Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lahti, Norway & the home stretch

 Oh World Cup… you can be so gratifying but more often that not, you are a heart-breaker.  It’s true.  Consider me and yesterday (Lahti Sprint).  Little mistakes cost big time and before I knew it, I found myself in an embarrassing 65th place.  I’ll repeat that – 65th place!  Something happened to my skis between when I tested them and when I clipped in to race.  I felt like Bill Koch skiing on the sandy beaches of Hawaii – only without the Koch or Hawaii parts; just sand.  I have some theories about what happened but I'll spare you the details.... Point is, here, on the World Cup, the margins are so small.  To “make a good race” (Euro skier terminology) everything has to line up.  You need a “good body,” nearly perfect skis…. And it doesn’t stand a chance of being really good unless it’s your best technique, ideal racing format (mass start versus interval) fitting terrain & perfect snow type.  Yes, it is just that touchy, that specific, that important. 

One of the food for purchase at the Lahti races were these pan-fried mackerels.... Not too appetizing to me but they were everywhere

When I was racing domestically it’s funny – I didn’t really know what I was truly good at or what types of races suited me more than others.  In the US if you’re fast, you’re most likely fast at everything and vise versa.  I can think specifically back to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver…. It was the day before the classic sprint. The course and the snow was a goopey red klister mess.  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I’ve grown to love skiing goopey wet klister.  The best was using straight orange and racing in the rain in Leavenworth Washington for a bushel of apples. 

The day before the race I felt good, I was comfortable.  The snow type and conditions fit me.  In fact, I distinctly remember a 10-second burst of speed on the first left hand turn of the course where I felt amazing, unstoppable.  It was a kind of speed and quickness that I had never felt before.  I thought optimistically, “tomorrow could be good!” 

With Caitlin Compton/Gregg wearing rain ponchos and plastic surgical gloves it was so wet out.... 

I think it got cold overnight and there were undoubtedly numerous complaints about the state of the course.  The next morning when I arrived at the Olympic venue the conditions were 180 degrees different.  The groomers had salted the S*** out of the course and consequently, I found the hardest ice-rail tracks I’ve ever seen or put a ski in in my entire life. Think concrete hard, if you fall you will shatter your bones.  Needless to say, I was out of luck and although I did my best, the end result didn't reflect that.  The conditions weren't ideal for me. 

While my personal racing was lack-luster perhaps the highlight of Lahti was getting to go to Aino Kaisa Saarinen's house - twice.  I guess what goes around comes around because we had her, as our guest in Alaska this past summer to train in Anchorage and up on Eagle Glacier.  It's always fabulous visiting a "real home" while on the World Cup (yes, it really is that much of a novelty when you live out of a suitcase and eat from the "World Cup troff", aka a buffet for five months).  We ate homemade food compliments of her mother, checked out her new house (which was gorgeous) and after the race, tried out her sauna(s) which is a Finnish staple.  (Sorry... no sauna pictures!!!!)

 I can't remember what these are called but it's rice pudding inside of a rye-bread like shell.  They are absolutely amazing! 

Aikku has her own personal gym in the basement of her new house. On the wall are pictures of her racing & podium shots - as well as pictures of her husband Tom who was a professional basketball player in Finland. One day I would LOVE to have my own gym too! 

 Ida and Sadie leaning up against the tulikivi, a traditional Finnish stove that holds and emanates heat for a long time... 

 Aikku's parents spent half of the year, every year picking lingonberries.  Her mother made this beautiful tart for us! 

Group shot! Left to right - Me, Rosie, Kikkan, Jessie, Sophie, Sadie, Liz, Aikku & Ida 

After Sunday's distance race we had visit number 2.  Here we are again eating lunch at Aikku's table.  Funny enough, the three most decorated skiers at the table hadn't even changed out of their race suits or race bibs!  (In the middle is Charlotte Kalla of Sweden who joined us) 

For visit number 2 Aikku's mother made us a "bread cake." 

As I write this we are in Drammen, Norway for today's classic city sprint.  The sun is shining and it promises to be a fun, action packed day. There are allegedly 22 Norwegian girls on the start list today so the competition is going to be really, really tough. That said, I'll go out and do my best and who knows what could happen.  More soon! Thanks for checking in.... 

Holly ;) 

PS.  A big shout out to all the athletes at JOs in Fairbanks!  Go Team Alaska!!!!!!