Monday, December 20, 2010

This is Incredible

You have to see this:


Rossland Haywood Multi Stage NorAm

After a couple weeks spent racing and traveling around BC, I am now back home in Canmore for a couple weeks before my next racing adventure. I believe my last post left off when I was just about to leave Silver Star, so I'll pick things up from there. Last Tuesday the Academy and I traveled from Silver Star to Rossland for the next chapter in this years Haywood NorAm circuit. Having never been to Rossland before this, I was very excited to get to ski on some new terrain. And to my surprise, the trails at the Blackjack ski club (race site) were very similar to the trails back home in Ontario. This was surprising to me, as everywhere else I have skied out here (western Canada) are very similar with huge long climbs and long fast descents. Rossland however was much like the trails in Ontario, with no super long climbs or descents, just lots of rolling hills. To be honest I have missed racing on trails like this, so it was a nice change of pace (figuratively speaking of course :) ).

As I mentioned in the title of this post, this weekend of racing was a muti stage race. That means that everyones times from the first 2 days of racing were added together, and then that dictated the starting order of the last race on Sunday.

So, the first race was a skate sprint on Friday. This really was not my day. I got off to a slow start in my qualifier, and it wasn't until about halfway through the course that I started to feel good, by which time it was way too late to expect good things. My quarterfinal was a bit of a similar story, getting off the line in 3rd, and despite my best efforts, was not able to find a way around 2nd place, and that was the end of my day.

Day two of racing came in the form of a 10km interval start skate race. After my disappointing performance in the interval start skate race the weekend before in Silver Star, I was admittedly a little nervous about this race, as my skating confidence took a pretty hard blow. But, I ended up having my best distance race of the year so far that day. I felt really strong for both laps of the 5km course, and I ended up placing 4th in Junior, just missing the podium by 2.5 seconds, and 16 seconds off the win. While it's always a little disappointing finishing 4th in a race, I got over it fairly quickly. I had a great race, and to make it even better, it was my best points race in a distance event to date, and in case anyone isn't already aware, I am kind of obsessed with points :).

The final day of competition was the 15km classic handicap start (3 laps of 5km). I learned a pretty big lesson here when I didn't test my classic skis the day before. Because of timing and things like that, I did not get a chance to test my classic skis, so I just talked to my coaches and made a decision based on what I knew about my skis. Bad idea. So, I started the race 2 minutes and 58 seconds behind the top Senior man, and 22 seconds behind the top Junior Man (based on the handicap from the previous days of racing). My game plan was to just kill it off the start to catch the first Junior, and then ski with him for a while, but that didn't exactly pan out. By about 30 seconds into my race I knew that I had picked the wrong skis, as I had very little grip, and they weren't all the fast. I ended up trying to fight through this and still try to go super hard off the start, but that took its toll on me a few minutes later. I had a brutal first lap in which at one point I got the top of a hill and seriously considered dropping out of the race (this is a thought that has never crossed my mind before in a race, so I was not feeling good). But I decided to keep going, and I am very glad I did. I'm not sure what happened, but I was able to put my head down at the start of my second lap, find that next gear, and I went for it. I managed to make up some very big deficits on the next two laps and I finished with the 4th fastest Junior time.

*****If the whole "handicap" start thing doesn't make sense to anyone, please feel free to email or facebook me and I will gladly do another post explaining it in detail. It can be a little confusing if you don't know what I'm talking about :)*****

Unfortunately they did not do awards for the overall Junior mutli stage results, but after I arrived home last night I looked over all of the results, and I learned that I actually won the weekend overall for Juniors. So I can now safely say that I am very happy with how this weekend played out haha :).

I will now be spending the next 2 weeks here in Canmore preparing for the World Junior Trial races that will be taking place Jan. 6-9 in Thunder Bay ON. I'll likely do another post just before I leave for those races, and if not, there will definitely be a recap of them up here by the 11th.

So until then, Merry Christmas everyone!! And Happy Skiing!!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sovereign Lake NorAms 2010

This weekend was my first chance of the season to battle the rest of Canada in the 2010 Sovereign Lakes NorAm. It started off yesterday with a 1.5km classic sprint. Before yesterday, I had never done a sprint over 1.2km, so I was very curious to see how I would fare in the longer distance. Despite a small concern of going out too hard and blowing up before the finish, I decided to go for it in my qualifier right from the start, and it ended up working out fairly well. I was the 4th fastest Junior after the qualifier, which put me in a good place to start the heats a few hours later. My heats went very well, skiing the best I think I ever have in a sprint. My technique felt solid and I managed to stay nice and relaxed for the majority of the time.

I was able to make my way into the A Final, after finishing 2nd in both my quarter and my semi. I got off to a pretty good start in the Final, tucking myself into second place going up the first climb. I stayed there until the bottom of the 2nd climb, where I decided to move up and challenge for the lead. With this being the longest hill on the course, I managed to break up the group a bit and Patrick (Stewart-Jones, Quebec Ski Team) and I led the way into the final climb. Unfortunately for me he was able to surprise me with an attack on the last clmib, and after a quick slip on my part, he was gone. I continued to fight hard into the finish and held on for the Silver medal.

The final results were 1: Patrick Stewart-Jones, 2: Myself, 3: Andy Shields

Today brought a 15km Skate Interval start race. Unfortunately for me, it would seem as though having to race through that sprint course 4 times yesterday really killed my legs, as when I woke up this morning my legs were pretty fried. This, for obvious reasons, did not play into my favour, and I ended up finishing 11th in the Junior category. It was a tough race on a very demanding course, and the conditions were not helped by the foot of fresh snow that we received overnight. I was a little disappointed with my race today, but overall it has been a great weekend of racing.

I will now take the next 36 hours to rest and recover from this weekend here in Silver Star, before jumping in the vans and heading to Rossland BC on Tuesday. The second NorAm of the season will be taking place there next Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the form of a Multi-Stage mini tour. This means that our times in the sprints and the distance race on Friday and Saturday will determine the order in which we start the final race on Sunday. This creates the effect of having the entire weekend seem like one big race, but with some breaks in between. I have never done a stage race like this before, so I am very excited to see how I will make out. I have been hearing rumors that the Rossland Ski Centre has made some changes to its sprint course in order to make it one of the hardest in Canada, so I can't wait to check it out on Wednesday.

I'll do another post after next weekend to let everyone know how things go, so until then,


Sunday, December 5, 2010

T'is the Season, Finally!! Alberta Cups 1 and 2

This weekend was the first race weekend of my 2010/2011 race season, and came in the form of a skate sprint and a 9km classic interval start race, both here in Canmore. The racing got underway yesterday morning with the qualifier of the skate sprint. For me, it was a little disappointing, qualifying as the 6th Junior (I was hoping for 1 or 2). But, after returning to my house for a few hours to recharge a bit before the heats, I managed to turn things around in the afternoon. I made it through my semi final fairly comfortably finishing in 2nd. Then it was on to the A final, where I was the lowest ranked skier of the 6 of us, but I knew that didn't mean too much. I had a bit of a slow start, but we were all very tightly packed going into the first hill. Unfortunately for all but two of us in the heat, a guy at the front crashed and caused 3 of us to be slowed down while we navigated around him, while the other two guys were able to take off and get a lead. They managed to stay out in front and take 1st and 2nd place, and I was able to hold on for the bronze medal. So, all things considered from that days events, I was fairly content with my end result.

Todays race was a 9km classic interval start. It was 3 laps of a very hilly 3km course. I was feeling pretty good in my warm up this morning, so I was hoping for good things. I decided that I would go out harder than I have in the past, and hope that I wouldn't blow up before I reached the finish line. This tactic proved to work out pretty well for me, and when I crossed the line I felt really good about how I skied my race. I ended up falling 15 seconds short of the podium, finishing in 4th place in the Junior category, and 21st in the overall mens results.

Now that the Alberta Cups have wrapped up, I'll do a couple more days of training here in Canmore, and then it will be off to Silver Star BC on Wednesday for the first NorAm of the season, taking place next weekend. From there, we will pile back into our team vans and drive to Rossland BC for the next NorAm, which will be taking place the following weekend. These two weekends of racing will be my first chances of the season to see how my competition from eastern Canada is looking this year, and I can't wait!

I'll try to do updates like this one immediately following each race weekend to let you all know how things are going. Until then, happy skiing!!