After the Tour de Ski my body was fed up with all of the racing and travel and decided to force me into some much needed rest. I got very sick and was in bed in Seefeld for about 5 days. I unfortunately had to miss the first World Cup races for Period II, the sprint and team sprint in Dresden, Germany. I started skiing while at the training camp in Seefeld before the next two weekends of Period II World Cup in Otepaa, Estonia and Ulricehamn, Sweden. My body was still fatigued and plateaued from the sickness and the stress of the Tour, but I tried to do some light intensity workouts to get ready for the races. The Otepaa classic sprint was just a warm up for the distance race, and did not go very well. I had several small sections that felt good but my result was nothing spectacular.
My final stop for Period II World Cup was Ulricehamn, Sweden. I heard that the crowds in Sweden are amazing and so I was really excited to see how I could race there, and at sea level again. I still felt plateaued and could not push myself to my maximum capacity during the workouts leading up to the races and in the races themselves. In the 15km skate I felt as if I got to my max on the first flat, and just loaded way too much too early. I tried to stay nice and relaxed but just didn’t have the high end speed or gears to ski fast especially in the softer conditions. The crowds were amazing and it was very fun to race in Ulricehamn.
On Sunday it was a 4×7.5km relay. I was the anchor leg of the mens relay. I started out just in front of a few teams and they caught me on the first downhill and uphill section of the course. I tried to hang on with them, but I knew I had to pace even a 7.5km race. I went out fast, but I knew to ski as fast as possible and in order to do that I had to let a few skiers go just a bit ahead of me. I kept them within about 150 meters of me. On my second lap (we did 2 laps of 3.75km) I started to reel in the two teams that passed me on lap one. On the second steeper climb I tried to go as hard as possible and did some hop V1 and actually caught the two skiers at the top of the hill, even surprising myself! I decided to draft them and try to position myself to out sprint them. It was soft snow and faster and easier to ski within the skied in section of the trail. I tried to make a move around the final corner but couldn’t get my toe in front of their boots at the line.
I flew home to Craftsbury after Ulricehamn in order to rest and recover before World Championships, and also to compete in the SuperTour races to get some more points hopefully. It felt amazing to go back to Craftsbury and get some solid training at sea level. I also got to spend some time skiing with my girlfriend who made the trip to see me in Craftsbury before the SuperTours!
After about a week and a half of Craftsbury rest and training, I finally started feeling a bit better skiing fast. The SuperTours in Minneapolis were pretty fun and I liked the set up with a skate sprint on Friday, 20km classic mass start on Saturday, and 10km skate on Sunday. The courses were much flatter than European courses but still had a lot of work and moderate climbing.
The sprint was a pretty fun day, it was cold but sunny and gorgeous. The course had a nice long flat and slight uphill for a bit, then a steeper climb, twisty downhill, and short steep uphill before a longer downhill finish.
The 20k classic mass start race was a fun race on the winding Wirth trails doing 5 laps of the 3.75km course. The first few laps felt nice and relaxed with a large group of guys shuffling around the front, I decided to do a burst going into the last two laps. I tried to keep up the sprint but noticed that my body was flooding much earlier than I expected. I don’t think my body was quite as recovered or ready for the strong effort just yet. NMU skier Zak Ketterson went with me on my break and we skied the final two laps together, ending in a sprint, which I lost by just a few meters. The 10km skate the next day didn’t feel as good, and it was a very tight race with the top skiers all within a few seconds. I was so happy to have my girlfriend there watching and cheering me on and taking great photos of the races!
Next stop was World Championships in Seefeld, Austria! I flew out on Monday and arrived Tuesday to prepare for the races the following week.
Seefeld was incredibly sunny and warm for the World Championship races so we got some good T shirt skiing in. Race prep went well in the days before the races, threshold felt pretty good finally and felt a bit faster than the previous weeks.
I unfortunately was not selected to race the 30km skiathlon, so I focused on the 15km classic race.
I felt great in the first half of the 15km classic race. We completed two laps of a 7.5km course, where each lap consisted of 3.75km on the “red” side and 3.75km on the “blue” side. The race was held in the afternoon at 2pm, with direct sunlight and probably 55 degrees F. Luckily we were able to cut the sleeves off of our race suits, and some skiers even opted to just race in the bib only (shoutout to Erik Bjornsen). I went out smooth and relaxed, the first few km consisted of about 5 minutes of consistent climbing in the sun. At the moderate altitude of 3900ft, I knew even a pace even just too fast would be hard to recover and finish strong. My double pole felt surprisingly exhausting and my climbing even though I was just running up the steep climbs, felt slow and laboring. On the second lap I faded a bit, and actually crashed on one of the first fast curvy downhills due to about 8 inches of wet slushy snow that caught my left ski pulling it out from under me.
I finished feeling like I went as hard as possible, but still not quite at the fitness level I needed to be to get that elusive top 30 result I have been seeking; I finished 45th. The rest of the World Championships week was fun watching the races and preparing as an alternate for the 50km skate, which I was not needed for.
After Seefeld we flew to Oslo, Norway to prepare for the legendary 50km Holmenkollen race. The skiing was incredibly nice up until the day before the race were we got some snow and rain and a whole mix of weather. The tracks were a mix of glazed ice, windblown new snow, and made ski testing relatively pointless considering the conditions would be different the next day.
The Holmenkollen 50km classic race was a mix of challenges. The conditions were tricky, I started out with some zeros that felt good in the warm up. The tracks broke apart and it was about 0 degrees C with some light snow. The zeros were a bit slick but nice and fast. I had trouble staying with the pack after the first lap having to double pole most of the moderate grade climbs. I had some incredibly startling dizziness starting at the beginning of climbing on lap 2. The smoke and crowds combined with the hard effort on the climbs at Frogneseteren seemed to trigger my vertigo pretty badly. I felt really unstable and had a hard time staying upright in the tracks. The dizziness lead to mild nausea which made taking feeds pretty challenging. After lap 2 I swapped skis to some covered klister. The conditions were changing so much and the tracks and snow were getting very soft, sheering easily if the kick was just a bit off. I ended up double poling most of the climbs due to faster skis, sacrificing the kick a bit. The dizziness came back at Frogneseteren again worse this time. On lap 4 I swapped my skis for the final time and got a bit better kick. The dizziness was the worst on lap 4, and I had a hard time staying in the tracks. I also was far off the back of the pack at this point. Due to lack of feeds my arms and lats were seizing and cramping a bit. I decided to drop out of the race at the end of the 4th lap due to the vertigo. I no longer could stay in the tracks, and couldn’t ski the race at all to even the middle of my abilities. I am incredibly disappointed with having to drop out, but I made the choice knowing that is what I needed to do on that day.
I came back to Craftsbury to rest and recover. I didn’t train for 5 days after the Holmenkollen due to residual vertigo. It was still another 4 days after that until I could do intensity. This was the longest it took for any vertigo episode to subside, it just lingered with mild dizziness for over a week. After that I started to do more sharpening workouts to prepare for SuperTour finals, the last races of the year.
Before SuperTour finals we went to Quebec City to watch and cheer on our teammates at World Cup Finals! It was an incredibly exciting and fun weekend with the best skiers in the world racing on North American soil. It was also great to see basically all of the New England nordic skiing community out there cheering on the US skiers!
The next stop was Presque Isle, Maine for SuperTour finals. The last time I was in Presque Isle was for 2010 JOs as part of the New England team! The skiing in Presque Isle was incredible. It was cold for the first few days and actually felt like mid winter conditions. Prepping for the races went well doing some short speed work and easy jogs. The first race was a skate sprint. I felt ok on the qualifier and strangely heavy and tired warming up for the quarters. The course was wet from rain and warm temperatures and I stayed in 3rd from the first corner to the finish line, trying unsuccessfully to pass three times during the race, and finished only 0.8 seconds from lucky loser.
The 15km classic race mass start was a fun race but on pretty icy fast snow. The first 1.5km or so are twisty downhill with one or two really fast corners. The start was delayed 2 hours due to scary fast conditions. The front pack went out fast and I took the downhills a bit conservative. I also opted for more kick for the long striding climbs, so my skis were a touch slower than some others. What I lost in speed I made up on the climbs and maintained contact with the back of the main pack for the first 2 or 3 laps (it was 4 laps of 3.75km) and lost them halfway through the 3rd lap. I was skiing with Kevin for the last lap where he did a great burst of speed on the second to last climb, where I finished in 8th. All in all, a great race for me after a frustrating few months.
The third race in a row was the 4x5km mixed team relay. I was second leg, the mens classic leg. Ida raced a very strong first leg and handed off in 2nd with a pack of other skiers. I skied to the front by the first downhill trying to keep the lead. On the first climb I was swallowed up by the skiers behind me, and I think I made a mistake not asking for more kick on the slick icy/glazed tracks. I had to herring bone too much and lost time, in addition to feeling pretty tired and run down. I lost about 20 seconds or so over 5km and handed off to Caitlin. The next two legs (Caitlin and Akeo) did a phenomenal job reeling in the other teams and finished in a close fight in 4th place!
The final race of the year was the 50km skate US Distance National Championships. I had no expectations or pressure at all, 50km is no my strong distance and I only ever felt good in one 50k race before (2018 Birki). My goal was to stay very relaxed, and let the front pack go if it felt too fast for me. I know enough about myself that if I blow up, the race is basically over, and it can happen early. I also know that I needed to feed a lot, so even though we were doing 10 laps of 5km and there would be plenty of opportunities for a coach to give me feeds, I opted to carry my water bottle with my mixture of Hammer HEED and Endurolyte Extreme powder for the whole race. The main lead pack stuck together at a relaxed pace for the first 3 laps. On lap 4 the leaders picked up the pace just enough to split the field. I stayed behind at a relaxed pace with my teammate Adam and Scott Hill, a Canadian skier. We skied the middle 3 laps together until Scott put a small burst on the bottom of the course when I decided to stay with him. We skied together a lap or two until he dropped me on lap 8. I skied alone but started to feel like I needed to push to the end of the race. My relaxed start and constant feeding kept the cramping at bay, just in my quads. I pushed the last two laps very hard and caught about 6 or 7 skiers who were fading at the end of the race to finish 6th overall in my best 50k of my career!
This season also concludes the ski career of our teammate and friend Ida Sargent. She had an incredible career full of success both domestically and internationally on the world cup and we will dearly miss her fun and loving attitude on the team! Thank you Ida!
Now it is time for some rest and relaxation:)