Canadian Eastern Championships – Day 2 – Junior Girls 5km Interval Skate
Start time – 11:33:30am
Bib number – 311
Start intervals – 15seconds
Start format – low seed to high seed
Start position – 2nd last
In the start area, doing some runs, stretches, jumps… try to look occupied and focused…
Okay, it’s only 5km, less than twenty minutes, closer to 15 in fast conditions, grooming looks good, course sounds like its in good shape, I’ve got this…
Start intervals are only 15seconds, I should be able to catch some of the girls starting in front of me. I can’t go crazy off the start though, need to calm down the sprint qualifier instincts. But the race is short enough that I don’t want to let 312 pull any time back on me… What’s her plan? Is she going to kill it from the get to and try to ski the rest of the way with me? Will I be able to stick with her if she does? ack- stop it! No ones going to catch me, quit being so paranoid. I just need to go out hard, ski smooth, ski smart, stay strong and be efficient. This is my race, I need to ski it myself and not let someone else dictate how I do out there. Ski my race, ski my race.
beep, beep, beep, beeeeep. All right lets go, building up, getting my rhythm – don’t pole between my skis, there are still witnesses. Moving out of the stadium, heading towards the first long gradual climb, keeping my breathing under control, exhaling hard on the downhills – got to create that pressure differential between my lungs and the outside air, makes it easier to get more air in. Don’t let the tempo drop, hold the one skate as long as I can… Skiing scared, skiing scared.
Coming over the crest, into the descent and catch sight of bibs 310 and 309 – wait what!? I’m feeling good, but 30 seconds in less than 2km? – did I go out too hard? am I delusional? … Well, no time to worry about that now. Working the downhill, free skate the stadium, I can hear the commentator over the PA, catch a glimpse of people getting ready for their start in my peripheral, then out of the stadium and up the power line hill. Up, up, up, catching people doing double laps and turn the left hander to face my least favourite hill. No time to get upset about the terrain, keep pushing, keep moving up. Legs are burning in a good way? oh my god am I turning into a masochist? Heaving over the top, okay never mind leg burn is definitely not a good feeling – thank goodness, I am normal. Skiing strong, skiing strong.
Approaching the fast descent, from what I heard before the race it shouldn’t be too bad. I just need to start wide and watch for any icy patches. Tucking into the hill, building up speed, the wind off my sunglasses makes my cheeks burn, and … uh-oh, snowplower ahead. Seriously? not this again… Okay don’t startle them, call for best line and go by. Zig-zag around some more people coming into the second to last climb. This is it, I need to push it up this one and the rest is easy, everything after this will be easy, it’ll all be over. Ski determined, ski focused.
Final climb, feeling a bit of a grimace coming over my face and my pace slows slightly. No, no, no, come on keep going! I’m so close, I can’t let her catch me not now, not now, not today. Here people cheering behind me, don’t look, don’t look – I glance back for a moment as I crest the hill but can’t make anything out. Skiing scared, skiing scared.
Every second counts, every stride, now or never, get to the line, get to the finish. Rounding the final bend, free skating to carry as much speed as possible. Up into a two skate, not fast enough. Change to one skate and make the final lunge for the line before tearing my gaze around to look back and see what’s going on behind me. Counting the seconds, 1, 2, 3, 4… – it’s over, phew … 7, 8, 9 – it’s going to be close, but I might get this! 14, 15, 16 – either way it will be a good result, either way I’ll be happy about this.. Good skiing, good skiing.
Writing this has been… interesting, I usually do my race reviews in my head but thought writing it out might be amusing and possibly insightful(?). I think it’s valuable to go through races before and after they happen so you can plan for them and learn from them. Before this year I hadn’t actively done either with such intended purposes. Of course I would have those long pensive car rides home after races where I would mull over the results of my races picking through to find what I did wrong or could’ve done better. It can be painful, it can be difficult and it can have a negative impact on your racing. Reviewing your own races from such a detached perspective almost desensitises you from the realities of it.
I’ve found that putting myself into the race and going through it in real time is the best way to prepare yourself for competitions and also to review your performances. Before races I have taken to doing written race plans. I don’t do them for every race, but try to do one for at least one for each race weekend. I always do a real time visualisation for my races either the night before or the morning of (depending on the time of day that I’m racing at). A good visualisation of a race should take nearly as long as the event itself.
Now you’re probably thinking
And maybe you don’t have time to visualise your entire 50km or 30km race, but for most other events there is time to do your whole race, if not at least key points or laps. The best part about doing visualisations the night before is that at the very least it will put you right to sleep. Also, by doing a race plan and visualising your race, all you leave for yourself to do on race day is follow your plan. If you can prepare for yourself a realistic plan that will lead you to your token objectives then it saves the guesswork on race day as to what you should do. Of course, things rarely go exactly as planned, you will have to make some improvisations and judgment calls on race day based on how you feel and other things that are beyond your control. You should also consider these loose ends and include damage control methods in your race plan – what will you do if you fall on a technical descent, if you miss a feed or lose the pack you’re skiing with?
It’s all about preparation. Us skiers spend upwards of eight months training our bodies to be ready to race, so if you’re prepared to make that kind of commitment to training, it is worthwhile to spend an hour before and/or after your race mentally readying yourself to compete. It’s like studying for an exam, you can study like mad for three of the four units and ace those three, but if you neglect the fourth unit it might be your undoing. Sure, you might get lucky and be able to bluff your way through even though you didn’t study any of the info for that unit, but its only luck and it is by no means a sure thing. So if you can invest time to at least brush over unit four (your mental preparation) then you will at least be familiar with what you’re getting into.
Post race reviews are also important to do in first person because they force you to be realistic. Being able to place yourself into a situation and call back the moment can be tough, but its a valuable skill to learn. In doing this you can go back and honestly ask yourself what could have been done differently at that moment you can learn from it and plan for next time. It’s all in the planning. If you want to plan, you need to prepare. Sorry if this is getting really repetitive, but this has been the cornerstone for my improvements this year and I cannot emphasise how important it is.
TL;DR – don’t psych yourself out, mentally prepare yourself for competitions, only ever review your performances in first person, be realistic with yourself and blog about it.