Europa Cup Challenge

After a great US Nationals, the APU Elite Ski Team and I are off to Craftsbury, Vermont to start the second half of the race season. We will be in Craftsbury for the next two weeks racing in five SuperTour races. Due to such a successful US Nationals, the entire elite team qualified to join the US Ski Team for the Europa Cup. We will be bringing a total of ten athletes, which is over half of the team!

Along the way, we will be making videos and weekly updates for those who want to follow our journey. This next trip will be a large financial hurdle for us. For that reason we are starting a crowd funding campaign that will help support our trip:

Please share this with anyone you think may be interested in following us.

Back in Alaska

After US Nationals, most of the team came back to Alaska for a two week training block. I was under the weather for the first week but got back to full steam for the second week.

Some beautiful days in Anchorage, even before it snowed!
Some beautiful days in Anchorage, even before it snowed!

It seems that wherever we go, snow soon follows. After two weeks of skiing on the new man-made ski loop at Kincaid, snow finally hit Anchorage after a month long drought. It was only about a half a foot but it was exactly what we needed to sharpen up the trails. We still had some gorgeous days of skiing before the new snow, but you could feel the excitement in the city when it came.

David is really excited about the snow making. Thank you NSAA!
David is really excited about the snow making. Thank you NSAA!
If 2k of trail is good enough for Kikkan, it's good enough for me!
If 2k of trail is good enough for Kikkan, it’s good enough for me!

Most of the APU US contingent is shipping out of Anchorage today and heading East for the Craftsbury SuperTours. We land into Boston at 4pm today, right before the “potentially historic” Winter Storm Juno is to hit New England. It is supposed to dump over two feet of snow on the Boston area and will gradually creep up towards Vermont. With any luck, we will time it just right and make it to Craftsbury without tempting the blizzard.

We will be in Craftsbury for two weeks before heading over for the Europa Cups. I am really excited for the chance to race the Europa Cup again this year. I made a huge step in my development and I hope to make another this year.

Racing in Europe last year.
Racing in Europe last year.

Holyton of Snow!

Another US Nationals has passed in Houghton, Michigan. I have raced in Houghton quite a bit since UAF races in the central region of the NCAA against schools like Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech, St. Scholastica, etc. I have been to Houghton a total of six times now, but in no way was I prepared for it this year.

Lex getting a birthday interview after finishing second in the 30k classic.

With a constant blizzard and wind chills down to -20 F, I didn’t leave a single item of clothing unworn. When people discovered I am from Alaska and spent four years in Fairbanks, the common phrase of “this must be warm for you!” was repeated. Nope. Though Fairbanks gets down to -40 F once in a while and Anchorage has its wind storms, when you get the snowy trifecta, it starts to drain the mind.

Part of our large APU contingent jamming out in between races.

That said, I had a wonderful time in Houghton. We had to get creative when it came to our free time so the team spent a lot of time reading in coffee shops, strumming on guitars, and singing songs. In general, the weather cleared up for the race days and along with the great volunteers in Houghton, the championships went on without a hitch.

15k skate day. Photo: Christopher Schmidt

My week of racing started relatively unremarkably for the first three races. Finishing 22nd, 17th, and 15th in the Skate 15k, Classic Sprint, and Classic 30k respectively. I was not completely satisfied with my results, but they were still small steps in the right direction. At least that’s what I kept on trying to tell myself. With the last race coming up, the skate sprint, in order to qualify to race in Europe and meet my real goals of the season, I needed to achieve a top five.

I have talked to my coach a lot about the importance of patience, long term goals, and how the process outweighs the daily outcomes. Unfortunately, even though I know that to be true, my subconscious really wanted to race in Europe with the rest of my team of seven guys who had already qualified. Europe is where the majority of competitions are including the World Cup. It is critical to gain experience racing on foreign soil.

For the final three days of US Nationals I had this battle going on in my head. Sometimes it would click: “Everything is going to be great. I can make any situation work. I can adapt.” Other times: “If you don’t make it, your season will crumble.”(That obviously wouldn’t happen, but pressure can make you think funny things). By race day though, I had come up with my mantra: “Race to win, not to qualify.”

Logan leading Eric and I in our quarterfinal. Photo: Christopher Schmidt

The qualifier went well where I crossed in 9th, but it wasn’t until my quarterfinal heat against Besh Cup rivals and current/former teammates Eric Packer and Logan Hanneman that I knew I could make the podium. Finishing the final 200 meters, I discovered I had a finishing sprint I’ve never had before.

I swear this was not staged. I am so blessed having the team and friends that I do. This is after Lex and I finished the final, which was also Lex’s best sprint result ever and put him in the running for most consistent skier of the week with a top 10 in every race! Photo: Christopher Schmidt

With a similar result in the semifinal, all my focus was on the final. Racing against two of my other APUNSC teammates, Reese Hanneman and Lex Treinen, and classic sprint champion, Dakota Blackhorse-Von Jess, it was not going to be easy. The pack went out aggressively with a lot of jostling. I was almost certain someone would fall or break a pole. I struggled to follow my race plan of moving up as we got closer to the finish. Every time I tried to move I was shut out. Instead of coming into the final 200 in the top three, I was tied for last. Luckily, I found a hole and went for it with everything I had. Dakota had already broken up the pack at that point so I concentrated on him. With my coach telling me that I could get him, I pushed with everything I had, but he was too strong. My second place finish was a huge result for me and I’m now qualified for the European races later in the season.

The podium ceremony with Reese, Dakota, and me. Photo: Christopher Schmidt

So, with my season plan finalized, I am heading home today before potentially heading up to Fairbanks this weekend for a Besh Cup or going down to Valdez for a back-to-back 35k race called the Qaniq Challenge. Following that, the team heads over to Craftsbury, Vermont for more National Points racing and onto Europe soon after.