It’s November 17th, and I’ve already raced two times!
This must be the earliest I’ve ever started my cross-country ski racing season, at least the earliest real-FIS-race with close to 100 competitors per gender, not counting time trials and low-key openers of past years. I have no regrets, I’m not wishing for a return to summer at all, I’m ready to get this season rolling and so very excited to be racing. It’s inspiringly wintry in Muonio, a small town in the far north of Finland where my coach Pepa, teammate Ida, and I have traveled to get on our first winter snow. Muonio, or I guess the venue is called Olos, saves snow from the previous winter, spreading it out over a loop of trails in mid-October. This year’s loop is 4.5k long, and while the base is manmade-and-saved snow, there have also been flurries of several inches of new snow several days in the past week. Actually including right now, windy and snowing!
We got to Muonio last Tuesday evening, had a few days to settle in, then Ida raced a sprint on Friday, Ida and I both raced the 5k classic on Saturday, and I raced a 10k skate on Sunday.
Well after my race on Saturday, I became aware of some comical stages of post-race emotions that I had gone through immediately following the race. I’ll share them with you here for your amusement, and because these thoughts reflect some of the key events and situations that I found myself in. If you’re soon to start your own season, don’t forget about the highs and lows – racing is as exciting, frustrating, awesome, comical, serious and everything else in between as you can imagine!
Post race stages of thought:
- Right after crossing the finishing line. (Adrenaline still rushing) Wow, that was cool! I just got to chase Justyna Kowalczyk and Rita-Lisa Roponen down from the top of the course (which is about 2k of fast downhills with a few flats). And I didn’t do too badly at all, I only lost a few seconds to them in the last 2k of the 4.5k race! Ski racing is great!!
- (Still standing in the finish pen a few seconds later when the physical toll starts catching up.) Oww, that was hard. My lungs hurt. My body hurts. Hmm, it’s really cold out.
- Oh, there’s a volunteer taking off Kowalcyzk’s timing chips, and I don’t have any timing chips on at all. Yikes. (Slight panic, notify volunteer of missing chips.) How did I miss the chips? Oh well, the timers say it will be fine, they got me anyway, at least I was wearing a bib even if I seem not to have noticed that this race involved chips.
- (Walking past live-results board to retrieve warm up jacket and pants.) Ok, I was 16th place, that’s good, that’s fine.
- (Once I have warmer clothes on over my spandex suit and can actually process rational thoughts.) Hmm, 16th, that’s ok but not so great. I guess there were a lot of people in the race…close to 100 women… I felt good for most of the race, actually maybe a little too relaxed at the beginning. Definitely started slowly which is not particularly sensible for a 5k. Wow, if I had been 3.5s faster I could have been 9th instead of 16th, that would have been nice…
- Ahh, I should have gone faster, somehow! That wasn’t so hard, I could do it again right now!
- Ok, forgetting my timing chips was silly. How did I not notice the chip station, just completely blacked out all external details in my race focus at the start?? At least it was good that I was focused. But now I have a yellow card written warning, which was the “nice” option by the race jury instead of the harsher option of a disqualification. Ooops… silly mistake, long term consequence. [A yellow card here in Europe carries throughout the season, and means that if I were to get another written warning for any violation, I would then be disqualified. It’s unfortunate, but it happens and I’m actually not too worried, because I’m not in the habit of getting violations. I’ll just have to be smarter and more attentive to details now. Of course if I was in the US it probably wouldn’t have even shown up as a recorded yellow card.]
- (Cooling down, running back to our cabin.) Racing is fun, let’s get this season going! Can hardly wait to go again tomorrow!
- (Back at the cabin, the physical toll once again catching up, past the mental excitement.) Yeah, I’m hungry, maybe a little tired too. Time to change out of sweaty race clothes, eat a snack, put my feet up… being inside a cozy cabin in the winter is awfully nice too. But then there’s the excitement of racing outside in the cold! …ok I’ll stick to this cozy cabin for now, tomorrow will be the time for another race.
In Sunday’s race I was much happier to finish 8th, halving my place from the day before. And yet it was STILL a reminder of how close finish times can be in these European races, because it was only 3 seconds up to 6th place. Still, I wasn’t too far back from the leader, I know of some areas where I can improve, and jumping back into racing has definitely rekindled my enjoyment of it and competitive spirit!
We’ve been cooking for ourselves in Muonio, but Ida had a great idea that we should have a Finnish-cuisine-inspired meal. I’d never eaten blood sausage, so we picked up some of that, as well as a reindeer tenderloin, lingonberries, and vegetables to roast. Verdict on the blood sausage – quite good once you get past the strange black appearance – and the reindeer of course was great too! Here a few photos Ida posted recently, of our meal and of a real live reindeer who crossed the road in front of us…
Fasterskier wrote an article recapping our races, which you can find here: http://fasterskier.com/blog/article/sargent-and-patterson-prep-for-world-cup-at-muonio-fis-races/
And don’t forget that the NNF Drive for 25 is still ongoing through the end of this month! A great opportunity to support skiing development in the US. Visit the pages of your favorite skiers and read their stories, here’s the link to my page: https://support.nationalnordicfoundation.org/fundraiser/811374
Thank you so much to the 12 donors who contributed via my page, and the hundreds of people who have donated to NNF from around the country!
Next up: more racing, this Friday and Saturday in Saariselka, Finland!