Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Back to Canmore

Mountains, sun and great skiing! It’s great to be back in Canmore! GRP had great representation at the World Cups hosted by the Canmore Nordic Center with Pat, Caitlin, and I all racing.  (Noah Hoffman photo)

With a thick manmade base of snow, topped with natural snow made for kilometers of perfect skiing. It was a real treat! We had lots of choices of terrain to ski on as well. The XC race trails had long hard uphills, the Banff trail was more gentle rolling terrain, and the Frozen thunder loop was still open on the biathlon side but most of us skied enough of those loops in the fall. (Noah Hoffman photo)

Fast and Female took advantage of the World Cup skiers in town and hosted an event for local girls. Since we were all busy racing, we didn’t ski and the relaxed event focused on inspirational talks. All the ambassadors shared a lesson they had learned from ski racing. I spoke about balancing school and ski racing because I believe college is a great path for many young racers. My favorite speech, though, came from a Canmore World Cup Academy racer, who spoke of distracting herself from the pain during the race by visualizing herself as different animals throughout the race. For example, over a three lap race she may progress from an Albertan horse to a gazelle to a jaguar as she picked up the pace and charged for the line. We all got a good laugh and maybe I’ll give it a try sometime!

The day before each race, we do a race prep workout together as a team. This involves a L3 effort around the course and is an opportunity to warm up the engine before the hard race while experiencing the flow of the course and practicing important transitions. Skiing it as a team mimics the mass start feeling and a fun way to work together the day before the race. Here are Kikkan, Holly, Sadie, Caitlin, and myself climbing out of the stadium at the start of the L3 lap.

We were ready the next day to work together in the 10km classic mass start race. Sadie and I skied most of the race together before she dropped me going into the finish, scoring her first distance WC points with a 25th place finish! I just missed the points crossing the line right behind Holly in 31st.  Top 30 score World Cup points so 31st is never somewhere you want to be but with two races left in Canmore it left me hungry for more.  

Here’s a shot of the pack in a World Cup race. The pace usually starts out super fast and there is lots of aggressive skiing. The course in Canmore started climbing steeply out of the stadium so we were working very hard from the gun. In this race I was bib 45 so you can play “Where’s Waldo” to find me in the pack. It was fun to ski with a lot of different people including many teammates. In this shot I’m following my former Dartmouth teammates Rosie Brennan and Sophie Caldwell so it kind of felt like we were working together for an EISA carnival race!

Skate sprint day! I narrowly sneaked into the heats with a 28th place finish but I was able to move up from there. In the qualifier I went too hard on the top of the hill and my legs were dead. So in the quarterfinal I tucked in the back of the pack and was able to draft the big downhill and move up to second in the final sprint, advancing to the semifinal. I did ski tactically as well in the semifinal and found my self on the opposite side of the draft. This time I was the one being passed in the final meters and I had to settle for 5th in my heat. This was still my best ever skate sprint finish with a 10th place overall. I’m still learning a lot about the tactics of the sprint heats as each one plays out a bit differently. (Rob Whitney photo)

Kikkan, Andy, and I at the awards with Klister the Canada World Cup mascot.  The podium won cowboy hats so that will be a fun prize for Kikkan to travel with for the rest of the season.
The sprint day was another great day for our team with Kikkan finishing 2nd, Andy 5th, and Skyler, Sophie, and Sadie all skiing fast qualifiers and racing in the heats. Here are Kikkan, Andy, and I at the awards ceremony with Klister the Canada World Cup mascot. The podium won cowboy hats so that will be a fun prize for Kikkan to travel with for the rest of the season.
The last race day was a 15km pursuit race so 7.5km of classic skiing, a quick transition to skate gear, and then 7.5km of skate racing. After getting too excited in the previous 10km mass start race and wasting a lot of energy trying to move up too quickly from my poor start position, this time I focused on staying controlled and moving up slowly when openings arise. The pack strung out quickly with the fast pace set by Justyna Kowalczyk but I stayed relaxed, hoping I would have opportunities to move up during the long race if I skied within my own limits. This turned out to be a much better strategy. (Rob Whitney photo)

More skiing with teammates! Here Holly leads Kikkan and I during the classic section of the pursuit.  
I continued to move up during the race and really surprised myself with a 14th place finish on the day, my best distance World Cup finsh by far! I had fast skis and my body felt good. It takes a lot of races but when everything comes together it sure is fun! These races were great way to end Period One of the World Cup.


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