Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Team DHL

While I was at Training Camp in Mt. Washington Tony sent me an e-mail with some great news...

DHL will sponsor a Vancouver-based Para-Nordic Race Team.  "Team DHL" -- the first club-based para-nordic race team in Canada -- will be managed and coached by the Nordic Racers Ski Club, a non-profit, volunteer-run club.  DHL's sponsorship will provide training and race support equipment that will help athletes with a physical disability reach their cross-country racing potential.

That's the blurb.... behind the scenes I can tell you that Tony made this happen with his own initiative and hard work.  The sponsorship is in cash and is large...  this type of thing doesn't happen very often - it takes a guy like Tony to make it happen.  Well done Tony!  
I look forward to wearing the DHL colours!

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Coast Cup - Mt. Washington

After the camp we were supposed to have two races - one on Saturday (a 5km Skate Race) and one on Sunday (don't know what it was supposed to be - it got cancelled so it doesn't matter.)

So the Saturday race was the last fixture on the Mt. Washington calendar.  Going in I was a little concerned about the conditions...  it was a bit hard and icy the day before.  I tend to ski a lot better when the conditions are a tad softer.  Anyway, as luck would have it my hopes were answered and a fresh layer about 2 inches deep fell the night before the race....  sweet.

Unfortunately, I didn't wake up feeling as fresh as I would have liked..... skiing for 6 of the last 7 days had definitely taken its toll.  But that was the same for everyone so no big deal.

In particular my shoulders and upper back were a little fatigued - I rely on these muscles very heavily (too heavily I am sure...) and the stress of all the skiing had them a little tender.

I will fast forward to the race...  Preps went well, warm-up went well...  interval start again.  I hammered it as hard as I could and skied a pretty reasonable race.  I was beaten by Mike and Alexei (again) but this time by only a minute.  I am quite encouraged by this as I feel my learning curve is very steep at this point and will be for some time....  I can feel my skills improving every time and the fact I am this close is very encouraging for me.  But I don't really like losing to them and before long I won't be a new skier any more - 2 months turns into 4 months turns into one season.... I can't afford to pat myself on the back and be proud of doing so well considering how new I am to it.....  it's the wrong mindset.

But, this race did give me a reference for where I stand - at least skating....  I would have liked to do a classic race on the Sunday to see where I am with that.  That will have to wait for the BC Championships at 100 Mile House.  

Let me tell you... it was nice to pack up at the ANCO get to the ferry and be home with the family.  I don't spend too many weeks away from the Sacha and the kids and when I do I always am reminded how nice it is to have them around...  

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Mt. Washington Camp

Well, I wasn't able to post from the Anco Motel in Courtenay - they had the most infuriating wireless internet connection - you know the kind that is there but barely, then it's gone, then it's back.....  grrr.

So here is the Camp Wrap.

First thought:  Great People.  I spent the week with a really inspirational group of racers and coaches.  Mike, Alexei, Tony, Brian, Melanie, Kristy and myself were the development athletes present for the camp.  There were a few other skiers that joined for a day here or there but we were there from start to finish.

Coaches and support:  Jeff Whiting, Phil Brown, Kathy, and Jen.

Jeff and Phil provided excellent coaching all week and I feel like I learnt a lot from them and from the other skiers.  Also, being on the snow for 4 hours min. every day for a week really helped.

Highlight:  Biathlon!  Talk about fun....  Ski, shoot, ski, shoot.  I want to compete at this sometime.... and I think it will happen some day soon.  Looking down the sights with your heart beating in your chest and ears is a real rush.

Brian and I made the daily commute to and from the mountain - shared lots of laughs and a few good meals at the local restaurants in Courtenay.  He's a Canadian National Team cyclist and an interesting guy to talk training with....  

I will likely find the time to post a little more sometime soon but suffice to say the camp was awesome.  Just what I needed to make a real jump in ability and comfort.

Big thanks to everyone who was there for making it an awesome time!

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BC Cup - Race Report #2

5 km skate race....

This was to be my first skate race and only my second race ever....  (after the classic race on Saturday - previous post).

The race organizers had lined up 5km of 2010 Olympic Race Course for us.  How sweet is it that I will know these turns like the back of my hand by the time I am lining up for the Paralympics in 2010 (that's a little positive visualization for anyone keeping track at home :)

I was racing against the same 4 guys as yesterday.  My friend Brian and I (Tony coaches us both) are the newest skiers (by far) as Alexei and Mike have been on the Development team for a year or two...

This was a Mass Start (though with only 5 skiers it isn't exactly too chaotic...) - the start went well and I was the first to the hill (I have identified double poling as an early strength of mine... all the swimming and I.F. Warrior workouts paying off....).  I chugged up the hill but was already hearing Mike and Alexei gaining on me.  They passed and I settled in behind them - ok with the idea of trying to hang with the more experienced skiers....  This plan worked well until the big downhill... Mike was about 30 feet in front of me tucking down the hill and into the left turn.  I was doing the same.  He shook, he wobbled....  I prayed he didn't fall.  Normally, you'd be ok with your competition having a tumble - in this case I would have no hope of avoiding him (since I am still a little unstable on the fast downhills.)  Anyway, he went down with a fair amount of speed and I basically did the same to avoid killing him.

We both got back up and resumed....  

This was not to be my race though.  Mike impressed me with his hill climbing and steady pace... I couldn't match it and he slowly pulled away - I was way to choppy and not smooth enough to stick on him.  Like a swimmer that thrashes compared to one that smoothly strokes down the lane....  I'll get there (more positive visualization.)

Anyway, starting the second lap we got in with a bunch of teenage girls (get ready with all of your jokes...) and I lost my way... somehow got onto the 3.3km course instead of the 2.5....  I figured out I was lost - asked some volunteers (who had no idea), and eventually made my way back onto the course and finished off the race.  I wasn't sure if I was DQ'ed or just ignored, but I know I went a long way searching for the way back.  

Anyway, I was about 5 mins. behind Mike and Alexei - and I have no idea where I would have been without the mix-up....  oh well, there will be more races and I am glad to have this mistake under my belt early.

Off to Mt. Washington for ski training camp and two more races next weekend. 

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BC Cup - Race Report #1

The BC Cup (January 19-20, 2008) was my first real ski race (the Toonie race at Cypress doesn't count....)

I arrived up in Whistler the day before and skied the course for the next day's classic sprint race.  There was some debate as to whether we would be doing 1000, 1200 or some other distance...  no big concern though.

The course looked pretty straight-forward to me (not really knowing anything different...)  There were a couple of high-speed turns that required a bit of practice.  I am FAR more adept at turning left than right...  this is a prosthetic thing I am sure...  anyway, the fastest turn on the course is a swooping downhill right - at the time I gave myself a 50/50 chance of eating it at race pace.  (I debated slowing to ensure stability but decided to roll the dice... slowing in a sprint seems wrong.)

Race day arrived.  Usual breakfast - oatmeal, fruit, toast, juice.

Note:  Race Day in skiing is VERY pleasant compared to triathlon.  No 4:30 am wake-up for starters.

So, the race was an interval start (one racer leaves the start area every 15 seconds - like a cycling time trial).  We lined up in the starting pen - hopping around to keep warm and then I was off....  Along the flat, up the long hill, down the hill, round a tight corner, down a longer hill, round the swooping fast corner (made it), and push hard along the flats to the finish.  Simple.

It went really well I felt....  no disasters, no wipeouts, corners went relatively well.

When the dust settled I was 3rd - 1st place was 10 seconds faster and 2nd was only .7 of a second faster.  It has been a long time since I did a race where tenths were even measured - let alone decisive!

All in all a great start to my nordic racing "career".  Of note - kudos to the organizers for the SWEEET medals - heavy, engraved, quality ribbon - wow!

5k Skate Race tomorrow!

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Thursday, January 17, 2008


Well, the plans are in place for the next two weeks:

  • BC Cup this weekend - Callaghan Valley (2 races - 1 Sat, 1Sun)
  • Monday - Relocate to the ANCO Motel in Courtenay (sounds charming doesn't it - like a Steel Manufacturing company or something.)
  • Tuesday - Friday: Cross Country Canada Ski Camp - Mt. Washington.  Skate, Classic, Biathlon - all on the menu... it sounds like it will be awesome.
  • Coast Cup next weekend (2 races - 1Sat, 1Sun)
As mentioned in a previous post - 8 out of 9 days on snow....  lots of coaching and lots of racing.  This should be HUGE for my development as a skier and thus I am PUMPED!

Unfortunately, it means I may not be able to update the blog too frequently (as I doubt the Anco will provide wireless internet...).  Never fear, there will be a full report upon my return.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Toonie Race - Cypress

Tonight I got my first taste of nordic racing.  About a month after taking up the sport....  It was pretty exciting and quite humbling....

The toonie race series is a Tuesday night affair up on Cypress Mtn.  It was quite well attended tonight - about 50 people ready to rock!

The race:  Relay - Classic and Skate.  2 skiers - one on classic skis and one on skate.  4 laps of the 3.5 k course (classic, skate, classic, skate)

Upon arrival I was immediately paired with a girl named Erin...  I would be the classic skier, she the skate skier.  Nice.  Erin seemed quite competent but not overly concerned with our results which suited me just fine.

The racers in general were WAY more hardcore than I was expecting....  but then I suppose if you are out racing every Tuesday night you are probably fairly into the sport.  

So, to the start.  Lap 1.  There appear to be three levels of skier - those WAY faster than me (85%), those a fair bit slower than me (the rest) and me.  This left me pretty much alone - unable to catch the faster and having left the slower.  So....  I got a bit lost.  They don't mark the course on Tuesdays "because everyone knows it".  I did study the map but by the time I was out there things looked a bit different.....  anyway, was skiing through a pitch black section thinking "this can't be right."  It wasn't, I had to rejoin the race at a later stage.... and finished well ahead of where I would have otherwise.  People were impressed - til I told them I shortcut the course...

Erin went off and did a nice job - I went back inside to study the map again.  

2nd lap.  Smooth - didn't get lost - tagged Erin and she headed out for the final lap.  Had fun.  Done and done.

Thanks Erin! (doubt you're reading but hey maybe...)

Next Race is the real deal - BC Cup.  This was a good primer though...

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

GF Strong Bike Program

Here's some exciting news...

The first Momentum Foundation sport exposure program became real today.  
I volunteer at GF Strong Rehab Hospital working with an amazing physiotherapist named Linda McLaren (she was my physio back in 1995).  She brings me in from time to time to talk with her patients and to give them some motivation, advice, inspiration or whatever they need at the time.

One time not too long ago I was in there and Linda was trying to teach an amputee to ride a bike on the field out back...  the problem was it was Linda's own bike and it didn't fit quite right and there were a few issues involved with the right pedals etc.  I got to thinking that there should be some bikes just waiting there for people to use - totally outfitted with the right set-ups for larger and smaller riders, the right pedals etc. etc.  And shouldn't they have an indoor trainer (spinner) as well?  Before long the idea was together....

So, I approached Stephen Kim at The Bike Gallery to see if he might want to sponsor the program.  He jumped at the chance to help.  These type of partnerships are really a no-brainer for a progressive company and a smart owner like Stephen.  Bike Store helps people learn to love riding = bike store sells bikes.  It is even more powerful when there is a hospital full of staff and patients thinking "Wow, what a great thing for the Bike Gallery to do!"  Stephen is always quick to point out that he just wants to help....  but I know that this type of thing will return all sorts of good business karma to him.

Anyway, Stephen and I set up the first bike and trainer yesterday.  I know it will help Linda to make cycling a part of "standard" rehab.  AWESOME!

The photo above is of Stephen and Justin Levine - another Momentum Foundation disabled athlete Stephen has helped out for me.  Look at the sweet ride Stephen came up with for Justin...  My advice to ya'll?  Go to the Bike Gallery for all of your cycling needs.  Stephen has a crack crew of staff that will attend to your needs - they're great guys and their hearts are in the right place.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Back into a groove...

With the holidays in the rearview mirror it feels good to be settling back into normal routines...  Although in this case my routine is pretty new and is requiring some adjustment.

My training weeks are planned like this:

Monday - Masters Swim @ 6am, IF Strength and Conditioning @ 3pm

Tuesday - Ski @ 9am

Wednesday - Masters Swim @6am, IF @ 3pm

Thursday - Spin @6:30am, Ski (coach session) @ 6:30pm

Friday - Masters @6, IF @3

Saturday - Ski or Run or Ride @ ~8am

Sunday - Usually rest day, or make up for a workout missed in the week (but only if I feel well rested.)

This is my "regular" schedule though I am finding that I am often switching the spin for an extra ski.  I would like to ski 4 times per week.  Also, the swimming and skiing are challenging together - drawing on the same muscles in my upper back and shoulders (since I rely heavily on my upper-body in both sports.)  Other than in those muscle groups I am finding the volume easy to handle because 1) it isn't too high and 2) the skiing is non-impact and easy for my leg to handle.  The regular week sched. has about 14-16 hours of training.

I am also a little concerned about the relative lack of running and riding....  I do still have a big triathlon season approaching.  I do a lot of interval running on the treadmill at IF but there isn't much distance.  Can't do too much about it though, skiing is the #1 priority (triathlon is 1a).

I figure after Ski Nationals in March I can switch to an "all-triathlon, all the time" program with lots of bricks for April and May and throw down the best time I can at World's in Vancouver in early June....  2 months of solid biking and running should be plenty given that my fitness should be there (or even be better) from all the skiing.

Sounds like a plan.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy New Year!

We are all back after a restful and extremely enjoyable few days on Hornby Island. Hornby is pretty sleepy this time of year (not to mention stormy and cold....) but we had a great time.

Weekend details:

Browns - Mel, Bert, Finlay (5), and Daisy (newborn)
Jones' - Sacha, Me, Mattias (5) and Aia (3)

Weather - BAD. Stormy. One half decent day out of three.
Fireplace - approx. 36 hours of total burn time!

Exercise - one hour-long run - went hard to try to make up for lack of workouts and excess of food. Felt really good and had fun on empty country roads and trails.
Food - as mentioned - lots and festive (i.e. maybe not so healthy?)

Enjoy the slideshow...

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