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, May 25, 2008

Step Taken.

Today I did my first “road race”. Technically, it wasn’t a race; it was a “community century ride”, but everyone knows it’s really a race. So that’s how I approached it. I was pretty pumped. I just started riding a road bike last week and since then I’ve ridden everyday except for yesterday when I took a rest day. The class of the field in the 400 rider “race” were 2 locals from Vernon (don’t quote me on this…). The one dude, Olaf, is 54 but in his day won the World Juniors TT. He’s still insanely quick and some even claim he is still the best time trialer in Canada. He holds the Silverstar hill climb record of 48 miniutes, 6 minutes ahead of the 2nd best time. And the guy who holds the 2nd best time for the SS climb is the other in the “class of the field” club. Tom Stewart is a Cat. (not an actual cat. Well, maybe…) 1/2 rider and can ride with the best in the country on any given day. Tom Stewart is actually on the Balance Point Racing team (I’m a member of sorts…) and is starting to apply scientific reasoning to his training so he may even get better than he is in the coming years even though he is already 44 years old. Man, quick old guys!

Anyways, so the race started in Armstrong, BC, went out to Salmon Arm and came back to Armstrong. The End. Hahahah, jk, jk… But no, well yeah, that’s what the race was.

It started off fairly flat, then got into some “undulating terrain” (thanks David Goldstrom). There was a “climb” at about 15km, but nothing serious went down. There was still a pack of about 60 riders that continued on for the next 40 km. There were a few times when things got exciting. A few guys started churning away and tried to be heroes, but none succeeded. At the 55km mark there is the real climb. After screaming through Salmon Arm for a few minutes, you round a corner and stretching up into the heavens is this road. At its steepest it is 16% grade, so it’s wall-ish. But the brutal thing is that it’s over 2km long. I was still in the lead pack at this point and sitting in about 20th. I had watched a bunch of Lance in the mountain stages on Youtube the day before, so I could visualize what it took to get from the bottom of a hill to the top. But being a brand new rider, and not particularly climber-weight at my 172lbs, I just wanted to hang on to the pack that at that time had dwindled down to about 30. A few guys couldn’t contain themselves and started making huge moves just before we hit the climb. I held my own and readied my climbing state of mind. I started a secret breathing technique that we are developing, and started the climb. I leapt out of my saddle, and started the LA. I just kept pwning people the whole way up. I could see Olaf and Tom in the distance since they were part of the group of guys making moves at the base. I kept passing guys and before I knew it I was sitting 3rd, about halfway up the climb. I kept the beat going and pranced my way towards the top, catching and passing Tom at one point. Olaf was in a class of his own, schooling everyone. So I didn’t catch him unfortunately, but I continued with Tom to the top along with an Elite triathlete from Revelstoke. I was red-lining pretty good at this point. The guys who I was with wanted to keep the hammer down and try to catch Olaf. I tried this for a bit, but I was hurting…my inexperience was starting to show. After maybe 15 minutes I peeled off and waited for the peloton. They swallowed me up and soon after we caught Tom and Mr. triathlete. We were now in a group of 20 or so, giving chase to the Junior TT champ from, I dunno, the 70s? My head was down and I was pushing pretty good. This whole time though, while pushing the pace, I had naively looked over the ever-essential fuelling process. I stopped drinking and eating as those things are in scarce commodity while exploring the Pain Cave. I continued to race hard, and slowly I started to run out of juice. I desperately slurped at what remaining drink I did have in an attempt to reverse my sensations, but the meager sugar stores were all but burnt up in my ravaged body. With about 9 km to go, there were 2 fairly small pitches. I got up the first one, but on the second one the pack got away from me like sand slipping through open fingers. I went on solo. My race was done. I was glycogen depleted and losing tons of time because of the fact that I was solo. And things got worse. Well, if you consider taking a wrong turn and doing an extra 11km, yeah, I guess they got a bit worse. 5 km into this detour, I realized that it was, in fact, a detour. It was the way we went at the beginning, but obviously not the way to go to get to the finish line. So I brought ‘er in, slowly but surely and afterwards chilled in the blazing sun of Armstrong. I punished a bunch of cookies, Gatorade and coke and then sat through the most excruciatingly slow draw-prize sesh ever!

But anyways, today was a sweet learning experience. I got to test my riding fitness against some pretty solid riders. I surprised many, including myself to a very large degree, and I showed that I could do decent in future road races if I decide to do any. Sellars was very impressed, especially since on paper he is overall a slightly better rider and since he’s over 30 lbs lighter, likely a way better climber. But I guess in a true hammerfest of a test like the Salmon Arm Alpe D’Huez, more things are taken into account than lactate balance point and absolute wattage values. Very obvious when I put like 2 minutes into him on the climb… He really wants me to do some Xterras and other summertime races…we’ll see…

Road riding is a great form of cross training. You can do it day in, day out without having to worry too much about body breakdown like you would doing activities like running. Speaking of which, I got a sweet tip the other day from Andrew about running. First of all, you can’t do big days running day in, day out like you can cycling or skiing (there are a few exceptions of course). The reason for this is the high impact experienced by your legs. A sweet tip to try next time on your long run: try taking walking breaks every 15 minutes or so (you can play with this time a little bit). While running, the synovial fluid in your knees (other joints too I suppose) is pounded out of the joint and is dissipated into the interstitial fluid in the surrounding area. Losing this lubrication is one of the main reasons why running is so harsh on the body. When you walk, it relieves the impact and allows the synovial fluid to be regenerated. At the end of your run, you will experience much shorter recovery times. Walking during a run has another benefit: if you are targeting your free fatty acid metabolism (ie, long slow distance), it is sort of a check up that ensures you are in fact doing your training in this zone. It slows down any sugar burning that may be occurring and really homes in on the FFA zone and the STF (slow twitch fibers).

Back to this things I was talking about cycling: Riding on a wattage-trainer also has huge benefits as you can quantitatively monitor training progress as well as monitor restfulness. These are the reasons why I have made the decision to make it a part of my summer training program for this year.

I should peace. I gotta pack up to head to Van.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Shaved legs, sweltering heat and a Norse Goddess on a bike.

What a weekend! I have spent the last few days training in Grand Forks, BC. It is a quiet little town right close to the Canada/US border that has the most perfectly paved roads and virtually no traffic. Perfect for road biking. With my newly acquired steed in the Devinci CX1, I was ready for a few days of training with some Ironman-ers.

Day 1 was a little intimidating. A 4 hr combo workout, so (1:30 ride, :30 run)x2 in +30 C heat. I got ‘er done though, and had a great time. It was just a matter of remaining hydrated and keeping a controlled training pace that would target in on metabolizing the body’s fat stores and becoming efficient at doing so. The heat was a little much on the run, but I just kept thinking about how humans are the most efficient mammals for endurance in hot temperatures due to our ability to sweat and various other adaptations including our small profile that is exposed to the sun when it’s at its zenith, and this helped me get through. The rides were super fun. It was the Devinci’s maiden voyage, and we had a gooder. Incredible roads in these parts, nice and quiet and smooth.

Day 2 was equally daunting, mostly the fact that it was only riding for 4 hrs. A bit of a shock to the system, cause before this week that’s about the total amount of riding that I have done in the year 2008. Owned it. And apparently looked like a cyclist the whole time… I snapped a spoke though, which sort of sucked cause I had to ride the rest of the day with no front brake and a fairly untrue wheel. Good day though. Good day. Sweet mamma dinner of prime rib afterwards…Good stuff.

Day 3 was a fairly simple day. A little loop that took us about 1:15. First few hills that we have done. This loop would be so sick on rollerskis…except there’s this one property where a headless deer and pack of feral dogs live…but other than that, MONEY rollerski loop. I think I will be back soon.

So that’s what Grand Forks is about. I was known as the rookie northern kid from the north who made outstanding omelettes for breaky. Hope I can make it back some day soon for some big hours on the beautiful roads of GF to chill with the lazy, shaggy pudgeball dogs, and dopy yaks along the flooded river valley…
Ironman Eric and Brent from the GF crew. I learned all sorts of roadie lingo. Like pointing at cracks and rocks on the road while riding in a pack.

Flooded farmland = grumpy Yaks.

Man, I am sure bringing sexyback with the Rudy Masterminds... At least this week i busted out Freeons...

Mere seconds before my spoke snapped.

GF crew member's house. aka "The Lodge". Where dee-lish culinary masterpieces (such as prime rib) would be delivered.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Piece of Mind (Peace too for that matter...sort of...)

It is May 15th. For many years the Okanagan in springtime has been of mythical status to me. I have heard many bragging stories of the incredible spring skiing and the awesome chill out/relax time that the valley has to promise. Cough, cough…Butler! Skiing in the morning and then sitting on the beach in +30 in the afternoon??? What!? Dayum… It isn’t until now that I’ve got to experience this.

I guess that in hindsight, I didn’t have it all that bad in Yellowknife during the spring. Wicked-sweet skiing, good friends, comfortable familiarity, and not a cloud in the sky during my entire stay. I am usually quite content with +5 or 10 and sunny. The skiing up there was the best I have experienced in my entire life. But nonetheless, I had a constant itch and hunger. All the cards were in my hand in YK, but there were also a ton of distractions. I yearned to disband distraction and to immerse myself into a laid back environment where everything would be simple and predictable. I decided that a good place to do this would be Vernon, BC. So on Tuesday, I loaded as much of my life I could fit into a ski bag, a 50.6 lb (supposed to be under 50…) duffle, and 2 bulky carry-ons. I journeyed down to stay with a mentor and friend, Andrew Sellars and his wife Ginny. Although this is only my second day here, I can’t help but realize how optimal my current training situation is. First of all, I have basically no friends in Vernon. A few skiers perhaps, but no close friends. Pair that with the fact that I will be living with two high performance triathletes in a sick house right on Lake Okanagan, and the fact that I am able to borrow Andrew’s dope Impreza to rip up to Sovereign for a ski, and you have a pretty decent training set-up.

Man, these bloody geese are honking their heads off right in front of me and there’s no 12-gauge in sight!!!

Yesterday I did a 1 hr run right when I woke up. During the day I made it out to Olympia to buy a rd bike (afterall, that’s the actual reason why I’m down here, I’m heading to Grand Forks this weekend for an epic long-weekend of rd biking). I did a quick 30 min ride on the bike after my mid-afternoon meal. In the evening I did a step-test on a tacx trainer in Andrew and Ginny’s “training room” along with some conservative hypoxic work with the Spirotiger. Andrew and Ginny make up FaCT-education so they know their stuff in terms of monitoring training progress, training ideas as well as staying up to date with ever-evolving theories on how to become fit. This morning I hit up a 1:40 ski up at Sovereign. Some sections were still super good, but I think I got there a little late, as it was already almost +20 by 11 am. Tomorrow I’m gonna try to be there for 8 am to glide out a 2.5-3 hr ski… Yellowknife is still a way better place to ski in the spring… Tonight I will be doing a FaCT lactate test on the new Devinci CX1 (on a trainer) in order to find the Lactate Balance Point (threshold is an older term for this but doesn’t quite mean the same thing) which will in turn help determine training zones for when I’m spending all day on the bike this weekend.

At the moment I’m sitting beside the lake lathered in Ombrelle soaking in some rays blogging my butt off listening to French rap. It’s pretty sick actually…it’s maybe 25 degrees out with a light breeze. Anything hotter than that and my Northern endormorph frame would denature and become hard-boiled in the high Okanagan sun.

Grand Forks is coming. Gear up.

Apparently the lake is too cold to take a dip at this time of year. What wusses...way warmer than any body of water up North.

Andrew Sellars knows his FaCTs. Do you?

There was a sweet section at Sovereign where mist was veiling the trail.

Basking. And burning.

Make your time on-snow count. Build your foundation. Be smart and make gains as often as possible. There are many ways to skin a cat.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Achievement. Happiness in its purest form!? Dats Wassup!!

I believe an apology is needed for my lack of the “Century Update” which would also likely have become the “Update of the Century”. Er, I guess the 2nd one could actually mean the first one…Oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed…

Anyways. The following is a blog update that I wrote up the day after the 100km Drybones ski. I have been waiting for my Film School buddy to whip up a short conglomeration of a series of video updates I did during the ski. His procrastination along with a faulty Mac to Youtube transition are to be blamed for the tardy nature of this post.

I will post the blog update as it was intended. And where the video updates are supposed to be, I will give a brief description in words of what I say and what you would see.

Ok, here it is!

It started out as having a dream. A dream to have a dream. Soon the dreaming materialized out of the misty abyss and was encumbered upon myself and Corey. It’s weird looking back now. I’m not gonna lie; at the time my enthusiasm was no match for the Core-man who was running up and down the walls in a jabbering frenzy of anticipation… I mean, I know the limits of the human spirit have no boundaries and all, but I was a little conscientious of what it would mean to realize our dream… “Don’t get cold feet!” Corey would tell me…

(big inhalation).

The dream can be best described as a test of endurance as well as mind-power and sanity as you venture into a vast expanse of white and baby blue where you are all alone in a mind-bottling (yeah, I said it…), psychedelic experience where your eyes play tricks on you and space and time are stretched in this particular worm-hole of the universe.

Hopefully some video reports will fill you in:

Ok, this is the awkward part, but here it goes.

Video #1. “Alright, in the beginning there are 9 of us. Me and Corey going for the big Drybones navigation. All 100k of it. Currently at the moment I’m getting dropped. Yellowknife’s back there (distant high rises across Yellowknife Bay) Buddy’s up there. Corey putting the hammer down. We’re at 700m into our journey. HR of 152. Dying already. (breathing hard) I’ve got the 50lb pack. 8200 calories. Peace out.”

Video #2. “Yo wassup. 45 minute mark. Bonking my face off! … … PSYCHE! (laughing) Aight, we’re at the fish plant. Check it.” (camera view changes 180 degrees and fish plant is shown) (skiers in distance too)

Video #3. (shot of me chewing. I then start speaking in hushed tones) “Video report #3. (still chewing) We’re on the most incredible stretch of lake ever. 25 k. (camera shot back to the group chilling) Good company. Good banana bread.” (still chewing and gazing into distance)

Video #4. (shot of Corey skiing alone in whiteness) “Weeeoooweeeeoooo! Ugh… (shot of me striding and adjusting baseball cap) 35 k mark. We’re on our own. Me and Corey. Doing my video report while he takes my picture. (shot of Corey taking my picture) Wasssaah!”

Video #5. (me yelling into the camera while chewing. Corey laughing in background) “Video report 4? Or 5? Ummm, we just about got mugged by some crazy, ah, snowmobile gang. (shot of down the road the way we had come) Almost stole our backpacks. We made it to Drybones! Anticlimactic. No lunch waiting for us…(Corey mumbling in background about me filming my mouth. I proceed to take a shot of the inside of my mouth.) Hahaha. Alright. We’re going back. See you in……several hours.” (Corey mumbling and looking over his shoulder)

Video #6. (me looking gangsta. Hat is ever sideways. Sunscreen smeared ear. Looking about in a dazed state. Chewing…as usual) “Bloody hell I’m full.” (shot of surroundings including a close up of Corey changing his shirt) (shot back from where we came from) (shot of me. Still chewing.)

Video #7. (extra arm extension to ensure no inside-the-mouth filming. Still looking pretty gangster.) (chewing and skiing) “Isle of Drift. (point towards Isle of Drift) Check it! Check IIIIIIIIIIITTTTT! (high pitched) (shot of Corey skiing behind me) Corey. Just about at 86k. (chunk of chocolate stuck in teeth) Slammed some Fuzzy Peaches! Aaaahhh… Some Lindor.” (chewing. Finally clear chocolate from incisors)

Video #8. (me looking decently happy. Smiling and stuff. Sweat covered brow. Hat still sideways.) “I’m trippin’ on mirages, man! …almost there. 95k.”

I guess there probably should have been a final video report to sum up everything that happened, but Yellowknife River was calling me to go for a swim…

It’s a rare occasion when you have a truly momentous day in your life that you will remember forever. I did something big for the first time. Effing Drybones. It’s like your first day of school. Your first girlfriend or boyfriend. Shooting your first moose. Marriage, first child, etc… so many more firsts… And its these moments that are defining moments in life. This ski was a long day on the ice and was a huge confidence booster as I pushed the envelope of spatial awareness and human potential. It was a mental barrier that had to be broken in order for larger things to be done. Like skiing the 200+ km to Hay River over rougher seas and with riskier terrain (pressure ridges, bare ice, rotten ice, etc…)… Or even bigger things. Olympic Gold, a PhD, curing cancer, healing an ailing planet, helping people on the large scale, true love, children, or whatever your goals in life may be. It’s a matter of amassing life experiences that prove to yourself that you can do amazing things. I have taken a step and have another credit added to the bank of life.

Take your step.

End of the Journey. Of death. And coming of age. And enlightenment.

Into the blazing sun.

Deep Blue.

Core-man puttin in the hours.

Where does it end? Not even the wise can answer such a question...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Land-speed records, lop-sided forehead burn-line, pimped out sleds, misc. booze and double-barreled snot rockets. All in the land of the Midnight Sun.

So, after some intense tying up of loose ends in Tbay, (and meeting Steven Lewis in the airport!) I boarded a plane for the day-long journey to the wintery-landscape that is home in Yellowknife, NWT. As Dallas Green’s “I’m Coming Home” floated through my mind, I got the first glimpses of the sodium-orange lights that flood Yellowknife at the G-rated hour of 11:20 pm. Finally I have arrived home to Yellowknife’s greatest season of the year: spring.

After a few nights of chillin’ wit homeboys and such with Das Boot (from Beerfest…) it was time to start shifting the focus back to the approaching New Year. For skiers, Dec 31st/Jan 1st and the festivities that ensue have little to no meaning. It is the week before Trials and therefore often means a bed-time of approximately 10 pm. The real New Years resolutions etc. occur towards the end of April and the start of May. My New Years this year occurred April 28th. It was a Monday that would carry me nicely into May. So far this week I have already trained upwards of 12 hours. And there are still 3 days left in the week!!! What the heck am I doing!? Isn’t this a time to ease back into normal training?? Heeeeell no! In Yellowknife the end of April signals the start of some of the most incredible skiing in the entire World. My hands are shaking even trying to write the prelude of a description that can’t possibly do the skiing justice…

It starts sometime last week. The trails are still in skiable shape, so I bomb around them for a few hours. A few days later, I venture down the Ravine onto Back-Bay on Great Slave Lake. The snow is glazed, bumpy and next to un-skiable. The lake is not ready yet…

I give it a few days. Eventually C-dawg (coach Corey McLachlan) calls me up. We plan to do a bit of a lake ski. Myself, Alex Hopkins (Juvie from YK), Véro (coach and middle school teacher) and C-dawg embark on a testing of the waters of sorts. We bomb down a “piste de motoneige” at Negus Point and rip onto the blazing hot white surface that is Great Slave Lake in springtime. It’s noon, and there is still this hard snow covering the ice. So the first hour is a little tedious, but the weather is nice and there’s not a cloud in the sky. We make it to the islands past Dettah (small community across the ice from Yellowknife) and hit up some pretty good crust skiing on the endless archipelago.

At one point, as I’m skiing a bush-whack slalom course down a little hill, I spot a snowmobile at the edge of a little glade. I figured that since we had seen the signs of a camp on the far end of the island, that buddy had just stored his ski-doo here for a few days. Upon further inspection, I concluded that the snowmobile had been here for a few months and had in fact been hot-wired. Man, those things are so easy to hot-wire! Just rip off the kill switch, pull out the two wires, jam the key-hole into the “on” position, pull the cord and you’re ready to shred some pow! So me and A-Hop approach with caution, and lo and behold! First pull, the machine roars into life! This machine was no pocket rocket. It was a pimped out, after-market decked out, all black 2006 Arctic Cat F6 600! There were many things running through my mind. What do we do with it? Go for a joy ride? Pin the throttle and send it across the lake? Sell it off and get rich? With so many ideas of questionable legality, me and A-Hop have been “sleeping on it” all week and likely will just leave it for buddy who owns the camp…

On the way back from this ski, the snow softens up and skiing gets good. I hulk out and my shirt disintegrates off my winter-pale skin. Time for a tan sesh! We get back to the cars and I head to my place for a “coming home dinner” of vast amounts of Thanksgiving-like food. Score: sick leftovers all week! Over dinner I am told time and again how nice my face-tan is. The half red, half white ying yang symbol that is my forehead is apparently in fashion this time of year…

OK. Now. The snow is giving way to intense over-flow all over the lake. This means the lake isn’t ready yet, but because there was no snow on the ice road, things are looking up for this skiing niche. The other day Corey, Holly (ski coach too..), Moses (Godson’s (Cdn Idol theme song) bro and skiing die hard. Started skiing in his early 20s and is now as dedicated as Kris Freeman…) and I slaughtered a 40 km out and back ski on the Dry Bones Bay ice-road. The surface consistency was well beyond description. Mini ice crystals that allowed for z1 speeds in excess of 20 km/h and that allowed for good “edging” and leg pushes. 30 m wide road, perfectly level, inferno sunny, quietly and efficiently “flying”. This is happiness. In its purest form.

I decided it was a time to test my luck at the land-speed record. Perhaps breaking 1,228 km/h was a little too ambitious, but I got to test my over-speed abilities anyways on a perfectly level surface. Wind was present, but minimal. With my trusty Garmin Forerunner 305, I applied the gas and Emil Joenssoned my way along a few hundred meters. Once the Garmin caught up, I clocked in at 37.8 km/h. This remains the speed record to this day and I haven’t come close to breaking it in the past few skis…

Last night myself, Corey and Véro hit up the Dry Bones road yet again. We came across a Dene trapper who had a “trapper of the year” leather jacket, much like my own from a few years back… He was dangerously close to the island where the F6 was hidden, so I was a bit worried that the secret had leaked… Soon after passing this dude, we came upon a shaken-up Buckley’s Fisheries truck driver. “Man, not two minutes back there I fell through the ice!” weren’t the exact words we were hoping to hear, but my intuition cut-down this tale in seconds. Sure, me and JT had seen some open holes up towards North-Arm way the other day, but there are crazy currents and such up there. There’s no way Mr. truck driver fell through. Also, how the heck did he get out of the water if he did fall through??? Soon after we parted ways, we came upon where he “fell through”. There were a few sunken tire tracks where he had broken through a layer of ice that sat upon the overflow on the road. Rookie… We also found a Bud tallboy there that me and Corey shared on our journey home… We also found a mini-Vodka bottle and an empty mickey… Maybe Trucker was shaking for another reason???

Tomorrow is the epic ski of the year. I thought the Sibley ski was epic, tomorrow will put that ski to shame. The Dry Bones road will be navigated in its entirety. All 55-60 km of it. Out and back. That’s pretty much double my longest ski ever!! But I guess when you’re averaging about 17 km/h into the wind and 22 km/h with the wind, it shouldn’t be too long… Zahab and Karnazes would be proud…

More to come on that hopefully, and hopefully many more pics that will make up for the lack of description in this post!!!

O yeah, some of you may still be wondering about the double-barreled snot rockets. This is a technique that has been perfected and introduced to us by Véro. True New Brunswick style. It’s sort of like the two-footed lunge. Goes against reason and tradition yet holds true in certain circles of the world of physics…

Stay tuned.

We have just started another journey…together…forever… …NAWT!! No, but really…

Me and Corey atop "The Isle of Drift".

Among other things, Moses can walk on water.

The "Night Rider" in all its glory.

I guess i was the only one flexing... haha look at those ridiculous Sapmi pants!

Packin' er in at 9 pm. Good day. 37.8 km/h.