After a successful weekend of racing in Quebec it was a quick turn around back to Canmore and what an incredible place to come back to. Here is a photo of the sunrise that we were lucky enough to catch on a morning run.
With the 15km classic starting on Thursday, there was very little time to relax before it was time to start race prepping again. The unfortunate part of getting myself mentally ready was that I thought it was a 15km interval start. It did seem very strange to me that the course was set up with a full grid start and 4 classic tracks right the way around the 3.75km loop! So the actual race prep the morning before wouldn’t have changed at all, however the whole time I was just thinking about how I could pace it myself and not worry about holding onto a pack. So yeah, this all changed and got me quite nervous!
What I dreaded the most in this race occurred! The pace was very hot at the start, which made holding onto the main pack very difficult, so a group of us dropped off after the first lap. What was fortunate however was that this small group I was in began to catch up to quite a lot of guys that had burnt themselves trying to hold on. As we caught them however, quite a few held onto our pack. By the finish the group was about 7 skiers together, and it was devastating that I struggled with the finishing pace on the final hill and got taken by all in the group. So I manage to finish in 56th, which matched my PB placing on World Cup, around 10.5% off the winner. I was very happy with how I felt but definitely need to work in my pacing towards the end of the race.
Friday was a rest day, however I found I really needed the rest. That 15km had taken it out of me as it was certainly the hardest I had pushed all season and as explained in previous posts, the course is known to be the hardest on World Cup. When they call the major climb ‘The Wall’ and when the only flat is the 300m in the stadium you know you’re in for a killer course.
Saturday’s Sprint day was colder than any day we’ve had this season with temps around -12degreesC. There was an exciting atmosphere in our team however as Team Mate Paul Kovacs would be starting his first World Cup. I unfortunately still felt pretty flat during warm up and wasn’t happy with how I skied the Prologue. The result wasn’t too poor by placing 65th and just over 15s off the winner’s time but I was definitely hoping for more. Pk didn’t sign the list which was a great accomplishment for a World Cup Debut and Phil unfortunately crashed on a fast section of the course. Who knows what he would have actually placed but I’m going to throw it out there and say even better than his Quebec result of 50th. Esther also pulled out a strong result by placing 46th, 16s off the lead.
The final event of the weekend was the 30km Skiathlon (15km classic, 15km skate). I went into this race pretty psyched. The warm up felt good, and I knew that the pace at the start would be a lot more calm being a longer distance over such a demanding course. This wasn’t exactly the case, however I felt very comfortable sitting right in the mix for the first few classic laps. The pack began to spread however I could tell that I was handling the climbs much better than a lot of the guys around me. The Kiwi skier Andy Pohl who has upped his game hugely recently seemed to be feeling the same and together we began working our way up the field again. At the half-way point after changing to skate skis Andy and I began really working it. For 2 sectors on the first 2 skate laps I skied the 30th and 31st fastest times and climbed all the way up to 40th place! Just being this far up the field was a dream come true – the magic top 30 all of a sudden was not that far off! This excitement just acted as a mental fuel to keep hurting, however unfortunately it was just that little bit too much. On the last lap my Lats began cramping and as the pace of the group I was in upped the pace my body just couldn’t handle it and I unfortunately fell back to 47th. Despite this poor final lap I am so happy with the result. It was a huge step up compared with any other World Cup I’ve ever skied. It was the first time I have managed to crack the top 50 and was only 7.5% off the winner’s time – Maurice Magnificat of France.
Special thanks to coaches August Teague and Finn Marsland. A lot of effort over the last year has been put in by both August and Finn and it is clear with all team members stepping it up already this season that they are doing something right! Also big thanks to Robert Whitney for taking all of these great photos over the weekend!
We have now survived the brutal road trip back to Tahoe, California and its back to playing with that ‘red line’ a little more in this small training block before we head to US Nationals!