Yesterday the weather finally cooperated enough for the classic sprint, and warmed up to -3F or something like that. Of course, it was much windier, which made it feel like -20, I felt colder than I had all week, but it was a warm wind, relatively speaking. I was super psyched to finally be racing, but maybe expending all that nervous energy in the past week took more of a toll than I thought, because as I started my warmup I felt pretty blah. Eventually I got around to doing some intervals, and noticed that my heart rate was running really high, for a relatively low perceived effort. I tried to put this out of my thoughts, and headed over to the start for my qualifier.
A little side note - my favorite part of racing here was having somebody cover you with a fleecy blanket before the start, that velcroes together so that you can stand there without losing it. Those blankets were sweet. Anyway, they yanked off my blanket, and I took off chasing the ghost 15 seconds ahead of me.
I felt smooth and powerful out of the stadium and up the first part of the hill, thats like 100m, and then I planted my pole between my legs going around the corner. Doh! I didn't go down, but it threw me off my rhythm and going up the hill felt awkward and inefficient. Down the hill, took the corner too wide, and into the rollers in the stadium I was having issues. Anywhere there was a transition, I bobbled it, especially going from double pole to striding. Then crossing the culvert, about to overtake my 30-second girl (I started third from last, with people who legitimately have 600 sprint points), a wind gust hit me, and pushed my pole inwards just as I was applying the power in a double pole, and I poled my boot pretty hard and went down. And then flailed for a little bit trying to get up and get going. Yargh. More transitions, more bobbles, finally just hammer down the finish and I did not feel strong, but rather, relieved that I had skied so badly I would definitely not have to do any more of these.
I crossed the line, and then I collapsed. I've collapsed after races in the past, but its always been a decision, of sorts. "oh, good, I'm at the end, now I can lie down in the snow", and I lie there for a sec and then get up and carry on with life. But this was more of a "oh, look, my knees are collapsing. Why am I lying in the snow? Its cold out" thought. The volunteers dragged me away from the finish, and I swear I tried to help them and use my legs, but it just wasn't happening. That was when I finally noticed the fluttery heart feeling. When I could stand on my own, I wobbled into the warming tent by the start and sat down. The fluttery heart feeling wasn't going away, so I lay down, and then Will Sweetser came over pretty worried that I was going to freeze to death or die of a heart attack, despite me telling him multiple times that the cardiologist said I wouldn't die from this. My heart still wouldn't stop fluttering, it was pretty scary, as this was much longer than any of my past episodes. This makes me think that it probably started while I was racing and I was so flustered because I was skiing badly that I just didn't notice. Nat Hertz says it right on fasterskier - "As far as sensations that are unsettling as an endurance athlete, a weird heart beat is probably up there as one of the most disconcerting". Word.
After about 15 minutes, I was normal again, so I went out for a cooldown and almost ran into a humungous moose. Alaska moose are bigger than the ones in Maine!
So, a pretty sad ending to a frustrating week, but I'm glad I went out there, though I have no idea why. But it sure does feel nice to be home. I'm headed north to the Bogburn tomorrow... gotta do SOME racing!