Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Autumn Classics.

My race season started 2 weekends ago at Beitostølen. The first weekend back racing always feels a bit unusual. It had been a long time since my last race the season before. On top of all the usual uncertainties that come with the first competition of the season this year I was competing for Team Synnfjell for the first time. It always takes a few races to get into the rhythm of working with new waxers and support guys. 
I decided to skip the first race on the Friday and focus on the 15k skate on the Saturday and the classic sprint on the Sunday. The race schedule before Christmas this year is pretty full on and I have to cut back and miss some races. Wether missing the first race of the season was a good idea or not, I don't really know. I'm pretty sure I was more nervous watching on TV than the rest of the team were racing. 
I raced the Saturday as planned. I was pretty nervous before I started. I find when I get extremely nervous it is easy to make mistakes and change from my normal pre race routine. But this year I pretty much managed to stick on track and get my self to start without any problems. I started my race and what I thought was an ok pace. And I skied technically well throughout the race. But I didn't ski that fast. In fact I was quite slow. I was a lot further down the results sheet than I had expected, and a lot further behind that I had expected. 
The day after was the classic sprint. As a team we took the decision to double pole. It obviously worked as we ended up with 3 in the heats. I didn't make the heats. I felt sluggish and tired all through the prologue and ended up a good chunk down on qualifying. 
The team however had an amazing day. With 3 guys in the heats it was pretty much only the Norwegian national teams that were ahead of us. We showed we can compete right up there with the best guys. And we had by far the best results per krone in team budget. 
Although the team had a good weekend, I can't exactly sugar coat my results, I was pretty bad and my results at best were average. It's always a shock to the system to get beat by so much and the few days after Beito were quite important. I had always planned to use Beito and Gålå to get into better shape for later in the year. But I was quite a bit further back than I had expected. Together with my coaches we decided to just stick to the plan and see how Gålå went before making any changes. I was dubious, the first 3 days after Beito I felt really tired. I had no energy and every training session felt like a big task. On the 4th day, also the day before Gålå, I started to feel better. I tested skis at Gålå and had 4x2min at race pace on the sprint track. I felt almost normal again. 
The day after was the skate sprint at Gålå. I wanted to make the heats but I thought it would be a tough ask for me with the form I had coming into the race. The level in Norway is insanely high at the moment. You had to be within 5 seconds of the winner to be top 30 and qualify for the heats. There were 170 people on the start list so just to make the top 30 you are really up there in the upper bracket of the competition. Olympic medalist from Sochi, Ilya Chernusov, didn't even make the heats, nor did he even make the top 30 in the distance race the day after. There were other quality skiers who didn't make the heats and almost everyone who made the semi finals had some world cup racing experience. 
I qualified in 19th. I was happy to make it into the top 30, but I made a few mistakes in my prologue, I missed a few technique changes and was out of balance a couple of times. If I'd nailed it perfectly I think I could have gained a second. My quarter final was pretty exciting. In the end I executed my plan perfectly. I took it easy out of the start and got my place at the back. After the first 400m on the flat I decided to move up on the first climb. At the top of the first climb there is a 90 degrees right hand bend. This is when things first got interesting. I had moved up to 4th and was on the inside. Snorri Einarsson was on the outside and decided he suddenly wanted to fight me for the inside line. Snorri weighs about 50kg, I weigh about 85kg. So when a comparable feather decides to land on my shoulder it pretty quickly finds its self deposited on the ground. I think Snorri needs to learn to old saying of "don't start a fight your aren't going to win." I moved into 4th for the first of 2 difficult downhils. I wanted to be on the outside of a big 180 degree bend at the bottom so I could cut in a get a better line into the second uphill. 5th place came past me on the inside, but I new I had a better line on the bend so I didn't stress. Then from nowhere came this black clad speeding bullet on the inside of the bend. Everybody was breaking to get a good line on the bend. But not Snorri. He straight lined into the apex of the bend, then out the other side. I'm pretty sure he'd have kept on going into the bushes on the other side. But Gjøran Tefre was in his way. They collided/snorri rugby tackled Gjøran, and took each other out of the race. I ended up with a dead good line into the second and final uphill. I ended up in 2nd for the final downhill. On the long finish straight I sprinted round the leader and won the heat. 
My semi final was unfortunately for me the fastest heat of the day. The pace was so high straight from the start. I got my self comfortable at the back. But I couldn't move around anywhere as the pace was so kept so high. In the finish straight I won the sprint for 5th place. The annoying thing is I would have won the other semifinal with the time I had, and the time was much faster than my prologue earlier in the day when I was fresh. However it does mean I got a really good training session and a good run through at really high speed. I also got 2 good heats with training at close quarter and tactical skiing. So ultimately it should help me towards skiing faster later in the season. 
It was also the first time I've ever made the semi final as senior athlete. At any level, Norwegian cup, Scandinavian Cup, World cup I'd only ever made the quarter finals before last friday. 
The day after was a 10k skate time trial. I felt pretty tired at the start but picked it up throughout the race and finished off quite fast. I ended up 34th. An ok result, but hopefully I'll be making top 30's in Norwegian cup shortly.
The final day of competition was a 15k classic hunting start. Unfortunately I didn't do that much hunting, and got hunted by quite a few people. I felt really tired and after 5k I went into survival mode and just tried to make it to the finish.

After Gålå I headed back to Lillehammer. The world cup is here in a few days. Starting on Friday with a skate sprint, a 10k skate on Saturday and a classic 15k hunting start on Sunday. The same schedule as at Gålå. I'm looking forward to it. It is in away my "home" world cup. So it should be exciting to race. The weather is meant to be good so I think there will be a lot of people out watching and probably a good few people that I know. Hopefully my shape will continue to improve and results will too. The next few days are filled with pretty easy training. Yesterday was an hours ski, today is only 45min of strength work, tomorrow and Thursday I'll only ski for an hour each day. The focus is more on recovery and keeping my self fresh than training lots. 

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