Nationals Distance Race

Corner Brook, Newfoundland The last day of Canadian Nationals started bright and early at 9am with the senior men’s competition. The day being the long-distance event, the men raced a 50k, women and junior men a 30k and junior women a 20k, all mass-starts. With skiers already having completed three other races this week, some doing four with the team relay, the distance race is not only a good indicator of endurance and pure race-fitness but also a test of who has recovered the best throughout the week of racing.

Newfoundland came through with some pretty exciting weather for the final race. Blowing snow was the name of the game for most of the morning and made for interesting conditions for the competitors.

Ivan leads the senior men
Senior Men
Fighting through the snow the senior men stayed in a pretty big pack for the first two-thirds of the race until Ivan Babikov, of the Canadian World Cup team and Foothills Nordic, pulled ahead to win the 50k with a 40 second gap on second place.
Second place finisher Kevin Sandau of The Alberta World Cup Academy and the NST answered some comments on the race and about his experience at Nationals this year. 
2nd place –Kevin Sandau
1)What was your race plan going into the 50k? Stick with the pack? Push the pace and string things out?
“I didn’t want to have a relaxed and passive pace for much of the 50km. Sometimes 50’s just aren’t hard enough until the last 10-15km, so they end bunching up quite a bit, and it can get frustrating and sketchy skiing with a big pack like that. I took my turns in the front, kept the pace high. When Ivan attacked on the second last lap a group of three of us tried to pull him back, but well he sort of crushed it that lap and put some big time into us.”
2)Looks like you had a pretty good week of racing. How do you feel about your performance this year at Nationals?
“Best national’s for me by far. I was actually most nervous about the team sprint and defending Foothills Nordic’s gold medal streak in that race. Also it was the first time I did the sprint race since maybe 2009 at National’s and I managed to sneak into the A-final, so I was pretty excited about that.”
3)How many Nationals podiums do your currently have to your name? How many titles?
“Seven podiums including two team sprints titles. The National Champ title still eludes me in an individual event, but I did grab this year’s overall title so pretty pumped for that.”
4)I hear you are racing at the Alberta Cup “Shark-fest” final. Safe to say that this upcoming set of races is your big focus for the season?
“Pretty much the biggest focus. You’re only as good as your last race, right? And I figure it will be some good motivation to ski on the weekend.”

Top 10 Senior
1) Ivan Babikov, Foothills-NST
2) Kevin Sandau, Foothills-AWCA-NST
3) Graham Nishikawa, Whitehorse-NST
4) Andy Shields, Lappe-NDC TBay
5) Graeme Killick, Ptarmigan-AWCA-NST
6) Knute Johnsgaard, Whitehorse-Yukon Elite
7) Colin Abbott, Whitehorse-Yukon Elite
8) Frédéric Touchette, Laval
9) Michael Somppi, AWCA-NST
10) Colin Ferrie, Kimberley
Emily skis to the front in the senior women’s start
Senior Women
The senior women’s race played out quite differently. Amanda Ammar of Canmore and Team Ninja broke the pack early on, with only Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse being able to match her. These two skiers worked together, opening up a big gap over third place skier Chisa Obayashi of Madshus Japan, until Ammar pulled ahead in the final laps to take the win with a 54 second gap over Nishikawa.
Amanda Ammar took a moment to answer some questions on her performance in the races this past week.
1st place –Amanda Ammar
1)You really broke the field pretty early on in the race. Was that your game-plan before hand or did you decide off the start-line that you felt great and you’d just go for it?
“Winning the Nationals 30km was a goal of mine all year, but obviously not the most important. Olympics was first  And yes, it’s always boss to break a field in a long distance event…i.e.. Johan Olsson’s boss move in the 50km at World Champs. So breaking the field was always in the back of my head, but you can only make that decision really on the day of….you need to gage your energy and that day I felt awesome in my warmup, so it was an easy game plan. The simplest really! As a distance skier, I absolutely hate tactics, and would love to have the luxury of always just blasting off the start.”
2)It looks like you’ve put down some really solid races at Nationals this season. Do you think that your experience at the Olympics put you in a good place physically for Nationals or do you think that you went into Nationals pretty fatigued?
“The Olympics was physically and mentally exhausting. Leading up to the Olympics was stressful for me with the appeals,  Brittany and I had a horrible travel schedule, and then while traveling to Sochi the airline company broke most of my skis. So I wasn’t in the best headspace. It was hard to enjoy at some times cause I was just that exhausted. That being said, the Olympic course was one of the most challenging that I have ever raced on. After completing all of my events, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and confidence. I knew if I could start and finish a race on that grueling course, then it would be an absolute piece of cake on any other course. 
   When I got home from the Olympics I was pretty toast. I had no desire to go to Nationals, but I  knew that once I got there that my frame of mind would change, and that I would have fun no matter what. So did I have energy going into nationals? NO, but does anybody really??? It’s a long season, especially an Olympic season. We are all tired, and I feel that every athlete is in the same boat.”
3)Any thoughts about your Nationals races this year? The 30k was your first Nationals title, correct?
“I couldn’t be more excited about my results at Nationals this year. A Ninja winning the nationals aggregate?!!! SO STOKED!! This is the first time I have ever medalled as a senior, and I managed to get top 5 in every race! In 2012, I was 9mins and 30secs behind in the 30km classic event, so that is just one example of how far I’ve come in 3 years. These results mean so much to me in that I’ve always wanted to be a positive role model for the young women coming up in sport.
 These last 3 years I’ve done it my way, no carding, no national/development team, no rules!! hahaha! Chris and I made the training plan, and worked together with other athletes in the bow valley. We kept it sublimely simple.”

Top 10 Senior
1)Amanda Ammar, Canmore Nordic-Team Ninja
2)Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse AWCA-NST
3)Chisa Obayashi, Madshus Japan
4)Brittany Webster, Highland Trailblazer
5)Alysson Marshall, Larch Hills-AWCA-NST
6)Erin Tribe, Team Hardwood-NDC TBay/Lakehead
7)Anne-Marie Comeau, M.S.A.-CNEPH-NST
8)Heidi Widmer, Foothills-AWCA-NST
9)Kendra Murray, Carleton-Whitehorse
10)Marlis Kromm, AWCA-Foothills

Scott (left) and Colin lead the Junior race
Junior Men
In the junior men’s 30k it was NDC T-Bay that ruled the roost once again, taking the top 3 podium spots. Pulling off his 3rd National title this season Scott Hill, also of Team Hardwood, raced to victory in a very decisive 1 minute 51 second win over the rest of the field. His NDC teammates Evan Palmer-Charrette, of Lappe Nordic, and Nakkertok skier Ben Wilkinson-Zan rounded out the podium in 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

Top 10 Junior
1)Scott Hill, Team Hardwood-NDC TBay/Lakehead
2)Evan Palmer-Charrette, Lappe-NDC TBay
3)Benjamin Wilkinson-Zan, Nakkertok-NDC TBay
4)Alexis Dumas, Skibec-QCST
5)Colin Foley, Nakkertok-CVTC
6)Julien Lamoureux, Montériski-QCST/Cégep Édouard-Montpetit
7)Conor Thompson, Montériski-QCST/Cégep Édouard-Montpetit
8)Nicholas Pigeon, Skinouk
9)Gavin Shields, Lappe
10)David Askwith, Georgian Bay

Sorry about no junior women photo… my phone died before I could take a picture of them.

Junior Women
Much like in the senior women’s race the skiers of the junior women’s competition got spread out pretty early on. This made for a mentally challenging race as most of the competitors pushed through the pain alone for much of the 20k distance.
Upsetting this trend the top 3 skiers, Dahria Beatty of the AWCA and Whitehorse, Katherine Stewart-Jones of Nakkertok and Annah Hanthorn of Whitehorse, worked together for much of the race setting up a comfortable lead on the other racers. In the 3rd of 4 laps Stewart-Jones and Beatty slowly pulled away from Hanthorn and the last lap became a two-skier battle. 
In the hills on the last lap Dahria Beatty pulled away to take her 2nd National title this season.

Top 10 Junior
1)Dahria Beatty, Whitehorse-AWCA
2)Katherine Stewart-Jones, Nakkertok Nordique
3)Annah Hanthorn, Whitehorse-YTST
4)Frédérique Vézina, M.S.A.-CNEPH
5)Sophie Carrier-Laforte, Skinouk-QCST
6)Jennifer Jackson, Team Hardwood-NDC TBay/Lakehead
7)Emilie Stewart-Jones, Nakkertok Nordique
8)Sarah Beaudry, Caledonia
9)Maya Macisaac-Jones, RMR-CNEPH
10)Ember Large, Edmonton

Thanks to Kevin and Amanda for the comments today and congratulations to all the athletes who took place in this week’s event!!
For full results see Zone4

Dream Big.

Nationals Sprint Day

With only two race days left in Corner Brook Newfoundland, Thursday morning saw Canada’s best lining up behind the starting wand for their sprint qualifier.

The groomers did a good job of tilling the course during the night which combined with the relatively mild temperatures (-7 C in the early morning warming up to around 0 C for the heats) to lead to a nice fast course.
Olympian Amanda Ammar had a few words on the morning of qualifying:
“The course has a lot of flat sections and gradual downhills so you really have to push the free-skate. The couple uphills on the course are steep and pretty soft–you can get bogged down if you’re not careful. It’s a good course for someone who skis powerful with longer glides.”
Follow this link for qualifier results.
Daria (front) and Peri battling it out in the final
Senior Women
First off the line for the heats were the women, starting around noon. National team members Perianne Jones and Daria Gaiazova dominated the day, leading the way in their quarter and semi finals. The two skiers fought it out in the A-final, with Daria leading the way for most of the sprint and ultimately taking the win. Perianne came up beside her in the finish lanes but didn’t quite have enough for the top spot, and placed 2nd. Alysson Marshall held 3rd place pretty consistently through the A-final.
Daria was unavailable for comments on the race but our reporter was able to interview the day’s Silver-medalist.
Perianne Jones –2nd
–How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats? 
“I changed up my tactics a bit because I was slower off the start in the semi. Drafting on the downhill mid-course seemed to work pretty well in the semi so I waited for the downhill to move towards the front in my final too.”
–Did your travels home from Europe have much of an effect on your race today? 
“I got back to Canmore about a week ago, from Drammen, so I had some time to rest before coming out here. I don’t think the travel effected the racing too much.”
–Some athletes like to listen to music to get them pumped up before a race. Is music part of your pre-race plan?  
“I don’t really listen to music very much in my race prep. I just go out there and ski the course and stay relaxed.”

Senior Women’s A-final
Name // Qualifying time
1) Daria Gaiazova // 0:03:12.29
2) Perianne Jones // 0:03:12.66
3) Alysson Marshall // 0:03:17.65
4) Erin Tribe // 0:03:21.40
5)Amanda Ammar // 0:03:21.67
6) Heidi Widmer // 0:03:21.80

Katherine leads the rest of the junior women in their final
Junior Women
Today’s junior women’s heats were quite the battle. With not much room to pass on the course and a particularly technical downhill at the end, many skiers ran into trouble getting tripped up or boxed in. First and second qualifiers, Jennifer Jackson and Sophie Carrier-Laforte, looked quite strong moving up through the quarter finals and took the wins in their respective semi finals. In the A-final though it was Katherine Stewart-Jones of Nakkertok Nordique who avoided trouble and pushed the pace, taking the lead on a tricky downhill corner to cross the line with a comfortable lead over 2nd place.
Katherine Stewart-Jones –1st
–How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats? 
“In the quarter and semi finals I took the lead for a lot of the race but I found people were catching me on the downhills. In the final I made my move later on, moving into the lead on the last downhill corner.”
–At what point in the race did you know you had the win? 
“I was pretty sure I had it when I moved into first on the last downhill, as long as I managed to stay on my feet.”
–How many National titles do you now have to your name? 
“I’ve won three titles, not including a couple where I came second to a Norwegian at Quebec Nationals (2012). This is my first sprint title!!” 

Junior Women’s A-final
Name // Qualifying Time
1) Katherine Stewart-Jones // 0:03:18.95
2) Maya Macisaac-Jones // 0:03:21.52
3) Dahria Beatty // 0:03:22.87
4) Anne-Marie Comeau // 0:03:24.34
5) Jennifer Jackson // 0:03:24.89
6) Sophie Carrier-Laforte // 0:03:29.00

Knute leads Graham (middle) and Patrick in the men’s final
Senior Men
After a slow start to the day in his quarterfinal, Yukon skier Graham Nishikawa made it through to the semi finals as lucky loser. Having just returned from Sochi, where he skied as a guide for Paralympian Brian Mckeever (who has won 3 golds), Graham overcame jet-lag and moved up through the semi to the final, where he took his first senior Canadian National title today. The podium was rounded out by Knute Johnsgaard of the Yukon Elite Squad and AWCA/Nakkertok skier Patrick Stewart-Jones, both U23 athletes.
Graham Nishikawa –1st
–How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats?
“I really didn’t feel ready to go in the quarters, fighting jet lag, and I came in fourth in that heat. I was walking back to the car to get the keys and found out I made lucky loser. 
In the semi and the final I just went right to the front each time since there wasn’t much space to pass on the course.”
–Did your recent trip back from Europe effect you much today? 
“I got in at 2:20am the day of the 15k [the 18th]. I wasn’t as worried racing right off the flight but today, two days later, I thought it’d be tough. I just went out there to have fun today and enjoy the racing”
–Is this your first National sprint title? How many titles do you currently have to your name? 
“I’ve got a number of junior titles but this is actually my first senior National title! I have a lot of silver and bronze medals at home.”

Senior Men’s A-final
1) Graham Nishikawa // 0:02:58.79
2) Knute Johnsgaard // 0:02:58.86
3) Patrick Stewart-Jones // 0:02:58.90
4) Raphaël Couturier // 0:03:03.41
5) Kevin Sandau // 0:03:08.99
6) Andy Shields // 0:03:13.59

Colin (front) and Evan sprint it out for the line in the junior final
1st –Junior Men
NDC Thunder Bay continues its dominance of the junior men’s category. Instead of Scott Hill taking gold in the sprint though it was Tuesday’s (the 15k skate) second place finisher, Evan Palmer-Charrette, who notched another gold for the Thunder Bay centre. Scott Hill, winner of the first two races this week, finished 3rd. The second step of the podium was occupied by CVTC skier Colin Foley. Colin won both his quarter final and semi but was denied today’s junior title in the final, as Evan put down the stronger finish to beat him to the line.
Evan talked to Fasterskier about his performance in Tuesday’s race (which you can read about here) so in the interest of a different perspective our reporter interviewed Colin on his performance.
Colin Foley –2nd place
–How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats? 
“In the quarterfinal I wanted to conserve my energy so I didn’t lead any of it except for the final stretch. In the semi’s I wanted to make it to the final without risking anything and I was feeling good so I lead off the start and took it fast all the way around. The final I really just tried to make sure I was in the top three coming to the steep climb about halfway through the course. After that it was just about giving everything I had left.”
–Is this your first National sprint podium? How many podiums do you currently have to your name? 
“Before this nationals I only had 1 podium, it came last year with a silver in the 10km skate. So yes this is my first podium in the sprint. In the past my distance skiing has been much better so I’m very happy to get on a sprint podium.”
–Do you have a favourite song to get you in the mood on race day? 
“I don’t like to listen to music very close to my race, but I’ll often listen to it if I have a long time until I start. In that case it would definitely consist of some of The Black Keys.”

Junior Men’s A-final
1) Evan Palmer-Charrette // 0:03:09.14
2) Colin Foley // 0:03:09.43
3) Scott Hill // 0:03:11.11
4) Nicholas Pigeon // 0:03:13.89
5) Gavin Shields // 0:03:15.44
6) Angus Foster // 0:03:52.78

Thanks to Graham, Perianne, Katherine and Colin for taking the time to chat today! Check back this weekend for the report from the final Canadian Nationals race.

See for full results.

Dream Big!

Nationals day 5

I continue my coverage of Nationals with the second individual race of the week, the skate medium-distance.

Upon checking out the course profiles before arriving in Newfoundland, it was the image of today’s race course that really stuck with me–probably because of the simplicity of it. It went up. It went down. With the exception of a short flat section around the stadium and a quick up-and-down loop at the end, the course was pretty much one big uphill followed by its descent back to the stadium. Men raced 4×3.75km and women 3×3.3, going not quite as high on the hill as the men.
With regards to conditions, the one thing that’s been constant this week with weather is the ridiculously strong winds and today was no exception to this trend. Blowing snow wreathed the racers in white and challenged them with some solid headwinds at points on the course. But even with the headwinds it was a quick race. With World Cup veteran Ivan Babikov leading the charge, the winning time in senior men clocked in at just over 35min, typical of the top times you would see on a tough World Cup 15k course.
When the snow cleared (more of a figure of speech: it’s still blowing snow outside), here’s who stood with Ivan at the top of the podium.

Heidi, followed by teammate Dahria, on the final climb. Thanks to Emilie for the awesome pics from the day’s race!
Heidi Widmer –Senior Women
In the training season Heidi battled some issues with injury following a rollerski crash. She stayed focused through the set-backs though and managed to put down some pretty solid results right through the ski season. This year, in her final year as a U23, she represented Canada at both the World U23 Championships and her first Olympic Games. Here’s how she answered my three post-race questions:
Zeke: Did you have a particular focus going into today’s event?
Heidi: “To be present in the moment. Just like Pooh Bear in the Tao of Pooh. Great read.”
Z: Before you knew your result were you happy with today’s race?
H: “I had a great time, had good skis and pushed my limits. So, I would be happy with my efforts either way. It is even better when that aligns with a win!”
Z: Imagine that it is your birthday and you get to choose whatever meal you want. What’s the main-course and what’s for dessert?
H: “It depends where I’m celebrating–whatever the locals are doing and what is in season! Hopefully it’s Mexican style. For dessert, chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and strawberry filling. Vanilla ice cream on the side.”

Ivan on his way to victory in the 15k
Ivan Babikov –Senior Men
A long-time skier of the World Cup circuit, Ivan is fresh off the World Cup finals in Falun Sweden. A consistent performer at international races, Ivan really adds to the level of competition here in Newfoundland.
Z: Did you have a particular focus going into today’s event?
Ivan: “Tried to stay awake today, with the jet-lag from my return from Europe. I worked to keep the speed up through the four laps. I hadn’t skied the course beforehand so I just focused on checking things out the first lap and then pacing based on that.”
Z: Before you knew your result were you happy with today’s race?
I: “A win is a win, and racing back in Canada is always fun. It’d be nice to have some more World Cups over here.”
Z: Imagine that it is your birthday and you get to choose whatever meal you want. What’s the main-course and what’s for dessert?
I: “My wife makes really good Russian fried potatoes–kinda like french fries but healthy–and fried chicken. Something chocolaty for desert, like chocolate cake.”

Anne Marie, of the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre
Anne-Marie Comeau –Junior Women
Anne-Marie is among the strong contingent of junior women from Quebec who are making a mark on the Canadian ski scene. She has European racing experience already under her belt and two years left as a junior, after this season, in her skiing career. Watch for her next year at the Junior World Championships.
Z: Did you have a particular focus going into today’s event?
Anne-Marie: “Going into the race I was just thinking about going as hard as I could.”
2)Before you knew your result were you happy with today’s race?
“Yes! I felt good during the race and had fun.”
3)Imagine that it is your birthday and you get to choose whatever meal you want. What’s the main-course and what’s for dessert?
“Chicken shish kabobs for dinner and maple syrup pudding for dessert.”

Scott makes it two for two at Nationals
Scott Hill –Junior Men
Scott Hill has started a winning streak this week, making it two for two in the first couple races. In an effort to showcase some of the other top skiers in the junior men’s category I interviewed the second place skier, Evan Palmer Charrette on his race today.
Check out the article from Sunday for Scott Hill’s interview.

Evan skis through the stadium on route to 2nd place

Evan Palmer-Charrette –2nd place Junior Men
Hailing from Thunder Bay, in Northern Ontario, Evan trains with the National Development Centre in his hometown. A well known junior skier on the NORAM circuit, he works towards his goal of making the World Cup team and racing internationally.
Z: Did you have a particular focus going into today’s event?
Evan: “Big focus today was pacing and really getting long glides–especially on the uphills in the offset [technique].”
Z: Before you knew your result were you happy with today’s race?
E: “Absolutely. Pacing was great and the body came together today. I’ve been having some trouble with compartment syndrome in my shins, and with illness last week; these didn’t effect me today.”
Z: Imagine that it is your birthday and you get to choose whatever meal you want. What’s the main-course and what’s for dessert?
E: “Pad-thai for the main course and a chocolate milkshake for desert.”

Thanks so much to Heidi, Ivan, Anne-Marie and Evan for taking the time to chat today. 

For full results check Zone4

Check back later for coverage of the next race, Thursday’s skate sprint.

Dream Big!

Day 3 at Canadian Nationals

March 16th, the day of the first individual event at National Canadian Ski Championships 2014. This is an event that I’ve been training for since last May, and looking forward to since the end of Nationals 2013, last season in Whistler BC. As I write this I’m sitting in the lodge at the Nordic Ski Center in Corner Brook–but I’m not racing today.
Two weeks ago I started to feel pain in my right leg. After a week and a half of physio it was determined that I have nerve issues in my back that, if I’m not careful, could develop into a serious enough problem to require surgery.
With this in mind, I find myself in need of something to fill my time in Newfoundland.

There’s not usually any real information thrown out there about Canadian skiers, not on the World Cup Team, who are training year-round to take national titles come Winter.
With time on my hands and races to watch I’ve made it my goal to write up something short about the top skiers in some of the races this week.

Today’s race was a short-distance classic interval start. Talking to the skiers afterwards, the big thing that defined this day of competition was adversity, particularly evident in the snow conditions. The race was really hard to wax for–with some skiers opting for klister, some hardwax and others going with zeros. But even with this much variation in what people were going with for grip it seems that nobody really found the perfect set up. Pretty quickly the tracks got ruined by herring-bone and it turned into a competition of who could double poll the most.
With steep hills, sketchy weather and limited grip, this was one of those races where the winner is the one who stays positive and adapts to the conditions rather than fighting them.

Here are today’s champions:

Jess Cockney
For those in tune with the North American skiing world, Jess Cockney, winner of today’s senior men’s race, doesn’t really need an introduction. For those living under a rock (or a lot of snow), he trains out of Canmore with the Alberta World Cup Academy and just returned from his first Olympic experience at the games in Sochi.
1)Something about Jess that doesn’t have to do with skiing: “I run a fantasy football league through the NFL season. 2012 League Champion!
2)Was there anything in particular training-wise that you did this past summer that really contributed to your performance today? I double poled most of today’s race so all the strength work and long double pole sessions really helped with today.
3)Was there any aspect, positive, negative or otherwise, that stood out about today’s race? I had a ton of fun yesterday and today and had great feelings in the races so I’ll just try to keep the fun going for the rest of the week!
Jess: double polling his way to victory

Emily Nishikawa
Like Jess, Emily is one athlete who doesn’t really need an introduction. She too trains with the Alberta World Cup Academy and is just back from representing the red maple leaf at the Winter Olympic Games.
1)Something about Emily that doesn’t have to do with skiing: “I used to be a competitive gymnast. My best result was winning the Jurassic classic when I was 11!”
2)Was there anything in particular training-wise that you did this past summer that really contributed to your performance today? “I’ve been working really hard all year, and other than one cold I’ve been healthy all year. I think that contributed to today’s performance.”
3)Was there any aspect, positive, negative or otherwise, that stood out about today’s race? “Today’s race was really fun, with tricky conditions. I was happy to make the skis work as best I could. This is my first time in Newfoundland and I am so excited to be here!”

Emily: on top of the podium
Scott Hill
Scott, the Ontario native and member of NDC Thunder Bay took home the gold in the Junior Men’s category. I met up with him in the lodge after the race to ask him my questions:
1)Something about Scott that doesn’t really have to do with skiing: “My younger self’s goal was to play in the NBA–and be a part time ski-racer.”
2)Was there anything in particular training-wise that you did this past summer that really contributed to your performance today? “I became an overall-better runner this year completing many running workouts.”
3)Was there any aspect, positive, negative or otherwise, that stood out about today’s race? “Going into the race I was prepared to not have the best wax. I knew that wax was going to be an issue for everyone and that I could still do well as long as I didn’t let the conditions get to me.”
Scott: on top of the podium
Dahria Beatty
Dahria, Alberta World Cup Academy and Junior National Team member, took top spot on the podium in the Junior Women’s race today. Originally from the Yukon she spends her off-season in Canmore training with the Academy. This year she’s seen some solid results in the European race scene–both at World Juniors and on the Scandinavian Cup (B-Tour).
1)Something about Dahria that doesn’t have to do with skiing: “I have a tendency to impulse buy plaid shirts.”
2)Was there anything in particular training-wise that you did this past summer that really contributed to your performance today? Well to be honest I really think it was all the time I spent walking Loki, the Davies’ family dog, (with whom I live). It really adds up and my competitors just can’t match it.
3)Was there any aspect, positive, negative or otherwise, that stood out about today’s race? “The conditions today were pretty interesting and very similar to the ones  I had in Europe racing at World Juniors and the B tour. This made it very advantageous to me, using what I learned over there I knew what was necessary in order to have the race I wanted. It was also super cool to be so close to World Cup skiers and it is very motivating for the future.”
Dahria: charging to victory

Thanks so much to Dahria, Scott, Emily and Jess for taking the time to chat with me about their races.

For full results from the races go here: Zone4

Check back here on Tuesday for all sorts of fun info from the medium distance skate race.
Dream Big.

3 stories from 3 race weekends: 3rd story

Inspiration is an interesting thing. As mentioned in my last blog post I felt a bit of a lack of this quality at the Vermont Supertour. The Winter Olympics–an amazing source of athletic inspiration–was kicking into gear as me and my team departed Craftsbury. With Canadian Western Champs in Prince George BC coming up the weekend after Vermont, one might have expected me to sit myself down in front of the CBC Winter Olympics live-replay webpage and just bask in the inspiring efforts of all the Olympians. But I didn’t. This year I really didn’t get into the Olympic spirit until after the fact.

Westerns was another three day race weekend but, having already done 6 races over the past two weekends we (the Alberta World Cup Academy) competed only in the second two races: a classic sprint and a 20k skate mass start.
I still see classic sprint-striding as being something for me to improve but I had a pretty solid classic sprint the first day–taking home some tasty fourth-place chocolate.
With a smaller field at Westerns than at most NORAMs my cpl points put me first in the starting echelon in the day 2 distance race! Sunday morning I filed into the start grid with the other skiers. “30 seconds to go”, was announced–and then, like, 10s later they fired the gun! Expecting another 20s before go-time I was taken quite unaware–adjusting my wind-briefs in a fairly leisurely fashion–and I remember thinking “oh, I guess they are firing the gun once for practice”. But no. There’s this picture on flicker of the race start and pretty much everyone have big grins on their faces as they ski off the line because the start was so unusual.
20k at Westerns
Fifty-some minutes later I crossed the finish line, 0.6s behind my teammate Russell, to take second place. I had mixed feelings. Although it was a decent race I felt that I should’ve pushed harder over the tops of the last few hills on the final lap in an effort to drop my competitors before the finish. Could I have dropped them? I don’t know, but whether I had or not, taking that initiative would’ve been the kind of inspired racing I’d been searching for in Vermont. Which brings me back to the Olympics.
With Westerns in the past I’ve had to take some rest on account of sickness and trouble with an injured leg. Looking for something to cheer me up I turned to the replays of the now-finished Olympics!
Watching the races–in particular the women’s relay, the men’s relay and the 50k skate–was so inspiring! Charlotte Kalla and Alexander Legkov demonstrated some of the most determined skiing I have ever seen; you could tell they wanted it, they believed they could achieve it and they were willing to race desperately–risking blowing up before the finish–to get to the line first.
If you have not watched these races yet–and if you’re looking for some inspiration–check them out! You can find replays here:

Dream Big!

3 Stories from 3 Race Weekends: 2nd Story

Wednesday morning after Easterns the team took to the roads; our new destination being the U.S. Supertour race stop in Craftsbury VT. I had raced twice before in Craftsbury, but both previous times my race course experience consisted of a 1.6km loop of manmade snow. I was pretty excited to get to experience Craftsbury in all its mid-Winter glory for the first time.
The drive to Craftsbury from Ottawa is usually a pretty straight-forward 4.5hr trip. But, consistent with my epic Ramsau-to-Liberec drive last year (see “Goodbye Austria” blog post), Winter ski-race travels have a way becoming much more of an adventure than google maps would have one think.
The first hurdle we ran into on the drive was one that I had predicted from a mile away: Montreal traffic. I hate traffic.
About 6 or 7 hours later we finally hit the U.S. border and were promptly stopped and pulled in for questioning by a very talkative border-patrol agent. Eventually we were deemed not a threat to the country and were allowed to continue on our merry way.
Finally, after a stop for supper and about 10hrs of travel time, we arrived in Craftsbury!! But the adventure was not over yet. Our rental vans were woefully equipped for the snowy conditions with tires that were–at best–very slick all-seasons And it turned out that the two houses our team had booked to stay in were not only about 20min apart but also at the tops of some very steep back-country roads. All at once we made the switch from skiers to bobsled athletes, and, in honour of the upcoming Olympic Games and our intense desire to get to our lodgings and fall asleep, we ran along side the vans, pushing them up the slippery Vermont hills towards our houses. One might think that having to push your minivan up a snowy hill after 10hrs on the road, in the middle of nowhere, at eleven at night might be a not so cool experience. With an outlook like this, one would have forgotten what being over-tired feels like; the whole endeavour turned out to be quite fun.
11hrs after our departure from Ottawa we were finally settled in in Vermont, dreaming of pushing vans through snowstorms while laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

I’m 108: Sprinting to the finish in the quarter final

Our last dinner in Craftsbury we had a pizza party!! We made, like, 8 pizzas or something. Yum.
Stopped at this sweet café in Montreal on our way home and I had this delicious coffee thing. Usually I hate coffee.
From a racing perspective, the following three days of racing were okay. One thing I’ve had a bit of trouble with, both this year and last, is keeping my momentum going right through the season. I seem to run into a period mid-winter when I’m not feeling super-motivated and I have relatively uninspired races. The first two races of the weekend kinda reflected this but on Sunday, in the skate sprint, I managed to turn things around a bit and was feeling really solid physically. Unfortunately I got tripped up with another skier in the semi-final and, although I managed to catch back up to the pack, I didn’t have quite enough energy to finish in the top two and move on to the final. Oh well.

Monday morning we left Craftsbury bright and early and spent the day making our way back across the continent to Canmore.

Dream Big!

3 stories from 3 race weekends: 1st story

I spent three weeks from late-January to mid-February on the road, traveling around to races. Here is a story for each of those weeks.

Following a couple weeks of down time in Canmore after trials, I booked an early plane ticket back out East to spend some time with my family before competing in the Eastern Canadian champs (which conveniently takes place at Nakkertok, my home club!).
Like most time spent visiting family and friends, my time at home sped by a lot faster than time usually does. In a flash, I’d met up with friends, played with my little siblings and completed my pre-race day routines (not necessarily in that order). I raced a skate sprint, a 15k skate and a 20k classic mass start–before I knew it the races were over and I was cooling down in a state of semi-unconsciousness after the 20k.
As I headed out for a final loop before returning to the Nakkertok “ski barn”, I noticed the Open Women sprinting out of the start echelon, starting their 15k mass start. 
It is a goal of mine to never use age as a reason for not doing something, so “I’ve grown out of…” is not usually a phrase one would here me say, but it seems like in these last couple years I’ve grown out of sticking around race sites to cheer on others once my own race is finished. As I get more and more serious about racing I become more focused on my own event so that getting to the race site, doing what I need to do and then returning to the hotel to recover has kinda become the norm. Cross country skiing is an individual sport–but it is also a team sport. And to appreciate the awesome atmosphere of a race weekend properly, you can’t forget the team aspect of ski racing. Being back at my home trails, surrounded by ski friends, the race weekend atmosphere got to me and I decided to do a bit of an extended cool down so as to cheer on the open women’s races.
For those of you unfamiliar with Nakkertok’s trail system, the race course weaves its way up and down an escarpment to get in the required amount of vertical–so, I made my way up to the top and skied back and forth, taking shortcuts at the top of the escarpment so that I could cheer on the girls every time they looped back up to the top of the ridge. The final 30min of my “cool down” went something like this:
“COME ON!!! UP UP UP!! THIS IS IT! 20 MORE METERS AND YOUR AT THE TOP!!!” …short cut to the top of the next hill… GO GO GO!!! THIS IS WHERE YOU GOTTA HURT!! THERE’S ANOTHER PACK AHEAD OF YOU!! YOU CAN CATCH THEM!!” …short cut to the top of the next hill and repeat.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a text book recovery ski, but in a funny way cheering people on makes me more motivated–and I know that I’ll race even faster next time because of it. As a bonus, I had about half of the top 10 open women skiers come and thank me for cheering them on!! Twenty years down the line I may not remember what place I finished at Easterns 2014 (that’s what Zone4’s for, right?), but I am gonna remember cheering on my friends, like a maniac, during my cool down!

Two sweet photos of me from the Easterns sprint, courtesy of my bro
Sprinting to the finish in the semi-final
Check back later this week for the second story!

Dream Big!