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.
Drum roll please!
I had been thinking and talking (albeit quietly) about redesigning my website over the past year, and after months of going back and forth within HTML's and CSS's, it's finally ready for prime time. With my new site design comes a much easier and quicker way of posting updates, so I'm looking forward to keeping it updated more often.
I just arrived in Östersund, Sweden as part of Cross Country Canada's "Convergence Group", a team with a priority set on getting some early racing in. If the snow and weather cooperate, I'll be racing in Bruksvallarna this weekend, then off to Finland for races in Rovaniemi, and finally finishing off my three week trip with the World Cups in Kuusamo. That's IF the snow hangs around. The 3km loop they have groomed here in Östersund is diminishing pretty quickly so I may be lacing up the running shoes and getting back into some dry-land training.
I also wanted to acknowledge some new sponsors for the upcoming season, Avalon Exploration Ltd and Bow View Homes.
Avalon is a Calgary based oil and gas company that is as devoted to excellence both in the boardroom and out in the field, just as I am to sport.
Based in the Bow Valley, Bow View Homes have been building custom designed homes around Alberta and British Columbia since 1993. Check them out at www.bowviewhomes.com
Thanks for checking in,
Jeeze, summers all wrapped up? It seems like my 2011 summer was just like last year; trip up to the Haig Glacier (albeit this time with the National Ski Team), trip to Whistler and plenty of training around Canmore. Maybe that's why I'm having this "just like yesterday" feeling.
Because of the synchronicity of summer, my efforts to write a unique summer update this year were in vain. I took to micro-blogging in 140 characters or less on Twitter and waited for the perfect story to present itself. And here we are: Fall. Fall is two and a half months of winter tempting us with freak snowfalls and cold mornings, my kind of season.
With the final stretch of dryland training just on the horizon, the Academy guys and myself did our final few long workouts roller skiing up to Haywood Pass in K-Country and one last stint to Lake Louise.
Training with the good 'ol AWCA crew earlier this fall on the way up to Moraine Lake. This stretch of highway always seems endless.
The AWCA crew just below Sentinel Pass above Moraine Lake. Fall was in full swing up here.
Just before the turkey hit the table I returned back to Whistler for a National Ski Team intensity camp. Here we had a pretty intense schedule of four intensity sessions crammed into our six night stay. Skate intervals, double pole intervals, a skate time trial and a ski bounding workout, making it the first time for a while I've actually really looked forward to my upcoming rest week.
Whistler still being a great place to train, and marking my fourth dry-land camp here since 2009, it's starting to feel like my home away from home. The village layout and running trails are second nature to me, and the roller ski loop up at Whistler Olympic Park is almost as familiar to those at the nordic centre back home. Freaky. To make the stay there a just a little bit more special, the ski team booked us into the Four Seasons, which comes with complementary valet and boot drying service (unfortunately I left my tipping bills at home).
Callaghan Valley Training Centre joined in on some of the workouts, including this run down by the Athlete's Village
River with a view
Not too long from the start of our run were these rail cars (which I assume were from some crazy derailment). Didn't notice it until after I took this photo, but someone is wishing me a very belated "HA PY BDA".
Ladies and gentlemen: Brent McMurtry.
Our final workout of the camp was some pretty hard ski bounding intervals up Blackcomb Mountain. Awesome feeling finishing the last of these sets and capping off a good week.
A small snippet of our support staff during the week. Special thanks for making the week a good one.
Post-interval cool down has a strange affect on Jess Cockney
The rest of October will be spent around Canmore, and definitely a good chunk spent up on Frozen Thunder, the saved snow pile from last winter that isplanned to be groomed out as early as tomorrow being pushed out and groomed as we speak. Looking forward to Hamster Wheel 2011*!
Frozen Thunder in its very early stages.
Until next time
It's finally go time. After having to hang around Canmore a little longer, World Junior Champs is less than a week away. I was looking forward to Poland but having the competition in Italy now makes the trip a little sweeter. Nothing like going to a boot shaped country that makes plenty of novelty comfort foods.
Packing always seems to be a nerve racking experience for me, gotta triple check everything, and a few things have to be left behind to make the 50lbs baggage weight. Nothing makes for more enjoyable travel than bringing my allotment of foods to keep my stomach from hunger pains and therefore keeping me happy. Air food just isn't made for athletes these days so I just figure packing the fridge is the best way to go. Below is a little taste of what I'm bringing on the plane.
My typical assortment of food I enjoy traveling with. Enough to feed the smallest of villages, it has protein bars, carrots, hummus, Greek salad, broccoli, chicken burger and chicken salad. That all? Nope, not included in the photo is my shake and eggs upon arrival in Europe.
So far so good. After a long day (or two?) of traveling we finally made it to our first stop, the alpine town of Livigno, Italy. As my first international flight, the experience was interesting to say the least. After our airplane was delayed on the tarmac due to an aggressive passenger in Calgary, we landed in Frankfurt with a little under half an hour until our connecting flight to Munich left. I was pretty clueless the whole time (I was following the others) and didn't realize we were cutting it close. Following the loss of Amanda and Perry through security and navigating the tunnels of the airport, by the time we got to our plane, they were just pulling the gate away and missed boarding by three minutes. Of course the plane had to chill out while they kindly unloaded our luggage off that plane to make the next flight.
After the tardy ones (me, Allyson, Heidi and Marlis) finally arrived in Munich two hours later, we were happy to see the rest of the group waiting outside baggage claim. After the others accepted our apologies we packed up the vans and headed off from Munich to Lavigno.
Livigno is this mountain village with both alpine and cross country venues right in town. Our hotel (which so far has offered great food and bedding contrary to what most think about Europe) is located just above Lavigno at 2250m, and we train down at 1850m along the town. To put it in comparison, Silverstar is 1666m and the Haig is around 2715m. The snow here is awesome, but offers pretty flat terrain with a few hills off the valley. The peaks around it are so high that its either sweltering hot in the sun and frigid in the shade; a balance struggles to exist.
Thursday we will leave our high altitude getaway for Malles, where all the action will take place. Word on the team is the snow is wicked, the hills are hilly and our accommodation has an old Italian mama who will tuck us in at night. Looking good!
A brutal image of one of my skis in Lavigno. Sadly this is the only image of the town I have.
That was a quickie. I can vividly remember the first races of the season in Silverstar as if it was yesterday, and now I'm looking at my calendar planning my upcoming time off in April (which will consist of making some serious coin so I can continue to live the "extravagant" skier lifestyle). It's sad in a way, athletes "endure" seven months of training only to be rewarded with four months of the good stuff. O well, by the time March rolls around my body is aching to do some dry-land training, in which I soon get bored of it and want back on snow. Meh.
With World Junior Championships 2008 in the books, Nationals is the final shebang before the season comes to a close, and Callaghan Valley will make for a wicked venue this year. Well actually Whistler-Blackcomb is going to be the wicked venue, but the ski site is close enough.
Well this articles wasn't named "Kevin's Mindless Chatter - Part 1" so I'll leave you with the "McMurtry Report", the result of a boring afternoon in Italy.
A quick note: At 1:15 when McMurtry states "Consuming more calories than your burning, but still losing weight", he is referring to heated debate between camera crew and program anchor prior to the filming of this report. McMurtry believes the loss of body fat [weight?] is the result of exercise expenditure greater than consumed calories. Well, no. But don't take my word for it, here's the proof from the pudding.
So it looks like I won't be doing the team relay. Apparently 5km is referred to as a sprint instead of a distance race these days. My mistake, the course is 3.3km, as there is the assumption here that the race finishes at the top of an arbitrary hill and the gradual stuff after that means jack. The Canmore world cup wasn't 15km, it was 7.5km, all uphill.
The 5km course profile, with my added thoughts.
Honestly I was shocked when I heard that I wasn't going to be on the relay roster; placing 21st and 25th just doesn't cut it anymore. After the news hit me, I literally couldn't move, toothbrush in hand (as I was preparing for bed), for a solid ten minutes. In the end it seems like results didn't play as big a part as favoritism did.
Oops I said it.
Well two races under my belt, and I have to say I'm pretty happy with the results so far. The weather here in Malles is exceptionally warm, but the snow in Schlinig (where the trails are) is doing a good job of sticking around. Because I can't really sprint worth a damn, I took Saturdays sprint off and focused on Monday's 10km classic individual race. So far this year 10km hasn't really been my thing; by the time I get in the groove the race is over. Since it was two 5km loops, I took the first lap pretty conservative and then skied the final lap a bit more aggressive. It paid off in the end, as I ended up 21st (to be honest I was pretty surprised, but happy at the same time). I was just 0.4 of a second shy of my top 20 goal but I had a good feeling a 20km would go a lot better.
Well, I ended up 25th in the 20km today. I was holding onto 19th by the end of the third lap, but just before entering the stadium I had momentary lapse in thought and caught my tip in the slush, doing a nice little face plant. On the bright side, that was the only time I fell, with plenty of opportunities presented to the racers throughout the race. The warm conditions made the downhills pretty sloppy and some racers actually skied off the ledge of the trail (the ambulance was busy today). Only an Italian passed me during my stumble, but by the end my fuel seemed to run out and didn't have the final little oomph to hang on. Although the finish was bittersweet, I felt like Lupe Fiasco when my young Italian fan base came to get my autograph (I later found out they betrayed me and asked for anyone that could breath for one).
The championships conclude Friday with the relay. It would be stellar if Canada could whip out the backside of their hand on the other countries, and it's looking promising with the abundant top 30 finishes from the boys and Mr. Harvey leading the charge. We can only wait!