Monday, April 15, 2013

And That's a Wrap


The first half of the season was full of racing from NorAm cups to World Cups to the World Under 23 championships it felt like I was constantly racing and travelling  Once Eastern’s were done however I was back in Canmore and facing a slightly less busy second half of the season. Next after the Eastern Canadian Championships was the Western Canadian Championships in Grande Prairie Alberta. I had never been to Grand Prairie and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The race trails were surprisingly difficult given that they were in a place named Grande Prairie and as an easterner my first thought when I hear the word prairie is of a flat landscaped where you can see the curvature of the earth. As it turns out however Grande Prairie does have hills and they make good use of them on their race courses. The weekend was set up as another minitour just like at Eastern’s but with the techniques changed. We started off with a skate sprint I had a relatively good day on the narrow fast course and managed to make it into the final to finish the day in fifth, my best ever NorAm skate sprint result. The next day however I woke up with a sore throat. I decided to race anyway but unfortunately I had very little energy and finished a distant 15th. After this race my coach’s and I decided it would be better to skip the last race and get ready for the rest of the season rather than risk getting more sick.

Nationals

This year nationals were being held at Whistler Olyimpic Park one of my favorite race venues. With Nationals being held very late this year, we had a lot of time between races in the second half of the season. Luckily we filled this with some Alberta Cup racing.

Nationals for me got off to a decent start. I teamed up with Steffan Lloyd for the second year in a row in the team sprint. Last year in classic we placed third, this year however it didn't go quite as well for us. We got off to a bit of a rough start in our semifinal and just made it in to the final. The final went much better for us and we managed sixth. Not quite a podium but a good result nonetheless.
The Team Sprint is the one race a year I get to wear my Nakkertok suit!
Photo: Kevin Jones
Team sprint final
Photo: kevin Jones


The very next day was the 10km skate. After a bad night’s sleep I woke up feeling very tired. I felt I had very little energy in my warm up and just hoped I would feel better during my race. My first lap was not good and I managed only to have the 73rd fastest time at the half way mark. On my second lap however I got a good ride from Knut Johnsgaard and started to feel much better. I posted the 13th fastest second lap placing me in 27th overall in a very competitive field. This wasn’t by any means an amazing result yet it was still perhaps my best individual skate race this year and considering how I felt in the morning I had to be satisfied.
Rounding the last corner in the 10km skate
Photo: Kevin Jones

After one days rest it was time for the 15km classic. This proved to be the warmest day of racing at Nationals. Since it didn't feel that warm in the morning I had neglected to bring a t-shirt to the race venue, I realized a couple of minutes before the start that my race suit was going to be much too warm and decided to do something I wouldn't normally do and race with just my bib. I realized a couple of minutes in that this was the right decision since even with my limited clothing it was still a hot day. I started hard, trying not to make the same mistake as in the 10km and posted the 17th fastest time on the first lap. On the second lap I dug deep and managed to move up to 12th as the 10th Canadian. This was probably my best distance race since before Christmas so I was very happy to be racing that well so late in the season since that is something I have struggled with the last couple of years.

Next up was the classic sprint, my favorite event. I started the day off with a bad qualifier managing only 21st. I told myself that it didn't matter since I had had very good days before after bad qualifiers. This day, however, turned out to be different. I had absolutely not energy in my quarterfinal and had trouble keeping up on the long climbs (usually my favorite part) I got dropped on the second big climb but managed to catch up a bit on the downhill and flat coming into the stadium. I managed only fourth in my quarterfinal, not good enough to move on. This was a huge disappointment and was the first time since becoming a senior that I have not made the final in a NorAm classic sprint. Clearly something was wrong. I was just tired, I had managed a few decent races from simply being determined and ignoring the constant bad nights of sleep and lack of energy but now it had caught up to me in a big way.

After talking to my coach’s we decided to cut the upcoming 50km in order the rest and get ready for a couple of races I was planning on doing at Super Tour finals in Truckee California the next week.   

With that my Nationals were over and a few days later I found myself heading to California for the first time in my life.  

California

Truckee California is situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe and is known for getting meters of snow every winter. Unfortunately this winter was not a normal winter and after some of the driest weather they have ever experienced the organizers had to scramble to pull off the event. Many of the races were moved to a higher venue which at 2200 meters above sea level was 600 meters higher than I had ever raced before and is nearly as high as the Haig glacier.
I went to Truckee planning on racing two races. This being the end of the season and knowing that I was getting tired I thought it would be better to focus on having two good races rather than planning to do all four only to get tired and not do well in the races I wanted to.

California at it's best
Photo: Sam Tarling http://www.samtarlingnordic.com/
My first race was a 15km classic mass start. I had had possibly my best race of the year in this same event in Silver Star in December so I was looking forward to racing it again. The race started fast and I was immediately left chasing on the winding technical course. On the first lap I moved up a few places on the one big steep hill but soon found that I was losing positions on the rest of the course. No matter how hard I worked there was no getting around the fact that my skis were running very slow. Each time up the courses biggest climb I would gain a few spots only to lose them again on the rest of the course. I finished the day a disappointing 30th far from what I had been hoping for.
Hot weather and thin air many of the best skiers simply walked up this hill
Photo: Mark Nadell 
http://www.macbethgraphics.com/

The next race was going to be my last of the season so I was very much looking forward to it especially since it was a classic sprint. Unfortunately the night before I had a high fever and barely got any sleep. I got up the morning stuffed up and definitely sick. Since it was the last race of my season however I decided to give it a try anyway. I gave it my best shot, but unfortunately I just didn't have the energy I was exhausted and simply couldn't push and for the first time in my life I didn't qualify for a domestic level classic sprint. This was a disappointment for sure but given how I felt I couldn't be too surprised.
Classic sprint, no energy and no speed it was time to end the season 

It’s always hard to end a season on a bad note, but I have to stay positive the truth is I have had a very successful season with many good races. This season I got my first NorAm podium and then followed it up with two more, I started my first World Cups and traveled to Europe to race at the World Under 23 Championships. Sure I didn't finish off the season with particularly good races, but hopefully in time that will only make me more motivated for next year, but for now I’m just going to rest.

I would like to thank Classic Wood Mouldings and Dr. Beverley Mckeown dentistry for their support this year. Without them I would not be able to chase my athletic dreams. I would also like to thank Salomon  for their equipment  support as well as the Alberta World Cup Academy for making me work hard every day. Lastly I would like to thank my Dad. It’s not easy to be successful in the sporting world however having the support of those closest to you can make all the difference.
Patrick  
Our race entries included free lift tickets and rental gear at Sugar Bowl
Photo: Russell Kennedy 

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