U23 Trials

The last couple weeks have been taken up by all sorts of excitement surrounding the World Under-23 Champs trials races and, of course, the races themselves. Instead of posting up an Adventures in Wonderland Part 2 like I said I would, I’m gonna put that on hold for a bit and give a you some insight into the roller coaster of emotions that trials 2014 was for me.


With Canada’s top U23 and junior skiers vying for spots on one team or another, the trials races are as important–if not more important–than the Canadian national championship races later in the season. Add to this the fact that this year the U23 trials races are also the Sochi Olympic trials races, and you get every high-level xc skier in Canada peaking for the mid-January race weekend.
My big goal for this season was to qualify for world U23 champs, so at the end of December, with two weeks to go before the big competition, I made it my mission to do everything I could be to be ready for the U23 trials races. I napped everyday, I aimed for over 10 hours of sleep each night, I stretched and foam rolled, I did some hard intensity and I went over and over the races, visualizing technique and tactics in my mind. On January 8th, the night before the first race, I went to bed feeling calm. I had prepared more thoroughly than ever before for these races. I told myself: “tomorrow I am going to have the best race of my life.”

Now, at the end of this story there is good, and there is bad. In similar situations, I always ask for the bad first, so, here it is…
The bad: I didn’t make the world U23 Champs team. It sucks. When you train for 9months with a specific goal in your sights and then you don’t achieve that goal it’s pretty hard to take. The things is, if you are setting high goals for yourself chances are you aren’t gonna achieve all of them.
One of my endeavours as an athlete is to also be a stoic. Through the good and the bad I try to be philosophical: to not be afraid to fail, to not get hung-up on my victories and to learn what I can from both failures and victories and then leave them behind me. This is hard for me to do sometimes because I have a bit of a roller coaster personality–my highs are soaring and my lows are crushing. Even when I know what I have to do and how I have to behave, it’s hard to get back up and keep going.
Well, it’s taken me a couple days and a lot of iPod time, but I’ve finally come to terms with the this failure and I’m looking ahead again instead of behind. As I friend of mine wrote in her blog, you gotta always look for the positives–and what’s the positive I can take away from this? Getting knocked down makes me motivated. In each race for the rest of the year I will be racing angry, and for the whole 2014 off-season I will be training with more determination than ever before. 2015 World U23s? Watch out.

The good: Now that I’m on the topic of positives, I really did achieve a lot in the last week of racing. In fact, what I told myself on the evening of the 8th came true. I had my best ever result–placing 9th, 2nd U23, in the classic 15km on January 9th (ha, cool, I only just realized the result and the date are the same)–and then I stepped it up again in my next race, a skate sprint race on the 11th. Here’s how it went down…
I am very confident in my skate sprint qualifiers. I knew what I had to do the morning of the 11th, I raced relaxed and I qualified in 10th place.
The heats were the tricky part. In the two sprint races I had already done this season I had made some serious tactical errors in the heats. With sprint races in Canmore being almost always decided at the finish (because of a long downhill near the end that, through drafting, tends to close any gaps in the field) so I knew that the sprints here were going to be especially tactical–I’d have to ski smart. I planned to ski relaxed and easy, conserve energy and, unless I thought I could get a big enough lead on the last hill, save it for the finish.
The first heat went perfectly. I skied in the pack until the last downhill, drafted my way to near the front and went on to the semi finals without any trouble. In the semi final I used pretty much the same tactics for the first part of the race, but then ended up near the front on the last uphill before the big downhill at the end. Cresting the uphill, me and my teammate Phil were right at the front of the pack and nobody wanted to lead and get drafted on the downhill. The pace slowed… and then Phil put in a hard sprint over the top of the hill! I jumped in behind him and we opened a small gap between us and the rest of the field. The two of us managed to keep the gap right down the finish straight, and so I went on to my first ever A-final in the senior age category!! I was psyched. In the A-final I finished 5th, 3rd place U23, gaining my first ever NORAM podium! I think I looked like a bit of an idiot at the podium: most excited guy to finish 5th ever.
I’m in the yellow hat on the far right! Yay for 5th! Cool fact: this entire podium is Alberta World Cup Academy athletes.
Finally, on Sunday it was the 30km skiathlon (where you switch from classic to skate skis halfway through). With two solid first races I was easily in contention for qualifying for U23s before this race, but I just couldn’t stay with the lead group. I had my worst result of the weekend and ended up just missing the qualifying spot. Oh well.

Check out Zone4.ca and search “NORAM” for full results from the weekend.

All disappointment aside, it was a bit of a break-through race weekend for me, finishing not only top 10, but top 5 for the first times ever. Most importantly, I learned a lot and I’m very much looking forward to my next race weekend–Eastern Canadian Championships–back home in Cantley Quebec. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Dream Big!

Adventures in Wonderland

This is part one of a two part blog on the interesting ski-events that I’ve taken part in during the last month. Part 1 is about the early season NORAM races and part 2 (which I’ll release later this week) is about my first Christmas of adventures away from my Ottawa home. Look for more pictures in part 2… I’m not very good at taking photos on race weekends. Enjoy!

Silverstar is so nice
SilverStar
At the end of November 2013 we (the Alberta World Cup Academy) departed for Silverstar. I was pretty excited about the trip because it was going to be my first race trip with the Academy and because, after racing in Silverstar last season, I had kinda fallen in love with the place. For those of you unfamiliar with Silverstar, it pretty much defines “winter wonderland”. The cool thing about it is that it combines a very picturesque little mountain village, alpine skiing, cross country skiing and a crazy amount of early-season snowfall into one little location. The fact that the race venue (Sovereign Lake Nordic) has held World Cup races kinda speaks for itself.
After our first few days of skiing it became apparent that it was gonna be brutally cold during the upcoming races. The lowest temperature that you’re allowed to hold a ski race in is around -20 Celsius (you can damage your lungs if you race in much colder weather than this) and the highs for the weekend were hovering right around -20.
Waking up the morning of the first race–a 15km skate interval start–we still weren’t sure  if the race was gonna go ahead. Finally, after delaying the race until closer to midday, the officials gave the nod. I was in the Lord of The Rings fan club condo (we listened to the Hobbit sound track, like, all week) so some choice motivational LOTR quotes were spoken and then it was off to the races!
Unfortunately, after the beep, beep, BEEP of the race clock signaling my start, the motivational quotes were quickly forgotten. A consequence of racing at -20 is that the snow is BRUTALLY slow. I actually looked down at my ski midway through the race because I thought something was wrong with it, the glide was so bad.
The race culminated with my teammate, Patrick, catching up to me with about 2.5km to go and the two of us having a pretty sweet sprint for the finish. After the race we learned that there were places on course where it was well below minus 20… I was thankful I had worn mittens.
The next day was a classic sprint. Again cold weather interfered and again the race wend ahead after a delay. The classic sprint was even more disappointing for me than the skate 15k. I made it through the qualifier just fine, but got tripped up and crashed right at the start of my quarter final and, thus, didn’t go through to the semi’s. On top of this, I broke a brand-new pole in the crash!!! Not my best day.
Our Condo in Silverstar

I had felt pretty stressed (for a number of reasons unrelated to skiing) and fatigued leading up to the Silverstar races and I think these things led to me not racing my best. Thankfully, after a gorgeous day of skiing the recreational trails on Silverstar mountain, we moved on to NORAM #2 in Rossland BC; another two opportunities for me to put down some solid early season races.

Rossland
This was my first time in Rossland and the first thing that struck me on arrival was the grocery store. My maple syrup container AND my Olive Oil container had some how both exploded on the drive over, ruining some of the food I’d packed from Silverstar and leaving me none-to-pleased. But, when I arrived at the Rossland grocery store to replace my ruined food, my disappointment turned to wide-eyed excitement: the store here had way more selection than Canmore and it was cheaper!! It was a wondrous store to behold.
Just like in Silverstar we arrived in Rossland on Tuesday evening, so we had 3 days to ski the trails in preparation for our races. Our races in Rossland were opposites (technique-wise) of Silverstar–a skate sprint on Saturday and a 15k interval start classic on Sunday. The 5km loop that we would be using for our 15k was brand new and it looked to be one of the toughest NORAM race courses yet, with almost 200m vertical of climbing each lap. The skate course was slightly more boring with respect to its hilly-ness, guaranteeing some very tactical sprint heats. As the weekend came round I felt ready. I had prepared better in the week leading up to it; I felt more energetic than in Silverstar.
On Saturday morning I made it through the qualifier as expected. Going into the quarter final my goal was to go off super-hard at the start so as not to get tangled up and crash like at Silverstar–and I achieved this goal perfectly! I went to the start right away and led for the first 3rd of the race. Unfortunately, I think I ended up wasting a bit too much energy at the start because I died a bit at the end and didn’t make it through to the semi finals. All the same, I learned a lot more in this sprint than at Silverstar so I felt a lot better about it.
I’ve been keeping a journal lately, so I thought this “how-to” book on the subject (which happened to be the only book in our condo in Rossland) was pretty awesome.

Sunday dawned bright and early. In preparation for a good hard 15k we listened to Harder Than You Think, on the drive to the race site. If you’re ever looking for a solid pump-up song for workouts or exams or any performance situation, this one is it.
With most of the climbing on course being in the form of a couple REALLY steep hills, I knew that I had to have bomber grip on my skis for this race, so I went back twice, after wax testing, to get more wax put on and just made it to the start on time.
I was happy right away with my choice of tons of grip wax, but it turned out that the first hill out of the stadium was iced over whereas out on the big hills on course the snow was softer. When I hit the top of the first big hill out on course I almost fell flat on my face; snow had built up in my kick zone as a bounded up the hill and it stopped me in my tracks. “No!!” I thought, “I’m going to be walking down the hills for the next 12km!!” But after 10 meters or so of fast striding to scrape off the snow my skis were gliding again. I would’ve breathed a sigh of relief if I had enough breath.
As the race went on I continued having to “fast-stride” the snow off my skis at the top of each hill to prevent myself from having a nice face-first in the snow experience, but I looked at the positive side of things: the snow build up on my skis allowed me to pretty much run up all the steep grades on the course. 
After about 45min of suffering out on the race course, I crossed the finish line to one of my best NORAM results ever! I really felt my new higher level of fitness in this race, but I kinda under-estimated it. Looking at the lap times afterwards my 3rd lap was over 30 seconds faster than either of the laps before it!! I gotta trust myself to be able to push harder right of the start line.

Almost directly after the race we left town (goodbye amazing grocery store…. *tears*), and drove back to Canmore through an exciting snow storm. So ended my 2013/14 season of early racing… but the ski season has only just begun!

For results from the two weekends of racing check out Zone4.ca (search: “NORAM”), and for a couple articles from the two weeks from a more team based perspective, check out my Team’s Website.

Dream Big!

The Apocalypse is Nigh

What do haircuts, untimely snowstorms, the coming of new equipment and time trials have in common? If you know me well you’d probably say: “they are events that you have experienced in the past couple weeks!!!” And you’d be right–but that’s beyond the point. What each of these five events have in common is that they are all a sign of the IMMINENCE OF THE APOCALYPSE. Yes, you heard me right. Doubtful? Let me present my arguments.

What drives an individual to get their haircut? Is it the annoyance of having to brush hair out of the way whenever they want a clear view of objects in their sightline? Is it because their hairstyle is starting to look reminiscent of that of some obscure rock group from the late ’70s–and the individual happens to not be a fan of rock ‘n roll from that era? Is it the simple fact that it pushes their headband higher on their head whenever they want to keep their ears warm?
In reality, the reason for haircuts is SOCIAL CONFORMITY. In turn, social conformity signals a development of a less culturally diverse population, a loss of individuality and, the beginning of humanity’s eventual evolution into zombies.
We all know that zombies are part and parcel with the apocalypse.

I’ve been running back and forth between home and the Nordic Centre since I don’t have a car.  The day of the big snowfall it was around -20 C, so I dressed accordingly for my morning commute (and blasted Billy Talent as per usual).

This being my first year in Canmore, I was pleasantly surprised when, contrary to the suggestions of historical meteorological data, we got quite the early-season dump of snow two weekends ago. But, my pleasant-surprisedness quickly turned to dismay when I realized what this early snowfall really symbolized: AN EARLY-SEASON APOCALYPSE. Unseasonal weather phenomena are a sign of climate change and climate change will destabilize the biological systems of us humans, making us more susceptible to the virus that will turn us all into zombies. Zombies signal the apocalypse (see above).

Pretty sweet early season snowfall!

New equipment is required for all those who hope to have a chance of surviving the zombies. Thanks to Swix and Salomon for increasing my chances of survival!!!

Last week I participated in a time trial with my Alberta World Cup Academy teammates. The cool thing about it was that we went off in two mass start waves, with the U23s (myself included) being chased by the older senior athletes, rather than the usual interval start TT format. It was a really good opportunity to work on skiing in a group and practice my mass start tactics and, afterwards, I felt pretty good about the whole experience (if a bit tired). 
Unfortunately, shortly afterwards I realized that maybe this time trial was just our coaches preparing us to outrun zombies. Although I haven’t inquired to this end, I expect our coaches have heard news of an incoming zombie epidemic and are training us so that we will outrun the zombies more effectively than the athletes at the other training centres, thus securing our spots for World U23 Championships (you can’t race if you’re already a zombie, duh). Note that I am not suggesting any similarities between our senior athletes and zombies.

Thus, each of these events is a sign of the imminence of zombies, which, of course, are a sign of the apocalypse. I rest my case….

…although, I suppose these events could also be a sign that race season starts in 5 days.

Race fast and Dream Big, People!!

Race Philosophy and Lake Louise

Race season is so close now I can taste it!!! Or, maybe it’s just the snow I’m catching on my tongue. Either way, it tastes good.

With Winter and ski racing being first and foremost on my mind today (….and…. actually, pretty much everyday), this blog post has two elements–which are kinda given away in the title. If you need colourful visual stimulus to keep you reading stuff, first, good luck with life; second, skip down to the Lake Louise Section of the blog and enjoy.

Race Philosophy

A friend of mine was asking me for ski racing/training tips the other day and one of the tips I came up with for her was about the mindset I carry into a race. These three tips are pretty universal to life, so if you don’t ski race feel free to slot in words pertaining to whatever thing you are currently pursuing, whenever I mention ski racing, and then go out there and keep pursuing it!
1) Today is unique. You will have no other opportunity in your life to race on the given race course, under the given set of conditions, with the given group of competitors. Make the most of the opportunity!!! Go out there, race the best you can and take advantage of and enjoy the situation on the day! 2) Don’t be afraid of failure (I know this one is a bit cliché–but I had to add it). Sometimes you learn more from a failed experience than a successful one. See your mistakes as opportunities to learn! Which brings me to the last, and possibly most important race-philosophy tip….
3) Ski racing is an ongoing learning experience. That’s one of the things that makes it so rewarding! Each race experience that you have (and when I say “race experience” I mean time trials too) is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and to learn about what works and what doesn’t work for you to help you perform the best you can. See every race as the fun learning experience that it is and try to take a few things, that will help you be faster in the next race, away from each race that you do. If you can learn something from every race then every race–even the bad ones–will have an element of success in it. To help facilitate this, I keep a race journal. The night before each race I write important things (like start time, warm up routine, goals for the race, etc) in my journal and afterwards I write a review of the race in it. In the review I like to include things that went well, things that I can improve and any other points of interest that I’d like to remember.
Lake Louise
In my experience, there are few things better than training camps. Of the few things that are better, both “race trips” and “last minute training camps” make the list. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced, in a very last minute-fashion, that we were to have a training camp this weekend in Lake Louise! Although that excitement quickly changed to stress when I remembered that I had to write a midterm on the Saturday of the camp, the stress has now faded away into the past with the help of the calming effect that both fresh snow and finished midterms have on me. Thankfully, with L.L. only an hour drive from Canmore, I was able to get a ride up to our first on-snow camp of the year when my midterm was done (thanks Val!).
Alex and I at the top of Moraine Lake Rd. Thanks to Lars for taking the pictures featured in my blog today!

 Although Lake Louise doesn’t bump out Silverstar as my top “paradise on earth” ski location, it is really, really nice for early on-snow sessions–especially considering that there was only about 15-20cm of snow on the ground for the duration of the camp.

Looking up at what I believe is Mount Temple, the tallest peak in the region.
I got a some good workouts in over the course of the 3 days I was there for. For me, there were two really cool stand-outs from the camp. First, there’s the fact that the trail we were skiing up–Moraine Lake Road in the summer (fun fact: Moraine Lake was featured on the 1969-70 Canadian $20 bill)–is primarily made up of a pretty continuous, almost hour-long climb. Of this hour of climbing a large part is a perfect classic striding grade! Made for some nice zone1. Second, this morning we got to do a really fun/hard skate skiing-speed interval set. One of the harder on-snow interval sets that we’ve had this year–and it went well! Only thing was that the trail was SUPER busy; it made for some interesting mid-interval dodging of other skiers. I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen as many skiers on one trail, in Canada, as there were on Moraine Lake Road every day of the camp. I decided to attribute this to the fact that xc-skiing is growing, as a sport, in North America. Live with it.

I think the only regret I have from the camp is that I didn’t make a snow angel in the powder at the top of Moraine Lake Road! Next time…

Dream Big, people!

Nice two skating… gotta get more knee bend.

Safety, Health and Waxing

Posted on Thursday, December 06, 2012

Safety, Health and Waxing

Concerns about hazards associated with waxing came to the forefront with the advent of flouro waxes. The concern was that fluorine gases could be liberated; which are very nasty indeed. While I think you will probably still find warnings to keep them away from open flame, this actual problem with flouros is not that prevalent. However the wax room is a pretty nasty industrial workplace. There is a need to take precautions or it will affect your health. Here are the things that worry me:

1) Flouro dust: while the gas produced by the flouro waxes may not be much of an issue, brushing flouro waxes produces a very fine dust. Now, I’m not sure exactly what it is doing to the body, but I do know that if I work without a mask brushing flouro skis I get a splitting headache. To cause the headache that stuff is getting into my system. If it’s getting into my system to affect the brain, it is also getting into my lungs. I don’t want it there. There may well be long term impacts that I’d just as soon avoid. I wear a gas mask with a good dust filter on the outside. If you find that too uncomfortable, then please wear a good dust filter mask and I mean good. I always keep on hand a couple well-fitting ones with a carbon filter built in.

2) Wax smoke and vapour: That smoke coming off the iron and even some of the vapours that don’t look like smoke are small bubbles of liquid hydrocarbon. When the cool down they become solid bits of hydrocarbon. If you breathe them in (and you will if you are standing over the wax bench) they will solidify in your respiratory tract and your lungs, in turn impacting respiratory function in either the short term or long term. Most ventilation systems really don’t help much here, so take personal protection. Wear a mask.

3) Solvents: Wax removers are a problem in vapour form, particularly after extensive use. They can affect lung capacity temporarily and other parts of your body (like your liver) in the longer term. There will also be some absorption through the skin, particularly if you are using lots of solvent, like you do when taking off klister. Wear a mask with a hydrocarbon filter and consider gloves when doing lots of skis. I have taken to using disposable gloves when removing wax; the up side is your hands don’t get as sticky.

4) Wax shavings and dust: While I don’t think that hydrocarbon wax is as much of a problem as flouro wax, I don’t want all that stuff on my wax bench in my lungs. Cold waxes in particular seem to produce a finer dust. They also really dry out the hands causing skin to crack. I use light weight rubber palmed gloves, sometimes called assemblers’ gloves, when working with skis. Not only do they prevent hands drying out, the also defend against carbon fiber splinters from the edge of the base.

In my opinion, all athletes should wear a gas mask when in an active wax room. I would recommend a standard gas mask, available in many stores, with a hydrocarbon and a dust filter. From my point of view, and it is a pretty educated one, we should all wear a gas mask, gloves, and consider safety glasses when using hard waxes or power tools.

It makes for a less social wax room, but a safer one.

Dealing with Road Rash

By Dawn M. Richardson, MD FACEP

You’ve probably been there before: Up all night between stages because you have a fresh batch of road rash and it’s throbbing. Every time you roll over in bed, your nasty gooey aching hip sticks to the sheets and wakes you up in pain. Your significant other is grossed out and reminds you that you get to do the laundry for the next few weeks.

Click Here to read the full post.

Frozen Thunder-struck

To the excitement of skiers all across North America, Frozen Thunder was spread out the weekend of the 19th in Canmore! 

Frozen Thunder sunrise.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, Frozen Thunder is the name given for the 2+ km ribbon of snow which is spread out mid-October at the Nordic Centre. The snow for the loop is stored under wood chips all summer long only to be revived from its dormant state mid-October–with the help of dump trucks, piston-bullies and an excavator. The really cool thing about it is that, being one of the first early-season opportunities to get on snow in North America, Frozen Thunder has become more than just a short loop of ski trail–it’s an event. Top skiers from all over North America flock to Canmore to ski on the loop and, with the help of the annual Frozen Thunder sprint race, an air of festivity has developed around this little bit of groomed snow!
Best time to hit-up Frozen Thunder is early in the morning (as pictured). Around 9am it gets super-busy. 
My Salomon and Swix gear making the transition from rollerskiing to on-snow with me!
Unfortunately for me I decided to practice my wheelies on a short mountain bike ride the day before Frozen Thunder opened–a decision which affected this last week in a number of ways for me…
First, it led to me lying on my back on one of the Nordic Centre’s trails, contemplating the sky with a very sore lower-back and hip. Second, it induced a flurried activity of Physio visits. Next, it caused me to miss the first day of Frozen Thunder and to spend the next couple days focusing on double polling. In the middle of all this I decided to not put up a blog post last week because I was feeling kinda bummed about the whole situation (sorry!). Finally, I ended up skipping the Frozen Thunder sprint day last Thursday because I didn’t want to push my hip to hard.
No matter how many times I am bothered by a nagging cold or pulled muscle, missing training on account of an injury or illness doesn’t get any less disappointing. That being said, there are certain things that are really important to keep in mind during a bought of unhealthiness, to keep things in perspective. Here are my top three pieces of advice:
1) I know it’s ridiculously cliché, but there is a positive in pretty much everything. Even when you can’t practice your sport physically, there are still many other things you can do to improve as an athlete. Search for the positive in the situation and see involuntary down-time as an opportunity to improve another side of your athletic performance.
2) Never loose sight of your longterm goals, especially when you’re working through an injury. The thing is, even if you miss weeks or months of training, it’s not going to affect where you want to be in your sport a few years down the line. This is pretty empowering knowledge when you aren’t well (and another great reason why you need to have longterm goals!).
3) The mind is extraordinarily powerful. If you can stay in a good place mentally throughout a time of injury or sickness, chances are you are going to heal much faster. The faster you can mentally overcome the disappointment of missed training the faster you will heal physically.
As I write this it is snowing. How nice :)
Speaking of being healed, on Saturday I did classic skiing intervals on-snow on Frozen Thunder for the first time this Winter and my hip felt solid! With one month left until the first races of the season it’s time to put the icing on the metaphorical cake.

Anyway, let them eat cake!!–I mean–Dream Big, People!!!

The Art of Focus

You carry your cell phone around with you 24/7 and are constantly checking and sending texts, trying to catch up with people elsewhere–even as you interact with those around you less and less. You’re studying for your exam and the neighbours are still playing their annoying pop music next door. Whatever, facebook says your friends are partying this evening. You can study for your exam as you wait to get into the exam room, right? You’re walking to the grocery store when you run into that person you haven’t seen in forever! Two hours later you’re done your thirty minute shopping trip and you’re late for that date you had. Uh oh.

Everyday we are bombarded by a myriad of distractions, causing us to be in a constant state of rushed multi-tasking that hinders us from accomplishing those things that matter most. This self-inflicted pressure to be everywhere at once really seems to have become a part of our society, and in some instances maybe having a scattered focus is necessary. But these “instances” are not universal.

Focus, like most words, can mean different things in different contexts; when I use focus as a noun in this blog I usually mean the ability to forget all stimuli and all thoughts irrelevant to the task at hand. If the ultimate goal is the completion of the task to the best of the one’s abilities having a focus like this is absolutely vital.
Wanna become less of a tourist?? Use focus!
Today I’ve put together some tips on focusing from the knowledge I’ve acquired ski racing and from reading Pursuit of Excellence (see below). Although a lot of my tips come from a ski racing perspective, the essence of them can be applied to many other areas of life. Remember, what works for me may not work for you; that’s what makes life so interesting.

Tips on training your focus:
– Read your way through In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick. It’s a great read and a great way to improve your focus and other mental aspects of performing one’s best.

– Come up with your own “focus training routine”! What you wanna do is start out simple: make the commitment to take some time once a day or, if you’re kinda lazy, once a week, and practice focusing on different things:
1)You could practice by sitting with your eyes closed and, starting with your toes and ending with the top of your head or fingers, focus on what each part of your body is feeling at the given moment.
2)You could practice by visualizing yourself performing to the best of your abilities (this is like killing two birds with one stone ‘cause it builds your visualization skills too). I visualize myself skiing a section of familiar race course with the absolute best technique and pacing. If I wanna make it harder I imagine possible distractions and then practice overcoming them and returning to my best focus ASAP.
3) Practice using your focus to levitate your X-Wing out of the swamp.
Whatever you decide to do to train your focus, start with a practice time of no more than 10min. It’s really hard to maintain a top focus much longer without your mind starting to drift.

–Practice focusing on particular objectives when at practice. It may not be a race situation but it’s the next best thing.

–Treat every time trial as if it was a race! Use these opportunities to learn about and practice your performance focus.

Performance focus:
So you’re at your performance, you’ve trained your body and your mind and you think you’re ready to go. What can you do to make sure that you’re focus snaps into place when you need it? Well, for starters, you can start by asking yourself this question a bit earlier…

–In the day(s) leading up to your performance make sure to take the time to visualize yourself performing at your best in the environment where your race (or event) will take place. Come up with solid goals and come up with a way of making sure you stay motivated when you’re out there doing what you do. I like to come up with key phrases to tell myself when I feel my focus or motivation leaving me before or during my ski race. Ex: “Relax”, “Time to go!” “Today only happens once: make it count” “Choose to hurt”.
–Race day: Find a way to get yourself in “the zone”, to “find your flow”, to be Zen. I do this by closing my eyes and listing to music, by going over my key phrases (see above) or by praying.
–At the start/during the race:
The most important thing to realize about focus is that FOCUS CAN NOT BE FORCED. Yep, deal with it. With this in mind, the most important thing you can realize at the start gate is that–and I’m assuming you’re passionate about what you do–you are out there for one reason and one reason alone: to revel in doing what you do to the best of your abilities. For me, I tell myself: “I am here for one reason only: to ski on this race course on this day as fast as I possibly can.”
If you’re at the start line on race day and you are focused on end results or on consequences you are almost guarantied to not find your focus. Sorry.



Armed with a strong focus you will be like Aragorn in Lord of The Rings: “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day!!!!”. With a strong focus you will continue to hold back “this day”.

Dream big, people!!

P.S. Next blog post will be a video blog! Stoked.

Snow!

With the weather getting colder and the ski season seeming more and more imminent, around mid-week last week I finally decided to break the question to one of my teammates “So…. when do you start seeing snow on the mountains?” When he replied, “Probably not for another couple weeks. Usually around the end of September or start of October” I felt neutral; excited that it was close but disappointed that it was not “probably gonna start snowing tomorrow!!!! YEAH!!”

So, when I woke up the following morning I was totally not expecting to see tasty looking powdered sugar all over the mountain tops!
Instead, the following morning looked somewhat like this…

Got out of bed, checked my resting HR, ate a bunch of oatmeal, noted the low clouds, the rain pouring down outside and the sub 10 degree temperature, dressed appropriately but then checked Environment Canada to see if the radar would give any warning as to when this kinda fall-bleakness would let up–and that was when I saw it. In the comments about the day’s weather it mentioned “snow line moving down from 2400m to 1800m (FYI: Canmore altitude is about 1300m and the surrounding mountains reach up to around 2k altitude I think).”

It was at this point that my outlook on the day’s workout changed. What would otherwise have been me feeling about as stoked as a kitty-cat facing the prospect of swimming the bering strait in January, now, was me feeling 100% as stoked as an amur tiger eagerly starting upon the trail of a new day’s hunt. A SNOW HUNT.
And just like that a fairly bland, rainy workout turned into an exciting one. As the clouds cleared toward the end of my ski, I got a view up into the mountains from my vantage point at the Nordic Centre rollerski track. And there it was. Snow had sprinkled down majestically, coating the tops of all the mountains in divine white frosty goodness (yum… that description does sound tasty!)!


Taken today! There was more of it last week when it fell out of the sky

Why so much excitement over snow way up high that I can’t interact with at all? The snow is another reminder of just how close we are to being able to strap our boots onto regular skis and take of into the Winter wonderland. For athletes like me it is now a time to reflect and refocus. What have I done so far this year that’s worked great? What hasn’t been so good? What do I need to focus on for these last couple months so that when the snow flies I will be flying with it?

Interestingly enough, the story of my first (kinda) snow-day out west is a bit of a microcosm of my last couple weeks. Since getting back from my trip home I’ve been feeling a bit more tired than I would like, I hadn’t got a chance to mountain bike for quite awhile and our Haig Glacier camp got canceled for the second and final time this year (the groomer broke the day before we were to head up). These facts added up to make a not super-stoked Zeke.
With the coming of new snow, the motivation of an awesome time trial I did last Saturday (a time trial that both Ivan Babikov AND Devon Kershaw were also taking part in!! What joy!), and some solid recovering, I am now feeling ready to take on the world–and of course these last couple months of training.



Me! Offsetting my way up to 2200m elevation at the top of the Highwood Pass in K-country. This was during one of the 4+ hr workouts we did during our supposed-to-be-on-the-Glacier-camp. Thanks to Kevin for the shot.


Moral of the story? Sometimes life will rain on you. Find ways to turn that rain into snow and you will take your first strides out into that snow feeling better, and stronger, than ever.

Dream Big, People!

P.S. Sorry about putting out my Monday blogs quite late in the day for the last number of days. The other thing that fall means is that now on Sunday afternoons I’m not like, “oh! Let’s write a blog!” I’m like, “oh! Let’s do psych. homework!” C’est la vie. I’ll try to change this.

Home!

I apologize about getting my blog post out a day later than usual; I have had a pretty hectic, but super-fun, last couple weeks. “Why hectic?”, you say, “why super-fun?” Hectic because I traveled across the country and back, and organized (with the help of many) a running race fundraiser event! Fun for reasons similar to those stated above and because the destination of my travels was home!

One of the advantages of being back home: visiting my favourite Bike/Ski shop!


Shortly after my blog post two weeks ago I jumped on a plane and flew back to the beautiful National Capital District to visit my friends and family! This trip was dominated by the set-up and execution the Nordic FUNd Run (see one of my previous blog posts). The goal of the FUNd run was to encourage younger Ski Racers in the Ottawa area, put on a fun event and raise money for myself and two other top Canadian U23 skiers as we work to afford the cost of training and racing year-round.

The start/finish area at the FUNd Run. Photo credits to George for these two pics!

Huge thank you everyone who supported our event! Thanks especially to Ottawa Race Weekend, for supplying equipment for the race and to Camp Fortune for donating the use of their venue!

Happily, the event went extraordinarily well! Huge thanks goes out to everyone–the volunteers, the sponsors and the competitors–who supported the event! Thanks so much guys!

Although a lot of my visit was spent planning/stressing for the FUNd run I still had some time to have some fun of my own, hanging out with my family! To list some of the highlights apart from the FUNd run…

I played a game of Dog Attack! with my little siblings (the game was actually created by said little siblings) at the local park. The game involves one player being an vicious dog and the other players trying to get up, out of the dogs reach on the play-structures. It was wildly entertaining.

My brother, not playing Dog Attack, in front of the Nakkertok ski barn.


I watched a Billy Talent concert at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa! To sum it up, live concerts are amazing and Billy Talent is pretty much the best band ever.

Just before BT came on! The excitement!!!!


I went to the Star Wars Identities exhibition at the Aviation museum! I’m not a die-hard Star Wars fan myself but I definitely appreciate the movies–and they had a Darth Vader costume that was worn in the first trilogy on display! It was pretty cool.

The Star Wars exhibition was inside this rather intimidating looking building

“You shall not pass!!”–errrr–”Keyser Söze!!”–errr–”I am your father!!!” One of those quotes…

Now that I am back in Canmore life is returning to its normal rhythm (i.e. eat, train, sleep–not necessarily in that order). I’m heading up to the Haig Glacier for an on-snow camp on Wednesday, which I’m super stoked for, so look for all the cool details of that up here in the next couple weeks.

Until then, Dream Big, People!

Back in Canmore and stoked about organic quick oats