After an incredible morning of racing, we had more athletes make the heats than I can ever remember. Lucy represented Ford Sayre in the U16 heats while Perrin, Greta, Johanna, and I (Kennedy) qualified to compete in the open heats. For the boys, John was the only one to qualify for the heats, but the rest were not far behind him in the qualifier. Because there wasn’t enough time between our qualifier races and the heats to go back to our house and rest, most of us tried to find a warm spot to sit down and conserve energy. For me, this meant squeezing onto the couch closest to the fireplace in the downstairs nordic center. However, the time, as it always does on race day, seemed to fly by, so after about an hour of resting, it was time for me and the other U18 girls to head outside and commence our second warm ups. I finally left my cozy seat about an hour before my start and wandered upstairs to the barn in search of my warm up clothes and new bib number. Unfortunately, the bibs and start list were not ready yet, so we had to go start our warmup without knowing which heat we were in and what our specific start time was. This was not a problem because when I approached the table mid-warm up, I was able to efficiently collect my bib and head back over towards the start.
For warmup, I started by testing my race skis, which is especially important on a classic day because having your kick tailored to your goals for the race is extremely helpful. I was looking to have enough wax on my skis to kick up the hills, while I also have teammates who wanted very little kick and planned to double pole most of the course. After skiing the course once on my race skis, which had amazing kick and glide, I exchanged them for my training skis so that the topcoats and wax would not wear off before my race. After some L3 and some shorter speeds, I skied back to the team area to drop some of my warmups and collect my race skis. I ran with my skis over towards the start, fitting in a few last minute speeds. Once we chose lanes and lined up, it was only seconds before we put our toes to the line and the starter yelled “GO.”
The race started with a frantic double pole zone with athletes competing to be the first around the first corner. After that, Johanna and I cruised along outside of the tracks, where the snow was faster, watching ourselves easily gain on our other competitors. The first hill commenced with a short steep section and proceeded to become long and gradual. Stepping into the tracks where it was easier to kick, I tried desperately to maintain contact with Anna Lehmann, the winner of the qualifier from the morning. Once we reached the top of the hill and passed through the striding zone, we turned a sharp corner and plummeted down back towards the stadium. The large final hill became the only thing between us and the finish. I saw the two SMS girls in front of me and I felt like I was slowly gaining on the second one, but the finish line was too close for me to catch her. After crossing the finish line and bending over in pain, I looked back and watched Johanna lunging to a photo finish with a competitor from CSU.
Johanna and I took off our bibs at the finish and then stumbled back towards the start. We were just in time to watch the next heat go off and we proceeded to walk over in search of our coaches. Because of my third place finish in the heat, I was unsure how my time would compare to the other heats and whether or not I would be a contender for the lucky loser position (two fastest times of those who were not the top two in their heat). I was not a lucky loser, so after a short warm down, I meandered into the barn to change my layers and put on warm clothes.
After the boys heats, most of the team started to pack up and pack into the vans at the venue. We were all extremely sad not to be able to cheer for Lucy, but going back to the house made sense so we could start dinner, shower, and rest.
On the van ride back to the house, loud music blasted from the van speakers while we all recounted our various racing experiences from the day. Upon arrival, the vans were unpacked and we started taking turns in the showers. There were snacks out in the kitchen and Emily, Eloise, and Catherine showed off their amazingly choreographed dance to the song, Havana. The afternoon was mostly spent lazily eating snacks in the kitchen and hanging out until the boys arrived from their house and the coaches arrived home with Lucy. After a yummy dinner of pasta and salad, the team gathered in the living room to wait for team meeting and the brownies. A group of us played Wise and Otherwise, a game very similar to pictionary, but where the players must finish the proverb and then vote on the option in which they think is the correct answer. The coaches kindly rearranged the skis to put the U16 skis in the early morning car so that Evan could test/apply top coats before the late departing van with the ski bags arrived at the venue.
The team meeting, as always, started with personal reflections from the day by going around the circle and explaining one thing each athlete would like to improve on and some things that went well for them. After the coaches outlined the plans, coach roles, start times, etc… for the following day, the boys left in their van and we slowly started making our way to bed.
(All slideshow photos below courtesy of Dave Priganc, a Mansfield parent – more can be seen on his Flickr stream)