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!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Straight Outta P'ton

Recently I have had a nasty case of tendinitis in my right foot.  For the past 2 weeks I have been reduced to a select few training activities: double poling, upper body strength, core exercises, swimming and Spirotiger.  All of which actually fit nicely into the 3 top focuses I discussed in my last post.  Needless to say, I am now a tank at all things upper body.

Today I completed my 4th ~2hr double pole session in a week down in the farmland of Pemberton (just down the hill from Whistler on the opposite side from Squamish).

Pemberton Meadows Road is a fantastic training location.  A 25km road, mostly smooth as a baby's bottom, with the biggest climb being about 1 meter of elevation gain (approaching a bridge).  One day I was there the traffic rate was 6 vehicles per hour.

I have never had a bad day in Pemby.  The scenery is absolutely stunning, with the narrow valley of quaint agriculture chokeholded by abrupt mountain-sides standing guard over this fertile, spud-growing gem of a town.  The views are never boring and you discover some new, comical, relic of an edifice every time on that road.  Today I saw a dilapidated hobbit-sized house, about 6-feet wide, laying in the middle of a field wedged between the bottom ends of two giant, end-to-end redwood logs that had been built into, hollowed out to provide an additional couple feet of habitable space on either side of the structure and with another window pieced into each log.

There's also this shaggy-ass llama that I have a staring match with every time I pass by.

I think there's a lot to be said about long, flat training roads.  The even training stimulus keeps the entire ski challenging, allowing you to be completely immersed in the finer technical aspects of skiing without having to worry about a terrain change or excessive traffic.  I have logged about 150km of focused double-pole cadence, forward lean/reach and core crunch work on this road in the past week.  I have also tried some nostril-only breathing to add in a challenge to the respiratory system (VERY hard) from time to time.

The only downside to rollerskiing in Pemberton is that it's a 30 minute drive from where I live.  Not good.  It's the nearest flat road though, and when my foot was largely immobile it was my only option.

On the opposite side of Pemberton from P. Meadows Road, there is the Duffy Lake Road.  By which I mean the LEGENDARY Duffy Lake Road.  Hailed as the best rollerskiing climb in Canada by some.  12km of brand-spankin' new pavement rising into the heavens.  Some pitches at 15%+.

With these two roads, Pemberton is a legitimate contender for perhaps a top-10 finish for top rollerskiing towns in Canada.

Pemby, baby.  Pemby.


PS. The foot is nearly recovered and the Pemberton sessions will now become more infrequent as I return to taking advantage of the endless training opportunities found outside my front door in Whistler Spring Creek.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


When the apprentice becomes the mentor

Returning to Whistler after my Baffin Expedition was a bit nostalgic after such an unforgettable experience.  It took a few days to get back into my groove, both fitness-wise and mind-set-wise.  Once equilibrium had returned to tough daily training, everything was still on track.  Sensations were great, standardized tests had still seen improvement even after a bit of a break.  I was still improving and was in the best shape of my life.

One day I spoke on the phone with my good buddy Alex, previously from YK but now residing in Edmonton and training under the guidance of the great Les Parsons.  Being 5 years younger than I and still with a lot of work to do to become the best in the country (not for lack of motivation or dedication), I had been teaching him everything I knew about skiing: The daily execution of training, recovery strategies, ski technique, interpretation of fitness, awareness of the big picture, etc.  As his mentor for the past few years, I was in for a surprise on that phone convo.

The interesting thing about talking skiing with somebody who's learned everything about skiing from you is that you elaborate on the same topics and are equally innovative about how you go about pursuing skiing fitness.  You can talk forever.  Our talk had to be in my top-3 longest phone conversations of all-time, clocking in at something like 1.5 hours.  The other interesting thing about the conversation is that it was like the going-ons of my mind were transcribed into a dialogue.  It was like talking to myself, haha.  And Alex told me something I'll never forget.  Something I have known for a while but had not quite totally committed to, or believed in.

After hearing a random comment that Les had made about me, Alex got thinking.  First off, I don't know Les at all so it was interesting that he was talking to Alex about me.  He said something about me having talent but being lonely out here in Whistler with only one teammate.  Alex looked way beyond what Les said and gave me the best advice I have heard in a long time.  He said, "Thomsen, you have the potential to be great.  As long as you remain focused and don't get caught up in all of the different philosophies going around, you will be great.  You need to do things 'Thomsen's Way', so that when people talk about a certain kind of training, they say, 'Oh, that's how Thomsen D'Hont trains.'  You need to find out how you get fast and just do it and get fast.  Don't worry about anything else, just about getting fast."

It feels like I always knew that but having it said to me is what hit home.  THAT was a revelation.  Thanks, Alex.  You'll go far, kid.

Like a comfortable Toronto Raptors t-shirt you have owned and worn since you were 5 years old...

I was recently in Yellowknife for a week of hospitality/cultural training for the NWT's Olympic Youth Ambassador program that I am potentially taking part in during the first 10 days of the Olympics.  Over that time I learned cool stuff like blanket toss, dene hand games, jigging, fiddling, dene drumming, and the list goes on.  It was huge fun (when I wasn't cross-eyed with boredom from some of the workshops).

The guy in the blue in the middle of this shot is the real deal.  Rusty from Behchoko was a part of the legendary Rae indoor soccer team that was a huge inspiration to me growing up.  He now lives in Rae and helps kids achieve their dreams in sports, primarily by spiking volleyballs at their faces and laughing at their discomfort like a good Dene does (haha, joking.  But he was saying that that's what happens when the Tlicho play sports - they laugh at others' pain).  He is also badass at pretty much everything in the Tlicho culture.  Handgames included - so intense!  The game is as much intimidation as it is luck and Rusty is both highly skilled and moderately frightening once the caribou-hide drums are a-pounding and the paroxysm of the hand games is underway.  In Behchoko there is huge money in a hand games tourney, like $20,000 for 1st place.  I was complete garbage at hand games.  

The Old Man and I.  Out huntin', shootin' some chickens.

Going back to some of the training activities I would do come fall-time in Yellowknife was somewhat of a nightmare form of deja-vue.  Compared to Whistler, the training in YK is very limited at best.  When I was back, there was zero possibility of rollerskiing/skiing.  There was a fine dusting of snow but not enough to ski and all of the roads in town were covered by a thick layer of aggressive gravel.  This is a VERY common occurrence in Yellowknife.  It had me thinking of how I was able to do it when I was younger.  I was alone all of the time.  Concussion of pole plants.  Scream of semis hurtling past.  Rollerskis chunking over gravel.  Hundreds and hundreds of hours of rollerskiing a 5km section of highway that wasn't rough chip-seal.

I think some of my focus can be attributed to music.  I was always rocking out to my state of the art 1 GB mp3 player and would just keep on truckin'.  I was a pretty focused kid.  YK was all I knew and I made the best of it.

Something awesome about Yellowknife is that it doesn't stink (besides the ski trails that are across from the dump haha) when you're out training.  Whistler smells.  It reeks when you are running through the forest because of all the moisture and rotting vegetation.  The North smells clean and pure.

Training how Thomsen D'Hont trains.

I'm not going to spill the beans too much as this sort of thing is top secret (Riiiiiiight....).  But, I WILL tell you the top-3 focuses on my "Fall Game Plan".

1. As always, the long-term base focus in preparing a structurally-sound “me” in working towards 2014
2. Improving hard breathing through respiratory training
3. Core crunch to whip ("h" emphasis) the double pole.

In talking about my training, the governing theme is keeping it fun.  I am obsessive in nature, so anything repetitive with long-term gains and rewards is always fun no matter if the odd moment is monotonous as heck.  Days like the picture above are the reason why I do this sport.  A day in the life is running around on the top of a mountain for a few hours enjoying the most stunning scenery on Earth.  This day was fun, wasn't it Kajsa??? Haha, "I WANNA BREEEAAAKKK!!!!" - Kajsa Heyes (haha, actually, that was me... my bad!!)

Horstman glacier, Blackcomb.  

Slowly, over time you find out what works for you.  THE best way to make you fit is always a moving target. Understand what is happening, and go with the flow.  Take things as they come.  When things are tough, take them in stride knowing that nearly all setbacks are short-lived.  When things come naturally and easily, push the envelope.  You are a student of the sport, you owe it to yourself to be the most knowledgeable you can be, about yourself and about every aspect of your sport.

I now live in the closest subdivision to WOP.  So the drive there is only 15 minutes.  Consequently, this means I no longer have skiing right out my front door at Lost Lake like I did last year.  But my new location means I live right next to the athlete's village at Cheakamus Crossing and get to explore the area that will be the home of CVTC athletes starting in June 2010.  It's gonna be mint with a great network of trails and sports facilities and having the Cheakamus river right there.  There are also ski trails in the works for the area to connect Whistler/LostLake to WOP (so I've heard).

I am now back in the complete riot of a town that is Whistler.  Where random things happen like a day of off-roading in a sick rental 4x4 Jeep high up on Blackcomb with rich-kid girls from the most prestigious girls-only private school in Vancouver.  And tunes CRANKED.

I am back with a keen focus for the most consistent training possible as Olympic trials approach mid-December.  Any gains from here on in are gravy as I have accomplished a lot up to now.  Just a few final adjustments and I will be ready to rock.  I hope to surprise some people in Canmore.

Catch ya on the flipside.