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Sunday, September 9, 2007

21K race in Jeonju, Korea

Today was the much anticipated 21K race - the peak of the 5th annual Jeonju International Skating Festival.
When we arrived, the atmosphere was amazing. The amount of skaters was incredible, and even more surprising was the fact that nearly all of them had speed boots and skinsuits.

As part of the Foreign group, we got to start at the very front of the pack, alongside the local champions.

I had a great start, and hung on to the pack. After I got comfortable, I started joining in attacks, and improving my position. At first I was shifting around within the first 20 skaters.

As opposed to my competitions at the Worlds - this time I was in a pack of skaters with similar ability to mine, and was able to hold my ground among the leaders. This being the first time I was truly in a high level pack - every second was a valuable lesson.

I learned a lot about how to join the paceline properly, how to prevent people from cutting in front of me, when to rest, when to attack and how to anticipate attacks. Gavin Pullocks advice of using the momentum of a skater pushing you from behind to initiate an attack was especially useful. During the downhill sections the pack would really compress, and if you chose the right moment - you could slingshot out right in to 5th place or so, on the push offs momentum alone.

15 Kilometers into the race, the pack seemed to accelerate (or I might have lost power) and I began to lose it. I tried to catch a few attacking groups and get back in the game, but only ended up zig-zagging along the track and losing more power.

After a minute or so on my own, I fount a "late train" and joined in, keeping the pace, and sometimes leading until the last kilometer, where we all broke out into a sprint.

 All and all, it was a great race, and I learned a lot. I think I finished 30th or so, clocking about 36 minutes for the 21K (average speed of nearly 35). Official results are not yet in, but I'll be sure to update when they are.

After the race, we toured the local expo, and saw the Style-Slalom finals - which were amazing. There was also a friendly slide and jump competition - those guys had moves!

Pictures and videos will come soon.

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