Korea was a whirl of transportation and movement. From day one, we were packing and unpacking, busing to and from venues, dining, ceremonies, or media requirements. It seemed nonstop. Everything entered a crescendo going into the opening ceremony, only to feel like it was time to leave a week later. Many sports competed early. These athletes hanging around gave off a strong vibe of things winding down; however, the real “time to leave” feeling was spurred by the cardboard boxes showing up in our apartments well before we were done racing.
One of the amazing, awful things about the Olympics is the amount of stuff. Since there are European world cups after the Olympics, most of this gear had to be crammed into a large cardboard box for the slow voyage across the pacific. All the Nike, Ralph Lauren, and non-logoed gear had to be switched out again for the more appropriate walking billboard once back in Europe. A box arriving in May was much more appropriate.
Once the box was out the door, I still had one Olympic race left: the granddaddy of all Olympic races, the 50k classic. With 3 races under my belt and several results that I was proud of, the 50k was icing on the cake whether or not it went well. I lined up confident in my fitness and hoping that I could put a great race together again.
The 50k is often considered the marathon of cross country skiing. There is a ton of history behind it as well as lots of opportunity for interesting racing. 50k races are one of the few ski races I do where a true second wind comes along. In a 30k race, just as that potential to rebound is coming late in the race, the race ends. In a 50, there is still another hour to regroup. Alternatively, 50k races can lead to some of the most epic explosions. As if long distance isn’t enough, another wrench in thrown in the mix: we are allowed to switch to new skis up to two times during the race.
With that much going into them, I’ve had beautiful races and suffer fests, great results and ones I would rather forget over the course of my ski career. Pyeongchang was an awesome one for me. From my previous experience racing on the Pyeongchang courses, I figured the pace would accelerate early. I wanted to follow the early accelerations to stay with the pack, but hold off a little from the accelerations that truly separated the potential medalists. There are courses with more hills, but Pyeongchang was the type of course that could grind one into the ground if you put too much on the line too early. While I want a medal, that is just too much of a long shot. Fighting for a good results would be much more rewarding than gambling on an outstanding performance.
Our course was six loops. I spent two of these loops trying to stay relaxed and hanging near the back of the lead pack. I was dangling a bit, but it was clear that it was worth a bit of extra energy to ski with the others. At two laps, we exchanged skis and I was quickly dropped by the leaders to form a chase group. This group had a few substitutions over the next few laps, but for the most part we were fighting for around 13th. On lap four I reached my low point for the race. I had spent most of the proceeding laps leading my little group. I was battling to move up, but it seemed relatively futile effort and the price was too high. As I tired, I began to struggle with my skis as well. In a move that probably saved my race, I shifted to the back of the group to save energy.
Another ski exchange and I was finding a second wind. Better skis after the exchange assisted my comeback. The group of 6 dwindled down to four going into the last lap. Then, two skiers were able to pull away from me and the group splintered. 44 kilometers into the race, I was in no man’s land for the first time. Fortunately, there were some tempting targets ahead. Two of the top ranked skiers who had burned their matches too early. I gobbled them up and had my sights set on a couple more, but the race ended a little too early. I finished in 11th.
With my racing over, I went out the next day to cheer on the women as they completed their 30k. While my sister didn’t have the race she wanted, it was fun to be out there in the mix taking photos and cheering on the US athletes.
Too soon it was time to pack up the final bags and don the final Ralph Lauren outfit for the closing ceremony. While my personal photo taking during the closing was dismal, I worked hard to get in other photos. Photo bombs and flanking the gold medalist was the name of the game. After the big show, the games were suddenly over. All that was left was the early morning, chaotic airport, and long haul with way too much gear to Finland.
Overall the Olympics was an awesome experience that I am still trying to digest (and probably will be for a while.) I had great races, enjoyed the experience and journey, got to see some old friends, and see a little bit of Korea.
2 thoughts on “Olympic Endings”
You did a really great job at the Olympics. People here in McCall are very proud of you!! We’ll be watching in the future.
Cheers and best of luck,
PS Your family lived just a couple houses down from me on Alta Vista. Please say hi to your mom and dad.
Great job in Pyeongchang Scott. And thanks for the post; always great to hear of your experiences. Let us know when you’re going to get back to AK. Keep it up in Europe! -Dave