Saturday, January 30, 2010

France: Day something or other: Day off

This is the morning before our long biathlon race. This is what I wrote last night but was unable to publish.

It’s a snowy evening in Bessans. The snow has been falling softly all day. This should make for very different conditions for our long biathlon race tomorrow. The snow should be faster because it’s most likely warmer than what’s on the ground, but, if there is an abundance of it on the trail tomorrow, it might actually slow things down further.

Today was a day off or a training day. We did some shooting in the morning and just a bit of skiing. Tomorrow’s race is a shooter’s race, so I’m hoping to do alright as long as I can keep my shooting good like in the last biathlon race. The blind categories start late tomorrow – my start time is 1:00:30, which is going to pose a bit of a problem with eating. It’s a long race, so we need to make sure we don’t get hungry in the middle of it, but having this late start means we have to figure out when to have breakfast and when to have some snacks and WHAT to have as snacks, as we won’t be able to eat lunch until after the race.

Well, the internet is not working here today for some reason, so I guess I can’t post this tonight. I will try again in the morning since I will have so much time to waste.

So the internet is working now. I slept for like 9 hours last night, but am still feeling tired for some reason. Regardless, I'll just go out and ski as hard as I can. After all, that's all I can really do.

Yesterday, a group of us wanted to go on a little road trip to Turin, Italy, but we found out that it's too far of a drive from here in the winter to do in an afternoon. So we just went exploring in this region of France. We drove over to the bigger town of Modane and got a "sablé" (kind of like a butter cookie). Then we went to what seems to be the only attraction in the area, a place called "la maison penchée" (the leaning house). Apparently it was some guardhouse that got thrown a few dozen metres from where it stood during WWII. It didn't look like much from the outside, and we were totally unimpressed, but it turned out to be a lot of fun once we went inside. It totally threw your balance and made you all dizzy.

Then, on our way back to our little village, we stopped to look at an awesome castle or fortress thing. They seem to have one of those on every hill around here. We weren't able to go inside, but it was really cool just to see it anyway since I'd never seen one in real life before. It had a moat and a drawbridge and the whole bit. They also had some crazy rope courses and ziplines going across the canyon. Looked pretty scary.
Well, it's just after 10:30, so I'd better go get ready for my race. Hopefully, I'll post again tonight, but no promises. Good morning from snowy Bessans.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

France: Day 8 - Skate sprints

Today we had skate sprint races. I was really nervous in the morning. There was a lot riding on this race. Without getting into too many details, there are 12 spots on the Paralympic team, there are 13 of us competing for those 12 spots at these World Cups. And the way we secure our spot is by being close to the winner's time in any race. By virtue of being very short, sprints are usually the easiest type of race to get closer to the winner's time. So that's why today's race was very important to everyone.

In the prologue, I started just behind Anna-Mette, a B-1 (totally blind) skier, and just ahead of my teammate Courtney, who is also competing for one of those 12 spots. I caught Anna-Mette on the second uphill just as it was curving left and levelling out. My guide, Robert, told me to scoot by her on the right, but at that moment she also decided to move over to the right and blocked Robert, who was ahead of me. I saw the opening on the left and just went for it. As a result, I ended up going down the hill in front of Robert untill he caught up to me. He was very happy that I took initiative there though. We ended up 12th out of 17 and advanced to the quarter-finals. I was last in my quarter-final though, and ended up being 13th overall. I got World Cup points though, and according to my dad, I should be about 80% of the winner's time. I'm happy with that. Colette and Mark got bronze today, Everyone got points except Mary and Charles.

If you're interested, results as well as more information about this World Cup can be found here.

Tomorrow is a day off and biathlon training for the long biathlon race the day after. So we're all going to take it easy. Beacuse it's a day off, the organizers were throwing some kind of a "soiree" and "rock concert." We were going to go to it, that is, untill the guys somehow misunderstood our plan and drove off without us. So now, all us girls are stuck here, and that's why I have time to update my blog. We even had a free drink ticket each! That's ok, we figure tomorrow the guys are going to get the silent treatment in the morning. We won't talk to them at breakfast, though something tells me they probably won't notice.

Well, that's probably enough for today's entry. Here's a little photo of the day for you before I go. I took it just after the race this afternoon. You can see the clouds right over the valley.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

France: Day 7 - Biathlon Sprint

Today was our first race of the series. It was a 7.5-km biathlon sprint (don't ask me about that logic). This consists of 3 laps of 2.5 km with two shootings.

The good news is I shot clean - not a single miss - today. The not-so-good news is I got pretty darn close to having an asthma attack on pretty much every hill. The race course looked deceptively easy, but actually wasn't. Those longish gradual hills got me every time. So I had to pace myself over the whole race in order not to get over that fine asthma attack line. Everyone seemed happy with my race though. Even if I did come in 11th and second last. I guess I was expecting better, but they weren't. I didn't get any world cup points, but I was only about 40 seconds behind Robbi, our best Canadian. She didn't shoot very well today and had a bad race.

Tomorrow is a skate sprint race, which means we have a prologue or qualifier in the morning with an interval start. And then depending on the size of the field (number of competitors), we might have heats and then semis and finals. 

I just found out that for tomorrow's race, it's whoever gets world cup points in the qualifier advances to quarter finals as long as there is a field of more than 12 competitiors. So keeping my fingers crossed and thnking fast thoughts. But before then, it's bedtime for me. I'm pretty tired. Oh, here's a pretty Bessans sunset for you before I go. Courtney took it out our window with my awesome camera.

Good night from Bessans!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

France: Day 6 - Official biathlon training and opening ceremonies

Today was official traiining for the biathlon race tomorrow. Robert and I skied the course in the morning and tried out as many of the rifles as we could. There are 10 Eko rifles in all set up at the range. Rifles 1 and 2 weren't working I guess, but they are supposed to be tomorrow. On official training days, we're supposed to try all the guns to find out if there are any quirks to certain ones that we should know about. On race day, the official fills the lanes starting with 1, so we don't get the choiice, but it's still good to know what kind of gun you're shooting.

It was cold in Bessans this morning, -18, but I thught that, compared to the Ottawa -18, this was a walk in the park. The only thing was that the snow was really slow, so even going easy meant you were working hard. The course seems really nice though, mostly all gentle or short uphills and no crazy downhills. Tomorrow the B-category athletes (blind) start at noon, so by that time, the snow should warm up a bit, and it's been snowing all evening, so that should speed things up as well.

This evening was the Opening Ceremonies. Only two people from the "A" team showed up, but most of our crew was there. It was really neat and fun. First they had a parade, in which only Andrea, me, Robbi and Brian participated from our team we're not really sure why. Mary would have none of this monkey business and so she joined us as we were walking by. Everyone was led in by children from the area dressed in traditional costume. This is us after we walked in.

That was followed by some welcoming speeches. Then, after the World Cup was declared open, they said they were going to light the flame. This was done by having a whole bunch of alpine skiers come down the mountain with torches. It was really cool even though all I could see were some lights moving down the mountain. Here they are standing in the street afterwards. They skied right into the street!

Then, they announced that they had "une autre surpris" for us, and next thing we knew, there were fireworks lighting up the night sky! It was like Canada Day in the winter. What an effort for such a small place! At the end they had some traditional dances of the region performed by some adults and some little kids. Of course, our Mary went out to dance along with them! They ended up sweeping Andrea along as well, and there she is wearing my new media jacket. Haha try and find her!

It was a fun evening, and I was very glad I went even though I've got a bit of a sore throat today and am trying everything to make sure it doesn't develop into a cold. This is Andrea, Mary and me on our way back from the festivities. My camera battery was just about dead, so I think that's why things are a little blurry.

Oh don't worry, I will charge it tonight. I know how much everyone loves my pictures :).

Good night from Bessans.

Monday, January 25, 2010

France: Day 5 – Taking it easy

I’m feeling really tired again today even though I slept a bit better finally. I think it only took me till 11 o’clock last night to fall asleep, which means I got about 8 hours of sleep. A couple more nights like that, and I’ll be good as new. My first race, a 7.5 km biathlon, is on Wednesday (day after tomorrow), so I should be fine by then, I hope.

Yesterday, it started getting a little warmer up here, and the snow in the afternoon was much faster. I love skate-skiing on fast (but not icy) snow. It’s such a great feeling when you’re flying down the hill, and you’re able to do little step turns and all those technical things that make you feel like you got some “serious skills.” Harris and I skied around what we thought might be the race course for Wednesday. It was about a 2.5 km loop with pretty gentle uphills and downhills. There was only one corner where you get some good speed going into a wide 180-degree left turn, where I had some trouble stepping around it, but I’m sure now that Robert’s here, we can practise it a few times and get it to where I’m comfortable. We also met up with Jamie and Alex on the biggest uphill and did a bit of technique work with a video camera. We analyzed the video last night, and now both Alex and I know what we need to work on for our offset (skate technique used on uphills).

As I mentioned earlier, my guide, Robert, our biathlon coach, Dave, and our two skiers from Quebec arrived yesterday with the “A” team. Robert’s gone out for a ski to scope out the trails. He and I are going for a walk this afternoon so that he can see the town and I can keep moving.

Well, it’s just about lunchtime so I’d better go. I will post this as soon as I’m able to connect to the Internet. In this town, the only place that has Wi-Fi is the restaurant we eat at. I guess, we lucked out in that regard!

So it's now just after 9 p.m. and I'm about to get off the net and go to bed, but before I do I thought I'd post a couple of the pictures we took on our walk with Robert and Andrea this afternoon. It was a gorgeous afternoon in Bessans, very warm and sunny. We walked through the town, then on a trail out by the river and then Robert and I climbed up to see the church. It was a very nice walk.

Story of the week

So I thought of a new category of blog posts to add to my little collection. Once every week, while I’m away anyway, I will try to post a “story of the week.”

This week’s story has been repeated a few times by everyone and we’ve found it pretty entertaining, but you can decide if it’s one of those “you had to be there” kind of things. I was sort of there, even though I missed the first part of the action. Anyway, here’s the story.

So on the day that we organized the skis and poles in our wax hut, Courtney decided that before going skiing she would put her post-workout snack and her sunglasses into her overboot that she wears to walk back to our hotel. It seemed like as good a storage spot as any I guess. Of course, by the time she got back from her ski and we organized our wax room, she had completely forgotten that she did this. So she puts on her boot and goes “oh why doesn’t it fit! What’s wrong with it?” while she’s trying to jam her foot further into it. I was just coming back from putting something in the van, and here comes Courtney running out, saying “oh this is so gross!” and all I can smell is banana, so I very innocently ask why it smells like banana in here, and they tell me that Courtney put her banana in her boot, “so that she wouldn’t step on it!” Of course, now everyone is always offering Courtney over-ripe bananas and I was tempted to stick the one I have laying around on my nightstand into her boot when I brought them back from the wax hut for her yesterday. In case you’re wondering, her sunglasses were fine, just a little banana-y.

And that’s this week’s story. It still cracks me up even writing it!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time to say a few thank you's

I was going to post this on the side of my blog, but I can't seem to find a way to do this, so I will put it in as a post and hope that some of these people get to see it.

There are a number of people I would like to thank for helping me get to this point in my ski career.


My mom for being my inspiration for starting to ski and my chief motivator for continuing to train and race my best;

My dad for seeing me through almost every workout, giving guidance throughout my entire life and pushing my limits by doing the workouts with me;

My fiancé, Cliff, for believing in me no matter what and supporting me in everything I do;

My national coach, Jeff Whiting, for introducing me to competitive skiing in Canada, supporting all of us through countless competitions and keeping the whole Para-Nordic development movement in Canada going;

My Ontario coach, Patti Kittler, for working tirelessly on developing Para-Nordic skiing in Ontario, providing invaluable technique help to me and having an immeasurable amount of faith in me;

My club coach, Harris Kirby, for volunteering to help Para-Nordic racers and welcoming them into Kanata Nordic when he had no idea what Para-Nordic skiing was about and for always being ready to help with whatever is needed for our training and racing, including coming to the World Cups in Europe to wax for the team;

To my current guide, Robert d’Arras, for taking my family skiing from the very start and sticking by us this whole time and for volunteering to be my guide this season even though it required arranging time off work, which was not only difficult to do but also put him at a financial disadvantage;

My first guide, Sarah Mamen, for breaking trail as my first-ever full-time guide, while still attending university and having to write essays on all of our trips and for learning so much that she became an awesome guide;

And last but not least, my second guide, Linnaea Kershaw, for being ready for anything and jumping in to fill Sarah’s shoes at the last minute without the slightest hesitation.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

France: Day 3 - Shaking it up

Today is Day 3 of our stay in Bessans. It is usually the hardest day at altitude. Most of us are feeling a bit better today, however, despite still having trouble sleeping at night. This morning, France had one of its Nationals races. It was a biathlon, and Alex took part in it. The rest of us just took the opportunity to practise shooting, since all of the Eko rifles had been set up for the race.

In the afternoon, I skied with Harris and did a few short classic intervals to get my muscles to remember speed. I thought it would be really hard, but it was actually just the ticket. I felt so much better afterwards, like I’d finally woken up from a coma or something. I think my body needed a bit of a shake-up. If I’m still feeling alright tomorrow, I will do a few short skate intervals as our first race is a biathlon, and skating is the only technique used in those.

When Harris and I came back to our wax room, Courtney and Andrea were just finishing up waxing their skis, and Andrea was heading out for a ski. Once she left, the three of us started thinking about how we should organize our skis to make it easy for the wax techs to find the ones we wanted for our races and to reclaim some working space in our tiny wax hut. We didn’t have much to work with in terms of tools, but thanks to Courtney’s brilliant organizational ideas and our splendid team work, our wax room now looks like this:

Rather than this

Oh yeah, Jamie and Alexei later showed up and helped too. :)

Alright, I've got to go: there is a line up to use my computer for Skype, so good night from Bessans.

Friday, January 22, 2010

France: Day 2 - Settling in

My time adjustment is not going very smoothly. I couldn't get to sleep for about two and a half hours last night, so today I'm going on about 5.5 hours of sleep, off of 6 hours the night before and off of maybe 3 the night before that. So, of course, I'm very tired, so I apologize in advance for the quality of this post. As a result, I continued to take it easy today.

In the morning, Mary and I went for a nice walk around town and went into all the stores. I got to pracitse my French some more, and it was really fun. We would come in to one of the thousand sports stores in this town, and Mary would say to the owner "Bonjour!" then whisper to me "How do you say 'I am'?", I'd tell her and she'll go "Je suis canadienne." and the store owner would get all excited and start talking to us, and then I would take over and ask them all kinds of questions about the region, etc. Among other things, I learne today that Bessans is where Beaufort cheese is made, and that only about 350 people live in the village. I also fulfilled all my souvenir requirements on this little shopping trip.

In the afternoon, we got assigned our wax hut at the race site and got it organized. Then Harris and I went for a nice slow skate ski. The snow here is very cold, so it's pretty slow and it makes you work. Still, we had a fun ski, even though we were both pretty tired. No sleep and altitude are not the best combo. Harris took this picture of me when we found a nice view and took a little breather.

All right, I'm off to bed to try and find some sleep tonight. Good night from the French Alps!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

France - Day 1: We've arrived!

So we're in France. And it's beautiful here! We're staying in a little village called Bessans. It's in a valley framed by spectacular mountains. The skiing is really fantastic: there are tons of snow and it's groomed almost to perfection with deep straight tracks. It's not as warm as you'd expect it to be in Europe and the snow is pretty cold, but that's just how we Ottawa skiers like it.

We arrived at around 2 in the morning and slept in till around 10, so that we can adjust to the time change quicker. The time difference with Ottawa is 6 hours. Amazingly, we took no wrong turns on our way to this tiny little hamlet lost in the French Alps, and the only thing that slowed us down was the weather. It snowed in Switzerland, rained at the border and then was dry for the rest of the way until we got here, where it was also snowing.

So today we just took it easy: went for a nice slow exploratory ski in the afternoon, settled some admin questions about our stay here while practising our French, and had supper.

Now's it's just about time for bed, so that we can get up at 7 and get started on anothe day of adjusting to the time change and altitude. We're at almost 2000 metres here. For now, this is our only goal: take it easy and acclimatize.

Good night from Bessans!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Travelling in style

I'm in the Star Alliance Lounge at London Heathrow Airport. It's just after 11 o'clock here in London town, and my flight to Zurich is in a couple of hours.

So far this has been quite the trip thatnks to Air Canada's Elite Podium program! First, I was able to use one of my top-tier upgrade certificates to travel in Air Canada's Executive First. It was like nothing I've ever seen or experienced before! The seat was almost like a fully functional little room. It had a foot rest that later joined the chair to become a completely flat bed. There was a TV screen that opened out of a wall. The tray table was huge, and they gave you all kinds of stuff, such as a make-up bag with socks and an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, lotion, lip balm, etc.! And, of course, I had brought all that stuff! I would have taken a picture if I hadn't felt so silly doing it. The dinner they served was a three-course meal with four choices of main course and three choices of dessert. And it was really delicious. Not to mention the things we all know such as free alcohol and nice pillows and blankets. So I have got to say my flight to London was amazing! Thank you, Air Canada.

My Elite Podium card apparently also gets me into this very nice lounge, where they actually serve hot food unlike the Maple Leaf Lounges back in Canada. So I have had a very nice, but very early for Ottawa time,  brunch consisiting of two different kinds of quiche, some salad, orange juice, coffee and cookies. I've been waited on hand and foot this whole trip, first by Air Canada staff and by London Heathrow staff, who helped me find my way to Terminal 1 (this airport is massive!) and then by the nice ladies at the lounge. I don't think I've ever had a trip quite like this before. Let's hope things keep going as smoothly and positively as they have been.

I still have two more legs of travel left. First, the flight to Zurich after I meet up with the Vancouver crowd somewhere around here and then the drive to Bessans, France, once we meet up with Alexei and Harris in Zurich.

With that, I bid you good morning from London, England.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blind biathlon: what in the world?

I know that at least some of you must have asked that question when you first saw me mention "blind biathlon." Your first reaction was probably horror! Well, here is how it actually works.

First, to put your mind at ease, blind biathletes don't shoot with bullets, pallets or anything else tangible for that matter. We use an Eko rifle, which shoots with an invisible lazer beam. It's really a computer system. Second, we don't use our eyes to aim, we use our ears. The rifle comes with headphones, which emit a beeping sound when the rifle is not aimed at the target. The closer you get to the target, the faster the beeping. Once the sound becomes constant, you're on target. To find the bull's eye, you have to find the highest-pitched tone. And then you pull the trigger. Depending on whether your shot is a hit or a miss, you hear a certain sound, and a green or red light shows up on the target. 

  Training at the 2009 World Cup in Mt. Washington, photo courtesy of Tim Penney

Obviously, we don't carry the guns on our back as they are connected with lots of wires to the target, the headphones, the screen, etc. We also only shoot prone (lying on our stomach), probably because it would be too hard to find the target if we stand up with the gun. When we get to the shooting range, the gun is pointing roughly in the direction of the target, so we don't have to start searching for it "from scratch." 

In most other respects, blind biathlon is quite similar to able-bodied.

And that is basically how it works. This time, good night from Ottawa for real.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A busy couple of days

This weekend we had time trials up in the Gatineaus to get our heads and bodies back into racing mode before Europe. Saturday's time trial was a 6 km classic, and we had a great turn-out of young and less young Kanata Nordic racers. It was awesome to see all the kids participating. My time trail was a little too relaxed, as I later realized. I started out too conservatively, even though the distance was very short, and I should have gone all out right from the start. But that's why we do these race simulations, so that come race time, we'll know exactly what to do. So my Saturday's time was a little slower than I would have liked.

Today's time trial was for biathlon, and only Alexei and I participated. The total distance ended up being almost 15 km, and we shot 4 times. Both Alexei and I shot reasonably well: 80% for and slightly higher for Alexei. But I was very happy with my race and my result today, as I was only about 4 minutes behind Alexei even though I had to do an extra small loop while he was shooting. So our times were very similar all things considered. That's a super positive experience to take with me to the World Cups!

On Friday my parents, Robert and I got to meet CTV's Carolyn Waldo, a local sports reporter and Olympic champion. She interviewed us at Mooney's Bay Park and took footage of us skiing. She was especially interested in the "whole family" aspect of our training and of how we all support and motivate each other. Meeting Carolyn was really special. She conducted the interviews with great professionalism and enthusiasm. The story will run sometime before the Paralympics. I will post when I know more. This is my parents, Carolyn and I after the interviews.

Alright, I'm off to bed. Have to get an early start on packing for Europe tomorrow morning. Good night!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A little training update

Our European tour is fast approaching, and as a result, my coaches, my guide and I have stepped up our training. Since recovering from my Holiday-time cold, I've been doing lots of volume (longer skis) and  more intensity (harder skis). This increase has been taking a bit of a toll on my body though: I was really tired all of last weekend and Monday.

I had an amazing training session yesterday though thanks largely to having a back and leg massage a few hours before my workout. My quad muscles had been getting tired and stiff really easily during workouts lately, so my massage therapist performed Active Release Techniques (ART) on them yesterday. He explained that, from constant use and rubbing together, the muscles making up the quad group can get stuck together and not work properly. Using ART can help separate the muscles thus making them slide across each other and perfom their functions as they should. And what a difference that massage session made! I was able to go up the Pink Lake hill in the Gatineau Park, about a 7-minute uphill interval, five times without my quad muscles giving out on me as they had been. I encourage all athletes reading this to use the services of an ART-certified massage therapist. If you don't know one in the Ottawa area, ask me for a recommendation.

This weekend we have a couple of time trials planned with our Kanata Nordic coach, Harris, in the Gatineau Park to test ourselves before we head out for the World Cups. We were considering going to a race a few hours away, but thought better of it, what with the risk of getting sick and over-tired from travelling right before our big trip. I've got two more workouts planned for today as well, and I should be heading out for one of them as I write. So, I shall bid you good afternoon from Ottawa and head out to Mooney's Bay! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blind skiing: a team sport

This is not "later that day," but life and training sometimes get in the way of blog-writing. That's ok though. Here's my first "explanatory" post.

I say blind skiing is a team sport because blind athletes ski with a guide who normally skies a little in front of them (no further than 3 to 5 metres ideally). The best guide-athlete teams are completely in sync with each other, that is, the athlete follows the guide's technique and movement exactly. This is very difficult to acheive and is only learned through countless hours of practice together. The McKeever brothers are the best example I've seen of guide-athelte sync.

Photo courtesy of George Tuira, posted with the permission of Brian and Robin McKeever

The guide's job is to act as the athlete's eyes. He or she calls out terrain changes, turns and any other useful information that the athlete would need to make it around the course quickly yet safely. This of course means that trust is the main component in the success of a guide-athlete team.

In blind skiing and biathlon, the guide receives the same recognition as the athlete, that is to say, if the athlete wins a medal at the Paralympic Games, so does the guide. This is the ultimate reason that blind skiing and bithlon are team sports.

I hope that was a helpful explanation of how guiding works. Until next time, good afternoon from Ottawa!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Introducing a new mini-series of posts...

So I'm off work now until after the Paralympics.  Thanks to the Canadian government's International Sporting Event Leave policy, I can be off work in order to train and compete in international competitions for three months with pay. Pretty awesome deal!

So now I'm able to get my 8 hours of sleep and put in extra hours of training. I'm able to go outside in the daylight and keep my house clean and my fridge stocked with real food (those are the things that get put on the back burner when you have to work full time and train). I feel so much less tired and actually have energy when I hit the trails, even if I still have to do a lot of my training at night because my guide still works full time.

So I thought that while I'm in Ottawa and there's not much to report on, I would do a few posts explaining how things in my sport work. I could also answer questions about things in my blog or in my sport if anyone has any. Ask away!

I hope to post my first "how it works" entry later today.

Good morining from Ottawa for now!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A snowy blowy day

It was really windy and snowy in the Gatineau Park today. There was lots of snow coming down and blowing around. All the icicled tree branches from the Boxing Day ice storm kept hitting each other and making a weird glass-like sound overhead. I kept thinking they were going to fall and hit me in the head. They did fall onto the trail, and it felt like we were skiing over little shards of glass. One actually hit my hand, but it didn't hurt or anything. This almost blizzard with falling ice didn't scare away the skiers though. There were swarms of them on the trails, many with little kids in tow.

Robert and I skied mostly up and down Trail 5 today. There are some nice downhills with corners on there. We practised a few of them several times, trying to stay as close together as we could and step-turn rather than snowplow. It wasn't all that hard to do today considering the amount of fresh snow on the trail. We could be perfectly in control since there was no ice to slip on. The only obstacles we had to negociate were other skiers. It still made for good practice though. I'm slowly regaining my health and strength. It really sucks to be sick right in the middle of on-snow season when every practice counts. But things like this happen to everyone, and there is not much that can be done about it now.

Tomorrow there is no one to take me up to the Gatineaus, so I will have to ski at Mooney's Bay. I really hope they have been grooming! It's also my two weeks to have the biathlon rifle so I will have to go over to my parents' place (my dad is one of my coaches) to practise shooting tomorrow.

Good night from Ottawa.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 is finally here!

Today, just as a day, deserves a post. It is the first day of the year 2010, the year all Canadian winter athletes have been waiting for and dreaming of. It's hard to believe that it's actually here and the wait is almost over!

I haven't actually mentioned this yet, but I'm one of the athletes long-listed for the 2010 Paralympic Games, and this is going to be my year to shine. No matter how I do in the Games, I will cherish every moment of this unique experience that comes along only once in a lifetime for a select few. And of course you are all welcome to come along for this unbelievable ride!

I have actually been sick with some annoying clingy cold for the last few days. But I'm much better today, and I hope to have left all sickness in 2009. Now the final stages of training begin.

I went for a nice long ski in the Gatineau Park today, and here's what it looked like

a veritable winter wonderland.

Lots and lots of snow has been falling slowly over Ottawa, and it's expected to continue doing so for the next little while. This means lots and lots of good skiing for a healthy me.

I leave for Europe on January 19. Until then, Robert and I have our work cut out for us. Lots of technical trails in the Gatinea Park to improve our guide-athlete sync, and lots of good intervals to get ourselves ready for whatever Europe will throw at us.

When the time comes, we will be ready.

For now though, Happy New Year and good night from the snowy nation's capital.

O-Cup #1: All's well that ends well

I realize that this is a little late, but here's a post I started on the Sunday after that disasterous race in Thunder Bay and didn't get a chance to finish:

I'm sitting in the Maple Leaf Lounge at Pearson Airport, trying to do a blong entry between bites.

After yesterday's pessimistic entry, things started looking up. My coach Harris, my guide Robert and I had a very productive discussion late last night about guiding. We analyzed yesterday's race from a guiding perspective and came up with a strategy to learn from every race. So in that sense, yesterday's crappy race was actually very useful. We learned from it what we needed to work on in terms of guiding, and as a resutl, today's race went so much better. Robert stayed much closer to me because we were able to decide on a comfortable distance between us. And he gave me a lot more specific and precise verbal cues that we had agreed on last night. ...

So, as you can see, that race was actually not a total waste or a disaster. We learned a lot from it and were able to apply that knowledge in the next race.

Here are also a few pictures from after the Dec. 20 race in Thunder Bay.

This is most of the Para-Nordic group.
left to right: Harris Kirby, Kanata Nordic coach; Alex Novikov, blind skier; Frank, blind skier; Nathan Kirby, Alex's guide; Margarita Gorbounova, blind skier; Mike Scholte, amputee skier; Jerry King, blind skier; and Robert D'Arras, my guide. 

And just the Kanata Nordic group. I think you can figure out who's who.

It was a cold day for a race, but the sun was out and everyone had a good race! And we all had a chance to show off our new awesome Kanata gear!