Saturday, 31 March 2012

30k classic, wax debut and econ catch-up

Canadian Nationals wrapped up last weekend with the long distance classic races. For me as a Senior Woman this meant a 30k classic, a race I had been looking forward to all year. 30k is the longest official distance women do on the world cup (loppets are often longer) and there is usually only one 30k race on the Canadian domestic schedule each season. I love distance racing and with only one shot at the big 30k this winter I really wanted to make the most of it!

For me, Nationals began with a big rush of excitement (see previous post) and then started to slide downhill. I had a good but not magically good 5k classic race, an abysmal 10k skate and then a mediocre sprint race. The rest of my race season had gone exceptionally well, as well as it was going in even my wildest dreams through summer and fall training but by March, I was starting to run out of gas. The 3 individual races at Mont Sainte Anne were a struggle as my body was just not at the level it had been in January or February but I don't think I was alone or special in this. Lots of people were "fried" as we say in skiing and lots of people who had been behind in the earlier season were throwing down amazing races. To me, this is why we bother having so many races a year over several months; the results are not the same every time and there is always the chance that it will be your turn to have that magic day where skiing feels effortless and the result exceeds your normal.

The morning of the 30k was beautiful. It was sunny, just below zero and there were lots of people out to spectate and cheer the racers on. Good energy at a venue is always a treat. I decided to make myself forget how worn out I had felt leading into the 30k and focus entirely on enjoying the day and skiing the best race I possibly could. I arrived at the start line with great klister skis (thanks to the Nakk wax crew and Salomon) and felt ready to get the day going. The race got off to a clean start and I eventually settled into skiing with Amanda Ammar from Canmore.

30k start. Merci a Bernard Pigeon pour la belle photo!

The race was 6 laps of a 5k course and thank goodness for this! I'm a fan of multi-lap races and this one was extra great since Nakkertok had set up a few really amazing cheering and feeding sections. My personal favourite was way out on the loop where the Nakkertok T2T gang was stationed. This is a bunch of seriously awesome young skiers who were doing some fantastic cheering. I basically had no choice but to ski well and push my hardest just to keep pace with the quality of the cheering! Just a little further up the trail was the university men's crew who had already finished their 50k and somehow had endless energy left for wild cheering. I mentioned them in the team sprint recap as well and I think they somehow managed to up their game for the 30k - I don't even know how this was possible.

Amanda and I took turns pulling each other around the laps until she started to drop me near the end of the 5th lap. I died pretty hard on the 6th lap (luckily the cheerleaders were still out to keep me from falling over) but managed to hang on and finish the day in 13th. It certianly wasn't my fastest or most impressive race of the season but I skied absolutely the best I could on the day and had a bunch of fun doing it. I crossed the line exhausted but satisfied and very happy to finished my race season on a high note!

After Nationals I had planned to head back to Ottawa to catch-up on my duties as a teaching assistant at Carleton (yes I do have a job that is not skiing!) but made a last minute decision to detour through Vermont to do some waxing at spring series. Yes, waxing. My parents thought this was odd too. Nakkertok was supporting a group of skiers from Nakkertok and Skinouk and our second wax tech had to bail at the last minute. It didn't take much convincing for me to put off marking 75 econ assigments for a few more days to go hang out in Vermont instead.

This was my first experience doing real race waxing and what a day it was! The first race was a classic sprint on a man-made, heavily transformed track which had frozen to near ice overnight with steadily rising temperatures all race morning. As a southern Ontraio girl I pride myself on my ability to both apply and ski well on klister but doing it for someone else's race skis or adding a hardwax over top is a different story. I was fairly honoured that Mike allowed me to test the grip (test, NOT come up with recipies - he did all that) and then help apply it too. I learned a few cool new skills and I think the skis ended up working fairly well judging by the feedback from our 8 racers. Prepping skis for a single shot skate race the next day was a relative breeze.

I found it fun to be at a race where the focus was not on myself and my racing. My body was dead tired but I still love ski racing and the ski community so I was happy to be present and able to try and help someone else have a great day. Also being able to eat large amounts of bacon and eggs for breakfast on a race day was pretty awesome. Waxing takes energy too!

Post waxing recovery fuel.
I'm back in Ottawa now and finally catching up on the stacks of marking I have to do for my job as an economics TA. I powered through grading 75 assignments in the past 2 days and proctored a midterm on Thursday night so the fun will continue into next week! I expect to be spending epic amounts of time at my local bridgehead coffee shop drinking too much coffee so feel free to stop by and say hi if you are in Ottawa. I love a break from work!

My world for the next week. And then again for exams in April.
Thanks for reading this epic and happy last day of March to all!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

City Team Sprint and More Excitement!

Big start the Canadian Nationals yesterday! I woke up to read over breakfast that Lenny Valjas got his first world cup distance podium AND Canadian mountain bikers Emily Batty and Catherine Pendrel had finished second and third in their first world cup of the season in South Africa. As if I wasn't stoked enough already for the team sprint, Canadians went ahead and won 3 world cup medals elsewhere in the world that morning, how inspiring and exciting! 

Canadian girls 2nd & 3rd in MTB WC. AWESOME start to an Olympic summer!

The first race of Canadian Nationals was the club team sprint. The host club, Mont Sainte Anne, had arranged for the race to be a city sprint on the Plaines of Abraham in Old Quebec City which was a fun treat. The atmosphere was great and it was cool to race in an urban setting. Each team consists of 2 skiers (from the same club) who each ski 3 laps of a 1k course, tagging off to each other between each lap. My race partner was Perianne Jones, Olympian, WC medalist and Nakkertok skier. Needless to say, I felt like I really had to bring my A-game to this race.

Start of the Team Sprint final. Check out all that yellow for Nakkertok.  
Since there were so many women's teams everyone skied a qualification heat to try and win a spot in the final. We were able to ski relaxed in qualification and move through to the final with some energy to spare. Nakkertok had 2 more women's teams in the second qualification heat who also skied through to the finals. This made for 3 of the 12 teams in the final being from Nakkertok which was totally rad. No other clubs had 2 or more teams in the women's final!

Race course view on the Plaines of Abraham, definitely enough snow.

We controlled the race from the start and gradually pulled away from the field. There were tons of people out watching and cheering which made for a pretty much perfect day. My mom is even here for the first few days of Nationals so I was extra excited that we had such a great race for her to see! Mad thanks to the Univeristy of Guelph/Toronto teams who were doing an absolutely badass job of cheering up and around the far hill on course! I wish I had a photo of that crowd to add.

Canadian Team Sprint Canmore Nordic, Nakkertok, Foothills
Nakkertok wrapped up the day with medals in the Challenge girls, Open Men and Open Women's categories and lots of teams in the finals. This is a great start and I'm so happy to be here and part of the fun! Racing action continues tomorrow with short distance classic races back at Mont Sainte Anne.

Oh, AND Devon Kershaw was finished second today in the world cup final mini-tour, Alex Harvey was 6th and DJ Lenny Valjas was 14th. It's a good time to be a Canadian Skier!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Far Hills Epics

Last weekend we went to Far Hills for a Quebece Cup race. Watch the video below and see just how epic it was. (I can't seem to embed the video since it's private on youtube. Consider yourself part of exclusive club!)

I'd only been to Far Hills to mountain bike before and that was quite the adventure also. The alternator in my beloved Mazda (starring in the video above) blew on the drive there which left me stranded in Ste. Adele and led to busing home through Montreal. I didn't actually get any riding in until a few days later when I went back with a friend to rescue the mazda but the trails were fun enough to make me feel like it wasn't a complete waste of time. The ski trails turned out to be pretty nice too with a few good climbs and lots of chute downhills with sharp corners at the bottoms.

I raced a forgettable 5k skate on Saturday. I was lucky that the course was fun and the icy, screaming fast conditions suited my skating strengths almost enough to cover how sluggish I felt. It's always a bit of a drag to have a less than excellent race but it's basically the only one I've had so far this season. I tried my best to cheer myself up by going for a fun cool down ski with the Nakkertok girls on some of the really pretty trails around Far Hills.

Skiing across a frozen lake in the glorious sunshine

Posing on top of a lookout over the lake.

After the race and cool down ski we headed back to the Gagne family chalet in nearby Morin Heights for a recovery hottub and relaxing afternoon. It was super nice to have such a nice place to stay for the weekend!

I sat out the classic races on Sunday but had some fun watching and cheering on friends. Lots of other Nakkertok and Ottawa/Gatineau skiers had great races so that was nice to see.

For those who made it this far (or maybe more for my dad Graham who actually owns the mazda), I should admit that I wasn't actually going 110km/h on a rural Quebec road. That was just a fine piece of creative videography by my friend/film maker/teammate Steffan Lloyd.

I have a few days of chillin' in Ottawa right now, catching up on resting and working at everyone's favourite ski and bike shop before I head to Quebec City on Friday morning for Nationals. My mom is coming for the first few days so I'm extra, extra excited to go!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

My brother is a Rock Star.

Here's a cool video to check out: Alexy and the Otherside's official video for their song "Dirtier Dancing".  They are an up and coming band based in Ottawa so have a listen!

The band won a bunch of money in Ottawa's LIVE88.5 radio contest last year and so filmed this sweet video in Montreal just before Christmas. I went to see them rock out at the Live Lounge last September and it was a blast. Oh, and my brother James (who I prefer to call Homeslice) is part of "the Otherside" and is on the far left. They just wrapped up a successful reading week tour across southern Ontario and Montreal, you can hear more about that on James' blog below. Totally Rad!

Learn more here: 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

I skied in Europe!

My season has been going very well so far. So well in fact that I had the chance to travel with the National Team to Europe to compete in a bunch of races. I've never had this opportunity before so it was a huge amount of fun mixed in with a lot of learning.

We hit 3 different countries in just over 2 weeks and did a few races in each. The trip started off in Campra, Switzerland where we had some time to explore the trails and adjust to the time change and altitude before competing the weekend's OPA Cup races. (OPA is central Europe's verison of the NorAM series)
Zoe Roy skiing in gorgeous Campra, SUI
The trails were beautiful with challenging climbs and fun descents. I was in absolute paradise skiing every day and hardly able to believe my luck that I was really in Europe to ski and race. As if I wasn't having enough fun already, my good friend Adele came up from Trento, Italy (where she is doing a year of university) to visit. Having not seen Miss Adele since last September it was an incredible treat upon a treat to get a visit in!

Having an afternoon espresso with Adele and Zoe
There were 3 races on the plan for the end of our week in Campra, a classic sprint, a 10k classic and a 10k skate pursuit based on the classic results. Unfortunately, I was having more fun than I could contain and came down with a nasty flash flu/food poisoning the night before the sprint to get some of it out. I missed the sprint but bounced back to race the 10k classic and the 10k skate. The classic was nothing special still being a bit low on energy but I was very excited to have one of my very best races of the season in the 10k skate! I moved up from 18th to 12th and had the 8th fastest time on the day. Another highlight of this weekend was Canadian Phil Widmer beating Dario Cologna in the sprint qualifier - WOW!!

After Switzerland we moved on and up to Latvia, a country nobody on the team had ever been to before. We were all keen to see what it might be like and were very pleasantly surprised. The hotel was spacious and served vegetables at all meals (a rare and hot commidity on euro ski trips I've learned), the trails were fun and the ski lodge was one of the prettiest I've seen. In addition to all this the town had lots of neat shops and things to spend an afternoon strolling around to look at.
15k skate in Medona, Latvia. Thanks to Alysson Marshall for the pic!
There was a skate sprint and a 15k skate mass start on tap for Latvia and both went reasonably well. It was amazing to see the difference in how competitive the Scandanavian Cup races are compared to a Canadian NorAM or even a US SuperTour race. In the sprint for example, I qualified 26th and squeaked ahead of a girl or two in my quarter (but didn't make it through to the semis) to finish 23rd on on the day. I had great energy and skied my technical best and yet was out in the quarters - I'm pretty sure if it was a NorAM it would have been an A final day for me! Although it would have been fun to ski in the semis it wasn't too long ago that I would get knocked out in the quarters at a NorAM so I finished the day feeling like I had simply seen the next level of skiing that's out there and am now out to hunt it down.

After Latvia we hit the road to Estonia for another chance to race before returning to Canada. The route google maps reccommended we take consisted of 10k-50k sections of what I would describe as "ice roads" and would have been more fun to drive in a rally car instead of a 9-seater euro rental van. We made it to Estonia just fine all the same and the drive is now a hard-to-believe-that-even-happened memory. On to more races!
Yes please to all 3! In an Estonian gas station.
I skipped the classic sprint in Estonia to conserve energy for the next day's 10k classic. I was starting to feel the effects of the travel and the 4 other races earlier in the week and so slammed a double nap and went to bed at 9pm. Canadian teammate Alysson Marshall had a great sprint day though! She qualified 3rd in a deep feild and ended the day 7th. Another WOW!

I finished my euro race campaign on a high note with a solid 10k classic. The course was a fun 3x3.3k and I managed to hop in behind a speedy Norwegian girl for a lap and a bit who had started in a later seed. It was fun to follow her and try to mimick what she was doing to see how long I could keep up for. She finished the day in 8th and I finished in 19th, mid pack. Again, the placing might not seem like much but I finished the day very happy, feeling like I had raced my hardest and learned a lot along the way. A perfect end to a fantastic trip!

Big Thanks to Cross Country Canada for making this trip possible!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Thea's Race.

Yesterday I enjoyed the thrill of competing in a local event called Thea's Race, hosted at Nakkertok North.
Thea's Race is held each winter on some of the most exciting and fun single track classic race trails around. It is an event that celebrates participation and welcomes skiers of all ages and abilities held in honour of Thea Holloway. Thea was a founding member and past president on the Nakkertok Ski Club and purchased the very land Thea's race is now held on with her friend Meg Weber.

This was my third time participating in Thea's Race and I had so much fun yet again. The race was held on a 2k loop consisting of one long, narrow climb followed by a gradual, twisting, narrow downhill followed by a steeper, snaking, narrow downhill with a section of double pole to start and finish each loop, just for good measure. With such a unique course it was a race not just of fitness and strength but of agility and fearlessness too.

The race got off to a fast start with my friend Sheila Kealey (XC Ottawa) attacking right from the get go. I tucked in behind her for the first part of the race before lodging myself in a snowbank around the first technical corner of the downhill. Kendra Murray of Carleton/Whitehorse sped by me at this point as I scrambled to dig myself out. Once untangled I did my best to collect speed to catch back up only to crash again at the bottom of the hill. Perhaps I was a bit too fearless! I got up yet again and got right back to hammering to catch up to Kendra and Sheila. Luckily I was able to catch back on with them and we had an exciting battle around the final of our 4 laps. Unluckily, Sheila had her turn crashing on this lap so it was just Kendra and I left for an epic double pole sprint to the finish. I barely managed to edge her out for the win which was the perfect was to cap off such an eventful race!

Sue Holloway, Thea's daughter and Olympian in XC Skiing AND Paddling won the master women's race in addition to organizing the event. Go Sue!

Some of the best parts of the day came after the race when I got to do a cool down ski with my good friend Anna Crawford on more of the cool Nakkertok North trails. After this I also got to watch a gang of little Nakkertokers huck jumps in the stadium area. I saw one little shredder do a flip on skis! Sadly I didn't have a camera with me to catch a pic.

I won this gorgeous pottery mug and get to keep this cool trophy until next year!

It was great to take part in a race with such a positive atmosphere. I was inspired by how many people came out to participate and tackle the gnarly course for the simple joy of doing it. Huge thanks to Nakkertok and everyone who helped put this on!

Ski friends Sheila Kealey, myself and Anna Crawford on the Senior Women's podium.