The Cold and Quebec

The time has come! I’ve managed to neglect my blog for long enough and the time to update everyone on my adventures has come. I’ll start from where I left off last…the epic journey. It began in Silver Star, passed through Canmore, and ended in Quebec. A total of 8 NorAms in 15 days. My battle worn body completed 7 of the 8 races and let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy task.

By the time we made it to Quebec I wasn’t sure what to think. From one perspective, I no longer had to contend with that crazy thing they call altitude and more time since the tough training in Silver Star meant I should be better recovered and able to race faster. On the other hand, I had just finished racing in 4 NorAms and travelling more than half-way across the country. It was a toss up for sure and the only way to find out what would happen was to race.

First up were the skate sprints and along with them came the cold. I pulled out the windproof craft and my trusty balaclava and set out to challenge the winter elements. Turned out to be my best sprint ever! I guess all my preparatory work the day before really paid off. I finished 25th in Open Men and 7th in Junior Men. Fortunately for me all the Juniors who qualified ahead of me decided to race Open that day, while I decided to pull out my Junior card to gain valuable sprint experience which I am quite deficient in. Props to Thomsen for holding his own in the Open Men category and finishing 12th.

Needless to say, going into the heats I felt pretty confident being the top qualifier. I brought a new aggressive style into the heats and was full of determination to win. My aggressive skiing worked amazingly well, despite almost crashing after a near tangle up situation, and I WON!!! It was just what I needed. A good confidence booster going into the distance races on the weekend.

Next was the pursuit. Seeing as I now have so much experience with these races they call pursuits, I wasn’t even the least bit nervous. I decided it was going to be just like the sprints. Ski aggressively and win. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work the same way in a 20km race.

The morning was just plain frigid as we set up our skis in the proper lanes. I looked around the start area and watched skiers taking off their warm-ups while thinking to myself, “Are they crazy?!? It’s at least 22 below with over 5 minutes to the start and they’re taking their warm-ups off already!” I eventually did take my warm-ups off, but let me tell you, I sure didn’t want to! No matter how many times I swung my arms around and jumped up and down I just couldn’t manage to make my hands warm.

Nevertheless, the race began with a bang and we were off. After a rough start I pulled it together and had a great classic leg. My transition went somewhat smoothly and the skate leg was painful. My feet were blocks of ice and it was difficult to control my skis on the fast downhill sections. I even had a solid wipeout on my first lap of the skate course. The last 200m came down to a sprint for 2nd place in Junior between Lenny, Julien and I. Lenny came out on top and I came out on the bottom. The good news is I didn’t have to pull out of the race due to frozen toes.

Everyone hobbled into the warmth of the Val Cartier Ski Centre afterwards to discuss the day’s battles and show off their wounds. It took about 25 minutes until my feet had gone through the agonizing process of thawing, but I felt pretty fortunate. Harry Seaton’s toes had a new colour, black, and I heard Brent McMurtury’s fingers also took a likening to the colour black. There were even racers sprawled about in the bathroom attempting to use hot water from the shower to warm up. It was definitely quite the battle and a day I’ll remember for years to come.

The following day was slightly warmer (a balmy minus 16) with the addition of a blizzard. The race was a 10km Classic Mass Start. Due to the shortness of the race and the depth of the field of racers, the start would be a critical part of the outcome. I discovered this the hard way. Only 50m from the start line someone’s poles caught the inside of my ski and suddenly I spun 180 degrees and was swarmed by skiers. This was a new experience for me. I have never been facing the opposite way at the beginning of a 100 person mass start race. I don’t even remember how I did it, but somehow I managed to turn back around, ski between lanes filled with skiers and get myself back into the top half all within 100m.

The rest of the race was a game of catch up that I didn’t have the energy for. I finished a disappointing 9th place in Junior Men. It was a tough day, but after already having two great races I couldn’t complain. And that wraps my first time skiing in Val Cartier, Quebec.

The Michael