The day began well before I would have liked with a pre-dawn alarm clock, and there was a bit of apprehension knowing that the day would be very physically grueling, and that I would have a lot of Canadian competition to boot. I am under the impression that cross country skiing takes on a whole new level of religiosity once the border is crossed, and I did my typically brilliant job of psyching myself out at the start line. "Oh my gosh, she's really skinny and her lycra tights have logos all over them. She must be fast."
As much as I would like to maintain skate skiing as a recreational activity and to not focus too much on drills and intervals, I really should work on my double poling. I got caned in the mass start and was immediately blocked in by a bunch of jr.'s and about half of the British Columbian populace. Luckily, the trail for the first km or so was really wide, and the inevitable shuffling of skiiers ultimately worked itself out. I took the lead as soon as I was able to make my way though the crowd and that was it. Atypically, I wasn't thereafter consumed with my usual front-of-the-pack-terror, which normally has me freaked out that someone I previously passed will catch up to me and the Earth will be unleashed from its axis and the world as we know it will end. Because these things are obviously related.
The course was awesome! Three tough 10 km loops with an exhaustingly lengthy climb, a couple of fun, moderately technical descents, and several steepish rollers. My first time up "the climb" was fairly anxiety provoking, as I tried to fathom how the hill would feel the second and third times around. Every time I thought the climb was over I turned a corner and saw the trail continue upwards. More anxiety. There wasn't much of a chance to capitalize on the descents either, as they ended abruptly and painfully in the form of a steep hill. The good part is that each subsequent lap only felt easier than the time before. When I expect the worst, I am always underwhelmed.
It wasn't a big race, but I have to give a big kudos to the Blackjack ski club for putting on such a wonderful event. The course was perfectly groomed, marked, marshalled, and supported. And although the Blackjack folks had no control over it, the weather was spectacular. The morning began in a bit of a cloud that occasionally wafted on to reveal some blue sky. As the race progressed, the sun asserted its dominance and a smattering of light clouds added another level of depth to the atmosphere. There were moments during the race when sunlight filtered through the cedars and illuminated ice crystals suspended in the air. It was like skiing through a tunnel of ultra-fine sparkles!
After the friendly post-race feed and awards ceremony (I got a really neat, locally crafted, mug), Aaron and I headed out for a recovery ski. We were only going to do Aqueduct, but ended up skiing another 20+ km. I was pretty "burny," but my energy levels were still high, the day continued to be brilliant, and I had a wonderful time skiing and chatting with Aaron. It's not often that I don't feel guilty having him ski at my pace, but after a 30 km race, I felt no guilt at all. Even the car ride back was fun, and though the movie we subsequently starved through was not, it was a memorable and welcome day. I should add as a side note that some ringers came over from Canmore for the men's race, but Aaron still managed a 4th place overall and won his master's division.
Monday it was straight back to work, but I felt renewed and cheerful. I can't say that I prefer working to being outside on these sunny February days, but I'll take what I can get :)