Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Eastern Canadian Championships

I have just wrapped up my latest weekend of racing at the 2011 Eastern Canadian Championships at Nakkertok in Ottawa. The Academy and I flew out to Ottawa last Wednesday, and spent the next 36 hours hours preparing for the first race on Friday. Eastern's this year was in the race format of a mini-tour. So what that means is, it was 3 races over the course of 3 days, and your times from each race were added together and dictated your starting position for the last race. This meant that whoever crossed the finish line yesterday first, won the overall tour.

The first race was a 3km skate prologue, and was my first ever prologue. So I wasn't entirely sure how to go about it, but with a very big climb about 1km into the race, I decided it would probably be best to go out a little conservatively and then slowly wind it up, so that I didn't blow up at the 1km mark and have nothing left for the last 2km. So I went with this plan, and actually managed to execute it perfectly, but unfortunately this was not the best course of action. I ended up losing too much time in the beginning, and ended up finishing 7th Junior. So lesson learned, in prologues it's best to just giv'er from the start and hope that you don't start really bonking until you can see the finish line.

Saturdays race was a 1.4km skate sprint. This was a very up and down day for me. My qualifier was a pretty mediocre race for me, it was anything special, but I felt pretty good for it. I ended up qualifying 8th Junior, which was definitely further back than I had hoped, but I knew anything could happen in th heats, so I wasn't too discouraged. My quarterfinal went amazing well, I managed to get to the front after the first 100m and stayed there. I felt great and skied it tactically perfect, and ended up having enough of a lead coming into the finish to just ski easy for the last 100m. Sadly, this high in energy did not last much longer. The first half of my semi-final felt OK, but then I started hitting the wall and finished that heat in 5th spot. So my last race of the day was the B final, which was just brutal. The energy that I had had in my quarter was completely gone, and I skied in to the line to finish 12th on the day.

Going into the last race of the weekend, I was not feeling good. Having not had a proper nights sleep since I returned to Canada 2 weeks ago, I figured the fatigue from that was really starting to catch up with me. And with the next race being my first ever 30km, it's safe to say that I was pretty concerned, and wasn't even sure if I'd be able to finish the race. But, it just goes to show that everyday is a new day, because I ended up starting the race yesterday and moving my way up through the field to finish as the 3rd Overall Junior for the weekend. Considering my mentality before I started the race, I was quite pleased with my performance.

The 30km was a very cool new experience for me. I hadn't really thought, going into the race, that it would be any different than all of my other races (aside from just being longer, obviously). But at the 10km mark I thought to myself, "I'm going really hard, and I still have another 20km of racing to do...I don't know if I can hold this pace." But after a couple minutes that thought subsided and I just put my head down and kept pushing through the pain, and before I knew it the race was over. So these greater distances are way more of a mental game than I thought, and you really just have to trust your body and all the training you put in leading up to it to get yourself through. I thought that was pretty cool. A little nerve racking haha, but cool.

So all in all, it was a bit of a disappointing weekend for me. But, in the end I managed to pull through and get on the podium for my 5th straight Eastern Canadian Championships, so I'm pretty happy about that. I'm now back in Penetang for the week, before flying out to Halifax on Saturday for the 2011 Canada Winter Games. I got to try on all my new Team Ontario clothing last night, made me a little more excited :). So the goal for this week is to try to get my sleeping patterns back in check before I leave, because I really don't want to be going into the Games with a massive amount of fatigue building up in me. So with the help of my own bed, and my magical bedtime shake, I'm hoping to get back to sleeping normally and be ready to go by Saturday.

Until next time, happy skiing!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What a Trip!

Well, my first trip to Europe and first set of International races is now in the books. While I didn't really get to do much in the way of exploring cities and checking things out, I did get to ski at three different ski sites, and spend two weeks in two new countries, and it.. was.. awesome!

In my last few posts I talked about my experiences at the Scandic hotel in Finland and my journey to Otepaa, so I'll pick up from there. After my first race on the 26th, there were races everyday, alternating back and forth between Junior and U23 categories. Canada's first day of huge excitement and success came in the U23 mens 15km skate race, as Kevin Sandau raced his way to a 5th place finish. Us Juniors watched from our hotel, screaming at the TV as Kevin skied his final few kilometers to get his first ever top 5 finish at a World U23 Championship race. This result earned Kevin a spot on next years Canadian Senior Development team.

The next day was the Junior classic sprints. My qualifier was pretty disappointing as I broke a pole early on, so did not qualify for the heats. Sadly none of my other teammates managed to get through the qualifier either, with Andy being our top finisher in 31st spot (so close!). On the womens side, Heidi Widmer and Janelle Greer both managed to qualify for the heats, but were unable to advance past their quarterfinals.

The U23 sprints were the following day, and provided us spectators with some very exciting racing. On the womens side, Academy teammate Alysson Marshall managed to crack the top 12, getting her a spot on next years Canadian Senior Development Team. And on the mens side, Jess Cockney skied his way miraculously through the heats and found himself in the A Final! Qualifying in 30th spot (the last qualifying spot), he was able to ski his way to a comfortable 2nd place finish in his quarterfinal, which earned him a spot in the semis. And after finishing 5th in his semi, his luck kicked in big time. The other semi ended up being slower than his, and one of the Swedes who finished ahead of him ended up being disqualified. So after all was said and done, he managed to sneak his way into the last spot in the Final. He finished the day with an impressive 6th place, earning himself a spot on next years Senior Development Team as well.

The following day was the Junior Pursuits. Another disappointing race for me, but another experience in the bank. The top Canadian male of the day was Andy, finishing in 31st spot, and on the womens side, Annika Hicks finished as the top Canadian, also in 31st.

The next day was the final day of competition with the Junior Relays and the U23 pursuits. Our mens relay team managed to edge out the Americans and take 9th spot, while our womens team finished in 11th. The biggest excitement of this day however came in Mens U23 30km pursuit, as Canadian Olympian Alex Harvey was the top ranked skier in the field and looking for gold. And after 30km of racing, Alex out-sprinted Russia's Belov and took the win and got his first ever World Championships Gold medal. Watching Alex win this race was amazing to say the least. Getting to see the Canadian flag hoisted into the air and hearing our National anthem was possibly the most inspiring experience I have ever had.

Despite not having the results I was looking for, this trip was an incredible experience for me. In the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting back on what my goals have been over the years, and it’s hard to believe that at 19 years old, I have already achieved one of my lifetime goals of racing for Canada at the International level. It just goes to show that if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, as cliché as it sounds, anything is possible.

After we finished watching Alex's awards ceremony, we headed back to Helsinki where we spent the night before getting on the plane and starting the journey home. All in all, it was a 22 hour trip from Helsinki to Canmore, and I arrived home around 3:30am Wednesday morning. I will be spending 6 more days here, taking a short break before pressing on with the race season. I'll be heading to Ottawa next Wednesday, Feb. 9th for the Eastern Canadian Championships which will take place Feb. 11-13. I'll then head back to Penetang for a few days before getting back on a plane and flying out to Halifax to compete in the 2011 Canada Winter Games. This is by far the busiest race season I have had to date, and I'll still have another month of racing and traveling after Canada Winter Games, so it's safe to say that I am thrilled with how things are going this year!

I think that's all for now, I'm still a bit of a hurting unit from the jet lag, so I apologize if I left anything out. If anyone has any specific questions about my adventures, past, present or future, please don't hesitate to fire me an email!