Birkie Fever!!

I have to warn you, I had a lot of time on the plane and I was still pretty excited about my first Midwest trip and my first 50k race, so this is a long one.

It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I decided that I would travel across the country to race the American Birkebeiner 51k skate race. I got lucky and got a spot in a house and van with a group of Wyatt’s friends, booked my ticket and confirmed my entry. After all, it is THE American ski race and any American ski racer needs to do this race at some point ;)

Though, when I got settled in again in Truckee last week, after having traveled through Europe and Vermont for the last three months, I started to get nervous about a few things: Length, cold and logistics.
I hadn’t been able to put in a real long distance workout pretty much since the beginning of November – I’ve been busy racing. I had done 25 races before the Birkie already. Racing for a longer time than I had been training in a while seemed a little interesting.
Also, after racing in Vermont I had some idea what the temperature (low teens in the forecast) on race day would feel like, but a bunch of sports bra skis at Auburn Ski Club made me question if I was gonna be able to handle it.
Finally, how was I gonna get to the start, where to put warm up skis, where to get bibs, where to feed, what’s the course like, the start area, the traffic situation etc??? Lots of unknowns!

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Photo property: Bruce Adelsman/skinnyski.com

To make a long story short- I had a fantastic day. I was able to hang on to the lead pack, with three very speedy women who are competing in the FIS marathon cup and who all have lots of experience in marathon racing, for most of the race.

At some point I was skiing in the very front and I realized that I was leading the way for, well about 10,000 racers, and I just had to smile. Pretttttty cool.

This is a screenshot from the video that the snow mobile that was driving with us took

This is a screenshot from the video that the snow mobile that was driving with us took

Tatjana and I sprinted for third down Hayward’s Main Street and while she won the sprint and ended up on the podium after we battled it out for the last (brutal) 7k after Holly put down the hammer and dropped us, I was pretty glad to not have face planted in front of the huge (!!) crowd in Hayward. And trust me, I almost did because sprinting at the end of a marathon turned out to be pretty hard and 4th place is still pretty exciting.

Women's Birkie Podium with my chic new Salomon carbon ski :)

Women’s Birkie Podium with my chic new Salomon carbon ski :)

Sabra finished top 15, and all three of our boys top 25, so I think it is save to say that the Far West Elite Team had a hell of a great day.

If you have done a marathon or even the Birkie before (in which case you should give yourself a pat on your shoulder right now) you might be entertained by some of my rookie mistakes, and if you haven’t maybe this will be useful one day.

Here are 11 lessons I learned from the Birkie:

1. Do NOT just slip your gel or whatever you are planning to eat in your race suit tights.
It will slide down. It will slide down all the way to your calf. For some reason I thought that that one GU on my calf was gonna be all I needed, so about 30k through the race I figured I better take it. Especially since some of the other girls had been eating a whole lot more already. Don’t ask how I managed to fish it out of my tights while skiing- I won’t ever do it again.

2. In fact, if you are a girl here is what you should do instead.
(Caitlin Paterson showed me this trick, pretty smart). Put the GUs (plural!) in your sports bra, tape a string that comes out of the top of your race suit to them and tape that string to your bib. I’m sure staples and safety pins help a whole lot too.

3. Fuel up prior to the race.
I want to claim that I did a great job at eating (who would have guessed)
and that it helped me out lots! I really ate a lot all last week, made sure I was well hydrated (DripDrop does the trick!) at all times while traveling, and fueled up on lots and lots of carbs on Friday.

4. It is incredible nice to have support out there.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Salomon. It is so nice to not have to deal with waxing skis (or testing), even though we do have all that good Toko stuff for our team to put on ourselves. The new carbon boards I was put on were incredible (pretty sleek and sexy looking too;)). In fact, think I had the fastest skis out there- every skiers dream!! The Salomon crew also supported me all the way through the races with feeds which, see #5, saved the day.

5. DO bring your own water bottle.
I didn’t. I’m not even sure anymore how I rationalized that but I realized on the start line that about everybody else did have a little belt. While there are plenty of factory feeds out there, it is easy to miss or drop one, or two, and that makes for quite a while without a feed. Any time I’ve taken feeds in races before I really barley took a sip, so actually drinking was quite a challenge for me. Seeing how much those other girls drank helped me force myself to get every feed I could. Even though it meant wet hands every time because those
little cups spill when you grab them!

6. Travel with people who know their way around.
This race isn’t your classic show up at the venue-warm up-put your bib on-go race type thing I’m used to. Thus, it was so great to have someone who was driving, who knew where to get the bibs, what the different trail heads where etc. I also made a new friend, Ari, (see #7) who writes a blog called birkieguide.com. Check it out for some great insights!

7. Birkie is great for making new friends!
I have never in my life seen so many skiing loving people in one place. It’s awesome! When I was traveling with my Toko bag, Salomon water bottle and shoes and Swix sweater I was recognized as a skier a whole bunch of times. (“Hey Swix, how was your race?” Or “my friend has the same sneakers, he’s a skier”) On the way to Minneapolis my answer to the question which start wave I was in (elite wave, first row, bib 6) got me some new friends and on the way home my 4th place finish got me a couple high fives and even a picture. Pretty fun!

8. DO dress appropriately.
I did, yay! I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t hot, I’m so happy. Wyatt has suffered from hypothermia at this race a couple times before so I was paranoid that I would get too cold- it was about 12F yesterday. Still, after my warmup I made a last minute call to take off my second layer on the top and go without face tape. I realized throughout the race that that was pretty smart because if you do get too hot and sweaty, you’ll get really cold on the downhills! One layer of wind proof Swix long undies top and bottom, toe warmers, buff, thick hat, Toko’s Arctic gloves and of course a little Far West face tattoo did the trick for me.

9. DO bring friends.
I got out of the doping control (try to pee after such a long race) where I made friends because I didn’t need a translator like the other European girls (thanks UVM) and I felt like a lost puppy. Soo many people in Hayward. Everywhere. Needless to say I was really really happy when Pat texted me to check in and I found Spence and the other Far West kids just a little after that. Big hugs from teammates help a lot when you are tired. I was very very tired.

10. Friends are the best (always!)
They talk me through the race course, through potential racing scenarios, assure me that I have done plenty of long workouts, give me hugs and text me that I AM tough enough and that it WILL be fun. They give fantastic advice like to relax (duh), not to overthink, to suck tit (to hang on, definitely my favorite one), and not to lead on the lake (no comment). They also give out great love via phone before you can get your real life hugs – you guys all are the best!

11. Birkie fever is a real thing.
Luckily I had made sure that I got plenty of sleep and rest the week prior to the race because I barely slept at all the night before. I thought I had done enough races this year that getting nervous wasn’t really a thing anymore but I guess this one is very special :)

Big shoutout to all the sponsors – lots of awesome businesses, but also Far West’s amazing community – of the Far West Elite Team. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to travel all over the place and experience cool events like the Birkie. Wouldn’t be possible without all of you!

Time to get like 3 days of sleep!
Anja

This is how you train for the Birkie, right?

Best skiing in California- on the road

Best skiing in California- on the road

75 degrees today and perfect rollerskiing conditions: I’m pre-heating for the single digit temps for all 54K from Cable to Hayward on Saturday. Hoping to finish without the use of a fleece sweater or thermal blanket.

Meanwhile, there is still surprisingly good skiing on 4K at Auburn Ski Club thanks to the heroics of the ASC staff and volunteers. They pulled off a solid President’s Cup 10K skate on Monday – the last race before Junior Nationals are held there in a few weeks. So keep the spirits high, put a ton of Finite structure and Toko black/yellow in the skis, and maybe grab a shovel too!

Raced this one for Grandma

Raced this one for Grandma

Success on home turf!

Sabra, Anja, Spencer and I are in New England for two weekends of SuperTour racing at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, VT. In many ways, this is home turf. New England is small, and Craftsbury has hosted many races over the years, so we’ve all skied and raced there many times before. The courses are familiar, the race organizers are familiar, the logistics are familiar, and the spectators are familiar – FIVE Elite Team parents turned out to cheer us on in Sunday’s classic sprint!

All this familiarity, along with small fields (<20 women in both races!) made for a pretty low-key weekend of racing. But low-key does NOT mean easy. While some skiers have traveled overseas for international competition, many of the top SuperTour skiers on still around and on their game.  So we are still psyched to post some strong results. Anja led the crew with a 3rd place in both the 20k classic mass start and the classic sprint.

Here she is marking a mark in our purple Salomon puffies on Friday’s podium:

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And here she is with the spoils of her success – a belt buckle and a well-deserved paycheck!

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Sunday was cold and beautiful, but we stayed warmed in our Swix longjohns and heavy Toko mitts. Anja makes the sunshine look good!

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I wasn’t quite as successful as Anja, but I did have my own personal best for the weekend! I was the luckiest loser in the sprint quarterfinals, which means I made it into the semifinals for the first time ever! The small field was a big help, because there were fewer people competing for those lucky loser spot, but I was still very excited for the opportunity to ski another heat and to practice racing against some fast skiers. They were definitely faster than me, but they also have a lot more experience – just need to keep at it!

I’m currently stranded in Hanover because Winter Storm Linus seems determined to prevent me from seeing my parents. But luckily I can visit friends and teammates at Dartmouth, not to mention revisit collegiate inspiration in the form of magnetic poetry on locker room bathroom stalls:

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Thank goodness it’s not fall anymore but it never hurts to remember that DETERMINATION PAYS. And I also hear that Tahoe STILL needs winter. Get your snow dance on!

Calvin's snow dance, Bill Watterson comic

Calvin’s snow dance, Bill Watterson comic

Throwing the Kitchen Sink…

photo 1I’ve been sick with viral bronchitis for the last two months unable to ski or race, hence why you haven’t heard a lot from me. I raced the first two Supertours with the virus, and those races really cemented the sickness in my body. My main goal of the season surrounded Nationals, and I had skip the races using it as a puddle jump to fly across the country. I’m home in Vermont! The snow here is incredible, and I’m just now getting back on snow. It’s been a while! It is SO nice to ski. I sure do love this sport! I’m excited to get back on a start line even if I only have a fraction of the fitness I did this fall.  photo 3

I wanted to update you on the all the crazy things I’ve done to try to get healthy over the past month. I got the point where I tried just about anything.

 

  1. Two rounds of antibiotics, an inhaler, and nasal spray. Thanks Silver Sage for throwing the kitchen sink at this. Your expertise was very appreciated!
  2. Emergen-C- I would rotate between my homemade cold buster juice and Emergenc-C.
  3. Blood test- checking for mono, iron level, ect. Turns out I have great iron! So that’s good news.
  4. Zinc- Lots of it! All the time…
  5. Garlic- roasted, raw, pickled, with olive oil. I live alone in Tahoe City, so I could get away with this there. I had to stop eat garlic once I got back to Vermotn.
  6. Probiotics- In the beginning I was drinking Kefir, but I’ve since switched to two different kinds of probiotic pills and unpasteurized sauerkraut.
  7. Tumeric Tea- It tastes terrible and doesn’t really work. This one was vetoed really quickly.
  8. Cold Buster Juice- Dylan, my California brother, found a juice on the side of the road in Truckee. It turns out that I love juicing. I would make an orange juice, lemon juice, ginger, and carrot juice concoction every day. Heat that puppy up and it’s a great boost of Vitamin C.
  9. Smoothie- I kicked up the juicing to another level. There were too many healthy things that I was missing out on! Or so I was told. Here in VT, my dad makes me a smoothie you can really sink your teeth into every morning. It tastes disgusting!!!

Ground flax, Brewers yeast, Walnuts, Seaweed, Chai seeds, Cocoa powder, Corolla (I still don’t know what this is!), Coconut oil, Cabbage, Kale, Spinach, Banana, Chick peas, Avocado, Berries, Apple cider vinegar, Squid oil, Broccoli, Ginger

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After reading that list, you may very well be thinking that I’m nuts. The truth is I just want to feel healthy, ski fast, and enjoying being on the team. I would do anything to have that back…. Clearly.

 

I’m racing tomorrow!   Wish me luck!

Don’t try this at home

It’s been dry out here in California (and Nevada!). Real dry. But the roller skiing weather is excellent. Last week I classic rollerskied up Geiger Grade to the pass and back down. I won’t recommend roller skiing back down (use a shuttle instead) for beginning roller skiers because some of the road has a narrow shoulder and there is a decent amount of tourist traffic going to Virginia City. Maybe next time I’ll hit up the tourism adventures in Virginia City.

Geiger Ski

Deutschland Update

On rain, canceled/changed/strugglebus races, speedy friends, lots of bread and why I’m skiing Nationals instead of Nationals

It has been about six weeks since I ate my last peanut butter samy, about seven weeks since I have seen the sun two full days in a row and about three weeks since I trained on rollerskis last. Time for an update!

After last season, I decided to keep skiing because I felt like I had made some big improvements over the last couple years at UVM. After lots of awesome college races and some pretty exciting results at US Nationals and Super Tours, I knew that was up there in the US, but had no idea how I would compare in Germany, five years after I had really raced there the last time. This year it was time to find out.

Actually, I did know that the girls here are speedy, that the competition was going to be really tough at OPA Cup races and that conditions can be somewhat tricky in Germany.

Tricky, I relearned, doesn’t only mean that there are some sloppy klister days. So far this winter, it also means total lack of snow in Europe. It means 2km race loops with plenty of dirt and only green around. It means racing in the rain more often than not. It means canceled races, races in different places, shortened distances and individual starts instead of mass starts and warming up on running shoes. It also means that you never know what the conditions are going to be like the next day. It did mean training on rollerskis and running shoes all the way until after Christmas, too. And it is raining again now.

Here is what the race course looked like in Austria and where I trained last week:

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Thing is, it’s the same for everybody and this really shouldn’t sound like an excuse. I had some pretty good races and some pretty bad races. It’s tough. I’m in the mix, some days more than others. Yup, the girls are fast here! They are also really awesome which has made these past six weeks way more fun than I might have made it sound so far.

Here is to illustrate why I sometimes feel a little star struck by my friends: Three other German girls born 1991 are still skiing. All of them have skied a lot of World Cups already and scored lots of points. Hanna Kolb and Lucia Anger have competed in the last two Olympics, Elisabeth Schicho won the sprint at U23s last year and Hanna and Luci both got multiple Junior World podiums! I also got to hang out with my favorite German skier Sandra Ringwald, who is shorter than me by the way, and has already been on the WC circuit for a couple of years now. Her boyfriend made us lunch and guess what – yeah he is the Nordic Combined World Cup leader right now. I have been doing a bad job taking pictures (I’m going to blame it on the rain) but here are Sandi and I. So excited I got to hang out and race with her! She is the best!

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It’s also pretty nice to be home and to get to hang out with my family and lots of old friends. Christmas at home was wonderful, and New Years was great too! Last week, there was even one lucky day with sun, fresh snow and groomed trails starting at my door step. I skied for three hours- not once on the same loop- and finished the ski on my doorstep just before it started raining again. Made me pretty happy:

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What is the best thing about home? I bet you can guess… yes, it is the bread. YUMMM.

Finally, I feel like I have to give so many shout outs to all the fast people at US Nationals. I was jumping up and down in front of the computer like a crazy person all week, and I was super excited about how well so many of my friends did!! (Dak!!! Hannah!! The Catamounts!!)
Of course, I also got that itchy feeling that I wanted to be racing there, too. But, I have decided that I will race German Nationals next week before I come back to the US – both pretty damn exciting! After all, I am already here, right!? I could use one of those races that just feel really good!

Thanks for reading and following the Far West Elite Team!
XOXO

It’s winter in Michigan

Spencer and I have been in Houghton, Michigan for the past 9 days, representing the Elite Team at U.S Nationals. Without a question, the most notable part of our time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been the weather: pure, unadulterated winter. In our 9 days here, the highest temperature we’ve seen on the car thermometer has been 10 degrees; that lasted for about a minute before dropping back into single digits. Average skiing temps have probably been around 3, without factoring in wind chill. And it’s been snowing pretty much continuously—approximately two feet since we’ve been here, with much larger drifts in places. We have yet to see the sun. The bottom line: We’re not in Truckee anymore, Toto.

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The lake view from our rental cottage. This is about as colorful as our landscape as been.

Freezing cold temps, deathly slow snow, and constant blowing and accumulation adds a whole new challenge to regular old ski racing. It’s been a battle out there: some days we’ve come out on top, other days not so much. After a nasty cold the week following Christmas, Spencer has been racing himself back into top form, showing big improvements in each race so far. We’re watching out for tomorrow’s skate sprint; he’s hungry for some head-to-head racing and will lay out all out there in the prelim.

I failed to qualify for the heats in what has historically been my best event, the classic sprint. I just couldn’t find my top gear in a very long sprint prelim. Most sprints fall in the 3-minute range, but slow snow and heavy accumulation lead to qualifying times well over 5 minutes for even the fastest women. Definitely a different kind of sprint, and one that didn’t work out so well for me. Not qualifying was a pretty big disappointment, but hey, there’s always another race to do! I was able to channel the frustration for the classic 20k mass start, execute my race plan effectively, and end up 34th. Rockin’ fast skis and perfect kick from Far West coaches Martin, Gus and August, and of course Salomon, helped a lot. It was a bit of relief to post a result that I think is representative of both my fitness and my potential to keep improving throughout the season.

Heading into the second 10k lap in the distance race.

Heading into the second 10k lap in the mass start. Contrary to appearances, I didn’t ski alone for any of the race.

A couple other recent highlights: The last weekend before Christmas brought our first home races of the season: the Holiday Freestyle Sprints and the Snowshoe Thompson Classic, both hosted by Auburn Ski Club. These races were a great tune-up before U.S. Nationals, as well as a wonderful opportunity to race alongside our fantastic Far West community. A small race field and open heats on the sprint day meant that everyone got to race against everyone else – Elite Teamers lining up against college skiers, juniors who are JN veterans, U16s looking to qualify for their first-ever JNs, and even speedy 7th and 8th graders. This meant that I toed the line against some of the Tahoe Cross-Country 8th and 9th graders who I’ve been coaching since June. They were a little nervous to be racing against the big kids, but I understood exactly how they felt: it’s more or less how I feel starting a quarterfinal against girls who’ve skied World Cups. Just goes to show that there’s always room for improvement, no matter what level you’re skiing at.

After a couple weeks of SuperTour racing, it was fun to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond for the weekend. I ended both the sprint and the classic 5k on the podium (2nd and 3rd, respectively), and Spencer had similar success: 1st in the sprint and 2nd in Snowshoe Thompson 10k. Thanks Auburn Ski Club and all of Far West for a great weekend of racing!

Spencer on the podium in the Snowshoe Thompson Classic.

Spencer on the podium in the Snowshoe Thompson Classic.

 

Bogus Challenge & Snowmaker Classic

Bogus Basin Road: Infamous

Bogus Basin Road: Infamous

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Perfect skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho with Toko blue all day

Coming home for the holidays always rekindles old friendships, memories, and traditions. After hanging with my family (minus my brother Charlie, who is on duty coaching for the Auburn Ski Club in Truckee!!) in Boise, Idaho, racing the Bogus Challenge 10k skate race is a high priority. I was able to pull of the victory in the mass start race over some speedy Idaho Nordic and Bogus Basin Junior Nordic Team (BBNT) racers. These local races are great chance for juniors to get exposure to racing in a low-key setting, provide master skiers a tuneup opportunity for later season marathons, and all proceeds from the race entry go to BBNT. Prizes? Brownies! Thanks to the volunteers for making it happen!

The next weekend I raced the famous 20km Snowmaker Classic citizens race in the Boulder Mountains north of Ketchum, ID and was able to hold on for the win! No brownies this time…Thanks to Elephant’s Perch in Ketchum for putting it on.

In the lead

In the lead

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Home Strength

Home Strength

Master Blaster: waxing or working?...Both?

Master Blaster: waxing or working?…Both?

Auburn Ski Club Freestyle Sprint Races

This past weekend were the first Junior National Qualifier races. With Patrick and Anja racing elsewhere and Sabra sick, Wyatt, Emily, and I were left to represent the Elite Team on our home turf.

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(Looks Like Home Turf)

On Friday night Emily and I went over to Tahoe Cross Country to help their Comp and Devo teams wax their skis for the race. It was a ton of fun and they put the PARTY in waxing party.

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I was really excited to get to do a sprint this weekend since I have struggled a bit in sprint qualifiers. For most sprint races, after the qualification round the top 30 skiers move on to elimination heats. I have had the unfortunate luck of finishing 31st or 32nd in the last 5 Supertour sprint qualifiers, missing the heats by an average of 7 tenths of a second. My goal for this sprint was to practice my pre race warm up routine and lay down a really good qualification time.

I made sure I was really well warmed up before the qualifier and ended up with the 2nd fastest time. There is always room for improvement, but today was great practice for the upcoming sprints at U.S. Senior Nationals.

Racing sprint heats is one of the most fun parts of ski racing and it was awesome to see so many junior skiers gaining experience with this head to head style of racing.  Part of what makes sprint racing so much fun is all the different race tactics one can use. Since the 2nd half of the course had some tight corners and steep uphills where it would be harder to pass, my strategy for the heats was try to be in the lead going down the hill out of the stadium and go especially fast in the wider sections of trail where it would be easier to get passed.

I felt great through all the heats and with some good starts off the line was able to finish first. Emily had a great day herself, qualifying in 3rd and skiing an aggressive final to take home 2nd place!

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This race reminded me a lot of my favorite high school race, way back when I was a senior in high school, my school’s home meet was a skate sprint. I raced hard all day and ended up winning the final in front of all my family, classmates, and friends who were cheering me on. Despite only moving to Truckee a few years ago I don’t think I have ever had quite this many people cheering me on in any race I have ever done. I consider myself very lucky to have become part of such a strong and welcoming community here, You are all AWESOME!

-Spencer

Canmore Biathlon Races

This past weekend marked the start of my race season with two NorAm biathlon races in Canmore. As these were not only my first races of the season, but also my first ever biathlon races, I definitely had some nerves running through me heading into the weekend!

One of the new things I’m having to get used to in biathlon is the additional tasks you have to add your pre-race routine. In normal nordic races, I usually head out of the lodge about 45 minutes before my start for warmup, ski a few intervals, grab my race skis and head to the start. In biathlon however, you have to also zero your rifle, so your sights are aligned with the target, and go through equipment check, where race officials inspect your rifle. These definitely required some extra time this weekend! In fact, this meant I had to start my warmup an hour and a half before my race, far earlier than I’m used to, but something that is often the norm in biathlon races. These were some of the largest ever biathlon races in North America, with nearly 300 competitors, which meant that both equipment check and zeroing was very busy on race morning- the line for equipment check was almost 30 minutes long!

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Waiting for zero. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

Fortunately I planned my morning with enough time for these added tasks, and before I knew it I was in the start gate. Saturday started out with a 10km sprint, where we shot twice, once prone, and once standing. For each missed shot, we had to ski a 150m penalty loop. I ended up making it through the day with four misses- two prone, two standing. While I am definitely working towards better accuracy and faster shooting times, I was satisfied with this for my first race. On the skiing side of things, I felt like my speed was at a pretty good level… which showed up on the results page, as despite my misses I ended up in a solid 5th place! Overall I was pretty happy with the race!

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On the hunt. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

Sunday was a 15km mass start, where we skied a 3km loop five times and shot four times, twice prone, twice standing. Once again we would be skiing 150m penalty loops. New this year in the biathlon world is the skating start to mass starts. Instead of a double pole start, which is normal in mass start cross country races, biathlon now lets racers skate from the start of the race, by having fewer start lanes. The race was seeded of our results from Saturday, and because a couple of the Canadians in front of me in the sprint had headed off to Europe, I was in the front row of the start. I definitely liked the new format… though maybe my opinion would change if I were further back…

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The new mass start format. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

As this race had relatively more shooting than skiing, compared to the sprint, I knew that I had to improve my shooting percentage if I wanted a similar result. Unfortunately, that didn’t happened, and my shooting percentages took a step backward from Saturday. I ended up skiing 10 penalties, which means I had to ski an extra 1500m throughout the race. Not only does this add extra time, it adds extra fatigue which slows you down on the rest of the course. Naturally, I fell a little further down the results sheet. While it was a bit of a let down, this was only my second race, so I did my best not to be too dissapointed. And on the brighter side, my ski speed once again felt pretty good, so if I can just improve my shooting a bit, I know I will be headed back up the results!

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Another trip around that pesky penalty loop. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

We’ve continued training in Canmore the past few days, and tomorrow we’re headed off to northern Minnesota for our next races. We’ll be racing four times in five days, so I’ll be stacking up the biathlon experience pretty quickly!