Every year a polar vortex falls upon the Keweenaw turning the peninsula into a frozen playground. It is bitter cold, with blowing snow and visibility comparable to the fog found in a horror film.
This year The Vortex fell upon us for the entire week and a half of the U.S. Senior Nationals competition. With the wind chill making temperatures barely legal and the fluffy snow falling so fast they trails crew had to clear the classic tracks with leaf blowers, this was bound to be a tough week.
Coming into the week it was really exciting to see the expressions on the other racers faces when they realized how much snow we have here in the Keweenaw. Coming from across the country, most of the other participants and parents came from places that have been struggling to keep their man made loops white. To ski on natural snow with at +12″ base is a real treat for anyone. However, as the week continued it was clear that the enthusiasm for real snow was dwindling.
The week started out with a cold slap in the face with the 10k skate race. To say conditions were slow would be a like saying the ocean is wet. On a good day I can ski our 5k loop in under 14 minutes. This week the 10k took 32:40. It may not seem like that much extra time, but when you’re fighting against the snow, every second feels like an eternity. With every push of the ski the snow was asking, “Why are you trying to go so fast? Shouldn’t you be home with a cup of tea right now?” On any normal day day I would have listened, but this was the 10k skate at U.S. Nationals! Being one of my favorite events, I refused to listen resulting in the best place I’ve ever received at Senior Nationals.
The next day was even colder and windier, so thankfully the race organizers decided to push the classic sprint back one day. Having this extra day of recovery was a pleasant surprise after the skate race. Tuesday came and by then I was excited to sprint. With classic sprinting technique being one of my main focus areas over the summer, this was one of the only opportunities I’ll get to see how much that hard work has paid off. Last year I finished 51st in the classic sprint, this year I was less than one second from making the heats. So close! Next step: figuring out how to apply this new found technique to distance races.
The night of the classic sprint my mom put together a really nice moonlight ski and snowshoe event. Despite the small turnout it was a relaxing night filled with lots of hot apple cider and cookies. I ate way too many cookies.
Thursday. 20k Classic Race. Oh Boy.
After the classic sprint and having a cross country season filled with personal bests, I had no idea how this would end up. What I did know; last year I had felt good and ended up 52nd, I LOVE our 10k loop, our skis were going to have kick even I wouldn’t complain about, if I had a good race there was a slight chance I’d qualify for the U23 team, and If I had an awful race we still have an entire season left to qualify for NCAA’s. I had everything to win and nothing to lose. The gun went off. I started, trying to keep the lead group within reach, but by 8k I also knew that this pace was not sustainable. I dialed it back and finished with whatever I had left. Much to my surprise, when the results were posted, I had another personal best to add to my list of accomplishments for the week.
On Saturday the scheduled event was the skate sprint. However, (arguably) the most exciting event of the day was the sun finally peeking through the clouds. The Vortex was lifting! For the first time, I qualified for the heats and even managed to improve my place during the quarterfinals. This was the perfect topper to a chilly week filled with personal bests.
To cap off the week, our ladies team paired with Team Gregg to put on a morning of inspiration for the girls in the community. We played a bunch of games, on the snow and in the gym, and had some great talks about achieving your goals. I still have big goals for the season and look forward to seeing how this improvement streak progresses through the season.
Special Thanks to Chris for taking video of the event!
I’m already excited for hosting again next year!
Video Re-cap of the Huskies at US. Nationals put together by Lisa