Every year the race season kicks off in Beitostølen. This year it almost didn’t. But thanks to snow saved from last year and snow bought from another ski resort the races went ahead. For me the weekend would hold a few surprises, the first of which was when I woke up on Thursday morning. I woke up on Thursday morning last week, still in Val Senales, to find my phone blinking at me. I looked at my phone and the message that was waiting for me was that my flight from Frankfurt to Oslo was cancelled due to a Lufthansa strike. Alex, who was there as the coach, called Sport Scotland who book our flights. They called up the travel agent they use and managed to get me rerouted via the only alternative. This involved flying from Innsbruck to Vienna, waiting in Vienna for about 5 hours and then flying to Oslo. I eventually got to Oslo at 11pm and got picked up by my dad, the British Team head coach. We drove straight to Beitostølen and I got there at 2.30am on Friday morning.
I’d been in contact with Jostein Vinjerui, the Team Synnfjell coach, during my adventure of european airports and he’d sorted everything out for me so that when I arrived I could get into my room without waking up the rest of the team. However when he heard I wasn’t going to get there until the early hours of the morning he became very sceptical to me racing and advised me not to race. I would have tended to agree with him and raced on Saturday instead. But the problem was that I didn’t have an entry in for Saturday and so I really wanted to race Friday, even if it was just for a good training session. I struck a deal with Jostein whilst I was in Vienna airport. He agreed to let me warm up and see how I was feeling on Friday and that I would only double pole and not even bother testing kick wax.
After about 6 hours of sleep I took myself down to the ski stadium to warm up and test skis. I found some good skis pretty easily and somehow managed to convince Jostein that I felt good enough to start the race. I was half asleep and probably only standing due to the 3 cups of coffee I’d had that morning.
I started the race slowly. Ola Vigen Hattestad was starting 30 seconds behind me and he caught me up before we’d even gone a lap of the 3.75km loop. With ¾ of the race left to go things where looking a little grim. But I managed to stay behind Hattestad and on the last lap I even managed to drop him and start to pull away. I wasn’t really sure how I was going until the last split point. As a general rule of thumb, if you pass a coach and they give you no split info, sigh, tut or look on in desperation then you are going really slowly. If you get split info given to you quietly in a sort of neutral manner then you are doing ok. When coaches start screaming at you, you get splits from coaches from other teams, when they run along with you, even if the info they shout is gibberish and uninterpretable, then you know you are going fast. Towards the end of the last lap I noticed that coaches were getting a little bit excited and I got a few splits from other teams but I still didn’t realise I’d skied all that fast until the results list came out. Turned out I ended up 14th.
I didn’t race on Saturday but was back in action for the sprint on Sunday. I won’t go into too much detail about the sprint, all you need to know is that I didn’t ski as fast as Friday.
From the weekends results I’ve decided that altitude training and coming straight down from altitude to race really does work. I’m going to do it at least one more time this season and hopefully the outcome will be just as good. I’ve now headed back to Lillehammer and got back into gentle training. I had a rest day on Monday and had a few easy ski sessions since then. It has snowed a bit so there are good ski trails out of Nordseter now. There are actually quite a few trails open that go quite far into the mountains, so it’s great for easy training. It also means that training is very sociable. Every skier in Lillehammer is training at the same place, at roughly the same time, and as the trail is an out and back I’m constantly passing skier I know or finding someone to ski with.
This weekend I’m heading off on a training camp with Team Synnfjell before we race at the Norwegian Cup at Gålå the weekend after. Training has been going well so hopefully that continues and we all ski really fast in Gålå!