Saturday, December 19, 2009

O-Cup #1: The Thunder Bay Fiasco

Well, today's race was a complete disaster no matter how you look at it. It was not enough that the conditions were "marginal" at best, as Alex very aptly put it, and that the Para-Nordic category was last out at nearly 3 p.m. in the afternoon, but I was also misinformed about the distance I was supposed to ski. So not only was I dead last out of the gate, I was also dead last to cross the finish line! I was told that I was only doing one 3.4 km lap, but actually I was supposed to do two for a total distance of 8.8 km. You can imagine I was not a very happy camper as I ended up finishing my one lap and going over the finish line only to be told that I was supposed to go through the lap lane and do a second lap. So I did after a few choice remarks. I went for a leisurely second lap, and was the last person across the finish line for the day. And there are no words to describe how upset I was. I apologiize to anyone I may have been rude to.

This trip is turning out to be a very expensive nightmare. To add to all of this, I also forgot to pack a whole lot of stuff, such as pajamas and toothpaste. I'm the only girl on the Kanata Nordic team so I get to pay for an entire hotel room by myself. We have had to eat all of our meals at the restaurant downstrairs, which is not exactly ideal pre-race food nor is it cheap or quick. Well, I think I will stop there. You get the picture.

I was trying to find something positive in this situation. And the only thing I thought of was that at least this was not an important race in the scheme of things. You can let me know if you think of anything else.

Now I'm sitting in my huge hotel room and waiting for the rest of my teammates to come back from their very long trip to Fresh Air Experience. They've been there since 4 o'clock! We're supposed to go to some FInnish restaurant for supper, and I'm starving.

I shall still wish YOU a good evening from Thunder Bay thourgh. Have a good one for me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December training update

We've now got lots of snow here in Ottawa, and the skiing up in the Gatineau Park has been awesome. I just went for a nice classic ski tonight. It was a little chilly out there, but the park's got lots of trees to protect us from the wind, which is the worst part of the Ottawa winter. Classic-ing felt weird after all that time spent on skate rollerskis this summer and fall. I couldn't really engage my grip zone on the uphills because either (a) I didn't have enough grip wax or the right kind of grip wax or (b) I've got to get my classic technique back! Either way, it was good to do some classic hills in anticipation of some classic racing this weekend.

I'm off to Thunder Bay on Friday. It's kind of ironic that we're going there considering that they hardly have any snow and we've got lots of great snow. Oh well, as my coach Patti says, it'll be good experience in preparation for our trip to Europe this year. With Europe, you never know what kind of snow you're gonna get! Could be white and fluffy, could be icy, could be brown and puddly. So you've got to be prepared for the worst.

On a training note, I'm still having some trouble getting out for a ski. Mooney's Bay hadn't been groomed yet on Monday, so I ended up just having to do some shooting at home. Yesterday, my dad and I did get out for a ski at Mooney's Bay, but it was kind of similar to doing moguls. Very bumpy! But I must admit, it's better than nothing. Thankfully, we were able to get out to the Gatineaus with my guide, Robert, today, but tomorrow it's back to Mooney's Bay. Though we'll have to wait and see: so far the forecast is for -15 with a wind chill of -22 tomorrow afternoon. And who knows what it'll be like in the evening!

That being said, I'm almost done working for the winter. I go on International Sporting Event Leave starting Dec. 24, and then I'll be able to ski during the day, granted only at Mooney's Bay, but hey, I'll be out in daylight!

Alright, this entry is getting a little long, and I'd better go to bed. So good night from Ottawa!  

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow is finally here!

I haven't updated this in a while, but I'm so much busier when I am at home. Between work, training and all the "paperwork" involved in skiing (I know it sounds weird), I have no time to write anything down. I kind of miss it though, even though I just started!

Today was Ottawa's first snowstorm of the season. It was something: the snow was coming down hard and blowing everywhere. We were scared to go out at lunch, so we all hung around the office all day. I wasn't able to go skiing just yet, but I'm hoping I can tomorrow.

Last weekend was our last time rollerskiing for the year. We're all happy about that! No more wheels, and NO MORE PAVEMENT! Only soft fluffy snow to cushion our falls. Now all we need is some grooming up in the Gatineaus and at Mooney's Bay and we'll be hitting the trails in no time.

Yeah, I really don't have much to say today, other than that I'm so looking forward to "real skiing" again. I have some Ontario Cup races coming up in Thunder Bay on Dec. 19 and 20, so that should be more exciting.

And on that positive note, good night from Ottawa.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Biathlon Camp: Day 4 - Pursuit Race

I'm back in Ottawa, and the race was yesterday of course, but I guess it's better late than never!

The race was a 10 km pursuit, which means everyone started in the same order they had finished the day before with 5-second intervals between each skier. These very short starting intervals made for some crazy traffic on the course. I was bib number 71 and was supposed to start just ahead of Courtney. Courtney was feeling sick from her flu shots though and therefore did not start.

My race went well I think. The S-turn was much less icy during this race, but I still held on for dear life every time I went down it. It was very hard to see where the turn was starting and finishing as everything went so quickly. I did fall on the last lap, but I didn't get turned around, so got up very quickly.

There were lots of skiers passing me on the left and right, some I even stuck with for a while going uphill, and then they got away on the downhills. I shot better too: got 12/20, which equals 60%. A 10% improvement overnight is a good start!

The results have finally been posted. Check them out here if you're interested.

Kaspar, the National Team head coach, said that I had had lots of progress since he saw me in July. I'm very happy with that. Now I just have to keep training hard, keep working on my technique and do lots of intensity with shooting to simulate a high-HR race situation.

After the races, Jamie, Alexei and I headed for the airport. Alexei and I finally got to use some of our Elite Podium privileges: checked in at the executive class counter, hung out in the Maple Leaf Lounge and ate all of their free food, and pre-boarded the plane. Jamie, unfortunately, was not allowed in the Maple Leaf Lounge because he was flying WestJet!

Well, I have to go to work tomorrow.

So good night this time from the nation's capital!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Biathlon Camp: Day 3 - Sprint Race

I haven't posted an update yet, because I've been waiting to find out our results from this morning and the details for tomorros's race. Sadly, I haven't really got either.

We don't have a start list, but we know the races start at 10:00 a.m., and it's a persuit race, so racers will start in the order that they finished today. This means that the Paras will be somewhere at the back of the pack. But things will go fairly quickly, as the intervals between skiers will be 5 seconds. I'm guessing we should be out there by 10:30. As far as we know, the girls are skiing 10 km tomorrow, and the boys 12.5. We're all shooting 4 times, so shooting will determine how well your race goes.

Oh I guess I should tell you how my race went today. It was a 7.5 km race with 2 shootings and penalty laps if you miss. I shot pretty bad: 50%, which means I missed 5 out of 10 and skied 5 penalty laps altogether. Hoping for better shooting tomorrow. It's really different in a race, when your heart rate is through the roof and the gun is shaking like crazy. I will really try to calm my HR down tomorrow before I shoot. It sucks that my Garmin heart-rate monitor has met its maker, so I have no idea what my HR is when I get into the range.

As for the skiing today, the course did change, and the first loop was now a long climb and then a steep down with an S-shaped turn, which became pure ice during the race. A lot of biathletes bit it on that hill today! I stayed up the first 2 times around by sticking to the inside of the turn, but got carried onto the ice on the outside of the turn on the last lap and wiped out. I just scrambled out of another girl's way; I think I gave her a pretty good scare! I got up pretty quickly though and kept going, so it was alright. The turn will be in tomorrow's race as well, but they were making snow out there today, so maybe some of that white stuff will end up on that killer corner.

The race course and range were actually not as busy as I'd anticipated, and John and I had no trouble manoeuvring around everyone. Either that, or John is so good a guide that I didn't notice all the other people! That is entirely possible.

We were also noticing that, in comparison with the cross-country crowd at NorAms (North America Cups), the biathletes seem much more polite and understanding. They tell you where they're passing and don't yell "track" at the top of their lungs. We were very impressed. Way to go, biathlon crowd!

We're leaving Canmore at 2 p.m. tomorrow, so if I have a bit of time and an Internet connection at the Airport, I will tell you of my last day of racing in Canmore.

And with that, I bid you good night from Canmore.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quick update

Following the team captains' meeting, we have learned that the races start at 11:00 tomorrow. I'm bib number 60, starting at 11:20 sharp. Twenty-second interval starts. Altogether, during our part of the race, there will be 154 biathletes on course! It'll be a zoo, but definitely good practice for passing, yiedling, etc. The course has changed again too. No more crazy sharp corner around the cross-country stradium, but there'll still be a good corner for us that I have not yet tried. Fun fun fun!

Come out and cheer us on if you're in the area!

Good night from Canmore.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Biathlon Camp: Day 2

So the bad news is it didn't snow in Canmore last ngiht, but the good news is it didn't get cold either. However, today was a nice contrast to yesterday's dreary and drizzly weather. The sun was high and bright overhead, the snow was clean and fast, and the trails were teeming with biathletes from all over the country as well as the States. The smell of gun powder was everywhere and shots rang in the air. All in all, a great pre-race atmosphere!

I had an awesome ski with my guide for this weekend, John from Canmore. His wife is a Paralympic champion from 1988, and so he knows his way around guiding a B2. My first-time-on-skis feeling was pretty much gone, and I followed him up and down the hills without a problem. Tomorrow's course, or what we know of it, has got a number of different loops, as snow is still very limited. At the end of the green loop, there's quite a wicked corner on a downhill, where you just have to hang on for dear life untill it's over. John and I skied it a couple of times without any wipe-outs, so I think it'll be fine tomorrow, that is, if it's still in the race. The final details will be announced tonight after the team captains' meeting. Then, we'll find out our start order and what the course will really look like.

I got another opportunity to practise my shooting as well as taking my new Leki pole straps on and off. As we approach the mat, we have to take off our pole straps as quickly as we can and put them back on as we leave the range. In order to do so efficiently, we must have simple straps (ones that you can just stick your hand through) or a type that we can unclip and clip back on easily. The able-bodied biathlon team has been using poles made by a European company called Leki. The strap goes on tight around your hand, and to take it off, all you do is press a button and unhook the whole strap, which stays on your hand while you shoot. To put it back on, you just slide you hand down the pole handle and hook the little loop back on. It's much easier and quicker to use than the simple straps once you get the hang of it, pardon the pun. Sorry, I know this is very technical, but maybe someone will find this interesting.

So Alexei and I bought these poles just a couple of weeks ago at Fresh Air Experience in Ottawa (thank you so much for the awesome discount!). And this is our first time using them. I'm getting better at hooking them back on, as that's the hard part. But I'll need lots of practise to get it perfect.

Our meetings this afternoon were cancelled for some reason, so we had a lot of time to kill (here's a novel idea!). Courtney, Andrea and I went to town for a bit after we were done our practice. We went to this awesome coffee shop called Beamer's. They have the best muffins ever! Try it if you're ever in Canmore. They also have this digital picture frame with pictures of all these people who took the Beamer's coffee cup to all these different places. So we decided that we should take their cup to Europe this January when we go for the World Cups and take a bunch of pictures and bring them back for Nationals, which will be here in Canmore for the Para-Nordic group. We also went into some stores, and I bought an awesome down-filled jacket and a wool toque. After some of last year's races, where the temperature was barely under -20 (race cut-off temp), I'm winterizing early this year!

And that has been my day so far. Yes, I can get pretty wordy, and I'm loving this blogging thing now even if no one is reading it! Everyone knows how much I can talk. Well, the same goes for writing, so be prepared! :)

Good evening from Canmore!

Biathlon Camp: Day 1

Today was my first day on snow this season, and boy did it feel weird! I felt a little like Bambi when he was on the ice; my feet just kept on slipping out! All the beginner technical mistakes were back, and there was not a thing I could do about it! I sure hope tomorrow feels more normal.

We got some range time with Celine, the World Cup Team's biathlon coach. She was very happy with all of our progress. We were all shooting faster and missing fewer shots than this summer. The practice definitely paid off! We will see how we perform under pressure in the races this weekend though.

After about three hours on skis and some lunch, we had headshots with Robyn Gear and flu shots with the Paralympic doctor. Apparently, he's got both the H1N1 and the seasonal flu vaccine on hand for us here. Some of us will have sore arms tomorrow. Thankfully, it won't be me as I've already got the H1N1 shot.

We finished off the day with dinner at Andrea's parents' house. Good food and interesting conversation was had by all.

Tomorrow, I finally get to meet my guide for this weekend and ski around the actual course. Canmore is supposed to get snow tonight, and it's supposed to get much cooler, so I think tomorrow we might be getting our first taste of winter.

Good night from Canmore!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Arrived at destination

After a bit of a series of unfortunate events involving Alexei and I trying - very unsuccessfully - to use our Elite Podium privileges with Air Canada and WestJet losing Jamie's bag on a flight from Vancouver of all places, Alexei, Jamie and I finally arrived in Canmore.

The weather at the Calgary Airport was balmy to say the least: 14 degrees Celsius! Canmore is only slightly cooler, and there's not a trace of snow on the ground. The locals tell me that there is snow up at the Nordic Centre, but it's pretty hard and icy...typical early-season Canmore.

So we've got a packed schedule tomorrow: skiing and shooting in the morning; meetings with Cross Country Canada people after lunch; hopefully a bit of a ski with my guide, whom I have not yet met, in the late afternoon; and dinner at Andrea's in the evening!

I guess I'd better do like the rest of them and get some shut-eye. We haven't even seen our coach yet to really find out what's going on. I could have it completely wrong!

If you read this and find tons of mistakes, do take into account that it is very late: almost 2 a.m. Ontario time. I will fix everything later.

Good night!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Joining the world of blogging

This is my first ever experience writing a blog. I'm so new to this, I don't quite know where to begin. I guess I can say that I thought that this blogging thing might be a good idea as it would allow my family, friends and co-workers to follow me through my training and competition season in this important year.

The ski season is just around the corner, and even though there is not a snowflake in the air here in Ottawa, my first races are actually this weekend. I'm off to snowy Canmore, Alberta, tomorrow for a biathlon training camp and races. It promises to be a busy few days with skiing and shooting practices in the mornings and pictures and meetings in the afternoons. Still, it'll be so nice to finally get off the pavement and onto snow. Here's hoping that tonight was the last I saw of rollerskis until next summer!

Well, I guess I should end my first entry here and go pack my skis, boots and racing gear. Tomorrow will be a long day of airports and airplanes. I hope Air Canada has good movies playing!