The Countdown to U23s

 

Three days– that’s how much time I have until the classic sprint at U23 World Championships! This is the race that has been lingering in the back of my head during intensity sessions, the race that I’ve been preparing for all summer… it’s hard to believe it’s almost here!

This is my second last year as a U23 athlete, and my third time going on a World Junior / U23 trip for Canada. We usually travel overseas, but this year’s U23 World Championships are special because they are in North America– at Soldier Hollow, Utah, the cross-country ski site of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics (where Canadian Beckie Scott won a gold medal in cross-country skiing). Although Utah isn’t Canada, we have the advantage of having raced here before and of not having to deal with jet lag. It’s not often that North Americans get a “home field” advantage in cross-country skiing, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.

But first, a quick recap of the last month of racing:

January kicked off with U23 / Junior / Senior World Championship trials (which were, coincidentally, in Soldier Hollow, making it a perfect opportunity to practice racing on the Worlds courses). The races coincided with US Nationals, which meant that the fields were stacked and we got to compare ourselves with hundreds of American skiers.

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Suffering in the Classic 20km at US Nationals (bib #50).

For me, my performance at US Nationals started off quite a bit below my expectations. I struggled in the skate 10km, and completely blew the classic sprint. When racing isn’t going well, it’s easy to start feeling down, so I had to work hard on following through with my process goals and not just focusing on the results. Fortunately, by the end of the week my body started to remember how to push hard again, and I finished the last race with a 4th place in the skate sprint qualifier, my best race of the year at that point!

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Pre-race power walk with PSJ.

After a quick training block in Canmore, we headed off again to Whistler for Western Canadian Championships. I had planned to drive to Whistler and fly back, reasoning that since the drive only took a couple of hours longer than flying (and was less expensive), it would be best to drive. Unfortunately, we ran into two avalanche control sections and spent around 5 hours stuck on the road not moving. Luckily, we were able to stock up on Brie cheese and baked goods in Revelstoke which kept everyone in a good mood, and we arrived in Squamish just before midnight.

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First jog since October! So happy to be outside enjoying the mountain air.

The next morning was race prep day, but when I woke up, my foot (the one that was injured earlier this year) was a bit swollen and sore. To avoid things getting worse, I took the day off and did some core and pilates in the hotel instead of skiing. Luckily, when I woke up the next morning for race day, my foot was doing a lot better and I was able to put on my bib and race!

The skate sprint at Westerns went quite well for me. My qualifier was decent considering I had missed race prep the day before (I was 4th), and I was really happy with my effort and with how I was feeling in the heats. I unfortunately fell twice in my semi, costing me a shot at the A Final, but I pushed hard and won the B Final, finishing with a time comparable to the A Final girls!

The race I was the happiest with at Westerns was the 10km Classic. It was the first distance race this year where I felt like I was able to push hard instead of just being in survival mode, and it was also my first podium of the year (I finished 3rd!). To have my first podium in a distance race was pretty special, and a big confidence booster heading into the second half the season!

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10km classic at Westerns- first NorAm podium of the year!

Since Westerns, I’ve been in Canmore at the pre-U23/Junior Worlds training camp. I got in a fun ski at Mt. Shark on Monday, and a solid intensity session with Jenn and Dahria on Wednesday. We arrived in Utah last night, and I’m currently recovering from some fun intervals on the race course this morning.

It’s hard to believe that in three days’ time, I’ll be lining up on the start line and ready to go give it everything. That wonderful mix of nerves and excitement that comes before a big race is already here, and I’m excited for the chance to get out there with my teammates and show the world what we can do. Our World Cup athletes over in Europe have been kicking butt lately (read about it here: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/winter/crosscountry/fis-cross-country-skiing-recap-relay-1.3947175), and it’s been inspiring all of us to do the same over here. Go Canada Go!


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