30k with 30m visibility

This past Sunday was my first World Cup race of this season, a 30 kilometer classic race at the Holmenkollen in Oslo.  It was quite the experience!

The clearest, driest-looking photo of the day… race gear before the start.  Thanks to sponsors Fischer, Swix, Concept2 SkiErg, Toko, and Bliz as well as US Ski Team sponsors Craft and L.L. Bean for helping me get to the starting line, and looking good through the fog beyond it!

 

The day before our women’s 30k, the men raced a 50k on the same trails.  It was foggy and quite marginal visibility, but I went out on course to watch my brother during his last lap, and made it to the finish in time to see him disappear into the fog towards the finish line.  It didn’t seem like the fog could get much worse, but the forecast for the women’s race day included fog and rain too, and in fact the fog was thicker when we woke up Sunday morning! Still, while a sunny or clear day does often make the racing and spectating a bit more fun, we’re skiers and we train to be adaptable, to handle any conditions and any terrain.  So there wasn’t much to do but embrace the fog and prepare ourselves for an intense hour and a half of racing.

The race started at 12:15, so just before 11, after a fairly relaxed morning of eating breakfast and several snacks and double-checking my backpack full of race gear, I walked from our hotel over to the Holmenkollen venue.  Ski testing was confined to part of the race loop, as there was a junior relay race going on using the other section.  The proximity to the wax rooms wasn’t great – this is something I’ll have to adjust to, as World Cup venues often have a bit of a walk from testing areas/skiable snow to wax rooms or to the start.  I was just a little bit unrealistic with myself about my skis, they probably didn’t have quite as much kick as I needed, and I felt pressed for time in testing so did not get more klister applied – that was my mistake prior to the race, which did have some serious implications of slick skis during the first half of the 30k.  Eli Brown, my wax tech for the day, did a great job making both of my pairs of skis nice and fast, and when he heard my mid-race feedback that the first pair was slick, he dialed in the second pair to be much grippy-er. Thanks Eli!

It’s a rare race in which we actually use more than one pair of skis – the 30k is unusual in that one “ski switch” was permitted during the race as we lapped through the stadium.  Women lapped through the stadium 3 times, so we were able to choose which lap to switch skis.  Even though mine were slick, I opted to ski the first half of the race with the first pair, and save the second pair for the last ~17k of the race.  Once I switched, I was able to climb the hills better, and gradually regain lost ground.  Because I definitely lost a lot of ground at the start – in retrospect I know I was skiing frantically, which is not conducive to speed for me, and I was frantic to stay with the pack.  I need to ski long and powerfully and smoothly like I know how to do, and I lost touch with that at the beginning of the race, and was spinning my wheels for a while until I regained composure.  Having lost the lead pack, more like almost-everyone, I regrouped and made it my mission to stick with the people around me and hopefully move up towards the end. At this point the fog was a positive thing, because I stayed focused on my own race and on making my skis work, and I wasn’t distracted by the fact that (as I learned upon analyzing the splits afterwards) I was in pretty close to dead-last.  Oops…  So after a mediocre start, but one I can learn from, I slowly built into the race, and was pleased to be able to finish more strongly and pass several other skiers just before the end.  With such thick fog, I couldn’t see the skiers ahead of me until the time gap was perhaps 30″ or less. It might have been motivating to see packs up ahead earlier, but I worked with what I had and kept pushing my own pace, hoping that prey would emerge out of the fog.  I finished 36th, ready to learn from my experience, neither disappointed with nor ecstatic over my race feelings and result.

Enough of the descriptions, maybe I’ll make some more commentary on my race later, once I’ve had even more time to reflect!

Media:

Eurosport coverage on YouTube: crosscountryski.us, specifically this race:

https://youtu.be/KX844BtFaIs

Race report from Fasterskier: http://fasterskier.com/blog/article/bjornsen-leads-three-americans-in-top-25-at-soggy-holmenkollen-30k/

No photos of my race I’m afraid… not with that fog.  But here are two of Scott from the previous day:

 

Scott racing to 32nd in the 50k classic on Saturday. The fog was seriously even thicker than this on the next day, Sunday, when I raced the 30k.
Scott makes a face after his 50k race… is that exhaustion, relief, humor, happiness, or some of everything I see on his face?

 

And now we’re on to the next stop in the World Cup, Sweden, and a very different type of race is coming up tomorrow – the Stockholm City Sprint at the Royal Palace!  Look at www.fis-ski.com for results, and check back here in a few days for a post on Stockholm with plenty of cool-old-buildings photos!

CP-07994
Stockholm, where they roll out manmade snow around the Royal Palace for us to contest a classic sprint!
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