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, June 20, 2010

This is my community.

Growing up in the North, my family didn't have much money (not enough for me to play hockey, anyways), so at first I was put in cheap sports like soccer and track and field (luckily, I was fortunate enough to score some sweet 2nd-hand ski gear at the annual YK Ski Club Snow Show, and so was eventually put in skiing at age 7).  

Soccer was my main sport for quite some time, and I like to think of myself as having been one of the more decent players playing on gym floors around the 'Knife (outdoor in YK is predominantly bunk, with very few fields used by too many people resulting in a lot of dirt and hummocks - and so indoor soccer rules the North).  The indoor soccer years of my generation were dominated by a set of brawny Inuit twins by the names of Sam and Joe Ashoona.  These guys were untouchable; they could run faster and shoot harder than anyone, and could win any battle.  Their dad, Bob Kussy, was an exuberant coach and everything-soccer maniac.  Amazingly, a few of the teams that I played on were crafty enough to employ tactics to shut down Sam and Joe to pull out big wins in Aurora Minor Soccer League and in Super Soccer tournaments.  

Crafty U-11 boys Lime Green, getting the job done.  Anyone from Yellowknife would find this picture pure gold (sorry Aaron for ripping it off your FB), as it contains 3 Aitkens, and many other noteworthy YKers, including Yellowknife's Snowboarder extraordinaire, and my good buddy, Andrew Matthews (bottom row, laying down).  I am center on the top row.  And yes, I was a shrimp.  

Today, the Ashoona's run an art studio (check it out here or check out their Facebook page here).  I am proud to announce that they are on board as one of my major sponsors, providing me with traditional artwork to use as gifts for my big sponsors!  Me and the Ashoona's all go way back, and fought it out countless times on the soccer court.  They taught me humility on the soccer floor and inspired me to play harder and to work hard at becoming a better soccer player and athlete.  Although my competitive soccer days are long gone, the skills and lessons I learned are invaluable for my ski career.  The Ashoona's support of my Olympic aspirations is a fine example of the great community that is backing me in the pursuit of my goals.  

Team Ashoona.  Joe (far right), has become one of the best Inuit carvers in the world.  

"Dancing Bear" - by Joe Ashoona

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CVTC rebooted (again)

Last year at this time, I had just committed to returning to Whistler after a VERY tough decision to return to a program left in shambles.  Despite the gamble, I discovered a previously unknown state of fitness.  I had a great relationship with a coach whose strengths were closely aligned with my interests and goals.  Even though the racing season was derailed with an untimely injury, I was excited for the new fitness potential I had demonstrated throughout the training season.  With the lackadaisical race season (Olympic racing lull in North America) coming to a close, I was ecstatic to have a fresh shot at showing my stuff over another year building on a seemingly indomitable training recipe with a coach who was familiar with the execution and direction of the intended outcome of said plan.  Alas, my coach was in a difficult situation with his job and another child on the way and decided to return home to Newfoundland.  

Luckily, the prospects for the Callaghan Valley Training Centre in the new year were promising as a new coach was hired immediately, and the outlook was quantifiable for interested athletes come decision time in April. 

Last year I spoke of some mythical creature of a coach who would pull the proverbial sword from the stone, fitting into the demanding position of building a program on the sacred Olympic grounds of Whistler with a unique skill set of vision and enthusiasm.  It seems like CVTC may have found such an individual, but as always, time will tell in this new age of Olympic Legacies.  

New beginnings are not so bad when you know the variables and are comfortable with change.  To kick off my 3rd year with the CVTC, I spent my week training high up in Callaghan Country with the BC ski team.  The skiing was quite breathtaking, but still did not compare to what Yellowknife has to offer at that same time of year.  It was very unfortunate that I missed out on the YK Great Slave snow melt, but Whistler was still a good time.  

Mike Gilday crashed on my floor for a week of his down-time from skating training.  It was great to get out skiing (having his ass handed to him) and mountain biking (me having my ass handed to me) together during his stay. 

 After a huge week of skiing, Michael and I made it down to Pemberton for 3 days of +25 heat (this is early May) on a (so far) unvisited beach freshly stocked with driftwood from the winter.  

We are both into the Primal living thing, so there was no better way to unleash the inner Grok than to rough it on the beach, roasting meat over a drift wood fire and chucking boulders and logs about, grunting maniacally. 

After some downtime on the beach, it was time to return home to Yellowknife to spend time with family and to attempt to secure funding for another year of training and racing at the highest level possible.  It just so happened that Gilday was home for the exact same dates as I was.  A group of us got out to his cabin, after pushing our canoes over candled ice for the better part of an hour.  

The crème de la crème of Yellowknife's elite male athletes hitting up the Capitol Theatre for the Sir John Franklin High School Film Fest.  

Gildays and I with Corey at the Ryan Lake Mine just outside of Yellowknife, a must-do run if in town.  My 10 days in Yellowknife flew by.  I was sooo busy - I was literally sprinting around town the entire time.  Training was almost a write-off for the week, but I cherish the few days I was in fact able to get out on my old stompin' grounds with the likes of Core-man and the rest of the small group of athletes hailing from the 'Knife. 

Returning down south, it was back into training with 2 weeks totally 36 hours.  The second week of which was spent with members of the new CVTC in Rossland, soaking in as much rain as possible beneath the permanent rain cloud that seems to be sitting over all of south-western Canada.  L to R is myself, Geoffrey Richards, Mac-Daddy and Kajsa Heyes - all members of the new and young (I'm an exception to this young-ness) CVTC.

The summer should be heating up quite soon, both literally and metaphorically training-wise.  Time to dust off the rollerskis after a good spring of on-snow training and hit the road.  

I have had 5 different coaches in 5 years.  Although enlightening, the whiplash between training philosophies has been disheartening.  Experiencing so many different views of skiing and training, I have reached a level of maturity as an athlete to realize that continuity must come from within.  A wise man once said, "all of the greatest athletes are self-coached in the end."  That being said, I still recognize the value of a coach screaming at you to get up a hill a little faster, or a coach giving suggestions or making observations and for being there in the cold, driving rainstorms of the fall in Whistler.

I have 48 weeks to improve every year (and 2 weeks for rest, plus 2 weeks for re-adjustment to training).  To become great over the coming years, it is imperative that I am improving every week of the 48.  I must seek areas for improvement and put in the time to overcome mediocrity to rise above the rest.

My recipe for improvement:

- Identify weakness (test, feel, observation)
- Set goal for improvement
- Set timeline for re-test/assessment
- Create a training plan to address weakness
- Complete every training session with goal in mind
- Re-test and analyze

Then, move on to another area of weakness(es) and repeat the steps above.  

Alrighty then, let's get out there and improve...