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, February 29, 2008

The Perfect Blog Post: An Eternal Enigma

Hello all!

Sorry for my lack of updates. There is a reason for this lack. I have been searching for something of late. I have been hesitant to post anything because I have been searching for “The Perfect Blog Post”. Does such a thing exist? The perfect combination of nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. that appeals to every sense? Not on my blog. Could such a thing exist? Possibly… No matter; many cool things have happened here lately but I’ve been short on ideas of how to piece together a well rounded, and possibly perfect, update. I have given up this search for the Holy Grail of blog-pieces, and have succumbed to writing a mere description on what’s been going down in my ‘hood recently as opposed to the epic novel each and every event outlined in this update could have become.

Where to start…

Ok, something cool happened last Friday. It’s something that lots of skiers try to do. Can you guess what this is? ….. ….. I WENT FAST! Boy, I went fast, and it felt good. That day I had a 3 x 3 min sprint pace effort intervals with 10 minutes rest. This workout aligned well with the procedure for a Kinesiology study that Mallory was doing with Lakehead, so I decided to partake. So my workout got changed to 3 x 1 km w/15 minutes rest; something that would simulate sprint heats.

So I got my warm-up done and started my first all-out effort. As usual, the difficulty increases ten-fold after about a minute or so of skiing, so I took that opportunity to flood my thoughts with focus for the task at hand. I held together well on the finishing straight and didn’t flail whatsoever. Time: 2:22. Felt hard. Really hard recovering from this effort, I was huffing and puffing for a while…

2nd time around. Skied one section better than the first interval, but skied another section worse. Time: 2:22. Felt slightly tougher than last time. I recovered much better than I did last time so going into the 3rd interval I was ready to throw down.

3rd shot. I was out to own my other 2 times, so I decided a different approach was needed besides the normal sprint speed that I have used all year. So I decided to bust it wide open off the start, sort of guessing that I may explode before I reached the finish line. I was technically decent yet again, but got hit pretty hard yet again at the half-way point because of my over-exertion off the start line. Again, I took this opportunity to drive home that razor-sharp focus to hold everything together to the line. The technique foci for that day was instilled in my every movement and I held strong right to my lunge at the line. Time: 2:19. And yes, I know I maybe could have squeezed another half second if I had busted out the famed “double footed lunge” that has made its emergence onto the World Cup scene this season… You know of what I speak, Valjas and Somppi…

So on the whole, a big day. I learned how to race a sprint 2.1% faster! So look out.

Alrighty, on to the next sweet thing: Hour of Power (times 4.5) at Sibley.

Phil-hep, smiling already...

Last Sunday, myself, Timo, Somppi and Phil decided to put in our long distance work-out on the meandering trails of the Sibley Ski Tour. The weather was incredible, the snow was incredible, sun was shining bright, and not much more could have been hoped for. We set out on the 50 km trail. Perhaps a bit ambitious for a 3 hr easy ski, but whatevs… Phil and I especially couldn’t contain our joy and proceeded to laugh and hoot with joy and euphoria for a solid hour. At that point we settled into a rhythm. Timo got dropped cause his skis weren’t so hot. Phil’s skis were rockets so it worked out well skiing with him since I was skating and he was classic-ing (classicking, classiccing…I dunno how to spell it…). Somppi was usually with us but would always get dropped hard on the downhills.

But yeah, so this ski was incredible! It was so sick skiing on the rolling, winding trails in the beautiful Sleeping Giant Nat. park. Twisting, gnarly downhills. Zigzagging flats with looming white pines overhead. Endless rollercoaster sections. Even an epic climb thrown in that we took to get to the lookout to check out Thunder Bay (the actual bay part). This ski had it all! In the end, our total mileage read 60km and total time was at 4:30. A little overdone perhaps, but well worth the near-bonk.

I don't know why this is such a mug-shot...i personally blame the photographer...

Good stuff…now those are the main cool things that I can think of… This is actually quite difficult putting in the big jam sesh, jamming at top speed for a solid chunk of my day, especially when you were up into the late hrs of the night whipping mighty curve-balls at Mario’s Bowl that in the end would leave your fingers swollen and mangled beyond recognition. I think this topic actually deserves another trip into the pain-cave to describe my first 10 pin bowling experience with old friends and a couple of Finn bowling-connoisseurs:

For about a week or two us nomad NTDCers who have been in town have been meaning to hit the bowling alley. And hit it hard might I add. So last night, me, Sara, Phil, Somppi, Timo and Becky figured we’d unleash some punishment on a bunch of bowling pins. And thus the tale unfolds…

We arrived at Mario’s Bowl at 9 pm to find the place packed. Who’d a thunk it? We had a 10 minute wait, so we all went our separate ways to get focused and into the right mind frames to shoot for the 300 pt mark. Once our names were in the system, and the bowling shoe laces were done up, the frenzy began. Somppi was bowling well, after his “family day” outing from last week. So was Phil, starting off strong with a few strikes. Myself however, I got the jitters out with a few brutal frames in an attempt to re-create the insane spin I am famous for in the Wii bowling community. My first match was a little short of the perfect 300 game I was going for, settling with 114, 1 short of Timo. Somppi rose to the occasion with an indomitable 200 points!! (his later games barely broke the 100 pt mark though…brutal!) Sara’s ambidextrousness proved its worth with her fair share of strikes and Becky’s childhood bowling lessons soon dominated everyone with stone-cold consistency. As the night wore on, our scores worsened (with the exception of Timo…who couldn’t get much worse…haha, the trash-talk continues…). My fingers were done for the night after the first game. Playing another 3 didn’t help them much. Phil mangled one of his fingers good, with a slip that ended with him plowing his hand into the 14-lb ball as it contacted the alley-floor… But yes, a fine night for a fine group of individuals. At 11 pm Becky had to drag Timo away like a mother drags her 7-year-old son out of a candy shop as the big Finn tried to take after his Pro Bowler cousin from Finland…

Tomorrow is the Sibley Ski Tour. Me, Phil and Somppi will battle it out over 20 km, while Timo goes for gold in the 50 km against #1, Steeeff (emphasis on ‘f’ like Steve Prefontaine in the movie “Prefontaine”).

Over and out, keep it real homeboys.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lappe Invitational. Respect.


10km classic individual start went down today. Grand total of 4 competitors in Open Men. 30s start intervals starting order: Timo, Phil, Werner, Myself. I wanted to take it out slow like Teichmann or Bauer, then pwn (from Wikipedia: Pwn is a slang term that implies domination or humiliation of a rival, used primarily in the Internet gaming culture to taunt an opponent that has just been soundly defeated) it through the last 5km. Or something along those lines anyways. My slow start wasn’t quite as slow as it should have been, didn’t stick with the plan very well. So I started fairly normal, and caught Werner around the 5 km mark.

I had to push fairly hard at a few points in order to catch him by the point I wanted to. So I latched on and went for a ride. What a ride! For those of you who don’t know Werner Schwar, he is currently the President of the Lappe Ski Club and he is an incredible distance athlete whose name is always on the list of top kms skied per year at Lappe, and he’s also challenged for the World title of most km skied in 24 hrs. I heard a whispered rumour today that it is in the 400 k’s, closer to the 500 mark even. He is also Mike Somppi’s all-time biggest idol.

But yeah, so I caught him. I remember at Nats in MSA that he passed me at one point and I skied with him for the remainder of the race only to lose to him in a sprint to the finish in the 15 km classic. I was having a bit of déj­a vu out there. Once I caught him I started to regain some composure from my big surge and attempted to get some rest. On the downhills and flats it was great; my skis were way faster and I got to stand up for much of the time. The climbs were a different story; Werner’s high-tempo, choppy diagonal stride left me gasping for air by the top. I managed to hang on, skiing in this fartlek-like style and I waited for Grunt to make my move. I popped out of the track and ran up, and brought her home as best I could over the next 400m or so.

Results: Phil got me by 17.7 s, I got Timo by 8 s (??? – it’s funny cause the whole race I was getting splits that we were even. Got me a bit worried…), and I got Werner by about 40 or so.

On the whole, fairly successful day. I was taking it as a training race and it was exactly that. Got in my hard intensity for the week. I didn’t feel very strong racing, but that is to be expected with the big week that I’ve done so far. People have been pressuring me to do the race tomorrow, which is, technically, the 2nd half of the pursuit. But this week’s focus is not to race, it’s to train. Therefore I will not race tomorrow, and will relinquish my 2nd starting position. I will hit up some much needed skate skiing tomorrow with a 2 – 2.5 hr easy ski. And then maybe some explosive strength in the evening? …or perhaps leave that for Monday.

Anyways, my blog entries always end up being way longer than intended, so I should get on with things.

Keep up the hard work. Train well.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ode to the Meadow Loop

Short update:

These next 2 weeks for me will be higher volume, and will be a very focused training period to make last minute gains before Nationals that will run March 16-23 starting with the Team Sprint.

I will have at least 2 training races before then. This saturday I will race the classic race at the Lappe Invitational, and a few weeks later will race a 20 km skate race at the Sibley Ski Tour. It is likely that I will also race the NTDC Invitational the first weekend of March.

Today myself and sickie Somppi hit up some ski strength. Also did some incredible skiing around the Meadow Loop. Man, that loop is for real! I just became acquainted with it last Friday and we became fast friends.

Check back soon for some race/training updates. And please, somebody start posting comments on my blog! Doesn't anybody read this stuff?!


Friday, February 8, 2008

Turn around!

Every now and then I get a little bit lonely, da da da na na anana na na… Currently my brain is super fried from an extended stay doing my Physics 1133 lab. Nasty stuff, gets me every time…
Gonna try to make this update slightly abbreviated since I’ve got some of my famous Papa Berardi’s chili warming up on the stove…

So, last weekend was Easterns. It was a tough decision for me to go, since there was the option of going to Madison, Wisconsin to hit up some sweet Supertour Classic sprint and Team Sprint action. I ended up choosing Eastern’s because most of the team would be going to this and because my stay in the States had been long enough up to that point and I didn’t feel like going it on my own for a week in hostile territory.

Easterns it was. Got to chill in Ottawa for about 4 days. It was a fun time, cool city, nice urban vibe especially with the start of Winterlude. Sprint day felt like garbage. The sprint course was super gnarly; a huge climb, followed by a mushy gradual uphill followed by a sheer drop that led into a windy, slightly downhill stretch into the stadium. Going into the qualifier my warmup had been a bit sketch. I had lost Eric/Timo and did not know where my skis were. I didn’t have time to do Spiro (to warm up lungs for the extreme sprint effort) so that threw me off cause it’s been part of my warmup routine for about a year now. But anyways, I started my qualifier hard. I put about 8 seconds into my 15 second man by the halfway point on the course (after the giant climb), and proceeded to die hard and not ski very disciplined for the remainder of the course. To my surprise, I finished in a prestigious group of 8 skiers who all qualified within 2.28 seconds of each other. There was a big gap to the rest of the field. I went through all the rounds, bonking hard in my semi, and struggled through a post-bonk B-final where I defended my fast start as best I could to settle for a 9th on the day.

On another note: it’s sort of weird. Two days ago I learned that my sprint qualifier brought me 90 FIS pts despite the poor sensations I was feeling. This is a huge accomplishment for me, as this now makes me eligible for domestic World Cup racing for the next year! The discovery of this brought about dozens of fist pumps and a few victory laps around the Banning Street residence.

The next day of Easterns was the 30 km classic mass start. First time ever doing one of these, but I recall that the 30 km skate at last year’s Nationals was a super good race for me, so I was hoping to duplicate that success. The race would be battled out over 4 laps of a 7.5km, fairly easy course. The first lap I skied super easy. Drafting and saving energy. At the start of my 2nd lap I started to make some huge moves, and that is basically what the rest of the race ended up being like for me – just passing tons of skiers (props to Justin Kangarloo who skied much of the course with me and helped me out at some of the tough sections). The last lap was an especially good grind because of the changing conditions that left everyone’s grip useless, and I put in a good effort in that double pole fest. Too little too late to catch Argue at the end though. He turned to me at the finish line and said “I’m still the fastest Yellowknifer.”

That’s basically it for Easterns. That evening we got to wander the streets of Ottawa a bit and check out some Super Bowl at a local pub. The Giants were money!

This week can be defined as the biggest school week of the year for me, so I’m gonna go hit the books hard…