December 23rd, 2012
I have had a busy few weeks. After a disappointing race series in Kuusamo, I flew to Aspen to train with the Hoff for a week before Canmore. My training there centered around two intensity workouts. There was no snow in Aspen so we drove to Vail to do a 45 minute L3 skate on the cat tracks at the base of the alpine area. We were at 8500 ft so I mostly followed, and suffered as Hoff skied in his natural habitat. The next hard session was a planned 6 x 3 minute bounding session. We changed the workout to uphill classic intervals after it snowed a foot overnight. The purpose of the workout was to go hard enough that I would reach failure. I felt good for the first two efforts but then it became clear that I was not recovering in the thin air. After the 4th interval I felt completely blown but started the fifth anyway. I reached failure, mission accomplished.
On Monday, I flew to Canmore with the Hoff to get ready for the 15k classic being held on Thursday. The lead up to the race was uneventful. The race itself turned out to be one of attrition. A big pack stayed together for the first two of four laps. Then skiers started falling off the pace in big numbers. By 13k, I was in 10th place with 3 skiers close behind me. I was loaded with lactate though, and had to switch from a racing mentality to one of survival. I slipped to 14th place by the finish. It was not a great race but not bad either.
The next event for me was the 30k pursuit. The pace was predictably slower, and I skied in the top 20 keeping close watch on the leaders to make sure there were no breakaways. I skied comfortably for the entire classic portion of the race and had a smooth transition to skating. The first lap of four in the skate was quite slow but the second lap sped up and I started to hurt. When I got to the preem on the third lap I was in 12th, and I looked over at the guys around me. They looked worse than I felt. I hadn’t planned on going for preems, but I put in a few hard pushes and crossed the line in 9th to pick up a few points. On the next lap I put in a harder effort and took fifth on the preem. Meanwhile, Hoff was jamming at the front of the pack a few seconds in front of me. On the final lap the pace picked up considerably and the lead pack of 20 splintered. By the final hill the pack was down to 12. I attacked the hill well but my legs were so loaded afterwards that I skied the following downhill corner poorly and got passed by Filbrich. The last few hundred meters were an all out sprint and I not sure exactly what happened except that I out-lunged Decenta for 10th. I was five seconds off the winning time and two seconds off Hoff who had just posted a career best 8th place. It was the first time in my career that two US men had finished in the top ten in a distance race. To make the day even sweeter, Tad posted his first top 30 of the day.
There wasn’t too much time to celebrate, as I had to pack up that night to catch an early shuttle to the airport. I flew to Munich, picked up a passenger van that the team will use for the Tour de Ski and drove myself to Davos. For the past five days I have been staying at the excellent Hotel Kulm and skiing twice a day on perfect snow. There is at least three feet of powder here and I haven’t had to wax warmer than VR45. I head to Oberhof for the Tour on the 27th.