Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tonight's gonna be a good night!

This post was written yesterday during my travels...

So it’s all over and now I’m sitting in my room waiting for the 11:30 bus to YVR (Vancouver Airport). The last few days have been even busier than before if that’s possible. We have had a lot of fun here in Whistler and it’s really sad to say goodbye and go back to reality. Reality is kind of a scary concept right at the moment. I have to go back to work the day after tomorrow!

Last night was unbelievable! First we watched the Closing Ceremonies at the Whistler Medals Plaza. It rained on us a bit while we were waiting to march in, but stayed dry for the show. We marched into the plaza through the streets of Whistler to lots of cheering and applause. It was awesome to see all the people come out. The show itself was great too. Chantal Creviazuk sang to us and there were some wheelchair dancers, a champion hoop dancer, figure skaters from Russia, as well as the usual ceremonial parts. The show culminated with an impressive fireworks display. Best of all, I could see some of it on one of the giant screens they have set up in the plaza. And it was broadcast live everywhere this time!

I’m now continuing my blog post at the Maple Leaf Lounge in YVR. The Internet doesn’t really seem to be working though, so I will have to post this when I get home.

So continuing on. Apparently, Canada has a tradition of throwing a huge party after Closing Ceremonies at Paralympic Games. But we also had to pack up all of our stuff and check our bags in to Air Canada before midnight. I got stuck in Whistler Village for a while after the ceremonies, even though I kind of wanted to go back, pack up and party. First, our development group went over to the Delta Hotel to present Jeff Whiting with a print we all pitched in for in recognition of all he’s done for us. He’s retiring after these Games. Of course, I wanted to do that before going back to the Village - Jeff has been an awesome force in the development of Para-Nordic skiing in Canada. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication over all of these years!

Then we ended up going over to Canada House where they had some speeches and general boring stuff. But people wanted a chance to hang out with their family and friends who weren’t allowed in the Athletes’ Village. So we ended up getting back to the village only around 11:30. I scrambled to get everything packed and checked in. My bags were stuffed almost to bursting! Then I ran over to the Vitamin Water Lounge. The party was definitely in full swing there. I looked for people I might know, but it was really dark and crazy in there, so I went outside to figure out what to do next. I met a Belorussian guy outside and hung out with him. He got me beer, so that was a good start. Then Jay and Stu showed up and saved me from an increasingly awkward conversation. Apparently, those two had been busting moves on the dance floor this whole time. So I went in with them and we danced, drank and partied until the party was over around 4 a.m. The place went bonkers when "I Got a Feeling" came on, and with good reason, it was most definitely "a good night!" Every once in a while I went over to the video game part of the lounge where the less-party-oriented part of our team was hanging out. I also managed to trade some team Canada stuff for Slovakia and Switzerland hats and to dance with a few random strangers. I went to bed for a three-hour nap at around 4:30 and got up at 7:30 only to find out that we were taking the 11:30 and not the 9 o’clock bus to Vancouver! I don’t feel all that bad though, I’m still pretty lively and it looks like I can spell so we’re doing good!
 Andrea and I sporting our newly traded Slovakia gear

Jordan from CPC, Jason and me wearing my new Swiss hat!

Oh and as for my race yesterday, it was pretty nearly perfect. It went about as well as it could have gone. It was 1,200 metre classic sprint, and I had awesome grip and good glide. The snow had softened up quite a bit because it was raining. As a result, the crazy 180-degree top corner was a lot better than it had been the day before. Robert and I were able to do a quick snowplow around it. And the so-called “Canada Corner” into the stadium was just fine as well. Courtney still beat me by one place, but she’s a great double-poler, and my double-pole could definitely use some more work. I ended up 9th after somebody ahead of me got DQ’ed. My goal was top 10 for that race and I definitely achieved it! What a great way to end these awesome Paralympic Games! And what an amazing experience! All my hard work had definitely paid off and was absolutely worth it.

Now I can take a little rest before planning my next big adventure. It's not quitting time yet though. The best is yet to come, I just need some time to rest and think now. Good afternoon from Ottawa.

P.S. The Vancouver Sun article that Robert and I were interviewed for came out a couple of days ago. So take a look if you like. It's got a few inaccuracies, but that's ok. :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Almost at fever pitch

Yesterday was another crazy crazy day! It started out with our 5 km classic race. The conditions were super hard and fast in the morning. The corners were pretty sketchy, so our policy was "fast up the hills and cautious on the downhills." That was what we did, except we missed the wax a little and our grip was not as good as we'd hoped. I had a really good race though, and was happy at the finish line. I didn't fall on any of the downhills, even though I did trip on an uphill bump because my wax wasn't working. My teammate Courtney Knight beat me by 4 seconds, which was a bit of a bummer, but that is sports. And at least I wasn't last this time!
Courtney and I are always very close and we take turns beating each other in our friendly competitions.

Cliff, Kathleen and my parents were there to cheer me on, which was really great. I watched the rest of the races with them afterwards. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it warmed up quite a bit throughout it. I went into Whistler with them just so we could spend a bit more time together. Then they headed off to Vancouver to watch the sledge hockey semi-final game.

Our afternoon was also very busy. Courtney, Andrea, Tom, Robert and I headed to Saskatchewan House around 5 to visit some people from Andrea's home province. Everyone was really nice and friendly over there, and we really got a warm reception. They had live music, some snacks and drinks, and we got to talk to a few reporters and some Paralympic fans.

Afterwards, we went to watch the Medal Ceremonies at the Medals Plaza in Whistler Village. Canada got three gold and a bronze yesterday. What a great day for us! The Ceremonies were very upbeat and fun. I took a ton of pictures.

To top the evening off, we showed up at Canada House, where there was a party in full swing. I met quite a few people over there too. Collette came to celebrate her bronze medal with teammates and friends. She graciously took pictures with everyone all evening. She is such an inspiration to all of us and an awesome human being.

We got home around 11 o'clock totally exhausted. I think everyone is keeping going on sheer adrenaline these whole Games. There's just so much to do and so much to take in!

Thankfully, today is a day off before the relay race tomorrow. Our women's relay team is made up of Mary, Jody and Robbi. The rest of us will definitely be there to cheer them on tomorrow morning! Go girls go!

We've got a few things planned for today as well. Tom's got us doing a scavanger hunt in Whislter Village at 1:30 as another team-building exercise. Not sure how that's going to work for us blind people, but we'll try our best. Then, we've got team photos at 4. After that, we're hoping to get a group together for a dinner out with family and friends. So another busy day coming up.

Well, I'm off to my massage before I head out to Whistler. Good morning to you for a change!

Finally some down time

This is a post from March 17 that I wrote but was not able to post due to Internet problems.

Today was finally a low-key day. We went for a short classic ski on the five-km loop that we will be racing on tomorrow. It was in great shape, and both the zero skis and klister skis worked well today. It was really nice to finally be able to go for a classic ski. I’ve been skating for too long! Tomorrow’s race should be fun! Cliff and Kathleen will also be there to watch, so it’ll be great to see them afterwards.

I went out to Whistler and walked around with my parents for a couple of hours. I saw all the different plazas and hotels. It was St. Patty’s Day, so the Village was really festive. They also have a lot of Paralympics-related stuff set up, such as a little pavilion explaining the sports etc. They were broadcasting some of the events of the day at one of the plazas.

In other news, I got a certificate signed by John Furlong, CEO of VANOC, and Philip Craven, President of the IPC, for being 7th in the 15 km today. It appears that you get one if you’re in the top 7. Pretty awesome, eh?

Well, big race tomorrow, so I need to go to bed. The Internet is not working here right now, so I’ll have to post this tomorrow. Good night from the Athletes’ Village.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Paralympic Games are at about the half-way point, and we're busier than ever. Yesterday was the 15 km free-style race. Only 8 girls started in my category, one of them didn't finish, and so I was 7th. The conditions were really tough: it was +6 and sunny, so the snow was very wet and mushy. All the uphills were really hard work, not that they usually aren't, but with the slush it was even worse. I don't usually ski in this type of conditions, so it took me the first two five-km loops to figure out how to ski in them. I fell a couple of times because I got stuck in the mush and then had an asthma attack from working so hard on one of the bigger hills. The last lap actually went pretty well, but it was too late to catch up to anyone by then. But I'm still happy with my seventh place because that's seventh at the Paralympic Games! It's not my fault that other peple were to chicken to even start! Some volunteers had my camera, but I guess they couldn't figure out how to work the zoom either, so Robert and I turned out pretty tiny, but here is an article from the Ottawa Citizen that's got a pretty good shot of us! 

Then, just after I finished, guess what? Doping control got me again! They must really like me over there! And if I said it was hard to pee before, it was extremely difficult after a 15 km race when I was all dehydrated from sweating so much! I didn't get out of there until almost 5 o'clock! It was brutal!

At 7 o'clock, we went over to the Medals Plaza in Whistler for the Victory Ceremonies. Canada got 2 gold and a bronze. How about that! The McKeever brothers and two alpine skiers did us proud. Go Canada go!

 Afterwards, we all went to the Whistler Canada Paralympic House for the family and friends reception. It was a great time! I got to hang out with my parents, teammates and some friends that are here volunteering. Jerry King and Melanie Ross, our fellow Para-Nordic skiers who didn't make this year's team are here as forerunners: they ski the race course just before competition begins in order to ski in the snow and "warm up" the trails for us. Jeff Whiting, the Para-Nordic Development Co-ordinator for Western Canada and one of my personal coaches, is here working for TV. There were also other old teammates and teammates' family members that I got to catch up with. It was great to see everyone and to share this amazing experience with them. Thanks for coming guys!

Top photo: My dad, Mikhail; my mom, Olga; Jason Dunkerley, our Athlete Services Officer; Courtney Knight, my teammate; Stewart McGregor, our other ASO; and me
Bottom photo: me and Jeff Whiting

This morning started off just as crazy as yesterday. I thought I would just take today easy and get a few things done, like my blog and laundry. So I got up at 9 and was getting my things together for the laundry, when I heard Courtney and Andrea running around in their room. I went to ask what all the commotion was about, and they said, "We're going up to Callaghan 'cause Rick Mercer will be there with the McKeevers and we want to say hi!" and then, "you should come with us!" At first, I said no, I hand't had breakfast yet and all that, but then they twisted my rubber arm by suggesting that I just get a coffee and muffin from McDonald's and come along. So of course I did. I ran to the Food Tent like mad, scaring Mary in the process, and was on the bus in no time.

It was pouring rain out there, but we got our gear and went looking for Rick. We found out that he was at a certain spot on the rec trails, so we scooted over there and sure enough, there they were. So we stood there, realizing belatedly that we hadn't really come up with a plan of how we were going to approach them. Then someone spotted us and said "Hey Canada!" which was all the promting we needed. We skied over to them, said hi and introduced ourselves. And that was about all we did, but then that was really all we wanted! We had fun paparazzi'ing it up!

When we got back to the Village, Rob (who also came along) and I had an interview with a reporter from the Vancouver Sun. It took us almost an hour: it was quite a bit more in-depth than I'd expected. It's so much fun being a celebrity for a week!

By the time we came back to our building, Rick Mercer was already here, and he actually came over to our athletes' lounge and interviewed a few of us (not me, I'm not interesting enough). He did a big interview with Collette, our silver medalist, which was awesome, and of course, we got to take pictures with him. So watch for an RMR with our team on it in the coming weeks!
Left to right: Andrea, Mary, Rick, Courtney, Margarita

And that's all the news from here for now. It's a crazy life we lead for another week or so, and I just can't get enough of the excitement! Tomorrow is the long biathlon race, but I'm not racing it. I'm trying to rest up (as much as can be done in the circumstances) for the 5 km classic, which should be my best event, or at least the one I'm looking forward to the most! I'm going to go see my poor parents now, I've been so busy today, I haven't been able to go visit them. Some family time is definitely in order. Good night from Whister!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time to catch up!

It appears that blogging while competing at the Paralympics is harder than I thought it would be. I haven’t posted in a couple of days, so there is some catching up to do.

Opening Ceremonies were on the 12th, and I’m sure some of you caught them on TV or online. What an amazing show VANOC put on for us! We were waiting under the stands for at least an hour, and it was so worth it! The crowd totally exploded when we walked in! And it was a full house. I’ve never seen, heard or been a part of anything like it! We walked through to our seats to thunderous applause and cheers. It sure felt great to be part of Team Canada!

The show itself was amazing as well. We especially enjoyed the Rick Hansen and Terri Fox bits. What an inspirig performance by everyone! The kids were especially great. After the flame was lit and the Ceremonies were over, the kids on the stage and in the choir stayed behind and cheered like mad! I went and high-fived as many of them as I could. 
We didn't get home until midnight, and we had our first race yeterday. It was a biathlon pursuit, which consisted of 3 1 km loop with two shooting. There is a prologue in the morning and then those that qualify go on to a final in the afternoon. My prologue race didn't go according to plan. I didn't shoot well: 4 misses out of 10. And I didn't really do any of the downhill corners well. My legs didn't feel very good on the uphills either. So in general, not a great race. I was last in my category, and of course, didn't advance to the finals. But it's ok: biathlon is really not my best event - I"m still pretty new at it, and the first race is always the one to get the kinks and the jitters out. Most importantly, my races can only get better from here. So I'm feeling positive before the 15 km free race tomorrow. 

My parents are here in Whislter for the first wave of the Petro-Canada Athletes' Family Program. They've been put up at the brand new Aava Hotel in Whistler all expenses paid, and they get tickets to all my events. I saw them after my biathlon race, and watched the rest of the races with them. They get pretty nice duds too: jackets, backpacks, touques, scarves, mits etc. I also visited them in their hotel last night, and went to the sauna and the hot tub with them. It was pretty funny: I told some women in the sauna that I was here for the Paralympics, and they had their kids bring down notebooks for autographs! I think that was the weirdest place to sign autographs ever! They said they wished they had a camera, and I was thinking "Oh thank God they don't!" Last thing I want is strangers taking pictures of me in my bathingsuit!

Today I took a day off from training. just to recover a bit. I've been training ever since we got here and recovering from that cold. I'm all good now, thank goodness, but some rest was definitely in order. So I just relaxed, got a massage at the polyclinic, caught up on e-mails a bit, had free McDonald's just because I could and had a nap. Then, our coach Tom had us a do a "team-buiding exercise," consisting of playing video games at the Vitamine Water lounge downstairs. They've got everything down there! Courtney and I tried our hand at some Mario cart driving on the Wii. It was really fun even thnough we both really sucked at it, being blind and all!
Well, that's the gist of my news for now. Sorry about it all having to be so copressed, but we're just too busy up here! There's the racing and recovering and then there's all the other cool stuff to do! Tomorrow night, there's the Friends and Family reception, so I'll be pretty busy all day again. Will try to post the day after tomorrow! Good night from Whistler.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just another day In the Athletes' Village...

Today has been a good day characterized by intense pin trading and the realization that WE are very special around here. This experience is going to spoil everyday life forever! How will we ever recover?!

We started the day off with some skiing. It was snowing really hard out there, but the snow was more soft and fluffy than yesterday, so the turns were really easy to do today. Tom Siletta, the coach designated to the development group, was helping Andrea, Courtney, Robert and me with step-turns. By the end of it all, I was able to do two perfect step-turns around that difficult right-hand corner into the stadium. That was an amazing feeling. Now I just have to remember that moment when I race. We had some trouble with the classic skiing though. My zero skis (skis with chemical bases used for days like today) were really catching the snow on the downhills and making them difficult to negociate. We will have to figure something else out if the classic race conditions are like today's.

After the ski, I went for a massage at the polyclinic. I got an ART provider and my back now feels so much better! Then I had some volunteers do my laundry for me. I met a Japanese coach who spoke very little English in the laundry trailer. He managed to intimate that he wanted to trade pins. So I showed him that I would be back in five mintues and brought down some Canada pins and tatoos. He gave me a Japan pin, and I went for my massage. When I came back to pick up the laundry, the volunteers told me that the Japanese man was looking for me because he wanted to give me a present and take a picture. And just on cue, he shows up with a "Hello Kitty" toy and his camera. We took a picture with each other's hats on and said "see you at the Opening Ceremonies." And that's how I made a Japanese friend!

The pin trading continued at supper, where my guide, Robert, got all excited and ran around the dining hall trading with everyone in sight! It was intense and pretty hilarious. Then, we met my old Russian friends that go way back with my parents and traded some more pins. Canada pins are a hot commodity around here!
I've still got a lot of pins left to trade, and I hear Kathleen is bringing me some City of Ottawa ones. That'll be exciting. If only all the other countries' pins were as nice as ours!

So tomorrow's the Opening Ceremonies, and most of us are going. It'll be a long afternoon. We're leaving at 2:30, the Ceremonies start at 6, and then we have the option of leaving right after we march in or staying untill the end. If we stay till the end, we won't get back until midnight. It's a pretty tough call considering most of us race first thing Saturday morning, but it would be so cool to be part of the excitement at BC Place! If you're interested in watching live, go to http://www.paralympicsport.tv/. Otherwise, CTV will air something or other that they taped at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Well, it's a big day tomorrow. Good night!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Go Team Canada!

Today was a really exciting day! We had our official Village Welcome ceremony this afternoon. It was great! They had representatives from the four host nations welcome us and sing to us, about a hundred super pumped volunteers cheer for us and take tons of pictures as well as insprational videos including one from Rick Mercer. Laura Vandervoort was tere (somehow I seem to be the only one who knows who she is!). She did a great speech welcoming us and wishing us all the best. There was, of course, all the official stuff, such as the flag-raising ceremonies and some officials talking, but the mood was really festive and everyone was really excited. At the end, the Host Nations led everyone in a dance, and then we took lots of photos. Here's a sampling.

I did get a picture with Laura, but unfortunately it's on Robert's camera. I will get it from him tomorrow and post it espcially for Cliff! :) Everyone went for supper right after the team picture, but Robert, Jamie, Alexei and I stayed behind and took all of these pictures as well as a whole bunch with different volunteers. My doping control officer from yesterday happened on the scene around that time and was swiftly recruited as our photographer. When we walked back to the Dining Hall for supper, some of the volunteers asked us if we wanted to go for beers! We asked if we could take a rain check untill the last night of the Games: we are after all in training!

This was by far the most exciting part of my day, but the rest of the day was pretty good also. I was pretty busy all day. We went skiing at 9 o'clock this morning again. The trails have softened up quite a bit since yesterday as it appears Callaghan got a good dumping of snow last night. The conditions were a lot slower, which was fine with me, but not with most other people. The corners have become a lot more challenging to navigate becauce of all the loose snow. It's easy to catch a clump and go down. Robert and I worked on some of the more difficult turns today and are happy to report that we were able to find a way to negociate all of them safely (after a few falls and some advice from coaches and teammates). Tomorrow we will go do some classic so that we can report back to our wax techs about what wax works for us and what doesn't.

Oh, and I think I'm feeling a bit better today. I still had trouble breathing and my muslces felt weak, but I think I am regaining my health. Well, I need to go to bed as sleep is one of the best things for you when recovering from an illness. Good night from the Athletes Lounge!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Settling in and fighting off colds

We went for our first ski up at Callaghan Valley today. Well, not actually our first ski, but our first of the Games. The conditions were lightning-fast up there. We flew around the 2.5 km course, even though I was still not feeling great. I found all the uphills super difficult today even though I was trying to go up them really slowly. This cold just keeps on hanging around. I can't shake it! I talked to the team doctor today, and he said it's nothing more serious than a cold (thank God!), but he thinks it's this virus that's been going around that produces a really long-lasting cold with a cough and congestion. Sounds about right, and I've had this cold for about two weeks. So here's hoping that it's almost gone. All I can do right now is just get lots of rest and ski as well as I can. So that's the plan! And I know I really have to get some new pictures for the blog, but it's been pretty hectic and I've been pretty tired. I will definitely try to get some sightseeing around the village in tomorrow!

In other news, I got picked for doping control...again! But thanks to having done it just last week, I found this one to be a breeze. My first pee attempt was successful and the team doctor and I were out of there in no time. So hopefully this means that I'm done with testing for the Games, but you never know, it is after all random.

We also got our HBC clothing back that we wanted exchanged. Amazingly, they were able to get me all the sizes I asked for, and now all of my clothes fit! I'm so happy! The uniforms we got are so nice. I would definitely wear most of the stuff after the Games.

We had a little CPC orientation meeting tonight as well. They introduced all of the mission staff and described their roles to us. So now we know everyone and are all set for the Games to begin. We just have to get over our colds (we have a new casualty in Mary). Pray for us and send positive vibes our way everybody!

Good night from Whistler.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We're in the Village!

We are finally here, as unbelievable as it is! We arrived in the Whistler Paralympic Village this afternoon after travelling pretty much all day. We drove out of Canmore around 8 this morning with our van packed to the rafters with suitcases and ski bags. Poor Andrea could not see anything to the right of her because of all the stuff, and Robert had to tell her when it was safe to change lanes! But we got there in one piece and flew out to Vancouver. Andrea and I were at the very back of the plane. As we walked onto the plane, we saw Jamie sitting in first class. He says to us, all sad-and-lonely-like, "aren't you guys in first class?" Apparently, somehow he was the only one on the team who got bumped to first class! We still haven't figured that one out.

When we got to Vancouver, we were greeted by lots of volunteers, who helped us get our accreditations validated, got all of our luggage for us and loaded it all on the bus. They also took lots of pictures of us and gave us pins and lolipops that turned our teeth blue. Celebrity treatment or what? Then we drove to Whislter on the very scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway. When we go to the village, there were some super strict security measures to go through, which included checking underneath our vehicle with mirrors and an airport-style screening. But before it, we got free Coke out of a free Coke machine, which made our day.

We got lots of gifts and our HBC clothes when we got to our rooms. The rest of the afternoon was spent in a frenzy of trying things on, exchanging what we could with teammates and filling out official exchange forms for CPC. Most of the sizes didn't seem to match what we requested last year somehow, but according to Jason, our Athletes Services Officer, that's pretty normal for the Paralympics.

Then, we went to supper, and boy is the food tent amazing! It's got all these different stations: Italian, Asian, continental, cold-cut, soup - you name it! And of course, the usual free full-service McDonald's. We had an Asian stir-fry that they made right in front of us after we picked our ingridients and pizza and ice cream. Can't wait to try something else tomorrow!

Alright, it's quite late and I'd better go to bed. We're going skiing at 9 tomorrow. Good night from the Whistler Paralympic Village!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last day in Canmore

Our last day in Canmore was pretty uneventful, which is okay: we might as well save all the excitement for tomorrow! We went for a short ski this morning, which, by the way, I found really difficult today - I guess I'm not as recovered as I thought I was. What's worse, it seems everyone staying at the house is sniffling and not feeling 100%. I'm sure I am, if not fully, then at least partially to blame for that, though Jamie also brought something back from Vancouver with him. No matter whose fault it is, we're officially the "sicky house" now, so much so that the "A" team declined our dinner invitation today, for which we don't blame them in the least. We wouldn't want to be around us either if we were healthy!

The rest of our day was spent packing, cleaning and resting. We also had an amazing dinner tonight: steaks and saussages on the BBQ, sweet potato fries, salad and steamed kale with lemon. It was delicious! And pretty mcuh everyone had a hand in making it (not literally, that's not why we're all sick).

So tomorrow morning we're off to the Calgary Airport, from whence we fly to Vancouver, where VANOC will pick us up and take us to the Athletes' Village near Whislter via the new Sea to Sky highway. We get to have our first taste of Paralympic surrooundings. We also get out sizable clothing package and other "swag." All in all, quite an exciting day ahead. Better get a good night's sleep. Good night from the Sicky House!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Gorgeous day at Lake Louise

I was finally feeling well enough today to go for a bit of a ski. I can't remember the last time that I took three days off in a row, so I really needed to shake the cobwebs out and get some movement in. Andrea took us up to Lake Louise today, and what a day it was to be up there! The sun was so bright and warm that our new warm-up suits were definitely too hot to wear, and the scenery was so beautiful that I had to keep stopping for pictures.

That being said, I got a solid 1.5 hours of skiing in with a few short sprints to shake myself up and get my muscles to remember speed. It was really hard to get myself going at first, but after about 40 minutes it got easier: I could breathe better and my muscles felt more inclined to do their job. I think in a couple more days, I'll be good as new. Now, if only the rest of my teammates can stay healthy!

It being as warm as it was, we of course had to use klister for grip today. For those of you not familiar with this ski-specific stuff, klister is what nordic skiers use when the conditions are warm and icy. It's a really sticky liquid grip wax that is a huge pain to deal with. We Ottawa skiers are a little spoiled when it comes to ski conditions: our snow can most often be counted on to be cold and wet - very easy to wax for. As a result, I don't even own any klister, much less know how to apply it! Well, I got a lesson today from the non-spoiled west-coast skiers! If you're interested (and I'm sure most of you are not), Klister comes in a tube like toothpaste, and you have to put little dabs of it all along your grip zone and then use a cork - or apparently your thumb (no, thank you!) - to spread it very evenly. But the really fun part is of course cleaning it off your skis after you're done skiing! It's a sticky mess. Yuck!

Anyway, after we'd finished our ski, Andrea took us "to say a quick hi to the lake." So today I actually saw Lake Louise for the first time in my life. Granted it was covered in ice, but it was still breathtaking. See for yourselves!

The Lake Louise Ice Festival is on there now. They've got a skating rink set up on the lake, an ice castle bult and some Olympic-themed ice sculptures including giant Olympic rings. Of course, we had to take a picture with those. Don't we look sharp in our new team outfits? Apparently, Andrea missed that memo :).

And that's our day! Two more sleeps till Wistler! Good night from Canmore for now.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Of colds and Paralympic dreams

I'm sitting on Andrea's parents' back deck revelling in the spring sunshine. I'm wearing my new red Canada warm-up jacket - hard proof that I did make the PARALYMPIC TEAM! The "press conference" finally took place yesterday and the long awaited team announcement was finally published on Cross Country Canada's Web site.

I've still got a cold, which is part of the reason I haven't been blogging in the last couple of days. My cold took a turn for the worse after our Mount Shark adventure, and I've been resting for the last three days as a result. I'm trying really hard to get better before our trip to Whistler because, as my dad said, it's better to come to the Games undertrained but healthy than overtrained and sick.

It's not uncommon for athletes to get sick as they start peaking for a major sporting event because they push their bodies to the limit, and as a result, their immune systems become more fragile. It is definitely better that I have this cold now than a week from now, on the day of my first race. I just have to make sure I do everything in my power to get better. I'm already much better today, but I must ensure that my body is strong enough to resist other infection before starting serious training again. I will probably be going for an easy ski tomorrow and maybe just a walk this afternoon. It's no fun to be sick at a Paralympic training camp, but it would be so much worse to be sick during the Games!

Yesterday, we finally got all of our team clothing from CCC including a warm-up suit and parka (which we will have to return or buy out after the Games), a racing suit, a cool sweater with First-Nations designs, touques and gloves. There was also some kind of press conference, which generated pretty much zero actual media attention, just as could be expected for a Paralympic press conference. We took our team picture with our CPC media jackets, and that was about it. Then I went home and veged, while the rest of them went to a yoga class. I would have loved to go, but thought I'd do myself more good by staying home.

Today's been another quiet day for me. I slept in till 11, while everyone else went skiing, and then have been checking my e-mails and cleaning up. Sorry this blog entry is so boring, but there's not much to say when all you're doing is nursing a cold. Things will pick up soon, I promise!

Good afternoon from Canmore.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Canmore: Day 4 - Skiing in K Country

As you have probably gathered from the title, we went for a ski in Kananaskis Country today, more specifically, at Mount Shark. The ski area is at 1750 metres of altitude and has got some amazing, perfectly groomed trails. It was sunny and beautiful all morning, and the air smelled wonderfully of pine. Courtney and I went for a two-hour relaxed ski. I'm still not back to 100% and don't want to overdo it. Most of the others skied for 3 hours.

That is Mount Shark in the background of this picture, which Courtney and I took hurriedly before our guides started complaining about our dallying. It's supposed to look like a shark's fin. The scenery around here is absolutely breathtaking. Here is another shot of the mountains around Mount Shark. 

And guess who we met on our way back from Mount Shark? This cute gentleman right here.

It was pretty funny too because Andrea, who acts as our local guide to the area, was just saying that sometimes you have to stop for mountain goats when you're driving up here, and the next thing we know there's this mountain goat right in front of us! And then he ran up the cliff face like it was nothing!

Well, we're now about to eat our shrimp and pasta supper prepared by Courtney and Robert (who is a self-proclaimed professional vegetable chopper). So talk to you tomorrow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Canmore: Day 3: Just taking it easy

Canmore gets a perfect 10 for weather and snow conditions today! It is so beautiful and sunny here that everyone can't help but think of spring. Yet the artificial snow is holding up well to the warm weather: the conditions were just as hard and fast this morning as they have been. Somebody said that it got up to 10 degrees here yesterday!

Today most of us just went for an easy ski. I've still got a pretty bad cough, so I'm just trying to work on getting better. Patti did a bit of coaching with me today though, helping me to figure out how to stay balanced on the downhills (which are my major weakness), and how to use my arms to help me go faster. It was a very productive little session, now I just have to remember what she said and use it in my races.

Everyone who is not going to the Paralympics went home today, but we got a team picture before they all left.

After that, the rest of us Development kids, namely, Alexei, Robert and I, moved to Andrea's parents' gorgeous house. This place is like a dream house: it's huge, all wood inside with wall-size windows. And it overlooks the golf course! I get a bedroom all to myself because I'm sick. Andrea graciously offered me her own room, so that I wouldn't get Courtney sick. They have a 50-inch TV over the fireplace downstairs and a steam room in their shower. I just took advantage of the latter, and think that is the only way to shower. The house is also built into a hillside, so the whole front of it sort of overlooks a cliff. Here's a view from the patio
and a view of the house, though that is only part of it.

So tonight Andrea is taking us to a yoga class and we're having supper made up of whatever leftovers we can find. We want to finish everything before we go and get groceries for the week.

Nationals in Canmore: 5 km classic

Today's race was a 5 km classic on the same tough course as yesterday. Even though I'm still feeling under the weather, I had a great race today. I was second after Robbi again, but my time was much closer to hers this time. You can see all the results on the Zone4 Web site. My time was 20:24, which is not bad for such a hilly course. I didn't get the cash today though, because Mary snuck right in and beat me to the third place in the combined category by 3 seconds! On another note, we were talking today about how the Para-Nordic program has grown over the last few years. In 2003, there was only 1 athlete (namely, my mother) at the National Championships, and this year, there were 22 not counting the Russians who came for some friendly racing before the Paralympics. That's pretty amazing!

After my race today, I had the honour of being approached by a CCES (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports) representative, who gaily informed me that I'd been selected for doping control. So I'm now officially in the Big Leagues! I get to pee in a cup while someone's watching. And it was a lot harder than I had thought: it took me two attempts and a couple of bottles of water before I was able to provide a satisfactory sample. But now I know how it works and what to do for next time, which the lady said was one of the reasons we are being tested this week, so we know what to do at the Paralympics.

So Nationals are now officially over, and pre-Paralympic training camp begins tomorrow. We've not been told anything about the "A" team's plan for this week or whether we're part of their plan or not. So we're kind of assuming we're on our own. Patti and the Ontario group are here for one more day, so we will ski with them tomorrow. As to what happens after that, I guess we'll wait and see. Tomorrow, Alexei, Robert and I are also moving to Andrea's parents' house, thanks to Andrea's generous offer, and Jamie arrives in Canmore. So another busy day awaits. Good night!