Every year I head into the first races of the seasons with high expectations. Each time I toe the start line, I know I’ve worked harder than ever before. I know I’ve made gains in technique, fitness, and strength. Despite this knowledge, every year I cross the first finish line I am left…wanting. A little disappointed, a little discouraged, and a little bit perplexed. So, every year I write a blog working my way through the weekend. Year one: On Starts. Year two: Finding Finesse. Given this history, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the opening weekend of races. They were WAY better than years past (each year at West Yellowstone I’ve cut my eventual result in half- 7th this year instead of 28th in 2014), but still not what I wanted (RE: winning). This year is a little different because that first race weekend didn’t count for overall domestic points scoring (that happens this weekend), but still a race is a race. And as a racer I’m generally unhappy when things don’t go to plan.
So cooling down from the races, I was searching for an analogy. Being a perennial pancake person (in the ongoing debate of pancakes vs. waffles vs. french toast), I decided that my racing is rather like pancake making.
To anyone who has made pancakes- you know about the first pancake theory. For no real scientific reason- the pan, the ingredients, and the chef remain the same- that first pancake just doesn’t turn out like the rest. I tried searching for a scientific explanation, and there just isn’t one. There are some nonscientific ones HERE, the most succinct coming from KrazyKakeKylie using the source “myself.” You don’t do anything differently, but that first pancake is a little flat, a little burnt (or undercooked), and just not as tasty. So you make one (and in our household give it to the dog), and then by the next batch things turn around.
And, no one remembers that first pancake. The first pancake is heavily (and thankfully) overshadowed by the glorious batches that follow. I was devastated after the first races last year, but went on to podium for the first time at US Nationals, win my first SuperTour, and race in my first World Cups. But if I’d given up and assumed that the first pancake would be representative of the following pancakes…well I’d be hungry.
So instead of throwing away the entire batch before I even give it a chance to cook, I’m going to figure out how to make them better. For one, I should turn up the heat. I skied technically well last weekend, but (I think) was so focused on skiing well that I ignored the ski really fast part. Pacing has always been a struggle of mine, and the transition from pavement to snow makes that extra hard (you don’t get a perfect push every time on snow). Further, you don’t pick different roller skis for different conditions. I’m immensely thankful for all the new Madshus skis I got this year, but am still figuring out the prime conditions for each and working with Pat to figure out how to best wax them for kick.
Finally, I will head into the next weekend of races with twice as much skiing under my belt. I decided to stick around Vermont this summer instead of travel for snow, so the learning curve is steep. Kikkan Randall (who, granted, had a baby last year, making her transition all the more impressive) likened getting back to snow skiing like riding a bike: “It is a bit like riding a bike. The sensations are all there and I’m used to it, but it’s also new again. But I kind of like that. I really enjoyed working my way to the top and where I was through the 2014 season, and now I have to work my way back. I like that challenge.”
I’ll report back on the second batch next week. Until then it is time to recover from a big week of training and intensity on snow, and get ready for our first Super Tour races of the season- back at West Yellowstone because of (lack of) snow problems in Bozeman.