Back to the Blogosphere

Back to the blogosphere! Hey old friend, it’s been a while.  Since my last post, two months of ski racing have come and gone.  As always in a competitive athlete’s journey there have been peaks and valleys.  I’ll attempt to give you an overview without turning this into a hundred thousand-word essay.

Canmore NorAm
My season kicked off with the first NorAm circuit races on December 1st & 2nd.  The first race weekend is always nerve wracking, as you never really know how good your shape is until you put it to the real test, a race.  This year the first races were even more high stress because they were selection races for the Canadian World Cups.  My results weren’t anything spectacular, with an 8th place in the 15km classic and a 14th place (9th Canadian) in the skate sprint, but it was enough to get me on the start list for the Canadian World Cups.

I opted to not make the trip to Quebec for the World Cups there as they were only sprint events and my focus is more on distance.  Instead I travelled to Silver Star, BC for the second NorAm circuit races.

Sovereign Lakes NorAm
I had a great time in Silver Star for three reasons: the trails are awesome, the snow was plentiful as it usually is, and I found my distance skiing form.  The 15km classic mass start was one of my better classic performances to date.  I led a good portion of the race and pushed the pace all the way to the line.  Unfortunately I tripped myself up twice (likely because I had so much lactate in my legs) close to the finish and both times lost the advantage of being in front that I had worked hard to get.  I ended up narrowly missing the podium, finishing 4th (3rd Canadian) in a photo finish.

The 15km skate was a solid race and I hit the podium for the first time this season, finishing 2nd place.

15km Classic Mass Start - I'm on the left skiing with team-mates Kevin, Graham & Graeme
(Photo Credit - Angus Cockney)

Photo Finish between Graeme and I.  Just missed out on the podium.
Canmore World Cups
Four short days after racing at Sovereign Lakes, I was on the start line of a 15km classic mass start World Cup surrounded by an International field of the World’s best skiers.  I hit my early season peak in Silver Star.  The race went awful.  Three days ended up not being enough time to recover for me.  Combine that with some equipment/waxing issues and I was struggling out there.

This was the low point of my season.  I wanted so badly to vanish, to just disappear and not deal with my current situation of being in last place.  I remembered I was setting an example for all the young skiers out there cheering us on and I didn’t want to be the guy that gave up, so I rallied back, caught up to a teammate that was having similar struggles and skied it in with him.  The emotions alone in that race zapped all my energy.

The skate sprint was better, I finished 55th in a 71 skier field.  And the 30km Pursuit was an improvement, I finished 41st in a 60 skier field.  Unfortunately none of my World Cup races felt as good as my races from the weekend prior.

Christmas Holidays
After some recovery followed by a few long training days in Canmore, I hopped on a plane and flew home to Thunder Bay.  Despite the limited snow in TBay it was great to be home and enjoy some time with family and friends.  The bonus was I didn’t have to travel anywhere after the holidays.  The NorAm circuit was coming to me!

Thunder Bay NorAm
With World Championship Trials at home I was motivated to perform well.  I led out the 30km Pursuit with confidence.  A large group stayed together and starting the skate portion there were still plenty of skiers in the mix.  I had trouble moving up in the group and was feeling the yo-yo effect big time.  The lead pack thinned out each lap until it was done to 4 of us.  I waited at the back for my chance to move up, but when the time came I didn’t have the energy left to execute.  I wound up finishing in 4th, 2 seconds off the podium.

The classic sprint was really exciting for me.  My qualifier was solid and I managed to win both my quarterfinal heat and my semi-final heat with the fastest times of the day in each.  The semi-final heat felt more like an A-Final, duking it out with 3 other National Team guys right to the line.  I stuck with my tactics in the A-Final, starting fast and leading the heat out, down the hill and into the bottom of the climb.  I gave everything I had, but it wasn’t enough.  My legs couldn’t repeat my semi-final performance and I wound up 6th place on the day.  It was my first classic sprint A-Final on the NorAm circuit, yet I was frustrated I wasn’t able to match my semi-final performance in the A-final.

Above: Fighting over the crest of the big climb in my semi-final heat, I'm bib 105.
Below: Four way photo-finish in the semi-final.  I was able to take the heat win.

I took those frustrations out the next day in the 15km skate race.  I attacked the course right from the start and didn’t let up once.  I crossed the finish line to claim my first NorAm victory.  I would say that moment was the peak of my season so far.  Winning on my home course in front of friends and family was a great feeling.

First NorAm victory!  My room-mates and team-mates
Russell Kennedy and Chris Hamilton finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. 
Duntroon NorAm
I got on a bit of a roll after Thunder Bay.  I made it through the rounds without too much trouble in the classic sprint and found myself in another A-Final.  I really wasn’t feeling completely on my game though and it showed in the Final when the top sprinters took it up a notch.  I finished with a 4th place after the winner was relegated for obstruction of another skier.  The second day of racing was my go to event, the 15km skate.  I had a good outing, finishing 3rd place.  I still felt a little flat, not super energetic like in Thunder Bay, but it’s hard to complain about being on the podium.

Eastern Canadian Championships
I felt great for the first day of competition at Easterns, but my result didn’t show it.  Despite some good feelings, the new sprint course at Nakkertok played more to my technical weaknesses in classic.  The big climb combined with broken down tracks meant lots of fast uphill running, an area I need to improve.  I qualified 12th and finished the day in 16th.  Fortunately for me the next day was another 15km skate and I was feeling on my game.  I took my second victory on the NorAm circuit and put myself back into contention for the mini-Tour podium.  The final day was a 30km Pursuit based off results from the previous two races.  I started the day in 4th place, 12 seconds behind the leader.  We formed a group right away and skied together for the entire race.  Around 10km into the race I crashed on an icy patch and was forced to use extra energy to pull back the 10-second gap that opened.  That extra energy would have been useful for the finishing sprint because I didn’t have the fastest skis in the group or the best finishing kick.  I wound up finishing 4th place in the mini-Tour with the 2nd fastest time of the day.

30km Classic Pursuit Lead Pack, I'm bib 4
(Photo Credit: J. Holden)
It’s been a competitive NorAm season so far and currently I am sitting in 2nd place overall.  The final NorAm circuit race of the season will be held in Grande Prairie, AB on Feb. 22nd – 24th.  It’s another mini-Tour format with 3 races back to back.  I will be striving for more podium results and my first mini-Tour victory.

If you managed to make it this far, you win a purple elephant!  I’m only kidding, I don’t have any purple elephants… And now you’re all up to date on my ski season!  Hooraw!

I promise no more epic posts following lengthy procrastination for the remainder of the winter.