There were only 4 competitors in my race yesterday, a fact that in itself tells you something about the difficulty of this race. I was really hoping to somehow get third, but the other three women started out quite fast and passed me on the first lap of 5. I tried to stick with them, but I also knew that on a day like yesterday, pacing was very important, so it became my own race to ski and finish. I took a feed of diluted Powerade on the third lap, which turned out to be a mistake, because I think that was the reason I had a pretty bad asthma attack at the top of the final hill of the third lap. It was so bad, I had to completely stop for a bit before getting going again. I've had my asthma pretty well under control all season long, but these very warm, humid conditions coupled with the sugar in the Powerade were a recipe for disaster.
So imagine having a bad asthma attack with over 6 km still to go in the race, and you will know how hard it was for me to come back from it and keep going. But keep going I did as soon as I could breathe again, with my only goal at that point being to finish the race. (By the way, I am not saying this to throw myself a pity party, I'm saying this to give you an idea of how freaking hard the race was.)
I took a feed of only water on the fourth lap, which was good, and slogged on as well as I could until the last lap. At the end of the fourth lap, with the roar of the crowd blowing wind into my sails, I rallied to finish as stong as I could. By that point, the snow was as slow as molasses and the skis were getting suctioned to it like nobody's business. I pushed on ahead, my only thought was "This is the last time up this hill, the last time double-poling hard on this flat, etc.". Andrea was encouraging me as much as she could also, telling me to listen to that crowd cheering and reminding me to think about technique and power. We finally got around the entire lap, and double-poled to the finish to the thunderous roar of the crowd. I have to say the crowd support here has been amazing. The stands are full every day and people are taking pictures of us and cheering us on even when we're just warming up! I have never seen anything like it! So a huge thank-you to the Sochi spectators!
I must also say that our wax technicians outdid themselves yesterday. My skis had awesome grip on the uphills and were super fast on the downs. In fact, I kept running over Andrea on the downhills, so had to tell her to get out of the way a few times. Thanks so much for the awesome wax, guys!
To finish off the post, here is a photo of us finishing the race yesterday:
I would also like to add that I am glad I did this race even though it was so hard and, although I was 4th out of 4, it is still a 4th place finish at the Paralympic Game, and I am happy with that.
Next up, the sprints tomorrow. That should be fun!
Good afternoon from Sochi!