The end of one winter and the beginning of another.

So as fast as the winter kicked off it has ended. I was hoping to write a lot more about the season in sections through out all the racing, but I was too busy and never got the chance. So instead Im going to do an overview with some photos to help spice it up! It was a pretty good winter for me and I’m really happy overall with how the season turned out!

The serious racing started in Perisher with the first round of National champs. A classic sprint on Saturday and then a 10km skate on the Sunday.

Both days were solid for me, I was third Australian and 4th overall. I took a lot of confidence out of the races and really started to look forward to the next round of races back in Falls Creek.

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First win of the season!

So winter has certainly continued with heavy snowfalls! With a base of around a metre and a half we are set for the season! All I’m after now is sun!

Amazing amounts of snow and pretty perfect conditions.

Amazing amounts of snow and perfect conditions.

So after the Australian team camp, the training kicked on and with most of the coaches still staying up at Falls, the camp basically seemed to continue on an extra week which was awesome! It was great to spend a session a day with coaches either working on technique or just being pushed during intervals.

Enjoying some coaching and skiing! Photo credit Tom Smith

Enjoying some coaching and skiing! Photo credit Tom Smith

Last weekend we also had the first distance skate race of the season, the High Plains Tour, a 10km mass start. The regular Falls Creek or BNSC crew didn’t set the racecourse, so it was quite unique. It was two 5 kilometre laps with the first 2 kilometres being all steady climbing and then the next 1.5 straight back down, before a brief ski on some flat and rolling terrain and then back into the monster climb.

The race went really well for me and I managed to out sprint my competitors for the win!

I realize I’ve said this next phrase a lot recently in my blogs so I guess I’m just keeping with tradition. The gun went and I found myself at the front of the pack leading out the mass of races, making my way up the long climb. Pretty quickly it was down to a pack of four and as we crested the top of the final climb I put the foot down pushing over the top hard and splintering the group. Just like the previous race, Phil came with me and we skied down together, gapping the rest of the field more and more. As we began to climb a second time, Phil put the power down and attacked. I quickly tucked behind him and kept pace with him up the climb. I think we were both starting to go into the red towards the end of the climb and just before the crest it seemed like the pace eased. As we began to descend for the last time the race had completely changed from a 10km distance race to a tactical mind game and sprint finish. With around a kilometre to go, I attacked from behind, Phil making a dash for the line. Phil is an exception sprinter and I knew if it came to a 100metre dash for the line, I didn’t stand much of a chance. I pushed to get just a metre or two in front of him as we headed around the third corner. I managed to get a perfect inside line, gain a little bit of ground, winning by 5 seconds.

Not too often i get one of these!

Not too often I get one of these!

The next day was Inter Club relays and it almost didn’t seem fair. The top three finishers from the 10km were all in the relay together. Phil, Nick Montgomery and myself raced for BNSC and we cleaned up by around 5 minutes.

Still it was a great race and a lot of fun. Thanks to the organizers for these events.

The podium on Saturday and the awesome relay team on Sunday. Photo credit Finn Marsland

The podium on Saturday and the awesome relay team on Sunday. Photo credit Finn Marsland

Starting off after being tagged by Nick. Photo credit Finn Marsland

Starting off after being tagged by Nick. Photo credit Finn Marsland

Relay racing. I was really pleased to also have the fast leg of the day. Photo credit Finn Marsland.

Relay racing. I was really pleased to also have the fastest leg of the day. Photo credit Finn Marsland.

Relay racing. Photo credit Finn Marsland.

Relay racing. Photo credit Finn Marsland.

We have two weeks off racing before the first big race gets underway with the first round of National champs at Perisher in NSW. I’m extremely excited to head off for some big races and see if I can really keep this good form going!

As always.

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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A wild wintery start.

So winter started wet, warm and slow. Pretty much describing me and my efforts with my pile of laundry from this weeks national team training camp. No one wants to be around that or likes it…

Classic bag explosion living with skiers...

No this is not my room… Classic bag explosion living with skiers…

May and early June weren’t looking too good at all for winter and snow. It seemed like I was going to be doing a whole lot more wet “dry land” training, running in the rain. Then around three weeks ago the Snow Gods decided it was time to do their own washing and get this wet, steamy winter into white fluffy awesomeness! So like a bag of training gear exploding, it’s been pretty much non-stop snowing since! It’s been amazing how quickly it has spun into winter. As we approach the 2 metre mark with snow falls, it’s been amazing training and living up top.

Always nice when you can't quite see your car after only leaving it for 2 hours to go train.

Always nice when you can’t quite see your car after only leaving it for 2 hours to go training.

However like the last few winters, the sun has been a fairly rare commodity with mainly snow or grey days. Still it’s been great to get back onto the skis and start living up on “the rock” again.

The lake frozen over.

The lake frozen over.

Enjoying a rare day of sunshine!

Enjoying a rare day of sunshine!

So far I’ve had two races, a quick dash for cash at Lake Mountain, which is always a laugh. They make a small but crazy loop that’s super twisty and turny and a lot of fun. I had an ok race there and came in 3rd. I was leading at the start but lost it on the first corner, spinning out.

Driving to Lake Mountain through some amazing forests.

Driving to Lake Mountain through some amazing forests.

Going head to head with Phil, Photo Credit Lake Mountain.

Going head to head with Phil, Photo Credit Lake Mountain.

Running in the Cathedral Ranges post sprint. Enjoying the view.

Running in the Cathedral Ranges post sprint. Enjoying the view.

The first real race came a week ago, the Birkie Classic. A ten-kilometer, mass start classic race at Falls Creek. Traditionally it’s always been a fairly brutal race for me and a bit of a disaster with equipment breaking or wax going wrong. However this year it seemed to go fairly well. Around 70 people started which was great to see, considering the weather wasn’t the best, with rain and snow showers blowing through.

Seeing as the Birkebeiner Classic is run by my awesome ski club, I thought I’d give a quick race report (thanks for running such a great event BNSC!).

The gun went and as always the masses surged forward, getting funneled into the tracks. I found myself at the front of the pack and set a comfortable pace for myself along the flats and into the first climb. Fellow teammate Phil Bellingham slotted in behind me and as we crested the top of the first hill we made a break from the rest of the main field and soloed off the front. For the rest of the lap I lead and for the entire second lap Phil lead, keeping the pace solid, but nothing crazy. We slowly opened up a comfortable time gap to the rest of the chasing racers. On the third lap Phil started to throw down some power and started to put on the speed, by the half way point in the third lap,I had slipped off the back of Phil and he slowly wedged the gap open during the fourth and final lap. It wasn’t an amazing race for me, but solid and something to really build and improve off! I’m really looking forward to testing myself a bit more in the up coming races and seeing if I can really get going.

Always exciting driving up to this!

Always exciting driving up to this!

Training in some amazing conditions at Falls.

Training in some amazing conditions at Falls.

I have also just finished up at the Australian team training camp, where it was great to work with coaches and train with some of the interstate athletes. This weekend we have another 10km race and the Interclub relays, which should be good! And for the record, it’s still snowing up top.

Intervals with Australian team. Coach Tom getting fired up in the background.

Intervals with the Australian team. Coach Tom getting fired up in the background.

As always.

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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The start of the Australian winter… sort of…

So as promised the second blog for my Australian winter series! It almost feels like winter at home. All the leaves have turned and then fallen. The days are short and the weather has been grey with some serious storms thrown in. It’s just come into June. Everything is indicating winter, apart from the temperature! Every day it’s 15 degrees and just so warm. A week ago as I did intervals on Mt Buffalo there was a thunderstorm, with torrential rain. I was just in a long sleeve shirt and shorts. It was too hot for anything else. It felt like training in the tropics! It hasn’t fallen below zero on any of the mountains now for a few weeks, which isn’t ideal!

Love running at home even on the wet trails.

Love running at home even on the wet trails.

Enough with the weather worries for the time being. Two weeks ago I participated in the Mt Beauty half marathon weekend and an Australian training camp. I was really looking forward to the run on Saturday morning and I’d opted to do the 10km because it’s all on road and I haven’t been off single track for running yet.

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Hopefully the start of a few Australian blogs

So during the southern hemisphere winter I generally don’t keep a regular blog but I’m hoping to do a few (I think I say this every year!). It’s now my fifth week back in Australia and my last trip seems so long ago. I am already deep into mapping out and planning my next season and trip. I am really keen to get over to America again and start working!

That being said, I’m in Australia so I should talk about Australia! I am back into hard training, and with it my love of running! There is something about running, which I love. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been doing a bunch of runs with some ultra running athletes to keep me on my toes, which is awesome! They have really changed my perception of hard training and it seems a 2-hour mountain run is just a warm up for these mad cats! If it doesn’t require poles because the terrain is so rugged and steep, or a head torch because you decided to run before work which means we are all out there in short shorts at 5:30am, then it’s a fairly boring, standard run!

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The last Northern Hemisphere blog.

Well it’s been a little while since my last blog. The last few weeks have been great and I’ve had an excellent mental break from racing and the regimented training regime. Spring in Alaska I’ll admit is pretty amazing. For basically a month straight we had perfect sun and great temperatures hovering around 0 degrees C. My day would generally consist of getting up to a perfect blue bird day, having a lazy breakfast and then planning the days adventure with Lauren. Generally this would be a hike, crust ski, back country ski or run through the forest. Pretty much heaven for me. In the evenings I had an awesome opportunity to get into a wood working shop, so I had a great time being creative and literally whittling away the hours. There was a sign on one of the walls of the shop that said “The hours I enjoy wasting aren’t wasted hours” which seemed very appropriate for that period of time.

Before I let photos do the rest and give you a visual of what I’m talking about, I need to talk about skiing once more. But just once, I promise.

Without question for the last two years I’ve rapidly improved as a skier and have reached a whole new level of racing. A level where I am able to race on the World Cup circuit and World Championships and  be a member of the Olympic shadow team. This is mainly due to my coach “The Boss” August Teague. He is by far the main reason I’m skiing where I am today and sadly this has been his last winter with us. I hope he might work with us from time to time in the Northern Hemisphere. He is moving on to his own business and other coaching opportunities. He’s set the bar high for my future expectations, as a coach, and the last two years have been great. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors!

The Boss feeling on top of the world training with me on Mt Buffalo in Australia in 2013 Always fun adventures!

The Boss feeling on top of the world training with me on Mt Buffalo in Australia in 2013 Always fun adventures!

So now I’ll let photos do the rest of the talking.

Top of the Glacier looking at an amazing view!

Top of the Glacier looking at an amazing view!

Myself and Kate, Big thanks to Kate and John for hooking me up with gear! Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

Myself and Kate, Big thanks to Kate and John for hooking me up with gear! Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

The crew skinning up to the top of the glacier. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

The crew skinning up to the top of the glacier. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

The crew, back country buddies.

Back country buddies.

A Panorama of the view. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

A panorama of the view. Photo Credit Lauren Fritz.

Great views.

Great views.

Warm in the sun but still frozen in the shade.

Warm in the sun but still frozen in the shade.

The view for my last run in Alaska

The view for my last run in Alaska.

Lauren on Bird Ridge.

Lauren on Bird Ridge.

One of my endeavors, a cribbage board.

One of my projects in the wood shop, a cribbage board.

I’m actually writing this as I sit in front of the fire at home in Porepunkah, Australia. I finally flew home on the 14th of April. Alaska feels very much like home and seeing as the sun was coming out so much, I’m a little sad to be heading back to autumn and winter when the summer activities were getting so good! I’m already starting to plan my next trip, so I’ll be back again.

 

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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A philosophical blog for a change.

I started writing about chasing the unicorn a few years ago. A simple metaphor of trying to ski the perfect race, catching the uncatchable beast. Mainly due to a terrible race in Australia where I managed to break the same pole twice and crashed in a separate incident. It led me to start writing the odd philosophical blog about life on the road and as an athlete. It’s been a while since I wrote in the chronicles but seeing as the season is drawing to a close and I have been reflecting on the season and trying to work out if it was a successes, a failure or somewhere in-between, I thought it might be a good chance to jot down a few notes into a blog. Not to mention hopefully straighten some of my own thoughts because whether a season was a success or a failure is not clear-cut and a simple “yes or no” answer is clearly not sufficient.

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In the bush, Alaskan style

I find myself in a peculiar situation as I write this. I’m lying on a bare mattress in school music room in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness waiting for a snowstorm to blow over. How did I end up here? Well like most of my stories, it all started with a ski race. At the award ceremony of the American Birkebeiner a few weeks ago, one of Lauren’s teammate’s sister, who works for one of the Native corporations, asked us if we would consider volunteering and head into the Alaskan wilderness to teach children in remote schools how to Nordic ski through a program called NANANordic. After a quick check of dates we both jumped on the idea and after just a week spent in Anchorage we boarded a small 20-seat plane and headed to a town called Aniak.

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The Mecca of Master Blasters.

Master Blaster: A term generally associated with the older age group of cross country skiers. I was asked recently to define this word and my initial response was “ anyone who trains with high fluros on!” High fluros cost around US$265 for 30 gm of powder, so at $8.83/gram, you’re better off sticking with your cocaine addiction because at least you’ll get a high off it; with fluros, half the time you pick the other pair of skis with that other $265 powder and just end up with $50 worth of wax sitting on your ski that you then brush off…. Cheap sport. But back to our “Master Blaster” definitions. Another person at the table chimed in with, “that old guy that has all the latest gear and equipment but no idea how to use it!” Perhaps the best was “that guy that’s 55 and still tries to fit into his race suit from when he was 18!” Possibly the only thing worse to a Master Blaster in Lycra is being at an Italian swimming pool during senior club training sessions, so many budgie smugglers…

The supermarket had a birkie display in the entrance, or is it a shrine to the Master Blaster?

The supermarket had a Birkie display in the entrance, or is it a shrine to the Master Blaster?

 

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Huckleberry Finn and St Paul

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer… Please, they got to have a scenic boat ride for a few weeks down the Mississippi, a raging river as fierce as a draining bathtub! I feel like a kitten loose on a Fijian boat cruise sounds more ferocious! So here I stood one afternoon gazing out at the giant river. Admittedly the river was frozen solid so to compare current speeds is a little loose and the story is set a thousand miles south but still, I feel I have some authority on the matter, besides I’ve even driven over the river! I will say this. If old mate Huck’ did that trip up further north he would be a frozen popsicle in overalls.

The house we were in had two friendly cats who found my bags extremely comfortable!

The house we were in had two friendly cats (Oscar and Fat Luey) who found my bags extremely comfortable! Thanks to the Luby family for hosting us!

The first thing I noticed after flying from the east coast to central US was it was cold! While parts of the US are having the warmest winter ever, St Paul is having one of the coldest with 61 out of the last 87 days below -18C at one point during the day. So pretty much everything is frozen solid!

The streets in St Paul were slightly old fashioned but very pretty!

The streets in St Paul were slightly old fashioned but very pretty!

The skiing was quite strange but fun. We were racing in a large park in the centre of the “Twin Cities” of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has a population of 3 million! They groomed a series of trails winding through the trees that I guess in summer are walking tracks. This made for some tight and winding racing!

The park

The park, the one open section in the entire race.

Lauren coming up one of the final climbs

Lauren coming up one of the final climbs with the forest all around.

The weekend suited me with two distance races only a 15km classic mass start and a 10km skate.

The 15km went well, I was going through the park with the front bunch of skiers, winding in and out through all the trees. Frustratingly my skis were not kicking well, they were fast but slippery, as I may of chosen the wrong ski, which was a little annoying on my part. I started yo-yoing off the back of the pack and was finally dropped off around 8 or 9 kilometers in. I then skied with a few other skiers who had fallen off the back too. Sadly I was feeling really good but just couldn’t quite put it down onto the snow. On the last lap I went to the front of the group I was skiing with and put the pace on. It was really satisfying to feel strong enough to put the hurt on the other guys and watch them drop off the back because of the pace. I came in 19th, which was my first top 20 for the US season, which was nice.

The first time I've ever had my skis waxed in a truck! thanks Evan for the skis!

The first time I’ve ever had my skis waxed in a truck! Thanks Evan for the skis!

Beautiful sun for Sundays race.

Beautiful sun for the race.

The next day I was really hoping my legs would still be feeling fresh and ready to go. I went out hard the first lap of the two-lap race and early in I got a split I was the fastest skier so far into the race. I paced fairly well but in the last few kilometers my legs weren’t quite as fresh as I’d hoped. The course that was great for classic was a little hard for the skate with the hill being a weird gradient for skating on. I still had a top 30 but not quite what I had hoped for.

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

I’m guessing by this stage in the photos you can guess which side I like to ski towards! Sundays skate 10km. Photo credit Lauren Fritz

I’m now in Hayward for the American Birkibeiner. It’s crazy here with 10,300 entrants for the race tomorrow. I will write a proper blog for the week after the race! The race tomorrow will be crazy with 14 inches of snow falling in the last 24 hours!

Train hard, Rest easy, Live for the moment

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