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Laura Valaas Reports from Silverstar

Wed, Dec  17, 2008 - By Laura Valaas

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Our last race venue, Silverstar

Sovereign Lake NorAm Skate Sprints

We come to race. It's simple like that-- show up, ski fast. During our stay in Silver Star, BC, with two sprint races and three distance race, I stepped  up to the start line eleven times. At each of those starts I knew the cold air was about to burn in my lungs, my muscles were going to scream in pain, and that I was about to lay my best effort out there and find out how my best compared to the competition. After most of the starts my best effort was good but not the best in the field. After one start, however, I had the satisfaction of being the fastest to race that day.

In the prelims for the skate sprint I felt leaden and frustrated that I couldn't accelerate my limbs through the motions like I wanted to ski. Our race course at Sovereign was http://www.lauravalaas.com/2008/12/some-music.html fun, with tight turns, rests, and uphills and I came up to the quarterfinal excited to have another chance to play on it. The six girls started out fast and my body objected to the sudden load off the line but managed to get me into third before the first turn. I took advantage of the wide trail on the gradual uphill to move into second. I tucked into the draft on the next downhill and had the pleasant realization that my skis were wicked fast that day as I sling-shotted around Daitch on the short, steep uphill without even particularly desiring to. Since I only needed to be top two to advance I had planned on hanging out in second. Once I was in front, however, I had no desire to give anyone else a draft so I accelerated over the top of the hill and down, around, and back into the finish. The semifinal played out almost identically.

When the A-Final started my body knew what it was about to go through and, more importantly, wanted to do it. I started off the line maybe too eagerly and pulled into the front. Not particularly wanting to be in the front from the start, I eased up around the corner and relaxed into a tuck on the first gradual downhill instead of skating through it thinking someone would come around me. My skis really were the fastest out on the course that day because when I looked back to see where the other girls were, even in my draft, they were strung out in a line. When we hit the gradual uphill my tactic changed to racing off the front and I took advantage of my rest on the downhill and put in a quick acceleration to try to get a gap on the field early in the race. It must have worked because I skied the rest of the course and sprinted into the finish with the unusual peacefulness of not having someone kicking my pole baskets and breathing half a second behind me.

It feels good to win a race. Really though, I'm happy as long as I get the opportunity to start. I know that most of the races I start I'm not going to win, but every race I start I get the satisfaction of putting 100% of my focus and effort toward a goal. Standing on the start line is akin to announcing that I am going to show you the best I have, without excuses or explanations. Regardless of how good my best may be on any given day, there's purity in facing the challenge.

Our next race venue, Alaska

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