Friday, 10 March 2017

Double World Championships and making Olympic criteria

Race season is winding down quickly, Wednesday I raced the Drammen World Cup sprint and now I am back in Canada. There is only the World Cup finals left next weekend then a few races at Nationals.  It’s crazy how quickly the season passes by. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was boarding a plane in Calgary to head to Europe for the first races of the season.

Having been back in North America for January and then racing the U23 World Championships in Utah it split up my European travel nicely.
U23’s were a great event and it was exciting to see the talent coming up in Canada and be one of the leaders of the team instead of a youngster for once.  I had my best international result in the sprint, qualifying 8th and finishing the day in 12th. 
In the pack during the 15km Skiathlon
U23 World Champs quarterfinal action
From there I travelled back over to Europe to join the team and prepare for my first Senior World Championships. Leading up to World Championships we race a World Cup in Otepaa, Estonia. In the sprint I qualified 30th for the heats and finished 29th at the end of the day. This was my third top-30 result of the season, which means that I have now met the Olympic nomination criteria for the 2018 Winter Olympics. 
Bib number 1! Pretending it was a mass start not an individual start...
Sprint heats in Otepaa! 
Otepaa sprint qualifier
I left Otepaa feeling really excited and confident going into World Championships. Preparation went well and I was amped for the Sprint, the first race in Lahti. In my warm up my body was feeling heavy and once I got out on the race course I couldn’t find my usual form. I crossed the line feeling disappointed with my race before I even looked at the results. I placed 37th in my first World Championships race, not a bad result by any means but after having raced into the heat just 5 days earlier on the World Cup it was definitely a bit of a disappointment to not make the knock out rounds at World Champs. As the week went on I started to feel a bit better again with each race. I skied the team sprint with Cendrine, raced the 10km Classic, anchored our relay team to 10th place (best result since 2001) and finished off the championships by posting my best individual result of the week with a 34th place in the 30km Skate. The championships ended with the men’s 50km the last day. Since we were done racing we swapped out our race suits for our parkas and lined the course to cheer on our men. It was absolutely amazing to be there to watch my teammate Alex take the 50km gold and become World Champion. 

All the hugs

Thank you Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club for the signed flag! 

Best support team ever! Thank you all!! 

From Lahti I took a 3-day trip to Norway. I got to ski at Holmenkollen in Oslo and race the Drammen World Cup, which is a city sprint through the streets of Drammen Norway. It was a really fun race and I felt like I skied well. Unfortunately I came up a bit short of making the heats but I took full advantage of the day to stay and watch the heats and enjoy the amazing atmosphere. I think Drammen is my favourite WC venue of the season.
Meeting Devon and Kristin's beautiful little girl Asta
Making friends in Norway!!
Sprint qualifier in Drammen!
The boys told me it's never sunny in Oslo, they were wrong, two days of beautiful sunny skiing!

Now that I'm back Canada, I have a week to recover and train in Quebec before World Cup finals start March 17th!!!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Getting ready for my final Junior/U23 World Champs

Next week marks the end of a generation for me. It has been eight years since I first put on the Canadian suit to represent my country against the best cross-country skiers my age in the world. This was at the 2010 World Junior/ U23 Championships in Hinterzarten, Germany. Now 7 years and hundreds of races later I will be competing at my final World Junior/ U23 Championships still with the same maple leaf on my suit but as a very different person and racer and with very different goals. Instead of being the 15-year-old baby of the team with only 2 pairs of skis and no expectations except for to do my best, I am now the oldest on the trip, the experienced World Cup athlete with more skis to test than I can carry.
How times have changed. As I go into my final U23 World Championships, I am trying to remember the feelings I had my first time racing for Canada in order to minimize the thoughts of pressure I put in my own head and to focus on doing my best by having fun racing my heart out in the sport I love for the country I love.
With the U23 World Championships in Utah it is a huge advantage for us.  We do not have to travel over to Europe and we know the courses we will be racing. I have set high expectations for myself and will do my best to try to achieve them but in the back of my mind I keep reminding myself that I am not defined by one week of racing. No matter what the results, there will be many more days to come where I will have great races wearing the maple leaf and U23’s are just three races in a season where I will do over 30 races. There are many great races behind me this year and many more amazing opportunities to come, including Senior World Championships in Lahti, Finland and World Cup finals, which are being held in Quebec City, Canada.
Relay's are amazing because you are racing for more than just yourself and those are the times when grit you didn't know you had shows through. Racing my best race of the season in the World Cup relay in La Clusaz, France in December
I am super grateful for the amazing season I have been able to enjoy already and the opportunities I have been giving for the coming months. It has been a highlight to be able to race to 25th and 26th place finishes on the World Cup on back to back weekends in December and record the second fastest time on my leg in a World Cup relay. To race to a 3 second victory in the skate sprint prologue at U.S. Nationals and to start out so hard in a race that I ended up losing over 30 places in the final kilometer, an experience that is frustrating and humbling but will not doubt make me stronger the next time.
With only a few days left before the World Junior/ U23 team travels to Utah, I am enjoying some quiet moments in one place before I hit the road again to kick off the second half of my season which includes 17 race starts and 6 countries. I won’t be back home until the end of March, good thing I’m used to living out of a suitcase.
Until next time! 
On top of the U.S Nationals Sprint podium in Solder Hollow, site of the upcoming World Junior/U23 World Championships
Photo: FasterSkier

Enjoying being back in my AWCA race suit with some amazing teammates for the final U23 World Champs prep racing at Western Canadian Champs in Whistler last weekend.

Top of the sprint podium at Westerns in Whistler, feeling ready for Worlds. 

Some days all you need is a long ski with coach. 

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.