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US Nationals 2007 - Race Report
By:  Karl Saidla   (2007/01/05)

This week, Megan, Andrew and Karl were at the US Nationals short distance races at the trails of Michigan Tech at Houghton, Michigan. Houghton is located in what is described as the Upper Peninsular, or the U.P., which is known for its remote location, cold temperatures and abundant snowfalls. Like pretty much the rest of central and eastern North America, Houghton is a lot warmer and less snowy than usual this year. This didn't stop the race organizers from holding races, who, thanks to help from countless volounteers doing major amounts of shoveling and snow re-distribution, managed to provide a challenging 5k race loop that was in quite good shape, all things considered.

On Monday, the racing trails were closed, which gave us the opportunity to ski at the Swede Town trails in Calumet, a short drive away. While the snow was a bit thin, the skiing was good all together, and the atmosphere was very nice, with all kinds of people out enjoying the sun, including many kids sliding down the hill beside the day lodge.

Wednesday brought the classic races, 5k for Megan, and 10k for Karl and Andrew. Megan had what she considered a pretty good race, finishing 41st, about 1:41 behind the winner, Lindsay Weier. This gives you an idea of how competitive these races were. About 200 women and 200 men raced each day.  Things did not go so smoothly for Karl and Andrew, nor for that matter, many of the other competitors in the men's race. Basically, the sun came out and things started warming up so quickly that you practically needed a new wax job every 10 minutes. Karl and Andrew both tried their skis about 10 minutes before the start and concluded that everything was in order. The first uphill made it clear that things were not "in order". Both were thankful that the race was only 10k and not 30 or 50 because even 10k is a long way to go with very little grip. Despite results that they were not particularly pleased with, it was good to race in such a competitive event. Congratulations to Stephen Hart and Jeff Ellis, who managed some great races.

The conditions on Thursday for the skate races were no less challenging, but at least there was no complicated grip waxing to deal with. Once again, things warmed up very quickly, this time mainly during the women's race, allowing some of the field a fast track while the rest had to deal with slow mushy snow. Megan placed 51st, which she would call satisfactory considering the conditions.  Karl and Andrew both had much better races and were able to go home with some measure of satisfaction. While 61st and 85th are not results you "write home about", they at least mean that with some resonable improvement we will see the kind of results we are both looking for.

On the whole, the trip was a success and we accomplished what we wanted, which was mainly to expose ourselves to some very high level racing. We would highly recommend all serious racers to make the trip to US Nationals at least once, because it is quite a show, and probably the most competitive racing that you will regularly find in North America. Thanks to Zach and Amy Caldwell, as well as Scott Wade, who helped us out tremedously with some top-level technical support.

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