Livigno, Italy is a small town in the Italian Alps situated at 6000 feet and was the host of the first weekend of Period 3 World Cup racing. I had start rights for both the skate sprint and skate team sprint this past weekend.
The course was straightforward and relatively flat. Climbing gradually out of the start the course hooked a sweeping 180 degree left hand turn to begin a gradual descent back down to the low point of the course. Over a small roller and through a sweeping chicane, the descent was only interrupted by a quick punchy climb over the snowmaking hill. By pushing over the top and tucking down the back side of the hill you entered the final turn. After which, the course straightened out and left you looking at a 500m straight gradual climb to the finish. This is when things at 6000 feet got hard. As the course climbed back to the finish things only got more challenging as the lungs and legs started to burn right before the course kicked up into a steeper pitch with 100m to go. All things considered, I really liked the course. It was less about transitions and more about maintaining high speed (something I am good at).
On the morning of the sprint, I warmed up and felt ready. I entered the start pen knowing that I could have a good day. As I left the gate, the body felt smooth and powerful around the first turn, down the descent, over the snowmaking hill, and entering the gradual climb to the finish. With about 250 meters to go, I started turning the screws and adding some extra tempo to my pace. It felt good to put the hammer down and dig deep. Unfortunately, with about 100 meters to go, my legs flooded and I began to bog down. When I finally crossed the line, I looked up at the board and saw my name with a number in the 30’s next to it. Again, missing qualification for the heats by only half a second.
The following day was a team sprint which involved running another qualifier in the morning in hopes of having one of 15 fastest combined times with a partner to qualify for the final. It was another opportunity to fix mistakes and make adjustments to the same qualifier that I had done the day before. That time around, my plan was to start hard but refrain from kicking too early like I had the day before. I executed my strategy well and felt like I had skied the course better than I had the day before. Unfortunately, I could tell the body was tired and didn’t have the same energy that it did the day before. It showed when my time was slower.
Looking back, I think that if I had paced the first day like I had the second, I would have qualified for the heats the day before.
Both were races that I was excited to be a part of. After missing out again in qualification by only half a second, there are a few things that I am taking away from the weekend that I will apply to my future races.
I have spent most of the season focused on results and how well I have stacked up against other skiers of my ability level. Rather than focusing on the feeling I have had during the race, I focused on the numbers and results. In a lot of ways, on paper, my season is on par with what it was last year. I have had similar results in the top 40 on the World Cup and an American podium at US Nationals, but nothing more. It’s hard not to feel like I haven’t gotten better than I was last year. With so much time on the road and living out of a suitcase, it takes a toll on the body and mind. I admittedly have felt a bit worn down recently; and for good reason.
So, going forward, after talking with my coach, I have a few things to work on and think about. I need to let go of the results and stop comparing myself to other racers in the field. If I can focus more on how the body feels, I should be able to notice day to day improvements. Once I do, I should be able to get a little more out of the body and qualify. So, for the rest of Period 3, my goal is to let go, have fun, enjoy the little things, and focus only on what I can control.
When here on the World Cup as a sprinter, with heats being the only opportunity to race more than a few minutes, it is easy to associate missing them with failure. And when it keeps happening, it only gets worse. The good news is that I am ready to focus my energy elsewhere. People keep telling me that I am “so close” and that “it’s going to happen.” As of late, I’m not sure I have totally believed them. But I’m ready to change that. I will keep trying my hardest, and try to only focus my energy on things that I can control. Once I do, I think it will turn around for the better!
I have been blown away by the support I have had this past season. I have everything I need and am thankful for such a strong support crew. I appreciate everyone that has gotten me to where I am today. Now, onto Les Rousses, France for a Classic sprint on Saturday!