Time seems to fly by once the snow hits. Or in the case of this season, hits then runs. Its been real hit and miss weather this year, before I went out west for the annual OST trip to Silver Star I spent a solid week on snow and it was looking like things were shaping up for a steady winter. But in accordance to Murphy’s Law; what can go wrong will go wrong, things went wrong. Sure enough, I came back from a phenomenal week of training and some wake up races to nice sandy, wet roads and dirty patches of snow. Lovely. Though it wasn’t quite the welcome home I was hoping for, after another couple weeks patience paid off and the snow came and has stayed on the ground so far (fingers crossed!).
So, whats happened since.. err, October 27th? … well not too much, just some skiing, some roller skiing, some running, racing, a little school, winter break, holidays, a couple races, skiing, travelling, ski racing, exams, more racin— okay so quite a bit happened. They all fall under the select few categories of ‘things that are prevalent in my life’ which is mostly skiing, school and a bit of other stuff tossed in here and there so I don’t get bored. I’ll give a run down of what I’ve been up to based on where I’ve been since pre-Halloween.
Always a highlight of the year, early 0n-snow/altitude camp/races for the Ontario Ski Team. It’s a bit of a mixed bag trip, with a 2 days of racing to cap off the trip and 7 days of training leading up to them you have to strike a balance between setting yourself up for some decent races and putting in some quality training. For me, the training is the best part of the trip and the races are just a convenient way to wrap things up. If you’ve never had the opportunity to go out west and ski Sovereign and Silver Star, make plans to get out there because it is a phenomenal place. The trails are simply amazing, with fresh snow almost every day and groomers who actually know how to set cross country trails, you can’t go wrong. As you might imagine, its easy to get carried away and have a 1.5hr Z1 ski turn into 2.5 or 3hrs with the bat of an eye or the flash of a camera as you take in the view from the top of the mountain (yes! you can ski right up and over the mountain to get from Silver Star to Sovereign!).
These early season races are always tough, Ontario lowlanders can’t catch a break coming out for our first races of the year (for most people, some went to the WC qualifier races in Canmore a week early), and some gnarly altitude for those who aren’t used to it. Not to make it sound like these are excuses, but sucking air every time you run up the stairs is not cool and does absolutely nothing for confidence in your training. Even still, the OST knocked out some solid races, and even grabbed a few podiums in the Junior Boy and Girl events! woo-hoo! go team!
TL;DR – (Silver Star) x (OST) = (nice views + super skiing + gritty racing + lots of climbing + awesomeness) x (fun)
2) Thunder Bay (WJT)
In order to grasp at one of my goals for this season, to improve my CPL rankings and make the standard necessary to apply for a training centre, I opted to race up in Junior Women for this weekend. As always, Trials brings out some stiff competition in the Open categories as skiers race for spots on the World Junior and U23 teams. So other than ‘chasing points’, trials provides an excellent opportunity to chase down some of the fastest girls in the country and see how you stack up. Coming into these races I didn’t have a lot of expectations other than ‘not getting crushed’ (as I recall writing in my race plan before the skiathlon), and getting a feel for a higher level of racing.
The races went quite well actually. I finished inside the top10 for both of my distance races, and twelfth in sprints after a ridiculously qualifier, some tough heats, a crash and a completely empty tank to close out the day. I was really happy with my distance results because traditionally I haven’t quite as well in the longer events. It was pretty exciting to be within reach of the other juniors who, in previous years, used to be impossibly far ahead of me. Not quite there yet, but getting closer!
All in all a great weekend, really excited about being able to pull out some respectable placings and hold my own against the rest of the field. The only real downer for this event was the quick pack up after Sundays race, hopping into an overstuffed van and hauling it home. Thunder Bay to Barrie in one heroic push got us home just as the earliest risers were crawling out of bed, then a couple hours in bed before a full day of school. … great.
Tl;DR – Great skiing, good competition, still a sprint qualifier hero, getting better at the 10km races, don’t drive from southern Ontario to Thunder Bay – too far, and Lappe pancakes are great.
3) Walden (OCup2)
After all the craze, hype and travel of WJT, I took some time to recover from the stresses of tough racing and lots of intensity to settle down and refocus for the rest of the season. Shifting attention from racing to training for the next month or so was weird. If any of you have ever done deliberate periodization of your training you probably know what I’m talking about. One week you’re throwing down intensity and sprints almost every day, you feel quick, light, snappy, and fast – all the time, but when your period changes there’s no intensity, no sprints, just long slow skis that drag late into the evening and leave your parents wondering what the heck happened to you between the time you left for school at 7am and your overdue return for dinner at 7pm. This kind of training might sound kind of dull and dreary, but I found it to be a welcomed change. Even though the focus from intensity shifts towards more aerobic training, frequent races still keep you on your toes.
Fittingly so, after two weeks off from racing and I found myself booked for three more weekends of back to back to back racing (this is the closest I’ve come to racing the Tour de Ski, ha!). The first races were up in Sudbury for an OCup featuring a middle distance classic interval start and a long distance skate mass start. In the history of me being genuinely P.O’d about race related things, this is probably right near the top. On the morning of my 5km classic race the course was to be open for inspection, and thus was my plan to do so prior to my race. Well, it was the plan until we rolled up to the race site only to find the course was not open for pre-skiing because they were trying to ‘preserve the course’ … uh-oh. Despite not pre-skiing the course, Ryan and I both had some pretty bang up races. Maybe it was our ignorance that gave us the edge because I distinctly remember us both resolving to “… go as fast as you can for as long as you can… just sprint the whole thing, it’s only like 20 minutes.” And guess the nature of the course favoured such a strategy because we both earned medals in the classic and top honours in the mass start the next day! (I do not necessarily recommend these tactics, though they can be effective, they usually result in painful positive splits.)
TL;DR – ‘no pre-ski, no problem.’, dramatic weather, fun event, race weekend 1/3 complete
4) Duntroon (NorAm)
Taking advantage of a local NorAm event to get some more good racing in. I made my way back to a home away from home course, being an ‘almost local’ as the commentator said, and being the trails of the Highlands Trailblazers – my first club, there were a lot of familiar faces around to cheer me around the course (thanks for coming out!). It was a really great weekend of racing for me, surprisingly so actually. In uncanny accordance to my previous sprint results, my qualifier put me inside the top10 for Open Women! Granted, at least 10 of the top juniors and U23 were busy reppin’ the red, white and neon yellow over in Europe. But still, I’ll take it. In heats I managed to get my act together and instead of choking up and having things fall to pieces I kept my cool and worked my way through to match my qualifier and capture my first NorAm win!
Sunday featured another 10km skate event on a gruelling course, characteristic of the dreaded Duntroon. Keeping in mind that I would have to race smart, ski steady and stay composed, I went out at what felt like a pedestrian pace. In the past I’ve let my inner sprinter influence my distance races a little too much and have endured some gnarly positive splits after going out too hard on the first lap. I think that this year I have become more efficient in how I ski my races, which has in part improved my overall results. Happy with the effort I put in during the race, but not entirely enthused with the lack of punchiness and heavy feeling in my legs, I was over the moon when I saw results Only 13seconds off the top Junior and 11th overall was a fantastic finish for someone who didn’t give much more than a hmmm and an uhhhh, as far as expectations go. Though maybe in my head I do have some kind of unspoken agenda of my goals that I’m not entirely cognizant of yet!
Also worth mentioning is that the time I spent before races, in between heats and after my cool down cramming for my double exams on Monday paid off! Despite the split focus between racing and studying, I know the races went very well and I figure the exams weren’t too bad either. phew!
TL;DR – ‘is this real life!?’, (races) + (exams) = (stress) – (success) – (ginormous mugs and spoon rests) = (awesome), race weekend 2/3 complete
Yes, so this was an incredibly long post. Thanks to the delayed opening of the race course to pre-ski yesterday, the mid-afternoon start time for todays prologue event, and NO SCHOOL WORK I have been blessed with time to write lengthy blog posts and not proofread them to remove angry opinions and fix poor grammar. Fantastic, thanks for reading, might update later this weekend if something exciting happens.