The average Alaskan can take this from Kikkan Randall's latest achievement: cold snaps like the one we've been enduring the last several days can breed world-class toughness.
After winning a World Cup medal for the second straight week, Randall credited Alaska winters for making her hardy enough to flourish Saturday in a cross-country ski race 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Kuusamo, Finland.
Randall placed second in the 5-kilometer freestyle to lead another historic day for the U.S. Ski Team, which for the first time placed four women in the top 20, including 18th-place Holly Brooks of Anchorage.
"It was definitely Alaska-like conditions out here, pretty cold and windy," Randall said. "I wore some tape on my face and some really thick mittens and still froze my hands a bit, but I think that experience of growing up in Alaska certainly served me well today."
In reinforcing her status as Alaska's preeminent athlete, Randall crushed any lingering beliefs that she is a sprint specialist.
Granted, she is the reigning World Cup sprint champion, and until this season all of her World Cup medals had come in sprint races.
But Randall is 2 for 2 in distances races this season, adding Saturday's silver medal to the bronze she collected the previous week in a 10-K freestyle race in Sweden.
Randall, an East High graduate who trains with Brooks in the Alaska Pacific University nordic program, was coming off a flat performance Friday in the first sprint race of the season, where she placed 10th after failing to advance past the semifinals.
"To finish second was a bit of redemption from a disappointing sprint yesterday," she said. "I didn't feel particularly good in warm-ups today but got out there and skied a really strong, steady race, picking up places as I went through the course."
The 5,000-meter loop was both fast and demanding, featuring 174 meters of total climb.
"The course skis just like a set of intervals," Brooks said. "A really hard climb followed by a restful downhill."
Randall's performance puts her second in the World Cup overall standings and second in what is called the Ruka Triple, a series of three races in Kuusamo. The series concludes Sunday with pursuit races.
Norway's Marit Bjoergen, who dominated Saturday's race in 12 minutes, 2.9 seconds for her third win in three individual races this season, leads the World Cup and the Ruka Triple standings.
Randall clocked 12:25.6 to beat third-place Yulia Tchekaleva of Russia by nearly two seconds. Jessie Diggins of Afton, Minn., was the second American woman in 12th place (12:49.1), Liz Stephen of East Montpelier, Vt., was 13th (12:50.0) and Brooks 18th (12:56.6).
In the men's 10-K, Noah Hoffman of Aspen, Colo., registered a career-best 19th place showing.
Reach Beth Bragg at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG