About Patrick Johnson

Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Patrick attended Middlebury College in Vermont. A two-time member of the US World Junior Team, he spent last season racing with the Gold Team in Sun Valley, Idaho. After winning 7 Eastern College Carnivals, his past season was his strongest to date. Top results included a 5th place at US Nationals, 1st at the Aspen SuperTour, and 8th Place at the American Birkebeiner (Top-American).

This past weekend Wyatt and I ventured out to Hayward, Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner, the largest ski race in North America. The 50km point to point race serves as a stop on the Word Loppet tour, which means it not only attracts the top domestic racers, but also a dozen or so of the top ski marathoners in Europe. This year was no exception, as I found myself at the start lined up right next to Martin Koukal of the Czech Republic, a former World Champion in the 50km.

Wisconsin was being hit with the cold weather that has been hitting most of the country this winter, and as we lined up awaiting the starting gun, we struggled to stay warm in the frigid single digits and brisk headwind that we faced. But, soon enough the gun went off and we were on our way!

Last year I had a top ten in the race, and I had hopes for another strong finish. However, by about ten kilometers in, I was struggling to keep up with the brisk pace being set by the Europeans at the front, and I soon found myself losing contact with the lead pack of about 15 skiers.

Though dissapointed to not be at the front, I regrouped mentally, and worked to relax and ski efficiently so I could have a strong second half of the race. By then a second pack of about a dozen or so skiers had formed, including several of the top Euros who also hadn’t been able to latch on to the lead group.

I skied in this group for some time, most of the time keeping near the front. Posted behind me for much of this part of the race was an Italian who had been third the previous year. Despite being out of the running for the win he still decided to use the “tricky” psyche-out tactics that the Italia marathoners are notorious for, a combination of stepping on your skis and poles as much as possible. After becomming tired of his antics, I eventually forced him to take the lead, and then did my best to return the favor. Apparently he did not appreciate this and after a few minutes he looked back at me, stared me down for a few seconds, and then motioned for me to take the lead.

birkie

And with that I decided to make a move and break away from the group, as I ramped up the pace and left the pack behind. One frenchmen from the group was able to match the move, and we then skied the remaining 20km together, picking off a few stragglers from the front along the away. I ended up crossing the finish in 14th place (& 4th American), which, though not quite looking for, was still a solid finish that I could be happy with!

My day was not quite done however, as I was met at the finish by an official from the US Anti-Doping Agency, who informed me I had been randomly selected for anti-doping control. It was actually a kind of nice perk, because I was immediately escorted to a warm room where I could change and rehydrate as I prepared to give a urine sample. It was my first time being subjected to a USADA test, so it was very interesting to experience the testing process and see the efforts we make to keep sport clean in this country.

Anyway, it ended up being a great weekend, and I’d highly recommend anyone who loves Nordic skiing to make it to the Birkie at least once. Thank you to Peter Hanson and family for helping me with the transportation and housing which made the weekend possible! And congratulations to former Far West racer Matt Gelso who finished as top American in seventh place!

 

http://farwestnordic.org/eliteteam/305/

Podium!

As you’ve probably seen from Spencer’s posts, the weather in Bozeman was a bit cold this past week! We had already decided to skip the sprint to focus on the 15km Classic Mass Start, which was fortunate because with a high of -12F, there was no chance of the sprint getting off. Though the weather was supposed to be slightly warmer on Sunday,  we woke up to a temperature of -20 and we were once again questioning if the weather would get to the legal race temperature of -4F.

We made the drive up to the venue at 11:30, in preparation for the already-delayed 1:00pm start. However, when we arrived it was clearly still too cold to race, and we quickly learned that the start had been delayed even further. After sitting through several more delays, we suddenly got the call and learned we’d be starting in 45 minutes. Though the temperature had reached -4F, with wind chill it was probably about -25, so we bundled up in our puffys for a quick warmup, grabbed our race skis from our wax tech Tim, and made our way to the start.

I started the race off conservatively and settled into the middle of the lead pack, probably around 15th place. With the cold temperatures and the challenging hills of the Bozeman course, I knew it’d be important to have lots of energy for the second half of the race. Luckily my Rossignols had great glide and kick, with Toko HF Blue and Cold Powder for glide, and a mix of Toko green binder, blue and xtra cold for our kick. By the end of the first 5km lap I had moved up into the top 10, and 2km later I made my way into the lead for the first time on the day.

For the rest of the race I stayed in the top 6, and took turns in the lead with a number of other skiers, including Miles Havlick, Reese Hanneman and Truckee’s one and only Matt Gelso, now skiing for Sun Valley. With about 2km to go, I moved into the lead which I shared with Miles Havlick, until CXC’s Russian Dimitri Ozerskiy made a move up the middle between the two tracks, which was hard to counter, unless we wanted to break our poles. The pack was still probably around eight or nine skiers, so the sprint up the last two hills was on!

By this time, the cold I had really started to get to me, freezing my eyes open and making my mind a bit delirious. After loosing a couple places on the first uphill, a steep wall barely wide enough for two skiers to herring bone up, I found myself falling back into fifth place. But with one more hill to go, I put my head down and powered up, passing two skiers and making my way back onto the podium, which I held onto until the finish!

Photo Credit: Paul Clark

Photo Credit: Paul Clark

Now it’s back to Truckee for some focused training before Christmas, and then it is on to the National Championships in Soldier Hollow!

The Road to Truckee

After a great summer up in Alaska, it was time for the 3000+ mile drive down to Truckee! My dad joined me for the absolutely beautiful drive through the north country. Fall colors were in full swing!

Alpenglow on the Alaska Range

Alpenglow on the Alaska Range

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier, with a fresh dusting of snow in the mountains above

Wrangle Mountains

Mt. Sanford, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

I drove up the main Alcan route to Alaska this spring, so this time we took the even more secluded Cassiar Highway through British Colombia. It wasn’t uncommon to go for long periods of time without seeing another soul, and you wanted to make sure and top off at every gas station you saw since there was only one every couple hundred miles. The few communities you did pass through always had a very unique feel due to their isolation.

Stewart BC main street

Main Street, Stewart, BC

Totems Poles- Kitwanga, BC

Totem Poles- Kitwanga, BC

The rest of our drive took us through southern British Colombia, which allowed for stops in Whistler and Vancouver. Then after dropping my dad off in Seattle and visiting a friend in Bend for a few days, it was on to Truckee and back to some intensity training with the team! Hard to believe it’s only seven weeks until our first Super Tour races!