Filling in the hole

It’s been a while, sorry! There’s a hole in my blog posts, just like there was what I perceived to be a hole in my ski season during early March. I’m coming to realize that the ski race “hole,” while unexpected and unpleasant, did teach me some important lessons about myself and gave me the energy to recharge, finish my racing season on a high note, and to be more excited than ever to start the next training year.

Before I wax too philosophical, I can tell you what happened, quick facts. I raced on February 20th and 21st in Lahti, Finland in the World Cup and then returned to the US. Back in my home base of Craftsbury, I tried to settle in and rest but I wasn’t quite honest with myself about recovery and I ended up catching a cold. Focusing all of my energy on a quick return to health, I still wasn’t well enough in time to travel to and race in the World Cup Tour of Canada, so I had to skip that 8-race series. And thus I did not have any ski races from February 21st until March 21st when Spring Series/Supertour Finals started. Since ski racing is my current life pursuit, to have this happen in the middle of the winter made me feel a bit lost.

Although much of the time when I was recovering in Craftsbury felt like a bad dream, while my friends and peers raced in the Tour of Canada or on the OPA Cup trip in Europe, I pulled myself out of that slump before too long and resumed training. At least I still had a target – the 3 individual races plus team relay at Spring Series in late March.  Before I knew it the month had passed and the week of Spring Series (also known as Supertour Finals), hosted by Craftsbury, had arrived.  First we GRP women organized and hosted a Fast and Female event, bringing in the US Ski Team women and various other elite racers to coach 90 girls through an afternoon of skiing and inspirational stories.

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Fun playing on the snow with Fast and Female
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Fast and Female closing out with an autograph session

Then on Monday March 21st the racing started with 10/15k individual skate.  Spring Series is a rare opportunity when most of the USST athletes are back in the US after their winter on the World Cup, and racing the national-level athletes for the first time of the year. I finished 7th in the 10k skate, a little bit disturbed to find myself farther back than I had hoped after my month of focused preparation. It’s hard to peak and optimize your physical preparations on just the right day, so after the race I regrouped and was optimistic that I’d start feeling better after the hard effort. And 7th isn’t bad, just after such a good year of domestic and international racing, I have higher expectations for myself.  The next day the classic sprint went decently but nothing exceptional, I qualified 11th and then raced through the semi-finals but was eliminated in that round to finish 10th at the end of the day. There were moments of feeling great, and a few other times when I felt awkward or slow, but overall it was a fine day. One day off and then we competed in the relay, and I anchored a mixed team of Noah Hoffman, Ida Sargent, Tad Elliot and myself, in that order. Even though we didn’t have any GRP men racing at Spring Series and therefore had to put together “unofficial” teams, the relay was still extremely fun and a great chance to push to the limit for team honor. Tad came in to tag me in 3rd place, and I brought the team up to 2nd place, not able to close much of the gap to the APU team with Chelsea Holmes ahead, but fortunately able to hold off a charging Jessie Diggins behind. It was awesome to finish way up there, and a fun event overall, but maybe a little bit bittersweet because after the race we weren’t even permitted to stand on the podium and be recognized for our finish, because we were ‘unofficial” in contrast to the teams made up of athletes all from the same club. Oh well.

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Lapping through the stadium during the 10k skate. Photo: Lazenbyphoto.com

Spring Series finished off with the US Distance Nationals 30k classic mass start.  Jessie Diggins started things off impressively strong, pulling away from the rest of the field within the first few kilometers. While I like to think that my positioning shortly after the start wasn’t ideal and I was temporarily blocked from following her closely, realistically her pace was just a bit much for everyone else.  So a strong chase pack formed, which by midway through the race consisted of Liz Stephen, Ida Sargent, Kaitlynn Miller, and myself. We worked together and battled not to lose more time to Jessie, and then as the finish approached, kicked into high gear to finish as well as possible. Ida pulled away to take 2nd, I skied to 3rd, Liz S was close behind in 4th, and Kaitlynn finished 5th. Three GRP women in the top 5 (Ida, myself, and Kaitlynn)! As with most longer races, there were many highs and lows for me while on course, as we lapped around the 3.4k loop 9 times, but I was extremely pleased to finish on a high note with a podium, right in the mix with a few strong USST women. With a strong last race of the season I also cemented my place as the Supertour Overall Leader, which means I’ve earned the right to start in Period I World Cup races next November and December!

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Women’s mass start. Photo: Reese Brown
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Messy coke feeds. Photo: Reese Brown
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30k podium! Photo: Reese Brown
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Following Ida (#235) during the 30k. (I’m #202). Photo: Reese Brown
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Finish pen. Photo: John Lazenby/Lazenbyphoto.com
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3 in the top 5! Photo: John Lazenby/Lazenbyphoto.com

A few notes about important things I’ve learned this season:

  1. Confidence. Hold on to it, always. This doesn’t mean knowing or thinking you’re the best all the time, but it does mean believing in yourself and being willing to put everything you’ve got into a race, knowing that if the time is right things will click and the results will happen.
  2. Goals. You’ll hear this over and over, but set big goals, and then be ready to revise them to be even bigger. And tiered goals for different stages of your life can be great too, to help you believe that you’re making progress. Like my goal this season of scoring World Cup points – it made sense based on how I’d been racing that it happened, and yet it still came as a surprise, and now I’m setting my sights even higher.
  3. Weathering the storm. You’ll find yourself in a negative outlook sometimes, but if you love the sport and the competition enough, and can remember to take the steps that make you happy, you’ll get back on the right track. When I missed the Tour of Canada I was pretty sad for a while, but then I went out for long skis with friends or alone, and enjoyed just skiing in the sunshine, and it wasn’t long before the world and the future looked bright again.
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GRP ski team photo post-30k, never underestimate the importance of great teammates and racing support, this was a spectacular year for the whole group! Photo: Deb Miller
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