We drove to the venue for yesterday morning for the skate sprint race and found ourselves in a cloud. It was very foggy and kind of raining except it was more like water suspended in the air. It was also kind of cold though so the conditions were very fast. The course was perfect for me as it was short (qualifying times under 3 minutes for girls) but hilly. In the qualifier I felt really good even though the race was over before I knew it. But then when I looked at the board in the stadium when I finished, it said 26 next to my name. I was kind of bummed because I felt like I really went for it and it couldn’t have been much better and still I barely qualified. It wasn’t until after I cooled down that I found out I actually finished 4th and the 26 was just my bib number. Ooops! Simi Hamilton won the guys race by over a second, Pete Kling was 27th and all four American girls qualified in the top 20 so it was a good start to our day.
We had a pretty short break before the heats which meant less recovery time but also less time waiting around. There was a heated tent at the stadium for all the athletes so we camped out there for the time. The Polish girls sitting next to us stripped down to their underwear and were getting leg massages from their older male coaches and then some German coaches and athletes pushed all of our stuff off our table and sat down there instead so we were pretty excited to get the heats going. My strategy was to go out hard and try to lead or be in second the whole time since it was really narrow at the end of the course after the two major climbs and hard to pass. I advanced from my quarterfinal along with a really tall German girl. I felt awesome in my semifinal and was leading until the Finnish girl who ended up winning pulled this crazy move skiing over my skis at the top of the first big hill to take the inside line. I just sat relaxed behind her for the rest of the heat to advance to the A final! In the finish area the Finnish girl came over to me and said, “You skied on my poles twice! Be careful! Watch out!” and I wanted to tell her that she had skied over both my skis which was way worse but I was just too excited to have made the A-final so I didn’t say anything and ran off. It turned out that my semifinal was faster of the two heats and both the lucky losers came from my heat so I was feeling pretty confident going into the final. I started out fast again and was in second place to the same Finnish girl on the second hill of the course but then I got really tired going up over the top and into the big downhill and two more girls passed me as I tried to hold on. So I was in 4th going into the curvy and rolling last section of the course and I actually felt better on that part after the downhill recovery and tried to get by those girls again but I couldn’t find a spot to pass and finished just off the podium. Still I was thrilled with 4th! It was a really good day all around for the US as there were 5 of us in the top 20 and 6 in the top 30. Unfortunately someone skied over Simi’s pole while he was leading his quarterfinal. His pole came off and it took him awhile to get another pole so he didn’t make it out of his quarter. There are pictures of the race on Fasterskier. The hotel internet is finally up and running again after being down for awhile but still much too slow to upload any pictures.
Today the fog cleared out for blue skies and the u23’s skied at another ski area nearby to get away from the venue. This place was groomed just for classic and there were two or three tracks rolling through really pretty farm fields and snow covered woods. It actually reminded me a lot of parts of the old marathon trail between Highland Lodge and Craftsbury! Hopefully everything is gearing up well for the marathon! I have a 10km classic race tomorrow and there is 8” of snow in the forecast…..