Well, the regular season is now officially over. The final races of the season were RMISA Regionals in Minturn, Colorado. Just like the other NCAA races we’ve done this year, the men skied a 10k skate and a 20k classic. The women did a 5k skate and 15k classic. All races happened on Minturn’s 2.5k FIS homologated loop, meaning four laps for the 10k and eight for the 20k. While nobody wants to ski that many laps, it was a very good 2.5k course and good practice for nationals, where we’ll be racing a 2.5k loop out of necessity. They have no snow in Lake Placid, so we’ll be on the manmade loop.
Somehow it’s taken until the last weekend of the season to have a Friday/Saturday race weekend. Friday was the 10k interval start and Saturday was the 20k mass. I always like the Friday/Saturday weekends because you get to sleep in Sunday morning and not worry too much about school while you’re at the race.
The course exited the stadium, turned around 180 degrees and circled the outside of the stadium. It’s all flat until you reenter the stadium opposite of the start and head up a huge hill. This hill is very long and very steep. When you make it to the top it’s a fast downhill with a hard right, then it winds a little into the stadium. This corner was pretty gnarly; it was hard to get around without sliding. In the stadium it’s a 180 degree turnaround and the course headed up another climb right out of the stadium, this one beginning so steep it’s almost impossible to ski up, then it was pretty gradual to the top. From there it’s a big downhill, and then 500 yards of flat-ish terrain into the lap/finish.
|Sierra in the classic race|
We only brought five athletes this weekend. It was Ben and I for the men, and Elise, Sierra, and Bridget for the women. We stayed in Leadville, which is about 40 minutes from Minturn, which isn’t too bad of a drive. It just means you have to wake up earlier. Day 1 the women raced first, so we arrived around 8:00 but I didn’t race until 11:00. I sat around the van for a while and explored my surroundings a little bit. The trails in Minturn are located at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public school in Minturn that caters its academics around ski racing. I wish we had had something like this where I grew up. The kids train in the morning and are in class in the afternoon and evening.
We got in too late to ski Thursday night so I warmed up, tested skis, previewed the course, and watched the girls’ race simultaneously. We had some crazy weather, with the temperature around 15 degrees at night but getting warm through the day. I didn’t see a thermometer but it must have been more than 50 degrees by the time I raced. For the girls this meant winter conditions in the snow despite the warm temperatures. When I raced the super hard track had softened up a bit, but it didn’t feel like spring skiing.
Ben and I were in the back, as the D seed started last. I’m real close to getting into the C seed, which will mean a lot if I can get in because each seed, consisting of 10 athletes, is randomized in interval starts, meaning if I had the worst points in the C seed I could have the top guy in the C seed right behind me, giving me a great ride if I was caught. But on a four lap course it doesn’t mean as much because everyone is out there at the same time.
Because of my mid race collapses in previous NCAA races I started off a little carefully. Plus the intel from the girls’ race was that athletes were exploding halfway through. I passed a couple of guys who were a few laps ahead of me on the climbs, and basically skied my own pace through the end of the first lap. Oscar Ivars from Utah caught me as he finished his third lap. I got behind him and we skied the whole lap together. I was feeling pretty good skiing with him even though he was on his last lap. He’s a sure shot for a top 10 at these races and is in the A seed.
As he went to the finish I was suddenly very, very alone. I started hurting but I kept up a good pace I think. I had been getting splits from Christi every lap, and I had been skiing just outside of the goal of top 20, but I was really close. Unfortunately there were a lot of us who were really close. This race was tight. I skied the third lap alone and as I came around for the last one even the fans were leaving… I hammered up the first climb but was really in the red zone. I was definitely slowing down on the second climb until Christi told me I was less than twenty seconds out of 20. I pushed hard to the finish, but ended up in 23, twenty seconds out of 20th. I was disappointed that I didn’t get it, but it was still a good race.
Unfortunately on Saturday our team shrank even further. For various reasons only Sierra and I made it to the line for the mass start. This time the men went first, so less sitting around for me. The weather was similar to Friday, with a hard icy track and warm air. It was a klister day, the first klister day for the skis I used. We adjusted my zones here and there before the race, and I think we got it pretty well. When I was at the start line I forgot to keep my skis moving so my wax caught hard as we went out and there was immediately a gap from me to the rest of the field. But two guys went down in the start lane and after we rounded the early corner there was a big pile up that I was able to avoid. I found myself in good position, but I think the crashes spooked the pack because they took off. I kept in contact through the first lap but couldn’t hang on.
Fortunately some of the stragglers who were involved in the crashes caught me so I grabbed onto them. We skied together for awhile until there were three of us: Kyle Beling from UNM, Tucker McCrerey from Utah, and me. Beling lead a while and the two of us dropped McCrerey. I lead the third lap. On the fourth lap my skis started slipping on the first climb, the steeper of the two, and I lost contact and was on an island. I kept him in sight, and one of CU’s boys was not too far ahead. I really wanted to catch back up but I wasn’t making any ground. On the last lap McCrerey caught me and we switched off who was in front. On the last downhill I was taking one of the corners really aggressively to try to gap him and I went down. That was game over for me, so I skied in dejected.
|L-R: McCrerey, me, Beling|
I was pretty disappointed at my failure at the finish, but it was a far better 20k classic than the other ones I’ve done this year. I finally skied with a group for the whole race, and I actually beat a few people so I can’t complain too much.
All that we have left is USCSA Nationals. That’s next week in Lake Placid, New York. Tuesday is the 7.5k interval skate, Wednesday the classic sprint, Friday the 15k mass start classic, and Saturday the skate relay. We’ll be heading out Friday afternoon.
I'm feeling really good right now in both classic and skate. The big question for me going into Nationals is if I'll be able to sprint. The last time I did a sprint was at US Nationals, and the last time I skied in heats was in December. The last classic sprint I made the heats for was my freshman year. We'll see how it goes, but I'm really excited for USCSAs, our team looks really strong with the men and the women, and I'm really confident in my own skiing right now. We'll do our best and hopefully defend our titles.
Results from Minturn are here.