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!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Long Awaited Party

Happy holidays everyone! Greetings, from Canmore! Canmore??? Ya, I guess it's Canmore...almost wasn't though. Just drove out from Whistler yesterday on a journey of a drive that was plagued with idiot drivers and accidents every 5 minutes.

To bring you up to speed on things lately: after a lackluster start the season, I joined the YK crew for a week of training and then racing at the Alberta Cup on the weekend. I guess the Northern crowd brought some cold weather down with them so the races were cancelled and we ended up skiing in -30 all week. The first day nearly killed me, not only were my lungs shot from the 15 km classic from a few days before, but about 98% of my skis of the year up to that point were in no colder than -5 degrees C. Long story short, I was a wuss. Things changed dramatically though with the arrival of a well broken in neckwarmer special delivery by Marsha and John Argue. In its maiden voyage of '08 I had a staggering revelation. Maybe not quite staggering, but a revelation nonetheless that perhaps pleased me and put a smile on my face. I realized that one of the major joys of skiing, for me, is being out in a nice -25 day breathing through a disgustingly smelly, wet on the inside, frozen on the outside (and therefore misshapen) neckwarmer. It brings back fond memories of trudging around in the wilderness of Yellowknife, out living off the land, haha.

But after a great week of training with a very large and highly motivated group of youngsters led by Corey "Rock and Ice Ultra's got nothing on me" McLachlan, I went back to the sacred Van 2010 grounds of WOP with National Team skier Sarah "warm air only" Daitch (go figure, she's from Fort Smith and couldn't handle a Canmore cold snap). The conditions were amazing at the Olympic Park, feet of snow and more and more trails being opened by the hour under the constant snow storm that is the Callaghan Valley in the wintertime. I had a few wicked skis, explored as much as I could. For some reason, or more likely many reasons, I got a cold on Christmas Eve. I drove Daitch to the airport through some SKETCHY conditions in Van and spent xmas with my Mom and my Gma (my entire family was split up and diffused across the land). Soon after xmas I made it back to Weasel Town, had a great evening with the O'Heany's and co and then the following day started "the journey" that miraculously, ultimately ended with me in Canmore.

A-Hop struttin' his stuff. Corey had to bring him up to speed on what the T-shirt meant. MC Hammer, baby. Alex is a deceivingly large Juvie Boy who has a very healthy outlook on skiing for the long-term. His goal is to compete at World Juniors as a last year Junior. He is young and has much to learn but luckily all he has is time. But don't we all...

Some strength at the expanded Bill Warren weight room. I hadn't done strength in weeks and was completely shredded for a solid weak thereafter. Same with Argue. Quote of the day: "I was wondering when the shirt was coming off." - Mikey - as all the YK crowd gazed, transfixed on the rippling muscle mass that is Daitch as she slew a couple dozen clap push-ups.
The kids also received a warning not to do the double pole machine the way I was. But it all depends on what you're trying to train. Most were training range of motion. Me on the other hand, I was training hand speed. Call it flail if you must.
Despite not getting to race, this trip was a very productive one for the young Yellowknife team. They got to train with some older skiers from the North who are still making it happen beyond grade school (Argue, Daitch and I), got to spend an afternoon with Chandra, and had the opportunity to train in the exciting skier environment of Canmore (I joined them for Pocaterra skiing one day which turned out to be an awesome day of mainly double poling for me since I developed this bit of a heel problem that has stopped me from classic striding for the past while). We got to spend a really nice evening at Linda and Blair Dunbar's place, very nice dinner, board games, and then later on, for me, a beer with Corey and a few of the older members of the congregation at the Drake. While staying with the Yellowknifers, I got to try my hand at this board game that Corey had, called "Gobblet". If you ever get the chance to play it, I would highly recommend it. Especially if you have a decorated career of "Connect 4" backing you up like I did. The skills transfer nicely.

On a morning jaunt in Whistler. Alta Lake is frozen solid, time for me to make up for the hockey life I could have had by gooning some Whistler Clown ski bums in pond hockey.

High up on the Callaghan Connector (b/w WOP and C. Country) in the middle of a clear-cut.

If I had a better camera this could be a cool shot - there was a curtain of suspended ice crystals veiling this corner. Its going to take all my cunning to keep up in the blog world with Pate's new Canon Rebel SLR. Ol' crappy Olympus (that's breaking in half) might not be able to pull its weight...

For now I am in Canmore recovering from my cold and hoping to make some final adjustments before trials, chiefly being able to stride again. The new sprint course has a giant, non-double-pole-contemplable hill on it. The CVTC crew is slowly filtering in to Canmore and will be getting gouged with holiday hotel rates. I'm planning on being awake for New Years this year as the Dunbars are hosting a grand evening gala. Action kicks off January 3rd for me with the Skate sprint.
Also, albeit totally random, I stumbled across this youtube vid the other day. JACKIE!!!!!!!! (high pitched ninja voice) To understand life, one must understand the magnitude of the stunts performed by Jackie Chan...

Monday, December 15, 2008

It feels like home!


Just an update on what's new in the world of TD.  I'm still in the rut of text-only blog updates.  Hopefully that will change soon cause even I am getting fed up with this BS, hah!  

So after the trainwreck that was Sovereign NorAm round 1, I rallied throughout the week, put in one or two good training sessions and refocused for round 2.  The team did some extensive travelling throughout the week, part of which I decided to stay away from and keep my feet firmly planted at Ally Bower's (triathlete/firefighter from Vernon who was kind enough to offer Pate and myself a place to stay for the races) pad.  Once the team made it back out to SS, I moved up into the house with them.  It was a very good atmosphere up there; everyone hanging out, playing Connect Four and doing meals together.  It was a good set-up and had everyone pumped to race fast.  

Sensations throughout the week were ok.  I wasn't exactly looking for any particular sensations.  The week was mostly geared towards achieving my goal of being at the start line for my start time.  

Come the sprint day, I felt great.  I had an awesome sleep and had good energy that morning.  I was experiencing some slight tightness in the arms (from intensity a few days before) and in the core (from "rolling-pin") but otherwise was ready to rock.  That's how I felt before I raced, anyways...

The sport of cross country skiing is changing these days.  Last year in the classic sprint at Sovereign we had the exact same conditions, exact same course, exact same skiers and yet only one or two people dared double pole the prelim.  This year there were only a couple who didn't brave double poling the undulating 1.1km.  This is a pretty interesting development, as double poling classic sprints is a fairly new thing, pioneered by the mighty sprintgutta dudes from Norway.  I guess watching these badasses dom everybody in Canmore last year, Canadians have decided that more of an emphasis should be placed on the double pole.  This year everyone showed up ready to rock la double poussée (haha, Lenny!).  And that's what we did.  Those who strode, didn't qualify.  Those who double poled got to fight for who qualified.  Fortunately I was one of the top-30 who managed to get into the heats.  I managed the double pole, but didn't feel fast nor in any way snappy.  I seized up pretty bad in the final stretch and was about 10 seconds off of the first qualifier.  

I approached the heats as if I were to fight for a spot to move on.  I landed in a pretty tough heat, alongside the eventually winner as well as 4th place.  Off the gun I jostled for position and maintained 4th place for most of the race.  I was just outclassed by the 3 guys in front, as they easily pulled away on the climb to open up an insurmountable gap.  I seized up again coming into the finish and was passed by the two others.  I approached this heat with nothing to lose.  Either fight for my spot to move on, or crash and burn and finish last.  Unfortunately the latter occurred.  

On the whole I wasn't skiing very quick.  It felt like I was just going through the motions.  No huge disappointment or anything.  I am committed to long term development in this sport and short-term results are of lesser importance.  I was able to identify weaknesses, and this is what will direct my training for the next while until I have another opportunity to identify new weaknesses.  

I might get that chance this week at Alberta Cup.  There is a classic sprint on Saturday here in Canmore.  Argue, P. Woody and I drove out yesterday and I'm planning on staying the week first with the Cockney's and then with the Yellowknife crew in prep for some more classic sprinting.  The weather is incredibly cold these days in the west, so there's also a good chance the races will be cancelled.  I'm out here now, so I'll play it cool in the hopes that daily highs are warmer than -20.  

O ya, forgot to mention: my lackluster early season racing included another race - the Sovereign NorAm 15 km classic night race.  I was utterly destroyed in this race, but I raced it very smart and paced myself very well.  It was pretty cool and wickedly fun to be ripping around in the dark of night with only some patchy lighting in the best of places.  Big shout-out to Argue who threw down big time in this race placing an impressive 7th.  Not quite good enough for the awards ceremony - maybe next time.  

Results can be found at zone4.

In the meantime, out here in Manmore, I'm reacquainting myself with the bitter cold.  Nice to have the good old familiar feeling of -40.  It was even pretty awesome racing the night race in close to -20.  It felt like "real skiing".  First dose of that that I've had this year!!  

Taker easy.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

When fate shovels poo in your face

I guess it's better here than at Trials in Canmore...

This weekend ended up being a disaster.  I was feeling great going into the sprint race.  I was skiing well and fast and was ready to unleash.

Here is what my race morning looked like for Sprint day taken straight out of my race plan book:

6:15 Wake up

6:30 b-fast (bring oatmeal to race site too)

7:30 depart

8:00 arrive

- ditch stuff in lodge

- test skis

- give skis to Amy/Erik

- get bib


8:30 warm-up 30 minutes

20 min even pace LBP-20 w/2 x 2 min JIB (Juergalyzer inhalation breathing (resistance to prime respiratory system))

2 x 2 min z4

2 x 45s HARD


9:00 in lodge to change into race suit, BREATHE RIGHT + GEL

9:07 get skis

9:12 at start

9:18:30 START

The only problem with this plan is that my race start was actually at 9:03:30.  Somehow both Pate and I had interpreted that race start time was 9:15 and so we both botched our start times.  Pate was the lucky one to see me in the lodge struggling to get my race suit and bib #14 on as racer #10 zoomed past the building, so he managed to figure out he had 15 minutes less than he originally thought he had.  

I still managed to ski the course, just my sprint was a little longer than most due to the extra sprinting around to get skis, ditching warm-ups by the day lodge and skiing down to the start area as #13 went by (15 s starts!).  I got behind the wand at the 4 s mark after when they say "go", so technically if I had been there 1 second earlier I could have posted a legitimate qualifier without time added on.  After them figuring out what to do with me, they sent me to another lane next to the wand and said I could go from there.  But with nearly 15 seconds tacked onto my time (like 12 or 13 probably, I could hear Kevin Hochtl start right behind me).  I can't remember parts of my qualifier.  I just know I was skiing like crap and was so wound up emotionally that I skied like a hack.  

Needless to say, I did not move on and my day was done.  Such a shame as I had an awesome warm-up, had a dialed race plan and had some incredible boards (apparently with the wrong grind though).  Kate Brennan would call this “Amateur Hour”.

I decided that since that day was a write-off I would try to get registered for the 15 km skate the next day.  I wasn't planning on doing this race as I was counting on having a long and hard day of heats the day before.  The lady in the race office was kind enough to put me in and give me a chance for redemption in possibly one of my worst events.  

I was actually pretty pumped to try this race out.  I love my new Alpina set-up cause it doesn't cut off circulation to my feet unlike the Salomon S-labs.  My new skis feel awesome too and I know my shape is fairly decent now and I was feeling fine at the high altitude (due to our camp earlier in the month and the intermittent hypoxic training I have been doing maybe).  

The night before the 15 km, Pate cooked up a measly dinner of pasta.  While stuffing my face with pasta I was reminiscing on a past "tortellini experience" at an Edmonton Nordic practice from a few years back (Curtis probably remembers).  Coincidentally later that evening I started to have another "tortellini experience" that had me up for most of the night going to the washroom in a cold sweat.  

Thing's hadn't improved much by the next morning so that put the icing on the cake to this disastrous weekend.  

Lessons learned.  No more missing starts cause from now on I'm triple checking and cross checking my start time.  And no more tortellini and cheap pasta sauce on race night...  On Saturday I was the numb-nuts.  But with some special words of encouragement from a few close friends I am now coming to grips with the mistake and moving on – so thanks to you who lifted my spirits up, you know who you are.  It’s important not to dwell on this and to move on. 

Time to regroup and get my act together.  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas morning and I'm pumped.

Alrighty, first race Saturday.  1.1 km Skate sprint at Sovereign.  Tons of the best Americans and "more Canadians than you can shake a stick at".  

If you asked me last weekend how I was feeling going into my first race I would be a little bit worried.  Last Saturday I did my first hard skate intensity of the year (besides a skate sprint this fall).  I did some intervals  that were 1 minute-ish long.  Rest varied between intervals along with terrain.  One thing didn't vary though: sensations (bad).  It was soft and unevenly groomed at WOP.  Technically I was poor; trying to navigate my way along the more solid looking patches while attempting to ski with a long pushing phase for the soft conditions.  I was seizing up quickly and not recovering between "ons".  All in all I felt like crap.

3 days later (Tuesday) I did my 2nd hard-ish skate intensity.  It was something like 5 x 2 min up Callaghan Country mainline (WOP was in shambles) with Pat and Pate.  The old-school Fischer rock skis could not handle Pat's pimped out, Caldwell shop-tuned Madshus, nor Pate's last season's Atomic race skis on the flat sections, so I had a lot of time on my own to think about what I was doing and try to figure out a way to ski with my poles sinking 6 inches into the snow each pole plant.  I ended the day with much more positive sensations than the Saturday workout.  I was breathing strong, maintaining form and recovering well.

Now bring us up to today, Thursday.  T-minus 2 days until the first race.  Yesterday we got in to Vernon.  This morning we did a skate ski up at the race site.  O ya, by the way, this morning ended up being Christmas morning because of all the new gear I got.  I was talking with the girls about what I was wearing out training.  Nearly everything I had on or was skiing with was on its maiden voyage!  New skis, boots (new brand too!  I'm happy to announce that I am now a sponsored Alpina skier), pants, jacket, toque - like Butler said - I was a new man.  He didn't even recognize me.  I also did some fast stuff today.  Feeling even better than Tuesday.  Pretty good trend to have going into a race, constant improvements leading up to.  Confidence abounds.  Expectations for the weekend aren't huge though.  This race doesn't mean too much.  Mainly just points and experience.  My main objective is to get into some heat skiing and ski well there.  That means I first have to qualify top-30 with all of North American in the hood.  Like I was saying, good to have confidence on my side.  

Glad I finally had something cool to talk about on my blog!  Well, maybe not cool...  I tend to keep my training diary to my training diary but there's so much excitement leading into the first race with all my skiing buddies around and the first opportunity to prove myself quickly approaching that I had to mash up a quick update to letchyall know that it's all good. 

The rock hard conditions at SLNC might be softening slightly with snow in the forecast before Saturday morning.  

Time to gear up.


PS - you are lucky I didn't bore you with a "random thought" blog update with random facts about my year from iLog along with music reviews and other absurd topics.  The post is just rubble from a brainstorm that will sit around and fester until I go through another period of meager blog writing topics.