Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Engadin Sun & Red Bib

This past weekend was my third trip to the Engadin ski marathon and the beautiful valley it runs through..... 

My first morning in the Engadin Valley didn't disappoint! 

 The annual St. Moritz night sprint.  The "prologue" is a short 650 meters and the "race" which for girls consists of semi-finals and finals isn't much longer. It's a small windy track and it's almost impossible to pass. Therefore, fast starts are a must. I was third out of the tracks and third overall. Happy to be on the podium with some quick girls, Lucia (Germany) & Tatijana (Switzerland) 

 Looks staged but it isn't! 

Ski with Team Gregg

 Valley "Roseg" with Kent, Inge & Tony

 Inge & Kent

Dinner with the Gregg clan and stories from Falun 

Congrats to Caitlin on a historic bronze medal in the 10k - fun to see and hear about it in person!

Also fun to run into my APU teammates Tyler and David who did the race as well! 

 And my Swedish (former) World Cup friend Lisa Larson who is taking the year off and working as a ski tech at a ski shop in Pontresina! 

Making schnitzel in a small Swiss kitchen :) 

There are certainly people in the ski industry that like to have a good time! (Schnapps dispenser in an unspecified location!) 
Thanks to Salomon for the race support - ski testing, race wax and (attempted) feeds. I say attempted because the race was too fast and too hectic to get them! 

Stefan helping me test! 

 The night before... 

 Six girls on the podium (left to right) Anouk, me, Ritta Liisa, Caitlin, Aurelie & Antonella. Or, France, USA, Finland, USA, France, Italy.... 

Not the race I was looking for but JUST ENOUGH to get the red bib back! Now I lead by a tiny 4 points...... everything will come down to the FIS Marathon Cup Final in SIBERIA of all places, April 11th. (Chad Gregg, photo) 
This year I really felt the altitude (nearly 6,000 feet) when we hit the hills. Having come directly from Poland I had 5-6 days in Switzerland before racing which is NOT the altitude window that you want. Either it's best to come 10 days before or the night before to have the best performance. That said, logistically it was impossible to plan a good altitude entrance to the race. And, I didn't want to wait until the night or day before to come to the Engadin for obvious, beautiful reasons! 

The race itself was fast and furious, per usual. I remember my first trip to the Engadin a few years ago and my finishing comment was that I had never been in such a violent ski race - ever.  Thousands of people, men and women start at the same time and ski into a headwind for the first 10k.  The first ten k is literally a game of half skill, and half luck. Over half of the women that finished on the podium broke poles and the luck part of the race is a) avoided crashes around you and b) catching a good draft with the top pack of men.  Once you're in a pack it turns into a constant battle for position and older men that you might be skiing with are constantly trying to "get in front of the girl" or beat out their buddy. There was talk about an all girls wave that would begin before the masses this year but it didn't happen. The concern was that girls in later waves would catch the draft with the men and cross the finish line with a faster time than the girls in the elite wave.  The solution (I think) is to make it so that the women's winner has to come out of the elite women's wave. Make it big enough so that it's inclusive, and start us 20 minutes before the Elite men and 14,000 other people. The American Birkebeiner has a women's wave and it's great to have a women's race. All of a sudden the tactic becomes skiing rather than loosing the other women, battling with the men, and keeping your equipment in one piece!  

That said, the Engadin is a great race in perhaps one of the most beautiful ski areas in Europe. I highly recommend adding it to your "ski bucket list." 

Me & Chelsea with Tony.... still wearing Seahawks gear but this year he left the full get up behind. A HUGE thank you to Tony W. for helping out with logistics and mobilizing a big USA crew each year for the race! 

Here is a photo of Tony from last year and yes, he skied 42k like THIS:

It was hard to leave St. Moritz..... really hard. The skiing was perfect, the sun packed a punch. And I was exhausted. But we rallied... to sit in the worst traffic jam that my Swiss ride Elias, had ever seen. We got back to Chelsea's apartment (Zurich "home base" and gear storage) super late and I proceeded to spend the next 3 hours unpacking, packing and doing laundry.  Then I slept for 3.5 hours before hiking to the tram and then to the airport to catch my flight to Oslo. I don't know what I was thinking when I booked the ticket 10 days ago but the itinerary was WAY too ambitious and exhausting. Actually, what I was thinking was that I would go to the Russian consulate in Oslo first thing Monday morning to work on applying for my VISA to get into Russia. In reality, my "invitation" is still not ready and Monday turned out to be a Russian holiday anyways.  

To make a long story short, the Russian VISA application is extremely difficult when you're a) outside of your own country and applying from another and b) when you cannot afford to give up your passport for week (or months!) at a time because you're constantly traveling and need it. I'm still in the process of trying to obtain it and I'll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck! 

And as always, thanks for the cheers & following. 

PS. GOOD LUCK to all the Alaskan Junior Racers competing in Truckee, CA at the 2015 Junior Nationals! 

P.P.S. Graham Longford, AKA "@klisterhead" on twitter wrote a really fun description of the Marcialonga back in January. He did an amazing job of documenting INCLUDING photos mid-race. It was fun for me to meet Graham after depending on his European-based World Cup tweets for such a long time. Check it out below if interested....