Monday, December 19, 2011

December update

It's so hard to keep up with the blog, but I really really want to! I'll keep just have to keep trying.

So Christmas is just around the corner, and it probably won't be as merry as we'd like this year. For one thing, there's been absolutely no skiable snow since that one day in November, and this is weighing me down horribly. I'm still doing dryland training! It's December 19, and it's raining - it's a skier's nightmare! I have a race in Thunder Bay in 2 weeks and I have hardly been on snow yet! I've taken time off for the Holidays so that I can ski in daylight and...I'll be doing more ski striding, strength training, running and possibly rollerskiing (if it ever stops raining) instead! ARGH!

Second, this year will be the first year that Cliff and I are not going down to visit his parents for Christmas. He just got a new job at the airport and he has to work on both Christmas and Boxing Day. How's that for making merry? Not great, I'll say. We'll just have to make do on our own. Thankfully, my parents (though they are Russian Orthodox and don't celebrate Christmas until January 7) live in Ottawa and will be coming for dinner on Christmas Eve, and we're invited to a friend's house for dinner to celebrate with her family. So it won't be that bad. It's just sad when traditions get laid by the wayside...

Anyway, that's my short and rather bitter update for today. I will write more soon. I still have to tell you about the camp in Mont Ste-Anne and to post pictures. But I will have to save this for another day.

Good night from gross rainy Ottawa.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A lesson in training

This morning, Harris, my parents and I went back to Gatineau Park, our National Capital natural treasure. This time we were there to rollerski. The forecast was calling for rain but not until this afternoon. So we were very hopeful it would stay dry, which it did, for the most part. Luckily, it only really started pouring when we were on our way home.

When I got up this morning, I felt so tired from yesterday's long hike that I was sure today's session was not going to go well. To my surprise, however, as soon as I got on my skis, I felt my energy coming back. And as we continued skiing along and I got over the initial bit of pain in my ankles from the heavy rollerskis (they are metal and so weigh much more than skis do), I started feeling even better. Today may possibly have been the first skate rollerski session that my technique (especially one-skate) actually felt super right. I was getting nice long glide on each ski and planting my poles more softly just as Patti Kitler (my provincial coach) taught me. I wish you could've been there Patti, it was a real Eureka moment! Just goes to show that you don't have to feel great when you get up to have a great race or workout session!
Sorry about the picture quality. It was taken with Harris's Blackberry,whereas yesterday's photos were courtesy of my awesome iPhone :)

That's all I wanted to share today. I'll have to write an explanation about rollerskiing at some point. For now, I'd better go to bed as tomorrow's Monday again. Sigh. Good night from the capital once more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Snow was here...for a second

We finally had our first snowfall this week! Sadly, after messing with traffic and flipping a bus, it all melted away in two days. But Harris, Lindsey and I got a good ski in on Wednesday night before it all disappeared. There were a good 5 cm on the ground at Mooney's Bay and a few people had already skied before us, so we were able to follow their tracks all around the park. We even ventured over to Vincent Massey Park for a spell. All in all, we got a good hour and 15 minutes of solid (well, not that solid actually, it being the first ski) skiing in.

But now the snow is all gone, so we're busting out the rollerskis and hiking poles again. Today, Kanata Nordic racers had a training session in the Gatineau Park. We all hiked from the Old Chelsea Picnic Ground, up Penguin hill and then my parents and I continued on Trail 1, while the racers did Skyline Trail, which is very rocky and ragged, so not so great for the vision impaired. It was an overcast and gloomy sort of day, but not much beats being in the forest, smelling the fall smells and breathing the fresh air while going up and down windy forest trails. It's one of my favourite types of training. There were lots of people out on the trails today, some walking with dogs, some nordic walking with big backpacks, lots running with ski hiking poles like ourselves. My parents and I did about 2.5 hours of ski hiking, consisting of ski striding with our poles up the hills (as I'm doing in the photo), jogging down the hills and jogging or ski walking on flats. 

After training, we stopped off at Fresh Air Experience to pick out some skis for me. I've decided that it's time for me to act like a real racer and acquire more than just two pairs of good racing skis. I brought my two pairs of skis (classic and skate) with me to the store, and Duncan tested them for me to figure out what kind of conditions they are best for, so that I can buy two more pairs that will be good for different conditions. It turns out my two pairs are best for powder or hard-packed conditions, which I apparently knew without realizing it, because when Duncan asked me what I found the skis were good for I told him that the skate skis were horrible in that crazy 15 km race in Vancouver with the wet soppy snow. Duncan said his testing confirmed that those skis would be better for powder or hard-packed snow. So my new pair of skate skis is going to be better for wet conditions. For my classic skis, I said that they are really good for everything, but then amended that maybe they were not so good for Klister skiing (Klister is a horribly sticky grip wax that is used for hard-packed icy conditions in classic skiing). I was pleased to find out that I was right - based on the testing Duncan did with Fresh Air's very cool ski testing machine, my classic skis had no Klister pocket, so they would be no good on Klister days. So I will be getting a new pair of Klister skis. Unfortunately, they didn't have these two types of skis for my height and weight, so I've been put on the list of racers waiting for new skis and they will keep an eye on their new arrivals for skis that will fit what I'm looking for. I was super impressed with the way I was treated at Fresh Air today. I've always been treated super nice by Chris and everyone else there, but I've never had such special racer treatment before. If ever, anyone is looking for cross country ski equipment or bicycles in the Ottawa area and beyond, I highly recommend Fresh Air Experience. They have the best prices, very knowledgeable staff, and you can shop online. And as you can see, they really get to know their customers. And that's my positive rant for the day.

We were supposed to have a development training camp for the Eastern half of the country next weekend, but as there is no snow in Mont Ste-Anne, QC, it probably won't happen. The coaches are making the call on Monday. Either option is fine by me, since going to this camp meant that I couldn't attend my friend's wedding. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens. 

I'm going rollerskiing in the Gatineau Park tomorrow morning, and I really hope it doesn't rain as much as they're calling for! If anyone is readying this, please think of snow for me. I'd like to try out my new skis when I get them and to actually get off the pavement before races start!

And that's the end of this lengthy update. Good night from Ottawa! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Group training begins!

Today was Kanata Nordic's first official Para-Nordic practice of the season. Caroline, Harris and I met at Mooney's Bay Park to do some rollerskiing in the dark. I think everyone was just trying to give me an advantage. We were joined by my  potential new guide, Lindsey.

As I've mentioned before, finding and keeping a guide or guides is the biggest challenge for a vision impaired skier. This year, I'm trying a new approach: I'm posting an ad on as many ski- and sprots-related websites as I can. You can see it here. I am also looking for several racing guides or training partners this time in order to lessen the load that usually falls on one person. So far my ad has attracted one potential guide and I tried skiing with her today. It went really well. We did some intervals on the hill at Vincent Massey Park and also skied up and down the trail along Mooney's Bay. Although it was almost pitch black out, I felt really comfortable following Lindsey. I think this will work out well. I will also be rollerskiing with Lindsey in Gatineau Park on the weekend. We will try to use the radios that we usually use during races to communicate.

Well, it is very late and 6 o'clock is going to come very early tomorrow. So off to bed I go. Good night from Ottawa.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Attempt gazillion-and-one at blog resurrection

Sooooo....this is awkward. I've been so bad at keeping up with this blog, no amount of updating will make up for it. So I think I will just start fresh right now.

It is November already and the ski season is just around the corner. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and I'm sure snow won't keep us waiting long, though it has been rather warm as of late.

This 2011-12 race season promises to be an exciting one!  In addition to the usual local races, O-Cups and Nationals, I will be able to go to some International Paralympic Committee World Cups in the United States! There will also be some training camps and the Ontario ParaSport Winter Games. All of this will definitely keep me busy this winter. Can't wait for snow!

I went for an awesome warm and sunny rollerski with Harris Kirby this morning. We worked on lots of legs-only skiing and some tight turns on a downhill. We also threw in a few intervals just to keep things interesting. All in all, a great workout.

I can't write too much today as it's getting pretty late, but I just wanted to kick things off here a little and to say that I intend to maintain this blog much better this season. Though I know, I may have said this before...

Well, good night from Ottawa. And see you soon! Promise.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mid-season update

Well, I guess I'm being a slacker blogger again. I really wish I could stick to this better. Oh well, I'm here now, so here's a mid-season update.

This winter's been a bit of a challenge ski-wise. First we had no snow, then we got a bit and it all melted around New Year's. It was really scarse after that until last Wednesday, when we finally got that big dumping we'd all been hoping and praying for. So now the conditions are finally great and the weather has finally gotten nice and warm so we can really enjoy being outside.

I've had great coaching and teammate support this season, even if the weather has not been cooperating. I've been skiing with our Kanata Nordic group and my new part-time guide, Vesta, so almost every day of the week I have someone to ski with. And that's a huge help for getting out there on those dark, cold winter evenings when you'd rather just curl up with a book or watch a movie. Patti Kitler has also been coaching me long-distance by writing programs for me to follow, and I think that's going well so far.

I've also done a few more races since the last update, including the Nakkertok Invitational, Tay Valley Loppet and the Kanata Pretzel Sprints. Nakkertok's race was a bit difficult due to very light snow coverage resulting in a very bumpy course. But it gave me good experience in rinding over those bumps and not letting them throw me off. The Tay Valley Loppet was a really relaxed and fun 18 km race. The course was gently rolling - super enjoyable - and the weather was just perfect for a race: sunny and about -8. I came in second overall for women but it was just a small local race.

Today I participated in the Kanata Pretzel Sprints. Our new Para recruit Caroline and I got to race againt the sure-footed Juvenile girls' category (13-14 year-olds). There were 12 of us on the start list, which made for some interesting races. We got to do 4 sprint races each (prologue, heats, semis and finals). This was the first time I got to do that many races in one day, and though I'm now dead tired and don't know how I'm going to work tomorrow, it was a great experience. I got to practice passing, jockeying for position and trying to not let someone get away. All very valuable experience.

So that's all for the small local races this year. Now is the time more serious competition starts. Next weekend is Eastern Canadians and the weekend after that I leave for Halifax and Canada Games. Then in March, I've got Nationals, which will be my only (very slim) chance of qualifying for the IPC World Championships in Russia in April. For that, I would have to be the fastest B female in Canada, which is not likely with Robbi Weldon around. But I can always stay positive and do my best!

The other very exciting news is that Cliff and I are taking possession of our new house next Friday! We get to be homeowners and finally get out of this annoying apartment. This, of course, means that the next couple of weeks are going to be super busy, what with Easterns, getting the house ready, moving and then my departure for Halifax. But that's life. As Patti said today, it's always busy! At least my life is, anyway. And I wouldn't want it any other way!

That's all for now. Good night from Ottawa!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hello, 2011!

Yes, I know, I'm a little late on this, but hey, at least I haven't disappeared this time!

So 2010, "the year of so many hopes and dreams," as I believe I dubbed it last year, is over. And what a year it was! Europe, the Paralympics, a wedding - it's like I wanted to do it all in one year...and did! 2010 was a blast and a whirlwind, but 2011 brings with it new hopes, new dreams and new opportunities. The future is always more interesting than the past, just because it hasn't happened yet. I can't wait to see what's around the corner!

Undoubtedly, this season can't be as exciting as the last one, but there are still interesting events to look forward to. In February, I will be participating in my first ever Canada Winter Games. These Games are modelled on the Olympic Games and are designed to give younger development athletes (and artists) an opportunity to compete in an environment similar to the Olympic Games, only instead of competing for their country, they compete for their province or territory. The Games will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and promise a fair share of their own fun and excitement. This year's Games will be the first to feature Para-Nordic and Para-Alpine events. I will get to ski with my Paralympic teammates, Courtney Knight and Mary Benson again, as well as to meet new promising young skiers. Check out the Games' website for more details.

Before the Games, I will be competing in a few local races and at Eastern Canadian Championships (which are, of course, always local). And after the Games, there will be Nationals in good old Canmore again. This time, they'll be integrated with the able-bodied Nationals as usual. And that's the plan for this season.

The season, so far, has been off to a very slow start: Ottawa, which never really had a lot of snow to begin with this year, lost all of it on New Year's Day. We got some of it back late last week, but conditions are far from ideal. This weekend, I'm racing the Nakkertok Invitational at the Nakkertok Ski Club. We went there on Wednesday night to check out the trails, and we could literally check them out - that is, there was not enough snow to really cover them up. So it was a very bumpy ski to say the least! We really really need some more please, everyone, send us your snowiest thoughts tonight!

Okay, I've rambled on for quite a while now. I'd better get some sleep before tomorrow's ski. Good night from the Nation's Capital.