Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Serious Shout-outs

Before heading off to Canmore to prepare for the trials races this weekend, I'd like to take a moment to thank a few people who have made a huge impact already this season.

1. Mike Mappin - Mike, together with his wife Judy, runs Canmore Nordic Sport Services and imports and distributes Solda, Magnar, and Guru waxes, as well as Trab cross country skis. These waxes are consistently some of the best performing in our box and deserve your attention every time you wax your skis.

Mike is perhaps the most knowledgeable wax tech I have ever met and is meticulous in his testing and ski preparation. He has been kind enough to work with me extensively over the years, including a great meeting this week, and has significantly impacted my growth as a serviceman.

2. Fischer Canada - Fischer is the official ski and boot supplier to the Fast Trax Pro Team. Earlier this week I received a pair of amazing Carbonlite classic skis (cold) selected by Jan in Quebec. My first opportunity to ski on them was in Canmore on the weekend, and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. These skis are amazing and I look forward to continuing to work with Fischer in ski selection for both Madeleine and the rest of the Team.

3. Zach Caldwell - The bottom line is that the man knows skis. Period.

Zach specializes in long answers to simple questions, and more information than you were looking for on almost any topic. If you don’t want to know, don’t ask. However, I do want to know and do ask; often.

You should send Zach your skis and if they're good he'll make them better.

4. Jack Cook - Without the support of Jack and Fast Trax none of what our team has done would be possible. Fast Trax is unquestionably one of the best shops (skiing and running) in Canada with the most knowledgeable staff. If you happen to be in Edmonton make a stop at the shop just to enjoy the atmosphere. You need what they've got.

In other hugely important news, Madeleine secured a quota start at the January Canadian World Cups in Whistler. This is an awesome development that allows us to be somewhat selective about the races we'll start at the Canmore trials this week. Check out the fully story here - FIS series.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brief results

1. Mado
2. Britney (+5)
3. Dasha (+60)


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sprint Update

Today started out super cold (-18) with quite low humidity (running in 30-60% range). The snow was crunchy and dry and despite yesterday's predictions, flouros were very much not in play. We ran on Ski*Go LF Blue covered with S30 in the qualifying round. The groomers did an excellent job of dealing with the mountains of fresh snow and the course was in great condition.

The qualifying round went exceptionally well and Madeleine came past me (150m from the finish) in second place, 2.5 seconds behind Dasha. By the time she got to the finish line Madeleine had closed this gap to just one second. Although this didn't change the placing, time is points and Madeleine attacked well right to the finish.

Given the significant gap after the top three placings, the quarter and semi final rounds were uneventful and Madeleine sailed through without any problems. The skis were good and as the sun came out we switched to Ski*Go HF Blue covered with S30. Flouro covers were still not in play. The final was significantly more interesting with Madeleine reaching the final hill in the lead, just ahead of Dasha. As the two crested the top of the hill, Dasha began to make a move and was able to sprint just ahead for the win. It was a great race!

Tomorrow is a 15km skate race (mass start) which should be pretty interesting given the narrow trails. The weather forecast is -15 overnight with very little warming come race time (10:00). There is also 10cm of snow in the forecast... the last time we heard this rumour hundreds of flights were canceled, roads were closed, and the snowfall was more like 30-35cm. It should be interesting to see if we make it home tomorrow!

Briefly, in other news:

1. The Nish, who qualified fourth, was in the hunt for the win (sprinting against Alex Harvey), but suffered an unfortunate crash. Very tough break.

2. There was a comment made yesterday that I'm the biggest (ski) geek out there. This may or may not be true, so to find out we've place an informal poll on our main page - poll. You should probably vote :)

3. Did you watch the Norwegian Top-Gun video I mentioned yesterday? Get on it!

Start time is 10:00 tomorrow - start list will be on Zone4 later tonight.

Due to some issues with timing, official results are not yet available, however unofficial results have been posted - unofficial results

Friday, December 19, 2008


Some highlights from Duntroon so far:

1. It's snowing here = neige au maximum. It was supposed to snow 10cm today but that happened sometime around 10:00 this morning. Right now the roads are a mess, flights are canceled, and the race has been delayed because the plows have been called off the streets until the snow stops. It's pretty intense.

2. The course is old school. Two laps of 7.5km, narrow in places, lots of flowing, rolling terrain mixed in with some short, super steep hills (course profile).

3. The snow is heavily influenced by the Georgian Bay just a few kilometers from here. The humidity is high and flouros will be in play.

4. One of the hills in the sprint course is like a cliff. Tempo will have to be high to avoid stalling out.

5. The Norwegian nordic sprinters have their own web site with a Top Gun-style theme called "Top Ski." Last year's theme had them costumed as Viking super heroes. This video is awesome = it combines two of my favourite things: Top Gun and cross country skiing. I highly recommend checking this out - YouTube clip.

6. As a result of the terrible roads the race organizers have delayed the start of the qualifying round until 11:10. This is to allow both racers and volunteers to make it safely to the race site. Based on the roads, this is probably a good call.

7. Tomorrow is a 1.3km skate sprint. The course is going to be soft.

8. Jorts... fantastic - YouTube clip

This was a pretty disjointed update. Don't forget to watch the Norwegian video in #5!

More tomorrow!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Westjet flight 678 to Toronto

Epic. That is the only way to describe our flight last night. After random searches and massive delays, lorris and I finally arrived in our hotel at 3:00 am local time. Sweet.

We're in Collingwood now and will check out the Duntroon trails in the morning.

There is no internet here but we will keep you as updated as possible.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

10km Classic - race recap

In order to facilitate the full schedule of races, the Sovereign Lake organizers put together a night race to get us access to the venue. Despite threateningly low temperatures, the race went off without a hitch and the Fast Trax Pro Team enjoyed some wicked success.

The afternoon started with me testing Madeleine's skis and Lorris working on glide wax combinations. As a result of all of Zach's work on Mado's skis we have a lot to learn about which pairs run well in a particular set of conditions. I tested four pairs of skis with two pairs standing out in particular. The snow was new and cold and as per usual 346 (with an XC02 grind) was fast and kicking well. Another pair of skis, 467 (with a ZR1XL grind) was also fast and felt solid for kick.

While this was underway Lorris developed some stellar grip and glide combinations. For glide we ran Ski*Go HF blue +S30 and from grip we ran an extra blue binder, a Magnar 2 cushion, a couple of layers of Magnar 1 (it was kicking well), and a full layer of Guru green for speed. Everything was kicking well and being a classic race it was all about speed. In short, Madeleine's skis were awesome.

Things were looking good for the race. Madeleine had the number one seed and was starting at the end of the open women's field. The goal for the race was the same as the skate distance race... ski controlled, relaxed, and kill the final lap.

The race consisted of three 3.3km laps and the splits unfolded like this:


1. Milaine
2. Brittney Webster (+2 sec)
3. Kristina Strandberg (+3 sec)
4. Nicole De Young (+3 sec)
5. Mado (+4 sec)

At this point it was very early in the race and Madeleine was skiing hard but very much in control.


1. Kristina Strandberg
2. Mado (+12 sec)
3. Brittnew Webster (+16 sec)
4. Milaine (+21 sec)
5. Becca Rorabough (+30 sec)

The top five remained tight but Madeleine was making a significant move on the field. She was skiing with awesome tempo and cleary was dealing with the lactic load very efficiently.


1. Kristina Strandberg
2. Mado (+8 sec)
3. Brittnew Webster (+19 sec)
4. Milaine (+40 sec)
5. Becca Rorabough (+41 sec)

At this point the field had basically settled in but the splits were extremely tight. Madeleine needed to continue to ski hard right to the finish and was in the hunt for the lead.

In the end the top five finished in the exact order as the 7km split. It was an awesome race and we continue to see Madeleine's race shape develop as the season progresses.

Huge props to the race organizers for putting together three NorAm races with only a few days notice. The grooming was fantasic all week and the racing was terrific.

Also, huge props to Zach Caldwell for all of his work on Madeleine's fleet. There is a link to his site on our main page. We still have a lot to learn about the skis, but her fleet is out of control fast. Fantastic.

We leave for Duntroon (Toronto) on Wednesday for the next set of NorAm races.

We're in the Vancouver airport right now waiting for our delayed flight back to Edmonton. My laptop is going to die soon, so stayed tuned for a summary of our race wax in the next couple of days.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Race is done. Mado = 2nd. More to follow.
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This morning we woke up to this:

The picture doesn't really show it that well, but as you can tell from the sky it's snowing again. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it's snowing still. The snow hasn't stopped falling for at least 24hrs, probably more.

An intense weather system from the north has dumped more than 30 cm of snow on Silver Star over the past two days and Environment Canada is forecasting a significant change to colder weather. The current temperature is -9 and that is expected to drop to -15 by this afternoon and -17 by this evening. The wind is currently blowing at 25 km/h with gusts to 40 km/h and that isn't expected to change.

It's cold!!!

Yesterday, the race organizers moved the start time up to 5:00pm due to the weather conditions. The jury will meet at 2:30 pst to review the weather and make a final call as to whether or not the race is going to run. Today's schedule looks like this:

2:30 - jury meets to review weather
3:00 - coaches meet with jury in race office to hear decision
5:00 - race start (if it runs)
5:13 - Madeleine starts

More to come as the situation develops...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Race Recap - (significantly) more detail

Today's race started at 1:00 pm which was a welcome change from the norm. The afternoon start allowed for a relaxed morning and was quite enjoyable. The weather was perfect with clear blue skis, bright sun, and temperatures around -2. It was amazing (see picture below)!

The day started with Lorris and me zeroing three pairs of Madeleine's skate skis with Solda F15 violet. While Lorris was working up our test skis, I took to the course to compare Madeleine's potential race skis. As I worked through the race skis one pair, "879", stood out as a shining star. This particular pair was significantly better both in terms of feel and performance in glide tests. I was stoked on this pair and things were looking good!

By the time I got back from testing race skis, Lorris had our test skis ready to go. We worked through four potential glide waxes and once again Solda put on a very impressive performance. The best part? S30 was very much in the mix. As I've said before, once settling on a glide wax you need to test it in conjunction with S30. I'll provide a summary of the conditions and our waxes at the conclusion of the weekend.

Now to the race report! Last night we talked about strategy for today's race and concluded that the most important goal was skiing a relaxed and controlled first lap, and increasing the pace throughout the race. Madeleine executed the race plan to perfection and led the field to a very easy start. When she passed the feed station 750m from the start Madeleine looked to be skiing zone 1 at the most. Perfect.

Lorris was waiting at the 3.5km mark and radioed me to say that Madeleine was in the lead group in about 5th or 6th place. The other girls were doing the work and Madeleine was along for the ride.

At this point, the race began to open up and Caitlin Compton (USA) had developed a fairly significant lead. Brittney Webster and Milaine were in the hunt and had broken away from the rest of the pack. Madeleine came through the stadium for the first time in 6th place, where she stayed for the duration of the race.

The key to this race was that Madeleine started relaxed, which delayed the onset of lactic acid, and increased the effort throughout the race. Given the program we've put in place, her ability to deal with the lactic load of racing is going to continue to improve at a significant rate as the season progresses.

Tomorrow is a classic sprint and another opportunity to increase lactic tolerance. The sky is fully clear right now and the forecast is for significantly colder weather. I think that is probably accurate.

Full results from today - results
Classic sprint startlist - startlist

Race Recap

Madeleine was sixth today in a perfectly skied race.

More to follow...


Days like this are what make me seriously contemplate quitting my real job!

This is pretty amazing.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Race Night

It occurred to me that many of you have never been to Silver Star and would probably like to see what we're dealing with out here.

I brought my camera with me on this trip, however in my normal fashion it hasn't left the bottom of my clothes bag. Luckily, the resort is quite good at taking pictures, so here is a sample:

(Photo - Silver Star Mountain Resort, BC, Canada / Kimberley Knight)

This is what the downhill area looks like right now; the nordic trails are equally amazing! This afternoon Lorris and I snuck onto one of the downhill runs and hit part of it on our skate skis. Pretty sweet :)

(Photo - Silver Star Mountain Resort, BC, Canada / Don Weixl)

This is what the main street of the village looks like at night. The village is right at the base of the downhill area and all the buildings are in a Victorian theme.

Tomorrow is a 15km mass start skate race for Madeleine. The goal for tomorrow's race is to complete the second lap faster than the first and utilize good race tactics to catch a ride from one of the other athletes. It is super important to let someone else do the work whenever possible.

Start list is on Zone4 - start list

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

30% chance of light flurries

That forecast means something different when you're at Silver Star!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tweak, sneak, deak, peak

An update on the new plan...

The three races originally scheduled for Whistler Olympic Park on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday of this week have been canceled due to a lack of snow.

Instead, races will be as follows:

Thursday - 15km skate (mass start); Sovereign Lakes
Friday - Classic sprint; Sovereign Lakes
Sunday - 10km classic (interval start); Silverstar

Huge props to the NorAm organizers and volunteers for managing to pull together three races with just four days notice. There will be a coaches' work party on Wednesday to help get the stadium ready.

We were lucky enough to be able to arrange to stay in our same condo for the duration of this week so accommodations have not been a problem. However, on the trip home a week from today Lorris and I will be taking a fairly hilarious route - Kelowna-Vancouver, two hour lay over, Vancouver-Edmonton. Perfect.

Madeleine was 12th yesterday (results) and it may be hard to believe, but this was more or less according to plan. Last year we needed to win all the NorAm races to secure a world cup spot for the spring. This year, we are focusing on peaking for two key races - the pursuit in Canmore in early January and the distance race at the world cup in Whistler in mid January.

Today is a recovery day for Madeleine with an easy ski this morning. Tomorrow will be some short sprints to work on speed with another fairly easy day on Wednesday in preparation for Thursday's race.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Big Change

I guess we're not going to Whistler anymore...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sometimes it's About Luck

Our day started at 5:40 this morning with Lorris' phone serenading us with "Sunday Morning." As soon as we got outside we could tell that things had changed significantly. Snow had fallen again overnight, but this time it was classic BC snow... wet and heavy. Driving to the race site we were feeling confident about the setup of our test skis and things were looking promising.

The morning went fully according to plan. Testing was relatively straightforward and it didn't take us long to settle on a race wax and top coat. There is another skate race tomorrow and potentially another one here next weekend (more on that later), so I'm not going to give away all our secrets just yet :)

Madeleine finished 22nd in the qualifying round, 11.0 seconds off the pace. Although this was a little surprising based on what we saw on the race course, that time gap is about the norm. As a true all around racer, Madeleine's strength is that she typically gets stronger during the heats and we were ready for things to improve as the day wore own.

That brings me back to the title... sometimes in sprint racing, it really is all about luck. Madeleine skied brilliantly in her heat; comfortably in second place during the entire race. She looked super relaxed, had amazing technique and tempo on the uphills, and sat in the draft on the downhill; exactly where she need to be.

Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be today. Sometimes in sprinting it truly is all about luck. As the racers entered the stadium it was clear that Madeleine's heat was very close. There is a short uphill into the stadium and she was still in second and looking amazing. As the race neared the finish line the pace quickened and the sprint was on. Madeleine was positioned well and I was convinced that she was moving on to the semi-finals. Milaine was in the lead and Kristina Strandberg was making a nice move in third but it looked like we were going to be ok. Then, at the last second, Milaine stumbled forcing Madeleine to take a very wide line into the finish. Kristina was able to ski straight through and in a super close finish took second in the heat. Our day was done but that is the nature of sprint racing.

Despite being eliminated in the quarter finals, there were a number of positive outcomes to today's race. Coming off a bout of illness, Madeleine hasn't done intensity in a couple of weeks so it was good to get in a quality speed session. Also, because of the lack of intensity of late we were not expecting Madeleine to have full access to her top gear, but she clearly showed that overall fitness is excellent.

Tomorrow's race is looking promising and Madeleine has the prime starting position. The race is two laps of a 5km course that is tough. As Jack said, "there is no lack of uphills or downhills on that course!"

Full results from today race - results
Tomorrow's start list - start list

Friday, December 5, 2008

Broken planes and rain

Our first day on the road began with a false start. We arrived at the airport as planned, Maryann dropped us off, and Lorris and I walked straight to the self-service baggage drop. That should have been a hint of what was to come! As it turned out, our flight to Kelowna had been cancelled due to aircraft maintenance. We think that might be code for a broken plane. Luckily, Maryann was able make a quick u-turn in Nisku and come rescue me and Lorris.

This morning Lorris and I were up early to scrape and zero five pairs of Mado's skate skis. Her skis spent the fall with Zach Caldwell who completed extensive testing on the skis and ground them to match. His machine does nice work. Very nice work. Mado's skis look amazing.

We got to Sovereign for 9:00 in time to test race skis. All five pairs that we tested were very good, however three in particular stood out.

This is where things get interesting. As of yesterday, Silverstar had very little snow. Luckily, it snowed quite a bit overnight which improved conditions a ton. That part was good. Just as Lorris and I were getting set up to test wax, however, the ski opened up and it started to fully pour rain. That part was bad.

We decided not to waste our time and headed back to the condo. It seems like there was some kind of weird temperature inversion because at lower altitude, the rain we had experienced was beautifully falling snow. Lorris and I decided to capitalize on this opportunity and do something we almost never get to do... ski for fun! We managed an awesome 90 minute ski, which was a fantastic treat.

This afternoon we did a ton of work on Mado's skis to get them ready for tomorrow. We also set up our test skis as we've got a pretty good idea of how things are going to play out.

Tomorrow is the first test; a skate sprint. Mado starts at 9:28 with heats later in the day.

Start list can be found here - startlist

Results will be on Zone4 tomorrow afternoon.

Game on.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


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Monday, December 1, 2008

On attitude...

During a three week session at the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs last January - what Michael Phelps calls "the pivotal moment" of his impossible run - he was beaten every day by guys who had no right beating him.

"It's like I was swimming with a piano on my back. I just don't like to lose; not in swimming, not in Monopoly, ever."

What bugged him more than anything was losing to the guys who loafed half the practice, then suddenly smoked him in the final set.

"We call someone like that a Sammy Save-up and I kind of lost it on a few people."

The problem, as far as Phelps could tell, was that he was seemingly regressing instead of progressing.

Then he went to Bejing. And we all watched it. For a week, there was no ray of light more blinding, no moving object more certain of its destination.

Micheal Phelps gave it everything he had, 100% of the time. Every practice was the Olympics, every interval was the 100m fly finals.

He won eight Olympic gold medals.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Four Days

There are only four days to go unil Lorris and I meet the rest of the Fast Trax Pro Team in Vernon. Despite an early set back due to an emergency appendix issue, Madeleine has had a phenomenal summer of training and I'm excited for the racing to begin.

Last week I spent an entire evening with Pierre Langevin and Geoff Thornell, from Fischer. We had a great opportunity to discuss the RCS line, including boots and skis, as well as the direction Fischer is going to be taking into the 2010 Olympics. Pierre was able to confirm a lot of what we already knew and provided some additional insights:

- Plus base (28) vs cold base (A5); really doesn't matter, both bases are excellent. Far more important to pick skis that are specific to the conditions you are dealing with.

- Tip splay on classic skis; don't get too worked up about seeing this. Soft tips are the goods in soft conditions and soft tips = tip splay.

- RCS boots; the most technologically advanced, high performane boots on the market. The Fast Trax Pro Team is proud to be rocking Fischer boots this year thanks to the support of guys like Pierre and Geoff.

Madeleine is starting a fairly easy week consisting mainly of zone 1 skiing and sharpening sprints. I, on the other hand, am starting an insane week at my real job in order to get ready to take at least a month off. There is work to be done in the office, meetings to attend, and tons of packing to complete. That being said, this is what my new office looks like:

Rumours have begun to circulate that Jack Cook may be joining the Fast Trax Pro Team in Vernon to assist as a serviceman. More importantly, however, there are rumuours that Jack will be starting the 15km classic race this coming Sunday. See the link to Jack's blog below!

Finally, huge ups to Devon Kershaw for his 5th place finish in the 15km classic in Kuusamo today. Also, huge ups to Stefan Kuhn for his 15th place finish in the classic sprint yesterday. The Canadians are off to a great start on the world cup already!

Stay tuned for further updates as this week's races approach!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It Begins

Last night Lorris and I spent some time going through our wax boxes to take stock of what was there and replenish things that we used up last year. We leave for the first set of races in just eleven days and we have some significant plans for world domination.

Here are some of the tools we use:

Solda S30 – This venerable product from Solda brands itself a base hardener. As a result, it works super well in cold conditions. Hilariously, it also works super well in almost every snow condition you can imagine. You need to have a container of this in your box. Test it in conjunction with the wax of the day and 90% of the time it’ll make your skis better.

Solda Powdes – We use specific wax in specific conditions so why most people use general powders boggles my mind. Solda makes four different powders tuned to specific conditions. I especially like HP05 for cold snow that is warming and HP06 on cold days.

Solda F15 Blue and F31 Violet – Fast wax for cold to medium snow. The temperature range is just a guideline. For most of Canada don’t worry about Solda Orange (the snow needs to be heavily transformed), F31 Violet will cover the vast majority of warmer conditions.

Solda F40 Red – For new fallen snow in warmer, high humidity conditions. Sweet.

Ski*Go Ultima – The only wax for silky, cold snow. Test this every time you’re in Canmore.

Ski*Go HF Blue – When the temperature is low and the humidity is rising, this is our go to wax.

It’s time for the big show.

Madeleine is ready.
Lorris is ready.
I’m ready.

Are you ready?!?