Nationals in the Newfoundland

This year, Canadian cross country skiers literally crossed the country from last years Nationals venue to convene in Corner Brook, NLFD, for the 2014 Canadian National Championships. By way the crow flies, the distance between the 2013 and 2014 venues is in excess of 4500km – crazy! Which got me thinking: how many kilometres do I ski over the course of one season? Did I ski ‘cross the country?

Whistler - Corner Brook direct

Whistler – Corner Brook direct

As it turns out, getting an accurate figure is harder than you might imagine. In January I got a new Suunto Ambit 2S which does all the fancy GPS’ing, HR’ing, Elevation’ing, Pac’ing, EPOC’ing (say what?), so I’ve been able to track kilometres since then to get an idea of how much ground I’m covering. Of course, it’s difficult to extrapolate because I wasn’t moving very fast during those mid -30C Z1 skis in January. Also of consideration is volume drop over the winter because of racing and travel, roller ski speed vs ski speed…

So, after an in-depth analysis, I figured I travel about 500km a month – including roller skiing, running, and ski walking in the summer/fall, from July through to March.

(9 months) x (500km) = 4500km

Perfect. The extra 49km (give or take several) can happen sometime during May/June while I’m off doing non-ski specific shenanigans – like biking with my pa and doing running races with my ma! It’s not quite that time of year yet though, there are still ski things to do and races to recap – namely Nationals.

Nationals brah

Nationals yo

The first race of the week was the Team Sprint. The event has athletes ski in pairs, tagging off in relay format, each skiing 3 laps of the 1.2km course out at Blow Me Down trails. Last year I raced with Bella and we brought home a bronze in the Challenge Girls race for Team Hardwood. This year I raced with Amie and we brought Lakehead home in third place while Alannah and Erin also teamed up in the CCUNC category to take the top spot.

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Amie and me on the podium

3 seemed to be the going position today because my brother Ryan and his sprint partner Joey also picked up a bronze medal. They wanted to W, and put in a strong bid for it, but came up a couple seconds short. After checking out the splits, Ryan noted that he had the fastest combined time for his three laps, which he was pretty stoked about. I quote him as saying “If it was an individual team sprint, I would’ve won. *rumbling chuckle*”

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“W” – Ryan and Joey

Second day of racing for the women was a 5km classic, 10km for the men. It was a tough day, I was feeling pretty good but just couldn’t make the skis work for me. People called the day “a waxers nightmare” with conditions hovering around zero, semi-glazed tracks with snow being blown in on sections of the course. Most athletes ended up going on zeros, others with a thin layer of klister, some with wax, rumours of glue being spread on bases were also circulating…

In the end, it was definitely a day where you had to make the most of whatever you had. While I am happy that I did what I could, it still fell short of my expectations as I finished in 6th, 20s off the podium. After the race I was so frustrated with how things went that I didn’t look at results (and didn’t until Friday, 5 days later), and ended up almost missing the awards. It was a good thing that I showed up in the nick of time because I got to see Scott receive his gold medal after winning the Junior 10k by nearly 30s – not too shabby.

Harry during the 10k classic

Harry during the 10k classic

Races continued to get longer on day 3, 10km and 15km races saw half our team earning spots in the awards ceremony. It was a pretty tough course, featuring a long climb to start then a fast, flowing descent back down. Pacing was pretty key to make sure you didn’t blow yourself up too badly.

Andy led the way on the mens side, 4th overall, behind Ivan Babikov who just returned from World Cup Finals, and Graham Nishikawa who recently helped Brian McKeever bring home some Paralympic hardware, and fellow Lappe skier Michael Somppi – not too shabby. Scott and Evan also had standout days, topping the junior podium and also finishing 9th and 11th overall respectively. I also snuck into 4th place, just 1s ahead of Fred in 5th.

Scott with the leaders bib

Scott with the leaders bib

Then onto sprint day. Junior & Juvenile boy and girl sprints took place on Wednesday while the Open categories took a rest day to prepare for sprints on Thursday. Highlight from junior/juvenile sprint day was definitely J-Team member, Julian, taking the big W in the junior boys 1.2k freestyle sprint!

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Julian with coaches Pav and Marilyn, and his gold medal

In my opinion, sprint days are the most entertaining of all race days. There’s so much racing going on, gunning line-to-line, fighting to not be eliminated… It’s pretty cool stuff. Then again, as a racer, it’s pretty stressful and exhausting. Just as I was getting ready to go for the final I found myself feeling both ready to throw up and fall asleep – neither good in my present situation.

I was able to mostly quash those sensations for the race – which turned out to be the most involved sprint heat I’ve ever been part of. It was pretty exciting. Oftentimes, girl heats will get strung out right from the start, but today everyone was together until, like, 300m to go on the 1.45km course. I crossed the line in 5th place. Kind of bummed that I missed out on that elusive podium spot, but after such a fun heat and wicked qualifier that morning (4th overall! 5.5s off Peri who qualified 1st, 1.8s back from Heidi – a record for this season, and only 0.26s back from Dasha), I called the day a success; qualifying in the mix with Olympians and sticking with my fellow juniors in heats.

Senior teammate Erin had a very strong showing, finishing 4th in the A, while Alannah did the same in the B.

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Junior women’s A-final mid race. (L-R Maya, Katherine, me, Sophie)

On the boys side NDC Thunder Bay stayed on top, this time though it was Evan who clinched the gold medal with Scott coming home in 3rd. Other Thunder Bay skiers, Gavin and Angus were also in the final and finished 5th and 6th respectively. 4 of 6 finalists from one city? not too shabby.

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Evan taking the win

While it was all celebrations for our finalists, Ben had a bit of a tougher day, getting tangled in his quarter and failing to qualify. He was in a good position at the pivotal point on course until this happened:

In the senior A final the only break Andy caught was, unfortunately, a broken pole, going up the same hill that Ben got tangled up on. Here’s a video of his quarter final on the same hill (5-6 heat)

And then the final day of racing. Classic mass start. Scott, Evan, and Ben set the bar pretty high in the Junior Men’s race; sweeping the podium in convincing fashion. Erin also had a strong 30k, skiing in a small pack for most of the race to finish in 6th. Andy notched his third 4th place finish of the week, just narrowly missing out on the  podium, while Bob also had a solid 50k showing in 13th.

Like Erin, I also finished in 6th. The journey was 20km, 4x5km on the same course as our 5km classic from earlier in the week. This was my first classic 20, and (once again) I’m kind of bummed with not being able to finish a bit farther up the list. But I already have a pretty good idea of what I need to work on for next year. I think it mostly lies in doing more competitive races. We’ll see. Overall I’m happy with how the week went, a little underwhelming perhaps, but nothing catastrophic happened and I finished in the top6 in all of my races so I’m happy with my improved consistency after some serious yo-yo results last year.

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Katherine leading Sarah, Maya, Fred, and me early in the race

And that’s it. That’s a wrap. Another season completed. Well, almost. There are still a few more ski-things to do… The most significant being the 24hr Relay at Lappe next weekend. But that’s another story, another blog post.

As always, thank you to my family, my sponsors, and supporters for plugging for me this year. Also thank you to my friends, teammates, competitors, and coaches for making this a very memorable season. It’s been a pretty interesting year for me; lots of change, some highs, some lows, some “meh” and “blah”, some “uhhhhg”, some “woah”, and much more… Already looking forward to next season, which starts in, like, a month.

Until then,

JennOUT

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see you next year

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