a gap and carried
it to the finish for a 9 second victory. This was disappointing,
especially in front of a large crowd that was partial to me.All
was not lost however. It turned out that even though Chris and I
let up on the second lap, we still had the two fastest skate times
of the day. So I was bummed that I didn't hold on for the win, but
if you had told me six weeks ago that the weekend would go like
this, I would have been pretty happy. Now it is on to Quebec for
Canadian Nationals. My first taste of international competition
in over two months. I am skiing better that I have been recently,
but I won't really know how well until I get in a few races up north.
good primer for the next few days is to read my December
Journal. Rather than repeat many of the basics of Valcartier
living and racing, it would be easier if you read the old stuff.
Today was a travel day from New Hampshire to wonderful, friendly,
and organized Valcartier, Quebec. For a few weeks I have been seriously
worried that I would be heading into the lion's den by coming back
up here. After all the things I wrote back in December (which I
still stand by), I was sure that they would have it in for me. But
I guess it shows how clueless they are - they were oblivious to
who I was or why they should care. When Chris Klein and I arrived,
we immediately went to race headquarters to check in. We needed
to verify that they had us on the registration list and get the
keys to our room on the military base. When we arrived, there was
one coach in the registration room with two ladies helping him.
Chris and I were first in line. An hour later, we were STILL first
in line. Welcome back to Valcartier. Apparently, a few of the coach's
athlete's registrations could not be found. Why it took two women
over an hour to fix the problem and why someone else couldn't help
us in the meantime are questions for someone far less jaded than
I to answer. When we finally got into the room to register, they
claimed I had not paid my registration fee. They said that they
received my entry, but had never received a check. I tried to explain
that I had sent my check with my entry, so if they had the entry
form, the check had to be around somewhere. Indeed, after a (short)
five minute search, my entry form was found, with the check attached
to it. Then they explained to us that all US athletes had ben assigned
to one wax room. There are about 30 US skiers here, and we are all
supposed to use a wax room designed The one good thing that happened
was that since Chris and I are not affiliated with teams, they could
not decide which bunk room to house us in, so instead they gave
us single rooms in the officer's quarters. It was not all that luxurious
- the only difference from the bunk rooms is that the officers'
rooms are smaller, with one bed, and carpeted - but still a step
up. After moving it, we headed to the cafeteria for a flavorless
meal of overcooked pasta and greasy red sauce.
Today was the sprint event. For the first time in my life, I got
to do a classic sprint. I have always thought it was unfair that
all sprints are skating, and it is good to see more classic sprints
on the schedule this year. In the morning qualifying round, I thought
I had skied pretty well. Classic sprints are much more technical
that skating because, you have to choose a lane, decide when to
switch lanes, and change techniques without missing a pole plant.
I learned a lot in just my two minutes on the course. Even though
I made some mistakes, I thought I was skiing fast, which is why
I was disappointed to see the preliminary results and find myself
back in 15th spot. Not a big deal because 32 advanced to the elimination
heats, but now my job would be tougher. The organizing committee
had promised that results would be posted one minute after the last
finisher in each age group, and available on the web, five minutes
later. Well, true to form, an hour later, not all the results had
been figured out. The 11:30 start for the heats was moved back to
noon, then to 12:30, then finally they pushed it all the way back
to 2:30, promising to have it all straightened out by then. A morning
race was now a full day ordeal. By the time my race finally came
around, I had lost all motivation and desire to race. In my heat
I was up against Guido Visser, one of Canada's toughest sprinters,
and Andy Newell, one of the best junior sprinters in the world.
Also in the heat was another junior - Ryan Foster. Two would advance.
I knew I was up against tough competition, so I was determined to
get out of the blocks quickly. I did get out quickly and I was leading
going around the first turn. About halfway through the course I
realized that I didn't want to lead anymore. I was not about to
pull those two around the course so they could sprint by at the
end.I eased up, hoping to let one by and then jump into second.
Andy went by, but Guido was right on his tails and I couldn't get
in. I dropped back into third. Then starting up the next hill, I
stumbled once and it was all over. That was all they needed to get
a small gap on me and I couldn't close back up. At the line I was
third by about two seconds, and eliminated. It was disappointing
because I thought I could do well today. Guido advanced to the semifinals
and Andy advanced to the finals (and came in 3rd) and I was closer
to them than anyone else in the next few heats, so I know I could
have beaten most of the guys out there. But not today.
I felt horrible when I woke up this morning before our 50K classic,
mass start, race. I think it was a combination of the bad food,
not-so-great water, and my overall disdain for this place. I went
to breakfast and struggled to put down a big bowl of oatmeal, knowing
that I would need it later on. For the last couple days, I had been
thinking about skipping the 50K and I was closer than ever to bagging
right after breakfast. I haven't done a fifty all year, and it would
be my 4th race six days. But I thought to myself, "I am a ski
racer. I race. So what if the food is bad, you feel tired or the
weather is poor. It's the same for everyone else, I don't train
full-time so that I can bag on races because I don't think I am
going to do well." So I raced. The weather was a mess. It was
your typical thawed and refrozen and now thawing again spring skiing
until about an hour before the race when it started snowing. And
it was coming down hard. Waxing would have been a nightmare, except
that since we were sharing a wax room with the Stratton Mountain
School and their coach, Sverre Caldwell, had come up with a good
race wax: A thin layer of Skare (Rode Blue klister), covered with
a 60/40 mix of Rode Violet and Star Orange klisters, covered with
a layer of Swix XF 50 hard wax. It seemed very good in warm up so
I went with it.The course for today's race was extremely hard, probably
the hardest 50K I have ever done except for at last year's Nationals
at Soldier Hollow. As a result, the pace was pretty conservative
on the first of our 5 10K loops. The pack was big and we were skiing
more than racing, but I could tell that my skis were very good.
They seemed fast and I had plenty of kick. A few others were not
so lucky and had to stop and rewax along the way. On our second
lap, the pack slowly broke apart. Eventually I found myself in the
lead pack with about 10 Canadians. As we went up and down hill after
hill, the pack thinned some more and at 18K it was about six of
us. From there, it is about a 2K downhill then flat back to the
stadium. I took the lead over the top of the hill and down the other
side. I wasn't trying to make a break for it , but my skis were
good and the only person who stayed with me was Robin McKeever,
Canada's best skier this season. I assumed that eventually the rest
would catch back up, but as Robin and I skied together, we noticed
that the gap was getting bigger, not smaller. Maybe we could get
away! We picked up the pace slightly. He and I were working together.
He didn't mind me being there because I was no threat for a Canadian
National Championship title and I didn't mind him there because
I was just happy to be having a good race! By the end of the third
lap, we had built our lead to about a minute over third place. But
now I was beginning to tired. Robin began to creep away and soon
he was about 30 seconds ahead of me. I fought hard and managed to
keep the gap at 30 seconds for the whole lap. "Only one lap
to go, hang in there," I thought to myself as I passed through
the stadium the fourth and final time. But now I was exhausted.
The slow conditions and the tough course had taken its toll. Soon
Robin's lead was a minute and I began to worry more about hanging
on to second. On the longest climb I was, at one point, reduced
to walking. I simply did not have the energy left to bound up the
steep pitch. Third place was indeed closing in. I needed to fight
with everything I had left. For the last 5K, I was dead tired and
a bit shaky. But with 2K to go, someone told me that I had put more
time on third place - I was now two minutes up. Damn they must have
really been hurting! I coasted down the long hill and across the
flats and into the finish. I finished second! Canada has some very
good skiers and I managed to beat all but one of them! I was almost
stunned. I really didn't think I had the stamina to do that right
now. After the way I have felt for the past few months, it was like
I was out there in somebody else's body, or my body from two years
ago. It felt great. I was so happy. Now I had proven myself in a
national level race. Sure, it wasn't US Nationals, but it was the
next best thing. This was a huge monkey off my back and helped me
erase any lingering doubts about my fitness going into spring series.
I was so happy with my race yesterday, that I thought no one could
take the joy out of my 2nd place finish. Then I was cruelly reminded
that I am in Valcartier, where there is no joy to be had by any
racer, any time. Tonight was the Awards Banquet for all the races
so far and it took place in the old city of Quebec. I was excited.
I'd get off the military base for a while, get a real dinner, and
pick up my award check as well. If only it had been so. . .
we arrived at the banquet hall, we were informed that there was
a mandatory coat check with a $1 charge. It was a fund raiser for
the girl scouts. This was all well and good, except that there were
5 girls trying to check coats for 500 people. I waited in a long
line for twenty minutes to drop my coat. Then I waited in another
long line to get into the dinner hall. And while it took forever
to get to my seat, I still cannot figure out why the line. The sole
purpose of the line was so that the doormen could take our banquet
tickets, and give us a new ticket with which to get our dinner.
Huh? Then we took our seats at a table designated Etats-Unis. Then
an annoying french MC started going around to random tables, making
people sing stupid songs and dance around in order to get in another
line for dinner. At first I was insulted that I was going to have
to sing for my supper, but after 20 of the 25 tables had been chosen
and all three USA tables were among the five tables left (and annoying
MC man had walked by us about a dozen times), we had had enough
and just got up and got in line. After a tiny dinner, where we were
allowed a measly six ounces of juice and were verbally abused for
trying to get a pitcher of water, they did the awards. By now I
was annoyed. Three hours into a line-fest and all I had was a piece
of dry chicken and some rice to show for it. But my annoyance turned
to rage when they made no mention of the Americans in the race.
No mention of me, or Andy Newell, or Ethan Foster, or any of the
Americans who made the podiums is their respective races. No prize
money, no thanks for coming, no nothing. Sure, this is the CANADIAN
National Championships, but it should be pointed out that Beckie
Scott always makes a small mint when she comes to US Nationals,
because USSA gives money (a lot more I might add too) to the top
three, no matter what country they are from. It would only seem
right that the Canadians return the favor. When they completely
blew us off, I and some other US skiers had had enough and we got
up and left the banquet. Of course, the organizers probably paid
no attention to us then either and at least we didn't have to wait
in a line to get our coats back.
be fair, I should point out that it is this decision to ignore foreigners
was made by Skibec, the race organizers, not Cross COuntry Canada
and not the Canadian athletes. In fact before the banquet, many
Canadians were telling me how much money they thought I had won
($200 Canadian) and after the banquet even more of them came up
and apologized for the "ignorant and insulting" actions
of the race organizers. It was also mentioned to me that in the
past, Canadian Nationals has given money to foreigners. I was upset
about the snub, but then again, I should have expected nothing less
from the worst race organizers on the continent.
Today was the final race, a fifteen kilometer skate, and whether
or not Skibec cared, I was racing. I was still feeling the after-affect
from the 50K three days ago, but I remained optimistic. Out of the
start, I felt good, but not great. I thought I was skiing well,
but then at 2K I found out I was already 20 seconds down. Oh no.
From then on, I tried mightily to go faster but I was fighting it
the whole way. After the race in Rumford last week, Chris Klein,
who followed me for 4K in the skate race gave me some tips on improving
my V2, which has been pathetic this year. He mentioned trying to
bend my leg at the ankle, rather than the knee and staying lower
before the push off. It all made sense and I worked on it all week,
and even worked on it in today's race, but nothing seemed to click.
I still felt useless when i tried to get power from my V2. I worked
had right to the finish, but without success. I finished 24th. How
could I ski so badly after coming in second just days ago? Part
of it was my wax. It was a perfect Solda Cold Fluor day (20 degrees,
a little new, windblown snow), but I could not find my vial of the
stuff. Instead I tried a mix of warm fluor and S-20, hoping for
the same effect, but it didn't work. My skis were slower than everyone
else's that I saw on the course. Another part of it was that I was
still tired from the 50K. When I looked at the results from today,
no one who did well in the 50 had done very well today (except for
the third place guy in the 50 who had the race week of his life).
The 50 was just too hard to recover in that short time. And finally
it was partially because I am messing with my technique right now,
which always requires some adjustment time. So it was a very disappointing
day, but I know I can do better and I have two more weeks to prove
After the race yesterday, Chris and I bolted from Valcartier as
soon as humanly possible. We had both had more than enough of Skibec
and couldn't wait to return to a land where common sense and customer
service are foreign concepts. I returned to New Hampshire and spent
today packing and preparing to head back out west for Spring Series.
I fly to Utah tomorrow and after living here for two months, I have
a lot of packing to do. I did manage to get in one final ski at
Bretton Woods and the whole time I was shaking my head. It seemed
like such a shame to leave all this snow to go to Idaho, where they
have had to move some of our races because of no snow. It is almost
April, but if I didn't know better I would think it was early February.
Today when I explained the rest of my race season to my mom, she
asked, "So you don't have any spring races after that?"
I said, "Mom, it already is spring." It's easy to forget
when you have three feet of snow in your backyard.