Post Regionals

Today's race wasn't good by any standards. I was excited, and pumped before the race, but unfortunately I forgot to check the little number on the back of my inhaler. I found out after struggling through 15k of asthma (at 5000 feet of altitude) that my inhaler was empty, and when I took it before my race I got nothing but propellant. The devil truly is in the details. I feel like I would have had a great race today if not for my medication malfunction. I had a really tough time of it. Racing at altitude is difficult enough, with the asthma limiting my breathing, it really was arduous. I feel like I cheated myself out of a good race; like today's effort, however painful, didn't really count.

This afternoon we rolled down to Lake Tahoe for a swim. It was super sunny all morning, so we were expecting a sunny, sandy blue lake shore. By the time we got there it was cool, cloudy and windy, and the water was more gray than blue. We couldn't find any sandy beaches either, so we settled for the end of the boat launch dock. Everyone but Raphael jumped in. Hooting and hollering all around. Very refreshing.


Results don't mean s***

I had a great race today. I skied well, I felt strong, I pushed hard. I made it hurt, I went out strong, I stayed relaxed and I kept picking up the pace. I had fast skis and good kick. After catching my breath, I was grinning all day. This is why ski racing is fun.

It was a 10k classic race as the first day of the RMISA western regionals here in Truckee, CA. Sunshine and 45 degrees with nice fast snow. Really I couldn't have asked for a better day. Then I had to go ruin it by looking at the results. After feeling so good about my race, my high was markedly deflated when I found out I had only placed 29th: barely better than the rest of the season, and by no means a best result.

After being bummed for a few minutes, and sharing in the bummer session of driving home (our other UAA guys didn't place as well as usual, nor did they feel good during their races), I got over it.

I don't race to beat people. If I did, I would be the saddest kid at the end of every race, consistently placing in the 30's. For me this sport is about personal goals, personal successes, and personal improvement. Success for me has almost nothing to do with how well I place. I had to remind myself of that today.

I had to remember back to a speech I made to my graduating class. It was all about how ski racing is a metaphor for life. In that speech I made the very important point that ski racing isn't about beating other people. For all I know, the person starting next to me could be a norwegian olympian with a team of doctors, coaches, wax technicians and sponsors backing his performance. How could I compare myself to that? If I had the best race of my life, would it be a "failure" if he beat me? I say absolutely not.

So what is the goal in ski racing, if it's not to beat everyone else? My goal every time I put on a bib is to finish the race knowing that I skied as fast and as hard as I possibly could have; knowing that I made every stride count. My reward isn't a medal or a trophy, it's the satisfaction of knowing that I did everything I could have in that race. And that satisfaction is intoxicating. It is what propels me out of bed for morning strength workouts, pushes me out the door to rollerski in the rain after work, and makes me love the hard intervals that leave me in a panting heap.

I tasted that satisfaction today, and I won't let any numbers on scoreboards get me down. Granted, it would have been nice to see that I'd really moved up in the ranks for a little external validation, but now I know it's not that important how well everyone else does.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to a 15k skate mass start, and I'm considering not even looking at the results.

There is a shot of me coming up the top of the last hill posted at Macbeth Graphics, but my favorite shot of the day was of Nils and his awesome race face.

Hickok Success!

This Sunday was the Hickok pursuit, one of the Anchorage cup races. 5k classic and 5k skate. With no college races this weekend, it was a great opportunity to get some extra racing in between the big important races. All of the local all-stars were in attendance. Former olympians, college racers, pros, semi-pros, coaches and everyone in between came out for a super fun low-key event. I felt really excited and relaxed before the race. I was out for a day of tough competition with all of my local badass racing compatriots.

I had it all: good skis, good snow, and the ever elusive "good feeling" that nordic racers are always hoping for. Everything came together for me, and I had a really excellent race. I beat a number of people that I've never beaten before, but more importantly I felt stronger and just plain better than I ever have before. It's super nice to have races like these for a little validation of all the tough training I've put in. I'm definitely going to try to ride this feeling into the collegiate western regionals next week.

This is the feeling that I live for, and it makes all of the sacrifice absolutely worth it.

A Lucky Friday the 13th

This Friday the thirteenth was one for the books. It was likely my best Friday the thirteenth on record. I started out the day with possibly the best and hardest interval workout I've done. Mandy Kaempf, our German assistant coach had us do one of her old standard workouts. 12 times up the hill skating without poles. About 1:15 up it, 1:00 down. Then 12 times V2 with poles. My legs felt miraculous. I was totally kicking butt. It definitely feels good to go hard and ski fast and well, even if it is just in a workout.

Straight from that workout, Steffi and I met up with Clay and zipped down to the first pullout past the weigh station on the highway for a day on the ice. I put up a fun lead on some super nice WI3, and set up a yoyo for us to play on. We each did a few laps, tried not to get hit by the cars whizzing past, and tried not to drop any ice on the road. No sunshine, but it sure was good ice, and convenient too!

We got home just in time to meet up some friends for an 80's themed dance party birthday get-together. Danced under the strobe light to some rowdy techno all night. Definitely a good day.

Steffi climbing in fine form with Clay on belay.