By: Jessie Diggins
Two days ago, I raced my first 15km pursuit ever…at the World Championships! Maybe not the ideal time to experiment with pacing, but it sure was fun while it lasted. It was an interesting day with heavy fog that made it hard on the spectators and racers alike; you couldn’t see the turns on the fast downhills till you hit them! I almost fell face-first a couple of times but managed to stay upright.
The crowds were fantastic; they lined the course and although 95% were totally intoxicated, the noise and enthusiasm really gave me a boost during the race. It’s impossible to give up when people are screaming “HI-YA!” at you! (it means GO! in Nowegian)
I had the best mass start I’ve ever been in, because I was situated #42, on the right outside track. I was able to hop out of the track and double pole up the outside while on the first hill out of the stadium people were going ballistic and tripping in the tracks. I snuck around the corner and caught onto the end of the big pack to be in the top 30. I was so excited because our skis were so fast – we had the perfect mix of good kick up the steep climbs and fast glide on the downhills.
However, I’d done a really poor job of hydrating and fueling up the days prior to my race, which proved to be a painful lesson to learn the hard way. I started to hit the wall at only 6km, and could taste iron in the back of my throat the rest of the race. I shouldn’t have needed a feed in a 15km, but the coaches had three stations ready, just in case. And you know what? I missed all three! So embarrassing. I dropped the first bottle, and the second time around, I managed to grab the bottle….and gave myself a gatorade facewash! So now every coach in the world knows that I had the worst feed in the history of world champs. What a prestigious title! To be fair, I’ve never tried to take a feed in a big race before. But now I’ve got good incentive to practice!
At the end of the day, Marit Bjorgen took the women’s title (surprise, surprise!) but the US women had a great day – Liz led the charge in 24th, Holly came in 25th, I finished 28th and Mo wrapped up our top 45 day in 43rd! Full results are linked HERE.
The next day was the men’s 30km pursuit, and Holly and I had a great time cheering them on. We got to be part of an international cheering squad as we hiked down a steep snowy hill to get right alongside the classic part of the course. It was really cool to see all the people camping in the snowbank; some had even shoveled out benches and settled down for the afternoon!
We hiked back to the stadium in time to see Alex Harvey of Canada pull the most ballsy move I’ve ever seen in a 30km pursuit – he broke the pack with like 6km to go and went off the front on his own! Sadly, his legs cramped up with about 3km to go and the pack sucked him back in. But it was super cool to see him off the front for a lap with a chase pack of 20 guys all scared to death that a U-23 was going to beat them.
The men finished thus: Northug won, with Russians in 2nd and 3rd. Kris Freeman led the US guys in 29th, Noah Hoffman came in 37, Lars Flora finished in 53rd and Tad Elliott came in 55th. Full results are linked here.
Then we had a bit of a transportation snafoo – due to the pedestrians crowding the street and the King of Norway getting back down the hill safely, they totally shut down the roads and we had to sit on a bus for an hour and a half before getting back to the hotel. It was a long day, but still worth it to see such an exciting race!
Today is the women’s 10km classic….and I’m headed out to cheer!