This past weekend was a huge success for me. I competed in two races as preparation for the 2008 Canadian Championships which begins this coming Sunday, March 16th. The races went better than I could have asked for! Saturday was the NTDC Invitational/Thunder Bay City Championships, a short 10km continuous pursuit race and Sunday was the annual Tapiola Invitational, a 7km classic individual start race which winds through high-speed, narrow, “flat-ish” trails.
Friday evening I meticulously went through all the preparation I would normally do for a big race. I waxed my skis, stretched plenty, ate properly, planned my race strategy and made a plan for my warm-up; the goal being to simulate racing at Nationals. Saturday morning I opened my eyes and immediately knew this was going to be a good day…I was only unsure how good it would be. After a good warm-up followed by a long wait in the starting lanes, the starting gun went off and I was moving, fast. With the combination of a strong field and a short race I guessed the starting pace might be quick and I wasn’t let down. Butler threw down a hard pace right away in an attempt to drop the field. Unfortunately for him, following was a little easier than leading on this cold morning and soon a lead pack had formed including: Chris Butler, Steve Hart, Phil Wood, Timo Puiras and myself. A highlight in the classic portion of the race was when Timo directly collided with a squirrel attempting to cross the trail. The squirrel was definitely the loser in this collision as I watched it become airborne and summersault across the trail while squeaking in dismay.
The previous day I took a guess that the race would break up during the exchange from classic to skate. I wasn’t entirely right, but between Timo’s slow poke exchange and my face plant while attempting to step out of my exchange box, a considerable gap did form. Luckily, I was able to catch up to Chris, Phil and Steve on the first flat part of the course. Unfortunately Timo wasn’t able to do the same as his sprint into the exchange zone seemed to zap his energy. The skate course was considerably hillier than the classic course and I discovered my legs to be unusually stiff when climbing. Fortunately my infamous hippies (Peltonen Hybtonites) were running fast and kept me in the race…thank you skis! With a downhill/flat finish I felt confident I could try to take the win and began to make my way from 4th to 1st. In the end it came down to a tight sprint finish. Phil took 1st, I was 2nd (0.4 seconds behind), Steve 3rd (0.6 seconds behind), and Chris 4th (1.7 seconds behind). My final opinion of the race: choice.
With a boost in confidence, Eldar Roenning (a.k.a. me) arrived at the Tapiola Invitational ready to throw down. The trash talking with Boerre Naess (a.k.a. Chris Butler) and Tor Arne Hetland (a.k.a. Phil Wood) began. Naess and Hetland made a bold decision to use skate skis and skate poles intending to muscle out a victory. Steeevfe (Steve Hart) opted for skate skis and classic poles allowing a higher tempo for double poling power. Roenning kept his head on his shoulder and used the regular classic equipment as this was indeed a classic race. Roenning has had the benefit of racing this course a few times before and recalled the extreme exhaustion he has felt in the past from so much double poling; he figured a little kick-double pole and striding might be what he needs to keep his arms feeling fresh. With the variety of strategies the race proved to be an interesting one. The victor of this hammer fest turned out to be Steeevfe followed by Roenning, Hetland, then Naess. It seemed Hetland and Naess found a new muscle group while double poling with their skate poles and would later regret their decision.
With two 2nd place finishes against some stiff competition and defeating Naess for the first time in a distance race ever…twice, I’m feeling very well prepared going into the 2008 Canadian Championships. Over the past three weeks, while many of my teammates have been overseas racing at the World Junior/U23 Championships, myself, Thomsen, and Phil along with our assistant coach, Timo, have been training hard. After racing almost every weekend this past season my body was craving some time to train and put in some longer hours on skis. The break from racing was refreshing and gave not only my body a rest, but also my mind. Now that I’ve done some long skis and had a chance to focus on some specific interval and technique training, everything seems to be coming together. I’m expecting to turn in my best results of the season at Nationals and have a top 3 aggregate in my sights. The junior men’s category is full of talented skiers, so it will certainly be a challenge, but I feel that with the training I’ve done this year and how my body is reacting to it now, I am capable of reaching such a goal. Only time will tell…
Over and Out,
Thomsen, Timo, and Phil getting ready for our most epic ski during the training block, a 60km glorious ski at Sibley Park.
Thomsen lookin' pumped for the ski at Sibley. Thomsen and Phil were especially excited about the combination of skiing the Sibley trails and the exceptionally nice weather that particular day. Unable to supress their joy, the two of them proceeded to hoot and holler for the first hour of the 4.5 hour ski.