Monday 24th of February 1997. It’s 7.30 in the morning; I just woke up and I am envisioning the day ahead. Imagine if I could, on this day, here, at the World Championships, on the home course, accomplish racing the perfect race! The perfect race that every top athletes dream about, strives for, year after year, but which you only rarely experience and then with years in between.
I’m not talking about winning; the perfect race is something different, something more. It’s the race where everything works. The kick wax is super, the glide is fantastic, and you can feel that every part of your body is functioning at an optimal level, the technique is perfect. You feel so strong that you are impatient, yes, almost desperate, looking for the next uphill: isn’t there one soon so I can use some of all this energy? And when the hill is there, you just increase the frequency and the speed at the start of it, you are able to stay high with the hip and get the kick leg forward. You are thinking that all the spectators that always crowd the side of the hills are going to see you at your best.
I’m going to ski so fast that I will scare both the competitors and the spectators.
It’s like you fly up the hill. At the top you have enough energy to continue the enormous energy and power usage longer than normal, you take a couple extra powerful poling motions over the top and get into high speed before you tuck in to a good downhill position. And even then you are looking for daring ways of cutting corners and further increase the speed instead of skiing down in the middle like you do when you are tired. And regardless of how fast you are skiing it’s like you can’t use up all you energy. You feel unbeatable.
It doesn’t happen often. The first time it happened to me was in Lahti, Finland in 1991. Then in St. Petersburg in 1992. The 10K at Lillehammer in 1994.
Imagine if I could experience it today! At the World Championship in Trondheim, Norway. After all the problems I have had the last couple weeks. After all the training I have done over the years. 8000 hours and roughly 150000 kilometer of rollerskiing, skiing, running and biking the last ten years.
Normally I sleep poorly the night before a championship competition. I just lie there and think about the course, over and over. I’m dripping of sweat. Sometimes the night has been so bad that I have wondered if I would be able to do the race at all.
It’s not like this today. After having slept all night I woke up at 7.30. Is that a good or bad sign, four hours before I’m going to be on the starting line on the 10K classic race at the World Championship? I don’t know. But I know that I have been thinking about this race and this day since the last World Championship in Thunder Bay, Canada two years ago.
And I know what’s going to happen before I’m on the starting line.