You may have wondered if the Nor-Am trip would ever end... I know I began to. It was only two weeks (and I even had that short intermission) but it sure felt longer.
Saturday night's race was a totally unique experience for me.
It was probably about -18°c (-1°F) - so "warm" enough to race. In a nod to the difficult conditions the race organizers dropped the distance from 10km to 6.6km. This was welcomed by all athletes.
During the warm-up I didn't find the temperature too bad.... I was beginning to think it wouldn't be an issue at all. The race was an interval start and I was the first one out of the gate. Almost immediately upon starting I was breathing a lot more heavily (obviously) - the cold air really did a number on my nose. It began to freeze and burn at the same time.... can't really explain it but ouch!
I don't think it really slowed me down, it was just painful. In fact the whole race was painful... again!
It is difficult to describe in words exactly how it feels to have a heart rate of 195, sore muscles everywhere, breathing altitude-thinned frozen oxygen at -19°c while coordinating movements with skis and poles. It is extremely challenging and there is no better word for it than "pain".
Anyway, I skied through the darkness as rapidly as I could and fared pretty well. I had a few frozen snots but they fell off which I was a bit sad about (was hoping for a picture).
In the end I placed fourth - again. This time I was 9 seconds out of third place. Third place was "sanctioned" (warned) for skating (which is faster) at one point during the race though so I am upgrading myself to bronze.... whatever helps me sleep at night right? ha ha ha....
If they had seen me towards the end they might have sanctioned me for performing a technique completely unrecognizable to man. "Racer number 222 - you've been sanctioned for.... well... well you can't do that thing you're doing.... whatever it is."
I need to get to the point where I can red-line AND maintain some technique.
So, with that, our races were over. The two weeks and all the races were a real test of endurance, stamina and focus to keep arriving at the start line fueled, ready and primed to produce results. With such a wide range of conditions, distances and disciplines I felt very lucky to have a good fitness base from my off-season training plan. The plan was a real team effort and collaboration between myself, Sean Clark of CMS Multisport, Tony Chin of Team DHL, and my Innovative Fitness trainers Rob and Daryl.
I felt a real sense of satisfaction - quite apart from results and selection, this was difficult and I was proud of the work I had done. It occurred to me that I had my one year anniversary of taking up the sport during this trip and here I was vying for a slot in 2009 World Cup races! As far as results go I would say mine were about what I would have expected. My best result was a silver medal in the sprint and my worst was a 4th place in the 15km Skate and 6.6km Classic.
What does it all mean? Excellent question - I'm glad I asked it.
I don't know. None of the athletes trying to qualify for World Cup races met the criteria at Nor-Ams. Including me. I think this surprised the National Team coach and has sent him back to the drawing board to reconsider the criteria they used. Selections will be made but they will be "by coach's discretion".
I think this bodes well for me - partly because I am positive - and partly because I am on a steep part of the learning curve. There is no doubt I will improve fast from this point as I am only entering my second season.
After the race we went out for beers for the only time in two weeks and it was a lot of fun. We needed to let our hair down (all 0.5mm of it).
Sunday morning we packed up and said our goodbyes.
I'd like to thank Jeff Whiting for doing such a great job as our squad's leader, chief organizer, coach, cooking guru, and for generally being the "knower of all things". Also Bill and Dave our other coaches and wax techs - they worked long and hard on all of our skis and (after an early hiccup) we got to a point where my skis were performing perfectly. Courtney, Andrea, Sarah, Margarita, Kristy, Jerry, Mike, Jamie, Tony and Tanya - great job everyone! It was a blast sharing the trail with you guys.
Back on the home front.............. It has been great to be back with Sacha and the kids. I went to Masters this morning despite having a little cough - it was nice to see Mischa and everyone else and I felt great in the pool - must be the return from altitude!
I have to wrap this up so here are a few pictures: (By the way, it is pretty hard to get racing pictures - there aren't many photogs on the course like there are in running or triathlon....)
-16°c at about 3:30pm - about to leave for the race.
Me and V. At Aia's Christmas Concert which was awesome - no good photos though... arghhh.
Sacha and V. Morning coffee at Crema after dropping kids off at school and gymnastics.
Snow on the ground even here in Vancouver. This is at 5:30am on my way to Masters.Tweet this!