Kikkan Randall Blog Banner

The Kikk Notes:
The 2011-2012 season is underway and has started off with a bang!  We’re now two weekends into the World Cup season and I’ve been skiing to some of my best ever results. In the opening weekend in Sjusjoen, Norway I skied to 8th place in the individual start 10km skate race, which was my best ever WC distance result.  I followed up the next day with the 2nd fastest split on the 2nd leg in the women’s 4x5km relay, where our team skied to a US women’s world cup best finish in 9th place. This past weekend I competed in the 2nd addition of the Ruka Triple mini-tour.  The tour started off strong for me with a fourth place in the classic sprint, my first time ever in a world cup classic sprint final.  In the 5km individual skate I skied to 12th place and went into the final day ranked fifth.  I fought hard in final day’s 10km classic handicap start, loosing just one spot to finish sixth overall. Last year I was ecstatic to finish in the top 20, so this year was a real breakthrough! It’s been an awesome start for the US team as several of my teammates have posted personal best finishes as well.  Now we have moved down to Central Europe and  head into three consecutive weekends of skate sprints.  Next stop will be in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday. My season race schedule is attached and make sure to check out the pictures below!

The Full Report:
Greetings everyone!  A new season has begun.  I have to admit I’ve been a little bit behind in getting my Race Tails out.  I had my story from last weekend’s opening World Cup races in Sjusjoen in progress when I got consumed with getting ready for the Ruka Triple mini-tour this past weekend in Kuusamo, Finland.  So this is going to be a compilation of both weekends. Opening Weekend in SjusjoenMy season has been off to a great start so far.  Although I arrived in Europe a week later than originally scheduled (due to the lack of snow in Norway), I had a great opening World Cup weekend in Sjusjoen.  In the 10km skate individual start, I tested out a new pacing strategy by going out more aggressively on the first of three laps and notched my best ever World Cup distance result with 8th place.

On the way to 8th place in Sjusjoen. Photo courtesy of Kjell Erik Kristiansen.

The following day I skied the second classic leg for our US women’s 4x5km relay team.  Despite some bad luck on our opening leg, I was able to make up some ground and bring us back into contact with the pack.  Liz and Holly skied super strong 3rd and 4th legs and we finished in 9th place, our best ever women’s relay finish.  A successful first weekend.The following day I skied the second classic leg for our US women’s 4x5km relay team.  Despite some bad luck on our opening leg, I was able to make up some ground and bring us back into contact with the pack.  Liz and Holly skied super strong 3rd and 4th legs and we finished in 9th place, our best ever women’s relay finish.  A successful first weekend.

Skiing the 2nd leg of the relay. Photo courtesy of flyingpointroad.com.

The US Women's Team

Next we traveled over to Finland for the Ruka Triple mini-tour.  Finland was also having a drought of snow, but the organizers were able to put together a 5km loop of man-made snow for the competitions.  The weather was pretty gnarly over the three days with constantly changing temperatures, rain and snow, warm winds and everything coated in ice.

Ruka Triple – Classic Sprint

In the opening race on Friday, a classic sprint, I was determined to overturn the “Kuusamo Classic Curse,” as in my previous three classic qualifiers in Kuusamo I had failed to qualify for the rounds.  Starting bib #1 in the qualifying round, I laid down a solid time and advanced to the heats as the fifteenth fastest.  I drew a pretty tough quarterfinal with Bjoergen, Kowalczyk and Saarinen.  I was sitting in fourth coming into the big climb, but was able to pass Saarinen over the top to move into third.  I pushed super hard coming out of the final turn and had a serious drag race with Kowalczyk.  I was just able to hold her off for 2nd, advancing to the semis. In the semis I was also in the middle of the pack coming into the climb but was able to move into third coming over the top.  I accelerated hard out of the final turn  and passed Skofterud on the final stretch to advance to the finals.  It started snowing just as we finished the semis. In the final, I had a poor start and lost some ground on the pack on the downhill and through the woods.  Coming into the big climb, Bjoergen and Kalla got away, but I was able to bridge back up to Skofterud and Kylloenen over the top of the hill.  I accelerated hard out of the final turn once more, but this time had a confused couple of moments when I saw Skofterud striding.  I tried a couple of strides but lost my momentum.  I couldn’t quite get back up to Skofterud and crossed the line in fourth.  Although it was hard to have just missed the podium, 4th place was an incredible breakthrough for me in a classic sprint and I was very satisfied with the day.  I was mostly happy to have felt strong with good skis.

Ruka Triple – 5km Skate

The next day we turned right around with a 5km skate individual start.  We started in reverse order of the sprint results, so I got to start fourth from last with Charlotte Kalla hot on my tails.  I pushed hard from the gate and had a solid first half of the race.  My legs were definitely a little heavy from the sprint but I was able to put up a good fight.  There was a wicked headwind on several parts of the course and even though it felt slow, you just had to keep pushing.  Liz (who had finished a good 30 min before I started) was cheering like crazy on the 2nd to last climb and I was digging hard to keep my tempo up.  I think I gave up a few seconds over the last 2km as my legs got stiff, but I made it to the line without getting caught by Kalla and posted the 12th fastest time.  I was a little disappointed to be just outside the top ten.  Yet, I know I laid down the best effort I had out there  and that is always my #1 goal.  Two down, one to go.

Ruka Triple – 10km Classic Handicap Start

After a day of raging warm winds and rain, we awoke to a couple centimeters of new snow and a brisk morning temp.  It felt like winter again.  This was good since the final race would be a classic competition and the new conditions made for easier waxing.  I was a little more nervous than usual this morning.  The start order would be based on the combined times from the sprint and the 5km, putting me in 5th place.  I was sandwiched between Johaug, starting 9 seconds ahead and Kowalczyk, starting 14 seconds behind me.  I was excited to be in such a position but also anxious as I knew there would be several fast skiers coming after me from behind.  I just hoped to have a good body and good skis.

We would be skiing four laps of a 2.5km course that included two major climbs, so I knew having good kick was going to be important.  I took extra care to make sure my skis had solid kick and free glide, which meant several up tempo trips up the climbs.  I decided to race on a new pair of skis and headed to the start plenty warm and sweaty.  After so many years of being just a face in the crowd, it was pretty cool to step up to the line as bib #5.

I took off hard and tried to set an aggressive pace from the start.  About 1.5km in, Kowalczyk caught up to me.  I drafted behind her on the fast downhill and tried to follow her for as long as possible.  We seemed to be climbing at the same speed but she was stronger on the flats.  She gradually pulled away and I went back to focusing on my own race.  As I crested each climb, I counted down until the finish.  Each time I came through the lap in the stadium, I could get a quick glance of the pack that was chasing me.  I held them at bay for the first three laps, but going into the final lap, I could tell they were starting to close.

In the last lap, fatigue was really setting in and I had to fight to keep my tempo up.  Kowalczyk was tiring ahead but I couldn’t close the gap.  Coming into the last climb, I got a split that Saarinen had closed to within 10 seconds.  My skis slipped towards the top and I had to herringbone a few strides. Spit hanging from my mouth, I dug with everything I had left for the final 200m.  It wasn’t pretty but I managed to make it to the line just ahead of Saarinen and held onto 6th place.  I ended up with the 16th fastest time on the day.

Hanging with my Fast and Female friends - Anna Haag and Charlotte Kalla post mini-tour

What a difference a year can make!  Last year I was super psyched to finish in the top 20 in the Ruka Triple and now this year taking sixth was a real breakthrough for me.  On top of that, my teammates skied super strong as well.  Holly had a couple incredible races and Liz, Ida and Sadie all skied really strong.  We’ve got some incredible momentum going and it’s so fun to be a part of it!!

We’ve now migrated down to Central Europe to my favorite European destination, Davos, Switzerland.  Unfortunately Davos has been experiencing an unseasonably warm early winter as well and the only skiing to be had is a 2km loop of man-made snow.  However, the sun and the coffee and good friends is making up for the lack of snow and we’ve still got 10 days until the World Cup happens here.  I have a few days of easy training to recover from the mini-tour and then we’ll head on to Dusseldorf for the first skate sprint of the season on Saturday.

We can really feel all the support and encouragement coming from home, so thank you for all the notes and well wishes.  We will continue to work hard to keep making good news!!

For those interested in watching the World Cup races live, there is a website calledfromsport.com (also sportlemontv.com) that streams the races while they are playing on tv in Europe, often with the Brittish Eurosport commentary.  The catch is you may have to wake up pretty early, but you can see the races which is pretty cool.  Attached is also my race schedule for the rest of the winter so you can follow along.

I’m posting daily updates of my training on my SkiTrax Daily training rap which can be viewed here:  Kikkan’s Daily Training Rap

And you can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter.

arthritis

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.