I started in the third row back in a slushy track right before the first gradual downhill. The gun went off and I immediately started striding before moving through a literal puddle in the tracks. My shins and thighs were splashed with water, but my skis didn’t stop going. The trail immediately started going downhill, and as I pulled to the right to pass, my fast skis forced me into the leading group. Russell came through on my right into the lead spastically before settling into a good position. On the first climb, it felt like I was in a snowball fight with very damp snow. Whenever anyone kicked, I was pelted with globs of heavy, wet, corn snow. The snow was refreshingly cool on my bare arms and bare lower shins (where I had rolled up my tights), but was less appreciated when some was launched into my mouth. It tasted badly of dirt, pine sap, and klister.
I tried to stick with the lead pack, but was having trouble getting enough air to continue fueling my muscles. I was able to maintain my position and focus on being as relaxed as possible, but not improve it. I held my position through the stadium, before my fast skis let me move up again on the downhill at the start of the second lap. I didn’t feel like I was going that fast, but I was suffering from the exertion required to maintain the pace at altitude. The bright sun had turned what tracks their were to mush, so the only way to scale many of the climbs was to run. Ben Ogden managed to pass me on the climb and with my legs and arms burning from the running I struggled over the top. I settled in behind Ben and the rest of the pack but was determined not to let them get away. On the next long straight section Ben passed two skiers and I followed him. We took a sharp left corner and I slingshotted around behind Ben and drafted him on the downhill. On the final uphill of the course I exploded into a light and quick run, passing him, and getting a lead big enough to prevent him from drafting. I had a huge gap between the next skier and I, which I was unfortunately not able to make up by the finish. Racing at altitude hurts! Despite the altitude and thanks to our fast skis and technique, we were able to place 4 racers in the top 9. Go New England!