I jumped in the first races for my season last weekend and let’s
just say there are still quite a few cobwebs hanging around. I had a period of sickness in the fall the
hindered getting on snow time trials in while in Alaska, so my body wasn’t
quite used to the race efforts.
Saturday started off with incredibly tricky conditions for
early season. The temperature was
hovering around freezing and the weather had granted us some new snowfall
overnight. These factors coupled with a
large women’s field and even larger men’s field meant that the race course
conditions were tricky. The track was
glazed and icy in some places while maintaining a fresh powdery nature in
others. It was a great challenge for a
first classic race day back working with my tech JP. I won’t say that we nailed it, but we learned
some good lessons and the race wasn’t that important. I struggled a bit with my race execution as
well, but again was reminded of some lessons that I should have learned when I
was racing at 10 years old. However,
sometimes we all need little reminders.
Sunday’s skate race was a little better. The conditions were quite a bit simpler and
it was a skate race so we didn’t have to deal with the hassle/joy of classic
waxing. I found a bit more energy than Saturday
and raced to a better place. The depth
of the Norwegian field is always humbling and definitely left me looking for
more as we head into the world cup this coming weekend.
For now, the whole team is off to Finland. Most of our wax technicians left this morning in the our special waxing semi truck loaded down with about 500 pairs of cross country skis. We start the world cup season on Friday with a classic sprint.
Outside of my own media channels, there are several opportunities to follow along with results for this season. These are basic suggestions that I’m sure can be elaborated on by those following along in the US. There are a few weekends (such as this coming weekend in Beitostolen) that may be a little more difficult to follow as they are not as widely televised. When in doubt, ask a friend.
Fasterskier.com – this cross country ski specific news site generally provides up to date information and stories specific to North American racers within one day of the competition.
FIS app or website – the international ski federation provides live results for almost all the races that I will be competing in. These results are probably the best way to follow along live without any subscription.
Crosscountryski.us – this website provides links to videos of all the world cup races. Generally, they are posted within one day of the competition.
YouTube live – if you are really looking for a live source, there are sometimes live feeds posted on YouTube. The best way I have found is to take the location and race format and translate it to Cyrillic, then search YouTube.
NBC Sports Gold Snowpass – this subscription service provides access to live and on-demand events throughout the season. I am not sure how exactly this works with cable providers.
VPN and European TV source – for the dedicated follower, the best live option is probably a VPN to shift your IP to a European country and then see about the TV resources in the country. Eurosport and NRK (Norway) generally provide good coverage of the cross country world cups.
I am about to leave for Europe so it is time to get the blog rolling again. I’ll be trying to post weekly updates here throughout the winter. Some posts may be full race recaps, others just a quick update of where and what I’m doing. Stay tuned for more soon!
My plan for the next few weeks to kick things off:
Beitostolen, NOR – 11/12 to 11/19 for the FIS opener races.
Rovaniemi, FIN – 11/19 to 11/21 transition camp
Ruka, FIN – 11/21 to 11/26 First world cup weekend
Lillehammer, NOR – 11/26 to 12/3 Second world cup weekend
Beitostolen, NOR – 12/3 to 12/10 Third world cup weekend
Davos, SUI – 12/10 to 12/17 Fourth world cup weekend
Follow along with the season here or on Instagram @scottgpatterson as I take on another world cup season.
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).
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.
First up, the men’s relay. This was my third race of the Olympics and I was racing the third leg of a three-lap course. That was enough threes for the day though. We didn’t get third. We got 14th which, for those of you examining results, is equivalent to last. Also, we barely managed to not get lapped. This was our big achievement for the day as we had a few substitutions due to sickness and other focuses. It was still a fun race and I think we were all proud to represent our country. However, racing to not get lapped is also very different. For my leg, it felt like I was racing scared. The first info I got from the coaches on course was how far back to the leading team. This led to some funny racing, and I did not execute nearly as well as the previous two races. I skied one lap frantically fast and then suffered. It was only the combination of all four relay team members suffering that allowed us to finish the race. Go team!
The day after the relay, I was a lot more excited though. For most of the Olympics, Caitlin and I have been lacking in friends and family. We have lots of supporters cheering from the states, but most thought it would be too difficult to make the trip over here. The rumors of nightmare lodging, expense, and logistics have mostly turned out to be false. However, now we have friends. A few of our friends from Idaho way back when (think 2005 when I was less than 5 feet tall according to Caitlin) decided last minute that a trip to Korea for the Olympics would be awesome.
It felt a bit surreal to walk up to a coffee and flowers shop in the middle of Daegwalnyeong, Korea and meet with friends I hadn’t seen in over a decade. But, I can’t think of a better way to bring people back together. Over the last few days, we have checked out the Olympic scene more than the first weeks with going to a few events, exploring USA, Sweden, and the Proctor and Gamble houses, as well as making a trip down to the coastal village in Gangneung.
I can’t go without mentioning the most exciting event of the week: Kikkan and Jessie won a gold medal! It is still setting in even for us. First women’s cross country, first cross-country gold, second cross country medal ever, and the list just keeps going. Now, I really want my own (as if I didn’t know that already)!
For all those kids out there dreaming of the Olympics and gold medals, I have some advice: keep dreaming. Please, keep dreaming. The Olympics are awesome.
After the last pre-Olympic World Cup race in Seefeld, Austria, most of the Olympic cross-country team spent a few more days there getting ready for the trip to Korea. All of us could notice the building hype of the Olympics. Media requests were regular, even for those of us somewhat out of the spotlight. Even so, it wasn’t too hard to keep the stress low as we had a great chef preparing all our meals, the weather and skiing were spectacular, and Korea seemed a long way away.
Yet suddenly, it was time to pack up and head for Frankfurt, Germany. To keep the travel simple, we drove the 5 hours north to Frankfurt for a direct flight to Seoul. When we arrived in Frankfurt, there was a dedicated check in lane at Korean Air for the Olympics. This was fortunate as our crew each had 4 bags to create a massive pile of skis, duffels, and wax boxes in the airport. Only 11 hours later we were touching down in Korea for the big show.
We spent a little over a day in the Incheon area going through processing. The gist of this was a massive amount of USA gear and some ambassador training including: don’t disrespect the flag, be a good ambassador for the US, and don’t talk about dogs. After that it was off to the village.
I have raced enough world cups to have a routine. They are a much bigger show than US nationals, regional races, and anything else in the US; however, world cups still only have cross country athletes. The attention of the world sporting media is not really on a normal world cup weekend as there are about 40 world cup races throughout the season. But that is before you add Olympic medals, tons of other sports, and only let them happen every four years. Riding the bus to Pyeongchang with biathlon and bobsled drove this point home.
Once in Pyeongchang, Village life is simple. Eating and training take up most of the day including transportation. The cross country venue is close by to the mountain village, but still it takes some time to make the circuit on the bus. In addition, most of the team USA athletes have been eating outside of the village for lunch and dinner. “The Haven” provides a quieter and supposedly healthier alternative to the general dining hall in the Village. While this does limit our interactions with other teams, we have gotten to know some of Team USA better as we ride the bus with them every day. There are a ton of other things happening around the Olympics, but for us the priority is always racing.
Once we settled into the rhythm, opening ceremonies and races were quickly upon us. I don’t know if there is a better way to get fired up for racing than the Olympic opening ceremonies. We didn’t see much of the show, but the energy just walking in was contagious. However, with races soon after, we funneled out of the stadium as soon as we had walked in. I was back at the village watching on TV by the time Poland was walking into the stadium a few minutes later.
Racing began the next day for cross country with the women’s skiathlon. It was exciting to see Jessie Diggins in the fight for the medals; however, I was also hoping for my sister, Caitlin, to finish better than 34th. With that race in the books, my first one was up the following day: the 30k skiathlon.
I have said it several times in interviews, the Olympics feel low pressure for me. Making it to Korea was a bit stressful, but now that we are here, there are not too many expectations for the US distance cross country men. Going into the race, my main thought was just to ski a good race.
From the start, the race was quite interesting. I barely avoided a crash less than 30 seconds in that took down eventual winner Simen Krueger from Norway. For one lap the full pack seemed to hold together before Iivo Niskanen, who is one of the strongest classic skiers in the field, splintered the group. I ended up further back than I wanted to be in the third chase group. Yet with the winds howling, it was much better to be in a group than alone. From this group a few others were moving well, so I latched onto them. Over the next three classic laps, we held the gap steady to the leaders as well as move through some other stragglers.
Once we switched to skating, the leaders regrouped. My little group was trying desperately to get up to the leaders, but 15k was a little too short. We picked off a few more stragglers and came within 15 seconds of the leaders, but never quite got to the group. I ended up 18th. While I am super excited with that, it is also taunting just how close I was to the top 10 or even medals.
A few days later, it was time to regroup for the 15k individual skate. After setting the 11th fastest skate time in the skiathlon, I was really looking forward to the 15k, true fitness racing. I started out strong, but halfway into the race my confidence was fading. I wasn’t catching the starter in front of me and the splits made me feel like I was battling for a top 40. However, I managed to regroup for the second half. Coming into the finish, I was second. Usually this is a decent sign as I beat most of the people who were seeded lower than me. In the end, I came out in 21st when all the best in the world had finished.
The 15k wrapped up the first half of the Olympics for me. Stay tuned for more.
On December 17th, shortly after finishing the last Toblach World Cup, I booked a plane ticket for the next day. I was going back to the states to US Nationals in Anchorage. I had been offered a Tour de Ski start and Olympic selection through the world cup was still possible, I just didn’t see it as feasible. My path to Pyeonchang was going to go through Anchorage. After several days watching ticket prices and maneuvering in a state of limbo, I made the call. Returning to the US meant I got to spend some of the holidays with my parents in Bozeman in addition to racing nationals in my hometown.
Returning to Bozeman was great. While most of the West and Alaska was worrying about snow, Bozeman was stuck in a cold snap with plenty of snow. This made for some killer skis at a variety of venues around town. It was also a great opportunity to live somewhere else than a hotel for a few days. The little joys like cooking, going to Costco, braving the holiday traffic, or pulling my parents out of conversations with random strangers were all quite different from my existence for the last month. However, the holiday was over shortly and it was time to travel again, this time back to the cold dark North of Anchorage in January.
Snow was in short supply when I arrived. The approximately three kilometers of manmade at Kincaid was the only decent option for skiing. Every day before the races started, we heard new rumors of course options twisting through the snow guns trying to maximize the ascent per kilometer.
By the 15k race day a course had been nailed down, but a new variable was added to the mix: rapidly falling warm new snow. This change was awesome for me as it morphed the somewhat easy race loop into a grindy challenging course due to the slowed snow speed. From the start, I was confident that I could win the race. I received a boost to this confidence after the first of six laps when I passed another competitor. Normally this wouldn’t mean that much, but this certain one had won a couple 15k skate nationals in the past. Good feeling translated to good splits a minute later when my coach shouted at me that I was leading by 8 seconds. With steady but aggressive skiing, I built this lead up to 55 seconds at the finish. Crossing the line, I had my 3rd national title in the bag. Like my first, this one was made more special by my sister, Caitlin, winning her race earlier in the day.
While nationals started on a high note, the rest of the week was frustrating. I raced a mediocre skate sprint. I qualified and skied in the quarterfinal, but the racing was too close. In my sprint heat, all 6 of us came into the final 100 meters together. I don’t win races when they come that close, but I also don’t like being eliminated so early. However, the sprint was mainly a bonus for me. Plus, I got to watch my sister win again and catch up with friends while watching.
The second distance race, a 30-kilometer classic mass start, was the real frustration of the week for me. The night before, a cough that had been lingering since the fall, set in with a force. I spent most of the night hacking up my lungs and maybe accumulated 3 restful hours. Unfortunately, the 30k was too important for Olympic qualification for me to sit out. With the new snow from earlier in the week, the course was shifted to a 5-kilometer loop consisting of half natural snow and half manmade; however, challenging climbs were still absent. The slow snow of earlier in the week was gone as well. The manmade snow speed had increased significantly since the 15k and the natural snow had an ice layer underneath. In the race, this meant two things: first, it was fast and hard to break away and second, kick wax was quickly peeled from our skis by the ice.
From the starting gun, I lead the first 10 kilometers. My intention was to keep the pace high and string out the pack; however, about we still had at least 30 guys skiing together a third of the way in. When one of the sprinters took the lead, I shifted towards the back of the pack. I had realized how futile my efforts were to break away, especially when considering my health. Instead of animating the race, I spent the next 20k reacting to others. I watched as several of the other strong distance skiers tried to no avail to get away. Perhaps if we had worked together, it would have turned out differently. Instead, 8 of us came into the final 100 meters together. As in my sprint heat, I don’t win in the final 100. I ended up 8th. The ease of the race paid off for those with more sprint chops. The three people including myself, who I thought should have been able to break away ended 6th, 7th, and 8th. Luckily, I had the 15k win to ride on and ended up with a good position for Olympic qualifying.
My nationals finished quietly. Instead of racing the classic sprint to cap off the week, I started antibiotics for bronchitis and spent the day snapping photos with my sister’s camera as she swept her 4th national title of the week.
Being in Anchorage was nice, but with my health situation my backcountry skis and climbing gear never even made it out of storage. A few days after the classic sprint, I was flying back across the Atlantic pond for more world cup racing.
Next up is another World Cup this weekend in Seefeld, Austria.
The first three races of the world cup are over. This morning we rushed out of northern Finland for the slightly sunnier prospects of Lillehammer, Norway. To put it in my parents’ context, we are now in the land of brown cheese.
It is always hard writing about racing when it doesn’t quite go as planned.Ruka was not ideal for me, but it is just the first weekend and there were some highlights along with the inevitable rust from 8 months without ski races.
Prior to Ruka, we spent 5 days in Rovaniemi, Finland adjusting to the time change.Rovaniemi claims to be the official home of Santa Claus although I think North Pole, Alaska makes the same claim. This place seemed to have the spirit a bit on overdrive. Our lodging: Santasport, the local ski team: Santa Claus Ski team.I also had the impression that they were trying to do this all with a straight face.Our hotel, which doubled as a Finnish Olympic training center, seemed conspicuously absent of Christmas decorations or the cheesy Santa images found throughout the US.Additionally, I’d have to rate the food selection quite marginal.Iceberg lettuce, various states of potatoes, and questionably prepared fish don’t exactly tempt my palate.But for all those features, the skiing was quite good.Natural snow was in limited supply when we arrived, but it accumulated a bit over the next five days.There was 9 kilometers of manmade that had been spread over a month before so the natural snow was not that crucial.
In addition to the excitement of being over in Europe and the approaching season, additional energy bounced around with the acquisition of the new US Ski Team wax truck.Over the past 5 years, most of the top world cup teams have rolled out expanding semi-trucks bedazzled with national emblems and sponsors.These provide a more consistent waxing environment and significantly improve the life expectancy of wax technicians. Breathing fluorocarbon fumes for several hours each day isn’t ideal for their health. In typical safety protocol, controlled ventilation schemes (i.e. wax trucks) are preferable to personal protective devices such as respirators. Along with the new wax truck, comes a new relationship for me.Previously on the world cup, I have bounced around wax technicians.This year with my ski team status and a few other changes, I have an assigned technician, JP. This season he will only be working with my APU and USST teammate, Sadie Bjornsen and myself.It’s exciting stuff, but it does mean that we must build a good working relationship. When talking about wax, cross country skiing is a team sport.
Reindeer in Rovaniemi
After several days training and several fitful nights of sleep, we travelled to Ruka (about 3 hrs by bus) for the opening world cup races.Ruka is a small alpine resort near the Russian border.The food improved slightly and the ski trails shifted from moderate terrain to full on steep world cup hills. As has been standard for the last few years, Ruka opens with a 3 day minitour.What this means is that instead of a normal two race weekend, we would be racing on Friday as well.Also, there would be an overall winner for the weekend.Racing kicked off with the classic sprint. This event is about as far from my specialty as possible, so I was taking it as a warm up for the later races.My chances of making it past the qualification round by placing in the top 30 was extremely slim.Predictably, I ended up racing to 84th which was well outside of qualification; however, this was also much better than I expected.I felt solid through the race and was looking forward to racing 10 times as long the next day.
But, the weather changed.After a casual morning, I turned on our TV to watch the women’s race.Yes, I could have walked about 100ft from our hotel to go see the race in person, but laziness takes over on race mornings.The first image I saw from the race was Kikkan Randall stopped at the top of the hill scraping ice off kick zone of her skis. It wasn’t the ideal image to get me fired up to race. Through ski testing, I was unable to nail a wax that had both glide and kick.Thus, I started quite apprehensively.On the first hill, I slipped out a few times and move out of the tracks for better kick.I could run up the hill alright but had built up enough ice in my kickwax that I was unable to glide.The whole race was this continual battle: try to find kick on the ups and then try to remove that kick on the top of each to get some glide for the down. I did not meet this battle head on. One third of the way through the race I was counting laps just wishing for the race to be over. Through three laps I managed a dismal 86th place.My better sprint result than distance is a clear indication of a bad day.
However, there were a few good things.One, I worked through a tricky day of skis with JP. We didn’t nail it, but we learned from it.Two, as the Norwegians would say, the body was fine.Although I was skiing slow and struggling in the race, physically I think I am close to where I need to be to perform on the world cup.
The weekend in Ruka did end on a better note. The final day of racing was a skate pursuit.Pursuit meaning that most of the field would start based on time back and bonus seconds from the preceding two days.As I was far enough back, my start would just be in a wave starting around 50th place.This makes for a mini mass start with two advantages. First, there are lots of rabbits to chase who start ahead of the wave and second, the real powerhouses of the field are not in the pack.We shifted to a shorter loop for this last race consisting almost exclusively of fast downhills and steep ups.This made for a quite aggressive and jumbled race.With a large group filled with competitive people this made for cyclic racing as each racer tried some aggressive tactic to move through only to be reintegrated later. Through 15 kilometers of racing, my pack absorbed quite a few of the racers who started in front.Although a better race for me, it still ended with a bit of disappointment.On the final lap, I got trapped into a bad position once on a steep hill and again behind a crash on the fastest down.This put me in the back of the pack for the finish.In a close race, this was made a significant difference.My teammate Paddy Caldwell finished 19th for time of day to capture some important points while I just missed out in 31st. The difference was that we were on opposites sides of the group 6 seconds apart.
Nevertheless, my confidence was boosted with the final result.This coming weekend will be more tough racing in Lillehammer with the longest race prior to the Olympics taking place: a 30 kilometer skiathlon.