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.


Mike Somppi said...

Solid rant TD. Now I can just write a blog article that says check out TD's article on what happened at Nats, lol. Props to B-man on "capturing the moment". And don't worry Thomsen, our time will come!

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