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 20, 2009

Lest we forget

With the kick-off of the 2009 World Championships in Liberec, Czech, I think it's important to remember Canada's 1970 World Champs team.

Some of you might recognize the legendary Firth sisters, Sharon and Shirley, bottom left and right, from Inuvik, NWT.  The rest of the team was made up of Roseann Allen (NWT), Bert Bullock (NWT), Fred Kelly (NWT), Ernie Lennie (NWT), Martha Benjamin (Yukon), Roger Allen (NWT).

7 NWT skiers, 1 Yukon skier.  Our strong Northern Olympic heritage indeed.  Could it ever happen again?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Watch Pate turn into a Homo heidelbergensis.

Check it out!  (here)

Or my grade 11 self as a Homo erectus.

This may have just made my day.  And might make yours too.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Haha! Flourish. Who do I think I am.

Alrighty, another Twoonie race victory in the bag. Yessss!!! Actually, this one wasn't too hotly contested (with neither Jesse nor Pate entering). Other than me vs. the elements that is. The low-juice-dimness of my 4 LED Petzl wasn't cutting it out there on the race course where headlamps were "mandatory". I couldn't see a thing. The city glow of Whistler made it bright enough to tell the difference between a tree and open fairway, but didn't go as far as making the trail visible. It didn't help that the course was as bumpy as skiing in Yellowknife on the muskeg sections with 3 inches of snow. And it also didn't help that the snow was either sticky and oily in most sections, or ice crystals and wicked fast and soft in other parts (and that Munny had made some jumps and woop-de-do bumps on course). So footing was a little tricky out there. Even more so since my legs were still recovering from the thrashing they received from that Sunday - my first day on the mountain (with new boots) in addition to my first day playing indoor soccer in a few years (with uncomfortable shoes and playing for over 2 hours really hard with a bunch of Brits). So I hobbled around the 700m crit course to the delight of those who had already been pulled. And then afterwards was, yet again, a great Apres function hosted by the Whistler Golf Club. I'm starting to know quite a few people in the ski community out here, so these events are getting more and more fun. Afterwards was another hot tub sesh (seething hot).

And that brings us to today. Another day, another Twoonie race. But of a different kind. A kind that takes me out into uncharted waters, into the land of Biathlon. I had much to improve on, like my 2 for 10 shooting since last time round. This time was also a real biathlon race, instead of an unformal relay, where I would ski 3 x 3.3km and get timed. Fancy, eh. This time was a great race. Hotly contested and I had to dig much deeper than I had planned. I got punished off the start (we had to run around our poles 10 times and then sprint to our skis that were waiting for us at the start line) and was gapped by about 20-30s from the leaders (who were fast, too). It took a while, but I caught buddy from Norway who was putting the hurt on the field. That took a bit out of me. Once in the range I figured I'd show him the meaning of fast-shooting, Bjoerndalen style. I shot my 5 shots in about 10 seconds, but missed 2 targets. Big wup, 2 penalty loops. Big wup indeed... Felix from Norway (who's actually Austrian...) shot clean (!) and put a considerable 30s gap on me. Great. I maybe put about 12 seconds on him the next lap and came into the range when he was mid-shoot. I needed something big. I focused like I've never focused before and...drumroll...cleaned it!!! Excellent, but no, Felix cleaned it as well! This guy must be a biathlete. I was now down by about 10s. My much needed throw-down-of-a-surge wasn't enough. I couldn't make up the stagger and slogged in for 2nd, 6 seconds back. I actually skied really well. And skating at that. I'm starting to like this distance thing. It has a great feel to it.

Anyways, great day at the Salomon Biathlon Twoonie Race (again, put on by Munny). I improved my shooting by 300%. And I skated 10km with decent speed and a moderate amount of hurting so good. Oh, by the way, unfortunately Felix isn't a biathlete...that was his first time ever trying Biathlon. And he shot 10 for 10. I'm starting to guess that they used the big targets.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why blog-procrastinate any longer

When I am sitting around all morning nursing brutally sore lower legs. First day of downhilling with brand new boots mixed with 2 hours of high quality drop-in indoor soccer with players from all the top soccer nations has left me planted firmly on the couch with a bad case of foot-slash-every muscle in lower leg-slash-every joint from my hips down-slash-quad tenderness. Yikes. Ouch. Live today, fight tomorrow.

Let's rewind to Rossland. Some races that didn't mean anything for me. Knowing this, I tried something new leading up to them. A few weeks before this event I had come to the conclusion that my racing stagnation was due to undertrainededness. So, in leading up to Rossland I decided it was due time to put in some training hours. This didn't exactly mean much. It meant doing lots of long easy skis, topping out at 3:40, and doing lots of double work-out days, which for me aren't a common thing. So far signs have been great - I should have tried this training thing a lot earlier methinks, hah. In the first test event that I had (Whistler Twoonie race) I was able to stick with Jesse for an 8.2km skate race. The lightly undulating course definitely favoured my drafting, but those of you who know Jesse would agree that his bean-pole figure isn't optimal for breaking wind...nonetheless, I was completely pinned trying to stick with him. It was good to put my head down and hammer, though.

My first race in Rossland was very promising. I qualified 7th in the skate sprint and got under 120FIS, so that was a pretty good sign. I felt snappy and was skiing in and out of various aspects of the course really well. In my quarter I jumped to the front easily off the gun and led most of the race, blocking and controlling the course. Werrell played the teammate card at the top of the course and I let my guard down, letting him go by. Now it became a race. Crooks snuck by now that the donkey at the front (me) had been dispatched of. I tucked in behind for the downhill and prepared for the final push. Again I showed some mercy in not running Anthony into the trees when he tried to make a daring pass. But that would have been just plain mean... Still, I'm sure I could learn from some of the sprint greats in how to ski "aggressively". I took the final curve like a complete idiot (unlike Kevin who ended up winning the B-final for a stellar day) and was passed by the entire field. It took everything I had to sneak in for 4th - a non-advancing position. Great.

The classic distance race was very special for me. It was absolutely perfect conditions. Maybe like -7, hard track, sunny, couldn't ask for more. I also went with a pair of skis that has never worked for me before, but with a quick click forward of the binding on the NIS plate by Zach, I felt that the boards held some promise. The race was great in the fact that I felt that someday, some place, sometime, I could put together a good distance race. Not just a good race where I pace it really well (I've actually had those before), but one where not only is my pacing right, but I'm actually skiing fast. That would be something totally insane for me to do in a distance race. Last time I could do that was racing as a Midget against other NDub skiers.

In the end, the 15km classic race wasn't the best result, but I did have a solid first lap. The first lap was followed by me getting riled up with "catching rides" and trying to go "head to head" with some other racers, when really I should have been racing my own race and playing it cool. Whatevs, I had a great weekend with the first positive racing experiences for this year (minus Twoonie race round 1, that woulda been the first).

Look ma! I'm racing distance! Under control for the first lap at least... Great shot by Angus Cockney. I remember skiing up the hill and seeing him standing basically in the track. He lept out of the way and upon realizing it was me, managed to snap my best yet "media" shot for 08/09.

Since Rossland I have been in Whistler intimitely acquainting myself with Lost Lake and the 40km of ski trails that I have 70 steps away from my front door. The trails here are very fun with some thrilling, high speed downhills with sweeping curves and stunning vistas of the Whistler valley. It helps that there are actual pit stops set up around the trail where you can fill up on water (now I can bring a little ziploc with extra sport drink and just remix when I run out). My favourite trail is the downhill coming from Upper Fairways, winding down the golf course, hitting reverse-banked corners where zero Gs are experienced, and trying my hand at high speed tele turns (when catching an edge means being launched off the groomed trail into the pristine, untouched pow that blankets the fairways (except recently that pristine pow has been jagged ice, and now, today it's actually becoming slush)).

Last Thursday we had Twoonie race round #2. 9km, gentle terrain, double-pole-fest. Skate skis were in order for us CVTCers, minus Erik, who planned on employing his 6'8" frame's gargantuan kick to great effect on the gradual climbs. I managed to tuck in behind Jesse and Pate and survive most of the race. I even was able to navigate the obstacle course of rec skiers on the lower Fairway to gain the holeshot and bust away for the victory by a few seconds. I was saying to Zach afterwards that that was the first race I have won in a while, haha. Again, another good indicator of fitness gains. The first lap was really fast, but I was recovering easily from the tough uphill sections and everything felt easy. The 2nd lap I was red-lining, answering all of Jesse's attacks on the climbs, and somehow pulled through. Afterwards there was a great Après at "Opa! Souvlaki" with great free food and beer. Good times. Plus, it wasn't so bad to dip into our landlord's hot tub later that evening.

Well I guess that's about it from my end. Maybe I'll train today. Something in the form of stretching to improve my functional movement, perhaps some double pole, and likely some Spirotiger since I've sort of fallen off that train of late...

In closing, I would like to extend a huge shout out to the U-23 men. They have all had great performances over in France and in my mind have been the class of the field (hotly contested with Kazakhstan and Russia). All 4 men were in the top-10 in the classic sprint. Crazy! Unfortunately the word on the street is that CCC will not be extending an invitation for any of them to race in Liberec since they already have a full team. For some reason we chose our team before some of our best men got to show their potential at U23s. Weird, eh? You live and you learn I suppose.

A flourish of an update should be coming by the weekend about this Thursday's Twoonie crit race at the golf course down our street... According to our Whistler local extraordinaire dude, Munny, who's also grooming, there will be some sweet banked corners and technical aspects on the course. Now that I have a taste of Twoonie race glory, I'm coming back for more.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.