Vitality renewed and with the last few skate ski sessions under my belt, it was time to head North for the holidays and for the dark deep freeze that is Yellowknife in December, where it would take a small miracle for temperatures to warm to the skate ski temperature of -20.
Nostril hairs freezing as I climbed out of the airplane onto the windswept tarmac, I was shocked at how low the sun was at mid-day (extend your arm with your thumb sticking out sideways - that's how high above the flat horizon the sun makes it at noon). I am often asked whether people go crazy with the short daylight hours in Yellowknife. As a kid, I would go to school in the dark and get out of school in the dark. Growing up with that and it being all I knew, I made do. Soon after arriving home to YK, on my daily squeaky skis, the beauty of low angle sunlight found it's way back into my good books as I was treated to the sky's pale pinks and blues that glow softly above the frosty landscape.
Local keener, Donny Boake, on a ski out at the Tumchewics' cabin at Prelude Lake. A guerrilla grooming movement has taken hold in Yellowknife, with set tracks popping up all over different lakes.
Luckily, the cold was not as bitter as it could have been. Each day that week was right around -30 Celsius, making for good classic skiing conditions. Until I moved south after high school I had pretty much never used anything other than Swix Polar grip wax (-10 to -30). I still don't really know what I'm doing with Klister since Whistler is usually hairies...
After much family time, no friend time (the one year I decide to come home for Christmas, all my friends choose to head south...), cold classic skis and a few pounds gained, it was off to Thunder Bay and the World Championships Trials.
The Thunder Bay World Championships Trials 2013 was a wretched chapter of my life and a complete nonstarter. Well, not a complete nonstarter, as I started and finished a 30 km skiathlon despite an unnatural heavy feeling in my limbs. Returning to my hotel room that day, I was levelled. And let me tell you, recovering from a 30 km race is hard enough on it's own. Without eating or drinking anything for the next 48 hours is another matter. Looking as woebegone as ever, at the first flicker of life I fled home to Whistler with my tail between my legs (Auntie Lori, your flight changing skills in a time of need are nothing short of life saving), hoping to get as much terrain as possible between me and that germ infested hotel where many a skier fell victim to the wrath of the bowel-scouring Norovirus.
Now, in my earlier days of blogging I was well-known for my 1000+ word epics. I try not to do that any more, but when you delay blogging for a good 2 months it leaves you few options. Onwards...
The particularly nasty bout of Norovirus took its time in leaving my system. I was left lethargic and wearied for a solid 10 days after acute symptoms had passed. At the tail end of these 10 days, I had the bright idea to race a BC Cup in Kelowna. I had been training that week, but sensations were far from optimal. With expectations adjusted, I lugged my sorry carcass around on a double pole classic sprint and a 10 km skate race on Telemark's nicely undulating trail system. Getting pummelled back onto the racing train in such a way ended up being a good thing, and I was back to feeling normal shortly thereafter. My mentor (and MD), Andrew, says that after such an intense flu, the return to skiing is much aided by some fast movements on snow, trying to regain proprioception. I think the weekend served that purpose. As always, the stay in Kelowna at The Cove resort didn't disappoint. I love racing in Kelowna, even when I feel like crap.
A week later saw me back on form in Coast Cup action. I managed to claim a victory against some dudes that are much, much taller than I am. The classic race course was nice and flat and the sun was out. What a joy to race at home in Whistler when the weather is nice.
A pic by JFK Cromwell, during the 13.2 km Coast Cup.
I have managed to squeeze in a few short ski tours while in Whistler this year. This is taken from Gin Peak, above Whistler Olympic Park.
Getting high on Cayoosh Mountain on the Duffey Lake road.
Towards the end of January, I hemmed and hawed for a considerable length of time about heading East for a NorAm double header, indecisive mostly because of the daunting last-minute logistical detail required. A cold call from my good buddy, Pate Neumann, handing me on a silver platter a fully organized first half to the trip sealed the deal and I was off to Toronto to participate in the Duntroon NorAm.
Skiing on a very thinly covered Mono Nordic in Orangeville, Ontario. Fun ski on narrow, winding trails.
Grinding up an unruly steep pitch in a rather good 15 km skate at Highlands in Duntroon, Ontario.
Pate excited about taking Gerard Garnier and I on a quad tour of his family's estate in Palgrave, Ontario.
With a solid classic sprint and skate 15 km under my belt, along with a weekend and a week of exceptional hospitality with the Greens and Neumann's family, respectively, we loaded the car and departed for Ottawa in a miserably tropical mid-winter +14 degrees Celsius.
The last night at the Neumann's place was a grand old time. Pond hockey and bonfire followed by a feast with old friends.
Racing at the Eastern Canadian Champs in Nakkertok has always been a good set of races for me. Easier course, lower altitude... It makes for a more level playing field for us born and bred lowlanders. This year, each race was quite decent for me. Friday's classic sprint could have been really good but I made a tactical error in my quarter final and didn't advance to the next round. Saturday's 15 km skate was okay. Sunday's 30 km classic could have been my best distance race ever were it not for an untimely crash mid-way through that made me lose contact with the speedy group I'd been comfortably skiing with.
pic credit: Bernard Pigeon
Starting out the 30 km pursuit start with Geoffrey Richards
Having a good group to work with makes 30 km much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, I lost contact with this group after being caught up in someone else's untimely crash.
Performance-wise for these two weeks out East, I have to be pleased with the level of consistency. Nothing fantastic, nothing dismal. A success on the whole.
This season I have had two of my most enjoyable ski trips ever. This recent trip out East was on par with my World Cup trip to Québec City despite being quite different from a racing stand point (lots of high level races vs. one single really, really high level race). Both trips were made unforgettable because of the people I met and got to spend time with. Being taken in by such gracious skiing families on this trip was a great opportunity to see small corners of the country not often seen (in the instance of Pate's little corner of the world in Palgrave, ON), and, chez les Bérubés, to experience the culture of the beautiful Gatineau area. I love skiing for many reasons, and interacting with and getting to know new people is definitely high up on that list.
Fantastic fondue and raclette with the Bérubés on my last day in Gatineau to cap off a great trip.