Monday, 12 December 2016

The building blocks: taking on the World Cup

 This weekend marked week three of the World Cup race season. Now that we are seven races into the season things are starting to feel a bit more routine. This past weekend was the most successful yet. I cracked the top 30 for the second time in my life with a 25th place finish in the Davos Skate Sprint World Cup after qualifying for the heats in 27th. Hitting this benchmark is an important step for the season. Top 30 results give you World Cup points and are one of the main selection criteria for event qualification.  This result puts me one step closer to qualifying for the big events that are coming up in the next 14 months including World Championships and the 2018 Olympics.

Pushing hard around the corner in the sprint qualifier in Davos on my way to 27th and whipping my hair while I'm at it.
Photo: Marcel Hilger

Showing my pain face which looks a lot like my smile in the quarter finals, before finishing 5th in my heat.
Photo: Marcel Hilger
Although I didn’t score any points in Saturday’s 15km Skate in Davos it was also a good race for me. I finished 42nd and it was my best distance race so far this year both results wise and feeling.
The season started in Ruka, Finland at the end of November and then moved to Lillehammer, Norway for a 3-day mini tour the first weekend of December. The first five races of the season all had their positives but also had areas to improve on.  In a very deep field I had some respectable results including a 50th place in the classic sprint in Ruka but each race left me wanting more. Now nearing the end of this first period of racing, I am thinking of each race as a building block, part of the foundation I am going to need going forward this season and into the coming years. With each weekend getting better I am now looking forward to our final weekend of racing in La Clusaz, France. La Clusaz will host a 10km Skate mass start and a 4x5km relay. With four women on the world cup right now we will be able to field a relay team. This is the first time in many years that the Canadian women will start a relay team in the pre-Christmas race period. 
Emily and I running home along lake Davos after the 15km Skate. 

Warming up for the 5km Skate in Lillehammer. The course was already lined with cheering fans. Lillehammer had one of the most amazing race atmospheres I have ever experience with so many people out cheering not just for their own athletes but for every competitor.
Photo: Lisa Patterson

Working on those building blocks in a tough 10km Classic the first weekend in Ruka, Finland.
Photo: Nordic Focus

Racing the 5km Skate in the Lillehammer mini tour. Despite finishing a not so fabulous 62nd I was racing in the top 30 for the first half of the race before running out of energy on the final monster climb and dropping down to 62nd on the results list.
Photo: Nordic Focus

Beyond the racing, my trip to Europe has been full of learning and new experiences. I have been fortunate enough to see two new countries, Sweden and Norway, and I will be going to France for the first time this Thursday. I have also been to 5 towns/cities I had never been to before. I have learned lots about these places that all have a rich ski culture. We spent our first two weeks training and racing north of the arctic in Sweden and Finland. The days were very short but we had great skiing and it put me in the Christmas spirit early. As the trip progressed we slowly made our way south. From Finland we travelled to Lillehammer, Norway which is at a similar latitude to Whitehorse (where I grew up). Lillehammer not only offered amazingly tough race trails at the Birkebeineren ski stadium it also offered us hours and hours of amazing flatter terrain to train on. Our first day in Norway we took the opportunity to drive up the hill 20 minutes to Nordseter where we set off on a beautiful two hour ski without repeating ourselves. All along the trails there were ski in cabins. After skiing here you can really understand why Norway is so strong in our sport, it is more than just an activity, it is part of peoples lives. From Norway we flew to central Europe and said goodbye to the snowy landscape. In Davos the only snow is on the tops of the surrounding peaks and at the race venue where they have done an amazing job of making a 6km loop from snow farmed and man-made snow. Despite the lack of snow we have enjoyed beautiful sunny days and the breathtaking scenery of the valley. One of the big highlights for me have been the clear nights with the moon lighting up the mountains around us and some of the best star gazing I have seen in a while. I am really looking forward to yet another new experience when we head to France in a few days. There isn't any snow there either but the organizing committee is working day and night to get a 2km race course ready for us. From La Clusaz, it will be homeward bound for some good rest and holiday fun in Whitehorse over Christmas. Cendrine and I each bought swiss chocolate advent calendars upon our arrival in Switzerland so we are happily counting down the days until Christmas!
Here are some of my favourite non-racing pictures from the trip so far! Happy holidays and happy skiing!

Cendrine and I enjoying life north of the arctic circle after our sprint in Ruka and making friends with the local reindeer. 
Enjoying the perfect winter conditions in Gallivare, Sweden

Emily skiing in a winter wonderland that is Gallivare

Skiing some of the 100's of kilometers of trails above Lillehammer around Nordseter and Sjusjoen. That place is truly a skiers paradise. 
Emily and I skiing past one of the many lakes around Nordseter

Enjoying a beautiful evening run in Davos, no snow on the ground but still amazing views.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Snow is in the Air

Snow is in the air. Our September intensity block is far behind us and the colourful leaves have been replaced by frosty mornings. After a solid block of time trails and multiple intensity session a week, the team switched gears to long slow distance and lots of it. My past few weeks have been spent in the lovely Park City area. This year was my third time doing a fall training camp in Park City and for once I didn’t bring enough warm clothes. Our first week was typical bluebird skies, long roller skis up the many mountain passes and a z3/4 interval session down in North Salt Lake. It was great to have a big training group again with the three National Training Centres coming together for the camp. Just like in Mt. Tremblant this summer I was able to  ski and run with different people almost every session. On our rest day we played our annual football game since we were in American and all and I managed to get a minor sunburn before the winter weather moved in. 

Our training view most days! 

The second week treated us to a drop in temperature and lots of precipitation. One hour into our planned 4hr roller ski up big cottonwood canyon we were skiing through ankle deep snow/slush. Our ski may have been cut short but the mountain run through the snow-covered forest that followed might just have been my favourite workout of the camp. There wasn’t anything special about this run except for the fact that running through the snow thinking about how soon winter will be here go me so amped for the race season. And of course snowy conifers and bright yellow aspens look so beautiful together.

Maya and I pumped on the snow

It’s only two weeks until our first official time trials in Canmore and just over a month until my first race of the season in Europe and I can’t wait. All the hard work has been put in and now it is time to rest a bit, refine my race speed and make sure my body is ready for the busy winter schedule. After our snow day the sun came back out and we finished the camp with some more awesome roller skis and runs. We capped off the camp with a classic sprint time trail at Soldier Hollow on a course similar to the one we will race at the Junior/U23 World Championships which they are hosting this winter. All in all Park City was a very positive camp, I was able to get in one last big volume block before the race season, refine my striding technique on all the long mountain passes and get myself super excited for the race season.

5hrs and 3500meters, Mirror Lakes is always a favourite workout!

The view from 3500meters 

Finishing the camp with a beauty hike

Cendrine and I made some new friends post workout

Post camp I went down to sea level to Tofino, BC to splash around in the waves on my surfboard and recharge my battery after living and training above 2000m for two weeks.  

Now as I drive back to Canmore to get ready for a week of testing I’m dancing a little in the car because Frozen Thunder opens in a week and Lake Louise is looking rather wintery already so we could be skiing on Moraine Lake road very soon! October 28 kicks off the race season with a distance time trial on Frozen Thunder followed by my teams fall fundraiser dinner. The Alberta World Cup Academy is hosting A Taste of Fall four-course dinner with wine pairing and an amazing silent auction. Plus you get to spend the evening with my wonderful team. If you are interested tickets can be found here:

If you are in Calgary or the Bow Valley on the 28th please come out and join us in celebrating the start of a new ski season! Today marks one month until I leave for Europe, so bring on winter.

First signs of winter on the Moraine Lake road!
Thanksgiving dinner in Tofino!

Ocean sunsets! 
A misty morning on the water
I love hiking in BC, there's alway new gems to discover!

Thanks for reading, until next time with adventures and tales from Europe, 


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Big Rewards Require Big Risks: Crossing the World to find Winter during our Canadian Summer

The Destination:  Snow Farm, Cardrona, New Zealand

The Camp Plan: Ski, ski and ski some more from July 31st-August 21st 2016

The Travel:  Canmore ->fly from Calgary->San Francisco->Auckland->Queenstown->Rent a car-> drive on the left side of the road to the Snow Farm

The Team: Emily, Maya and Dahria

A typical day at the Snow Farm

The Story: 
As athletes we dedicate our entire lives to become the best possible at our chosen sport. For me that is skiing. So when the idea of skiing from 3 whole weeks in the middle of summer was presented to me, I jumped at the idea. Despite the cost, distance and time change, being on snow and training the exact movements we use all winter to race seemed like the right thing to do. New Zealand didn’t just start having winter from July-September this year, it has always been there (after all it’s in the southern hemisphere) being utilized by many before me. But for the first time this spring, I felt it was the right training choice for me. I felt I was mature enough as an athlete and an experienced enough traveler for the benefits of the trip to now outweigh the possible negatives. My excitement over going was echoed by my teammates Emily and Maya who were also keen to travel across the world to find snow. So together the three of us organized a training camp at the Snow Farm in New Zealand for 3 weeks in August.  

 I have skied lots in the summer before, 4 days on a glacier here another week on a glacier somewhere else but never twice a day everyday for most of a month. After being back in the northern hemisphere, on my home continent for the past few days, I can say so far so good. As of right now, my first New Zealand training camp was a smashing success. The conditions were perfect, just like mid winter in Canada, the people, accommodation and grooming was phenomenal, the Snow Farm is awesome. And the best thing about the Snow Farm, it’s not a glacier, so you’re not skiing at 2700m, you’re only skiing at 1600m, which means… You can train as you normally would with hard intensity workouts, race simulation/time trials and strength workouts all while putting in 23-25hour weeks on snow. There just aren’t the limiting factors that we experience when skiing in the summer in Canada at high altitude. And if you get tired of skiing (which is impossible I know), you can drive 45min to either Queenstown or Wanaka and have your choice of many beautiful tracks (kiwi word for a trail) to run or bike on.

 Going beyond the fact that there is no better way to train for skiing than to ski. One of my main focuses/goals this summer has been changing the way I ski, in other words, changing my technique. With the help of my coaches we have been breaking down my movements and building them back up again. We made a lot of progress on roller skis through June and July but brining these new concepts and adjustments onto snow for the first time has allowed me to see if they are truly making a difference. Was I able get more glide or power? Did the changes make a difference or not? I was able to see where I’m at and what still needs to be worked on before the race season arrives.

 These past three weeks in New Zealand camp have made up one of my favourite camps of all time. I skied lots, experienced a beautiful new country, met a bunch of husky dogs that were from the north just like me, drove on the left side of the road (successfully) and probably the non skiing highlight of my trip, I got to pet, feed and cuddle with merino sheep!!!!! Words don’t really do the Snow Farm and New Zealand in general justice so here are a bunch of pictures to try to convey the awesomeness of my experience. 
A post about an amazing training camp can't be left without acknowledging the people who helped make it so great. I want to say a huge thank you to Robin, Ian and the entire Canadian Para-Nordic Team for being so helpful to Emily, Maya and myself during the camp and making us feel like part of your team!! You all went way beyond what we could have expected and I thank you for that.
Deciding to make this trip happen was a big risk with scary consequences but in the end it has given a huge reward and hopefully a lot of benefit for the upcoming season. Only time will tell. All things aside I'm already starting to plan our trip back for next year. 

Still perfect corduroy as the sun starts to set on an afternoon ski!
The iconic view from Bob Lee hut, one of the three back country huts along the trail system. 

The rocks and topography was quite stunning around the Snow Farm

So stoked about winter!!!

Taking in the view along the Hanging Valley trail.

All smiles part way through a ski.

View from town- Lake Wanaka

Chester the horse, one of many friends I made at Mt. Nicolas Farm on our rest day

View of lake Wakatipu from Mt. Nicolas Sheep Station

Nibbles the sheep 2 seconds before he pulls out my hair, he was a big attention hog. 

Chilling with the Sheepies

Trying to take a nice picture but the sun was so bright and strong I couldn't keep my eyes open. Best problem to have!

Maya and I at the Rob Roy Glacier.

A nice little run to change things up. Enjoying the scenery of Mt. Aspiring National park from a different perspective. 

Maya and I excited to go running after driving our car across 7 streams/fjords to get there. 

 A group of sheep eying us suspiciously just before sunset.

Time trial action. Trying to learn from one of the best, Justyna, skiing behind her for a few seconds before she dropped me. 

One of the many spectacular sunsets that an iPhone just can't capture properly. Thank you New Zealand!

Now it’s only a short two months until I’m back on snow again. In the meantime as I sweat from beneath my helmet while roller skiing and my feet start hurting again from the vibrations of the pavement, I will be dreaming on my past three weeks of perfect skiing way down under, in the southern part of the south island in the southern hemisphere.  I can’t wait to return again.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Spring update: Sand, Snow and Northern Adventures

Summer Solstice was a few days ago, the days are getting shorter again, my roller skis are finding a more permanent home under my feet and the thought that I will be back on snow in just over a month is starting to flicker at the edge of my thoughts more frequently.

My past two months have been focused on building strength, building capacity and implementing new methods all without too much focus on roller skiing. Almost all my ski specific training in May was technique sessions on snow. The past two months have been great; this is the first summer in two years that I haven’t gone into spring training treading cautiously. Following my recovery month which I spent the latter half basking in the Hawaiian sun trying to improve my surf skills, followed by a short trip to Vancouver Island, it was back to skiing. Also for the first time in a few years, I felt like I came out of April in pretty good overall shape, so getting back into the gym and going on long runs wasn’t such an ordeal.

Seaside Yoga, playing tourist and checking out the sites on Maui. 
Seb and I enjoying the beautiful running in the Haleakala crater. 

Our new year started with quite a few great skis up a Sunshine. Despite the low snow year, the sunshine village grooming crew gave us great tracks to train on. One of the big changes we’re making this season, as a team is technique based. Working with our new technique coach Kathy we took advantage of the snow to break down our technique and start building it back up, better than ever. The rest of the spring has been a mix of gym workouts, long runs, a running race, time on the roller ski treadmill for technique and testing as well as a 3 day Alberta World Cup Academy mini bike camp at Nipika. I had never been to Nipika before, and I was blown away by how beautiful it is there, needless to say we had a great camp with a good mixture of biking, running, double poling and sauna(ing). This was the first time we had (almost) the entire team together. It was great to get to know the new teammates. The bike camp was also at a perfect time, one week before the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay, in which I raced two legs on a team with friends from Whitehorse.  The KCIBR is a bike race that goes from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines, Alaska, this race is a mainstay among many Yukoners and Alaskans.

Maya and I (L-R) looking pretty matchy on the last up at sunshine.
Flying up to Whitehorse a few days before the bike relay just in time for solstice was a great chance to spend time with my family and catch up with many of my amazing sponsors. The bike race was a huge success as always. Other than a flat tire that my teammates fixed in about 45seconds, the race went really well. Strong headwinds made for a really good workout and my new purple kit from Icycle Sport made me look super speedy. 

Cheering on Kendra and getting ready to race my legs while enjoying the beauty of the Haines pass with Claire and Travis.
Photo: Claire

Crossing the finish line in Haines. Photo: Claire
After the race was over I had a mini rest period up north before I flew to Montreal/Mt. Tremblant for our present camp.
 In my four days at home I took advantage of the lack of structure. Starting with a gorgeous hike in the Haines Pass with friends. We found lots of snow up high and I remembered how much I love the northern alpine. While at home I was thoroughly spoiled by my sponsors. Icycle Sport our local bike and ski shop has sponsored me with a brand new Giant Trance Advanced 1 mountain bike. I took it for its maiden ride the other night and oh my, it is AWESOME!!! I can’t thank them enough for the bike and the continued support they have given me. Thinking things couldn’t get any better I went to visit two of my other sponsors. Stopping in at Alkan Air to see Wendy and catch her up on how training was going, she offered to send me out for a flying lesson the following morning. Instructed by my former classmate Drew who is now a flight instructor, with a bit of help I took off and flew a Cessna 172 up over my parents cabin out of town and over a few mountains that have taken me hours and hours to hike up. I got to the tops of them in 10minutes. It was really fun to learn how planes work and all the different things that go into flying. Once it was time to land Drew took over and got us smoothly and safely to ground.  Still feeling the adrenaline of being up in the air I pulled my old basketball shoes out of the cupboard and set off the play a games with my old team against the current Team Yukon basketball team. Other than some very sketchy shooting on my part the movement and feel came back instantly. Playing with my old team, it felt like we’d never been apart working together and reading each other like we still played together four days a week, not once every 4 years. Coming home and slipping my feet into my new pair of moccasin was a perfect last night in the Yukon. The slippers, a gift from my sponsor Delmar Washington, owner of Capital Helicopters, who I went to visit when I was home were made by his mother a Haines Junction elder. Solstice in the Yukon is always my favourite time of year and this year was no exception. Filled will family, friends, my favourite activities and such amazing gifts, my trip home left me feeling spoiled and thankful for my community.  

Bike relay team enjoying a post race hike in the Haines pass and looking pretty cool... haha

My new bike!!! Note my really excited face in the window refection

First ride!

Such beautiful artistry!!
View from the air!!

Proof that I flew a plane

Posing with my Cessna 172 after the flight. 

First time the family has all been together since last June. Crazy how time flies.

Best team ever!! Great to reunite for a game while I was home.  Photo: Claire

Our group working really hard during 1 minute all out repeats. One of three bike test at P2 in Montreal this past weekend. Thanks to B2Ten for having us. Photo:Chris
Maya and I stepping up our matching game with our bamboo fibre Swix shirts. Skiing on the F1 race track in Montreal. 

Every year solstice marks a transition in my training season when I re-forge that daily bond with my roller skis and spend a bit less time in the saddle and a top mountain passes. Now out East, the sun is setting early and the training centres have all assembled for our first National camp of the year. We have just had two hard days of testing at B2Ten and P2 in Montreal and are now on route for ten days of training in and around Mt. Tremblant. I am really looking forward to a great camp with so many Canadians training together and am doing my best to hold up in the heat and humidity! As I’m sweating profusely these next few days I will be thinking of the New Zealand winter and the now I will be seeing in just over a month.