US Nationals brought the ski racing community up to Anchorage, AK in early January 2018. We contested 4 races – skate sprint, classic sprint, 10km/15km skate, and 20km/30km classic mass start.
After the Supertour races in Sovereign Lake, BC, I’d been training back in my home base of Craftsbury, VT from December 12th-23rd. Then for just 6 days during the end of December, I headed to Bozeman to spend the holidays with my family. It was a quick few days in Bozeman but I enjoyed the time, and skied on 5 different trail systems in 5 days, feeling lucky that Bozeman was one of the few places in the Western US that had snow at that time.
On December 29th, I flew from Bozeman to Anchorage to complete the final few days of preparation before Nationals would begin on the 3rd of January. Anchorage was a little low on snow, but the organizers had covered about 3 kilometers in and around the stadium with ample manmade snow. We trained on the manmade loops for several days, speculating about what configuration would be used for the races, which hills in which order. It was a bit strange to be back in Anchorage, but not staying at my parents’ house (they moved to Bozeman 2 years ago), and to be so far past my high school and college years when I raced at Kincaid Park so much. However, much of what I encountered felt familiar: the terrain around the Kincaid stadium, the late sunrises of AK winters, the biting wind of Kincaid, and the friendly volunteers who know me by name.
The race week started on Wednesday the 3rd, with the 10k skate individual start. The course was determined to be 4 times around a 2.5km loop, incorporating the largest hills (the Gong hill, if you know Kincaid) of the manmade snow area, as well as considerable flats through the stadium. It began snowing, pretty hard, Wednesday morning, so we had the added excitement of low-visibility blizzard skiing, new accumulation, and quickly changing conditions.
I went into the US Nationals week especially focused on the distance races, feeling some nerves but calmer than I’ve been before many races. I knew that I could only control my own race, to push myself and be willing to suffer through the racing pain. If a competitor ended up ahead, so be it, as long as I had pushed to my own limit and given it everything I had. I knew that I was stepping up to that start line in good health, with excellent preparation in the prior weeks, with a good result history for the season so far, and with familiarity with the Kincaid trails.
The 10k flew by, and if there were moments of doubt, I quickly squashed them with positive self-talk and belief – I know I can win this, push all the way to the end. And I did win the 10k, for my 3rd National title.
After setting up the week on a good note, I kept rolling through it, winning the skate sprint and the classic sprint heats, and finishing 2nd overall but 1st US skier in the 20k classic. It certainly wasn’t easy. More than the races themselves not being easy, the whole process that leads up to being able to race well isn’t easy – thousands of hours of training, so many given-up social events and adventures, so much need to adhere to a plan every single day and to keep positive thoughts rolling always.
Thank you so much to my supporters – family, friends, coaches, wax techs, sponsors. And to all the volunteers and organizers of US Nationals 2018 – great work putting together this event, even on limited snow. It wouldn’t have been possible to put together this kind of 4-title Nationals without you. My parents travelled to Anchorage to watch and help with the races, and seeing their excitement after every finish made the victories even more sweet.
I also want to commend my competitors, every one of them, for their hard work and dedication. There’s this myth that the person who works the hardest in sports will win. I have worked extremely hard, yes, but everyone has their own unique challenges to overcome, and I know that so many of my fellow racers have approached this sport with so much passion and determination. I’ve been on the wrong side of the fence before – sick before or during a major race, nervous and stressing myself out, inexplicably feeling bad or tired on race day. Sometimes it just feels like the touch of luck, to be in the right place at the right time with the right health, to be able to put the hard work to use and lay down a fast ski time. Without you, fellow racers and teammates, I wouldn’t have been able to push this hard, to challenge myself, so thank you for your presence and dedication to ski racing.
What’s next? I’m in Europe, currently preparing for the Seefeld World Cup, a skate sprint and 10k mass start skate. Last weekend I raced to my best ever full World Cup field result, a 20th place in the 10k classic in Planica.
Follow along on instagram @caitlinmpatterson or on my facebook athlete page, www.facebook.com/caitlinpattersonskier for more photos and updates.
And if you’re interested in podcasts, my brother Scott and I recorded one in AK right after Nationals with Charles Wohlforth of Alaska Public Media, which you can listen to here: https://www.alaskapublic.org/2018/01/12/national-champion-skiers-avalanche-prediction/ I need to listen to it myself, especially to hear the wisdom of the second half about avalanche prediction!
For a little more insight (ie photos) about what I did leading up to Nationals, see the 17 photos I posted over on my Green Racing Project team’s blog, here: https://greenracingproject.com/blog/8628/17-photos-to-close-out-2017-from-caitlin/