Today is a good day. I just got done with my first European victory! Before I get to the details, let me bridge my blogging gap and explain where the heck I am and what the heck is going on:
I am in Feutersoey, Switzerland. We are here for the Swiss Cup FIS races this weekend, and many of us are using them as a intermediate stop between U23s in Turkey and the OPA Cup races in Slovenia next weekend. Feutersoey is a gorgeous Alpine town, very close to Gstaad. It’s also at some altitude, which is good because our races in Rogla next weekend are too, so we are keeping our bodies acclimated. Plus, it’s just a gorgeous place. This is the view from my balcony:
After training for a few days and getting a good goggle tan, it was time to race Saturday. Both the women and men did 10k races, and it was hard work. Start time was noon, so it was about 9ºC and a good slow slushfest. Given my heritage as an Alaskan polar bear, I knew I needed to make sure that I was hydrated before I started. I also raced in a T-shirt, which was a really good decision. I didn’t even think about the heat once while I was racing, and I actually had the best warm-weather skate race of my life. Visualizing Eagle Glacier slush intervals probably helped too- if you can survive those, you can survive any slop! I finished third, which was just fine with me. I was happy with the way I had focused throughout the race, I went as hard as I could, and that’s all I can ask of myself. In the guys’ race Tad Elliott practically floated his way over the mire, finishing second to Remo Fischer (World Cup podium finisher).
The next race was today’s 10k classic mass start. All the juniors and U23s started together at 9:30. When we arrived at the course, expecting slightly firmer slush, we found some bomb-proof crust. The trail was the approximate consistency of a slushy left out in -40º. The tracks that had been put everywhere were hard enough to chip a tooth on. By everywhere, I mean everywhere. The high-speed corner in the last kilometer had tracks all the way around, making it even more exciting than it already was. Luckily I don’t mind sketchy downhills, so I started to think it could be a good day for me. A swiss girl took the lead out of the start, and went out pretty hard. She popped out of the tracks about 1.5k later on a sharp corner, and I ended up leading for the rest of the lap. I tried to keep it pretty relaxed, but by the lap it was just one other girl and myself in the lead pack. I followed her for the start of the 2nd lap, and noticed that her skis seemed to have a lot more kick than mine did. My original plan had been to really hammer the last uphill before the finish, it was pretty gradual and quite long. I started to rethink that strategy, and with about 2k to go I passed her hard on a gradual section in the shade where my wax was working better. After that I just hammered as hard as I could, trying to make my skis kick as well as I could. By the finish I had made 11 seconds on her, and I got my first win in Europe! It was a great feeling.
Even though I know the field was not as strong as Nationals, SuperTour, or U23s, it’s certainly stronger than the last race I won. Winning isn’t everything, but it really feels good to get an actual first place every once in a while. My award was the wall decoration in the title photo of this blog. The coat hanger is from yesterday’s race. They both say ‘Feutersoey Langlauf’ on them, the perfect (albeit bulky) memento from here. Better than conventional medals, that’s for sure!
Other than racing, we haven’t done a whole lot of things here. Lauren, Casey and I went over the pass to the French part of Switzerland. Here are a couple of photos from that:
The delectable desserts are macaroons, my new favorite food. They’re made mostly of almond paste and deliciousness!
Tomorrow we drive to Rogla, it should take about 10 hours. If I am lucky, we will stop in Italy for a good lunch! I apologize for my complete lack of Turkish updates. I will fix that soon I promise. Rogla isn’t too distracting, I will have plenty of blogging time. Until next time!