Three days ago, I got to be a part of the fastest relay I’ve ever skied in my life! I was lucky enough to anchor the US women’s 4x5km relay at World Championships in Oslo, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.
The day was beautiful and sunny although the stadium was engulfed in a thick fog that made it hard to see accross to the stands. But even if you couldn’t see the thousands of people packed into the stands and all over the 5km loop, you sure could hear them! My ears were ringing by the end of the day after hearing the roaring of the Norwegians.
Our relay kicked off with Kikkan and Holly skiing the classic legs, and they fought hard although their kickwax iced up and left them working hard just to get up the hills. Liz was our third leg, dropping the Kazakh girl she caught during her race and tagging off to me in 10th place, with about 10 seconds over 11th place. I skied out hard from the get-go, because I was running scared. I really prefer chasing to being chased – it kinda sucks to know that someone’s right behind you, reeling you back in. At about 2.5 km, the Kazakh girl caught me, and I was hurting, staggering over the top of the course’s hardest climb. It was really embarrassing to get caught in front of thousands of people, and I felt really bad, but didn’t want to give up. That’s the great thing about relays – no matter how bad you’re hurting, you can never throw in the towel when you know your teammates are counting on you! I thought I’d have a chance to outsprint Kazakhstan to keep 10th place if I could hang on till the final .5 km, so I tucked in behind her.
However, I noticed she was fading and my skis were running really fast, so on the long downhill before the final 1km, I sling-shot myself around her and put a small gap between us. On the second to last climb of the course, I told myself to SUCK IT UP and started putting everything I had out there.
Suddenly through the fog I saw Japan struggling up the hill. She had started about 30 seconds ahead so I didn’t expect to be able to come within sight, let alone catch her, but she’d gone out hard and then bonked. I was able to catch her on the downhill dropping into the stadium, and got super excited when I looked up and saw another unexpected surprise – Poland was fading fast, and not too far ahead of me! I was skiiing absolutely as hard as I could, but I needed an extra 50 yards to be able to catch up to Poland. But I was totally satisfied with 9th place, and we at least beat our bib ranking by one!
I spent the next 30 minutes after the race skiing a fun cooldown with Liz and Chandra Crawford, although I felt like I might possibly hurl during the first 15 minutes because my race nerves had finally caught up to me. But after a while my stomach settled and I was able to fully enjoy the awesome trails one last time before returning to the hotel to pack.
The next day I flew from Oslo to Minnesota, and WOW was it nice to get home! I really missed my family (and my dogs). I got in late Friday night and spent Saturday catching up with my family and doing copious amounts of laundry, before re-packing my bags for Junior Nationals, held at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis!
So here I am, back home to good ‘ol MN (doncha know) and although it’s weird to go from crowds of 40,000 to more like 400, I’m really pumped on this upcoming week. Am I jet-lagged out of my mind? Yes. Do I feel like it’s 3:00 AM as I write this? Absolutely! Would I change anything or skip the first race tomorrow? OF COURSE NOT!!! It’s super sweet this year because every JO team is staying in the same hotel. And for a social butterfly like myself, this is totally awesome. I love the atmosphere here because it’s excited, fun and relaxed.
Please wish the Midwest team good luck tomorrow – we’re kicking off JO’s with some night skate sprints. The qualifiers are from 12:00 – 2:15, and the finals are around 7:00 under the stadium lights. Should be an awesome event! To find more about Junior Nationals, race results and schedules, go to this link.