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 22, 2012

The price you pay for jumping a stone wall to feed a donkey

No, the title is not a metaphor for anything. On my last day in Québec, Justine (one of my gracious hosts in Vieux Québec), Ian Murray (who was staying with Justine as well), and I went on an adventure to meet the one and only donkey in the entire Ville de Québec. Concealed beneath a small shelter in a stone courtyard behind a church, said donkey lives a meagre and secret existence as Justine's father, David, who is a lawyer, wages legal warfare with the town to allow the rearing of Aldo, the affable and shaggy donkey. Living off the charity of generous carrot-offering tourists, Aldo has gained a somewhat cult following within the community and is, among other things, launching a calendar for this year's holiday season.

Through a raging snowstorm, Justine, Ian and I approached the windswept courtyard that houses the timid donkey, and were confronted with a stone wall. Upon scaling and leaping over the wall our troupe was beset by the territorial chastisement of a lady who turned out to be the bishop's wife, whose property Aldo is housed on. With justified suspicion of donkey abuse, the bishop's wife was adamant. Adamant until she recognized Justine, whose aunt happens to be the proud owner of Aldo. With that, our unannounced visit to the donkey switched from chastisement to encouragement. This, however, was not the last we would see of the bishop's wife.

Aldo and his companion goat. 

After disheveled fur was patted and proffered carrots were gobbled up, it was time to climb back over the wall. My ungraceful struggle over was accompanied by a disheartening ripping sound. In one fateful motion, the jeans I was wearing were torn asunder. It quickly dawned on me that this was a pressing matter indeed as these were the only pants I had brought on my trip East other than spandex and warm-up pants. And our ride to the airport for our flight back west was scheduled to leave in the next 15 minutes...

Luckily, Simons was only a hop, skip and a jump away. Pressed for time, I quickly tried on several pairs of jeans, was able to select one (no small feat for my short legs, narrow waist and big butt), and we were off. Hustling back up the snowy streets of Vieux Québec we passed by a lady hauling a christmas tree through the snowdrifts. The stooped over bishop's wife was quick to conscript our labour to take a detour through the nearby German market to collect and haul back to the church the remaining few christmas trees that were being donated to refugee families for the holidays.

With hands frostbitten and abraded from the rough bark of les sapins, we couldn't help but laugh at the events of the last 20 minutes as we loaded our things into the car to begin our journey home.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Through stone passageways to battle

The mood between the men milling around is quiet but anxious. Your number is called and the man ushers you forward through the stone tunnel. On the threshold of the wall you step on a platform and a squad of officials prop you up and brush the crud off of your boots before you step on the brilliant white surface. The crowd chants and cheers and you gain a sense of the sheer magnitude of human presence on this side of the wall. You shift in your armour and feel the weight of your weapons as you swing them through the air. You have done this hundreds of times before, but today is different. There is energy in the air.

But in place of chain mail and morning stars there are carbonlites and spandex. The course is a tunnel of waving flags and appendages and strained vocal chords.

The Québec City sprint World Cup was one of the best experiences of my life to date.

photo credit: Motion360
On the start line getting ready to break the wand.

One thing that made the week in Québec amazing, is the lodging provided to Ian Murray and I by my girlfriend's cousins. They live right in Vieux Québec about a 5 minute walk from the race's start line. Pictured here is Ian Murray fiddling a ditty with Louisa on guitar. Louisa is but one of the cousins and lives across the backyard from where we were staying with another cousin. The house that we stayed in is one of the oldest houses in Québec City, built in 1793. Never has there been such a joyous and convenient lodging at a race. The weekly 20-person family dinners/jam sessions are something out of a movie.

The morning commute through the streets of old town Québec.

The start line beneath ancient stonework and crenellations.

Taking it all in on a training day.

Team Sprint 

Warming up for the skate sprint.

Navigating the sloppy and soft conditions of the 2-lap 750 meter man-made snow course. On my first lap I was a little startled by the 30,000 hollering spectators on course. I was able to snap out of it a bit on my second lap and skied strong in to the line.

photo cred: Motion360. 
Rounding the corner into the finishing straight. On the day I was pretty stoked on my qualifier. I have never had that much fun cross country skiing! Next time I will know what to expect with the blaring racket of thousands of people.

For some more pictures that really capture the essence of Québec City this past weekend, check out Reese Hanneman's blog.

Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters who made this all possible!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Securing a World Cup berth

photo cred: James Cunningham

I wrote a previous blog draft to this, but after an emotional past few days all but the most ardent of my readership would be bored to tears due to the incoherent, mundane ramblings of a shocked, overexcited mind.

To avoid the mundane and incoherent, I will keep this short.

I just qualified for my first World Cup race. It is this Saturday, December 8th in downtown Québec City.

Thank you to all of my friends, family, supporters and sponsors. This result has been a long time in the coming after recent years of injuries and illness and a FIS point requirement holding me back from racing a World Cup back in 2008.

This was my number one goal for the year, and it has been accomplished. Time to set new goals. The season has only just begun!

Thank you,

I am in blue on the far left. This heat is an all-Canadian affair, with 5 provinces and territories represented. The day was dominated by the Swiss National Sprint team, claiming the top 4 spots in the A-final. (photo cred: David Greer)

There was some minor excitement when I found myself in the lead with 150 m to go. Alas, bridging the gap earlier in my quarter-final left me a little gassed in the finishing stretch. Photo cred: James Cunningham

Photo finish (via @rapidcampf) - I am in 4th.