Birthday at the Races

When I was really little, it was great to have a January birthday because that meant parties always involved a lot of sledding, building snow forts and generally playing outside.  These days, as I turned 26 on Saturday January 30th, my birthday still involved playing outside, in the form of ski racing.  Thanks to all my friends, teammates, competitors for all the Happy Birthday wishes and for helping me to have a fun day at the races and afterwards! 

Myself in green during the skate sprint final at the Lake Placid Supertour. Photo: Alex Howe
After racing at Nationals, my coach (Pepa) and I decided that it would be best to take a step back from racing, allow myself to recover well, and then put in a nice block of training.  It’s not like I needed to train to get into better shape, or that my health was bad, or anything like that – it’s just that when the opportunity presents itself, it’s nice to put in a training block at this point to help stay stronger throughout the rest of the season.  This upcoming part of the season is going in involve lots of racing, so the chance to be in Craftsbury and to focus on strength, technique, and various intervals was extremely valuable.

After a number of distance skis solo or with a few teammates, GRP women’s group intervals, grueling and soreness-inducing strength workouts during the course of the 3 weeks, I was admittedly curious to see how it would feel to race again.  We headed from Craftsbury over to Lake Placid, New York on Wednesday for the weekend of Supertour racing, one last domestic tune-up and confidence boost (I hoped) before I would head to Europe and the World Cup. The races had been moved to courses at the Jump Complex rather than Mt. Van Hoevenburg due to low snow, but I was actually fairly excited about this development because the one other time when I raced at the jumps in college it was an excellent course and fun racing.

The weekend got off to a great start on Saturday, when I managed to win the skate sprint qualifier! I believe I’ve won a few Eastern Cup sprint qualifiers before with lighter fields, but this was the first Supertour qualifier win.  And as an added bonus, I had learned just before the race that there was a special $250 prize for winning the qualifier. Nice birthday present to myself! The rounds were sure to be tactical, with all the uphill at the start of the loop and then a long downhill bringing us nearly to the finish.  They were relatively tactical – in the quarterfinal and semifinal I was able to lead the majority of the heat and finish solidly within the top 2 to move on, but in the final I was caught up in the melee of jockeying for position.  With a combination of good luck and bad, and feeling not particularly in control but making the most of it, I finished 2nd in the final behind Kelsey Phinney, quite pleased with the result and my feelings for the day.

Climbing towards the top of the course in the skate sprint. Photo from Alex Howe

Skate Sprint podium, myself, Kelsey Phinney, Annie Hart. Photo: Alex Howe
Sunday men and women both raced a 10k individual start classic, 4 laps of a 2.5k loop, in sunny 40+ degree F weather. I found that I was able to recover extremely well during the downhill/rolling section returning to the start/lap/finish zone, so that each time up the long multi-tiered climb I was able to stride powerfully and really push myself.  My skis were great, I skied the transitions well, I saw enough competitors throughout the race to know even though I wasn’t getting many splits that I was having a good race. And most of all I was having fun! I won by one minute, and even I don’t know how that really happened, but it was exactly the type of confidence boost I needed, because I know that my competitors on the domestic circuit are fast and fit people, and I’m soon to be up against the best in the world! 

10k classic. With this win I sealed my position as the Supertour Leader!
We had many top finishes and gutsy performances among the GRP women and the Craftsbury juniors, and I know more great things are coming because not nearly everyone had their best day.  Good luck this weekend GRP and juniors!

Now I’m in Oslo, preparing for the Holmenkollen 30k classic on Sunday, but more on that later!

I handed off my camera for the weekend to teammate Alex Howe, who had great fun with the burst mode, and took thousands of photos which I’m continuing to sort through. Below is a gallery with a selection of some of the best.


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