And so another season begins! Last week I packed my bags, said goodbye to home and joined my teammates for a four-month-long tour in Europe. Our first stop was Beitostølen, Norway, for a chance to acclimate to the 10-hour time change and to do a few tune-up races prior to starting the World Cup. Although there was not much natural snow around, the 5km competition course was in a great shape and it was a good week of training. We enjoyed a lot of fresh baked bread and Norwegian brown cheese during the week and I got to do some technique work with my former junior coach, Frode Lillefjell.
The first race on the schedule was a 10km classic individual start (2 laps of the 5km course). My plan had been to start aggressive but my body felt sluggish to respond to the race gear. I kept trying different technique cues and tried changing up the tempo and by the 2nd lap my body was coming around. I pushed hard through the end and crossed the line in 10th place. My biggest goal for the race had just been to get in a hard effort and I achieved that. There was a 10km skate race the next day but I opted to skip that and get ready for the sprint on Sunday.
Due to the fact that an important Norwegian soccer match was happening at 12pm, we had to start the qualification at 9am, which meant starting the warm-up in the dark. It turned into a nice sunny day but a cold wind was whipping through the stadium. The sprint course was super short for the women, just 1.1km. I qualified 7th and used a fast finish on the homestretch in the quarters and semis to advance. In the final I got off to a good start and tucked into the pack. When we came up the main climb, I decided to make a move and go for the front. Even though I was cutting into the wind, I managed to hold the lead and take the win.
With the first two races under my belt, I am feeling good about the start of the season. I had a feeling the summer and fall training had gone well but you never know until you race. Now we head on to Ruka, Finland for the Nordic Opening weekend where the real test begins!