Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Julia's Adventures in Norway

My adventures in Norway!
Sorry this is so long, I couldn't write blog updates since my computer broke, and there is much to tell, so here is the whole trip report!

I had an amazing experience at U18's this year in Norway the past two weeks. For those who don't know what it is, it is the top 6 boys and girls from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and USA that are U18 who race against each other for 3 days (the races this year were also open so anyone else can race). I went on the trip last year to Estonia so I knew what to expect to an extent. My first day started off pretty interesting. I use a nebulizer (an inhaler machine) for my breathing problems and on the first day before our workout in the morning, I plugged it in and turned it on. 20 seconds later smoke came out of the sides so I unplugged it and threw it in the bathroom. Luckily, the smoke detector did not go off and the smoking stopped after a while, although it left a toxic smell in our room for a day. It was an obstacle I had to overcome on the first day, and decided I did not need it, and that I would be fine without it. The first 3 days were race prep days. We skied at the race venue, trying to guess what the course would be since they hadn't marked it yet, and adjusting to the time change as well. In those days of prep, I went on runs and walks with teammates through the big city, Trondheim. We got beautiful views of the fjord and of many sunrises and sunsets, since the sun rises very late and sets very early there in the winter, due to how far north it is. The night before our race, we went bowling for some team bonding. Who knew that I would be any good at bowling, I ended up being the 3rd best bowler.

Then the first race day came, the night sprint. We had to wait around all day while the nerves built up. Once we got to the race venue, they had some sweet American music playing, which set me in a good mood. I skied the course many times in my warm up, trying out all the tricky turns. The race was a short classic sprint. My prelim went pretty smoothly and I was happy with it, but I did not let myself go to see the results because my coaches told me I made heats so the place did not matter to me. Sadly, in the quarter final I fell on an ice patch I did not see in a turn, eliminating me. Once I saw that I got 7th in the prelim (03:05,7 and 6 sec behind the best time), that brought up my mood from how down I was feeling about my crash, but hey, that is how sprints go! I was happy that Heidi had a really good day finishing 5th overall as the top US girl. We had a short recovery time from the late night sprints to the race the next morning at 10am. It was a 5km skate distance race, where we did 2 laps of 2.5km. My first lap I had a super fast split where I was right with the top ten, but the hill in the beginning of the second lap killed me. I ended up 23 including all skiers (remember this year the racers were open races meaning many more Norwegian skiers) and got a glass as an award for getting 11 for the U17 category. Katherine had a great race and placed 7th overall, killing the hills. She started out right behind me so it was fun to ski with her. I had a solid race and learned a lot from it as well. I as flatlander have to train many more hills, "Mount Weston" on our golf course does not cut it! That night, we went to the awards ceremony at the hotel where all the other teams were staying and they announced the results and gave out awards.

Quickly, the relay day came! It was changed to all skate where women raced 3x3km. I was the scramble leg, then Katharine Ogden, and then Heidi Halvorsen. My doublepole start was strong, but the girl next to me boxed me out. I decided just to stay in my place up the first hill and then start making passes once it was more spread out. One girl fell in front of me, almost causing me to tangle up, but I managed to get around her. I felt really good on the next uphills, so I worked my way up to 6th, with 3 girls in a pack including me and the two Norwegians with a little gap ahead who somehow managed to not get stuck at the start. I passed two girls and stuck with the two in front of me, while closing the gap to the Norwegians. I tagged off to Katharine about 6sec off the leader and right with the 2nd and 3rd place girls. Katharine kept the same position,skiing a strong leg and tagging off to Heidi the same way. Heidi passed the two girls right after the tag off and finished 2nd, just 8 seconds behind Norway 1! This was the first time ever on a J1 trip where the US had a podium. The coaches were super excited! I thought the course was a blast, with the suspense of other people around to battle with as well. The relay is my favorite event, fighting it out together with your teammates head to head with the other teams.  Heidi, Katherine and I ended up with split times within a few seconds of each other, and it was a very special feeling to share the podium with my teammates for a medal for America. I was happy with my contribution to the team tagging only 6 seconds behind the Norwegian girl Tiril Udnes Weng who won the 5 km skate sprint the day before. By the way, the relay of Norway 1 skied with the 3 skiers who were 1-3 the day before!   That night, we had fun and watched some Sirkus Northug (TV show all about Northug)! We also watched the relay going on in the World Cup right after our race and some biathlon as well (it is normal to see XC skiing on TV).

This year I knew to expect tight and dense competition where every second counts, and that anyone here can end up in the top of the results on a good day. I learned many valuable lessons about racing, dealing with adversity and being in a foreign country, and things just about myself. The last 3 days we got in a lot of skiing, including heading to Meråker (the school Northug went to) and skiing in a place called Grova which had really nice snow. We drove there when the sun rose, and finished our 3 hour ski with a beautiful sunset over the mountains.The coaches/wax techs including Adam, Kate, and Shane did an awesome job waxing our skis! The skis were rockets and we had really good kick. All the other countries had separate coaches and wax techs with a much bigger crew. We were also lucky to have Bjørn, a guy who Pete knew and asked him to help us out since he lives in Oslo. He was a huge help with speaking Norwegian when we needed it, and he helped wax, coach and drive. These 4 coaches/wax techs were awesome! A huge thanks to NNF as well for funding this trip! This year it cost half the price of last year! We couldn't have gone on the trip without NNF's support! Finally and most importantly a huge thank you the CSU family (coaches, teammates, waxtechs and parents), who have helped me tremendously to have qualified and given me the opportunity to go on this trip. I was thinking often about you, and the live encouragement via Facebook gave me extra motivation.