Wednesday, 26 March 2014

My last nationals as a junior and my best yet!

From Whistler BC last year to Corner Brook Newfoundland this year, the 2014 Ski Nationals literally took us from coast to coast. We were on the rock for 13 days and experienced everything from -20 winter weather to 100km/hr winds to +6 degrees and rain to beautiful sunshine. I was amazed by how quickly the weather could change. While in Corner Brook I raced all five of the Nationals races. I did not do the team sprint last year so I was very excited to be racing it this year with my Whitehorse and AWCA teammate Emily Nishikawa who has just returned from the Olympics in Sochi. The team sprint was a classic race which we both love and together we were able to pull away from the rest of the teams in the first 2 laps to take first by a comfortable margin. Our second Whitehorse team made up of Kendra Murray and Annah Hanthorn skied an incredible race as well to place 3rd and join us on the podium! With Knute and Colin taking third in the men's race it was a great first day for the Whitehorse club. 
Team Sprint! 

In the 5km  classic race the next day the conditions were tricky for waxing and the team all ended up going on "rub skis". I won the junior women's category but I was more pleased with the fact that I finished fifth in the open women’s category only 3 seconds behind World Cup Team athlete Perianne Jones. I was also first U23 and was only beaten by Olympians in this race. As a team the Yukon once again had a strong showing with Emily claiming gold in open women, Knute bronze in the open men and Annah bronze in junior women. 
Crossing the finish line in the 5k, ever second counts
My first Open Women's podium at Nationals!

Junior Women's podium

For the next two races I was able to keep my junior women's nationals  yellow leader bib placing 2nd in the 10km skate race and 3rd in the skate sprint. 

Thursday's sprint qualifier

Group hug after the A-final, I love this group of ladies. I feel so lucky to have such a strong peer group to race with

Sprint podium

At the start of the last race of the week I was tied for first place in aggregate with Katherine. In the 3 individual races we had both finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd. This made the 20km mass start classic very exciting. Whoever between the two of us won would win the aggregate award for the week. Knowing it was winner takes all I pushed the pace from the beginning and at 10km we were down to 3 in the lead group, katherine and I as well as my teammate Annah. Katherine and I had been taking turns leading all race and part way through the 3rd of 4 laps I tried to break but Katherine came with me making it now a race between the two of us. On the 4th and final lap I tried to break again on the same climbs and this time was successful, racing the last 3km as if it was a 5km race I didn't slow down until I was in the finishing corridors. Winning the 20k classic assured me the overall junior women's aggregate title something that has evaded me the past 3 nationals. This was the first time I was on the podium in every race, 5 medals in 5 races! My first year racing in the junior women's category in 2010 I also won the overall aggregate so it was nice to end my last nationals as a junior the same way I had started my first.
Katherine and I in Canmore earlier this year after both having qualified for World Junior Championships.
Photo cred. Emilie

The mass start classic day was not just a great day for me it was also the best day ever for the Yukon Ski Team and the Whitehorse club. We had a total of 7 podiums and two 4th place finishes. These stellar results moved us up in the overall club standings to second place behind Nakkertok. Our best ever result in the club aggregate! Annah who skied strongly all week was 3rd once again in junior women, Emily was 2nd in open women, Graham 3rd in open men. Are younger skiers also rose to the occasion with Caelan winning the junior boys, Simon placing a close second in the juvenile boys and Hannah D. placing second in juvenile girls with  her brother Marcus and Natalie just off the podium in their respective categories. I am so proud of my entire team!

All the Yukon Ski Team ladies at the Fast and Female event in Corner Brook

When we were not racing we also had the chance to ski some of the recreational trails at Blow-Me-Down which are just lovely and on Sunday after the racing had concluded I was able to venture out to Gros Morne National Park for a little hiking adventure. Unfortunately my camera died so I don't have any pictures of Gros Morne to display. Friday we also put on a Fast and Female event at the Memorial University campus. I had a group of 9-11 year old girls all from Newfoundland. It was great to be able to talk with these young ambitious girls about their dreams. At the finish line of my 20km race Saturday two of the young girls that were in my group at Friday's Fast and Female were waiting for me! I hope to have inspired them but I know for sure that they inspired me and can't wait to watch them race when they are old enough! 

Finally I would like to thank Blow-Me-Down Ski club, the 2014 Ski Nationals organizing committee, my coaches and teammates on the AWCA and Yukon Ski Team and most of all the wonderful volunteers for making the week such a great success. 
My season is now over other than a couple of local races this weekend here in Canmore. Thank you to everyone who supported me this season and helped me make it my best yet. I am looking forward to getting back to training in May and working hard so that I can charge onto the senior scene next season! 
Wishing everyone a wonderful spring full of fun outdoor adventures,
Thanks for reading

Saturday, 1 March 2014

La Lettonie et L'Estonie- Castles, Rain and Ski Racing

For the past two weeks I have been traveling around the Baltic countries racing at the Latvian National Championships and on the Scandinavian Cup circuit. I did 5 races in 9 days in three different locations. It was quite a busy race schedule with lots of travel and little time to adjust to the new places. I was traveling with CNEPH, the National Training Centre based out of Quebec. We were 8 athletes and 2 coaches and for me this was a great opportunity to brush up on my french as I haven't used it much since graduating high school. I'm happy to report that by the end of the trip I was both thinking and dreaming in french and hopefully not making quite as many mistakes as at the start of the trip.
Starting the 5km classic in Priekuli
The first stop on the Baltic tour was Priekuli Latvia for the Latvian National Championships. Despite the lack of snow, their trails were very nice and we had a 2.5km man-made loop to race on. I only raced the first day in the 5km classic and finished 1st in open women, claiming my first senior national title, albeit in a different country. The following day I had the chance to visit a 13th century castle in the town of Cēsis where we were staying. It was very cool and had lots of history, including being invaded by Ivan the Terrible and the Russian army in 1577.

Latvian Nationals Podium

Andrea, Alysson and I ready to tour the Cēsis castle! 

Old fashion lanterns

View of the castle

After Priekuli we traveled south an hour to Madona Latvia where we raced two scandinavian cups.
The scandinavian cups were a very high caliber of racing as all the best scandinavian races who were not at the olympics were there. The first race was a skate sprint and I was happy to qualify for the heats in 27th place. I was able to move up one position in my heat to finish 25th on the day. It was a great experience to race head to head with World U23 Champions and World Cup athletes. The following day we raced once again on a 2.5km loop to do a 10km race. This meant that there were lots of people on course to ski with and around, I finished 29th.

Sprint Start, I'm bib 27

Moving across the field

Staying with the group

10km Skate

Skiing the first few laps with Anne-Marie and a Swede

 For our last two races of the tour we traveled north to Otepää Estonia for a set of classic races. The same as the previous races, rain was the forecast. Racing in rain and warm weather is always challenging especially with the fatigue of having already done 3 races that week. This weekend was a great learning experience on how to push your body. In the sprint I once again qualified for the heats finishing 26th and in the 10km classic I came 31st, first junior and second canadian both days.
After the last race we drove directly back to Tallinn to begin our two day travel adventure home. Stopping down it seemed wherever possible. I traveled to Frankfurt, then Munich, then Toronto and finally Calgary before making it back to Canmore. All this while still being able to catch the finish of the men's 50km at the Olympics and the last 10min of the gold medal hockey game. We timed our drive to Tallinn pretty well!
The Yukon squad all smiles 

Now I am back in Canmore after having been in Europe for over 5 weeks. With 10 races overseas I feel like I have learned lots of valuable things and have lots to work on this summer so that next season I can return to Europe stronger and faster.
In less than two weeks I travel to Corner Brook Newfoundland for the Haywood Ski Nationals, our last races of the year. I am looking forward to being back on the canadian scene and racing somewhere new in Canada!
Merci une autre fois a l'équipe de CNEPH pour m'apporter avec vous sur votre tour en Europe. J'apprécie vraiment la chance d'avoir l'opportunité de faire plusieurs courses internationaux et d'avoir la chance de mieux connaître votre équipe.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Nationals!
Thanks for reading
À tantôt