Monday, February 16, 2015

Tour of tiny European towns: 2015 edition

I have been racing in Europe since the beginning of January, mostly in small remote places, some without even a gas station! 

I started with 2 weekends of World Cup sprints in Otepaa, Estonia and Rybinsk, Russia. The World Cup races did not go anywhere near how I hoped. My body wasn't moving well and I was far off the all-important top 30. It was really disappointing to not perform when it mattered and I missed my chance at a World Champs start. It's one of those experiences where I learned a few things, and now have to move on and let it go! I started feeling more like myself after a few weeks in Europe and racing has been going better since then. 

Otepaa was my first stop. We stayed in the nicest place I've stayed so far in Otepaa. It was a small, cozy hotel and was a relaxing place to get over jetlag despite the 24-7 Christmas music soundtrack (it was mid-January!)

After 2 days of travel we arrived in Rybinsk, Russia. Our bus had a police escort from the airport and we passed lots of huge concrete apartment blocks along the road. We stayed and raced at a resort well out of town, on the Volga river. This was the view on my walk to the restaurant:

The conditions were great and it was nice to have lots of snow to ski on.

The stands with lots of excited Russian fans in fur coats:

After the World Cups I decided to stay in Europe until the B-tour trip started, along with Patrick Stewart-Jones. We rented a car and went up to Jami, Finland for the Finnish Championships. It was a fun weekend of racing against a deep Finnish field. Everyone was so welcoming: Rex ski service waxed our skis and Lahden Hiihtoseura club let us stay in their cottage! So nice to make some new friends!

This was the skate distance day, thanks to Jyri for the photo and cheering!

Next we traveled to Mantta, Finland where Ilkka and Auli Nikmo hosted us for a week of training. Ilkka is the brother of a family friend in Salmon Arm and it was so nice of them to take us in!

It was such a treat to stay in a home with laundry, a kitchen and sauna after weeks in hotel rooms. The skiing was good too, with lots of terrain for long workouts.

Auli took us on a cultural tour of Mantta, showing us a beautiful new art museum and some historical buildings. This was the door of the old part of the art museum. It used to be the home of the owners of the paper mill that is the main industry in Mantta:

After a relaxing week we met the rest of the B-tour team in Helsinki for the next stage of the trip. We headed to Vietalva, Latvia for some warm-up races at the Latvian Champs. We were in a remote area with not much to see but our hotel was very nice and the food was great. Our hosts took us on a tour of a nearby German mansion is being restored which was a fun afternoon outing.

These were small races but I was happy to win Valentine's day flowers in the sprint, as well as a freshly printed laminated certificate of achievement. 

We just arrived in Madona, Latvia for the main reason we are in Latvia: Scandinavian Cup races. These are always very competitive events so it should be a fun set of races!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

'Tis the Season

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and all that good stuff! I am happily relaxing at my parents house after a busy month of racing. I have eaten my fill of turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, and pie, and had a lovely time catching up with my family and friends.

I had a few great ski days at Larch Hills, here's our family out for Boxing Day:

My mom is a talented artist and gave Chris and I paintings of Utah for Christmas:

Our snowman had a rough night:

Now a brief recap of my last month:

I kicked off the race season in West Yellowstone, Montana for the SuperTour opening weekend. I started well with a win in the skate sprint, just sneaking by teammate Heidi in a tight finish.

Sprint final. Photo: Karath

Sprint podium. Photo: Annie Pokorny
The following weekend was in Bozeman where I had a solid sprint day until the final when I ran out of steam in the slush and finished 5th. Both distance races in the U.S. were tough for me. I find it takes me a few weekends of racing to get my distance legs back and be strong in back-to-back races on a given weekend.

Bozeman sprint heats. Photo: Marie-Eve Bilodeau-Corriveau
As I hoped, my distance racing finally came around in time for our NorAm opener in Rossland. The organizers did an incredible job putting on the races with very limited snow and we ended up with 2 distance classic races. I felt really good and was able to win both days!

The final weekend was at Sovereign. Again it started with a classic sprint. I didn't have the best tactics in the final but still came out with a silver medal. It was so nice to have my parents, aunts and uncles out volunteering, and Chris helping the Academy wax. I think I had the biggest cheering squad out there! The final race was a 15km individual start skate race in a snowstorm. Not my favourite format but I managed to just hang onto the top 5. 

4 of the top 5 women in the Buff NorAm sprint were sponsored by Buff!

Starting the skate race:
Photo: Eleanor Marshall
I finished the month as the sprint and overall NorAm leader. If I can hang onto those titles I should be able to get over to Europe later in the season.