Easterns marks the halfway point of the race season. The older I get the faster time seems to move. The hours of heavy training between May and the first snowflakes have past by like [rain on the mountains, like wind in the meadow] a blur, and weeks of racing have been ticked off, from our first SuperTour in West Yellowstone, to Canmore, Sovereign, US Nationals, and Trials in Thunder Bay.
So far I've managed to accomplish everything I've set out to do, balancing hard racing with aggressive training. The past few months have been the best I've ever had, encompassing everything from an epic early snowfall, to training, racing, and travelling with teammates. I'm in a really positive headspace, and that is keeping me fresh and poised to pursue my ultimate goal this season. The idiom, “Time flies when you’re having fun” is resonating with me this season.
My summer of training carried the same intensity and focus as previous years, but this new season also brought change. Chris Jeffries took over as head coach of the Alberta World Cup Academy and subsequently began working with me directly. Pavlina Sudrich also came on board this year as the team’s new assistant coach. Between Chris, Pav and I we developed a plan that would target my weaknesses and hone my strengths. I attacked my generally weak upper body and subsequent weak double poling ability with new strength specific workouts. I returned to the nutritional and sleep habits from back in my Under-23 days. Summer rollerski workouts to develop a high explosive speed had me motor-pacing behind Coach Pav on her e-bike, pushing both of us to go really, really fast.
A photo wouldn't really the motor-pacing workouts justice, but how about a drawing? (Credit Coach Pav's drawing skills)
Adding volume to my training came easily to me. The most noteworthy training blocks I put in over the past eight months took place up in Kananaskis Country. Some of these blocks, or mini camps, were with my teammates and some were solo endeavors. With the sense of adventure, it was those 40km runs to the tops of peaks or the 6-hour solitary roller skis out in the wilderness that really put things into perspective. First and foremost, and I love being outdoors.
Teammate Jack Carlyle at the top of North Over Ridge in Kananaskis Country during one of our mini-camps.
A week later we were still looking for mountain tops to climb, this time out near Elbow Pass and with a fresh helping of snow. Note: Even if a mountain ridge looks like it SHOULD have a suitable descent route from afar, that is not always the case.
Cruising out and about on Highwood Pass.
Selfie overlooking the Kananaskis Lakes and my training grounds for the long summer workouts.
A good start to the early season races has left me undefeated in Canadian distance races and my sprinting ability continues to show improvement. It’s that sort of affirmation that shows me that I’m on the right track. Four weeks remain until the Ski Tour Canada. That is, and always has been my end game, my opus magnum this season. Back in May when I struggled with a reason to return, the pull of this epic event was the big motivator to continue. In my nine years as a high performance athlete, I’ve raced three domestic World Cups, all of which were in Canmore. The chance to race eight races over thirteen days across the country is an opportunity I couldn't turn down.
Keeping the NorAm Leader's bib moving into the second half of the season. (credit Martin Kaiser)
With the early season success came the opportunity to race some selected World Cups in Europe. I declined the offer. It was a controversial choice, but one I ultimately had to make in order to honor my goals for the season. As tempting as the World Cups in the Czech Republic, Norway, and Sweden would be, the races didn't align with my focus for the season. Back in May my coaches and I came up with a plan we felt could give me my best chance at International success. That focus purely came down to qualifying for, and racing my guts out at the Tour.
‘Don’t waiver, have confidence, stick to the plan.’
This has been the mantra.
I have to believe everything that happened this season has prepared me for my best chance at getting back on the horse. Call it the need for vindication, but World Cups are a touchy subject for me. At this point in my career I know home field advantage with a carefully planned and deliberate lead in will give me my best chance at World Cup redemption. There's no nice way to put it; these are do or die races for me, so everything is on the line.
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.
The 2013 races are wrapped up and I'm back home ready to enjoy a bit of the holidays and some cabin time out in Kananaskis Country. After a cold weekend in Sovereign, it was nice to warm up a bit in Rossland with these final races before the holiday break. While the skate sprint could have admittedly gone better on Saturday (especially after hitting some sprinting PB's in previous years) I was a bit more excited about Sunday's 15km classic race on the new course the local folk dubbed "The Bone Breaker".
Ok I made that last part up. But there's no doubt that this new section of trail for the 5km race course could end up getting some sort of ominous nickname among the skiers much like the aptly named "Wall" on the world cup trails here in Canmore. This new section in Rossland is like that M.C. Escher drawing of the never ending staircase. It start's off climbing, climbing, climbing. And when you think you're almost at the top, it climbs a little more. It finally levels off just before a brief downhill scoop, and then begins the second part of climbing. There's a reason the local folk call it, the "Soul Destroyer". No? I'll show myself out...
Starting off the 15km - credit Peachell Photography
The 15km was a good race for me. While I felt a bit groggy the morning off, come race time I was able to hold a good pace from the start, taking the early lead and holding onto it by the finish. While I thought I started off on a pretty conservative pace, the last time up what the local folk name "The Tormenter of Wills"... ok seriously I'm done for real this time...
A good way to cap off 2013! Credit Peachell Photography
The next set of races are here at home in early January and are the big focus of the season: Olympic trials. Lot's of nervous excitement for that weekend, but until then I'll be enjoying some long skis, time with the family and lots of holiday music.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays and I'll cya out on the trails!
Getting in the holiday spirit with some gingerbread baking. Some turned out OK, other's needed surgery for lost limbs and heads.
P.S. Brent McMurtry has announced his return to Calgary/Canmore and has reiterated the challenging of me to a pizza bake off, including fancy shmancy judges, criteria's and rules. I really wish this would be documented like an episode of "Chopped" but alas, photos of the night and my sweet victory will have to do. Oh and hey Brent, my secret weapon arrived in the mail today.
From the deepest corners of the universe, to the Battle of the Black Gate, this year's Mo took me places. Another year of Movember has come and (sadly) gone, and while I had planned a few more moustache shots to accompany this year's montage, the burden of traveling to remote shooting locations and wardrobe problems finishing up Part 3 of the "The Chronicles of Klister" took a bit of precedence. Oh well, next year's another moustache to add to my "Mo Montage".
A big thanks to Mark Thomas, Scott Edmunds, Ken Hewitt, teammate Philly Widmer and Robin McKeever for donating to this years mo - your limited edition "Mo's of Kevin" calendar is in the mail. Despite a bit of a smaller team this year, the SnoMos were able to raise $915, not too shabby SnoMos.
Kirk probably would have gained a bit more respect on the bridge if he sported a look like this.
Sons of mothers! Of fathers! My mo-bros.
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the mo of me.
A day may come when the courage of mos fail,
when we forsake our upper lips and break all bonds of hairiness, but it is not this day.
An hour of razors and straight blades when the Age of Mos comes crashing down, but it is not this day!
This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Mos of the West!
So, as mentioned above, while I wanted to take a few snapshots of moustache chaos theory and drinking martinis, the "Chronicles of Klister" was on an expedited work order for completion. It's been a long time coming, but Russell [Kennedy] and I are in the final stretch and are looking to release the epic conclusion early next week (for real this time). And it's worth the wait, guaranteed, or your Internet time back*. Because I know you've been sitting at home for the past three weeks refreshing YouTube, right? The whole Klister thing has been a fun experience; filming, editing, compositing, more filming to fill in the gaps and getting to hang out with the super star himself. There is probably enough B-roll footage to put together an unofficial Part 4 blooper's video. If you haven't watched them, or need a recap on the journey of our hero, below are parts one and two.
Lastly, I just finished the first weekend of NorAm racing here at Sovereign Lakes, which was experiencing quite the bit of chilly weather and was colder than a witch's teat. Nonetheless the volunteers were troopers and pulled off a great event considering the temperature and delays. For me, Saturday's 15km skate race was a decent start, finishing 5th (3rd Canadian). I gotta say the courses here are some of my favourites, with some nice long climbs and some really good flow. Yesterday's classic sprint, well, let's just say it's still a work in progress.
The start to the 15km - credit Julie Melanson
I'm now off to Rossland, BC, for one last weekend of racing before the Christmas break, which are two things I'm really looking forward to.
Thanks for checking in,
Where to start really? In a year with huge expectations and goals, my winter fell a little flat on what I set out to do at the start of the season. And while sometimes blogging about lack of groove and some "meh" racing isn't all that bad of writing material, I decided instead to shun the blog for, well, I guess most of the season. But it's May now. The new training season has started; April's shenanigans are becoming a blur and the time to rekindle that focus has begun. And while I am looking forward to this next season, a website with a blaring gap from January to May just won't do. Time to close last season out.
So I guess that's where I'll start, connecting the dots in between January and April and summing it up as a precursor to the upcoming season. While the races in November and December weren't exactly what I'd been hoping for going into them, the major goal of the season was to race at World Champs come February, so at the time, I could look past those mediocre results. I know from past season's it would take until January for my race shape to come full stride. Come January and trials racing, it was becoming more and more prevalent that it wasn't a time issue but more of a series of small past events leading up to fatigue. It could have been a number of things – not enough time off after an awesome, but intense, Park City camp, or lacking volume earlier in the summer, maybe it was the travel to and from Europe before the Canmore World Cups, or maybe even an unthinkable stress brought on by such an awesome* mustache in Movember. Well maybe not the last one. All I knew was that the proverbial oomph I knew of oh-so-well from the past three seasons was missing, and despite what appeared to be a solid summer and fall of training, racing felt like I was just going through the motions and missing that final gear.
After a half dozen meetings with the coaches, we started to pin point the cause, made a game plan for the rest of the season and applied it to this year's training plan so there wouldn't be a repeat blog post like this one come 2014. And that's where I was at the start of February. Eastern's, Western's and National's were all that remained before the season was a wrap, and while those first two weekends of racing had their up and downs, National's was the season's silver lining.
By late March I was starting to feel better - the body was sort of back to being fresh and I wanted to close out the end of the season stronger than I started it. This years National's were in Callaghan Valley, BC, (Whistler) and with a forecast of pretty much just sun and more sun, there wasn't really the need to worry about the troublesome rain/snow/sleet combo Callaghan dishes up on occasion.
There were three big highlights at this year's National's:
1: Foothills Nordic defended its Team Sprint title with Jess Cockney and Brent McMurtry setting the standard and defending what is rightfully ours for the past four out of five years. Foothills Nordic B-Team consisting of Kai Lukowiak and myself, despite bookies having high hopes for us, failed to make it past the first round.
2: Grabbing silver in the 50km. In spite of being beat out by last year nemesis McMurtry, and additionally in a skate race, I doubled my extravagant all-time National Champ's medal collection to two. After the team sprint I caught a slight sinus cold, and while thinking and claiming to my roommates it was just early springtime allergies giving me the runny nose (again, sorry), I struggled to get back to normal while racing throughout the week. Luckily come 50km day, I was starting to feel a lot better and had one of my better races of the season, finishing third overall and second Canadian.
Photo credit: James Cunningham
3: National's banquet. Ahh... the quintessential banquet. The last bru-ha-ha before everyone pieces out for the spring. Often imitated, but rarely perfected. This year's "black-and-white" themed event at the Whistler Conference Centre and was a good little season ender.
The black, white and salmon banquet
My April break started off with driving down to Vancouver following Nationals to visit a friend, interspersed with a visit with mom on Salt Spring Island. Being my first real stay in the city, the nine days I spent on the west coast had plenty of rest, checking out the sights, and indulging in a fair bit of Vancouver's culinary fare (something that goes hand in hand with April break).
Fun at the Salt Spring Island Rod and Gun Club. It didn't take long to figure out that composite bows were slightly more accurate than "Robin Hood" bows...
And then maybe slightly more accurate (when your a good shot) was the rifle, trying my luck at firing one for the first time. Playting Xbox ≠ real world gun skill.
Flying back to Vancouver via float plane from SSI
Mother being mother.
Dinner at my friend Rob's girlfirend's place, overlooking the city skyline. Not a bad view.
When in Vancouver... culinary experience #1562
Not really a Vancouver thing, but my first time having fried chicken and waffles, served with a big bottle of Sriracha
And some purple sushi...
The rest of April was pretty tame. After being getting back home mid-April, I took advantage of the still winter-like skiing at the Nordic Centre, which still had pretty good skiing up until the first week of May. Near the end of the month and with the break wrapping up, a few of us headed to every boys dream vacation destination (just after Space Camp), Drumheller.
Visiting the Hoodoo's in Drumheller with Bob, Jess, Matt, myself and Jules being photographer. This photo is an optical illusion; I'm really not that short in real life...
And that was April, and I guess technically the end of last season. With most season's coming to a close comes the inevitable: skiers hanging up the bib and retiring from the sport to pursue school, work, and... I guess other life things. Teammates Matt Wylie, Kate Brennan and short time nemesis, host of his own show, and second-place pizza baker Brent McMurtry all retired this past spring. And while I would have all loved to make retirement videos for everyone (a daunting task which would probably take me into next year at the rate I pump out videos) I took it upon myself, along with Jess, to say farewell to Brent and call him out on his bluff:
A fare warning to the next person looking to retire next season; there’s a Brian Adams video montage with your name on it
Woof, I think that pretty much sums it up. This coming year will be a pretty exciting one as I focus of making them Olympics. Hard to believe they're just around the corner - I guess the years really do fly by the older you get...
tl;dr: Was tired in winter, good nationals, fun spring - made a video.
Given that it is now 2013 and basically everything is connected to the Internet, a two month drought for an update is a little long. I am ashamed but hope I can make it up by doing some recapping.
Movember was awesome. So awesome in fact that the mo kept rocking it past the end of November and into December (partly just to end rumors back in Canmore). Team Snow Mos raised a tidy $3,552 between the eleven of us mobros. Great times. I’m glad that the entire month was fairly well documented, and despite my time lapse not really working out the end, there is always the next mustachioed season. Below are some shots from a few of us Snow Mos, including Gord, Devon, Wolfman and Ivan, striking our best mo-looks.
By the time I got home, shaved the mo, and settled back into the North American routine, the Canmore World Cups were next up. It's been five years since I last raced an Alberta World Cup, and I haven't forgotten the experience. Can't really beat a legion of fans cheering for the home team along with pretty much the entire town backing the international vibe throughout downtown. Despite the excitement, the 39th and 34th place in the classic and skiathlon races respectively weren't exactly the results I had been hoping for.
K-Country at its finest over the holidays
Between the world cups and now, I've been enjoying some time out in Kananaskis Country training and relaxing along with some racing out in Thunder Bay, ON and Duntroon, ON (current location) since the new year. These races out east are selection races for World Championships, so an update next week on how that went overall (next week, next month, same thing).
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
Reader Discretion is Advised
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!".