Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's the end of January... now what?

This post has been a week in the making so let's get you up to speed.

Last weekend was the final significant NORAM of the season and Madeleine had some great results. She finished 5th in the skate sprint on Saturday and, after a great race with Shayla, won the classic event on Sunday. Wicked... but not enough.

The Rossland NORAM was the final selection race for World Championships and also was to determine the FIS regional series leader for attending the spring world cups. Unfortunately, Madeleine was not selected to the world championships team and missed the regional series spot by one point. Argh. Such a disappointment but it's time to move forward. There are still big goals for this season and lots of work to be done.

Also, huge props to the athletes who were selected to the Worlds team, especially Dasha and Shayla who have been having a great season without NST support. Very cool!

This brings us to the question of now what? There are no races of consequence left in Canada until nationals which are still two months away. Based on this, Madeleine has made the tough decision to head to Europe to start several races on the OPA Cup tour (similar to the NORAM series, but with more opportunities for high end points).

The plan, as it currently stands, is to head to Europe on the 11th and then start races in the following locations:

Zwiesel (GER); Feb 14-15
Schilpario (ITA); Feb 20-22
Olivone (SUI); Mar 1-2

Unfortunately, Lorris and I will not be following Madeleine to Europe to complete Team Fast Trax. Luckily, however, Madeleine has secured support from a Whitehorse native who now lives in Rossland; John, I think? He supported Madeleine at the Rossland races when Lorris and I could not attend and has graciously volunteered to travel to Europe to join the team. The help is much appreciated :)

More updates to follow as the season continues to unfold.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

World Cup Update - for real this time

Classic Sprint
Friday's classic sprint was Madeleine's first opportunity to test the WOP trails this season. Ranked 45th going into the qualification, Madeline finished a strong 42nd. Not enough to move on to the rounds, but just 11.5 seconds back of Kikkan. The race sensations were very good, her skis were excellent, and Madeleine was feeling positive. Perfect.

As the second, and final, distance race for World Championships qualification, Saturday was a big day for Madeleine. I had picked skis for her the afternoon before and Madeleine and I agreed on the best pairs. As Madeleine made her final preparations to begin the race, I headed out to the feed zone with the rest of Team Canada.

As the field came through the feed zone (~2.0km) for the first lap, things were looking pretty tight. Madeleine was in 22nd place and skiing in a group of about 15 athletes. However, as the race began to unfold the picture began to change. At 5km Madeleine was in 23rd, at 7.5km she was in 20th.

Now, based on that you might think that really nothing was changing in the race; Madeleine wasn't slowing done significantly. However things become more clear when you look at some of the other splits. Some of the girls were simply getting faster! Shayla went through 2.5km in 25th, 5km in 18th, and 7.5km in 16th. The story was very much the same for Brittany; 19th, 14th, 14th. Check out the full analysis here - FIS.

Ultimately, Madeleine completed the race in 22nd position; an improvement over her #26 bib. However, this made her the 5th Canadian which will be a long shot for World Championships. Overall, the pursuit was certainly not a disaster and had many positives, but it wasn't a full success either. It seems that for that day Madeleine was able to ski relaxed and in control, but was just lacking the top gear to cover breaks as the race developed.

Team Sprint
This is where things began to get interesting! Madeleine was assigned to Canada 3 for the team sprint and all of us were super excited about the possibilities held by this race. As a distance athlete, Madeleine typically lacks the top gear to go with the best sprinters in the country, however the team sprint is an entirely different story. As each team member completes three laps there is a huge endurance component to this event.

Madeleine and Brooke skied an amazing qualifying heat and were part of a tough field. The heat times were fast! As the qualifying round ended the announcer indicated that Canada 3 would be moving on to the finals as a result of their qualifying time! Unreal! Super stoked on this news, Lorris and I went and found Madeleine to give her a huge high-five. Wicked!

The break between races progressed as expected. Madeleine got a massage, the techs worked on her skis, and she got down to the business of warming up. Sadly, this is where things headed south. With just a few minutes to go before the race Brooke and Madeleine were on their way back to the stadium to pick up race skis. At this point, we received notice from FIS that there had been an error - the number ten and eleven teams had been mixed up. Canada 3 was in fact not in the finals and had finished in 11th spot, just a few seconds out of the required time. Talk about a crushing blow.


Here are the three most important things I picked up from the World Cup:

1. Attitude - I've said this before and it still holds true. At the end of the day those people who act like winners end up being winners. Alex Harvey is 20 years old and came home with a world cup medal. Other Canadian athletes are just as fit and finished well back in the field. What's the difference? Alex believes and acts like he belongs as part of the big show. This guy is an absolute class act and amazing role model for younger athletes. Alex may have the greatest potential of any athlete in Canada right now.

2. Poling technique - skiing technique is constantly evolving and I'm beginning to see a big shift in the poling technique of the world's best athletes. See Jack Cook's discussion on the topic here - Fast Trax article.

3. If you're a douche and win World Cup medals, you're still a douche. There is something to be said for sportsmanship.

Monday, January 19, 2009

World Cup Update

Our condo in Whistler had at best very sketchy internet, hence no World Cup update so far. And, as if to add insult to injury, this isn't a World Cup update either. That will come later as I have mad unpacking to do... and a "real" job to attend to :)

For now, just enjoy the majesty that is the Swedish Ski Team Truck. Per Zach, " They did everything right. I was inside. It’s exactly what you’d want…"


Seriously though... I'll write an update soon...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not at all relevant

Two very random You Tube videos that are not at all skiing related, but worth watching anyway.

1. A short video about a hippo, some noodles, and his friend Roy. This little gem was brought to my attention by some of the NST service staff. Good stuff - Noodles on my Back

2. An even shorter, but much weirder, video about a gummy bear. Not much to say here, mostly it's just weird for the sake of being weird - Gummy Bear

In other news, the World Cup starts later this week. Stay tuned for mad updates.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I'm about to board my 7th flight in six weeks as I attempt to return to Edmonton.

In a [not] surprising turn of events this flight is delayed. Why is this not surprising? Because of those seven flights precisely one was on time.

Airlines are lame.

Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mandatory Reading for Race Organizers

This is admittedly plagiarized from Johnny Klister

10 Rules for Hosting a Coaches' Meeting

1. Serve beer.

2. Have an agenda ahead of time. Follow it.

3. Don’t repeat yourself. Seriously, don’t repeat yourself.

4. Thank your staff. (Once.) Thank your sponsors. (Once.)

5. Answer every question regardless of how obvious.

6. Print out copies of start lists, weather reports and course maps ahead of time. Seriously, ahead of time.

7. If you need a microphone, use it.

8. “There’s no skiing backwards on the course.”

9. Jokes (especially inside jokes with the race staff) will fall flat. Don’t make them.

10. The meeting should not last more than 30 minutes. 15 minutes is ideal.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pursuit - a better update

Today was my second full day back to "real" life after almost six weeks of non-stop travel for skiing. I've been on seven flights during that time, of which precisely one departed on time. This miserable statistic includes my heavily delayed flight to Grande Prairie last night that arrived just before 1am, but I digress...

Yesterday's skate race was very positive for Madeleine and we're excited about the upcoming Whistler world cups. Things are looking very good.

Here are a few thoughts on the race:

- Madeleine chose a pair of 90 mould s-tracks for her classic skis. This was a bit surprising to me, however the skis felt great in the rock-hard Canmore tracks and the longish wax pocket had the most positive grip.

- Our grip combination was out of control recipe of violet klister, Swix extra blue, Start MFW red, old school start red, and more MFW red... Lorris was the mastermind behind this alchemic concoction, so I'll leave it to him to explain it in more detail. The bottom line is that it kicked a ton (not surprising!) and had really excellent glide properties (somewhat more surprising!).

- Madeleine had one of her better classic legs in a Canmore pursuit and entered the exchange box in third place and part of the lead pack. However, in a wicked (read weird) turn of events, the race organizers assigned the highest seeded athletes the furthest exchange boxes, meaning those athletes had to spend the most time on classic skis. It's not clear why this was the case.

- The skate skis Madeleine selected have a grind that seems to be great everywhere. They consistently tested the best all weekend and, despite what we may have predicted, ran well with no hand structure modifications.

- Glide wax was Solda Performance Red (hilarious, I know!) with S30/HP05 on the tails. Solda = the bomb dizzle. You should have it in your box!

- Following the exchange, Milaine and Brittany were able to open a bit of a gap on the field. Madeleine was skiing in the chase pack with Amanda and Shayla and not feeling great. Things started to come around when she and Amanda put a bit of a surge on near the top of the course, at which point Shayla dropped.

- As the final lap was finishing Amanda attacked hard on the last uphill, fully hop skating and making a move. It was a gutsy call and huge props to her for going for it! Madeleine was able to cover Amanda's break and passed her on the downhill into the stadium.

- At this point, the sprint was on with the two of them hammering it out to the finish line. It was a lunge for the finish and Madeleine made it by a toe. It was a wicked race for both girls and it's super good to see Amanda back and throwing down on the course.

- Overall, a very positive result for Madeleine with massive potential leading into the world cup.

In other, and entirely unrelated, news, as a result of my real job I am spending the next three days in very close quarters with some very sick people. NOT cool. I continue to be convinced that my pretend job is way more fun than my real one and that athletes are way more awesome than accountants. However, I'm determined not to get sick by following some very simple rules. They are worth a read and you can find them here, third article down - Fast Trax article

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pursuit - very brief update

Great result today = 3rd!!! The word is that it was a sprint to the finish with a lunge for the line.

Awesome job!!!

I'm in Edmonton right now, so details are sketchy at best.

I'll try to provide a better update as information becomes available.

Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Canmoe - 10km Skate

Earlier today Madeleine completed her first race here in Canmore with a solid win. The temperature warmed significantly from yesterday and the 10km skate race went off without a hitch.

The race unfolded like this:

1. Madeleine
2. Rhonda Jewett (+10)
3. Amanda Ammar (+15)

1. Madeleine
2. Amanda Ammar (+22)
3. Rhona Jewett (+24)

1. Madeleine
2. Amanda Ammar (+41)
3. Rhonda Jewett (+55)

1. Madeleine
2. Amanda Ammar (+29)
3. Rhona Jewett (+46)

As the race developed Madeleine focused on skiing smooth and relaxed in order to conserve energy for the 15km pursuit tomorrow.

Race wax was all Solda!
a. Base of Solda S32
b. Solda F15 blue
C. Solda S30 tips and S30/HP05 tails.

Lorris and I will spend the afternoon testing and preparing skis for the big show tomorrow.

Full Results - Zone 4

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rule 303.2.2

With air temperatures below -20°C (temperature measured at the coldest point of the course and without wind factor) and competition distances less than or equal to 15 km, the Jury must postpone or cancel the competition. With competition distances greater than 15 km and temperature less than -18°C without wind factor, the Jury must postpone or cancel the competition.

This was a rule that everyone involved with the first trial race of the weekend became intimately acquainted with at about 11:15 this morning. When we arrived at the race site at 7:30 this morning, the temperature was -23 and by mid morning it had risen to just -22. It was cold!!!

Luckily, the race directors had the gumption to recognize a dangerous situation and cancel a very important race. Frostbite is bad news, but when racing at this temperature the real concern is frozen lungs. The problem is that frozen lungs = no more athletic endeavours = not cool.

The cancelled race was very much a bittersweet situation for Madeleine today. On one hand, not racing in the extreme cold was a very good thing. On the other hand, she woke up feeling great with amazing energy; it was shaping up to be a very good day. In any event, the pursuit race has been rescheduled for Monday and will still be a selection race for World Championships. Monday will be a good day too.

Tomorrow is a skate sprint that we have decided Madeline will not start. This is simply a decision to deal with energy management to optimize conditions for a great result in the pursuit on Monday and at the World Cups two weeks from today. Instead of deal with a draining sprint day, we will complete an intensity workout focusing on snappy intervals and good technique.

In other news, today was very much a Solda day, focusing heavily on S30 with some F15 blue also in the mix. Grip was going to be a mixture centred around Magnar 2.5.

This was where we were instructed to test wax today. Unfortunately, the Nordic Centre staff were blowing copious amounts of snow all over the tracks. Sometimes it's just easier to test on the course.

Stay tuned to weather updates over the next few days. The forecast is for better temperatures - The Weather Network; Environment Canada