Ski Tour Canada and Chasing Emilia

It’s nice to be on vacation! I will take about a month off of training to let my body rest and recover and to ensure that I’m ready for a long training season and a full winter of racing. I need to be well rested because, if all goes according to plan, I will have 29 World Cup starts next season, significantly more than I’ve ever had before. Because there isn’t a World Championships or an Olympics next year, there will be two long tours during the World Cup season. The Tour de Ski, beginning the first day of January, will consist of eight stages, one more than normal. Then, the new Ski Tour Canada will be the last event of the season; it will be another eight day tour beginning on the first day of March. I am very excited about so many race opportunities, and I believe it will be a great season for me.

I want to encourage everybody to put a couple of stages of Ski Tour Canada on their calendars and to come watch the races and support me and my teammates. It is a huge opportunity for us to have World Cup races in North America, and I know that spectators will have a great time. World Cup racing is unlike any other racing that happens on this continent. Here’s a look at the tour:

  • The 1st stage is a skate sprint on Tuesday, March 1st in Gatineau, a suburb of Ottawa but on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.
  • The 2nd stage is a 22 kilometer mass start classic race on Wednesday, March 2nd in Montreal, two hours from Gatineau.
  • From Montreal we’ll continue east to Québec City. Stage 3 will be another skate sprint on Friday, March 4th.
  • We’ll remain in Québec City for stage 4, a 15 kilometer pursuit start skate race on Saturday, March 5th.
  • At the halfway point of the tour we’ll fly all the way out to Alberta. I heard they are going to charter a direct flight for the athletes. Stages 5, 6 and 8 will all be at the incredible Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alberta, about an hour and fifteen minutes outside of Calgary. Stage 5 will be a classic sprint on Tuesday, March 8th.
  • Stage 6 will be a skiathlon on Wednesday, March 9th. Generally skiathlons are 30 kilometers long (15km classic+15km skate).
  • For stage 7 we’ll drive an hour northwest from Canmore to Lake Louise for a 20 kilometer classic race on Friday, March 11th.
  • The final day of the tour, stage 8, will be a 15 kilometer pursuit start skate race back in Canmore on Saturday, March 12th.

I hope you can make it to one or more of the races! The full World Cup calendar for next year (and all the way through the 2018-19 season) is here.

I’ve been enjoying my first couple days of vacation. Yesterday Emilia and I chilled in Denver. We rode bikes around the park near Emilia’s parents’ house.

DSC04764 (1280x853)

Continue reading

Sun Valley 50k, Photo Shoots and Skiing

It has been an exceptionally busy four days. I apologize for not having posted a blog, but I haven’t had time to even open the computer.

Thursday was the National Championship 50 kilometer race. It was the final race of the Super Tour Finals series in Sun Valley, Idaho. The men’s race began at 9 a.m. and the conditions were rock solid ice. The long gradual uphill on the course was exceptionally difficult to ski. It was so slick that I couldn’t hold an edge when skating. Some athletes chose to double pole much of the uphill because it was less frustrating than slipping every stride.

The pace started relatively fast. Sometimes the pace in domestic mass start races can be excruciatingly slow because nobody wants to lead, but on Thursday athletes like Alaska Pacific University’s (APU’s) Lex Treinen, University of Colorado’s (CU’s) Rune Oedegaard and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s (SSCV’s) Tad Elliott were willing to take turns at the front and keep the pace high. I was not feeling great at times and was worried that I might get dropped from the large group.

Because of the icy fast conditions, the long downhill on the course was exceptionally sketchy, especially on the second lap after everybody had skied over it once. There was a sweeping left corner near the top with snow that made it impossible to hold an edge. We were all sliding towards the edge of the trail, completely out of control and barely keeping from going into the woods. Further down the trail there was a fast corner followed by a tree well that had encroached onto the trail. We had to pick up one ski to avoid falling in. I heard one athlete actually chose a line that went around the tree. There was at least one serious crash; luckily I wasn’t involved.

I began to feel better near the end of the race. The conditions started to soften a touch as the sun reached parts of the course.

With eight kilometers to go, Canadian Ivan Babikov made a move on the iciest part of the uphill. He was very smooth and skiing much better than the rest of us on the ice. He produced a pace that nobody could match. He skied away from us and won the race by 52 seconds.

The rest of us stayed together until the finish. I tried to accelerate the last time up the long hill, but I didn’t have enough left to drop the group. It came down to a sprint finish between four athletes for second place. Sprint finishes have been tough for me, but I produced my best one ever on Thursday. My energy was still very good, and I used that to my advantage on the long gradual uphill. CU’s Oedegaard beat me, but I finished in third place, second in our group, ahead of great skiers like APU’s Erik Bjornsen.

Because I was the first American finisher (Babikov is Canadian and Oedegaard is Norwegian), I won the title of U.S. National Champion. It was my third National Title.

Full men’s results are here.

I am happy with the way I skied in the race on difficult snow. It was not easy conditions for me, and I believe I put together the best race I possibly could. It was a positive way to end a disappointing season.

The women’s National Championship 30 kilometer race started an hour after we finished and they had conditions that were polar opposite from what we experienced. By the time they started the ice had turned to slush and the conditions were exceptionally slow. It was hot. Here his Burke Mountain Academy’s Liz Stephen taking a feed:

DSC04569 (1280x853)

Continue reading

Tough Race

Today was a baffling race for me. The start was delayed by an hour so the firm icy fast snow was just starting to soften as the men started. It was a 15 kilometer individual start classic race. We did three laps of the 5 kilometer loop that was basically up for the first half then down for the second half.

The concerns that I had yesterday about losing all of my wax on the first downhill were for naught because of the softer conditions.

I started at what I thought was a good pace, but Alaska Pacific University’s Reese Hanneman caught me after starting 15 seconds behind me by the top of the hill, less than 2 kilometers into the race. He passed me and I realized that he’d decided to race on skate skis, double poling the whole course. I was impressed. I had heard some guys talk about double poling it because of the fast conditions and gradual terrain, but I thought they all were crazy. Yet here was Reese blowing me out of the water UP the hill on skate skis. I tried to keep up with Reese down the long hill, but he was stronger than me and his skis, without the drag of kick wax, were much faster than mine. He put over ten seconds on me.

When we started the second lap the conditions were much slower than they had been on the first lap, and Reese was starting to suffer without wax. I caught him again and passed him. I also caught a group including Olympian Brian Gregg, who was great in the World Cup last week, so I thought I was skiing pretty well. I felt like I was skiing hard with high energy and moving well. I led the group down the hill then dropped them going up the long hill on the last lap. I finished feeling like I’d had a pretty good race.

However, when the results came out, it turns out I’d had one of my worst races in years. I was in 7th place, two minutes behind winner Erik Bjornsen. Kris Freeman finished right behind me. Kris has been one of the best classic skiers in the world; he’s finished fourth at the World Championships on two different occasions in  15 kilometer classic races. Like me, Kris felt that he’d skied very well. He was as confused about his result as I was about mine.

The guys who finished on the podium skied very well. I owe them a huge congratulations. Erik won by a minute over his teammate Lex Treinen. What’s most impressive to me is that Erik was on classic skis and Lex double poled it on skate skis, so it seems to be a toss-up on which one was preferable.

I am very disappointed about my result, but there’s nothing for me to do but move on from today. If today was truly representative of where my fitness is at, then it’s a good thing the season is almost over and I can revamp everything for next year. I have a lot of time to get in shape before next November.

In the ladies’ race, Erik’s sister Sadie Bjornsen had just as good of a day as her brother. She won by over a minute.

Full results are here.

Before my race I snapped a few pictures. Here is Sadie warming up:

DSC04396 (1280x853)

Continue reading

Sun Valley Life

Yesterday afternoon Chris Woods, an assistant Nordic coach for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, dropped me off at a house that my sister Maggie and her fiancé Nick Blatz are caretaking in Hailey, Idaho, about ten miles from Sun Valley. Generously, the owners of the house, who are vacationing in Hawaii, are letting me and my parents and Emilia and our friend Jess Breda all stay here in addition to Maggie and Nick. It’s a beautiful farmhouse.

DSC04373 (1280x853)

Continue reading

Park City

Several people have asked me what camera I’m using since mine broke a couple of weeks ago. (I haven’t had time to send mine in to warranty.) For a while I was using my phone, but then my teammate Liz Stephen told me she was carrying a camera around Europe that she had gotten from Steve Fuller of Flying Point Road Photography. I think Steve was trying to encourage Liz and all of us to take more pictures to promote ourselves but Liz said she rarely used it, so she passed it off to me to use until I get mine fixed. Amazingly, it happens to be exactly the same camera as my broken one, which I got as a gift last summer.

20150319_075230 (1280x720)

Continue reading