The Last Ski Races

There is truly something to be said for being able to put on an old comfy pair of pants and sit on the old couch in your living room and just put you feet up for a little bit. There is no place like home and it’s nice to finally be back in my Alaskan one. Lauren and I flew in at 11:30pm on the 27th of March after a week of racing in Craftsbury. We were at the US Spring Series, the final four races on the Supertour calendar and the end of the competitive ski season. It’s now been over a month on the road racing.

I flew down from Calgary after a few days of light training after the Ski Tour Canada and settled into my new accommodation at Craftsbury. When I arrived and drove up to Craftsbury it was not a very pleasant scene, it was raining pretty hard and I couldn’t see any snow.

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The End of the Tour

Well that’s a rap.

The ski tour of Canada is over. It’s been a great few weeks and when I think back to Ottawa and where it all begun it seems like a lifetime ago.

We flew into Calgary and there was instantly a vast difference to out east in Quebec. There was no snow anywhere. Not even a tinny flake hiding under a tree. It was warm as we all drove out up to Canmore, around 10C.

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The mountains with snow but nothing in the valley.

We arrived into Canmore just as it finished up raining. There was barely any snow in town, just the odd frozen patch here and there. Up at the racecourse tucked into the mountains things were a bit better. There was a lot more snow but most of it man made. The racecourse gets a little shade from the mountains so it does help to keep the snow but realistically it’s not that much.

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Canmore

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Canmore Stadium.

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Looking into the stadium from the first hill.

We had a day and a half off once we arrived in Canmore but we still headed out for our usual pre race ski and to test our skis and see what was working for us or not.

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Randy checking out skis and how we were going testing.

It was immediately obvious that the snow was breaking down very badly as it warmed up each day. It just turned into a boot deep slushy mess at 10:30am as the sun really begun to shine onto it.

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Heads down working hard. Jeremy, Paul and Randy at work

The next day was a classic sprint and I wasn’t be off till around 11:30am. Prime slop time. If I had one criticism of the event it would be that in Canmore for the last four stages the racing times were stupid. They would often have races at 1:00 or 2:00pm in the afternoon when the snow conditions were terrible. They should have been at 9:00am when there was still some hardness and rigidity to the snow. I was one of the last to start and it immediately became clear that the course was a mess. Sadly it also became clear that we had missed the wax with our skis. The last 30 minutes where the snow really broke down had been enough to shift our skis from being rockets to getting too bogged down in the slop.

Frustrated with the race but at least relatively happy with how I felt skiing the course I eagerly looked forward to the next day a 30km skiathlon. However that night I got the disappointing news I was to be pulled from the tour. If you fall back a certain percentage they remove you from the tour and the classic sprint tipped me over.

I was pretty disappointed to go out like that. I knew the next day I was probably not going to survive but I wanted to go out racing and pushing myself to the limit. Not just told as I relaxed in my room. I was really bummed but quickly tried to recover and move the focus to the last little period of racing a week or so on from the tour.

But before that I joined the rest of support crew to try and help out the other athletes. The day of the 30km I was sent out a lot, testing skis and wax and trying to help as best I could. The race started stupidly late again and the conditions were rough. Both Callum and Phil had good races but they eventually were pulled too. By that day a Tour that had started out a week before with 85 men was down to just 60.

After the 30km there was another day off for the athletes before the final two 15km races. Now that the men’s team was all out we all became ski testers and support staff for Jess. Our solo skier in the tour. We were all given durability testing for wax, the boys kick, and myself glide. During a race skis pick up dirt or wax wears off and so a wax that’s fast at 1km could be terrible after 5km. So we got to ski 5km loops testing the wax and seeing which held up the best overall. In the end I think we had some sweet skis for Jess and considering there was 7 of us working for her you’d hope so!

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Phil and Callum off to do more laps and test skis.

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Watching the races in the sun with Phil and some of the Americans. You can see to the left of Phil the snow starting to break down.

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Taking a break from our own racing we watched Manager/Wax Tech Allison McArdle play Curling in the local Canmore league.

In the end it was pretty cool Jess made history for Australian World Cup skiing. She is now the first woman to ever finish a tour for Australia. Only Callum has ever finished one so it’s a pretty short list!

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Randy, Callum, Jess, Phil, Myself and Allison

After the last day Phillip and myself jumped on a bus and headed up to Lake Louise for the Red Bull NordiX. A cross-country event that’s built on a downhill slope. It’s a sprint to the bottom of the hill but you have to navigate bumps and jumps, some crazy tight corners plus an uphill section. When we arrived both Phil and I were nervous. We both have done a lot of freestyle and park skiing but there were some mean features. Out of the start was a 1.5 meter drop into a quarter pipe and then the jumps had a 20 foot gap to the landing so it wasn’t for the faint hearted. I ended up 10th ish after crashing twice spectacularly in the quarterfinal and Phil ended up 5th after a crash in the semi. Still a fun time and we were really looked after by Red Bull who put us up in a hotel in Banff.

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Looking at the Nordix course. It starts quite high up you can just make out a red and blue arch.

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Checking out Banff

The next day we parted ways, Phil heading back home to Aus and I headed to Canmore to train for a few days before Spring Series. I’m now on route to spring series and really keen to finish the season with a bang. I guess we’ll see.

As always a massive thank you to the Australian team and the waxing and support crew for the few weeks of hard work!

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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Ski Tour Canada

OK so this post is going to be pretty hefty, but don’t worry, there are lots of photos to help break it up!

We are now at the halfway mark of the Ski Tour of Canada, and it’s been a crazy week of travelling and racing. We have done two sprints and two distance races in 3 different cities.

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Time Flies.

No sooner had I landed back in Alaska than it seems I’m boarding a plane and back on the road again. It will be for a long time too, I don’t even have a return ticked booked yet but it’ll be in early April. My time in Anchorage was well spent, training and organising my trip south, spending some time with Lauren. We have both been on the road so much that we haven’t crossed paths all that often this winter. For that matter our whole household seems to be constantly on the move going off to races for weeks on end. Living with us is another Aussie, Casey Wright who skis for the University of Alaska and one of her teammates, a German named Luca Winkler.

So in Alaska we still haven’t got much snow, they managed to add another 500m of trail to our man-made loops but basically it’s still just doing tiny loop after loop. While I was home I jumped into a few little fun races, which was great. Lauren and I teamed up to do a mixed sprint relay, which was a lot of fun and also happened to be on valentines days. We won which was sweet and it was just a great work out, racing a lot of the local APU boys.

Lauren and I at then end.

Lauren and I at the end.

Racing the team sprint

Racing the team sprint.

Great sunny days but not too much snow about

Great sunny days but not too much snow about

Lauren on top of Hatchers Pass

Lauren on top of Hatchers Pass, an hours drive into the mountain from our house.

Then a few days ago I jumped on a plane and flew in a big fishhook down to America and then back up into Canada to Ottawa. I was greeted by pouring rain and flash flooding. It was crazy. They have quite a decent amount of snow here but it’s blocking all the drains so then when it suddenly is pouring rain it just floods the streets. Luckily Callum Watson picked me up and we headed home. What should of just been just a 30-40 minute drive turned into a 3 hour epic because we got nicely lost. It was just so hard trying to navigate in the rain with no maps or GPS to direct us but we eventually got into our accommodation. We are staying with a great local Canadian family. They have very graciously let us stay until we move into FIS accommodation tomorrow.

Pretty cool indoor train in Detroit airport!

Pretty cool indoor train in Detroit airport!

Where we are skiing in Canada at the moment. There isn't much here it's a small local club but it's buzzing with all the world cup skiers here and the locals seem to be loving it!

Where we are skiing in Canada at the moment. There isn’t much here it’s a small local club but it’s buzzing with all the world cup skiers here and the locals seem to be loving it! It’s not a great photo showing the activity but all I have.

Phil Bellingham was meant to get in with Callum but he was just hammered by some of that classic east coast weather and had to spend a few days in New York and then Philadelphia. He arrived that night at 2:30am.

Finding our way home again after getting lost once again...

Finding our way home again after getting lost once again…

So with the boys back together we have just been training and getting as prepared as possible for the up coming races. Training on some local trails until the FIS course is built. Our first race is a city sprint in a park in the middle of the downtown Ottawa, which should be a lot of fun. The sprint kicks off the tour, which are 8 races in 12 days. It’s going to be really exciting, fun and brutal but I can’t wait!

 

Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.

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Craftsbury races and the joys of travel.

“This is your captain speaking. There is a Korean Airlines plane blocking the runway and it doesn’t seem to be talking to anyone, we are just going to have to wait till it moves.”

Pretty much the story of my travelling life when it comes to flying to and from the East coast, and especially Vermont.

So before we get to our Korean road block, I had another week of racing out East. To make things interesting for us, all Mother Nature decided to spice things up with some rain. For about 36 hours we had pretty consistent rain. I had moved up to Stowe where we were supposed to race but everything was washed away. Luckily another 40 min north there was a 2.4 kilometre man made loop at Craftsbury Outdoor Centre. They had a decent amount of snow and some extra piled up, which they pushed out and made into a really solid skiing loop.

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East Coast Racing.

Global warming is one serious pain in the butt! We are in-between Supertour weekends here on the East Coast. I’m inside drying out after doing intervals in heavy rain. The paddocks and fields are green and brown dotted with the odd patch of white. The snowstorm that battered parts of the east coast never came north to Vermont or the upper half of New York State where things are desperate.

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No snow in sight driving into Middlebury

So far this year I’ve only raced on two courses that have been natural snow, all the other courses have man made. Strips of white through green and brown forests.
On the 26th I flew down to Vermont from Alaska and hired a rental car. After 13 hours of travel I wasn’t super psyched to drive but I managed to find my way to New York State and a good friend’s house. An old friend of mine whom I knew from back in the Lake Tahoe days and who also skied with Lauren during college.

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Flying down from Alaska. This is landing in Phoenix.

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Valdez

Alaska has so many wonderful places to visit and unique environments to be a part of, and all of it seems to come through skiing or some form of great activity. Last weekend I was fortunate enough to visit Valdez (pronounced Val-deez), a little coastal town which sits on a bay called the Prince William Sound surrounded by the Chugach Mountains. The Sound is an amazing body of water made up of tiny islands and fjords, and the Chugach are simply huge, so it creates breathtaking scenery. Sadly Valdez was also the location of one of the worst oil spills ever seen in 1989, but thankfully it seems back to its splendid vistas.

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Road tripping down to Valdez.

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Great views on the drive

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An amazing winter landscape as we drove deeper into Alaska.

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Houghton Part 2

 

It’s quite amazing what can happen in a few days, a few hours or just a few kilometres. Since my last post a few days ago, we have had quite crazy weather with snow, rain and sunshine all thrown together. For a lot of the teams, this has been a nightmare for them. During these Championships, a few of the major teams with huge budgets really missed the wax and during the races their athletes have suffered for it. On the other hand, (bar my bad judgment call in the first race), Pete and Cody our two wax-tech geniuses have been killing it! It certainly helps when there are just four athletes and all boys, which means each race they can really narrow in and focus on just one race. It certainly helps! A big thanks to them both for doing such a great job!

Cody and Pete hard at work or in Cody's case pretending to be hard at work.

Cody and Pete hard at work or in Cody’s case pretending to be hard at work.

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Houghton Part 1

My time to date at US Nationals could not be more different to last years in so many ways. The weather for a start is a welcome change. Last year we had -18C and a blizzard for two weeks straight, with no reprieve from a near constant whiteout. So far we have had a lot of sunny days mixed with a few cloudy days but temperatures seem to hover around -5C, balmy compared to last year.

Flying into Minneapolis.

Flying into Minneapolis.

We had to wait for Pete at the airport for a few hours so we busted out the cards for a few games.

We had to wait for Pete at the airport for a few hours so we busted out the cards for a few games.

We definitely had some Challenges packing the two cars... And yes thats my bag being difficult!

We definitely had some challenges packing the two cars… And yes thats my bag being difficult!

I’m travelling with a very small crew of athletes and coaches, just 6 of us in total so a very small and tight group compared to the 24 or so people last year. Perhaps the biggest change this year is laughter and the vibe. I haven’t laughed so much than I have this past week travelling with these guys. The amount of jokes and humour has been great and it’s kept a very relaxed and happy atmosphere with a good focus on skiing, compared to the tense, stressful state I felt in last year.

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Christmas special

Since my last post I’ve had my first set of serious races for the season. I’d planned to write about them and then do a separate post about Christmas in Alaska but that hasn’t happened, so welcome to the Christmas race special blog!

Besh Cup racing.
The state level here in Alaska are called Besh Cups and the first set of races were on the 18th and 19th of December. The first day was a classic sprint and the second a 15km skate.
The sprint for me was a bit of a worry. The previous weekend is tweaked my back in a citizen race and so I was concerned about aggravating it again, especially considering that the course was quite flat and all the men were just going to double pole it on skate skis instead of striding on classic skis.

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