All of the sudden, I am back in Anchorage. All the spring adventures that I was dreaming of while sitting in various European and North American hotels get to be realized. But first, there were a few more races to wrap up the season.
The second half of the Ski Tour Canada was brutal. We flew from Montreal to Calgary one day, rested another, and then went straight back into racing. There was no time to adjust to the altitude. The first race day in Canmore, I managed to survive a brutal sprint in slushy conditions. Even though it was long for a sprint, this race was only a prelude to the fun to come. The 30k pursuit the next day capped the difficulty for the whole tour. One lap into the 8 lap race, I realized that I was quickly losing the pack and bonking simultaneously. That’s not supposed to happen to me. For the next three classic laps I suffered. The leaders quickly gained a minute, then two, then three, maybe even four. Fortunately, I felt a little better for the skate race and managed to complete my seven laps prior to Martin Sundby coming into the finish after his eighth. It is odd to feel that not getting lapped is an accomplishment, but for me that day it was. In the back of my mind I almost wanted the leaders to reach me if only to relieve the suffering of the moment. However, willpower always triumphed as I recognized how awful it would feel to be sitting out the next two race days.
The second to last race, the 15k free might have been considered my target race for the tour. I managed to stay on target for about 3k before being consumed by the slushy skiing. Again, this wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I recharged the next day for the last world cup of the season by forcing myself into the mindset that the last one was my day. I would finally get that top 30 for world cup points.
Alas another race passed by without me reaching that artificial barrier. Only ten people had managed to stay within five minutes of the leader over the course of the previous seven races. Thus I started with the majority of the field in the wave start. In what seemed to become the trend for my ski tour Canada racing, I started strong and wound up a little short. We skied four 3.75k laps and for three of them, I was with the leaders of the wave. Then the wheels came off. With my legs burning and my ability to kick classic skis seeming to have already called it a season, I ran up the hills to a 35th time of day. Again, close but no cigar.
With the tour wrapped up, I left for Craftsbury the next day to spend a few days with my sister, recharge after a lot of racing, and get ready for the last four races of the season: spring series. Craftsbury was a little thin on snow, but in typical Craftsbury fashion, the pulled a 3.4k loop of good snow literally from the dirt.
Two days prior to the start of the racing, my energy finally began to rebound. With decent energy, I went into the first day ready to charge. Overall this may have been the most frustrating race of the season (maybe with the exception of 32nd in the Homenkollen 50k). I ended up 0.4 seconds off of Noah Hoffman in second place. Longer legs, an extra pole. Looking back now it seems that every stride I could have made the 0.4 seconds necessary to steal the win away from Noah. Unfortunately for me it was not to be.
The last sprint of the season was relatively unexceptional. I qualified and skied one heat as is becoming pretty standard for my US sprinting, but enough about non exciting races. On to the relay!
Relays are hard to beat for fun factor, but they also add quite a bit of pressure. Instead of only self-pressure, there are three other people riding on how I skied that day. I did have a good day though. Racing for the APU 1 team, Erik Bjornsen led us out and dropped the field. From there Rosie Brennan, Chelsea Holmes, and I all got our 5k in alone. The threat of Jessie Diggins ripping up from behind Chelsea was mitigated by the lead we were able to give her. Maybe there is something to say for face paint and team spirit.
The last race of the season was the 50k classic. We started late in the day, so the trails were already slop at the start. Throughout 15 laps the conditions only deteriorated making this 50k the toughest ski race I have ever done. For five laps, I jockeyed near the front. However, when Noah Hoffman put a surge on for the cash prime and again on the next lap, I was quickly shelled off the back into no-man’s land. This state only lasted about half a lap as I managed to catch my teammate Eric Packer. For the rest of the race, I led him around pleased to have company even if it only was someone skiing on my tails. Together, we suffered through the moment on lap nine when both of us were thinking we were on lap twelve. We communally experienced the frustration as we got passed by Kris Freeman with 500m to go after he had consumed three redbulls to alleviate a diabetic sugar crash. And we got to stare in wonder as we passed Noah walking up the last hill following one of the most extreme bonks I have ever seen. In the end, I ended up sixth, very tired, and really hungry. The maple glazed donuts at the finish were a big hit.
And with that, we are into the off season or should I say adventure season. One good adventure in the books already, but that will have to wait for another post.