Sprint days can be one of the most draining race experiences for Nordic skiers. While the athletes are only racing for around 1k, they could participate in up to four races that can last all day. Fighting fatigue is the name of the game, and having endurance is as important as knowing how to sprint.
I've had an ever changing relationship with sprints though my ski career. It can be fun to ski fast, but also challenging to face the possibility of not moving on to the next round. Going from the qualifier, to the quarter finals, to the semi-finals, to the finals are little wins in themselves, but your day can be ended at any point. I've never felt such a spectrum of emotions as I do on a day full of sprints.
Knowing that the stakes are so high there is a constant background stress in the athletes' heads that can be temporarily soothed from a congratulations from a coach or the privilege of moving up to the next round. During the sprints at USCSA nationals I had more than background stress. This day was supposed to be my day, something I had trained a whole year for. I was nervous in every race that I started, and I feared I wouldn't find myself in the finals at the end of the day. For one of my rounds, the quarter finals, Lydia was in my heat. I was so concerned with my own performance that looking back I probably didn't offer Lydia the support that she needed in her first high stakes sprint race. I might have been a bad teammate, but she treated me with kindness in return. After our round, with our shaky legs and ragged breathing, Lydia found me and hugged me. With her hug she told me how amazing it was to race with me. She had followed me around the course letting my coach her just like it was an extra technique practice.
I wanted to cry as she told me all of these kind things about the experience we just had together. We had spent a whole ski season together, but this culminating event made me feel more close to her than I had before. English might have been a barrier for Lydia and I, yet she was able to tell me in the most beautiful way how happy she was that we had the chance to race together.
As I reflect on this moment, I realize that Lydia showed me the importance of having great teammates. In the sprint races I was so trapped in what I was going to do, yet Lydia saw the whole picture and made sure to give me the verbal persuasion that I needed in that moment to feel confident in my own performance. Thank you Lydia for sharing that sprint race with me and giving me a pep talk that I will look back on for years to come.