by Adam (Auburn Ski Club, Truckee/Tahoe CA – 3.9.15)
The slushy sunny sixty degree sprints
The 1km course was so short it was worrying. It started by going down a field, then into the woods down a hill. At the bottom of the hill was the course’s only corner, a 180 that preceded a climb. After the climb was a small downhill and then another climb back into the stadium followed by a straight sprint to the finish. In the morning the snow was hard and icy, and only on the uphills was it at all mushy despite 40 degree temperatures. After a too long warmup, I started 15 seconds behind Adam Witkowski (I saw a lot of this guy today). I felt good out of the start trying to make my technique flow and be snappy. I free skated the downhill, then pulled a little too wide on the slick corner. On the uphill, I didn’t feel great, probably because I was using power without finesse. I was feeling pretty terrible by the time I reached the top of the second uphill, but was able to pull together a strong finishing sprint and managed to qualify in 25th in 2:04.34, 1.34 seconds away from the last spot in the heats. With the start of the U16 heats hours away, we returned to the hotel for lunch and rest.
By the afternoon, the temperature had risen to 60 degrees and the once icy snow was now deep slow slush. Due to the extremely high temperatures, we were allowed to race with only a bib which I decided to do as well as racing without gloves. Walker and I were in the same quarterfinal and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to beat him in a sprint. After a revised 30 minute warm up, I headed down and picked up my skis. The tracks were super slushy and slow on the skis I used for warm up, so I was a bit nervous that my skis wouldn’t be super fast. I picked up my warm skate skis, which I haven’t ever raced on ever (cold cold New England) and after putting them on in the start pen, was amazed by how insanely fast they are (❤ wax techs). I was sweating before we even started moving in the sixty degree heat as the starter raised the gun. The gun went off and I sunk into a quick double pole. I started skating in third, then having to quickly move to the side to avoid a minor collision that resulted in a broken pole for an intermountain skier. We started the downhill with me still in third, but thanks to our superior glide Walker and I moved into first and second. I free skated the downhill pulling ahead of Walker in the corner, and led into the climb. Because the sprint was so short, there was no room to go easy, so I tried to go even faster over the second half of the hill. I thought about dancing lightly on my feet like a grasshopper 🙂 and having quick arms on the recovery in order to up my tempo. I pushed V1 over the top of the hill continuing to accelerate before getting a few seconds of rest on the downhill. I hammered up the second hill and extended my lead over the rest of the field. As I approached the line I slowed down to conserve energy since I had clearly won the quarterfinal. I handed my race skis back to the wax techs and started to ski super easy to stay loose in the half hour before my semifinal.
My semifinal was relatively stacked with many fast skiers including Zack Williams and Adam Witkowski. Out of the start, I wasn’t aggressive enough and was pushed into 5th. On the downhill I free skated and moved up to 4th and chased Adam Witkowski up the hill. I was unable to pass him on the second hill or in the final sprint, so I ended up lunging across the line in fourth, in what would turn out to be a second from the lucky loser spot in the A final. Unfortunately Adam Witkowski and I failed to advance to the A final by a tiny bit, but we were ready to rip in the B final. The awesome wax techs applied some secret new Fluorocarbon to our skis, and after ten minutes of rest Adam and I headed to our final.
There were 2 New England skiers (Adam and I) as well as 3 Alaska skiers and one Intermountain skier. At the end of the double pole lane, Witkowski was leading and I was close behind. We had dropped the Alaska skiers and the Intermountain skier was barely hanging on. On the downhill The New England skis flew, increasing our lead. I free skated to gain speed, then pulled ahead of Witkowski on the inside edge of the corner. I knew that beating him in the last 100 meters would be hard without a lead, so I went for it on the hill. He fell back and I pushed over the top and into the downhill. I hammered up the second hill with quick arms and powerful yet quick strides. By the top of the hill I had a 3 second lead and the finish in sight, but felt exhausted. Both my arms and legs were burning with lactic acid and I felt like I was slogging through slush. The finish was so close but I could see Witkowski quickly catching up in my peripheral vision. I tried to push harder, ignoring the pain, and slowing the rate at which he was catching me. I crossed the finish line, devoid of energy, and in the lead of the B final heat for a close battle between seventh and eighth for 2 New England skiers. I kept gliding too tired even to stand and collapsed sideways into the soaking wet snow.
For me to finish All American at Junior Nationals is pretty crazy, but for me to do so in a sprint at altitude and be the fastest New England skier is ludicrous. I don’t think this race was a result of luck, but rather all the things I’ve been working on coming. I’ve always been a power skier, and in order to win my quarterfinal and B final, I needed to be light and fast in the slushy snow and use finesse as well as power. After I lost a 4 way skate sprint to Adam Witkowski, Walker Bean, and Russell Boswell, Chelsea Little told me to do speeds frequently and that would help me do better in sprinting. It worked! Thanks Chelsea and all my coaches and teammates (and New England Wax techs) for helping me make this happen.
A note about the blue hair: Sunday night after a delicious dinner, my roommate Marcus Wentworth (from Gould Academy) and I were watching Petter Northug winning sprints for inspiration/motivation when we heard our names being shouted in the hallway and knocking at our door. We hurried to the door to find Walker (GMVS) and Russell (SMS) outside, with blue hair. Russell and Walker had decided to temporarily dye their hair blue and had decided that it should be a full team thing. After much peer pressure and several failed escape attempts, I reluctantly agreed. After a day of racing with our beautiful blue hair, we all took showers (so we wouldn’t stink) which returned our hair to normal. Wacky hair may return though for the relay!