I was in Madona for what felt like a very short time. After leaving Cesis on Monday, team Canada and I made the short trip over to Madona, Latvia for the first set of Scandinavian Cup races in what would be the start of a very busy week. Four races -
Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. I'm choosing not to race the sprints (as Patrick S-J's kindly put it today, "Single Speed Sandau") just to take advantage of a few more prep days in between the distance events.
I finished up in 20th spot in yesterday's 15km skate race, which was a six dizzying laps around the ribbon of man made snow. With ~150 racers in the men's field, the course got pretty busy out there and had some good opportunities for rides out. Even with being a bit more of a rolling course, it skied pretty hard and I haven't really been able to push the body that hard to the finish line in a race this year... hoping it's a sign of good things ahead.
Fresh snow the morning of made Latvia feel a bit more "winter wonderland", which is sort of a nice change from the October/November vibe we'd been getting since our arrival into Europe.
The Norwegians brought their number two to Madona.
First climb just outside our cabins (great for watching the races and Olympics simultaneously) - thanks to Somppi for snapping the photo
I'm now back in Otepää, Estonia tonight for the first time since racing here at the Under-23 Champs in 2011. Skiing on the trails today was a heavy handed dosage of déjà-vu and next race for me is the 20km mass start on Sunday.
First week of Europe is pretty much capped off and so far it's been a fairly good week of skiing and racing all while doing my best to stay healthy [insert anti-jinx here]. The team and I used this weekends Latvian National Championships as primer races before digging into next weeks bigger Scandinavian Cup races in Madona and Otepää. While still fighting off the final remnants of jet lag, I was able to grab a spot on the podium in Saturday's 10km classic race being beat out by Alar Johannes Alev from Estonia. While it was nice to have some good feeling yesterday, I struggled a bit in today's 10km skate with ski selection and a flat body, and was kicked off the pace about halfway through.
Saturday's classic podium
The Priekuli Nordic Centre had a pretty new roller ski track in and around the ski trails. Feels pretty secluded tangled in the woods compared to Canmore and would have been nice to try them out.
And the food in Latvia? Surprisingly fresh and tasty!
I’m now on what I’m considering the second half of my season, but before it starts I need to sort of fill-in the blanks on my racing in the New Year to avoid an overly confusing story line for those keeping track.
Coming as no surprise, Olympic trials were the main focus for me leading into this season. There was no Plan B leading into that weekend. No backup plan and no alterative in the back of my mind to make compromises. Make the Olympics or nothing sort of thing. With the trial races in Canmore, I was comfortable and confidant leading up to the distance days and my training and fitness was on point. Come go time though, things just didn’t line up the way I was hoping they would in both the 15km and 30km, whether from a mishap in execution of just some plain bad luck.
Live and learn.
This has been challenging for me to write up for a month as the emotions over the past four weeks have been challenging to say the least. If last season has taught me anything it’s that while some things may not go as well as you had hoped, it’s still a long season.
That being said, I’m finally in Europe (Latvia to be precise) after a long two-days of travel. Planned for the weeks ahead are some Scando Cups here and in Estonia and then finishing the trip off with the World Cups in Lahti at the beginning of March.
This weekend I’m racing the Latvian National Championships on the ribbon of man made snow they have, which is surprisingly good. So far it’s really only been the Canadian contingent that I’ve seen on the trails in the morning and afternoons, so not quite sure how big these races will be.
It’s too bad there isn’t any natural snow in Latvia as the trails here seem like they’d quite good. Think Frozen Thunder-ish.
Season's on. I'm back in Sweden to start off another year, and this time it's a bit more winter - a bit less fall than last year. It's been a couple weeks now since I arrived in Europe, and I've already gotten three races under my belt, with the final set quickly approaching next weekend before heading back home.
Gällivare - cloudy and a little bit dark at times
Yesterday was the World Cup Opener in Gällivare; a 15km skate race on ski trails that were a bit to my liking - decent climbs and some good working sections. After a slow start last weekend in the FIS races at Bruksvallarna, things started to feel better for yesterday's World Cup. I finished 64th, and am optimistic as my speed is coming around. Tomorrow it's off to Kuusamo for the mini-tour and then back to Canmore to prep for the world cups there!
First World Cup of the season - photo courtesy of FasterSkier.com
The following text may cause some readers to swoon to the likes of Tom Sellek
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Ahh... Movember. This is the first time participating in the male hair growth movement that is taking over the world, and after an awkward first week or two, things are starting to look great. Really great. I've already raised $225, and with your help I could move up into the top three of the Snow Mos. You cant say no to a gaze like this can you?
Just over 25 days in and the moustache is rocking it out in Europe. Help out Giz'Mo and support cancer research by donating here
Thanks for checking in,
Norway's gotta be one of the best places to race in the world. Besides the pretty spectacular ski trails around Oslo and at Holmenkollen, it seems like Norwegian spectators have a soft spot for Canadians. From start to finish on Saturday's 50km at Holmenkollen Park, there was no end to the shouts, "Go Canada Go!".
"Yikes." - that's how last weekends 30km skiathlon in Lahti, Finland can be summed up for me. After catching a cold in the final few days in Seizer Alm, my energy levels took a steep dive and remained low long after I got over the sore throat and runny. Upon arriving in Finland and skiing on the race trails, my body felt like dial-up internet yearning for some DSL. Come race day I was playing everything by ear, and after a hard warm up I figured the body was reacting well enough to give it a go. I didn't make it far into the race. Coming into the stadium at the 11.25km mark of the classic leg I pulled the plug and put a DNF (Did Not Finish) next to my name on the results sheet. With a serious lack of "oomph", or anything for that matter, it turns out my body wasn't quite ready to get back into racing yet.
But that was last week.
Fast forward to now and I'm less than 24 hours away from racing the 50km Holmenkollen World Cup here in Oslo, Norway. The body is feeling recharged and ready for a race that has been on my bucket list for this season. This is my first time in Norway, and let's just say the Norwegians love their Nordic skiing. With thousands expected to be lining the 8km loop tomorrow here at Holmenkollen, it sure will be quite the thing to witness. (I'll be packing earplugs just in case)
Holmenkollen Ski Jump mixed in with the fog, which I feel like they get a lot of
I’m back in Europe - Italy to be exact. After wrapping up the Canadian NorAm Circuit last week, I grabbed the FIS Regional spot, giving me starts in all the March World Cups, including the Finals in Sweden. Rewind back to my last update, I had just finished racing at Callaghan Valley near Whistler and was in tight contention for this trip to Europe. Using the best of 8 races, it was a battle royale between club/sprint/teammate Brent McMurtry and I. After finishing 1st at the Western Canadian Championships in Canmore, and 2nd a couple weeks later at the Eastern Canadian Championships near Ottawa, I was able to lock up my spot to Europe and the opportunity to race the last three weekends of World Cups.
It seems like my brain is starting to function again after a few rough days of jet lag. I'm back in the snowy homeland after my three week stint in what could almost be described as Europe during the spring. Kuusamo, Finland was my last stop on the trip with some world cup mini-tour action. In the end I finished 73rd, jumbled back in the pack but gained some good insight and experience in my 3rd, 4th and 5th world cup experience. Insert race breakdown:
Day 1: Classic Sprint
Well, there had been quite a bit of emphasis in training over the summer to improve my short distance and sprinting speed, but this wasn't exactly the race to best gauge how things fared. Not to say that it wasn't a fun race. The course in Kuusamo was to my liking, with some good steep climbs and little of the double pole stuff. I'd say of the sprint qualifiers I've done over the years, this one felt relaxed, fast, and with not a huge amount of pressure going into it, pretty controlled. I crossed the line in 111th and 20 seconds back. On to the good stuff.
Actually before we get to day two, a special note. Moustachioed Len Valjas started his season off pretty decently with a 5th place finish in the sprint, keeping the energy going from Harvey's 5th the weekend before in Norway. It must be the intimidation factor of his Movember Mo.
Day 2: Turkey Legs in the 10km
It's funny really. For dinner the night before we were served turkey, and the joke at the dinner table was if you eat too much of it, you'd be plagued with turkey legs the next day. The claim of turkey legs doesn't really have any scientific backing, or well so I thought. Saturday's 10km skate race was turkey legs buffet. Just after the first climb my legs locked up, unable to clear lactate quick enough to maintain any sort of fresh feeling for the remaining 8km. It was a battle between mind and legs as I tried to ski smooth to the finish line, and ended up with the 69th fastest time.
Day 3: Semi-redemption in the 15km
With yesterday's race behind me, I was focused on finishing the tour on a positive note. Because it was a pursuit style start, I started my race about two minutes after the leaders. Skiers were starting every second, so there was a long line of skiers going around the course and plenty of positions to move forward. The body was night and day compared to yesterday, and things started off smoothly and controlled. Things were going well until mid-way through the race on the downhill we had to repeat six times I had a small lapse in judgment.
Deciding to try the furthest right track for a change I got in my low tuck and gunned it on the downhill. Near the bottom of this hill is a slight left turn that flatten out before hitting a steep climb back into the stadium. Upon hitting the curve in the trail, I jumped out of my track to navigate the turn. Carrying a bit too much speed, and having to cross two other tracks, my one ski decided not to join me and gave me a sudden encounter with the ground. By the time I hopped back up, I lost all my speed for the next climb, and the time I thought I was making had slipped by. Shit happens.
It took me a while to get back in my groove and I did my best to try an regain some spots. By the end I finished the overall tour in 73rd, but withholding the result and the faceplant, Sunday's race felt good. So positive beats out the negative, 9 times out of 10.
I'm hoping a photo turns up, but in the meantime was reminded of the sweet crash I took of Brent McMurtry a couple years ago... O, the memories
So I'm back in Canmore... for now:
I've had a few days at home to ponder the overall early Europe experience, and well, I'd say it went by way too quickly. Seem's like not that long ago I was in Sweden praying for some cooler weather and less rain. Like all my trips across the pond, this one was a blast, with a sweet crew and some valuable racing moments to take home.
There isn't a pause yet, with Canada starting it's racing season this weekend with some Alberta Cups in Canmore. Next weekend I'm off to Vernon for the start of the NorAm series and then to Rossland. Awesome.
Have a good one,
It's my final few days here in Östersund before boarding a plane and heading to Kuusamo for the final and most important stretch of my trip; the World Cup mini-tour. Today there was a race organized with some of the local clubs and us because our original races in Roveniemi were canceled. I ended up 3rd in the men's 12km classic race, just 9 seconds from the win. It was a nice change of pace compared to last weekend in Bruks, with today's 4km loop involving some much steeper and longer climbs.
And I'm not calling it a comeback, but I've finally made my return to YouTube. Check out the slo-mo fun Lenny, Nish and I had one afternoon. (Hopefully this was a test for things to come in Kuusamo. We'll see.)
Until next time,
The first few days in Europe have been nail biting to say the least. Getting off the plane in Östersund, Sweden felt more like a mild April day in Canmore rather than the cold weather I was hoping for. Not a good feeling when I left some pretty good snow conditions back home.
The teams home for the first few days was Camp Södergren, where some saved snow from last winter was made into a 3km track a couple weeks ago. With the lack of sub-zero temperatures, and some rain the week before, the loop felt like it was in its final days. Ice, lots of pavement, rocks and sawdust made up most of the trail and it seemed like my early racing start would turn into a dry land training camp soon.
Len Valjas and I giving the loop a go for the first time. Credit Graham Nishikawa
My first ski in Östersund was depressing. Over the two hours I was out there, the little snow they did have left on the loop was melting quick. Parts you swore were snow ten minutes ago were starting to show pavement the next time you passed it. That evening around the dinner table plans were being made to get out the roller skis since there wasn't any snow, or cold weather for that matter, in the forecast.
It wasn't like they didn't have any snow leftover in their saved snow pile, they had plenty. But with an unpredictable forecast and an urgent call for there to be snow for the first biathlon world cups at the end of the month, Camp Södergren was being cautious on the snow use. Luckily for us, a little snow goes a long way, and the next morning some snow was added to the nasty parts. A quick job with the tiller and the loop was back in business, and seemed to have improved significantly everyday from that point on. If you listened carefully you could probably hear a collective sigh of relief from the teams.
Östersund getting it's final minutes of daylight, at 4PM...
Yup, starting to get into the sunset photography business. The view from the city is pretty sweet at dusk.
Today we packed up and drove to Bruksvallarna for the first race of the trip, a 15km skate. With the lack of snow, many venues have had to move or cancel their races, including Bruks, which had planned three races this weekend. 184 racers are starting tomorrow with some pretty big names (Northug showed up) so it should be a good way to kick the season off.