Sometimes you have to start small. Sometimes you have to start slow.
Nationals have started slowly for me. Or rather, I’ve been going slowly at the start of Nationals. In the 5km classic I finished in 16th place, 2 minutes off the pace. It was a tricky day for waxing, with the temperature rising well above zero, but the snow on the back half of the course remaining quite dry and other parts in the sun becoming slick and slippery. In retrospect, I probably should’ve gone with more kick, but I don’t think skis or wax were the limiting factor.
There’s something that’s just not right right now (or for the past month), and I can’t put my finger on what it is though. During the race I was pushing hard but am just not getting anything out of it. It’s so frustrating that you can try so hard and still fall so far from what you believe you’re capable of. The one explanation that seems to be the first everyone suggests is that I’m worn out from U23’s and Ski Tour. Mentally and emotionally, yes, I absolutely agree. But physically I’m less convinced.
My perceived exhaustion from U23’s and Ski Tour is low on the physical side, and very high on the psych side. Being on the go for the past 5, almost 6 weeks, has meant that everything is skiing. Everything is about racing. Everything is about recovering from your last effort and getting ready for the immediate next one. And honestly, I haven’t enjoyed that constant sense of urgency. I almost even miss school (really missing getting lecture notes, actually). So I guess state of mind is actually worth a lot more than I gave it credit for – can’t grind through everything.
Before committing to Worlds, I was skeptical about trying to string U23’s, Ski Tour, and Nationals, but there was pressure to go to U23’s, and there was the excitement of racing overseas and representing Canada. I gave in to the pressure, and am now adamant that I should’ve stuck with my original plan to just do Ski Tour and then Nationals. You live and learn though. And this whole campaign has progressed, I’ve started to appreciate the experiences and lessons I’ve had for more than just what they were at face value (which wasn’t much).
The 10k skate also started slow – but it was my decision this time. Today I finished 10th overall, again about 2 minutes back. Considering we travelled twice as far today and I was the same time off the lead, this is a big improvement. I also feel a lot better about this race because I had hold of the reins today and my wheels didn’t come off. My slow first lap probably lost me at least the 3 seconds and four places ahead of me, but I’ll sooner live with that than if I’d tried to be a hero on a day like this, in a state like this.
So yah, a slow start to Nationals, but at least I’m moving and can start to pick up momentum now. There are still two more races – a skate sprint and 30k classic. I’d really like to end this season on a high note after how much of a slog the past month has been, more for self-esteem and confidence than anything. But hey, there’s also the 24hr Relay right when we get back to Thunder Bay, that’s a good event for me, historically…