Wild Rumpus Sports

30 km

I had an awesome race in the 30 km classic at U.S. Nationals. It was a snowy day, and waxing was a bit tricky, but I went with a fairly stiff pair of skis and Swix VR 45 and had awesome kick and glide (actually, the skis were a little slick of Elliot’s, but on 90% of the course my skis were dominant). I went out relaxed, avoided changing lanes as I skied in a huge pack, and generally tried to ski steady and not do any work to get by people. On the big climb, I held level three, and was just putting one foot in front of the other, not rushing things at all.

At the start of lap three I asked someone what place I was in. “Eighth” was the response. I had the breath to say to him “You have got to be $#!%-ing me!” But it was true, and I picked up the effort a bit, moved to the front of the group, and spent the last lap in a battle for 5th, 6th, and 7th. With a couple kilometers to go I bumped the effort. This was enough to shake Tad Elliot, who ended 7th. But I couldn’t get rid of Brian Gregg. I knew that I would lose in a sprint against him, so there was no point in letting him lead and slow things down. I also could not shake him. So I led him into one side of the stadium, and then he took off with a few hundred meters to go and buried me.

Even losing a (somewhat) close finish, I had a great result. And it is worth asking why. As I noted, I had great skis–but frankly, the waxing wasn’t that hard, so that shouldn’t have been a huge factor. I also had nothing to gain by going out hard, and so I could conserve energy. And while I have no reason to be fit–I am on course for about 420 hours this year, half of what a real skier trains–I have pretty solid classic technique.

In the end, though, a major factor in my success was the lack of depth in the field at U.S. Nationals. It might not be nice to say that (and it opens me to critics looking back at where I finished in some 30 km races when I was supposedly fit) but it is true. I was skiing well, but I was not skiing fast. The U.S. currently has only two skiers ranked in the top 190 in the world in distance. As a fan of this sport in our country, it was exciting to see James ski to a big win, and to see breakout races by Tad Elliot, Dave Norris, and Bryan Cook. I hope to see them and other skiers step it up over the next couple of years. Because the fact is, they need to. I was lucky to make it to the Olympics four years ago, and today, we have only two skiers in the country who are ranked as well or better than I was then.

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