About a year ago, I along with my coach put together a plan, focused on the upcoming season but also the larger picture of performance at the Games in 2018. It was decided to target the World Championships as the competition to be at my fastest. The second focus for the season was at the Paralympic Test Event in PyeongChang, Korea. It was a tight turnaround between wrapping things up in Germany, flying back to Canmore before continuing westward to Korea. Having some previous experience in PyeongChang made the transition go smoothly and as efficient as possible. First up was the Biathlon Sprint. I pretty much continued from where I left off. I was clean on the range but was out-skied on course to finish second on the day. A good start to the World Cup. Next up was the big test, a 20km Cross Country freestyle race in warm, deep, slow slush. We all knew it was going to be a tough race. I stayed focused and as efficient as I could. Trying to find that one snowflake that was just a little bit faster than the others. The eventual winner was miles ahead, but a tighter race was shaping up for second to fifth. I was usually third but only seconds out of second. Two-thirds through the race I decided to switch my skis for a fresher pair. Gambling that the time lost switching skis could be made up by faster skis. It was working until I dropped my pole and had to waste a few seconds skiing back to retrieve it. At the moment I prioritized getting a drink in the hot temperatures over speed and therefore unclipped my Leki pole. Which was no problem. When I started skiing again I thought had the pole back on but my first pole plant ripped the pole out of my hand. Little did I know those seconds would end up being the difference between second place and where I ended up in third. Well, live and learn.
Next race, Biathlon Individual. I started the race digging myself a fairly deep hole. I missed my very first shot adding a minute to my time right from the start. It was one of the most brutal races I have ever competed in. The snow was already wet, dirty and soft so some of the slowest conditions you can ski in. The only thing slower would have been fresh wet snow. Guess what it did for the first 15 minutes of that race, yup, it puked. It felt like skiing through molasses would have been faster. Thanks to some amazing skis provided by the wax techs and hitting the other 19 targets, I raced myself back into the top-3 and finished the race in second place.
The following day was the last race for PyeongChang Test event, a 10km Classic. The day had started differently than most other Cross Country races for me. I woke up, and the first thought I had was ‘I can win this today.’ In the end, it was a roller coaster of emotions, but I still say it was in my top-2 performances of the season. It was three laps of a 3.3km loop. In the opening lap, I felt incredible. The skis were amazing, the body felt in great shape, I had speed and technique. It was going well. So well, in fact, I went into the stadium in first or second place, can’t recall. I upped the pace a bit in the second lap to see if I could get ahead. Again through the stadium, I was right there a second or two between the leader and I. I was about to reach the high point of the course for the third time when the wheels came off. I was skiing way wide right, knowing I had the best grip there and would be able to ski right up the climb. As I did that, I was focused on going but not where I was going. I clipped a V-board and fell. It seemed to take forever to get back onto my feet. To ‘make up’ time I began to scramble, my skiing wasn’t smooth anymore. What I should have done was to take a moment, take a deep breath and calm down then refocus on the race. I was spent, my legs were tired, it was hard to move them, and I didn’t have what was going so well for me earlier in the race. I gave what was left, but it wasn’t in it for that last lap, unfortunately, slipping down to fourth place. I ended up being behind third place by 0.4seconds. I learned a lot from that race, despite the result, it was one of the races I enjoyed the most of the season. To know that two of three laps I was leading or mere second from leading and that in a classic distance race. Wow. I know I will think about this race over the next twelve months. This race is the one I will go to when things get tough in training. Knowing that I’m so close, but needing to fight to get that last little bit.

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