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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

January Journal

January 1

No skiing today. It might not be the best way to start off the year, but today is scheduled day off for a couple of reasons. 1) I have a race on Sunday and 2) There are six football games on today. To me, that's what New Year's Day is all about - I sit in front of the TV and watch so much football that I can't remember who played who or even who won. At the end of the day, my mind is a blur of touchdowns, interceptions, and bad halftime shows and all I know is that I watched a lot of football.

January 2

After my lazy day yesterday, I was anxious to get back outside today. I couldn't ski that far, because I have to race tomorrow. So I just went to White Mountains Regional High School's track and skied for an hour and fifteen minutes, including six accelerations of about 30 seconds. Then went home and watched more football.

January 3


Wax of the Day: Solda F-30 Violet
The weather outside was frightful, but I went to Grafton, VT anyway for the race. The drive took almost 3 hours instead of the usual one and a half. As a result, I arrived fifteen minutes before the mass start. I registered, did a five minute warm up and started the race. It was supposed to be a ten kilometer race, but it was actually only about five. I felt really good and stayed in the top three for the entire race, letting Kris and Justin Freeman set the pace. I thought I was in perfect position to make a move on the last lap, but Justin held me off to take the victory. A bit disappointing, but I am encouraged by the fact that I felt very good.

January 4

I have had a terrible time trying to find acceptable housing for Nationals in Rumford. The options are extremely limited to begin with and most places I called were either too expensive or didn't have a kitchenette (the dining options are limited also). So today I finally got fed up and drove to Rumford to find a place myself. It took almost a whole day, but I found a place that will work alright. I also checked out the trails. In case you are wondering about snow conditions, it looks to me like the recent storm was very nice to Black Mountain and they should be able to use the whole course with some shoveling. On the way home, I stopped to ski at White Mountains Regional High School, which has very good conditions on most of its 5k loop.

January 5

After a quick workout at Nautilus this afternoon, I packed up to travel to Quebec. Scott Loomis and I got on the road tonight at 9:00. It was a late start, but we decided it would be better to get in a little late and sleep in, rather than travel the day before the race. We arrived in Mont St. Anne about 1:30 in the morning and collapsed into bed.

January 6

I didn't get up until almost 10 this morning and finally made it onto the tracks at noon. Because of the poor snow conditions and lack of racing so far this year, I haven't had a chance to do much ski testing. I took advantage of the beautiful snow here in Quebec to find out how my new skis measure up to the proven race skis from last year. I waxed all my [sponsor plug] Atomic skate skis with Solda F-10 wax and took them to a gradual downhill just outside the stadium. The temperature was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the snow was cold and crunchy. I glided down the hill four times on each pair of skis, comparing glide distance, speed and breakaway acceleration. All of which was very arbitrary since I was testing by myself without a speed trap. After learning that all my skis were about the same, I skied for an hour, including some speed.

January 7

Continental Cup 15K Freestyle Race

Wax of the Day: Solda S-30 Antistatic
Last night on the weather report they mentioned that we might get "en peu de la neige" (Or however they say "a little bit of snow". You must forgive me, I only took seven years of French). Well, the French definition of "a little" must differ from the English definition, because this morning when I woke up we had over a foot of new snow. I've never skated well in soft new snow, but this morning's conditions didn't worry me because it is also extremely cold and I hoped it would set up and harden well. No such luck. I started the race fairly well, but when Pat Weaver, who started 30 seconds behind me, caught me at 5K, it took the wind out of my sails. The soft, powdery snow just sapped my energy. I tried to hold on, but Pat left me a kilometer or two later. I dragged myself around the loop two more times before packing it in. On paper, my 8th place finish doesn't look that bad, but I was over 3 minutes out and over a minute behind people I know I can ski with. Today's race proves the value of a warm down. It's all too easy to sit around the stadium after a bad race and analyze what went wrong, dwell on the negative, and make radical changes to the training plan. It's very easy to get depressed and frustrated when you do this. Instead, as a certain wise Dartmouth coach once told me, it's best to put on a dry shirt, have a bite to eat, and then go out for a nice, easy warm down ski. After all, it's hard to be depressed when you are skiing. For me, it allows some time to decompress and pull some positive aspects out of the situation. By the end of a good warm down, I am looking forward to racing well in the next race, not agonizing over that day's shortcomings. That's what happened today. I am already itching for Saturday's 10K classic to get back on track.

January 8

Easy day today. Skied for an hour, walking all the hills, and then did six 20 second speeds. After that, I did a good half hour of stretching to loosen up my sore muscles. Other than waxing my skis this afternoon, I did nothing but watch MuchMusic (Canada's improved version of MTV) for the rest of the day.

January 9

Continental Cup 10K Classic Race

Wax of the Day: Solda White
Kick waxing for classical races is always tricky when you don't have a coach to help. You essentially have an hour to test glide wax, wax a pair of test skis, ski on those test skis and evaluate the wax, re-wax and retest until you find the ideal wax, then wax race skis, then ski a warm-up and stretch. Luckily, today the wax was easy to find (Toko Dibloc Bright Red) and I was able to get in a good warm-up and make it to my start on time. I felt like I was skiing well at the beginning. I had good, quick tempo on the uphills and long double pole strides on the flats. That's why it was disappointing to realize that I was not gaining on Robin McKeever, who started 30 seconds in front of me, and Scott Loomis, who started 30 seconds behind me, was gaining on me. At the top of the first hill, I got a split time from the UVM coaches telling me that I was in 3rd place, very close with a large of group of skiers. Not too bad, but with Scott yet to go by this check point, I knew I was no better than fourth. Then a funny thing happened. I felt tired, like my technique was getting sloppy. Not good, except that I had put Scott out of sight and was starting to gain on Robin and another Canadian National Team skier whom he had caught up to. By the 8K mark, I was solidly in 3rd place and moving up. I passed Robin and dropped him quickly. Going up the final good climb, I heard a Canadian coach say I was in second place. That was all the motivation I needed to hammer into the finish. I rebounded from Thursday' disappointment just as I had hoped. I now can go into Nationals next week with a good bit of confidence. Time to get rested up and ready to roll.

January 10

This morning I was still on a bit of a high from yesterday's race. I was itching to get going. I was out skiing on the impeccable trails at Mont St. Anne by 7:30. It was a perfect classic ski day. Ten degrees, the sun coming up over the St. Lawrence River, perfectly groomed snow. I had to get home to New Hampshire this afternoon, otherwise I might have just skied all day. I skied for two and a half hours, not retracing my steps once the whole time. If everybody knew skiing could be like this, everybody would be a cross country skier. Fortunately, its our little secret.

January 11

Did nothing today. Hope your day was more productive.

January 12

Intervals today. Went to WMRHS to do 10 minutes at level III (kind of hard) followed by some very hard sprints. 4x40 seconds, and 5x30 seconds. The main idea with this workout is to do something hard, to loosen up but not so hard that I get tired out. After a total workout time of almost 1:30, I went home.

January 13

I had some school-related errands to run in Hanover today, so I took advantage of this opportunity to ski at Oak Hill (the Dartmouth Ski Team trail system) for the first time in a couple years. They have changed the trails around a bit in order to keep the visiting skiers out of the woods during Carnival, and for the most part the new trails are excellent. I skied for an hour and a half, enjoying the trails, the new snow, and meeting up with Ruff and the boys.

January 14

Traveled to Rumford today. Originally, I wasn't planning to go until Friday morning but a couple of factors changed my mind. First, a nasty storm (snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain) is supposed to move in tonight and the driving tomorrow could be a nightmare. Additionally, I need to get into race mode. When I am at home, I really relax. I sleep in until nine or ten o'clock, do nothing except ski, and enjoy my mom's cooking. No matter how hard I try to motivate, it just doesn't happen. While this lifestyle is fantastic for resting up before a race, it's not very conducive to getting psyched up. It's much easier to get excited and focused about a race once you arrive at the race site and see the other competitors. So today I deemed my resting complete and headed to Rumford.

1999 Chevy Truck U.S. Cross Country Championships
Black Mountain - Rumford, Maine

January 15

Today was the day to get into race mode. Got up at 7:00, ate my oatmeal, and headed to Black Mountain to meet up with Torbjorn at 9:00. It started snowing last night and was still coming down hard as I drove to the trails. I found Torbjorn in the waxroom, and after discussing wax, snow conditions, diet, and logistics for tomorrow's 30K race, headed out to test skis. By this time, the new snow had amounted to about 4 inches or so. As I was out testing the glide on my skate skis, the snow changed to sleet. It was pelting down pretty hard. After picking the two pairs of skis I will wax tonight for the race, I skied the course. At this point, you had to cover your face on the downhills. The sleet felt like someone was pointing a sandblaster directly at your face, just ripping the flesh away. The race will consist of 4 laps around a 7.5K course. Good for spectating, but a little repetitive for racing. I skied the loop once, then did an eight minute pickup at level II-III (kind of fast, but not hard enough to tire me out). I haven't skied much in the past week, so this pickup was designed to shake out the cobwebs. I finished off the workout with half an hour of stretching. After doing a little grocery shopping and heading back to the motel, the sleet changed to rain. Ordinarily, rain is a four-letter word to any skier, but today I was excited to see it. I have a hard time skiing in deep, soft snow (see my Val Cartier race) which is exactly what we had on the tracks this morning. Hopefully a little rain will pack it down and make it firmer once it gets colder tonight. Having said that, it's now been raining for four hours, so I hope it stops sometime soon. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, waiting to see what the weather is going to do, and then going to bed early.

January 16
Men's 30K & Women's 15K Freestyle

Start time today was 9:00. It is generally recommended that you get up at least 3 hours before start. So when the alarm went off at 6:00 I got up, threw some clothes on and went for a brief 5 minute jog, just to wake myself up. After that, I ate a huge bowl of oatmeal, scraped and brushed the final layer of fluorocarbons on my skis, and headed to the race. Last night I waxed three pairs of skis, so the first order of business after arriving at the trailhead was to test them. Since there were so many variables in the weather in the last twenty four hours (when would the rain stop? Would it freeze afterwards? When would they groom the course? What would the race time temperature be? Etc.) I waxed three pairs for three different conditions- (1) a stiff pair of skis for cold, hard, icy tracks (2) a medium pair for frozen tracks that are starting to melt as it warms up (3) a soft pair for new snow. A quick glide for distance test told me that pair (1) was the fastest. They were waxed with 2 layers of Solda F-30 Violet, covered with a layer of Solda Fluor. They were significantly faster than the new snow pair (waxed with Cera-F). Having made the ski choice, I did a warm up loop around the very demanding course, stretched out, and headed to the start. Right out of the start I could tell I was out of sync. I was flailing on the uphills and stumbling on the downs. In fact, on the first major downhill, I got caught in a rut and almost ended up in the woods. The course was hard and icy, but as more skiers traveled over it, it turned to sugar snow. The uphills were very soft, which as you know is not good for me. I kept thinking to myself, "I have to figure out why I am struggling!" Over the first two laps I was passed by Rob Whitney, Marc Gilbertson, and Carl Swenson - all of whom were in the top five at that point. I watched their technique and tried to imitate it. Carl was especially good to watch, but it was too late to help me in this race. After the race, everybody wanted to analyze my technique. A few people said I didn't look like myself out there. Torbjorn told me that I need more snap and need to get my hip further forward during push-off. It was a very frustrating day for me, but until I learn to skate in soft snow, I will continue to finish in the middle of the pack in those races.
Men's 30K Freestyle| Women's 15K Freestyle

January 17

Ever since the race ended yesterday, people have been consoling me by telling me that I will do better on Tuesday. I know that they are doing their best to put a positive spin on a terrible race, but by this morning I was sick of hearing it. I know I will do better. End of story. Today I slept in and went skiing at about 10:30. I haven't had a chance to ski on my new klister skis yet this year, so I took advantage of the loose granular conditions to take them for a spin. I slapped on a little universal klister and headed out on the 5K loop that we will race twice on Tuesday. The skis were beautiful- very fast and good kick. It usually takes a bit of wax experimentation on a new pair of classic skis before you figure out the wax pocket, but on these skis I nailed it the first time. I skied two laps and then did a lot of stretching to loosen my tight muscles. After that, the day consisted of watching two football games and waxing a few skis.

January 18

It's weird to be at a race series and have two days off in between races. Usually we race every other day until all the races are over. I don't think I like having an extra day off. Since I had a bad race on Saturday, I just want to get back out there as soon as possible. Additionally, it means that we have to stay in Rumford even longer and pay for housing longer. Today when I went skiing, I used one klister ski from last year and one from my new pair. I wanted to compare the two and select a race pair for tomorrow. My new skis performed well again and I decided that they will be pair number one for tomorrow. This evening was a replay of the evening before the 30K. It started raining at about 3 p.m. and continued to rain heavily until about midnight. I was not nearly as excited to see rain this time. This time I had to prepare four pairs of skis, because the weather was again unpredictable. You always need to glide wax two pairs of classic race skis, so you have a backup pair (just in case). But this time I also needed a pair of skis for "hairies" (in case of new wet snow you rough up the kick zone with sandpaper to make hairies) and a pair of skis to test kick wax that I could race on in a pinch. It took a while, but I got the skis all done and went to bed.

January 19
Men's 10K & Women's 5K Classic

I was fired up today. When I woke up, I was ready to race. I arrived at the race about two hours before start time in order to figure out the klister of the day. The waxing was not too difficult, but it required some testing and lots of prep time. I waxed with Torbjorn, Justin Wadsworth, Scott Loomis, and Erik Stange. We decided to go with a thin layer of Rode Skare Blue, covered with a cushion layer of Rode Violet and Multigrade. We covered this with a layer of Rode Rossa with Swix Silver Universal mixed in. Whew! It took a while to get this all on, so my warm up was less than ideal. I waxed, tried my skis for 30 seconds, and ran to the start. Usually when I get to the start, my mind goes blank and I don't really think about anything until I get out on the course. Today, my mind was racing. I kept telling myself that this was my race and I was going to go out and prove it. I was chomping at the bit. I was borderline psycho I think. After I started and I heard cheers along the course, I got even more fired up. It was time to kick some ass. I was right around 5th place most of the race, even though I started 10th most of the top skiers started in front of me, so I knew that being in 5th or 6th would mean an eventually top 10 finish. I was dying on the second lap, because I went out so hard, but I held on for a sixth place finish - my best yet at Nationals! I was very happy with the race, but it was also a bit frustrating being only 15 seconds from top 3 (but only a little bit). It's going to be an exciting pursuit on Thursday!!
Men's 10K Classic| Women's 5K Classic

January 20

I am pretty sore from yesterday's race. I ran into Rob Whitney in our motel wax room this morning and he said the same thing. For such a short race, yesterday's 10K really took it out of us. I just hope everyone else is feeling it tomorrow as well. I only skied for about half an hour this morning. I skied the 7.5K loop with Torbjorn. He gave me a few technique tips. He told me to get my hip further forward as I step up the hill and to straighten my leg more as I shift my weight. It's all stuff he's told me before, but I know that he's right and I continue to work on it. After skiing, I stretched out for twenty minutes, trying to work specifically on the sore areas in my hips and back. In the afternoon, I went for a twenty minute run to warm up and shake out my muscles and then did a good half hour of stretching. It's more stretching that I hardly ever do, but its the best way to relieve sore muscles. I should probably explain the format for tomorrow's race for those unfamiliar with pursuits. Tomorrow's start times are determined by yesterday's results. So Marcus starts first, with Justin 23 seconds behind. Then Bauer and Weaver 27 seconds behind him, etc., etc., until every one has started. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins the two-day event. Therefore I start 6th, 1:04 behind Marcus. My goal is to stay in the top seven. Rob Whitney usually starts fast, so I am hoping to stay with him and Justin Freeman, and then see what happens from there.

January 21
Men's 15K & Women's 7.5K Freestyle - Pursuit

I hate being passed. I decided that today as I was being passed by a train of three skiers - Marc Gilbertson, Kris Freeman, and Jesse Downs - at the 10K point of the race. From the start, I hammered as fast as I could to catch Justin Freeman. Rob Whitney passed me at 2K and Justin and I held on to him for a K or so. Justin then dropped me and I was left to fend off the pack 30 seconds behind. No such luck, Marc et al. went by at 10K and I held on to them for 2K before dropping hard. From there to the finish, I was concerned only with staying ahead of anyone else who might come into sight. No one did, and I struggled to the finish by myself. During the race I was very frustrated that I couldn't stay with the same skiers I had beaten two days earlier. But after the race, I was able to put things in better perspective. I still finished in the top ten, my best pursuit yet. And my skate split was 13th for the day. Much better than my 30K skate result. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of work to do on my skating so I can stop getting passed. But I'm on my way.
Men's 15K Freestyle - Pursuit| Women's 7.5K Freestyle - Pursuit

January 22
National Sprint Championships

Today was a busy day at Black Mountain. This morning was the first College Carnival Race of the season, hosted by Bates College. This afternoon was the National Sprint Championships (the first ever!). I headed up to the mountain at about 10:00 to catch the tail end of the carnival races before getting ready for the sprints. I cheered on my former teammates, scrambling to see them 4 times on each 5K lap. Not the best warm up for a race, but well worth it. Sometimes I think I make a better spectator than I do racer. The Dartmouth women placed second, beaten only by a UVM team powered by new Russian sensation, Ekaterina Ivanova. The men managed a decent third place effort, overcoming the absence of two top skiers. UVM won the men as well, followed by Middlebury. Most of the top teams were without top skiers, due to the Nationals races, but it was an exciting relay none the less.
Next up was the sprints. In recent years, head-to-head elimination sprints have gained popularity due to their spectator-friendly format. The races are fast paced, you can usually see most of the 1K course from the Start/Finish, area and the races almost always come down to a mad dash to the finish. Anything can happen. This is the first time that sprint races have been included in the National Championships. This year there have also been World Cup sprint events in Europe as well. Sprints will almost certainly be a medal event in Salt Lake City in 2002 and next year USSA will probably name a National Sprint Team to compete in World Cups. For all these reasons, I decided that I should enter the sprints, against Torbjorn's recommendations, and gain some more experience. I was seeded in the second heat, along with John Bauer, Pat Casey, and three other skiers. Originally, there were supposed to be seven people in each heat, with the top two moving on to the finals. But there were a lot of no-shows, people saving energy for Sunday's 50K Classic. In the first heat, only Marcus Nash and Eli Brown showed up so they both advanced. In our heat, Pat Casey took the early lead. I jumped in behind him with John Bauer on my heels. On the first slight downhill, I found out that my skis were not so fast (I didn't wax for this race - I used skis from yesterday's race). Pat put a couple ski lengths on me on the downhill. Going up the next hill, the biggest climb, Pat maintained his lead and Bauer was still hot on my heels. Coming down the next hill, Bauer and Jeff Banks both glided by me. From here the only part of the course left was a short downhill followed by a sharp U-turn and uphill sprint to the finish. As we entered the U-turn, Pat still had a lead with the train of Bauer, Banks, and me in pursuit. At this point I has resigned myself to a short day- I knew I could get by Jeff, but I didn't think I had enough distance left to close on Bauer. Then it all changed. Bauer went into the woods around the U-turn and it was just me and Banks for second. Seeing that I had another chance, I pulled out and passed Jeff. I couldn't quite get by Pat, but I was in the finals anyway. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. The other heats, went more according to expectation, with Scott Loomis, Mike White, Justin Wadsworth, and Justin Freeman moving on. In the finals, Pat Casey took the early lead followed by Marcus Nash, Justin Wadsworth, Eli Brown, Scott Loomis, myself, Mike White, and Justin Freeman. Again, going down the first hill I lost time. Mike White glided past me and I lost touch with the leaders. Going up the big climb, I worked like crazy and closed the gap. Coming down the hill into the U-turn, it was Marcus, Justin W, Pat, Eli, Scott, Mike, me, and Justin F. all right in a line. It was an all-out, lung burning sprint up the hill to the finish. Marcus held off Justin W for the win, with Eli Brown moving up to third. I was able to get by Mike, but ran out of room before I got to Pat and Scott. A good race, but I think that had I had faster skis, I could have been in position to do some damage at the end.
In the women's final, Nina Kemppel lead from the start. Coming down the big hill, Wendy Wagner made a move and took the lead, but Nina charged back and won convincingly. Wendy held off Jen Douglas for second. Those three were followed by Christa Case, Sarah Conrad, and Hailey Wappet.
Men's 1.3K Sprints| Women's 1.3K Sprints

January 23

A pretty uneventful day. I watched the college races at Black Mountain this morning. Then went back to the motel and stuffed my face with food for the rest of the day while watching VH1's Rock and Roll Jeopardy Marathon. For a 50K race, you need to have plenty of fuel in the system at the start because you burn an unbelievable number of calories when you ski at race pace for 2 and a half hours. Therefore today, I was eating carbos like crazy. From lunch until bedtime, whenever I thought I could fit another bit in my stomach without throwing up, I stuffed it down. Macaroni and Cheese, Bagels, sandwiches, spaghetti, garlic bread, bananas, oranges, powerbars, energy shakes, Little Debbie Swiss Rolls (how'd they get in there?), potatoes, cereal, dinner rolls, etc. When you gorge yourself like this, it is fun at first - just being able to eat anything and everything in sight. But once you start getting full, that's when it becomes hard work. The expression "You aren't a real man unless you can eat a full meal on a full stomach" definitely applies here. In addition to OD on the carbos, I ODed on Rock and Roll Jeopardy as well. After the 10th episode or so, I was able to yell out the answers before they even showed the clues. That's when I knew I had seen too much. But I watched it for another three or four hours anyway. Did you know that Shania Twain's real first name was Eileen? Learn something new everyday.

January 24
50K Classic

I apologize. I have a lot I want to write about the 50K death march in the pouring rain today, but I am too exhausted to do it justice now. So take a look at the results, and check back in a couple days. Hopefully I will be recovered by then!
Men's 50K Classic| Women's 30K Classic

January 25

OK I've had a day to recover and I think I am ready to recount the epic that was the 50K Classic in the pouring rain. Yesterday's race was scheduled to start at noon. It had been drizzling on and off all night and early morning, and it was predicted to turn into a full-on rain storm right around noon. great. After a huge breakfast of oatmeal, I headed up to the trails at about 9:30 this morning. A little early, but Torbjorn has already left to go back to Utah, so we are on our own for kick waxing. I needed as much time as possible to get the wax dialed in. You don't want to have bad wax in a 50K race. That's a long way to double pole. Justin Wadsworth wasn't racing today, but he was nice enough test waxes for us. Soon after I got there, Justin came into the wax room and told us that a combination of Rode Rossa Special (70%) and Start Universal (20%) was working extremely well. I had taken Justin's wax advice in the 10K and was very happy with its performance, so I decided to just wax up the race skis with Justin's combination and see how it worked. Sure enough, it was great, but as Eli Brown said at about that time, "[The wax] is great right now, but there is still plenty of time to screw it up." If it started to downpour, things could change in an instant. So just to be sure, I put on a little more Rossa Special (the sticky wax known to man) just before the start. I was glad I did. No more than fifteen minutes after I started, the downpour began. Every time I double-poled, a river of water ran down from my hat and off the end of my nose like a fountain. The water in my boots sloshed around on every stride. Near the end of the first of eight 6K loops, I caught Marc Gilbertson who started 30 seconds in front of me. This made me worry that I had started too fast, but my fear was soon replaced by another concern when Justin Freeman and John Bauer passed me. I had to hang on to these guys if I wanted to stay in the hunt. We skied together for about 4K until Justin made a move to break and John went with him. I tried to pick it up and hang on, but as soon as I did, my back tightened up and my technique began to suffer. Despite working very hard, I slowly lost sight of those two, and by the third lap I was beginning to wonder if I had blown the race by trying to hang on and getting too tired too soon. After I lost contact, I went back to skiing my own race. I tried to extend my stride and ski smooth. As I did this, my back loosened up and I began to feel better. I felt very good on the fourth, fifth and sixth laps and began to think I was having a decent race. During this time, Pat Weaver passed me. He had started two minutes behind me, but I was skiing my best at this point and was able to hang on to him for a few K's. By my own approximations at this point, I figured that Pat was winning, followed by John Bauer, Justin Freeman, and myself. The race was unfolding jut up the trail from me and I would catch a glimpse those guys at various points on the course. Near the end of my sixth lap, I was still feeling strong. All of a sudden I realized that I was reeling John Bauer back in! He had clearly bonked, and I passed him and quickly regained the one minute gap he had on me. John dropped out soon after. Eli Brown also dropped out shortly after I passed him. Are these people thinking, "Man, Cory Smith just passed me. I must be having a horrible race. I better drop out."? I take that as a bit of an insult. Anyway, at this point I knew Weaver and Freeman were well ahead of me, but I figured I was probably in third. I could win some money! This gave enough motivation to survive the last two laps. The final lap was ugly. My wax had mostly worn off and I was very unsteady- slipping and fumbling towards the finish. But I made it and was happy with my consistent race. Unfortunately, I soon learned that Phil Bowen has a very good race all by himself at the front of the pack and had overtaken Justin in the final lap. This meant I was pushed to 4th. So much for my first podium finish. That was disappointing, but overall still a good race. Fourth place in a Nationals race is, on paper, my best finish ever. Of course, Nash and Wadsworth and a couple of other hotshots didn't race, but if you won't tell anyone that I won't either.

January 26

Now that I have gotten out of Rumford and had a couple days to settle down, I am able to evaluate my Nationals performance. Overall, I am pleased with my results. Sure you always want to better - especially when you finish fourth in one race and are 15 seconds from third in another - but I accomplished all of the goals I set at the beginning of the year. I wanted to have one top five finish, be in the top ten at the end of the pursuit, finish in the top ten overall, and put myself into contention to be named to the U.S. Ski Team next year. Mission accomplished.

January 27
Lexus Sprint Tour - Killington, VT

I'm feeling a little exhausted these days. Until today, I hadn't put on my skis since the end of the 50K on Sunday. I wish I could say that I have been kicking back, enjoying a couple days off before getting back at it. But that's not the case. On Monday, I went to Durham to see my brother once more before I leave for Utah. Tuesday, I went to Concord, then Hanover, and then to Holderness. Today I went to Killington, VT for the second race in the Lexus Nordic Sprint Series. I was surprised at the turnout for the event. I thought that most people would have already headed home after Nationals and it would just be a few of us "locals" competing for the $3800 in prize money. Unfortunately for my bank account, a lot of good skiers were there. To top it off, I was in a very strong first heat. Marcus Nash, Chris Blanchard, and Guido Visser, among others. (To see an explanation of the format for this race, go to my account of the Fairbanks Sprints) I could have just sandbagged the first round and had a much easier road to the finals, but I'd already gone that route in Fairbanks. This time I wanted to make it "the real way." Out of the blocks, I surprised myself by taking the lead around the first corner. Unfortunately, as we glided down the only downhill on the figure 8 course, Marcus and Guido passed me. As we came around the far turn, I was in 3rd and held on to my position in the 200m straightaway to the finish. I had advanced, but it would only get tougher. In the next round, my start was less stellar. I got a bit tangled up and was last out of six skiers heading down the hill. Coming around the far turn, I made a nice move of starting wide and then cutting to the inside. I was a ble to slingshot past two skiers and was now right behind a friend of mine, Frosty Whitworth, who held the third spot. I pulled out to pass him and we hammered stride for stride for the last 200 meters. I managed to just edge him out at the line and move on, along with Marcus and Marc Glibertson. The next round would determine who would move into the finals and, more importantly, win money. I was in fourth going around the first corner and held that position until the far turn. Again, I needed to outsprint someone to advance. This time it was Chad Samela. Again I was able to get by and advance. I was in the money! The finals would be very tough though. In addition to Marcus and Marc, Chris Blanchard had advanced through the consolation round to fill out the four-man field. I had a decent start and was right on Marcus's and Chris's heels around the first turn. Then, Marc used my own strategy against me. He glided by me on the downhill and took a nice line through the corner. I was right on his heels starting the sprint, but this time I couldn't pull it off. Marc was too strong, and I had to settle for fourth and $100. Still, a fun race and good night's pay. Unfortunately, the awards took place immediately after the race, so I didn't get to warm down.
Lexus Nordic Sprint Tour - Killington, VT

January 28

Lake Placid, NY
I feel like I have been living in my car the past couple days. Today I drove to Lake Placid for the weekend races. Normally, it is a 3.5 hour drive from Littleton, but today it is snowing and all the idiots decided to go for a drive, so it took me 6 hours. I had planned to get to the Olympic Training Center at 6 PM, eat a good dinner, go for a run and stretch, wax my skis and go to bed early. As it ended up, I had to stop at McDonalds for dinner, got to the OTC at 9 PM, waxed my skis, and went to bed. To top this off, the only skiing I did all week, was 4 flat-out sprints. All in all, probably the worst week of preparation I've ever had for a race.

January 29

Continental Cup 10K Freestyle
I really thought that, even though I had prepared terribly for this race, I could fake my way through it. It was only 10K, and a really flat course at that. Didn't happen. At this level, the competition is too good to let you get away with a sub-par performance. I felt tight and tired from the start and got my butt kicked. End of story. The only up-side is that I now have two days to settle down and prepare for the 15K on Sunday.
Continental Cup 10K Freestyle Race

January 30

Today's mission is to get my groove back. I had hoped to unwind for a few days after Nationals by taking some time off from skiing, running errands, visiting friends, and taking care of all other business I had to do before heading back to Utah. While I did accomplish some of the stuff I wanted to, it was by no means a few days off. So not only am I a little fried from racing, I am tired out from all the running around I've been doing. So now I need to refocus for the next week. If I can make it through tomorrow's race, get in a good week of training back at altitude, and race the Boulder Mountain Tour next weekend, then I can give myself a little time off. I know what you are thinking - "Awww, poor guy is worn out from skiing too much. Must be rough. Just wait 'til he gets a real job like the rest of us! (sinister laugh here)" And you are right - I have no legitimate reason to complain. This is what I keep telling myself to motivate for the next week, "If I don't ski fast, I'll soon have to get a real job like everybody else." So I push on for another week, then I can take a week or so to REALLY kick back and play a bit...backcountry skiing, snowboarding, tele-skiing, downhill skiing. The main drawback to racing is that it leaves so little time for my other favorite sports.

January 31

Continental Cup 15K Classic
It was very cold this morning (-25 degreees Fahrenheit in nearby Saranac Lake - the coldest spot in the country) and we were unsure whether it would warm up enough to race. I was having flashbacks to my trip to Spokane earlier this year. But it "warmed up" to -4 rather quickly and the race went off as planned. Thanks to the cold weather and recent snow, kick waxing was easy. I went with a combination of Swix VF10 and Rode Multigrade Blue/Green. I started dead last and was chasing Canadian skier Steve Cyr most of the way. As I started the third and final 5k loop, I caught him, rested behind him for 30 seconds or so, and then spurted past so that he couldn't hang on and catch a ride. I felt decent in the race, but not great. There were no coaches giving me split times out on the course, so I had no idea how I was doing. This ended up costing me. I finished third, 4 seconds behind my teammate, Scott Loomis. Had I known it was this close I think I could have found 4 seconds on the last couple of hills. Of course, it's easy to think this after the race is over, but while I was racing I was pushing pretty damn hard.
Continental Cup 15K Classical Race

February 1

Well, I am on the plane back to Utah now. When I flew east on December 24, I knew that the upcoming month would make or break my season. Due to the missed races early in the year, the races in Quebec, Lake Placid, and of course, Rumford would be my best opportunities to show my stuff and lower my FIS points. Looking back now, I think the month of January was a success. Sure I had my share of bad races (almost every skate race I did), but I had at least four very good races as far as points go, had my best Nationals ever, and determined where my weaknesses currently are. Now, it's time to reload for the second half of the season, which will be primarily skate marathons - exactly the races I need to work on. It will give me an excellent opportunity to improve my skating before the FIS Spring Series in March. I won't be doing a daily journal for the entire month of February. I basically wrote a small (poorly edited) novel last month and I won't have that much time since I am heading back to work, but I will update you on races, great workouts, and other days that I feel like typing.

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.