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!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When everything goes silent.

Photo Cred: Dan Roycroft

It really feels like I have hit a turning point. I can't even listen to music I listened to mere days ago, it just seems like it's from a different time. I figure I'll have to discover new songs over the next while and totally replace everything in my iTunes library to start writing a new chapter in my life.

For me, Trials was a happy time. Fun racing, seeing great friends and sharing great victories with these friends. The last day of trials something really neat happened. Basically every top male skier in the country was out playing a pick-up hockey game at the Daycare rink in Canmore. It was something special I tell ya, everything that happened during the trials, all the hardships and successes were forgotten and everybody was just out mingling and banging a puck around like the good old Canadian past-time it is - skiing greatness was totally forgotten as we were just a bunch of mediocre (except for some of us, like me, who were just plain terrible and could barely skate!) Tavares-wannabes unwinding from a stressful week. You had many of the big names like Harvey, Widmer, Valjas (this kid is becoming quite the superstar), Kuhn, etc. even Kershaw was there.

My races went alright. Sensations on the skate sprint day were poor in terms of "feeling fast" and being able to punch the high-end speed when needed. Most other tools were there, and I held up alright throughout the day and recovered well after racing was done. I led the one heat I had because I figured the only way to move on was if I got in front, set a dog-slow pace and then fought at the end. Didn't quite work, and I faded at the end to finish 3rd in my heat of 4 (2 defected) behind Kuhn and M-A Larochelle-Rancourt who had a ton of speed left since the pace for them was extremely pedestrian. I was very pleased however with being able to react well to the gun and to get in front easily. Stef is generally pretty quick off the line, so it was promising being able to get ahead. I was also able to control the heat well, defending the lead by injecting pace where needed and "drifting" around on the course in a defensive manner. On the day I was pretty disappointed, but the end result of 14th was satisfactory as the day was simply a day for observation (a handful of the top-30 didn't even race). Analyze where I'm at, and move on.

The next few days were spent practicing on the classic sprint course, testing double pole vs. striding on the extended version of the World Cup course (1.7km). The course designers decided to put a short steep hill that would effectively lengthen the downhill section into the stadium to a whopping 1 km long. In testing the course out I decided to go for the double pole tactic.

The day before the sprint I spent about 20 minutes testing some skis (both skate and classic) for speed and then spent the rest of the day resting.

Day of brought about slightly slower conditions that would make the double pole slightly more difficult than when tested, but at that point I was committed as I had rehearsed it over and over in my mind and hadn't prepared for striding. Most people hadn't even considered double poling, but there was definitely a handful of us who did in the end. Maybe 10 of us or so. There was no clear cut victor in terms of what was faster as us dp-ers were sprinkled about the top-30 with only 2 of us not qualifying. In the heats however, everyone switched to the stride and glide.

I had a competitive quarter-final: Stef (1), Butler (10), Nighbor (11), Anthony Killick (21), and Haakon (30). Since the course was a long one, I needed to employ flawless tactics to be in the mix. I tucked into the middle of the pack and was aggressive in holding my line. I fell to the back on the climb as I was striding like crap, but skied over the tops very actively and quickly came back into contention - significantly aided by some rocket-fast soft-track Fischer LJ03's (Z's grind). I came into the finishing stretch fighting for 3rd, but was punished by an enraged Nighbor, whom had been racing with a broken ski, as he muscled his way to a lunge-secured 2nd place. I skied the race to the best of my ability and had lots of fight left in me for the finish so I was satisfied with the day. I needed to at least make the B-final to qualify for World Cup, but that would have taken something special on that day. I skied as well as I had expected, but not as well as I had hoped.

Despite the races having finished a couple days ago, I'm still in Canmore. There have been avalanches and mud-slides all over the place in BC and consequently most of the highways are closed. I'm in no rush to return to Whistler (except I was hoping to make the toonie race tonight...sniff sniff...), so it's chill time here at the Dunbars' until the highways heal.

This past week was a huge learning experience for me. Unfortunately there will be no U-23 trip overseas and no World Cup action for this kid. It's back to the drawing board as a new challenge has been laid.

"We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope"
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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