Although I was out skiing in a blizzard today, the ski season is over. By that I mean the competitive season. It has been a month since the last races and the official start of training for next year is rapidly approaching.
I can’t quite write about the end of the season with the excitement that I had coming out of the Olympics. After leaving South Korea for Finland, I think the whole team was experiencing a bit of post-Olympic blues. This was regardless whether each person had good races in Korea or not. It was still a lot to process. This attitude wasn’t helped by the fact that Lahti was really cold. After several years without a real winter in Europe, it seems like the temperature shouldn’t be below zero in March. Luckily, we had a few fresh faces from the States to liven up the world cup and great snow to ski on.
As far as the racing in Lahti, it was quite mediocre. After some great racing at the Olympics, I brought my expectations down to a more manageable level with a very forgettable 15k classic. Soon enough it was on to the next venue: Oslo.
I like Oslo. The trails are endless, but it is really the skiing culture and atmosphere that stands out. The Olympics has the media hype, the Tour de Ski gets the TV ratings, even the US supertour has its moments, but the real crown jewel for crowds is the Homenkollen 50k just outside of Oslo. After a good 50k at the Olympics and a few of my better world cups at Homenkollen in the past year, saying I was amped would be an understatement. My parents and some friends from Alaska (living in Norway) were there to watch to add to the hype.
With a sprint in Drammen midweek (I didn’t race) and a few extra activities to meet up with my parents, the week flew by. The first of the crowds trickle in to camp sites days before. Spectators hauling firewood, setting up tents, and barbequing are normal sights in the lead up to the race. But, the big show is Saturday. The final numbers I heard were 110,000. Most of these are up at the high point on the course enjoying a ski race with beverage enhancement. In amongst these were my friends and parents standing less than 100 meters apart though they never saw each other. The race was exciting for me for more reasons than just the crowd. Approximately 45k into the race, I was still with the lead pack, even moving as high as top three at times. On the last lap when the hammer finally dropped, I did finally lose contact with the leaders. While this was somewhat disappointing, I still ended the day 16th for my best world cup result. Even getting dropped, there were bright spots. I felt that I lost the group because I was trapped behind some good skiers who were fading more than that I was fading myself.
After Oslo, the world cup season wrapped up with a three-day mini-tour in Falun Sweden. The sprint day was forgettable as normal for me. After a three month break from my last sprint race, my three-minute speed wasn’t exceptional and yet somehow, I also manage to get really tired in two minutes. However, the second day disaster struck. A 15k mass start is always a bit chaotic for the men’s world cup field. This is exacerbated in min-tours as many of the sprinters are seeded in the front of the start grid while some distance specialists are at the back. This creates more movement than normal as skiers like myself are fighting to move up while some of the more fast-twitch orientated skiers are rapidly fading as the time ticks on. Falun was the epitome of this chaos for me. 200 meters out of the start, I stopped moving altogether. While I didn’t go down myself, the pile of racers on top of my skis limited mobility. I think I was the last one to leave the stadium. It was still early and I wanted the 15k to be a good race, so I charged from there, but that wasn’t the end of it. By about two kilometers into the race, I had caught the group and was starting to work my way up to where I wanted to ski. Low and behold, a slight fiasco became a full-on catastrophe as my ski popped off my foot at the top of one of the large climbs. I assume it had come loose in the pileup at the start. I chased it back down the hill, reattached my binding, started back up the hill, and proceeded to lose all motivation for the race.
The last day of the mini-tour had its moments, but in the end, I made tactical errors that derailed a good finish for the last world cup of the season. I’ll spare the nordork technical mumbo-jumbo (excuses) and just say I wasn’t the fastest. Within moments of finishing, it seemed like it was time to pack up the wax truck for the final time of the season. Race emotions had to be calmed in order to decide which skis to bring to the states and how to get all the stuff that I had accumulated over the last 6 months to wherever it should be. Fortunately, my parents had taken a lot of the extra Olympic gear from me in Oslo. Also, I function reasonably well in that time limited environment. 24 hours later, I was on the plane back to the states for the first time since early January. Vermont was the destination. Four more races to finish the season.
After 3 months racing world cups, it was entertaining to be back racing domestically. For the distance races, I switched from one of the chasers to an animator of the race. This didn’t always end the best as I finished at the back of the pack for both the distance races. I had put the work in earlier to make sure that the packs were quite selective, but it still wasn’t where I wanted to be in 5th and 3rd. I’ll be working to add a few more tactical tricks to keep up my sleeves for both domestic and international races. On the sprinting side, I was psyched to ski a few rounds. After a season consisting of only a few world cup sprint qualifiers, it was refreshing to see that I’m not actually that slow over 3 minutes at least domestically.
With the four races in Vermont over, that ended the season. It was a season filled with highs (Olympics and Homenkollen) along with lows (Davos and others). I will be processing my feelings and ideas for improvement for a while, but April is the month for some other activities (posts about that to come).
3 thoughts on “Finishing the Race Season”
Thanks for taking the time to record your agenda and efforts. I will probably pass your 50k experience on to friends in Norway. (Years ago in the 45K Masters in McCall, one goal of mine was to come in ahead of at least one Norwegian. I don’t think that I did.) Best wishes from Alta Vista Drive.
Thanks for sharing Scott. Welcome back to AK! Good to see you at the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame event.
Holmenkollen is actually within the boarders of the City of Oslo municipality. From Frognerseteren you can ski in 25-30 km straigth north and still be in Oslo. But the network including 18 other municipalities are on 2250 km when we have a good winter, like last year.