I apologize to everyone for how long it has taken to get to this post. The past couple of weeks have seemed to go way too fast with all the decisions and new things that have been going on.
My season ended with the SuperTour Finals which were held in Fort Kent, Maine. In my opinion, there is no better way to describe this area of the US better than "the end of the world". You literally feel off the map when you are there. The town of Fort Kent runs parallel to a river which is the border between Canada and the US, so you are about as far north as you can go in Maine. As frustrating as this is on the 8 hour drive to get there, it was necessary for these races to be located somewhere like this the last couple weeks of March. It actually felt like full on winter during the week of racing when the temperatures were dropping below zero at times.
The week of racing went pretty well for me. The first race was the 8k mass start classic race, held on friday night. I got to practice my newly acquired night racing skills, as the woman didn't start their race until 5:00 PM. I was able to ski near the front of the pack for the majority of the race but ended up fading a bit in the last couple of kilometers. I was having to work extra hard because of some mediocre kick wax, so it started waring on me by the end when the pace picked up. Regardless it was a fun race and I came away feeling satisfied with my 8th place finish for the day.
Saturday was a 1.4k classic sprint. The race that I was most excited for at this series of races. I felt like my sprinting had been gradually building throughout the season, so I was ready to test it out against the US skiers. In my qualifier round I finished 3rd, 2 seconds out from Ida Sargent, one of my closest competitors in sprinting this year, and 4 seconds out from Kikkan Randall. Kikkan finished 8th in the classic sprint at the Olympics previously this year, so I was feeling pretty good that I had closed some of the time gap since I last competed against her at Nationals in Anchorage. In Alaska she had managed to space herself 13 seconds ahead of me in the 1.4k course.
Throughout the next three races that completed the elimination rounds I pushed hard and built throughout the day. My quarterfinal heat started with a hard bang and refused to back off until the three of us racing for 1st and 2nd positions crossed the line, posting the fastest quarterfinal heat. We then went on to the tightly packed semi-final heat, that pushed hard throughout the course posting again the fastest semi-final heat. Ida and I crossed the line 1st and 2nd, excited to challenge for the final. In all the sprinting that I have done yet this season, I have failed to be able to stay strong throughout the three elimination heats. The finals I always drop the plow and drag until the finish. So I was determined to change that with this last sprint of the season. I started hard, and tired a bit over the top of the hill where Holly Brooks managed to squeeze past- but still crossed the line in fourth. I did die down a bit, but this was by far the best I had ever held myself together for the finals. So as disappointed as I was to miss the podium, which I was so close, I was happy with my 4th place finish for personal goal oriented reasons.
Sunday was my race I had been least looking forward to the entire week. A hill climb, the race that you ski up an alpine run. I decided it was best to not preview the course, and just go with the unexpected. I figured the less I knew, the better. The first two kilometers were normal terrain- rolling throughout the trees. We then made a hard left and started the death march up the mountain. I went into this race thinking it was better not to hold back any energy at the beginning, regardless I was going to be in a lot of pain and die as I hit the wall. So that is exactly what I did. As painful as the hill was, the end actually came sooner than I expected. I managed to be passed by three skiers on the way up, but held my top ten overall position until the end. I crossed the finish line in 8th overall for the mini series of races, the same place I had finished on the first day. As fun as it was to try this little climb up the alpine run, it is not my favorite type of race. I am glad we don't have to do many of those as nordic ski racers!
So with the conclusion of the Super Tour races, the season officially came to an end. This season has seemed long, starting racing early in November- but in many ways it felt like a break away season. Even though the first three months were far below where I would have like to ski, because of some mistakes with training early on, I felt like I learned a ton. I was able to make something of the last two and a half months of my season. Racing in Europe really opened my horizon on what is out there. Not only what is out there, but the fact that we can be there. If the US skiers commit to racing at this higher level, we can easily fight for podium positions. I know from the two months that I spent knocking heads on the OPA racing circuit this year, I gained an endless amount of not only experience and skills, but confidence. I am walking away from this season more excited and determined than I ever have, and am confident next year I can be right there.
Thanks to everyone that has made this year possible and offered their support in many various ways. You guys are making it possible- and I truly appreciate it!