After the 10km skate race at Worlds, it was a relatively quick turnaround to get ready for the 4x5km relay, but I was even more excited to start that race than I was for the 10km! I just love relay races because it’s all about the strength of a team. I was also crazy nervous being the anchor leg, but I had so much confidence in the whole team and was so excited to be a part of it.
I was so impressed with how the girls skied, and how our service team once again gave us awesome boards! Sadie skied so well and although a Russian girl skied over the tips of her skis which caused her to crash and flood her legs, she never gave up and kept fighting.
Rosie went out charging and skied such a gutsy leg, pushing to catch up even in the parts of the course where she was skiing solo.
Liz put down the hammer and got us within the perfect distance to the Polish team, hopping right up those sprint course hills!
So when I got tagged off I was psyched up and ready to go. I caught up to Poland and I knew Germany had come into the tag zone only a few seconds behind, so at first I tried to drop Poland and make a break for it. But the course was fast and I wasn’t able to drop her, so mid-race I changed tactics and it became more of a game.
I slowed down and got the other girls (by this time Germany had caught up) to take a turn leading, and I hopped right behind them and focused on doing absolutely as little work as possible, letting my legs recover. Then on the final hill of the sprint course I made my move, and created a little gap over the top. I had great confidence in my fast skis so I knew I would be able to hold that position till the finish line as long as I didn’t fall over!
All the girls were there at the finish line, and we had this awesome team hug and were so fired up. We finished 4th, which ties out best result at a Championship, and we aren’t stopping till we get onto that podium. We were simultaneously proud of how we raced and hungry for more, which is probably the best possible way to feel about a race!
In the finish pen we had hugs all round and everyone was a huge part of that relay team, whether or not they were racing, prepping skis, cheering, coaching, or helping in the start/finish pens. Everyone came together to make that day work, and I’m so proud to be part of a team that functions as one so well!
To be totally honest, after the 4x5km relay I thought I was done racing, and I was pretty wiped out. Mentally and emotionally, getting stressed and psyched up and nervous for the races had taken a huge toll on me that I didn’t fully appreciate until a few days later, and physically my body felt pretty good but my energy levels were definitely not at 100%! But the day before the 30km race, the coaches talked to me because there was an open start spot. It was going to go unfilled, and they said that if I wanted to start I could. And I thought…why not? I need practice at mass start classic races, and I wanted to get in another classic race since I hadn’t done one in over a month! My biggest hesitation was that 30km takes a huge amount of energy, and the races coming up the next weekend in Lahti (a skate sprint and 10km classic) could be really good opportunities for me. Especially opportunities to solidify my position in the red group, which gives our team money, and, to be frank, we really need as many people in the red group as possible. So it would be more beneficial to both myself and the whole team for me to try and race fastest at the next World Cups, instead of digging myself into an energy deficit and potentially getting sick afterwards.
So the night before Cork and I decided that I would have fun, start the race and get the valuable experience of mass start practice and pacing, but only plan on finishing the race if it was going exceptionally well. Otherwise, the plan was to drop and be ok mentally with doing that, although we both knew there would probably be a ton of criticism coming my way for not finishing so it would take a different kind of bravery to pull out.
The start of the race went well and I got a lot of great things out of that day. I held my position at the start, and at 4km I was skiing right behind Marit for a second (thinking “holy crap! this is SO not happening in a classic race right now!”) Right before the first lap through the stadium I was skiing in a great pack of girls until someone changed lanes on top of my skis and I crashed out. I never quite caught back up, but focused on working my pacing plan and getting into a classic striding rhythm, which is something I’ve been working on. After 10km I knew that my body was pretty tired and it would be smartest to pull out of the race like we had planned, so I did, and immediately after changing to dry clothes skied out to the quiet part of the course to cheer as loud as I could for my teammates racing. I am so SO proud of the impressive races Liz, Rosie and Sadie did and they skied smart and awesome 30kms!
Then it was finally time for a day off! A day to rest, cheer for the boys in the 50, recover and also get a mental break from racing and prepping to race. I am so proud of this entire team and how we skied, but more importantly how we functioned as one unit, at these Championships. Every year we gain more valuable experience, gain more confidence and become an even tighter knit group and we are walking out of these races with great big smiles!
I’m looking forward to a fun week in Lahti and then some great chances to see what I can do and where my body is at in the next World Cups. I still have a lot of fire and fight left for the rest of the season, and I’m excited to see what happens!