On the World Cup there is little room for error. The times are so tight that being a little off is magnified greatly on the results list. The field is so competitive and deep that save for Marit Bjoergen (who after watching her ski last weekend I’m not convinced she’s totally human) a flat race can end up being a really bad day.
This was my experience in this weekend’s World Cup opener in Sjusjoen. After so many months of focused training I was very excited for the season to get under way. But along the way as I had felt my body becoming fitter and stronger, I only envision the great races where the hard work comes together and I felt fast and efficient. I definitely wasn’t dreaming of races like this past weekend.
Luckily for me it’s only November and there is a lot of racing ahead. So instead of harboring on the negatives of this weekend, here’s a list of this weekend’s highlights.
In Saturday’s skate race I had fast skis! They were flying! I passed a Norwegian skier on the first downhill who had come through for a lap right before we started. They may have had two tractor trailer trucks and a handful of smaller cabins for waxing this weekend but my skis were faster. It was fun to be able to ski with her for the first two laps of my race although it quite possibly set me up for a much slower final lap.
I have some fast teammates! The US is going to turn some heads this season. Kikkan’s 8th place and Liz’s 18th were just the start. We are a bigger and stronger team this year and it’s inspiring to ski with these guys.
I had a lot of TV time on Sunday which the rest of the GRP got to watch live in Finland. As the scramble leg for the US team I started the race on the front line and got to smile and wave to the camera. Luckily the TV cameras were not present for my falls but many of the Norwegian spectators were privy to the spectacle. The abundance of cheering was great thought and I was loudly supported by lots of “Heia, heias” before I was back on my feet. Here Liz and Kikkan watch the action on the big screen in the stadium which is sometimes the best viewing.
I went running with Charlotte Kalla, Anna Haag, Maria Rydquist, and Hanna Brodin…twice! Liz and Kikkan did a training camp with Anna and the other girls in Sweden last summer. We were staying at the same hotel as the Swedes and combined our evening team jogs. The girls were all really nice and we may have even convinced some of them to come to Craftsbury for SuperTour Finals and Distance Nationals this spring!
We watched the men’s relay live first in the stadium and then out on the course. Our Athlete bibs give us access to almost anywhere on the course and my pink snowpants which I purchased for several Euros in the thrift store in Muonio kept me warm. Liz and I stood near one of the TV cameras and Liz’s parents, who were watching the race online, heard our voices from Vermont! The US men hung close to the lead pack for the entire race and it was really fun to watch and cheer! Here is Kris Freeman skiing the second leg of the relay for the US.
Our hotel served us a Norwegian Christmas buffet for dinner. The variety of options was unbelievable and the presentation was much above our normal standards. Reindeer, salmon, crab, mussels, shrimp, beef, turkey, oysters, scallops, sausages, ham, caviar, and so many other kinds of fish which I wasn’t able to name. Sadie and I picked up these guys and then remembered we couldn’t put them back. It was alright but the consistency of the meat was not my favorite. Photo credit Holly Brooks (http://hollyskis.blogspot.com/2011/11/sjujsoen-world-cup-opener-in-pictures.html)
We left Norway (and maybe the sun) yesterday and returned to the darkness of northern Finland. The Ruka Triple is this weekend and I can’t wait!!