So I am currently sitting in my bed in utter complete pain as my legs ache from the most painful experience I have ever taken part in.... Holmenkollen 30k!! To give you a bit of an idea of just how today went down, I think I skid a 30k at my regular 10k pace. From the minute the gun went off, we were after it. Just like last years World Champs here in Holmenkollen, the atmosphere here is amazing.
Distributed across the course are thousands and thousands of fans just decked out in face paint, flags and anything to support their home crowd. And not to forget, along with the people are big camps set up with people dressed all funny, drinking and cooking food on the campfire. I have to say, its a smell that isn't always so pleasant to smell while you are racing- but I am more than happy to put up with it in exchange for the incredible enthusiasm these people have. What a place!! There is a reason all the Norwegians are so good- the people here are in love with the sport!!
|Coming through the stadium- with a huge crowd in the bleachers behind|
To back up a hair bit, Wednesday was a city sprint in Drammen, Norway- just outside of Oslo (45mins). Since they don't lay the snow down until the morning of the event, we have been staying in Oslo all week, and then we just drove over for the race day. The atmosphere there was just incredible and a little different than Holmenkollen. With the event taking place centered around a massive church and racing up and down the main street- the whole scene is a bit different. Unfortunately it was raining/snowing super hard that day, but the fans were all still out their in the plastic bags and ponchos.
|The large church that sort of serves as the finish line as well as the "center" of the course.|
|Wet and warm in rainy Drammen!!|
As I was warming up I managed to keep my head down and not really take in the environment- mostly in an effort to stay dry from the rain... and maybe a bit in an effort to focus, but right before I raced- I decided I needed to take a lap where I looked around. I was in disbelief. There was an actual band playing right along the course, along with a whole lot of excited fans. Little kids were reaching into the course in an effort to touch the athletes, people were genuinely STOKED!!
|It's hard to tell, but that is in fact a stage with a band... and the ski course runs between it and the people Thanks to Will Coleman for many of these pictures! I was much to soaked to bring my camera out.|
|A little glimpse of the scene|
Setting the whole scene out of my head, I was able to focus and put together my best race of the season, finishing 16th in the classic sprint, and scoring my first World Cup Points ever. In the quarterfinals my race came to a sudden disappointment about 45 seconds into it when I collided with the Norwegian girl leaving us a long ways off the pack by the time we finally got our skis pointed back forward. As we raced to catch back up to the group, we gained some ground... but we had been stalled for just too long. I was a hair sad that I never got the chance to really fight as I felt so good on the day- but then again, it was my first World Cup heat ever... I had to take what I could get.
|Sprinting it out with the Norwegian girl I collided with right up to the finish|
In between then and today, I got the chance to meet up with some of my college buddies that are now back in Norway. I have a good friend who is still in Ak, but his family took me in last year during World Champs, having me over for dinner, giving me the tour of Oslo, washing my clothes and feeding me lots of chocolate. They did the same thing this year- which was awesome since I have been washing my clothes in the sink now for nearly a month.
|Walking along the ocean with Marit Ulsund, one of my good friends who was skiing at UAA last year.|
|Why not laugh a little?|
Which bring us to the present... Holmenkol 30k!! I went into this race with little expectations as a 30k is about twice as long as I normally call "my limit". Trying to keep an open mind though, I decided I was just going to go out there, have fun and work as hard as I could. One of the cool things about 30k's on the World Cup circuit is they have "ski exchanges" where you go through a pit and you are able to switch your skis up to three times throughout the race. This enables the athletes to have fast skis all throughout the race. I have just recently gotten an entirely new fleet of classic skis as I have been trading in and out with the world cup skis, in an effort to get some speedy skis... which has been a bit of a challenge this week since I don't know them very well.
|Race prep pre-race day with the ladies... the black mamba!!|
|Testing some skis with the ladies the day before.|
With the sun shining so hard today, the tracks switched to mush pretty quickly from the start. For the first 22k, I held a consistent speed skiing right around 32-34th place. I was definitely about 10 levels above my comfort zone for a race that long, but taking every feed I could get.. coke or gatorade, I had the feeling I was going to be able to hold it in the "hurt zone" for the remainder of the race. Unfortunately on the way out for my last lap, I switched onto a pair of skis that was much too soft for the condition.. so things got about twice as hard from there. Struggling to hold myself together, I dug deeper than ever and managed to finish in 40th place.
|Ahhh yes, feeling the burn baby!!|
So I can now say "I skid a world cup 30k". I would have never guessed I was going to have the opportunity to do that this year, along with many other things. Today was the completion of my world cup season, as I will head to Italy tomorrow for continental cup races. The whole journey throughout the world cup season has been awesome. The goal going into this year was to "get some experience". Experience I did, weather it was coming in nearly last place, standing on my first world cup podium, skiing the last two kilometers of a race with Martha Kristofersson, doing a sprint in the streets of Moscow, getting my first world cup point, or finishing the hardest race of my life. It all has been tough, rewarding, and sometimes beyond frustrating... but experience, I DID! Thanks to the many people that donated their support in making it possible!! You guys rock- and I have to say, I am certain I got enough motivation this year to train even harder and come back for some more!!
So, as I said- its now onto Italy where I will be racing in the OPA Cup Finals. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I will also be meeting up with a huge group of other American athletes, one being my brother- so I am really looking forward to it. Sad to leave the amazing atmosphere of Oslo, but happy to see what will come next.
Now its on to taking an ice tub to try to numb some of the "race ache"!