For some strange reason, sitting on a plane for five hours with sniffling people after spending the night in the airport (i.e. not really sleeping) left me sniffling too. I thought I was all better by Friday morning, so planned on going up to the races and racing, but in hindsight that might not have been the smartest thing I could have done. I was suffering a little from some mental burnout, too - for a wannabe pro like me, nine races by mid January is a bit much, especially with all the other stuff going on in my life. I was definitely feeling the whole "washed up senior" thing.
Anyway, I figured I'd at least start the qualifier - after my warmup, I didn't feel like death, so I tried to put together a solid race. Unfortunately I'd waxed my skis a little too heavily - they kicked like mules going up the hills, but the long, gradual, slow downhill back to the stadium was much slower than it should have been. I ended up almost getting caught by Heather Mooney, who had started 15 seconds behind me, and it was all on that downhill - I had been gaining on both my 15 and 30s girls up to where the hill pointed downwards. I qualified 8th, but I didn't feel that that finish was representative of how it could have been.
For the quarterfinals, it had warmed up a bunch, so now we were on straight klister. I went with a pretty thin layer, erring on the side of more glide, less kick. I liked how it ran, but it turned out that in the race it was a bit too light. The first hill I spent my first three strides running in place, before I hopped out of the track. I was able to run back up to the pack, and right up the side, which got me into fourth. Going up the second hill, I ran around fourth place and into third, and then my skis glided well enough to get me up to second to advance to the semifinals, although I was definitely losing steam in the finish straight.
I could definitely feel that I'd been sick all week and had a stressful couple travel days at this point - my motivation was at an all-time low, and that quarterfinal had felt much harder than the qualifier. I jogged back to the CSU waxing area and gave my skis to Jamie, who was being my wax tech for the day (and let me just say how AWESOME it is having people dealing with your race wax!), and asked for a little more kick - I specified exactly how many dots of klister I wanted and where I wanted them, so it is entirely my fault that I had too much kick and not enough glide in the semis... whoops. Looking back, I really should have stuck with the light kick approach.
The semifinal started, and I instantly could tell that my skis were too slow - I was near the back in the first double pole bit. I didn't move up much on the first uphill, and the little chicane downhill after that I got dropped, hard. I was a couple ski lengths behind fourth place going up the second hill, but by the top of the hill I wasn't any closer and I just didn't have much energy to spare, so I decided to save it for the B final.
I didn't have time to change the skis, although I probably did if I'd been motivated about it - you'd think I'd have learned by now that having slow skis that kick was less useful than fast skis that were a little slippery. Really, this is even more my fault, because I hadn't brought my klister skis. I looked at the forecast, and it said Saturday would be a high of 26 with a chance of snow in the morning. Not 45 degrees and sunny. My klister skis would have let me have both kick and glide, since they're stiff (I mean, they're designed for klister, duh), but this genius left them at home.
Anyway, having finished last in the semifinal (I thought I was fifth, but I guess the Dartmouth girl must have snuck by at the line), I had last pick of the lanes, so I was in the far outside lane. Then I almost false-started, and caught myself on my poles, just as the gun went off. This meant that everyone else leapt forwards while I was still sort of pushing myself backwards, so saying that I had a bad start is sort of an understatement. By the bottom of the first hill I'd made contact again, though, by using my short-person-tuck technique, demonstrated below:
Going up the first hill, I hopped in the left-hand lane, which was on the outside, and made it just past the third place girl, when the girl in second, Rachel Hall (SMS), jumped out of her track and onto my ski tips. This is legit, I mean, its sprint racing and just about everything is legal in sprint racing, but there is a sort of unwritten rule that states "don't be a dick". That was a dick move. Since there were about four inches of overlap between our skis once she was in my lane, I was all over her skis for a bit. Maybe I should have hopped lanes again, but I decided to just ski behind her to the top of the hill, despite the fact that she was just blocking, not actually moving up.
We went down the hill and my patent-pending low tuck worked, I didn't get dropped, although I did enter the second hill in fourth, behind Lizzie Anderson (Ford Sayre). We got to the crest, where the herringboning starts, and I couldn't herringbone very effectively thanks to the sprained ankle, but I managed to pull even with her and when we turned the corner I turned on my jets. I should mention that while I did have some jets at my disposal, they had about three instances where they'd work today, and I'd just used up two of my available jumps in my quarterfinal and that first hill of the B final. My body wasn't all that happy with this whole racing thing, today.
So, I put in a surge, in the right-hand (outside) track, trying to pull even with Gage, who was leading. But whaddaya know, I got almost even with Rachel and she jumps on my skis again. I forget what exactly I said, but it was along the lines of "seriously? again?" With more energy I would have taken the next right-hand track, but with her on top of my skis, my acceleration had been killed, and I was feeling too old, fat, slow, and washed-up to respond to that attack. I tried, but she had a gap, and Lizzie moved into her hole behind Gage. By the top of the last hill, that group of three had about two ski lengths on me, enough that I wasn't going to get any drafting benefit on the downhill. I was in a low tuck, trying as hard as I could to pull my kick pocket off the snow, when Lauren Jacobs comes by, literally flying at twice my speed. I tried to catch up on the double pole section, but the funny thing is, if your skis are dragging in a tuck, they'll drag even more double poling, because your weight actually gets forwards. I was done, just moving through quicksand, a tempo more appropriate to a 30k than a 1.4k race, but it was all I had. I knew that the Dartmouth girl was closing, but there just wasn't much I could do about it. Thank god the race ended when it did, I threw my foot for all it was worth, and it was enough to hold her off, although another couple inches and she would have had me.
That was good enough for 11th on the day, and suddenly my cold from last week was back and I felt like utter crud. Tired, the kind with a capital T. I figured I'd go through all the right motions that night, and see if I could bounce back for the skate race, because that promised to be a super fun event. But I was pretty disappointed with the whole sprint thing - had I been healthy and somewhat rested, I think I could have been a contender. At least the CSU juniors did great, we had skiers in each age category make the heats! See Jamie's report on how the day went for CSU - here is a spoiler, they did great!