I've been back from Thunder Bay for almost a week, and finally found some time to write about it.
The weekend's races went really well overall. It was great to have a chance to compete and get the first-race nerves out of the way before the World Cups coming up in a week. The nerves definitely got the better of me in the first race: a 3 km classic. I had skied the course quite a few times the day before and thought I had it down. Out of the three races, I'd say the first one had the most challenging course, both in terms of climbing and in terms of downhills. I was really nervous on the day of the race, it being the first race of the season. It also didn't help that I hadn't thought of arranging a meeting time and place with Brian, my guide. So in between doing our warm-up and testing wax to make sure we had grip, Caroline and I kept looking for Brian in and around the chalet. It later turned out that Brian was also forerunning (pre-skiing) the course every day, so that might have had something to do with why we couldn't find him. Needless to say that by the time my start time rolled around, I was really frazzled. I was almost relieved to start the race. Everything went more or less smoothly until we got to Lena's Leap: I jumped out of the tracks to go down the drop, but didn't quite make the right-hand turn at the bottom and tumbled into the snowbank. When I tried to get up, the tail of my ski kept digging into the snow. It wasn't until I stopped to analyze the situation and realized that I needed to turn onto my side and then put my skis down that I was able to get up and get going. Of course, by that time, I could hear Christine and her guide coming up behind me and thought, "Crap! She started 30 seconds after me, she shouldn't be catching up!" So I started skiing up the hill like mad. It didn't help that I had lost my toque and got snow in my ears when I fell. With about a kilometre to go, they were still close behind us, but we finally got away on the last hilly section of the race. This was a race when I actually found myself thinking "why am I doing this to myself?", as the last kilometre was super tough. It was not a great race, but definitely good practice for mental toughness!
The other two races went much more smoothly. I stopped worrying about finding Brian as we agreed just to meet at the stadium close to start time. I was able to do my warm-up with Caroline and then with Christine and her guide. It was very nice of both of them to let me tag along.
The second day's race was a 1 km classic sprint, which meant that we had to do a qualifier in the morning at around 10 and, as there were only three of us, a final at around 2 p.m. I had a really good warm-up and awesome grip for the qualifier (thank you, Harris). It was a really good race. I caught Christine on the uphill even though she started 30 seconds ahead of me this time. Then, we had quite a few hours to kill so a whole delegation of us went to scout out the next day's 5 km skate racecourse. We were able to ski only part of it though, as the rest was blocked off for the races. Caroline and I then had time to have some lunch and even a little nap on the floor! I was a little worried about the sprint final, as I tend to have trouble with racing more than once in one day, but I was able to warm up well once again and to finish the race without incident and well ahead of my competitors. This gives me confidence for the sprint races in the U.S. as sprints tend to be my worst event.
Sunday's race was a 5 km skate race, as I mentioned, and Robbi Weldon, the fastest female para-nordic racer in Canada, took part in the race. Robbi tried competing in tandem cycling last year and turned out to be amazing at it. So she will be competing in London 2012. But, as Thunder Bay is her hometown, she wanted to race with us. This was very good for us all, as competing against the fastest in your class is always a great way to measure your own performance. The 5 km race was a mass start and Robbi started to pull away right away. But, according to Brian, she was only 10 to 15 seconds ahead of us all through the first downhill and then uphill sections of the race. In the end, she beat me by a little less than a minute, which is really good if you compare it to last year's nationals. She must have gotten away on the last portion of the course, which was very twisty and curvy. Downhill corners are definitely an area I really need to work on. But I had a personal best in this race with a time of 17:03. I do acknowldge that it was a really easy course, but a PB is a PB and another confidence booster.
I stayed in Thunder Bay for another day when the races were done to work on skiing with Brian in preparation for the World Cups. We skied for two hours on Monday, and Brian took me up the two biggest hills at Lappe. He said he couldn't let me go home without going up them. I was completely exhausted by the end of that ski! So, this week, I've been taking it easy and recovering. Though on Wendesday, Patti had me do as many 30-second sprints as I could handle before getting light-headed. I ended up doing 25 of them and I never got light-headed! That was something.
So now there is only one week left before I go to the U.S. for the IPC World Cups. I hope they have wi-fi over there so I can actually post regularly.
For now, good night from Ottawa.