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!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Win Some, Lose Even More in Supreme Night Sprinting

How cool is Duluth? This is a question I have often asked myself over the past 2 days. On Monday we made the trip down to the beautiful Minnesotan city of Duluth situated in the far western corner of Lake Superior to pursue glory at the US Supertour. Soon after the Meat Wagon pulled in to town I began to realize that this is a pretty cool town. Giant hills with awesome vistas, a refreshingly modern downtown core, a pretty dope High School (where the sprint races would take place) and just lots of other random tidbits I had never been exposed to, this being my first time to the “southern” states (I’ve been to Alaska).

The cold weather is still very much making its presence felt in this neck of the woods. On our training days the temperatures have been hovering around -20C, the cut off for racing. At our internet sesh the other day (Jitters coffee shop) I got a glimpse at a grim forecast that would bring up the question of cancelling the big sprint. Haha, that internet sesh was a good time! We set up shop for about 2 hrs and jammed for all we were worth. Poor Sully (Scott Sullivan) who doesn’t have a laptop! But yeah, the mission of this journey into cyberspace was to watch Canmore World Cup coverage. Who knew that in the States you can’t watch live streamed coverage on the CBCsports website? Who knew? Right messed. We pulled out all the stops at all the other possible ski sites: Eurosport,,,,, etc… Nothing. Just learned from Timo that Scott Jerome, the coach from Fairbanks who’s here watched the sprints today on NRK! Grrrr…. Interesting point on this too, Phil looked up the results and then he asked me who I thought won. I totally picked Boerre Naess! My man… And apparently the Norwegians were double poling the entire course in Canmore, an impressive feat considering the decent pitches. Those dudes have immense strength and they are shaping the way sprints are raced.

But anyways, yesterday was the Duluth Night Sprint (skating). I stomped my qualifier, and qualified 7th. Somppi had his best qualifier ever and was 5th, so way to go! For the rounds, only 8 moved on, so I barely squeaked in.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I started my warm-up for the heats. As the lights came on and the music was cranked, I started to get super pumped. This was going to be a good time! Supreme sprinting in a bompin’ atmosphere.

In my semi I had worst lane choice, so I jockeyed off the start to sit pretty in 3rd. It was a good position to ski from, cause probably half of the course was downhill, giving me a good draft for this time. I was patient the rest of the course and I predicted well as to what would happen (I’ll talk more about this and more in my next blog update that will be posted shortly). I bided my time and pulled off a bit of a Petter Northug move in the finishing stretch, which is basically unheard of for me. I quickly accelerated and edged Kevin Hochtl at the line by a boot length. Wow, I was so pumped! Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. This meant I was in the final of 4 guys and had a shot at the win! Soon after a bit of celebration, I went over to put on my warm clothes (they were running the heats in like -25 C). The TD for the event then came over and said I was disqualified because I did my lunge in between lanes. This got me pretty riled up. This sort of thing happens all the time at high level competition. When somebody you’re following in the finishing whiskers starts to slow down and you have nowhere to go at the line, you lunge slightly to the side. There was absolutely no interference at the line, and yet this man was very persistent to get me DSQed. He maintained that this was an “FIS event” and that that was against the rules. I suppose it is of questionable legality, but having watched virtually every World Cup race over the past 2 years, it is rare that a World Cup sprint is pulled off without at least one instance of this occurring and the officials never take action since nearly always it is without interference of other skiers. I even remember in Drammen last year there was a particularly bad instance of lunging in between lanes. Hjelmeset who was clearly skiing in between 2 lanes, pushed against Oeystein Pettersen to get to the line quicker. It got his buddy Oeystein a little bit pissed off, but there was no disqualification.

Regardless of me and Timo’s arguments, I was relegated to the B-final. This was a huge blow to me after skiing one of the best heats of my life. I think this had an affect on my headspace for the next heat. I didn’t ski the B-final very smart. I didn’t want to be in it. I wanted to be in the A-final. I wasn’t aggressive and I didn’t have the fighting mindset after having all my hard efforts of the Semi-final dashed by an ignorant Technical Delegate. I skied from the back the entire time and I wasn’t very good at realizing opportunities to make moves, etc… So I finished 8th.

I suppose in skiing, like everything in life, you win some and you lose some. Yesterday I did two things very well, as good if not better than I’ve done all year. I had a flying, technically perfect qualifier, and I made my presence felt in my semi against some very distinguished American racers. On the day though, my efforts were not reflected in my result as my position was at least 4 off of what it rightfully should have been. It was also pretty tough to accept that this meant instead of winning close to $500, I would walk away with a meager $75.

But again, it is important to learn to deal with situations like these as best as possible. I did in fact identify this opportunity soon after being shunted from the A-final, but I don’t think I had the mental skills to overcome such a problem since this is the first time it has happened to me. As we turned the lights off last night, Phil was telling me about how this is an important skill to gain in the coming years. Sometimes bad things happen and you have to deal with them as best you can. There is a big difference between 8th and 5th.

Yours truly, big T

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kakabeka and The Breaking of the Fellowship

Whirlwind of events here in Tbay. Today was an interesting day. Bright and early in the morning we found out that the Supertour races in Minnesota were cancelled due to "extreme cold weather". This opened a can of worms, mainly for Pate Neumann. He had a very difficult decision to make last week: whether he would go through a lot of stressful travel and poor Worlds preparation to go out to Canmore as one of the Cdn alternatives to start the sprint races, or whether he would stay at home in Thunder Bay and get in some very focused preparation at nearby races and training out of his main base. He chose the latter, as his main focus of the year is to be competitive at U23's.

With the cancellation of his prep races at Mt. Itasca, he had to reevaluate his past decision. After talking it over with Eric he decided to make the trip out to Canmore to possibly get in on some World Cup action. Thus completing The Breaking of the Fellowship.

I believe that necessitates an explanation: Last week I was shocked to learn that Mr. Neumann had never seen the Lord of the Rings series (hasn't seen Star Wars either!). Without further ado, we set out on a journey of enlightenment to complete the entire series that was locked deep within the dark recesses of my WD 160GB external harddrive. With certain bedtime restrictions, this limited us to a measly hour or so of viewing time per night. At such a rate it would take over a week to complete the entire series, so in the end we only managed to watch the first two.

With this revisitation of Tolkien lore, i couldn't help but draw some parallels between the quest to destroy the ring, and the year for us on the Tbay NTDC.

"The Fellowship of the Ring" summarizes my entire year on the NTDC up to January. Once the "fellowship" was named in the spring, we all set out on a journey together to accomplish our goals in skiing. We have had many battles up until this point and some of us have suffered hardships on our quest for glory; not attaining certain goals or enduring personal losses. With the departure of Jesse, Pate and coach Eric from Thunder Bay, the "fellowship" is now broken.

Over the next 1-2 months many of us on the NTDC will be doing our own things. Lenny is currently in Europe competing on a "B-tour" with the CNEPH; Butler, Pate, Jesse and Kate will all be racing World Cups next week, and then all 5 of the athletes mentioned will head over to Poland to compete at Worlds (Jr and U23). In the meantime, Myself, Phil, Sara and Somppi will race domestically and will shift our main focus to the National Champs in Callaghan Valley. To me this seems a lot like "The Two Towers", eh?

Finally, likely sometime in March, we will congregate for our last stand at Nationals. Old friends will be reunited and demons will be fought. Past alliances will be formed (me and Argue in the team sprint) and the final battle will be fought on the sacred stomping grounds for the 21st Olympic Winter Games.

There you go. Many similarities I see.

Now for the Kakabeka part of the title: today, me, Somppi, Sara and Timo had a sweet ski out at Kakabeka. It was my first time skiing there, and it surely will not be my last. I had a blast! The trails are very flat and sometimes pleasingly rolling - great for z1 classic ski (skate too probably). I think that's an important element for a distance workout, that the trails are mainly flat in order to maintain the proper training stimulus as opposed to skiing on very hilly terrain where the body is constantly in flux with the constant switch between tough climbing and resting on downhills.

Time to end this epic entry!

Later alligator.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Time to Rock Supertour

This week myself, Pate, Sara, Mike and Timo will head down to Minnesota for some US Supertour action (American equivalent of our premier Canadian series - the NorAms). This weekend will see us compete in 2 distance events, and next wednesday will be the mighty night sprint. I will be racing all events (if all goes well) in order to get a feel for how a few distance races will affect my short term sprinting ability. This way I will be able to gauge how well I can handle the busy National's schedule and still be sharp for the Olympic-venue sprint.

My main focus in Minnesota will of course be the sprint (skating by the way) and I'm going there to fight for the win. Check back for results, as I should have access to internet and I should be posting regularly.

On another note, I've never been to the southern states before (i went to AWGs in Alaska in '06) so i'm pretty pumped to hop in the Meat Wagon for a quick jaunt south of the border. I'm also looking forward to a bit of shopping with the strong Cdn dollar. I need new shoes real bad...


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Battle Royale at Lappe Night Sprint


Just completed my 2nd official ski at the Lappe trails along with my 1st race. The Lappe Night Sprints at O Cup 2 ended up being more like Mid-afternoon sprints for us Junior men as night had not yet fallen over the winding skate sprint course.

There was a lot of hype leading into this race as it was going to be a head to head battle in a somewhat less serious setting than the other races that us NTDCers have done over the past few months. Somppi and I were chirping each other all week (well at least I know I was...).

For my qualifier I just wanted to unleash and test my boundaries without holding back. Turned out it was a bad idea. I lost tons of time in the last .5km of the course as my focus and discipline quickly slipped away from me and had to settle with 2nd fastest qualifier in Open. I was a bit ahead of my fellow Junior men though, so heading into the heats I knew I was skiing at or above the level of everyone else. My quarter and semi both turned out to be quite a bit tougher than my final however, because as it turned out, following someone around the course considerably reduced the hurt. When Somppi insisted on leading at around the 200m point, I gladly relegated the lead and decided I would stalk his every move for the rest of the race. I ended up tucking the next half of the course since I was getting a huge draft off the hulking Lappe boy. There weren't many opportunities to make a pass so I waited for till the last minute in the finish lane whiskers to make my move. I busted out the big flailing-arm freeskate to pull up next to Mike, and tried to hold together a high speed 1-skate to the line but it turned out that either the finishing stretch was too short, or my kick was a bit sub-par (a bad sub-par. shouldn't it mean good though?). We did a giant lunge for the line but Somppi got me by about a boot. Luke V. was closing pretty hard on us and finished right behind us, with Sulli shortly after him.

Overall a pretty sweet experience out at Lappe. Good to have some sharp race organizers after some of the fiasco that went down at Highlands. I'm looking forward to more Lappe races, especially the short 200m diagonal stride races I've heard of. I'd like to take this opportunity to extend an official challenge to reigning champion (don't quote me on this) Timo Puiras.

Keep it real.

ps - check back for pics - i'm hoping to get some soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thoughts Post Duntroon

It’s done. I have failed to qualify for World Juniors for the 3rd year in a row. Every trials I have been to I have been very close to CCC’s top picks and it is tough to have been slightly off the pace yet again for the 3rd year. This year I recognized the difficulty of the task and I had very good preparation for the 1 day that I would have my chance. The skate sprint on January 5th in Duntroon, Ontario. I’m sure I will revisit that day many times in my mind over the next few months, as I think of the many “what-ifs”. I have always been known as a good qualifier in sprinting and all season I have been in the top 3 Juniors for every qualification round. It just so happens that I made a slight miscalculation picking the wrong pair of skis in Duntroon and ended up 6th fastest qualifier. It was difficult to learn in the end that the top 3 qualifiers all made it for the trip to Poland. It is also difficult to acknowledge that the A-final became an unfair contest with certain team tactics that came into play. It is now important to refocus and look into the future. Take what I can from this experience and use this opportunity to make myself a stronger skier and individual. There are still some big races left in the season and I now switch my focus to be on my game, or even above my current game, cause that’s what it’s going to take in order to prove both to myself and to others all the international potential I can muster.

There I go, I was hoping that when I started writing this blog it wouldn’t just be me ranting about my shortcomings and making excuses for stuff. So tune in for more (hopefully in the near future!) for better, more cheerful topics such as my thoughts on training, competition, school, etc…

It is also a very happy time here on the NTDC, as many of my team have been picked for Worlds and other international comps. So congrats yall, and tear it up wherever your travels take you.


Racing the sprint in Valcartier. Photo credit - James Cunningham

Dude man.

Sorry Michael Gilday! My Speedskating World record holder homie from Yellowknife gave me a hard time over Christmas for not writing any blogs on this site, so here it goes I suppose.

Racing so far this season has shown the average level of improvement for what I was expecting this year. I have been in the top 3 Juniors every sprinting day so far this year, a good indication considering the high caliber of Canadian Jrs this year. Among the senior ranks however, I was hoping for a bit more improvement. I have made it past the first round 2 out of 3 times, but have finished last in the B-final both these times. I have learned a ton about racing with Seniors but on a few of these days I left the race site wanting more. It has also been interesting to see that I have been holding my qualifying position after the rounds. This is big for me as it is the main focus for this year. The higher end of my expectations for this year were to qualify top 10 every sprint and to challenge for a berth into the A-final each time. Not quite there yet, but there is still ground to be gained and improvements to be made this season. My shape going into Trials is as good as I could hope for and sprinting should be sick in the Highlands. I hear Neumann is champion in those parts.


The warriors in white duking it out at Canmore Noram (I'm 2nd from right). Photo cred - David Greer

Controlling my quarter in Senior at the Valcartier NorAm. photo cred - D Greer