12.17.15 Relay Magic
Hello MYSL Skiers!
The last few weeks I’ve been in some pretty incredible places around Europe, racing the start of the World Cup season! The World Cup is the highest level of cross country ski racing, and skiers from countries all over the world (although mostly only the countries with natural snow) get together each weekend to compete. The first races were in Ruka, Finland, which is really far North and still in reindeer country!
We like to call the race course in Ruka our “half-pipe course” because it looks like something you’d find in a snowboarding park. There’s two huge hills and you climb up one side, turn around and ski back down and then up the other side. The biggest downhill is really, really fast…and my friend on the French ski team said his GPS watch told him he got up to 73 kilometers per hour. That’s as fast as a car on the highway!
(racing in the classic sprint in Ruka, Finland)
Then we flew on a couple different airplanes and took a bus to get to Lillehammer, Norway. This is a famous venue because it’s where the Norwegian Birkebeiner ends. You might have heard of the US Birkie, (or at least, I bet your parents have!) but the original one is based in Lillehammer, so it’s a very big ski town!
Our first race in Lillehammer was a 15 kilometer skiathlon, which means that for the first half of the race, we classic skied. Then after racing 7.5 kilometers, we came into the stadium and took off our classic skis and poles, put on our skate skis and poles, and kept racing another 7.5 kilometers, only skating this time. It’s an exciting event because you get to classic ski and skate in the same race! Our second race was a 4 x 5 kilometer relay. The first person skis classic, and so does the second person on the team. Then the last two people race skate legs, so once again it’s a race with both techniques.
(Sadie, Rosie, Me and Liz, our 3rd place relay team)
We had an awesome relay race, and as a team we finished 3rd in the World, so we got to go to the prize ceremony after the race finished! They gave us flowers and a huge block of cheese that was bigger than my head. I was really excited because to do well in a relay, it takes the strength of a team. You can’t just count on one person…you need all four skiers skiing as best they can, and everyone cheering them on, with coaches and wax techs (the guys who wax our skis super fast) doing their jobs well, too. So when a relay gets a medal, it means your whole team is doing well!
I skied the last leg of the relay, called the anchor leg. It’s a lot of pressure because that means I’m the one who has to cross the finish line and I’m our last chance to pass people, but I was confident in my teammates skiing fast and tagging me off to a good position. I ended up passing two teams and sprinting it out with a Norwegian girl on Norway’s second relay team the whole last kilometer, before crossing the line a split second before her to help our team to 3rd place.
People From Around the World:
In Norway, cross country skiing is the biggest and most followed sport, which I think is pretty cool. It’s as big as football, basketball or hockey is in the USA, and the skiers on the Norwegian National Team are superstars with their faces in the newspapers every week. What is really special about this is that nearly everyone in Norway skis and they grew up learning to cross country ski…just like you, outside with your friends and family every weekend! When I’m skiing in Norway on the trails, I see all kinds of people out enjoying the snow. Young skiers, Grandmas and Grandpas, Moms and Dads and lots of teenagers are all there, and outside churches and buildings instead of tons of cars, you see skis stacked against the wall as a means of transportation. People will just ski to work if they can!
Your training challenge for the next few weeks is to work on balance! I had a few years when I fell down in every single race I did. I learned that if I worked on my balance, I would not only stay upright in races, but have more fun because I could move around things in the trail quickly and hop around on my skis! To get better at balance, I would brush my teeth while standing on one foot. I’d tie my shoelaces while standing on one foot. And on small downhills when I was skiing, I would see how long I could lift one ski and glide on one leg before I had to put it down. I still do those things now! It’s a lot of fun to play around on one ski and practice long glides on each foot, and it will make you an even faster skier.
Happy Holiday Season!