Sunday, March 21, 2004

Nationals 50k

I hadn't felt 100% all week, so my motivation for this endurance test got pretty low. Having skipped the sprints, the 50k was an all or nothing shot.
I had an ok start, despite being on a less favorable side of the grid. I narrowly missed a big crash on the first big downhill. By the 1k mark I was around 15th, and starting to see a gap opening up to the lead skiers. I worked my way through a few guys to get on to the back of the first pack. The first lap was a bit difficult at times, but my skis brought me back when I needed it. The second lap, the pace slowed and I was more comfortable, besides being on track with my fee schedule.
About halfway through the third lap Ivan made an attack that splintered the 11-man group. I was feeling good and moved in to about 7th, but the leaders were nowhere in sight. I skied the third lap with Chazz and got the word that we were catching Robin. It was shortly after this I started to feel a bit empty. Chazz took off, and I wasn't keen on skiing the last lap at a walking pace.
Brian and Gord caught me going through the stadium, and I gained some reassurance in the fact that I could stay with them, although I knew the pace was awfully slow. Eventually they left me, and shortly after Chris went "flying" by. At that point it was just a matter of keeping everything moving. In the last couple of k's Werner and Riku passed. There was nothing I could do at that point. A decent result of 13th place, but dissapointing to ski almost 15k bordering on bonking.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Nationals Pursuit 15k skate

I had a lot of guys starting not too far behind me, but my mindset was to only look forward. I figured I would go out and catch Brian and Graham fairly quickly. My start seemed fast, the level of exertion was high but I wasn't closing. In fact, Timo caught me. As we got into the bulk of the climbs I started to go backwards. My skis were noticeably slower than most. I basically blew up, and got passed by a lot of skiers. When a huge pack went by on the gradual downhills back to the stadium, I decided I could stay on it. As we started into the climbs again, I started to feel better and tried to move up the group. It was quite difficult as nobody gave me any room. Eventually I got to the front and shattered the group in the climbs. Heading to the finish, I could see Casey not too far ahead, but a bunch of the skiers I had left behind closed up again on the gradual downhills. I was 2nd in a big bunch sprint, despite a well timed slingshot move. The skis were just that bad. I ended up in 18th with a miserable 26th best skate time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Nationals 7.5k classic

I was ready to go for this one. Start was pretty good, quick but controlled, although I was trying in and out of the track for better glide. Drew caught me for 15 sec just after 1k, I skied behind him for a bit, but was lacking a bit of horse power, expecially over the top of climbs. Devon (45 sec) flew by me in the stadium with a sling shot as we lapped for the second loop (2.5k). I never got on the eventual race winner, and in fact lost a lot of time in a very short distance. A bit dissapointing, I wanted to be within 1 minute of the lead. 13th place, I can definitely classic better.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Lake Louise Loppet

Tough race, that we used for training. There was lots of fresh snow in the track. I had trouble staying in the train since my skis were slow. Joel led for the whole first 10k. When we took a feed Gerhardt attacked and was gone. It didn't matter what I did, his skis were way faster and I couldn't catch back up. Lost over a minute, but got a small gap on Joel. Second place, but mostly just a good workout.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Cookie Race 24km Mmmm.. coookie

It's always great to do the cookie race. I have done it many times, and I really enjoy the trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Best of all, you get as many home baked cookies as you can stuff yourself with. After a 24k race, this can be quite a few, although I also tried all the different soups. The race itself started fairly well for me, my skis felt great and was staying in the pack fairly comfortably. There was quite a bit of traffic from earlier waves to weave through, but I let the others be my battering ram. At one point I had to go up the middle between the two tracks. Thanks other racers, for your understanding. After 3.3k, the course turns and the conditions changed from soft tracks with fresh dry snow to wet, glazy hard tracks. By about 5k I had to resign to the fact that my skis were not fast enough for me to stay in the lead group. I had used a lot of energy, and even going just about all out, I was losing time on all the gliding sections. Eventually I got passed by Cyrus and Brent, the latter having really fast skis. He passed me in a tuck while I was double poling. Packers was tough since it was not groomed, and I had no snap left. The last 6.6k was back on the groomed part, which was brutal for me as my skis just kept getting slower as the snow warmed up. I tried everything I could: changing tracks, outside the tracks, slow tempo, fast tempo. Despite this more guys easily passed me. My time was slower than 2 years ago when it was much colder, and presumably slower. Oh well, it was a tough resistance workout.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Keskinada 50km skate loppet

We knew this huge race would be cold. The forecast the whole week had overnight lows in the -20s, and the daytime high was in question. The organizers delayed the start one hour, and shortened the course to 42.5km. It was a beautiful sunny day, so it didn't feel too cold. The snow was pretty slow, but not too bad. I was all ready to go with my balaclava, dermatome on my face and windproof Finnsvala underwear. My feed bottle went in my holder upside down, with heat pack in the bottom, to keep the drink liquid as long as possible. I also had a heat pack on some anti-bonk gels just in case. I was all ready, but not quite. As I headed to the start, I realized I forgot my timing chip. With little time to decide, I chose to go back for the chip, to ensure that I would get a time. My watch was maybe a bit slow, because when I returned, the back of my wave was just moving out of sight, and the B wave had just started.
So, already two minutes down, I had to double pole and use whatever technique possible to get through the B wave. It felt great to finally be able to stretch out, although I was still weaving in and out of trains. Finally, I started to catch bibs from the A wave, but nobody I really recognized except for girls, including my teammate Shayla. I tried to set a steady pace, as it got tougher to catch the next group.
Just over the 10km point, there is a feed station, where I grabbed a drink before commencing the longest climb of the race. Penguin is a long hill with many steep sections. Here I got caught up in traffic, since it was not wide enough to pass. On the flats I would double pole past a few skiers, the line up while skiers diagonal-skated up the pitches. As the terrain leveled, I finally had a clear track to work with, and tried to keep the momentum.
Finally I caught somebody recognizable, Chris Blanchard. He followed me for a while, then gave me a bit of encouragement as I skied away from him up the next climbing section. There I chased down a few more skiers, including David Zybelberg and Cyrus Kangarloo, who I didn't recognize at that moment, although he said "Oh there you are Erik." Next, at around 25km, I got to chase down a Rossi suit and an NST suit, Ed McCarthy. It was quite strange moving with these guys, it would take me a long time to catch them, but once I did they seemed to slow down, and I would pass them easily.
At this time I noticed my skis were not running as well, in the churned up track. They were still decent and I saw in the distance another suit, Timo Puiras. I worked hard to catch his group, and did, with a little help from Cyrus, whose skis were flying at this point. As soon as we caught them, they seemed to stop skiing. I tired of this pace, and went to the front. This was the first time I felt a bit weak, and I was leading a train of 5-6 guys. So I pulled over to take a drink. Only Cyrus passed me, but then he stopped at the last feed station at 39k, only a few ks from the end.
We headed up the last uphill with me leading at a snail's pace, I had run out of juice and couldn't move any faster. I wondered why nobody was passing me. Finally 3 of them did, and I couldn't respond. Steve Hart also passed me as we crested the hill, but there wasn't anything I could do about that either. My long solo fight had finally caught up to me, however, the rest of the way to the finish was downhill. I ended up 12th, having been in 8th from 38 to 40km. It was a fun race, and if you take two minutes off my time I would have been 7th. I didn't have my skis marked, but nothing came of it.
I won't ever forget my chip again. It wasn't natural, I took my time getting ready for the cold and for feeding, and had my bib on. At any rate, the whole situation could have been avoided if I had allowed more time. I deliberately cut it close to be as warm as possible before the start of the race. I suppose a chance to ski with the leaders without the traffic is more important. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the 50km skate mass start at Nationals.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Lake Louise to Banff Loppet

The course follows the Bow River and Bow Valley Parkway from the Chateau Lake Louise to Central Park in downtown Banff. My leg, Leg 1, started at 8 am, which was right at daybreak. The forecast called for the temperature to drop overnight, and a heavy snowfall was expected. As it turned out, the cold came through a bit later in the day, but there was plenty of fresh snow. The first part of the track was gradual downhill and was covered in about 6 inches of slightly wet snow. Luke McGurk and I shared the track breaking duties for the entire field. I could hear skiers behind me in casual conversation and I thought they should try taking the lead.
At 3 k, I looked back and saw the entire field still with the lead train, including the soloists, who ski the whole 70km distance themselves. Since most of the course is not normally groomed, there was no base for the track, which was set not long before the start. It suffices to say that these were the softest conditions I had ever encountered. It was very difficult to get any grip, as you pushed down on the ski it just sank. I also did not bother to change my race baskets, which would punch through on almost every pole, to powder baskets. I even managed to break a tip! My technique was useless, with no power coming from neither my upper body nor my lower body; I was essentially thrashing my way down the trail. After a badly timed hesitation at a junction, I ended up second, just behind Niclas Christoffersson. They said the leg was 17 km, but it took almost 1:25. My team comprised of Milaine Theriault, Joel Jaques, Sarah Daitch, Sarah Robinson and Cathy Jaques and we won the event, despite my epic struggle. Great work team!

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Finally a race at Orford!

After 3 very cold days and 2 cancelled races, finally a chance to race in a 15km mass start loppet. There would be a Noram Canada Cup in the afternoon, but I would have had to change my travel plans in order to make it. It was finally warmer, but they still had to delay the start 1 hour. The pace was slow off the start because of the cold and fresh snow in the track. At about half way Ivan made a decisive attack and left the rest of us to fight for second place. I led up most of the climbing, hoping to gap Shane and Matt, the other guys with me, but it seemed they came back easily on the downhill sections. Then Shane made a move right when I started to struggle, and got a 5 second gap that he never relinquished. I fought with Matt the whole way in, it took a big effort to stay ahead of him and his rocket skis.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

US Nationals 10k #2 (not a pursuit!)

I thought today was a pursuit, and was looking forward to having lots of guys within a few seconds to do battle with. Apparently it was always individual start, so I'm not sure where I got the pursuit idea from. I was feeling pretty tired, but optomistic of my chances to post a good result in skate. I had a good opening split, top-15 with start number 54. We clearly had rocket skis. I knew Swenson had lapped in 11:17, so when I lapped just after 78 started, I knew I was less than a minute back. Unfortunately, I faded off and lost more than minute on the second lap, losing about 20 places in the progress to finish 51st. Needed a little more snap in the legs!

Monday, January 05, 2004

US Nationals 10k

One of my favourite races, the 10km classic. I had a good start number 7, meaning the track shouldn't be too demolished on my first lap. I almost crashed on the first big downhill, it was much more chopped up than I expected. I seemed to be climbing fairly well, although Vincent seemed to be coming up from 30 seconds back. I lapped just behind #34, then he dissappeared and Ivan #35 caught me and lost me over the top and down the first big downhill. Near the end of the lap I was caught by #36 David Chamberlain, who I followed up High School Hill, and stayed within a few meters of until the stadium. A decent result, 42nd, it is so tight that every little mistake costs you a place. Skis may have been a bit slow due to klister layer being too thick for the skis.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

US Nationals: Tough day

Happy New Year to all! I am currently in Maine, staying in a small town called Andover. The event is US Nationals and started today with a 30km classic. The races are hosted by the Chisolm Ski Club, at Black Mountain, just outside of Rumford, ME. Nobody knew what to expect except adversity, with the forecast calling for snow, turning to freezing rain and then turning to rain. That's exactly what we got, and the timing couldn't have been much worse. We changed from hard wax to klister close to the start, and I ended up having marginal grip the first two 7.5km laps dwindling to no grip on the last lap. It was very humbling to run outside of the track on some very gradual uphills, at times I would just double pole to try and keep the speed up a bit. At any rate I hope I haven't overdone it; from what I heard most of the guys in my situation did not finish, most likely to save themselves for the races next week. I was feeling pretty good, so it was disappointing to not be able to leave it out on the track.