December 6th, 2007. It was a chilly day in Canmore, Alberta and I awoke full of excitement and nervous anticipation. Today I would be racing my first pursuit ever! I had practiced the exchange several times, but it still didn't seem to be enough. I feel confident that I am strong in both classic and skate disciplines, but would I be able to do one right after the other? Would I get disqualified for leaving my equipment outside of my exchange box? And worst of all, would I be able to overcome a bit of a bad start position?
The race gun went off and suddenly I was accelerating along with 50 other high performace athletes. The battle for a good track began. I had some difficulty finding openings on my first lap and was unable to move up through the field. Fortunately, I was able to capatilize on some opportunities during my second lap and I made my way into a decent position. I finished the 7.5km classic leg feeling strong, yet full of anxiety heading into the dreaded exchange.
I had some difficulty in my practices with unstrapping my poles quickly, so I undid them in on the final decent into the stadium. I entered the exchange area like a lost child wondering where I should go next. I knew of course where I needed to go, but with the adrenaline rushing I started second guessing myself. Suddenly I had arrived at my box. "Okay... breath Michael... change your skis and grab your poles." I stumbled putting my right ski on. I stumbled putting my left ski on. Feeling flustered, I grabbed my skate poles and looked up to see the group I had entered the stadium with skiing away. I pushed forwards and the chase was on.
In retrospect, my exchange really wasn't terrible. I really only lost a small amount of time, but that was all Pate Neumann needed to ditch me. He was the one person in my stadium arrival group I never did catch up to. The good news was the switch from classic to skate really wasn't so bad. My skate poles felt enormous in the first 100m and my legs felt a little awkard pushing to the side rather than linearlly, but once I got going it was fine.
I crossed the finish line of the 15km Pursuit as the 25th Open Man and the 6th Junior Man. Now that I've completed my first pursuit race and the dreaded exchange once, my fears have been faced and I only have improvements to look forward to. My next pursuit will be a 20km race held in Valcartier, Quebec on Dec. 15th.