Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lake placid adventures

                Lately, when I scroll down my facebook newsfeed, I have come upon many blog posts about training camps from skiers all across the country.  When you are bombarded with pictures of fellow teammates and competitors skiing on a glacier in Europe or reading about others who are training with world cup level athletes, it is hard to avoid even the slightest feeling of jealousy.  In the meantime, I was preparing for my first training camp of the season in Lake Placid, New York. It would be logical to think that these blog posts and the fact that I have visited the host town of the 1980 winter Olympics approximately 14 times, would make my upcoming training camp seem much less thrilling.  But the thing is it is honestly one of the best places I have ever been for training. The great rollerskiing roads, the endless hiking (I have still not climbed all 46 high peaks) and the beautiful places for post-workout swims make it a one of a kind training destination.
On our  7 hour hike up Marcy and Algonquin (photo credit to Jesse Wiliams)

Training camps = living with others. As my coach pointed out, at a training camp you may be spending around 20 hours of the week training but the rest of the 316 hours are spent with your team. Now here is the problem, athletes love their food and if you take anyone’s food, accidentally or not, it may start a brawl.  During the first week we were lucky to have two houses and more than enough beds for the amount of athletes. We switched houses for the last 3 days, with limited bed space, which created quite a ruckus.  The point is, learning to live with others and making compromises is not the easiest thing but it is important to realise that without your team mates the training camp would be extremely boring.

During the 9 days we did various workouts. I definitely think one of the highlights was the track workout. I was a bit skeptical at first, when my coach told us his crazy idea of putting skiers on a track and making them do 400m running repeats. The goal was to run 8 times 400m at 90% of your maximum pace.  After the first one, I could already feel my legs and even my arms fill up with lactate acid but I surprised myself by keeping the same pace every rep. It was as hard as I anticipated but also a lot of fun!
As you can tell, we worked hard ( note the ski jumps in the background)

Before climbing mount Hurricane, we made a trip to the local thrift shop and picked out some impressive costumes.  The result was this wild summit photo. 

After one of our long rollerski workouts we went cliff jumping. I have been cliff jumping many times but had never seen a cliff quite like this one. Even though the height was not extreme, the waterfall to the right of it made it seem much scarier.
The cliff is on the right of me, it is not where the people are standing (photo credit to Kieran Jones )
Seeing as it was a volume week, races were non-existent.  So to satisfy our competitive athlete spirits we decide to go mini-putting. Our whole team headed over to the pirate themed mini-put in downtown lake placid. To increase the excitement (which was not really necessary), the winner was to win ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s. A few celebrations later, Prince Philip ( Phil Marshall ) was crowned winner of the mini-putting cup.

All in all, it was a great week of training spent with a great team.

Until next time!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

World juniors, the inside scoop

Yup, I have been back for two weeks. I don’t have a good enough excuse that can justify such a late post... but given that I have had so much time to work on it I promise it will be good. Enjoy!

Our ski team left Ramsau and headed to Liberec where the world junior’s competitions was going to take place. What was set out to be a 7 hour drive turned into a 14 hour adventure. Most people would call this a nightmare, but our van crew and I actually had quite a good time.  I would like to blame the extra duration of our journey entirely on the wild snow storm and the bad sign system in Czech Republic, but we definitely played a part in it too.  Our 14 hour escapade boils down to breaking one of  our vans  wind shield wipers, waiting 45 min in a gas station, getting stuck in extreme traffic, getting lost in Prague because of, let’s just say,  misleading Google map explanations and an appetizing stop at McDonalds for supper.  All of this complete with nonstop entertainment: the continuous replay of 20 hit radio songs!
On our midnight run on the train tracks when we arrived in Liberec

We finally arrived at our home for the next 10 days, the ridiculous hotel Babylon. Why would I describe Hotel Babylon as ridiculous? Because it features a casino, Water Park, bumper cars, bowling, mini-put and the list goes on.  What makes it so ironic is that the rest of the city is completely run-down.  I still haven’t figured out weather the hotel is a place for people to stay during travel or if it is an actual destination, Czech Republic’s Disneyland perhaps?
Some of the decorations in our Hotel

I’m sure you are all reading this to find out about the racing. So here is the scoop.
The first race was a classic sprint, definitely one of my favorites. The race course was to my advantage, 3 perfect striding hills.  You may think that the fact that I was way out of my country racing against the best of the world would make me overly nervous, but for some reason I wasn’t. Maybe it was because I the whole thing hadn’t sunk in yet. In any case, it probably helped me achieve what ended up being my best result of the trip.
At the race site in Liberec
Monday January 21

So there I was, at the start line, wearing bib number 25 and a red and white racing suit. The bib and the suit gave me confidence; they were proof that I belonged there at the starting line, among the best juniors in the world. Ten seconds to start... 5 seconds, 3-2-1 and I was off. As I fell over the finish line, about 3 minutes later, I had an amazing feeling. If you are a skier you probably know what I am talking about, if you are not, then you should definitely start racing! I’m talking about the feeling you get when you believe you attacked every single part of the course, putting all your effort in every push so that when you cross the finish line you have nothing left to give. I got up and stared at the big screen listing the results. My name was in 24th and to qualify for the heats you have to be top 30. I stood there for a good ten minutes as I watched my name descend to 25th, 26th, and finally to watch it hang on to 30th. The suspense was huge! I started observing the rest of the skiers coming in and tried to guess whether they were going faster than me or not. Eventually it was confirmed, I had qualified! I had achieved my goal and was on to the next: improve my result. I attained that goal in the quarter-final, finishing 5th right behind an American which placed me 25th overall.
During my ten day stay in Czech Republic I did a crazy amount of things.  So here are the really awesome things and the not so awesome things about the trip.
Not-so-awesome things
The food at Hotel Babylon:  I have always liked potatoes, rice and pasta because they are great for carbo-loading and usually pretty tasty. But when you eat it with brown sauce (or what I am guessing is gravy) and have it for lunch & dinner ten days straight, It can get a little boring and hard to swallow.
The smoke: people smoke everywhere, even in the hotel lobby. It felt like my lungs were blackening by the second.
5km skate race: I felt like I just didn’t race my best and was pretty disappointed with how I finished, but hey, life goes on! I am at world juniors after all.
Super awesome things
The shopping: There is a mall about ten minutes (walk) from our hotel. Also most of the stores are ones we don’t have in Canada, and everything is super cheap, bonus!
The fireworks at the opening ceremony: I was expecting there to be only be a couple but it lasted quite a while. They were shot up right behind and over the big church in the town square, pretty impressive.
The church where the fireworks went off
The pursuit: The start was hectic, girls were tripping and falling everywhere and I was one of them. Yes, I fell a few times and broke a pole, but it was a great learning experience. I also had a lot of fun skiing with my fellow Canadian team-mate, Cendrine Browne during the skate portion of the race.
The pizzeria in Liberec:  We went out for dinner the last 3 nights to a pizzeria in Liberec because we were so sick of the food at our hotel. I am not sure what it was called but the pizza was amazing and cost around 8$ for a huge pizza! I kept the leftovers for lunch the next day.
The mountain:  One day we went skiing on what we call the mountain. It is about a 15 minute drive from Liberec and it was an absolutely beautiful day. I think it was the only blue sky we saw during our entire stay in Liberec. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones who wanted to take advantage of the nice day, so the trails were literally crowded! We spent most of the ski trying to dodge the millions of tourist.
On the mountain
Prague: We had the chance to spend one night and half a day in Prague. It wasn’t as long as I would have hoped but it was a lot fun!
On the famous Charles Bridge in Prague

Can you see me?
Now that I am home, I have to face reality: School. Next up in terms of racing are Orford and Far hills, two Quebec cups and then Nationals in Whistler! It will keep me busy, but don’t worry, I’ll find time to keep writing, so please keep reading!



Friday, January 18, 2013

Sleep, eat & train in Europe

Sleep, eat & train in Europe

I am writing this from my hotel in Ramsau Am Dachstein, Austria. I am here with the rest of the junior and U23 team who have qualified for Worlds in Liberec, Czech Republic.
The last few days have being quite exciting but also very different since it is my first time in Europe.  For a cross-country skier, while we are preparing for a competition, there are 3 very important things we think about: Sleep, food, and training. During the last few years of training I have gotten into a routine that revolves around those aspects.  It seems though that coming to Europe has completely thrown me off my regular routine and the adjustment is not as easy as you would think.

Sleep. It all started with an 8 hour flight from Toronto to Munich, Germany. It was the longest flight I had ever been on and honestly I was a bit excited about the free food and movies.  The flight departed at around 6 so I had been told to try to sleep as much as possible on the flight because when we arrived in Munich we would not be allowed to sleep until 8 that night (Austrian time which is 6 hours later). I was already pretty tired so I didn’t think this would be a problem. So after keeping myself awake until the free food came by, which consisted of chicken and “couscous” that looked more like fish eggs, I dozed off.  Unfortunately my eyes did not stay closed for very long and by the time we arrived in Munich I had about only 2 hours of sleep. Keeping my eyes open for the rest of the day was, let’s just say, a bit of a challenge.  Luckily our beautiful ski in Ramsau helped take our mind off our sleep deprivation!

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Skiing in Ramsau

Food.  We are eating at our hotel and I am not going to say that the food is bad, I will just say that it is... different. I soon discovered that their favorite flavors are butter and salt, and lots of it! I have yet to search the amount of people in Austria with clogged arteries but my guess is that there are a lot!  I have nothing negative to say about the breakfast except that I find it a bit odd that they serve fresh vegetables, meat and cheese. Other than at breakfast, it is very rare to have fresh fruit and veggies. Most of the vegetables are pickled.

Training. The skiing here is amazing! We can ski right from our hotel and the trails are always perfectly groomed. It has snowed a lot since we got here but for some reason there are still tractors spreading snow on the trails- what service!  Unfortunately, the mix of lack of sleep and altitude (about 1100m) definitely has an impact on my energy level! If you’re planning to come to Europe to train anytime soon, here is a little tip: ski really really slowly.

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The whole Canadian U23 and junior girls team at the world cup stadium in Ramsau

Thanks for reading J