The skiing in Italy was beautiful, until the races started.
After a week of sunshine, the weather transformed back into a typical European winter — rain. I haven’t raced in rain much, but if I learned anything this week, it’s that I should start getting used to it.
For under-23 skiers there are only three races at the championships; first up was the sprint.
The fastest 30 skiers from the qualifying race advance to the heats. In Canada I get away with mediocre qualifiers all the time – not here. As hard as I could ski wasn’t hard enough in the sprint and I finished my day after the qualifier, in 42nd place.
Wet snow fell during our 15 km classic race the next day. Precipitation during the race usually means tricky waxing conditions. On the steep uphill where skiers are almost running on theirs skis rather than striding, snow sticks to the wax and builds up under the ski, making it almost impossible to glide.
Skiers call this icing-up. Since icing-up was inevitable, I didn’t worry about it and I slapped my skis in the track to kick off the build-up snow once I got to the top of a hill. I ignored the screaming pain in my legs and arms and scrambled up the last few hills as fast I could to finish 21st, my best international result to date.
That night it snowed more than two feet.
In the day it turned to rain, which continued for the remainder of our time in Italy.
I laughed at the conditions the juniors raced in that day, but it wasn’t funny anymore when it was still raining for my race the next day.
One more race to go: I missed the top 20 by 0.3 seconds in the last race so I was hoping to slip in there this time.
Right off the start it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen. I felt great, but the Canadian skis – and mine in particular – just plain sucked.
I try not to make excuses, but this time my skis were so unbelievably slow that I can say it without feeling guilty: it was the skis. Cross-country skiers usually carry between 10 and 15 pairs of skis to cover every condition from cold, dry snow to warm, wet snow. Since it’s not often that I race in rain, I figured I didn’t need a ski for that possibility. I definitely figured wrong. I finished with a disappointing 48th.
Afterwards, we downloaded the race videos and watched ourselves ski.
Yes, they actually televise cross-country skiing in Europe; it’s cool to see yourself on TV.
In Italy, I’m getting tired of pasta twice a day, everyday. I’m ready to move on. I’m off to Latvia and Estonia now.