With the snow rapidly disappearing in Lillehammer it’s getting pretty difficult to pretend spring isn’t well underway, so it’s time for a new blog before it all seems too distant a memory!
I wrote my last blog from Livigno, on a precamp for two prior to the World champs. The banter got pretty weird but we somehow managed to remain friends for the duration. After a few days break, Andrew and I met in the airport again (for a much needed catchup) to travel to Lahti, Finland. I’ve come up with quite a number of elaborate theories, but for whatever reason, the first two races of the World champs were well below my expectations!! I was, however on an upwards trajectory throughout the two weeks and I managed to meet the British Olympic qualifying standard and then have one of my best races of the season in the 50km on the last day.
As a bit of a slap on the wrist for the Russians following the publication of the Mclaren report, World cup finals got moved from their original location, east of the Ural mountains, to Quebec City. Having never been to North America, for me, as much as I strongly disagree with sending the whole World cup circuit to a different continent for one weekend on account of the unnecessary environmental impact, this was an exciting opportunity! So, after a few slow days in Lillehammer trying to recover from Lahti’s efforts it was time to get on another flight, this time trans-Atlantic. Somehow we just nailed the timing of our travel, although we arrived to find very little snow to ski on, we did narrowly avoid having to travel in the biggest snowstorm I’ve ever seen. Arriving slightly earlier than some teams, but managing to forego 14 hours in a coach, on the highway between Montreal and Quebec City was something we all felt a tad smug about. With cars parked on the streets being completely submerged in snow, going skiing a few days out from the races, I decided, was pretty well not worth it! Too much snow to ski seemed like a great excuse to explore the city in trainers instead. But I wasn’t there solely as a tourist, the races also went really well and I managed to move a few more places up the sheet, which was really this seasons goal, to feel fully at home on the world cup rather than hopelessly feeling like everyone else had a third lung.
Despite feeling very much like the season was already done, there was one important weekend left, the Norwegian champs, part 2! For me this consisted of a 10km skate race on the Friday and a 50km classic, individual start (I hope that thought doesn’t make you as feel queasy as it does me) on Saturday. The standard of sport on display at the Norwegian XC ski champs really is quite a spectacle, imagine rocking up to the Kenyan distance running championships in a case where Kenya is the richest country in the world and every aspiring runner has access to the very best facilities, equipment and training knowledge. With 500 men on the start sheet and World/Olympic champions in attendance this was going to be a tough race! In my endless efforts to save miniscule amounts of money whatever the hassle, I was staying at home in Lillehammer and driving out to the race venue, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to ski the last 2km of the course before the race, I was genuinely surprised when I came down the last hill and was on the finishing straight. In a race so tight that there are 130 men within 2 mins of the winner, this for sure lost me a few places in one of my best races to date. But, I probably saved a tenner, roughly equivalent to half a cucumber in a Norwegian supermarket, by not coming up the day before. You win some you lose some!
The 50km was a different battle entirely… economising here, I paid a higher price! My landlord very kindly offered to wax my skis for the weekend and I absolutely could not fault his sweaty hours in a ventilation mask, I had perfect skis both days. However, not arranging someone to give me drinks and food when it was 8°C and blazing sunshine was an error I won’t be making again! Having started steady, reeling in skiers starting a couple of minutes in front and feeling very comfortable, I slowly realised I was starting my transformation in to a hypoglycaemic, desiccated husk that would soon be getting overtaken by skiers starting 25 minutes behind! After stopping and trying to beg drinks from other teams, Petter, a coach from Lillehammer skiklubb saw the desperation in my glazed eyes and pale complexion and started giving me some sort of syrupy cocktail that meant I could finish, even if extremely slowly! Sitting in the carpark outside the nearest supermarket eating and drinking just about anything they stocked that was either sweet or salty, knowing that a long season (and a horrifically long race) was now over was a pretty good feeling. With some big results from Andrew Musgrave and Andrew Young and encouraging improvements on the worldcup stage for both Annika and myself, this season has been a pretty big one for the whole team! Right now, although it’s April, I’m still training hard and trying to make the best possible use of the remaining snow before I head back to the UK for a bit of a break in May. When I return, it will be with all guns blazing, ready to prepare for an Olympic season with a new coach… but more on that later!
We have a slightly expanded support team for next year that will hopefully bring with it expanded results, but for this season our little team outdid themselves, Roy and Alex organised everything alongside coaching whilst Frank ensured they kept to our comparatively small budget. Our rotating wax team of three ensured we had skis competitive with the best on almost every occasion. Thanks guys!!
In the lead up to the 2018 Olympics I’m going to have Active root in my drinking belt. Active root is a pretty unique, root ginger based sports drink that is made in the UK. A company set up in part by an Edinburgh University friend, I highly recommend this stuff, not least because it tastes so good that I have to really restrain myself to only drink it when training! Check them out – Active Root