First off I have to give a big congratulations to Sylvan Eleffson on his Nationals win in the 30k skate today. He put his head down at 20k and opened up a 10 second gap on me that I was never able to close. It got as big as 23 and finished at 16 seconds. It was a very impressive way to win the race.
The lead up to the National Championships has not been easy for me. The qualification for the Olympics is based on FIS points. FIS is the governing body of all skiing disciplines and FIS points are based on what percentage back of the best in the world you are (lower points are better). The points are based on your five best races in a calendar year. In general the points list is a fair way to rank skiers but it can become a bit skewed sometimes. Because of a bunch of math that I don’t care to explain it is much easier to get good FIS points racing domestically (in the US or Canada) than it is to get good points on the world cup which resides only in Europe and Scandinavia this year. As an example, I was 25th in a world cup last March which was the best US finish of the day and I got 40 FIS points for it. Today I was 3rd at US Nationals and got a 27 point race. I believe that the race at the World Cup level was actually better than today’s race but the there was little reward for it. My goals reside at the world cup level so I chose to ignore the points list earlier this year. Chasing those goals ended up putting more pressure on Nationals than I would have preferred.
I only raced in three National level distance races last season. The races were 21, 23, and 27 points. My next two best races were 40 points from the World Cup. Those points put me in 6th place on the olympic qualification list before the two distance races at Nationals. In order to move into second place behind Noah Hoffman (who has already been selected for the Olympics) I had to score below 30 points in both distance races this weak which meant being on the podium twice.
I just managed a 29.5 FIS race in the 15k classic and I scored a 27 point race in the 30k skate today. I have not been feeling good this week so I am relieved to have moved up into such a strong position. As far as I know there are no more FIS races in the US that could affect the Olympic qualification for distance races.
Glucose control has been challenging. In the last two weeks I have had two low episodes that gave me sweats and shakes. One of them came out of absolutely no where. After racing the 15k classic I was eating dinner with my coach, Zach. One minute I was at a glucose of 85, the next I was at 38 with a soaked t-shirt and a coke that I had to push the waiter out of the way to get. The poor control continued that night. After the low I over compensated on glucose. My sugar rose through the night. My Dexcom continuous glucose monitor goes off every half an hour when my sugar is high. Each time I awoke to the alarm I took a small bolus of insulin to lower the glucose. However, I was woken up 4 times with ever rising sugar which peaked at 280 at 4:00 AM. At this point I took yet another bolus and forced myself to get out of bed and do 200 jumping jacks in order to make my muscles more receptive to the insulin I was giving myself. The physical stimulus worked and I slept until 8:00 AM when my low alarm set off at 78. For me, seventy eight is a healthy level but below 70 is not. So I got out of bed, ate breakfast, and everything stabilized. This was not the ideal recovery for a race and I started feeling very down.
I called my sports psychologist, John Hammermeister in the hopes that he could get my head back on my shoulders. I have worked with John since I was 20 years old and he has an amazing knack for helping me out of tough spots. I spent three hours on the phone with him over the last three days. He helped me to let go of the unquantifiable fatigue that the poor sugars caused and to focus on what had to be done in the next race. I have a tendency to be very obsessive so that was easier said than done. I have to thank my family and girlfriend who also got to listen to me whine about not feeling like myself the last few days. There love and encouragement really helped me to get the most out of a less than ideal time and get the points I needed to pursue my Olympic dream in Sochi.
I am very confident that with a little downtime at home that my best Olympic results are in front of me.