I’m not going to lie; this past semester of school was a terrible experience. I was enrolled in a Calculus course, that thankfully I had done most of in High School, and a Biology course, Anatomy and Physiology. The Calc is normally a 6 month, and the Bio is normally a year-long, but because of how funding from the Gov. of NDub works, I had to finish everything in 4 months. I learned this after already being 1 month into the courses, as there was a big misunderstanding with AthabascaU and I had been misinformed by them – I was under the impression that I would complete the Bio in 12 months, and would complete the Calc in 6 months and would be sitting pretty with my monthly Student Financial Assistance living allowance and all that Jazz. But no, that was not the case, and I entered the semester from Hell. I worked on Bio on a regular basis all throughout the summer but was behind off the get-go and only got further and further behind. I ended up completing over 6 months of course work in less than 2 weeks towards the end of the semester. Calculus I just left to the very end, and attempted to learn some unknown-unknowns in the final couple days before my final through a combination of New Jersey Institute of Technology lectures, my High School notes, the Internet, and only a little bit of stuff that was in the AthabascaU material (they did not cover that last section very thoroughly!!! Grrrr…). I still don’t know my marks, but this is the only time in my life where I am actually seriously wondering to myself whether I passed or not. But ya, this experience has left me mentally fried and scarred and has given me one of those potentially life-long fears of school that will keep me away from heavy book time like that for a very long time. It didn’t help that one of the profs was a complete and utter tool and should never be put in a position responsible for the learning and assessment of young persons looking to further their education. Hopefully he doesn’t read this cause he still has to mark all my assignments, haha. I just read an interesting article (ya, I know, I get to read things without the goal of mindless memorization nowadays!) in “The American” that talks about how less people in the US should go to college. It talks about the whole illusion set up by society that attempts to funnel every High School grad into post-Secondary when there is so much more out there to life and learning and what it takes to have a high-paying career and all that than being forced through (for some) mindless studies. For me, I am embarking on a time of learning, but of things of interest and use to me and for my place in this world. During school I fantasized of all the great things I was going to do the minute I put the books away in a dark corner of my closet (I don’t even know why I’m keeping them…I suppose they could be worth something…definitely not sentimentally…Bio t.book could be cool to look back on cause I guess that sort of stuff interests me from time to time, but usually on a higher level (as Argue and Daitch have dubbed me “the mad scientist of the skiing world” alongside greats like J. Jaques, etc… you know who you are…)). My list of things I planned on doing looks like this:
- make patent (I wish I could tell you, but that would defeat the purpose)
- update blog (smile)
- do yoga (free every Mon. and Wed. mornings at Lululemon in the Village. I’m pumped to spin over, grab some b.fast at Citta’s (I hear their b.fast is legendary) and slay some-slash-attempt to slay some yoga at the Lulu crib)
- stretch (I don’t stretch when I do school)
- Yamuna ball
- Soccer + squash with Aiden (PJ and Jacinta’s 8 yr old son)
- Watch TV
- Draw, do art (I used to be pretty artsy-fartsy when I was a kid)
- Volunteer (to meet ppl. I don’t know anybody in Weasel-town…)
- Take cooking to a new level (for the past few months I’ve been living off a batch of chili I made earlier this summer)
- Make salad dressing
- Get set up for hunting/fishing in BC (me and Pate are gonna start living off the land – the grouse here are the size of turkeys)
- Play guitar (I used to be a rockstar several years ago but have dropped the ball big time. Check way back in my blog archives to sometime last winter and you’ll see some of the skill that I still possess)
Above all though, being out of school will allow me to devote more time to training and doing everything right. No more late night cramming, no more sacrificing nap time for study time, it’s game time.
Exit school-rant theme, enter “real update” theme.
Rewind about a month. I’m on a plane sitting next to a dude from Colorado and a rotund, red-faced Texan who are on their way up to the tundra to shoot some caribou. The flight from Edmonton to Yellowknife touches down in YK to full-fledged autumn season, a sudden change from the heat and sun of Whistler. The moment I step off the plane, I inhale and I am flooded with emotions (sort of) triggered by the mixture of the fall-time scents and the jet-fuel exhaust. The Yellowknife Airport is located at the edge of town, with the highway snaking around it and off into nothingness towards Bechoko and beyond that southern Canada. And it is on this highway that I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours of my life rollerskiing back and forth during the summer and fall months (which amount to 3 total), on the debris-covered shoulder, dodging the insane traffic that is now commonplace in Yellowknife (and inhaling jet fuel exhaust). It’s a love-hate relationship really…rollerskiing on this road was the environment that I was placed in, albeit not the best rollerskiing in Canada (possibly among the worst), but I learned to optimize my situation and adapted to my environment. We have grown old together and have been there for each other through hell and high water. Airport loop, I commend you.
But ya, so I got back to Yellowknife for a short little weekend stay. Right away when I got home I got reacquainted with my fam’s 2 yellow labs, Misty and Ginger. Since Ginger’s body has passed its prime and has atrophied terribly in her old age, Misty would have to suffice as my faithful companion on a little bush-crashing adventure through the dense marshlands that are basically my backyard. Me and the pooch went out on a bit of a swamp run and adventure and it was an awesome way to get back in touch with the land. Went to see a movie, “Burn After Reading” (never see that movie, it is terrible), with my Dad that night as my mom was hosting a baby shower, so it was nice to spend some time with the old man. The next day I sat in on a little talk that Beckie Scott was doing at the YK Ski Club and then I got to guide a small group of keeners along with Beckie around on a little adventure run (I’m all about the adventure runs, the parents who were following their kids were definitely raising some eyebrows at my, again, bush-crashing and bog running route). It was so nice being back out on the trails there in the fall time. You could taste the snow on its way. It was equally incredible looking over Back Bay from up on the raven hangout that overlooks the outrun trail that shoots out from the ravine – the fall colours and the setting sun on the ever-scenic Old Town and house boats was a sight to behold.
Back to C for C dinner. It was a sweet gig, no lie. I didn’t have to speak or nuttin’, just had to show up, shoot the you know what and hang out all night long eating an awesome assortment of awesomeness in the form of food served up by Yellowknife’s own, Chef Pierre (Yellowknife’s food guy). I didn’t even know it, but Brendan Green was at this event so I got to catch up with him which was sweet. It was funny cause I didn’t even have a spot to sit at my sponsor’s table (FSC Architects and Engineers who were there in full force) when I was there, and Brendan didn’t have a spot to sit either, so we hung out on the sidelines during the opening remarks and tried to formulate a game plan with the goal of being able to sit down at some point in the evening. To our avail, Gail Nesbitt, Sport North lady and athlete relations extraordinaire prodded us through the labyrinth of tables and plunked us down at the, you guessed it, Champions Table. Aww yea. It was myself, Brendan, Beckie Scott, NY Islanders hockey great Mike Bossy, and Olympic Silver medalist curler Kevin Martin. What a night! Boy, there were some good stories circulating at that table…what a star-studded, interesting, and down to Earth group of individuals we had keeping us company that night… Did I mention how cool Beckie Scott is? Dayum, she’s a cool cat… On the whole, awesome time. Got to talk to and meet many people in the Yellowknife business World, got to chill with some celebrities, eat some wicked-awesome Arctic Char and prime rib and sip some free wine. Even landed a sponsor on top of everything. Bodyworks Fitness Centre (my old employer) will be providing me with equipment from Rudy Project, Craft and New Balance through the generosity of good old Francis Chang.
Sunday was a double pole with A-Hop and Moses. I took them on the Airport Loop and down Jackfish Hill. Neither had ever done Jackfish before and both were very intimidated. I remember the first time I did it at the age of 5…haha no, I was actually 11, I myself was intimidated. It’s this big-ass hill on the airport loop that constitutes the largest paved incline in Yellowknife boasting a total elevation gain of about 20 meters. Very intimidating for us flatlanders… But those kids done good and got down it with little more than shaky knees and the blood drained from their faces. I shouldn’t call Moses a kid, he’s in his later-ish twenties... I shredded my right hand to pieces on that rollerski with the crappy One Way poles I was using. Good workout though, nice to get back on the ‘loop. It’s funny how I call it a loop, cause it’s not even a loop. It’s an out and back road that you do many times for your workout. Some runners call it a loop because you can run through a section of town to complete the ever-flaunted huge distance of like 6 km that is the Airport Loop.
No trip back to YK is complete without going into the bush and shooting things (or at things). So that’s just what I did on the Monday morning, bright and early. Me and the old man shined up a couple o’ shot guns and drove around on some roads for a bit looking for some prairie chickens. I love hunting grouse, there is always an exciting high-speed chase through the bush and there is always some crazy stuff that goes down. For example, we saw 2 grouse sitting on the side of the Dettah Road, so we pulled over and I approached them, .410 at the ready. One took off immediately as a school bus drove by and flew into the bush on the opposite side of the road, the other one stood there thinking “hah, there’s no way this guy is gonna see me! I’m so well camouflaged!”. I shot at it and the spray of pellets flew straight over it’s head. I guess I was aiming a bit high…I brought it down and bagged number 1. I went looking for #2 in this glade up on the hill on the opposite side of the road. I peered into the glade and saw this grouse booking it back and forth in a mad frenzy of confusion. It stopped for a second and I had a clear shot through a small opening between two young saplings. I took my shot, despite the minimal chance of success at such a distance and with such obstructions. Upon firing the grouse took off and was flying towards another stand of trees when it started to fly straight up into the air. When it was maybe 100ft in the sky, it seized up and plummeted to the ground far below. I guess it maybe had 1 pellet in it that triggered the “fly-towards-the-clouds-and-then-die reflex”. Although certain death must have ensued from such a lofty blown circuit, I could not for all my worth find the bugger. I guess it goes back to them being so well camouflaged… That’s the thing, you can always see them when they are alive, but are nearly totally indiscernible once dead. That’s the situation when you need a dog, but too bad all that our dogs do when out looking for grouse is chase them off… A while later the two D’Hont men returned home from a successful hunt bearing 2 teensy spruce grouse, which would make for a good Northern snack before jumping on my plane southbound.
Note the FSC hat. Out looking for grouse on Ryan Lake road.
Upon my return to Vancouver, I sealed the deal on a brand new ’09 Honda Fit. I know, I know, rule #1 is to never buy a vehicle brand new… But for me, I have been meaning to purchase a vehicle for the past 4 years or something, and have had this big car fund sitting around since my industrious days of grade school when I worked my butt off at a variety of jobs (I think I went through like 6 of ‘em or something crazy like that…) with the goal of being able to buy a car once I got my license. My license came and went (haha, it never went, I still have it) and I couldn’t make up my mind on what vehicle I wanted. I was pretty close to buying a Toyota Tacoma (by which I mean I really wanted one) at one point when I was maybe 18, but I just had that feeling where something wasn’t right, one or two of the stars weren’t aligning and there was no dice. Then in Tbay I was pretty set on getting a “mature” Subaru Legacy or Outback or something, but again, nothing came around that felt totally right. A friend of NTDC in Tbay owned this car that was totally new and revolutionary that totally captivated me: the Honda Fit. It was very fuel-efficient (a must for me as I try to do my part for the environment but still hold faith in the well-developed technology of the gasoline combustion engine), and very functional with the various options of seating/storage arrangements. These were the two main things I was looking for, so this vehicle “fit” the bill, haha. At the time though, my car fund had not yet come of age, so the Fit remained beyond reach. This year, after wheeling and dealing with my parents a bit about a Bday present slash joint venture type deal, the purchase of a decent vehicle was yet again in the cards, so I began actively pursuing the dream with routine trips in to Van to get my Aunt Lori to drive me around to car lots. After exhausting the car lots in Van looking at a variety of cars, I was beginning to get somewhat fed up. There was this one fit that was an ’08 with low kms that was looking pretty promising, and I was beginning to have some serious talks with the dealer. I was just about ready to go for it when I did a bit of a background check on the car and found that it had been in a serious collision and had been a write-off, so suddenly this option vanished. I checked out many lots, ran into a few shady characters and in the end couldn’t find anything that felt right. I was left high and dry so decided to go talk to the guys at Carter Honda, a 3 block walk from Lori’s. The new Fits were getting in pretty soon, so I figured I could maybe get that to work with a little more negotiating with the bank of Mom and Dad. A little later, and with no more money in my bank account, I was one of the first in North America to drive off the lot in a badass black Fit. We became fast friends and to this day we are close companions and spend a lot of time together.
Before driving back to Whistler, I got the opportunity to watch Mike Gilday race at his World Cup trials. I arrived late in the afternoon to watch a few of the finals, but MG wasn’t exactly on that day as he had suffered a high speed crash earlier in the day and was a little loopy in his later races. It was pretty fun to watch, as I don’t think I have ever seen him in actual competition before. It is such a cool sport, some of the tactics are similar to skate sprinting, but on a much higher level. There is way more to defending your position through track patterns, and way more to recognizing the opportunity to make a pass and capitalizing. Skate sprints are a dumbed down version of speed skating with possibly more brawn than brains involved. But anyways, Gilday was strong enough to qualify for the North American World Cups along with the Asian tour that all starts this month, so be sure to frequent his blog at those times especially.
Passing through North Van on my way back up into the mountains I stopped by at my good buddy Eric Aitken’s bro’s (Chris Aitken) place where he lives and goes to school at Capilano College with 2 other Yellowknifers, Robert Holden and Jon Soderberg. Chris and Robert are involved with the film program at the school and Jon is in the acting program. They have a cozy little basement suite with a swimming pool out their front door where they film the ridiculous facebook videos of their made up band “Rinse and Repeat”. Their place was a complete disaster when I arrived but their hospitality was exceptional as they provided me with a fork to eat my tupperwared dinner as I watched them sorting out a 3 week garbage heap (they missed garbage pick up 2 weeks in a row).
After having settled back into 6424 Balsam, Gilday dropped by for a few days’ visit to check out what Whistler is all about. Too bad the weather was dismal for his stay. He still got in some cool adventures though, like riding my mountain bike around at Lost Lake for a bit and checking out the WOP and watching me get hammered by Pat and Sam in double pole sprints. He is totally jealous of my set-up and seems very excited about the whole Whistler scene. He will be back many more times he was saying. He also liked seeing all of the Vancouver Canucks wandering around the village. I was like: “that’s a Sedin brother!!”.
On September 21st most of the team did the infamous Grouse Grind race. Read up on it on the CVTC blog on fasterskier if you want, and on my earlier post. On a side note on this race though: currently I’m in Vernon, BC and yesterday morning I was helping out doing some tests for lactate and VO2 trends, and one of the girls that we tested was this girl who passed me in the Grouse Grind. Coincidentally I was telling Andrew about the story how she started 1 minute behind me, passed me close to the top and then I made up about 100m on her in the final 400m of the race to nip her at the line. And then totally randomly, I wake up the next morning, prepare breakfast, walk up the stairs to the garage where all the testing is going on and this girl is there! Her name is Julia Ransom, from Kelowna and she is a total legend. Last year she dominated Jesse Winter (who is by no means a hack at running) at this mountain running race in Canmore. Jesse got teased quite a bit about this especially because of this picture Eric had of this 90 lb girl leading him around the course. And this year she dommed me at GG and then showed up at Andrew’s place to get tested, so it was sweet to meet the “legend” whom many stories have been told about at NTDC and this year CVTC as well. Her test results weren’t as good as last time though, as she has had a growth spurt and has put on about 15 pounds and has not gotten used to being so much taller and controlling longer legs. Still would own my soul though in a foot race…
Also on a side note to the Grouse Grind, afterwards when I was looking at the results I found the names of these two guys from Whistler, the Titus bros whom had done notably well in the GG. I had remembered from a Kershaw’s Korner update some time before about this guy who had been on a backcountry ski trip with Devon and Co. whom had been dubbed “The Titus” and was a High School teacher in Whistler. I put two and two together, looked at some old running results online and it turns out that Kevin “The Titus” Titus has these two sons Joren and Morgan Titus and they are all phenom runners and multisport athletes. And even better, they had some profiles of the two sons on this one website along with some pictures of them getting ready for training at their house, and it turns out they live just down Balsam Way about 100m! I have not met them yet, but they seem to be at the top of the endurance sports’ world in Whistler and it would be sweet to get out on a training session or two with the Titus Bros. Talent abounds in Whistler.
As this epic post winds down I figure I should update on something that has happened closer to the present. A couple days ago I took the Fit out on its first road trip. I took “the North way” over to Vernon, BC along an incredibly beautiful drive. The area around Pemberton is awesomely scenic, and is a spot I definitely need to check out a lot more. The road was insanely gnarly for a while especially the 12km climb with “extreme grades”, which the Fit had a bit of trouble with. Bombing down to Lillooet was incredible as well, with the sheer cliffs all around. Would have been better though if I wasn’t stuck behind some ‘fraidy-cat rental RV that was afraid to go faster than 20 km/h down the switchbacks. Most of the drive was with the wipers on, as I went from rain cloud to rain cloud and got stormed on especially hard in Kamloops where I even experienced some hail at the gas station.
I am now in Vernon for the first few days of my rest week talking to Andrew Sellars and getting his take on new physiology research that is changing the way we train. Yesterday I did a talk to an Okanagan regional ski camp that went really well. Really keen group of kids eager to learn and ski fast. Tonight I am fiddling around breathing on a VO2 machine and looking at various trends in both lactate and VO2 at various intensities. Here is some food for thought to VO2 testing that I’ll let you ask yourself: You go to get your VO2 max measured and it is 75 ml/kg/min, then two months later after lots of good training you go back and it is 73 ml/kg/min, but you achieve the same speed at max as in the first test. You ask yourself, “Crap, why am I worse?”. But the question is, are you actually worse? You just did the same workload without having to use as much oxygen. If you can look at your body’s response to different things, sit down and think about it in a critical light for a while and come out of this “thought session” with a better understanding of what is going on in your body, and then change the program accordingly, that is where you are going to make gains.
Challenge yourself to keep learning and think about the process over the long-term. Put the pressure on. Ski season is approaching. Find your limiting factors and eliminate them.
Wow, 4,500 words later…
This is what I wake up to at Andrew's pad. Sun! Nice to get away from monsoon week that is in the Sea to Sky.
And here are some pics from a ride Pate and I did as well as our Whistler to WOP run:
Foggy morning in Whistler. Pic taken near Emerald Estates.
Picking our way through a boulder field. No path to be seen.
Sweet patch of snow that I boot skied down. Craziest boot ski of my life, it was super icy and insanely steep. Pat got it on film, so hopefully I can grab that off him.
Pate "the Colossus of Whistler" Neumann, towering above Black Tusk.
Blackcomb in the distance.
Couldn't help going for a swim high up in the alpine. That's Pat doing his thing...butt-naked.