Wow. Where to begin. My first international race experience in one of the more famous cross-country ski venues in the world - a Tour de Ski venue as well as the host location of the 2013 Cross Country World Championships: Val di Fiemme, Italy. It was extremely exciting just to get to the stadium and ski the trails for the first time. After my first lap of warmup, I gathered my skis and picked a spot in the stadium to line them up and begin testing wax. Already in awe of all the extremely fast-looking athletes skiing around, I notice a girl station herself next to me whom I could very possibly be racing against in the upcoming days. She starts stretching just a couple metres away from me. As if it was her purpose to intimidate me, as if she knew one of my biggest weaknesses, right there in the snow, she lowers into A FULL SPLIT. My jaw literally falls open. Being the inexplicably tight and inflexible person I am, this thoroughly impressed me and made me think "So this is Worlds; where my competitors warmup by doing the splits in the middle of the ski stadium. This is going to be a good time."
The first two races, a skate sprint and classic 10k, rated mediocre on the performance scale for me. It's hard to say if I was still dealing with remnants of being sick after the trials races in Canmore, but I wasn't feeling like myself, and I missed qualifying for the heats in the sprint race by less than a second. Lesson number 1 - every tenth of a second counts! Don't hold anything back.
I was really looking forward to the 10km classic race as I'd consider it one of my specialties, but was disappointed. I finished the day in 35th again knowing that I was capable of racing faster. I was not feeling like my fastest self in these races. That being said, I had one of the best learning experiences out on the course that day. Because I was an early starter in this individual start race, I was heading out for my second lap when the fastest girls were starting their first lap. As one Norwegian caught me right before a downhill, I decided I would use the situation to my advantage and hop in behind her for the downhill, then just try to stick with her for as long as I could on the uphill. Everything went according to plan until we reached the uphill. She basically sprinted up this hill at a pace I've never seen before in a distance race. Her tempo was unbelievable and she left me in her dust! This was a massive reality check for me. Lesson number 2 - this is how the fastest girls in the world race; they hammer all out, all the time, with wicked tempo. You're not in Canada anymore Olivia! This is the reality of international racing. These girls are seriously fast!
The last race - the 15km skiathlon - was my favourite race. It was the most fun I had racing all Championship. This was a mass start race in which the first half of the race is classic, followed by a quick equipment change and the rest of the race is skate. I absolutely love mass starts because it gives me the opportunity to ski in the pack, and try to position myself where I would like to eventually be as I improve - as close to the front of the pack as possible. I started hard and skied as far up in the field as I could and held on for as long as I could. This was so thrilling, and the first couple of laps were amazing, I was skiing really well and was in a pretty good position. I was genuinely having fun and thoughts kept running through my head about how much I loved racing. Unfortunately the pace I set for myself was more than I could maintain, so as the race progressed I started fading and got passed by a lot of people. That being said though, I don't regret anything. I think I learned so much from skiing in the pack. It lit a fire in my belly and showed me exactly where I want to be in years to come.
Through this collection of races, watching my team mates have terrific races of their own, and completely soaking in what international racing is all about, I'm more fired up than ever to train my butt off so that I can be fast and ready to give everything I have when the next opportunity to race internationally arises.
Thanks to everyone who helped me get to Italy! I'm so thankful for the support team I have and recognize that there are key people and sponsors who make these things possible! La Cordee for supplying me with all my waxing equipment that I used to wax up the 12+ pairs of skis I had with me in Europe! The little things make the biggest differences! Madshus for all the fast boards and boots and poles, I was really proud to be fully representing Madshus at Worlds. Buff, because I wear one every single day. Thanks so much to everyone else who has contributed to this journey!