Monday, March 28, 2016

SkiTour Canada

I finished my first ever World Cup Tour last week.  Normally as a ski racer my goals involve more than just making it to the finish line and instead involve some performance or result.  But this Tour wasn't just any race and it was going to be an exciting challenge.  I had a couple individual races during the Tour which I was focusing on more specifically but most importantly I had set my mind to racing day after day as hard as I could and crossing that final SkiTour Canada finish line in Canmore on the last day, racing strong and knowing I had given it my all.  This feat would involve eight races for a total of about 60 kilometers of racing in the period of twelve days in four locations across Canada.  It would involve one car ride, four bus rides and a five hour flight.  Just staying healthy would be the first challenge.  We would race, eat, sleep, travel, and race some more.  Here's what the busy schedule looked like:

Day 1: Drive to Gatineau from Vermont and opening ceremonies with all the teams
Day 2: Course preview in Gatineau
Day 3: 1.6km skate sprint in Gatineau and then 2 hour bus ride to Montreal
Day 4: 10km mass start classic race in Montreal and then 3.5 hour bus ride to Quebec City
Day 5: Recovery day in Quebec City with some easy skiing and jogging
Day 6: 1.5km skate sprint in Quebec City
Day 7: 10km skate pursuit in Quebec City and then drive back to Montreal airport
Day 8: Fly from Montreal to Calgary and then bus to Canmore
Day 9: Training day in Canmore previewing the courses for the last four races
Day 10: 1.5km classic sprint
Day 11: 15km skiathlon
Day 12: Recovery day with just a short run
Day 13: 10km skate race
Day 14: 10km classic pursuit
Day 15: Tired body flying home to VT

Opening Ski Tour Canada with a skate sprint in Gatineau, Quebec (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

I unfortunately ended the first day in my quarterfinal after getting tangled with Hanna Falk from Sweden.  I raced as hard as I could to catch back up to the pack after the crash but couldn't regain contact. (Toko US photo)
Luckily some of my teammates found more success and Jessie and Simi both ended the day on the podium! (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

Getting some pre-race advice from Pepa
Mass start racing in Montreal!  (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

We raced in a park near the center of the city which was a cool back drop but unfortunately the course was too narrow for a mass start race.  There was a big pile up a few hundred meters into the race and I went down again for my second fall in two days.  When I got back up I realized that the front of my ski was broken in half!  By the time I got a new ski I was in the back and spent the rest of the race fighting my way back up into the pack! (Toko US photo)

I finished the race skiing with my Craftsbury teammate Kaitlynn Miller who had an incredible winter of fast racing and was competing in her first ever World Cups in Ski Tour Canada!  It was really fun to ski with her and sprint to the line together. (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
The beginning of the Tour was so busy that despite going to three different cities in Quebec there was very little time for sightseeing.  The third day was an off day and Noah and I explored Quebec City on a morning jog. (Noah Hoffman photo)
Montreal and Quebec City were snowy and cold and it was the most natural snow I had raced on all winter!  Here is Noah with the St. Lawrence River behind him.
Racing in Eastern Canada and so close to home was a highlight of the winter for me because I was able to share the experience with so many friends and family.  There were so many familiar faces lining the trails and the cheering rivalled Scandinavian World Cups in my opinion but maybe I'm just biased ;) (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

Good luck hugs from Mae
And my cousin Abby and her family visiting from New Brunswick

And more sprint racing on a very fun course that circled in front of the Parliament building, along the walls of the fort and across the Plains of Abraham 

I had a really good sprint in Quebec but just missed a lucky loser time in a fast heat and the opportunity to advance farther along that day. (Reese Brown/SIA photo)

After the sprint it was on to skate distance racing.  This is normally not my favorite race but I had a blast racing in a big pack until someone stepped on my pole and broke it on the last lap at which point I had to put my head down and hammer to the finish alone. (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
After Quebec we were halfway through the Tour and the fatigue from the racing and travel was building up.  For recovery we did massage, stretching, ice baths, and short jogs every day which made for a busy schedule of racing and recovery.  Ana, Meg, and Steph kept our muscles going with wonderful massage and physical therapy work.  Thank you ladies!

Another huge thank you to our incredible wax staff that were up early and working late every day preparing fast boards!  I work with Tim Baucom who got sick during the Tour but kept working just with a buff over his face to prevent anyone else from getting his germs! (Reese Brown/SIA photo)
After the Quebec City races we travelled across Canada to Alberta for the last four races.  We left the city racing for the mountains of Canmore and the cold and wintery eastern conditions for hot sunshine in the west!  The last four races were really hard but great experiences.  I struggled with the altitude and the heat  and did not find the results I was looking for in all of the races but there were still many highlights like a fast classic sprint qualifier and some exciting pack skiing in the distance races.  
Classic sprinting on an awesome but very challenging and long sprint course which was made extra tough for the heats when the conditions turned to slop.  This sprint was the last of the winter and I finished the World Cup season ranked in the top 25.
Skiathlon racing with US teammates (Fasterskier photo)
Beautiful Canmore scenery! (Fasterskier photo)
I usually try not to have dramatic finish line displays but for the last race I couldn't help it and I laid in the snow for quite a long time, trying to cool my body off from the hot racing and lacking any energy to make it one step farther.  I was in the most exhausted state I have ever experienced.  The last race was more of the toughest races I have ever finished with big hills at altitude, a tired body, and some heat exhaustion on top but the feeling of satisfaction I felt lying in the finish area was like none other.  It was a new level of tiredness that I could not have begun to fathom was possible. Fortunately with extreme exhaustion soon came a boost of endorphins like none other.  After a few nights of 11+ hours of sleep and a couple days of moving as little as possible and eating and napping as much as I could, I am so thankful for the experience and excited for another World Cup Tour in the future!  But first, the SuperTour finals and Distance Nationals at home in Craftsbury!

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