Welcome to my blog! This is a site where you can keep up to date on my life as a full-time athlete in the sport of cross country skiing. You can expect regular updates throughout the year as I report on training, racing, life in general and maybe even some school. Sponsors, family, friends and fans: Enjoy!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Ski Nationals and…Wha’ Happened?

It’s an interesting time of the year we’re in right now with the race season ending with the Nationals in Callaghan Valley. The past week has been filled with many mixed emotions and feelings. Many things are now set in motion in terms of reassessing and adjusting future goals, as well as planning for the new year and also the rest of my life.

I just came off of one of my worst Nationals ever, and by far the most disappointing. The week leading up to the races I was having mixed sensations. The 5 weeks leading up to Nationals my preparation was optimal. I touched on every aspect needed to sharpen and hone myself into a tool of domination. But with the week before the breaking in of the Callaghan trails I knew I was tired.

The first day was the team sprint. The day before when I was sprinting with Phil I was feeling fast. Day of however, I felt like junk. The semi-final was a suffer fest, and me and Argue wouldn’t have moved on if it hadn’t been for a crash (with 100m to go) from a member of the Egan Alliance. The final felt much better for me, I was having fun and skiing pretty decently. Argue and I did not however duplicate our silver medal from last year, but considering the depth of the field and how fast we were skiing that day, I’m happy with just making the final.

The next day was the 10 km classic race. The Callaghan showed a glimpse of what will make it the toughest classic race course on the World Cup race circuit next year. Conditions are incredibly variable, but the temperature is fairly stable. The temperature is nearly always within a few degrees of zero, but the weather can change in the blink of an eye from dumping heavy, or sticky, or powdery snow to bright bluebird skies (rain too, but we were lucky we didn’t have to experience that). These conditions make classic waxing extraordinarily difficult. One of the simplest ways of dealing with this is to not wax your skis at all. So that day we ended up using “hairy” skis (scratched up grip pocket, or a ski that has soft p-tex in grip zone). Needless to say, my skis for that day were junk. My skis worked well for the first 200 m or so, and from this point on it was a matter of perseverance; herring boning every hill and double poling like mad where I could. I was feeling fairly good for this race, but in the end it was a hard fought battle that didn’t get me anywhere. I think ski selection had to do something with this; maybe my skis had too high of a residual camber??? With such a measly fleet of boards to choose from, I believe I made the right choice of skis of the two that I had, I just simply don't possess any skis that were made for the conditions. I hauled my butt in barely making the top-20.

The 15 skate race was similar. Dumping and dumping, blinding, sticky snow the whole race!! The trail transformed into a narrow skied in corridor riddled with potholes and surrounded by a foot of heavy snow on either side. The greasy skiing surface doubled the difficulty of the course as you’re always working to maintain balance and at the same time forward motion. I was climbing well that day, I just wasn’t skiing the other sections well. I took a huge bail on the big, high speed, perilous descent. Apparently I did about 5 cartwheels that ultimately ended with me in a mangled heap of pain at the bottom of the hill. Luckily I didn’t break my brand new Carbonlites that I was skiing on for the 2nd time ever. On the day, I felt I wasn’t too much worse for wear. I went in with the goal of not using too much “gun powder” (term used by Petter Northug), so I could be sharp for the sprint day. Later in the day, energy levels were still good so I figured I could rally for a strong sprint day.

Sprint day summation: Brutal. I got my ass handed to me that day so bad that I was embarrassed and remain so to this day. On an illegal course that is too long for FIS rules, I skied my mediocre qualifier. I was skiing ok, but had no snap or tempo to carry me up the 2 huge climbs. My technique felt strained and unnatural, but I felt I held it together enough for a decent qualifying result. My bad!! I was 11th. Last time I qualified that bad at Nationals was when I was a 1st year Juvie. On a day when I was hoping to be relatively close to the Olympic Champions, World Champions, World Cup winners, etc…I ended up about 18 seconds behind Joensson’s #1 qualifying spot. Sure it was a long course that clocked Emil in at 2:58, but if I want to be anywhere close to competitive with these guys in the next few years, I can’t keep going on getting pwnt like this in qualifiers.

So in my heat, I was hoping to make some big moves. The OC messed up my quarter pretty bad by getting us to ski the wrong course. It all happened so fast. I made a quick and decisive move that took me from 3rd into 1st. Next second we were on the verge of plowing into a wall of V-boards, so I took a hard Larry down into the Women’s course. This threw me off pretty good, and I totally lost balance, skidding to a halt on my inside ski at the bottom of the downhill. At least I didn’t totally biff, but at the same time, a gap opened up that was as insurmountable as if I had biffed. There was no chance of making up the gap with such little time left, so I struggled in and got beat fairly handily by Gerard Garnier in the sprint for the line. Brutal day. I stood alone at the finish line trying to swallow such a disaster of a day. I walked around a bit, straight past my family who was there to watch, and straight back to the start line to get my warm-ups. I stood alone for quite a while in a state of shock/disappointment. What a day. In hindsight, perhaps more of a focus should have been put on the sprint. I think that racing the other 2 distance races, the skate race especially really did me in for the one day that I can compete. I’m not going to lie though, it was pretty sweet getting to watch some of those top World Cuppers duke it out in the final heats of the day. Those guys can really throw down.

The Grande Finale of Nationals is the long distance day. This day I was to do 30 km classic in conditions trickier than the 10 km day with a 40 cm dump of snow ending 5 minutes before our race start. This day was also very disappointing, almost as much as the sprint day. This day however, instead of using hairies like in the 10 km, we went for a klister/hardwax medley. My skis were OK the first lap, but on the 2nd lap, I was shocked and appalled at the way I was racing and at the deterioration of the race wax. Is a matter of fact, I wasn’t even skiing. I was below zone 1, stopping every minute to wipe off my 3 inch platforms. It was physically impossible to ski. At the time I was pretty doubtful that I would pull out a good race, as skier after skier whizzed by me, so when someone asked if I wanted a scraper I merely replied “I’m done anyway”. I should have taken that scraper and busted out a rewax job that would make Jerry Ahrlin proud; double poling the entire course (I imagine there would be some herring boning involved…).

But anyways, I think I’ve squeezed out about as much rant as I can, so its time for this kid to put an end to Nationals talk.

Post-Nationals talk however is still fair game. The week after the races, myself along with the rest of NTDC (minus Butler, although he did partake the one day he was in town…) decided to put in some shred time on the slopes of Whistler. It being my first time dh-ing, I had a blast. I became Bode-like in minutes and was soon doing up some black diamonds and hitting some drops. Fun week. Incredible place.

Take a deep breath and get ready for the New Year. Plan well. Schedule rest and find what works for you. Enter the blank slate and try something new; build on your foundation. Your time will come.


Butler caught this tender moment as Somppi struck a pose on our way from Van to Whistler.

A training day.

We put in hundreds of hours playing Tony Hawk 4 on PS2.

Lenny found a friend (entirely made of bike parts).

Butler. In the freakin' zone, chief!

Serenity before insanity.

Atop the mountain.

I got sunburnt in that little gap b/w my glasses and my toque!

The Champion of Highlands (Camille Cheskey is knocking on his door though to challenge him to a fight to the death...)

Kate Brennan. In her element.

On the last day of skiing i got to chill with my homeboy/business partner from Yellowknife. Andrew Matthews lives in Whistler and is training towards the Olympics.

The Wood man busting out his new oldschool SLR (is that an oxymoron?) to shoot Andy in action.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The New Taste of Air


Tbay City Champs went down today. It was a 10 km pursuit, not exactly my event since 1. I've never had a good pursuit race in my life, and 2. I don't think 10 km is my distance; I'm more of an "extreme" kind of guy, liking either a sprint distance or a 30 km. So today was just aight. I hammered off the start to stick with the front guys, but soon got dropped as the pace was just unsustainable for anything over 3 km. So I dropped off slightly and skied my own little 5 km classic race on my own. I did my transition, fumbled with my Salomon classic bindings HARD (I ended up having 2nd fastest transition though...the others' transitions must have been junk!), and then went on my merry way into some insane climbs that would bring me up to the high-altitude plateau that is the Lookout Loop. I went into the skate about 10 s off Pate, and by the 1 km mark in the skate he must have put another 10 seconds into me. So I got my climb on and ascended for all I was worth. Luke V. and Chris Hamilton (who I took out pretty good off the start!) caught me and hauled me up a few climbs. Chris peeled off cause I suppose he'd had enough and we didn't see him for the rest of the race. I plodded around Lookout for a while mirroring Luke, and I decided I would try to do something on the long downhill section into the finish since my skis were slightly quicker. I made a pass on a long downhill, and then tried to emulate my good friend Petter Northug with a devastating finishing kick. Didn't happen... I had snap, but i should have used it earlier. Got my ass handed to me in the dying meters of the race.

So like I said, the day was aight. I did a race but didn't have any ground-breaking sensations. The calm before the storm perhaps (Nationals). I did notice however, that the air tastes different now. I believe my body is completing its transformation into race shape now, as the intensity has been cranked up and the focus on distance-based training has been muted for the time being. I have become more efficient anaerobically, and less efficient in most areas aerobically. This change in state alters my metabolic functions and makes hard work feel different than it would have in the summer. Right now I feel like I have made big gains training-wise over the past few weeks. Now I need to reap those gains with some intense rest this week. This is what it means to find the "hidden workout" in every situation in life as well during actual workouts. What you do every moment will change your life; how you approach a training session, how you go about a training session (gauging intensity accordingly, mental aspects etc..) and how you approach periods in between training sessions. It's up to you.

You reap what you sow.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Face Melting Solos and The Essence of Digging Deep


Just recently I've ended my half-decade guitar playing hiatus. I picked up Somppi's ghetto, 3/4 size classical guitar and started strumming out some mind-blowing, gut-wrenching tunes. At first I was cautious, not remembering a single song, but soon my finger memory served me well and every song ever written by Blink 182 came back to me, slowly but surely. Below is a little clip of me playing an old favourite. In rehearsal I was much better; doing technique analysis afterward pinpointed some major flaws in my form.

As for the Sibley Ski Tour 20 km Mass Start skate race on Saturday, it was a very good day for me. Off the start I busted out some ballsy frog-skating to get ahead of the masses and I led the first 2km or so. I decided leading was pointless, so I stopped and was consumed by the pack, where i sat for the next 10 km or so. The pace was, in general, very leisurely. Lots of chatting and chilling. No one wanted to lead on the flat course, as it would just waste energy. Somppi did a bit of an attack to test how he was feeling at around the 6 km mark, but soon after decided to rejoin the peloton.

Once we were rid of Steeff and the other old-school 50km skiers at the 20 km turn-off, the real racing began. The pace increased minutely and remained at this slightly speedier state for a couple kms. With 6 km to go Chris Hamilton made a small attack on a hill but ended up fading because of it. By the top of the hill he got passed and very shortly thereafter was dropped hard. At this point Phil put his head down and launched a formidable attack that would last about 3 km. During these 3 km I dug deeper than I ever have before in a distance race. About 15 minutes before this attack I took a stock gatorade feed from race personnel. Throughout Phil's punishing 3 km I had gatorade induced barf taunting me at the back of my throat, threatening to forfeit my chance of winning. Eventually Phil abated since he couldn't shake myself, Somppi or Luke. He moved to the side to rest a bit in our little pack. The pace eased, much in my favour because I was losing energy sources HARD while Phil was doing his thing. The rest of the race can be summed up by the words "uncertainty" and "hesitation", because of the never ending, winding flat section that led up to the finish. None of us NTDCers knew when to start our powerhouse sprints. Somehow Viljakainen knew where the finish line was, so he surged forward on a slight grade. Trying to follow, us 3 NTDCers were obstructed by a 10km-skiing Jackrabbit and our chances at victory vanished (mine had already vanished around the 15 km mark...). In the end it was Luke, Somppi, Phil, Myself (within like 5 seconds) and then Chris Hamilton another 2 minutes or so back.

For me, very good indications of my shape. First time I have ever been able to stick with these guys in a distance effort, and this race was also my first skate race of the year (just ended up being like that I suppose...I do prefer classic over skating though...distance-wise anyways...I'm gunna stop with the "..." now...). I still have hope of becoming a half-decent distance athlete.

Anyways, my writing is stale. I'm tired, hungry, scared and should really hit the hay.

Someday soon I will write something deeply compelling and meaningful to skiers and possibly to athletes in general. I'm even throwing around the idea of starting up my own website this spring...but that is a story for another time.

So until then, TAKE CARE!