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Athlete Diary: Long 50km National Championship Day
By:  Andrew Wynd   (2007/03/27)

This year's 50km National championships should have been an enjoyable occasion. Instead, it was a painful reminder of how hard this sport is.

Is any 50km ski race enjoyable, I hear you say? Well, if you have trained well, rested well, eaten well and have good skis, they can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately all of the above-mentioned factors were not in place and the ensuing race was something that soon turned into a survival quest.

This season has been my finest ever in skiing, culminating in racing at the World Championships for Australia. I had focused my entire training year on this goal and worked hard on my 10 and 15km race distances. After returning home from Japan, I soon discovered I was deathly tired and well past my physiological peak for the season. I then set about working like a dog to pay off Japanese travel debts, drinking celebratory beers and generally not training much. I decided I should go to Nationals to finish the season off with my team mates from XCOttawa and the only race on a weekend happened to be a 50km.

I knew it was going to be a long day the instant I tried my skis in the warm-up. I felt sluggish and tired, with no gas in the tank and my skis were just not as fast as I had hoped. I had the wrong structure for this snow conditions and despite a stellar waxing job from John and Liam, I knew it was not going to be enough to make up for my lack of fitness.

I started slow and tried to build into it, but soon found myself near the back of the field and already feeling tired. Wayne went past me like I “was touring”, with the only solace being Craig Storey nearby, struggling from a solid week of performances. Luckily he was around and we skied together with only a few other stragglers for the first 20km. Then Craig started to feel better and pulled away. There was nothing I could do. Then I started to feel slightly better and caught back up to Craig (who waited for me), then took the lead. I was gulping E-Load like it was going out of style, but it seemed my body was not absorbing the energy like it normally does. “Hhhmm, 30km to go. Perhaps I’ll pull out and save an embarrassing finish and horrible FIS points. Nahh I can’t do that again.” I tried that last year in Thunder Bay and that didn’t prove much. “I guess I had better finish today….” These were the thoughts running through my head.

“Just enjoy the view, the sun and the fact I’m out skiing”. This worked for about 5km until some untimely quads cramps brought me back to reality. “Who am I kidding, this sucks!!”

Another two feeds of E-Load and another 20km had trickled past and now both of my triceps were cramping as well as my quads and gluts. I am used to this feeling towards the end of long races, but usually I am going MUCH, MUCH faster.

More gels and another ½ litre of E-Load and still the cramping continued and the punishment endured. I heard the announcers yelling in French about the lead group coming into the finish and I wondered about Karl and how his race was going. I really hoped he was up there.

5km to go, OK, last few hills and then the season is really over. Think of the beers and the BBQ’s... aahhh. Then I was in the finish chute and the torture was over. Instead of the normal feelings of elation and achievement that accompany the finish of the 50km, I only felt relief. Relief that the season was over, relief I had finished, relief I had achieved my goals for the season and relief XCOttawa had skied so strongly in this tough race. Wow, what a winter . . .

Ah, the end of a 50km race.

Interesting Reading. . .
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