It’s a quarter to one in the morning, and I’m sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting to board a flight to Phoenix and on to Salt Lake City. I haven’t been in the western U.S. since November 10th. I’m really looking forward to it!
Of course, I won’t be there long, about 18 hours to be exact. On Sunday morning I’m going to the Yucatán Peninsula for a week with my girlfriend. I cannot wait to relax on the beach, not think about skiing and not touch a computer. (Therefore I won’t be blogging.)
Believe it or not but my itinerary then takes me from Cancún to a two hour layover in Newark, New Jersey and then on to Oslo, Norway. From Oslo I will drive to Beitostølen, Norway to participate in the Madshus product development meetings. I’m excited to learn more about Madshus products, see where the company is headed and deepen my relationship with my main equipment sponsor. I’ll try to blog as much as possible from Norway although I’m guessing I won’t be able to post pictures of many of the new products.
After only four days in Norway I’ll fly back to Boston, Massachusetts where I will spend a packed week with my title sponsor Thoughtforms Builders and the awesome people behind the company. I will definitely be blogging from Boston.
Finally, on Easter weekend, I’m stopping in Cleveland for a quick trip to see my friends, Carly Debenham and Alex Moore and their three beautiful children.
On Easter evening I’ll return to Park City to stay put for as long as I possibly can. It’s going to be a very busy month, but I’m fitting a lot in and am excited about each adventure.
Today was the National Championship 50k. The race played out quite differently from what I expected. I was not confident in my form or fitness, so my plan was to be conservative. I didn’t think anybody else would want to go hard in the first couple laps either, so I guessed the pace would be very slow. However, I was wrong. My U.S. Ski Team teammate Erik Bjornsen decided to go out hard from the gun. He led the first two laps, almost entirely. He said after the race that he was trying to ski away from the field early.
At the top of the big hill of the course on the second (of five) laps, everybody started sprinting. I had no idea what was going on. I figured somebody must be attacking and the other guys were just responding. I found out later that there was an intermediate sprint point with a cash bonus to the first skier across the line. I don’t know how everybody heard about that, but I missed the memo.
That sprint shattered the field. I felt better than I feared I might and was able to stay with the leaders, Reese Hanneman and Aku Nikander (a Finnish skier racing for the University of New Mexico whom I’d never heard of before today). They were stretching me on the flat sections, but I was strong on the climbs. I decided it was a good idea for me to help us stay away, so I led up the big climb on the third lap. My pace dropped Reese, and Aku and I never saw him again.
So, from about 25 kilometers to go it was just the two of us. I led for a while, to keep us free of Reese and to try to drop Aku. After several kilometers it became clear that Aku wasn’t going anywhere, so we started to work together. He was still stretching me on the flats, and I felt strong on the uphills until he dropped me up the hill on the last lap. I was surprised that he was so strong. I was able to catch him again at the top of the hill, but I could not drop him in the remaining kilometers before the finish. Because he had been so much stronger than me double poling all race, I didn’t like my chances when it came down to a drag race sprint finish. My fears were proven correct as he crushed me before we were even close to the finish line.
Because Aku is Finnish, I still won the U.S. National Champion title. I am very impressed with Aku and will be following his career as he competes on the college circuit and hopefully internationally sometime soon. It’s hard for me to be very disappointed with my race because I have felt out of shape all week and feared it might be much worse. It was certainly not the level I skied when I was at my best this season, but I have known for a while that I am ready for a break. Good thing I get one now!
I have a ton of pictures from today, but I don’t have time to post them as my flight is starting to board. Sorry! If I find any unexpected free time in the next couple days I’ll put them up. As I said, I won’t be blogging next week.