Monday, December 21, 2009

Eastern Cup #1, Presque Isle ME

CSU headed north en force this last weekend - 20 athletes, coaches, and parents, packed into two fifteen-passenger vans. Lets just say that kids used to traveling in their parents' volvos with a Thule rack on the roof have a little to learn about packing light for a ski weekend. But we fit all the crap into the vans, loaded up, and drove north for a long while. Eventually we got to the Nordic Heritage Center, one of my favorite places to ski, and managed to get on the lit trails just as the sun was setting. The one problem with this was that the 0.2km addition to the usual 1km sprint course did not have lights, and did have a nasty corner. You'd be moving at 25+mph in a full tuck and then you had to bang a 180 and try to carry some of that speed - not easy! The J2s weren't doing the corner, so that meant that there wouldn't be J2 girls snowplowing the snow away, but I'll admit I was a little apprehensive of the heats. Near the end of our ski that night, I was doing one more lap with Corey and Hannah, and that corner was pitch black - I came around it first, and didn't quite make it, sprawling across the trail just in time for Corey to ski into me, leaving a sweet bruise on my knee (totally my fault). Luckily Hannah avoided the pile-up, but I figured that meant it was definitely time to call it a day.

Saturday dawned cold and sunny, and I got there early with Rob and Jamie to test some waxes. Heading around the course the first time, I slid out around that corner, it wasn't a hard fall but I just couldn't get an edge on the cold snow and wasn't deliberate enough about stepping it. I stood up, and realized I'd left half my pole in the snow. My guess is that I whacked the pole pretty good when Corey skied into me last night, and hitting it lightly that morning was the final straw. Damnation. This was on top of noticing that the cuff of my [brand new] boots had broken in transit, too. Luckily a little duct tape fixed that problem, but I was feeling a little shaky regarding my equipment by that point, a broken ski would have to be next.

The rest of the wax testing and warmup went smoothly, though, and I was feeling ready to go on the start line. I should mention how awesome the sprint course at the Nordic Heritage Center is, its just full of transitions and ups and downs and turns and FUN! A great course for someone who can ski transitions and really glide. I started 15s behind Olga, one of my skiers who graduated last year and is now at Colby, it would be fun to be chasing someone I knew. I didn't have a great start, for some reason it took me by surprise and I wasn't all that smooth out of the gate, but I got moving quickly, and really powered into that fast downhill. It was definitely fast enough to get that flying sensation as you went over the little drop, and it was actually a little scary to be in a full tuck. The best kind of downhill!

I took the nasty corner really wide, which let me carry a ton of speed around it and up the little hill to the flat part before the steep awkward hill - I could see I'd already made up a lot of ground on Olga. We'd been playing with lines up the awkward steep hill the night before and decided that the outside line was actually fastest, since you could carry more momentum, so I powered up that and floated up the gradual hill following it into the stadium, really thinking about narrowing the V and driving my knees forward. A powerful V2 won me plenty of speed going into the rollers (my favorite part of that course, these two roller-coaster-like hills that you can just bounce right over if you play it right), and I powered up the last hill trying to stay light on my feet and really starting to feel the burn in my legs. Through the last little twisties and into the finish chute, I could see Olga not too far in front of me, but I wasn't going to catch her.

I knew I'd done well, that course suits me, so I treated it like I'd made the heats even if I hadn't, doing a good cooldown and all that good stuff. Then comes the best part, the CSU food table, although I'd say we had an excess of cookies and not enough real food, but I'm certainly not complaining. The results took a while to come out, and once they did it was the usual scramble of people to see who'd made it to the heats - we had Corey in the J2 girls, Eli and Hamish in the J2 boys, and Chris barely squeaked in as the 30th J1/OJ boy. I qualified 3rd, 0.01 out of 2nd but 11 seconds out of first - Sophie Caldwell CRUSHED the field. Of course, she also has a good chance of winning nationals, and was top 10 at junior worlds, but still, thats impressive.

More warming up, I got a decent warmup since I was in the fifth heat. Thanks to the way they were doing lucky loser, I just had to be in the top three to advance to the semi finals, so I wasn't quite as nervous as I normally am on the start line. The gun went off and Lucy Garrec got the lead, and I tucked in behind her going around the first 90 degree right-hander. My skis were criminally fast, though, and I chose to go past her in a tuck rather than scrub some speed going into the corner. Then I'm not really sure what happened, I think since I had been passing on the inside, I just didn't have enough room to successfully negotiate that corner without sliding, and I found myself sliding across the trail and basically off the trail - unfortunately I didn't take anyone else out with me.

I got up quickly and by the top of the awkward little hill I'd made contact again. The pack was spread out in a line, and I thought that I'd have to get around the girl in fifth place on this uphill so as to make more passes later on, so I tried to squeeze through a spot where there wasn't exactly room, and I was just coming off a sprint to catch back up. I caught my outside ski in the loose powder, and my lactic-filled legs were unable to deal with that sudden change and I fell on my butt. This is actually a very difficult position to get up from, especially when your ski tips are pointed uphill and you're sitting back on your tails facing the uphill. By the time I was back up, the pack was across the biathlon range already, and I knew I just didn't have it in me to catch back on. I tried anyway, but my day was over. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed, hugely disappointed, especially knowing that I had the speed to be on the podium, but anything can happen in a sprint race. Sometimes that anything is good for you, and sometimes its not. This wasn't my day.

Smiling on the downhill. Jamie Doucett photo.

But, its a Saturday, so there is always tomorrow...

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