Thursday, 6 December 2012

And we're off!

The race season finally kicked off last weekend after I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas all of last week. This past training season felt longer and harder than it ever has and I was totally excited to get this show on the road and get to the fun part - racing.
 Our team had done a number of on-snow time trials but nothing quite matches the feeling of the stadium the day of a race, putting on a bib and just going for it. The energy is higher, the excitment is higher and the vibe was is just all around better.
This year's season openers were hosted at the Canmore Nordic Centre and served not only as NorAms but also as qualifiers for the World Cups being hosted in Canada this week. On the line were start spots for team and individual sprints to be held in Quebec City, a Sprint in Canmore, as well as classic and pursuit races in Canmore. It's a huge opportunity to have Canada host World Cup races since it means we get extra quota start spots for developing domestic skiers.

(** Photos courtesy of James Cunningham/CCC Facebook and Stoneham Ski Apparel/ Thank you!) 
Start of a men's sprint heat, love that race day scene!
 Saturday was a skate sprint with individual qualifiers in the morning and head to head heats in the afternoon. I felt strong in the morning and qualified 10th, the top 30 move on to heats so I felt in good position for the afternoon. My quarter final heat got off to a fast start and the top 2 girls gapped me by a little bit going up the main climb. Unfortunately I didn't have the punch I needed to battle back and settled for third. In the 5 quarter-finals the top 2 finishers automatically move to the semi-finals but the third place finishers have to wait and see who has the fastest two heat times in order to win a position in the semis. I did my best to stay cool and positive as  I waited and watched the rest of the heats go. Unfortunately I was the "first un-lucky loser" as I had the third fastest 3rd place time and only the top 2 move on. Complicated..
Quarter final action, duking it out with teammate Annika Hicks (background). Thanks to Stoneham for the sweet new race suits.
 I wasn't stoked, especially after feeling like I didn't ski as well as I'd planned for in the quarter. My day was done but I didn't have time to dwell, Sunday was a10km classic race and I needed to focus on the positive actions of cooling down, recovering and getting mentally ready for the next day. On the bright side, many of my teammates had incredible race days and 6 of us qualified to race the Sprint World Cups!
Intense semi-final, my teammates are in black and had a great day of racing!
 Sunday's 10k classic was what I would call a "working day". I prepared well, was mentally ready and felt completely focused on the positive process goals I'd set out for my day yet I didn't have that energy and punch that makes a race really fun. It felt like I was just surviving rather than really attacking. Its discouraging when your body doesn't have the energy you want but dealing with that is just part of being an athlete. I stayed focused on technique and working to push up and over the hills and crossed the line in 12th.

Skiing through the lap with junior teammate Britt Evans who had sweet races all weekend!
 While the first weekend of racing didn't play out quite as well as I wanted I am still incredibly excited that the race season is here. I feel grateful that I did manage to qualify to race my first ever sprint World Cup in Canmore next week and I am on the rooster for the 15k pursuit World Cup as well (thanks to results from last season). I've taken some positives from the weekend and jotted down a few things to improve on. I'm now in Silverstar getting ready to race 2 NorAm's this weekend and will attack them with all the energy and enthusiasm I have.
A real highlight from last week was an afternoon tea party with old friends Catherine, Anna and Erin. We all skied together on Team Hardwood back in highschool and haven't forgotten about each other or our love for the sport. Good Times!
I'm also super  exicted to tune in to CBC to watch the Canadian crew battle it out in the team sprint downtown Quebec City tomorrow. GO CANADA GO!!

Thanks for checking in, onwards and upwards!

Friday, 16 November 2012

North Bay/Gangnam Style Training Camp

Last weekend Nipissing University and North Bay Nordic did an amazing job of hosting the 2012 Northern Ontario District training camp. With 35 athletes between the ages of 13 and 22 from all over Ontario laying down great training and sharing energy, the camp was a total blast. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend and made the trip from Canmore to join in on the fun and help out with a bit of coaching.

The camp started on Friday afternoon with a trail run right on the Nipissing university campus - how cool is that? The trail network seems great for running and actually gets groomed in the winter so the athletes can train right on campus, they even host races there! Post run we headed to the gym to work through a three stations of circuits: core strength, wind sprints and balance, and then finally plyos and ladder agility drills. After dinner on Friday we got to listen to a talk by Dr. Barbi Law, a psychology professor from Nipissing. She gave us some great info on sport psychology and helped us through a few exercises to get ready for race season - great stuff as we head towards race season! 

Saturday morning began with a Q&A session over Skype with the Canadian Women's World Cup team. Chandra, Peri and Alysson are already over in Sweden preparing for the World Cup opener and it was really nice of them to take the time to chat with us. We decided to thank them by performing our version of the Gangnam Style dance. They loved it, obviously. Check out the video below for a glimpse of the artistic genius.

It was business time after the chat and the gang threw down a great skibounding workout at Laurentian Ski hill. We divided into groups for a quick refresher on good technique with the warm up and then did a zone 3 interval workout. Thanks to my new friend Madi Fraser for all the great pictures!

Big gang of stoked Ontario skiers!

Working on technique: hip position and posture are so key

Nipissing Skiers getting after it

Holly Jones of Carleton U making it look easy

BEST sight ever right after a workout. So much good baking!
Saturday afternoon was a classic rollerski right on Nipissing Campus. Again we divided into smaller groups to move through different technique stations. I have been working hard on my double poling lately and so got to help lead the double pole station with retired national team skier Dave Nighbor. Actually teaching technique rather than just skiing around trying to do it is a great way to really focus in on the skills and get pumped to improve.

Saturday evening I made a little presentation about balancing skiing and school. I had expected the camp to be mostly junior skiers but was pleasantly surprised to find about half of the athletes we already rocking the university ski scene. It was great to have so many of them there to help share the message that you don't have to give up on your ski racing goals if you also want to go to university. 

Sunday morning the camp finished up with an exciting rollerski sprint race. The course was about 600m long, half double poling and half diagonal striding with a net elevation gain. Heats were run in groups of three skiers and timed to keep track of pacing and round results.

Alex, Holly and Erin get ready for a sprint heat


Colin and Liam duking it out.

Solid form!
Big thanks to North Bay Nordic, Nipissing University Nordic, and all the coaches and parent volunteers who made this camp a huge success. I had a total blast and I'm sure all the other athletes felt the same. We are all now a little bit stronger, fitter and more pumped to race this winter!

Get your snowdance on, Gangnam style.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Halloween Skiing and Frozen Thunder Mental Tactics!

The past few weeks in Canmore have been solid awesome. As I mentioned a few posts ago, the Canmore Nordic Centre stockpiled a ton of snow last winter, stored it under a sawdust blanket all summer and rolled it out into a 1.8km ski loop on October 13th. Titled "Frozen Thunder", skiers from all over Canada and loads from the U.S of A have come to test out this October ski wonder. It's been super fun and energizing to see so many athletes, coaches and even rec skiers out enjoying the loop and getting stoked for real winter! The video below gives a bit more info on the track and some cool views.

Aside from getting a little cold 2 weeks ago and missing the "WinSport Frozen Thunder Classic" sprint race, training has been going great. It was a drag to miss the race but I did get out to watch the heats and did my best to cheer on teammates and pick up some tips from how the fastest racers were skiing. I'm back to full health and have been feeling better and better on my skis as the days go by.

Our team happened to have an interval session on Halloween and just to keep things fun a few of us wore our costumes to the workout. Unfortunately, I didn't engineer the rabbit ears of my costume well enough and they were rather a hindrance on the downhills. I was able to wear the complete costume for the warm up but was left with only my tail for intervals - I'm not sure if that makes me a more-dedicated or less-dedicated ski bunny!

Trailside Halloween - picture thanks to Heidi.
It's a major luxury to have groomed, good-quality skiing in October and we haven't just been goofing around in costumes and skiing loop after loop! Each workout on snow has technical goals and often a specific set of drills, sprints or intervals to keep us focused. I didn't get on snow until late November last winter so every day before the end of this month feels like bonus skiing. I love dryland training but being on Frozen Thunder the past few weeks has reminded me that real skiing is what I love most. The feeling of charging up and over hills then whipping down the other side in a tuck or free skate is simply unbeatable.
Some have commented that it's easy to get bored skiing around just a 1.8km loop. This makes me think back to the days of skiing the "Hamster Loop" at Hardwood around Christmas when there wasn't much snow. Coach Jack would remind us to "Be glad you aren't a swimmer, the only view they ever get is that black line!". Having spent most of my free time as a kid competitve swimming, I was horrified to hear that people could think that swimming would be boring. In swimming every minute of every workout is broken down into structured sets on the clock of different strokes and drills so the mind is always occupied and never bored. I've found it helpful to use some of this swimming mentality to make the most of my Frozen Thunder time.
Thanks for checking in and be sure to get your snowdance on! 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Art of Urban Training, a Photoessay

I'm back home in Mississauga for a visit and a final bit of fall training before Frozen Thunder is unveiled next week and ski season gets underway for real. It's been fantastic to visit my mom and dad (and our lovely cat, Alexis).
When thinking of great places to be an athlete or active person, Mississauga and Toronto are not the first places that come to mind. While the GTA might not be ideal for year-round training as ski racer, there are still lots of fun things to see and do on foot, bikes, or even rollerskis. I've been having a great week of training with some really pretty runs, fun rollerskis and bike rides all right from my parent's front door. I thought it might be fun to share some of them with you through pictures, enjoy!

Port Credit has painted bike art all around town, this one is a fave of mine along the Waterfront Trail

Best effort at an artsy urban training self portrait
Waterfront trail heading from Port Credit towards Toronto, great pavement for running, biking or rSkiing

Pretty city view along the bikepath/ski route

Nice bike paths, nice view
Having a good time!
This scene looks familiar...!
Peaceful, pretty, this is an actual Toronto bike path!
You can actually rollerski here!
Another fave

Nevermind bears, city people have bigger things to worry about!

My dad wanted to pick the wild parsnips for dinner..
Port Credit trials riding on the Dahon, I'm planning to send this to Danny MacaSkill with a love letter.
Sweet to city ride on my mom's RAD Bike!

Port Credit yarn bomb.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Back-to-Basics/Punk-Rock Training

Canmore has been positively beautiful this September. Aside from a few chilly mornings and maybe 2 rainy/misty mornings it's been all bluebird skies and leaves turning yellow. Excellent! 

The third grey-est day, still pretty gorgeous.
It's been a long summer of training and after lots of big life changes, I found myself feeling tired out and run down earlier this month. My team was off to a mini-camp in New Denver, B.C this week but between some fatigue and personal stresses it was decided that I'd probably be better off staying in Canmore to train this week.

I was dazzled to get my first ever art delivery! Hand coloured by my little cousin Anna - we both love The Little Mermaid. 
Generally I prefer not to miss out on potentially fun things (I suffer from FOMO, see last month's Cosmo column for an explanation) so I decided to hold my own official "Back-to-Basics/Punk-Rock" training camp here in Canmore. What on earth is that, you ask?

In short, it means I dedicated this entire week of training to getting back to the simple basics of 1) why I love ski training, 2) my goals as an athlete and 3) reconnecting with my internal motivation to train well day in and day out. 

Ice baths are a recovery staple. Cold fresh Quarry water keeps leg injuries away!
These are the details that are critical to success as an athlete. It's easy to train day after day but it's more challenging to train day after day while maintaining a crystal clear focus on one's goals and the finer details of what goes into training, recovering and being mentally prepared for the winter ahead. Sometimes it's nice to step back and do some solo workouts to reconnect with the joys of being an athlete.

Keeping it punk rock during intervals at Lake Minnewanka
To keep this extra fun, I listened to far more pop-punk than any 24 year old should ever admit to. As it turns out, my taste in music has not changed drastically since I was 17 and Blink-182 still gets me fired up to go rollerskiing any day of the week! I believe the small things that make you feel happy and excited can make a big difference to overall well being. Might as well make use of the freebies!

Out of Maple syrup and reduced to eating store bought jam... The HORROR! Time to visit home, right away.

As September ends, so does the last hard block of summer training. This week it's time for a some rest and easier training to let the body recover and "absorb" the work it's done over the past few months. I find I rest best at home with family and friends so I'm making a trip back to home Mississauga and to Grandma's for Thanksgiving. I'm already excited for recovery turkey.

Aside from the little break, October means race season is less than 2 short months away. Training will now be geared more towards shorter, harder intensity sessions and sharpening the mind and body to be ready to compete. Lucky for us in Canmore, the Canmore Nordic Centre creates a loop of snow to ski on in mid-October called "Frozen Thunder". Story goes that they stockpile snow late in the winter and cover it with sawdust for insulation through the summer. In less than 2 weeks the sawdust will be scraped off and the snow rolled out to create a ski track - wild!

I'm told there is snow under all that sawdust..

Frozen Thunder's summer hibernation locale.
It seems crazy that be we will be training on snow in less than 2 weeks but less crazy when you see what happened in Canmore yesterday...
October 1st in Canmore. Yikes! Makes Frozen Thunder seems more possible...
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for some urban training news before Frozen Thunder!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mostly Riding Bikes: Photoblog & Trail Reviews

 September is here and for most skiers that means that race season is just 2 short months away. For me, September also means summer is coming to an end and it's time to get a few more sweet mountain bike rides in before the weather turns mean! Canmore has some truly incredible local rides to pedal.

The most recent favourites have been the Prospector trail in Exshaw and Razor's Edge right near heart mountain. Both take a solid 30-45 minutes of climbing to get to the top of then feature incredible routes down. Prospector features a big mix of terrain, ranging from fast and flowy to techy rockgardens to steep descents right near the end. Razor's edge is perhaps the most aptly named ride I've done, after a solid 45 minutes of up you get into some dense forest to climb a bit more in the single track before traversing across and down rocky mountain ridges. It literally feels like you are riding along the razor sharp edge of a mountain in many places. The end section rolls down an exposed rock ridge with huge views and steeps that made me wish I had more than just 4 inches of travel!

Mike and I also made a quick weekend trip to Kelowna/Vernon to relax, see some sights and do some more new trails.

And now for less words and more pictures:

View of Yamnuska from Razor's Edge

Single coolest ride I've done - Razor's Edge. 

Mike shredding a fun bit in Vernon

I do more than just ride bikes for training! Knox Mtn, Kelowna

Centennial Ridge, not as rad as Razor's Edge but scenic nonetheless.

Hiking Centennial ridge with the AWCA team

Cheesy pose but fun toys!

Go ride bikes and love life! 

Friday, 31 August 2012

Whitefish, Montana: Hot times training for winter

I'm just back in Canmore after a fun training camp in Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish is a really cute town in northern Montana that offers quite a few nice quiet roads for rollerskiing and a few big hills to climb on the skis or on foot.

Girls train skiing up Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park
Our team was training down there for 10 days and had the good fortune to be joined by National Ski teamers Perianne Jones, Chandra Craword, coach Eric De Nys as well as generally awesome speed girl Amanda Ammar. It was totally fun to shred intervals with 14 other girls and we even did a pursuit-style rollerski race. The pursuit was fun since we started all together and raced through about 5k of classic rollerskiing then did a high speed switch into our skate rskis before heading out onto the 4ish k skate course. The classic course was all flat and the skate course had quite a bit of climb to it so there was a great variety of terrain to work with. I got dropped a bit on the classic half by the main pack (still working on that double pole!) but had a good skate leg to make up a bit of time. There a video from the race below if you want to see what that's all about, unfortunately no video of how sketchy a rollerski transition can be!

Aside from lots of fun workouts, the camp was special because we got to stay right on Whitefish lake. With daytime temps in the mid to high 20s it was wonderful to get some real deal summer training done and then have the luxury of jumping in the lake and having lunch on the dock right afterwards. Hot workouts with swimming afterwards are summer training essentials in my eastern mind so it felt like home - awesome!

Patrick does flips for recovery after workouts, unfortunately he was too fast for my camera.

Other training highlights included: skiing 4x10 min classic intervals up Big Mountain Road in the hot, hot heat; doing a 3.5h combo ski/run workout in Glacier National Park, climbing Going to the Sun road and then going for an alpine run atop Logan's Pass; running up to the top of Big Mountain and then enjoying a gondola ride down; skiing a skate sprint prologue and then doing more intervals up big mountain skating; and of course, highlight of all highlights, the pursuit race!

Long combo workouts mean a team van fulllll of gear.  

More action on going to the sun road

 We also did a swim across Whitefish Lake and back as an afternoon workout one day, 1.05km each way. I was totally stoked at how many of us girls did the big swim, thanks to Coach Jeffries and Scott Edmunds for lifeguarding the swim on stand up paddleboards too!

The end of August is already here and it's only 6 more weeks until "Frozen Thunder" will be open for real skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre. The team gets a slightly easier training week to re-group after the Whitefish camp and then it's back to work. There's always more fitness to harness and technique to improve before winter. 

Working the double pole, isn't Montana pretty?