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!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Canadian National Championships: A walk down memory lane

Like many Canadians, particularly those right in the thick of the 2010 Olympics, I experienced what is known as "post-Games withdrawal."  Or maybe it's called "post-Games emotional hangover." Regardless, I was ravaged by a particularly nasty bout of rhinovirus (common cold), that had me huddled in my room, eyes glazed over, in a trance, reminiscing of the wonders of the Olympics.  In between dreaming of the Olympic spectacle, I made the most of my time over those ten days by catching up on reading and by plowing through 1/3 of my ECON248 course. 

Luckily I had a few days of recovery before Nationals.  It was a tricky period though, having 2 months off of racing in the middle of winter (Olympics sabotaged high level racing in North America).  I was able to train well, exhibiting good energy and carrying a respectably large training load (had an 18 hr week in there).  The illness wasn't much to worry about, taking comfort in the fact that I had improved vastly on my early season fitness.  Although, it was a little unnerving in being dangerously under-raced and heading into a race that could potentially decide the whole next year, seeing as I hadn't yet met the points requirement to return to the Callaghan Valley Training Centre (don't worry, after a stressful race day of not knowing whether the standard was met, I went home to the Canadian Points List to discover I had met the 93 CPL).

Soooo... on to Nationals...

Recovered from illness in time for 4 days of recalibration training to regain normal fitness function.  Decent sensations re-integrated in time for the much anticipated (by me, anyways) Nationals that would be held in beautiful Whitehorse, Yukon, my old stomping grounds where I kicked off my ski career 10 years earlier, knee-high to a grasshopper, at the 2000 Arctic Winter Games where I competed as a mini-midget against the towering 6’3” midgets of the circumpolar world. 
I still remember my amazing 5km skate mass start race from then, skiing in to a time of 16:41, in 11th place.  Brendan Green won that race.  And returned in 2007 to Canada Winter Games to defend the mass-start skate title in the 15km skate, claiming NWT’s only medal at those games.  And then this year he represented Canada at the Olympics in biathlon.  Goes to show the caliber of athletes who compete at AWGs.  At that same 2000 AWGs, I remember Graham Nishikawa winning races.  And in the years and AWGs hence I raced Graeme Killick (oh, and by the way, I’m the one who first started calling him G-Kill) who claimed two golds at these 2010 Nationals in Whitehorse.  Although, Graeme lives on in the shadow of his 3 other siblings who all possess the coveted AWG ulu-medals, a feat G-Kill could never accomplish.  Maybe cause he was always racing me, haha.

This is at 2000 AWG.  I can see how someone (for instance, G-Kill) would be intimidated by me.  I'm the little 4'11" brat on the right wearing the Umbro pants.  Josh Lippert (244 rpm cycling as a kid) and Kevin Ste. Germaine (check out his awesome guitar/screaming at 

While at Nationals, Cheskey and I were fortunate enough to stay at the exquisite Chateau De La Mare, aka Dougie’s log cabin (it’s actually a log “house” and is right in the middle of town).  Buddy ol’ pal, Dougie, who has only been cross country skiing for a year, offered us a place to stay at his family’s place up in Whitehorse.  Hands down, one of the best places I have ever stayed at for a ski race.  His mom pampered us, feeding us countless quality/delicious calories to fuel us through the depleting and heavy race schedule.  And Doug’s dad’s insight into such unusual things as attractiveness vs. effectiveness of body mass index in life and sports (although his research has yet to be widely accepted).  Apparently hockey players (average BMI of 26) are too beefy to be considered attractive by most women, and that us cross country skiers (average BMI of 23 [I am 23.7]) are much more desirable.  Nice.  I couldn’t stand those hockey guys in high school.

The aforementioned Dougie, and I on a ski up around Ring Lake in Callaghan country earlier in the winter. 

Thanks De La Mare’s for your amazing hospitality!  And I think I still owe Dougie about 992 pull-ups from my task of completing 100/day of Nationals (10 days) on his kitchen’s chin-up bar…  there will be time yet for me to make up the deficit at the gym this spring in Whis…

15km skate action.  Okay race, but back seized and I skied the downhills in a very non-aerodynamic fashion.

The races themselves were mediocre on the whole.  I was very pleased with the fact that I raced every single one of the 5 races at the Championships, although none seem to stand out as a true reflection of how well I know I can ski.  The races were particularly marred by my ski popping off in my sprint quarter-final on a day that I was hoping to build on my 14th place qualifying result.  Like always, I WANT MORE.  More training, more races, more opportunities to shine…  In the whole of things, I am still young in terms of training years and race experience.  I am hungry to learn and improve.

Leading Aidan Lennie of Nakkertok in the early stages of the 50km winter marathon.

I can see the prestige in a race like the 50km.  A true test of mettle.  One that I can see myself doing decently well in with at least 5 more years of good distance training.  On this crisp northern day, however, I was a pretty tuckered out kid from the heavy week.  It was a nice struggle of a Sunday ski.  Over 2.5 hrs later I limped my blurry-eyed, shattered carcass about the regally beautiful city of Whitehorse.  And got extremely sweaty playing Dodgeball at the Nash Bash festivities of that final evening (also got real sweaty on the dance floor after that...).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Olympism: "A philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.  Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles." - Olympic Charter, Fundamental Principles

I had a dream that Pierre Harvey told me that if I train 1200 hours per year for 10 years, I would be a good skier.

True story.

Also a true story: I skied 2 hours with Pierre Harvey the other day during the Olympics up at the Whistler Olympic Park.  Skied with him, Phil Villeneuve, and team Brazil.  Didn't actually "meet" Pierre until the very end of the ski.  Told him I have raced his son a bunch.  What I didn't tell him though, was that he was in my dream one night a few weeks before the Olympics.  He was talking to Alex and I. He looked at me and said, "If you train 1200 hours per year for 10 years, you will be a good skier." Now that's a lot of hours... And for a kid who is looking to make a jump to a max of 750 hours for next year, I'm not sure 1200 yearly hours is in my cards. Probably shouldn't be, actually. In terms of health, I mean. Would take a beast to handle that volume.  A beast like Justyna Kowalczyk.  I hear she trains that much.

That dream was significant because it was something of a precursor to the amount of stokedness I would experience come Games time.  I had that vivid dream of Alex and Pierre and that's all I could think of while out training for the couple weeks leading up to the Games.  And then I started seeing Pierre every single day in the village and up at WOP.  And eventually I skied with him and met him.  Hmmm...

George Grey, Ivan Babikov, Alex Harvey, and Devon Kershaw at the Whistler CTV broadcast center.  Dougie and I were the dudes screaming, "I LOVE YOU IVAN BABIKOV!!" and "YOU'RE MY IDOL DEVON KERSHAW!!!"  They were totally weirded out by the crowd.  WHAT??? WE HAVE FANS??? haha. 

 Once the Games opened, I was fired up to an all new high. Being an Olympic Forerunner up at WOP meant having special privileges for access to athletes' lounges, race trail training, etc...  I was able to witness first hand the inside going-ons of Olympic Cross Country skiing. I got to train with Lukas Bauer, Jesper Modin, Marcus Hellner (the day before Hellner won his first gold, actually (also, the Swedish roommate of a Swedish friend of mine in town thought I was Marcus Hellner when he first met me, and started speaking swedish to me! - apparently we look alike!?)), etc, and just ghosting them on the trails and watching how they ski while out training was infectiously motivational.

Seeing the professionalism of the athletes at the Games and the seriousness of the whole operation showed to how large of a degree that this really is THE BIG SHOW.  The athletes go about things with such intent on their faces.  I realized the professionalism that it takes to attain and remain living the amazing lifestyle of an international ski racer in the global community of athletes on the World Cup circuit.  They exude Olympism.  Having access to the Athlete's Compound, I got to see this first-hand. Seeing this and rubbing shoulders with the Olympians made me want this more than ever.

Outside of the huge stoke that was the Olymps, here is some other random happenings that have me pumped these days:

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley performing at Village Square.  He was UNREAL.  Whistler freakin' loves that guy.  He had the entire crowd singing "Road to Zion."  

- The other day there was this rec. skier dude completely decked out in top of the line racing equipment skiing up Norwegian Woods at Callaghan. I passed him while skiing up to the top. He simply stood on the side of the trail with the hugest grin. I passed him again on my way back down the trail.  He hollered at me to stop.  This was our conversation:
Random Dude (RD): "HEY!!! Are you on the National Team!?!?"
TD: "No, just on the Callaghan Valley Training Centre, it's sorta a feeder program for the National Team, based out of Whistler."
RD: "Oh cool!!!  I just wanted to tell you THAT YOU ARE SOOOO AWESOME!!!  You are so inspirational, and I love what you are doing!  I really hope you all of the best and want you to know that you are just SOO AWESOME!!!"
TD: "Haha, thank you."
It's not that often that you get such a huge boost from a complete stranger.  I passed him a few more times that ski - he'd just stand on the side of the trail, beaming goofily.  Such exuberance.

Callaghan Country.  Like 10 feet of base.  No Big Deal. 

- Brad Sills, the owner and operator of Callaghan Country Lodge has been wicked supportive of CVTC.  He gave us a car pass for us to go skiing up at Callaghan during the Olympics.  And he grooms for us when we need it.  And his trails are wicked awesome sweet.  Same with his Lodge (you can stop in the middle of a ski to play ping pong, high up in the alpine above Callaghan Valley).  Thanks Brad!

Lee skiing high up in Callaghan Country.  There are 10km of trails up there at 1400m. 

- Last month I played drop-in soccer a few times.  I used to play a lot of soccer when I was a kid, and it's been great to get back in touch with that.  The level of play is unreal in Whistler with so many internationals.  The other day I was the only white dude on Team South Africa.  But at least I was holding my own out on the floor.  I think the soccer has helped my skiing too, lately.  All that balance and speed has been great for leg motions.

- There is this song I started listening to again.  Used to listen to it when I was in middle school maybe.  Grade 7-ish.  "Butterfly" by Crazytown.

- The other day Tami was reading this children's story to little Elly (this is the family I live with).  I was eating dinner at the time.  A few phrases piqued an extremely vague recollection from the distant and isolated recesses of my long-term memory.  So I called up my parents and asked them about this book that Tami was reading.  Turns out they used to read, "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" to me when I was Elly's age (2)!!!  Weird that I remember it after not hearing it for almost 20 years.

- Olympian Gord Jewett had an interview with Rex Murphy on Cross Country Check-up during the mayhem that was the Olympics.  He was bang on with the message he was sending, talking about how long of a journey this really is (took him 17 years to qualify for the Olympics in Cross Country Skiing) and how the Olympics are all about the athletes, but not the athletes you would think; it's all about those who are 8 years old who watch the Olympics and decide to themselves, "sure, I want to devote 10 years of my life to become a world class athlete."  He is a great example of all of the qualities that it takes to get to the top, having overcome huge adversity in his career.  Olympism at its best.  And I'm pretty sure I copied a lot of what he said for the two radio shows I was on up North last week...

- The one day that I was in Van during the Olympics, I was out for a quick jog in the middle of our round robin men's hockey game vs. the USA.  Running down on Kits beach, I could hear the collective roar of thousands coming from downtown whenever a goal was scored.  From 4km away (!). Pretty neat hearing that and seeing the dozens of spotlights dancing across the downtown skyscape.  This Olympics has really brought our country together and has me extremely proud to be Canadian.

This is me on the back of a bus.  My aunt got a better pic of me standing next to it, I'll see if I can get it off her...

- After the Men's 4 x 10km relay (exciting as hell), in which the Czech Republic pulled off an amazing performance to win Bronze, superstar Lukas Bauer (2nd leg) ran towards the finish line to celebrate, blubbering incoherently, bawling his eyes out, totally out of control.  Such patriotism and national jubilation with the glory.  The reward for a tight-knit, hard-working team.  Could just as easily have been any other team to come in for this result on any given day and have the same reaction.  Like the Canadians.  Next time...

Love him or hate him, Petter Northug is the hot-head personality the sport needs.  He is one of the greatest the sport has ever seen.  

- There were many emotionally moving images from these Games, but above all else, stands out the CTV interview with Devon Kershaw after his 5th place finish in the 50km.  Extremely choked and reduced to tears, Devon expresses that despite being 1.6 seconds away from being Olympic Champion after a 2 hour race and how crushing this is, how proud he is to be part of such an amazing team of skiers.  I hope Devon can accept this defeat and find solace in the fact that he skied a darn good race, the best ever for him perhaps, and that he is an absolute inspiration to many aspiring cross country skiers in Canada.

To sum up my experience of being in Whistler for the Olympic Games:  I am inspired.