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!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Weird luck at Rossland NorAm, and Christmas at Osprey

The last stop on the racing circuit before Christmas was the Rossland NorAm, which consisted of two skate races, a 1.6 km sprint on the Saturday and a 15 km mass start on the Sunday. An interesting note from the weekend is that I received better CPL points on the distance day than on the sprint day. Also of note, in the overall CPL ranking list for the year ending December 20th, 2011, my overall distance points were the closest they have ever been to my sprint points. Where the gap has historically been close to a full 10 points, I have managed to improve my distance racing to the point where the difference is a little over 2 points (I broke 90 distance CPL for the first time in my life and also dropped below 93 sprint CPL). I guess my distance focus over the last few years is starting to pay off and is turning me into a better overall skier.

Placing-wise I was better in the sprint than in the distance, but sensations were much better in the 15 km skate.

Luck, however, also played a big part in both of my races.

On the Saturday, I knew from the start that I would be hard pressed to compete with the top guys on the day. I was simply outclassed. I could see the opportunities in my quarter final, but had no extra gear to capitalize on them. Luckily, I made up a spot as the 2nd fastest skier in my quarter went down mid-way through the course. I also made another pass near the end to claim 3rd, a result that I had to be happy with on the day considering how I was skiing.

The race completely levelled me, and it was all I could do to keep my eyes open till 8:30 that night.

I'm in the left of the shot. Jess (#1) was unstoppable on the day, skiing away with a clear victory.

Morning of the 15 km mass start: Ooohh boy, this is gonna be ugly... I guess I will give it a shot in warm-up and see if things improve... (during the recovery from mono a 2 x 3.5 minute race day has similar draining effects to racing a 50 km.) Warming up, however, things turned right around. I started to have a good feeling on my skis. The full hour of warming up had transformed me and I was ready to give it a crack. Luck, however, had other plans for me. With 5 minutes to go before the start, I found out that there had been a mix-up and my race skis hadn't been waxed and were sitting in the garage at home. After testing a 220-lb recreational skier's skis and a junior's race skis, I had the good fortune of testing a pair of CVTC's wax testing skis. They proved to be the quickest over my make-shift 10 meter ski testing area, so off I sprinted to be the last skier in the start grid, getting my skis and poles on with only 30 seconds to spare before the start gun.

The adrenaline from the ski-scare did me wonders off the gun, as I was able to settle into position quickly and conserve energy away from the mayhem of the jostling masses in pursuit. To my astonishment, the CVTC test skis I had hastily grabbed proved to be among the top skis on the day, better than anyone I skied with, anyway. I skied through the first 3.7 km lap in 10th place, right with the leaders. Even though I skied a pretty comfortably fast first lap, the pace was unsustainable. Attaining that next level of fitness doesn't seem far off, and I am excited to see where I am at in a few years' time.

The rest of the race was a matter of catching rides behind skiers when I could, drafting and conserving on the downhills and skiing controlled on the uphills. Having just a little more energy to attack on the final lap would have made it the perfect race for me. A fixable detail.

Immediately after the 15 km skate, it was off to the Heyes' cabin at Osprey Lake for 10 days of winter holiday festivities.

Successful Christmas tree hunt with our guide, Rob.

Classy Christmas eve dinner with 19th century silver ware at Nat Brown's cabin.

Lovin' Nat's 7.2 km trail system that was groomed especially for us. 

The evident cougar activity in the area had me on high alert when skiing solo (sunglasses on the back of your head, anyone?).

The trail system has incredible history, with numerous National teams having trained in the area as well as Olympic champions such as Thomas Wassberg (who is said to have been hyperactive, constantly moving and on the go for 12 hours a day, whether it be training or cutting wood and digging ditches for hours on end).

Nat's ranch consists of numerous cabins and structures on a large and narrow parcel of land abutted by a creek on one side and a towering ridge on the other. Adam van Koeverden asked me today why I don't base my training out of here (my initial thought is the cougar infestation).

Another of Princeton's hidden gem's: China Ridge ski trails. Located only 10 minutes from downtown Princeton, the trails are perched 500 meters above the town on rolling, varied terrain with sweeping vistas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Controlling the variables

All pics from Jesse Winter (

After a disappointing sprint qualifier in Canmore last Saturday at Alberta Cup #1, where I placed 12th, I regrouped and had a career best 10th place (3rd Canadian senior) qualifier at the Sovereign Lake NorAm sprint the following Saturday (Dec. 10th - results).

Transitioning from chicken-run to double pole in Saturday's classic prelim.

No doubt, going from a 12th place finish in a lower-key western Canadian race in a race that I normally excel at, to placing 10th at the premier North American race circuit, in an event I normally struggle at, in less than a week, is no small feat.

In AB Cup, where a number of variables negatively affected my performance, I made sure to control these same variables for the next weekend.

Leading up to the first NorAm, I made sure I had proper preparation by:

- rising early all week to be prepared for the early race day wake up call (and being asleep at 9:00 the night before)
- spending an extra few days at altitude in Silver Star to acclimatize to the elevation (Thanks to the Sellars)
- going back to basics by writing out a detailed race plan (complete with a new breathing strategy that helped a lot)
- completing key training sessions and feel-good sessions on course

Having everything come together on race day, it is nice to see it produce a good result. However, being 8 seconds out of the top spot in Canada, there is a lot of work to be done. World Cup qualifying rounds are pretty much never 8 seconds for top-30.

Heats didn't go quite as well as the qualifier. I think more aggression is needed next time. 

I am now in Rossland, BC, for the second stop on the NorAm circuit, and a skate-ski-only weekend, with a sprint and 15 km mass start. Having a few weeks of break from racing after this weekend, I am even planning on racing both Saturday and Sunday.

Enough blogging, it's time to dust off the old skate equipment and dial in Saturday's course.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Season Opener: Alberta Cup 1/2

Just got the season underway on the weekend. After a week of suffering the effects of altitude in Canmore for the first time in a long time, I managed to pull off a decent result on the weekend. In hindsight, I am glad I spent a full week in Canmore in preparation for the weekend, cause boy, was I sucking wind up there.

The first day of the skate sprint/classic distance race weekend, I slogged through a pretty dismal qualifier, posting the 12th fastest time in the exact event/location that I have placed 2nd (2006 as a Junior against Seniors) and 4th (last year) in qualifying. With a 6 hour break before heat action got underway, I had time to regroup and refocus. I bounced back for a great afternoon of racing, managing to benefit from the lucky loser rule in the first ever timed heats in Canada. Made it to the final! After not much rest after the semi, toeing the line for the final I was still a little gassed, and tried in vain to hang on to the stiff pace led out by two of Canada's Olympians, Brent McMurtry and Phil Widmer. I skied in for a 6th, and a successful first day of heat skiing for the year.

A-final action. I am trailing on the far left of the shot. (Photo cred: Angus Cockney) 

I won't go into much detail about Sunday's race. When you start warming up for a race at 8:20 am and finish cooling down for a race at 4:30 pm the day before, you're bound to have some lingering fatigue. Sunday's 9 km race was a good fit for me, but 3 km in it was evident it wasn't going to be my best performance.
Photo cred: Angus Cockney

I am now in Silver Star, where my coach, Andrew, and his wife, Ginny, have generously offered me their condo for a few days of preparation leading into this weekends NorAm sprint race. With races taking longer than normal to recover from, post-mono, I have opted out of the distance event this weekend to ensure good energy for the following weekend of NorAms in Rossland.

I am excited to try my hand in this weekend's tough field.