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Archive for February, 2008

Falun Duathlon

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

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February 23, 2008

2008 World Cup
15km Duathlon


The Short Version:

The World Cup tour moves back up to Scandinavia, first stop, Falun, Sweden. This weekend included a 15km duathlon and a 4x5km relay. Since Laura and I are the only two US girls over here, we had to sit out the relay.

The weather was warm, sunny and windy for the race. I had a good start and hung mid pack for most of the classic leg. After the transition however, the hard effort set in and I was unable to find my race gear. I gave up a couple spots before finishing 46th place.

I was frustrated to break my steak of improved distance races, but it was a hard workout and a good learning experience.

Now the fun begins! Wednesday we will race a classic sprint on the royal palace steps in Stockholm. Then Saturday a skate sprint in Lahti, Finland followed by a 10km classic on Sunday.

The Full Story:

After a rather interesting experience in Liberec, the whole team was excited to head up to Scandinavia where we knew the conditions would be good and the accommodations comfortable. We took a short 1.5 hour flight from Prague to Stockholm and then jumped on a tour bus for the 3 hour drive to Falun. We arrived in the dark, but Freeman and I snuck out for a quick 30 minute run to get the blood moving after a long day of sitting!

Falun is having a warm winter, like so many other World Cup venues, but the crew here is very experienced. The skiing has been excellent. The sun has even peaked out a few times and it’s starting to feel like spring time.

Most of the World Cup teams are staying at the Scandic Lugnet which is a nice hotel about a 10 minute walk from the stadium. This is my third time to the Scandic Lugnet and it’s nice to be somewhere familiar and friendly.


A view of the tracks. Photo by Laura Valaas.

Training went smoothly through the week and soon it was time to race. I was looking forward to the mass-start format of the duathlon because I wanted to challenge myself to ski with some girls that are usually a little faster than me. On Friday I tested skis and did a little faster paced work up the big climb called the Mordarbocken (Murder Hill), a three-minute long hill that is it’s steepest at the top and one of the more challenging hills seen on the entire world cup.

Saturday’s race time for the women was 12pm. That meant a relaxing morning. I ate breakfast a little later to keep from feeling hungry on my warm-up. Since the duathlon included both techniques I had to take extra time for ski selection. First I tested my skate skis, choosing a pair that would be good as the snow warmed up and got soft. Next I worked on picking my classic skis. Two pairs were feeling very similar and it was a hard decision. I ended up going on a brand new pair of Carbonlite klister skis.

With my arms full of equipment, I headed through the ski marking tent and down to the start. I placed my skate equipment in the transition box marked with my bib number, double-checking that my poles were the right length! The wind was blowing through the stadium pretty good.

We all lined up in the start lanes with a minute to go. The announcer played a sound effect of a clocking counting down. Then the gun fired and we were off!

The first 100m was free and clear, but as the pack hit the first uphill, everyone ran into the back of each other and the group came to a total standstill for a few seconds. Then it was a mad, running dash to get back into rhythm. The course climbed gradually up and out of the stadium and up another gradual stretch. Every lane was full of skiers and I stuck to the outside left to avoid trouble. The leaders were really charging and the pack strung out faster than usual.

I picked a few skiers that I wanted to stay near and tried to keep close contact. That meant I also got a couple face-fulls of slush! My skis were fast on the down hills and I made up ground each time the course turned downward. The first 5km loop went pretty well. As we came through the stadium, I was skiing in a group of six. While my double-poling was strong, the others were getting more momentum out of their striding and it was hard to keep touch. Some of the skiers started to pull away. The hard pace was setting in and I wasn’t even halfway yet.

Going up the classic portion (halfway) of the Mordarbocken for the second time, my body was feeling pretty tired. I reminded myself that I could soon switch to skating, and perhaps some fresher muscles. I got a good draft coming into the stadium and glided into the transition zone. I took a few skate pushes as I pulled out of the straps on my poles and ran a couple steps into my box. My bindings released easily and I was able to jump onto my skate skis without any problems and head back out on course. At first my poles felt so long, and it took a minute to get my balance.

My legs actually felt pretty good heading up the first hill, but my mental game was hurting. The skiers I had hoped to hang with were already out of sight and I was feeling tired with 7.5km still to go. One racer passed and I didn’t respond. Going up the Mordarbocken for the first skate lap, a couple more skiers came by. Their pace wasn’t that much faster, but I just couldn’t convince myself to stay with them. I was making it up the hill, but I wasn’t getting much momentum out of each stride. My mental tenacity was waning big time!

For the rest of the first skate lap, I was having a battle in my head. One voice was trying to convince me to quit the race: “I’m so far out of it, I’m tired and since I’m a sprinter, why do I need to do these races anyway?”, while the other, more rational voice countered with positive affirmations. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t in any danger, and that quitting was not an option.

Coming through the stadium, I took a quick glance over at the finish stretch before heading down the lap lane. “Wish I was going that way,” I thought. One more lap, one more time up the Mordarbocken.

The effort was really uncomfortable but I tried to convince myself to go a little faster. Focusing on my technique allowed me to escape the pain of the race for a few seconds. The coaches and service men were yelling encouragement from the sidelines and I wanted desperately to be giving them a better performance. I was so frustrated with myself.

As I approached the bottom of the Mordarbocken for the last time, a Swedish girl in a club suit caught up to me. My mental state had been pretty passive for the past several kilometers, but somehow I managed to make a sudden switch. This time I wasn’t going to let another racer ski away. I needed to stick with this girl. When she passed, I matched her pace. It was faster than I had been going, but somehow easier.

The hill was long and tough, but following this girl gave me a renewed energy. When she put on a boost at the top, I matched her speed. We crested the hill and then I tucked in behind her down the other side as we safely navigated some technical turns and caught air going over one of the bridges. Finally, I felt like I was racing again, completely focused on the task at hand. She set a good pace up the final climb.

My skis were running fast and coming back into the stadium, I pulled around the Swedish girl and charged for the finish. I couldn’t tell if she responded to my move, I just focused on getting to that finish line. I sprinted up the final rise and slid across in 46th place.


Cooling down after the race, Swedish fans in background. Photo by Laura Valaas.

Over the next several hours, I had to re-live the race in my head, sorting through the disappointment to find some positive notes to take forward. I was frustrated that I had lost my mental edge during the race and hadn’t been able to squeeze out all my potential for the day. But I also had to remind myself that doing these longer distance races is more about capacity building and experience for me than the result. Some days are going to go well and some days are going to be tough. Today was a tough day. The more races I do, the more I learn, the stronger I get.

I can put this race behind me and look forward to the opportunities coming up. This next week brings great opportunities, back to sprinting!! On Wednesday I will be racing a classic sprint on the steps of the Royal Palace in Stockholm, and then on Saturday I get another shot at a skate sprint (my best event).

More to come!

Kikkan 🙂


Liberec Team Sprint VIDEO

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Hey there!

Quick video from the classic team sprint in Liberec today. No footage of the women’s semi-finals, we were too busy racing. Laura and I just missed advancing to the finals by five tenths of a second.

A little preview of where the 2009 Nordic World Championships will be held next year.

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Race Tails: Otepaa World Cups in the Slush!

Friday, February 15th, 2008


February 10, 2008

2008 World Cup
10km Classic and 1.2km Classic Sprint

(pictures included!)
Cliff Notes:

I’m back in Europe for the third period of 2008 World Cup season. Conditions are quite different here in Otepaa than the winter wonderland we experienced in Canmore. The tons of snow and clear skies have been replaced by grass, ice, rain and misty clouds. While it hasn’t been the most ideal conditions for racing, the World Cup goes on, and two races were contested this weekend.

The first race was an individual start 10km classic, 2 laps of a 5km loop. I started bib #11. Over the first of two laps, I worked my way into a solid rhythm, pushing through the slush and dirt spots. A large crowd had gathered on one of the toughest uphills and was cheering “hup, hup, hup,” to every stride. On the 2nd lap I was able to hold a steady pace and pull back some spots. I finished the race in 42nd place. It was a solid day.

Race #2 was a classic sprint. Conditions continued to get even warmer causing the course to slowly disintegrate. Rain was coming down and a stiff headwind was blowing down the finishing stretch. I started midway through the Red group and gave the course my best effort. The last 200m into the wind was very challenging, especially coupled with the patches of standing water. I crossed the line for 22nd position and a ticket onto the heats. In the quarterfinals I held fourth position through most of the race and just got out double-poled in the last 100m to finish fifth. That gave me a 25th place overall for the day.


A day off in Otepaa

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

We arrived in Otepaa, Estonia last Friday and spent our first few days training and getting acquainted with the courses. After a few good interval sessions and distance workouts, Laura and I are taking a day off. Not wanting to spend the whole day on the internet, we headed out for a walk to see what we could discover in Otepaa…


Laura checking the map in the town center.