After a great euro trip, I’m back in Canada– and it’s so nice to be home. I spent a just over 6 weeks in Europe, my longest trip to date (although really not long at all compared to my friends and teammates who spend all winter racing overseas). I love traveling and racing in new places, but nothing quite beats coming home to Canada (clearly not biased at all here ;)).
After racing Switzerland, we headed to Zwiesel, Germany, to race a weekend of OPAs. The OPA circuit is essentially central Europe’s racing circuit that is just below the World Cup level (similar to IBU in biathlon but with fewer racers). Many of the athletes racing OPAs are vying for World Cup starts, and are working towards becoming full-time members of their countries’ World Cup teams.
The weekend in Zwiesel had a classic sprint, a classic 10km individual start, and a skate 10km mass start. I was really happy with my classic sprint, where I finished 10th; my leg speed on the climbs came together nicely, and in the heats I just went for it right from the start and didn’t hold anything back. I was able to win my quarter final which was really exciting, and although I didn’t advance to the final, I was in the same semi-final as Heidi Widmer, my first time racing with her since I was a junior!
I was also really happy with my 10km classic, mostly because I dug into the pain cave again. My teammate Katherine started 30s behind me, which was perfect because she caught me mid-way through the race, at that point in the race where things were starting getting reeeally painful and I had the choice to either back off or go even harder. I just told myself I had to hop right in behind her and do whatever it took to stick with her, and I was able to! Having something so simple to focus on for the rest of the race made it easy to push, and of course, racing with teammates is always fun because we can push each other to be faster than we would be able to go alone.
The next weekend of racing was in Oberstdorf, at some German national-level races. My favourite race there was the classic sprint, which was on the same course the that is used for the Tour de Ski. The course was a TON of fun to race–it’s fairly short with two hard climbs, some technical descents, a long double pole finish, and fun roller sections. Although I fell in my semi and missed getting through to the final, I still had a great experience and it was fun work on being aggressive and tactical.
This was the most European racing I’ve ever done in one trip, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to do so. In Canada, the NorAm circuit can be competitive but since we all know each other so well, racing is much more predictable. I learned so much on this short trip, and I’m definitely hoping to go race more OPAs in the future. The three big lessons from this experience I want to carry forward are:
- BE AGGRESSIVE! As Canadians, we are often too nice in races (the number of times I’ve had someone say “sorry” to me for stepping on my pole or ski is a little ridiculous). In Europe, skiers want to win and are ready to fight for it! To be competitive with the best, we need to be aggressive and fight to defend our space in races.
- Take every opportunity you can get and RUN WITH IT! Racing is FAST in Europe, and there’s no time for hesitation; if you see an opportunity, take it NOW– otherwise someone else will.
- Believe in yourself. Racing against overseas can be intimidating, but there’s no good reason you can’t be as fast everyone else. Believe in your training and trust yourself; race like you’re there to win and eventually you will!
Now I’m in Thunder Bay, ON, mid-way through our Canadian Nationals! After this, I’ll be heading to China for the last race of the season, a city sprint near Beijing. On one hand, I’m sad that the season is almost over but on the other hand I’m really looking forward to training in May because I’ve got a lot of goals for the coming year that I want to start working towards!