One Athlete's Mind
Last weekend's racing came in the form of the 2012 Haywood NorAm/Western Canadian Championships Mini-Tour in Canmore AB. The 3 day weekend included a 10km classic individual start, a 1.4km skate sprint, and was wrapped up with a 15km skate handicap start race. This weekend was also a mini tour, meaning that your times from the first two days of racing were added together, and then dictated your starting order and position for the handicap start on Sunday.
When we first arrived in Canmore early last week, we were greeted with some -30 temperatures. As a result there was some worry that Friday's race may be cancelled to due the cold temperatures (FIS rules say that you can't hold a race when it's below -20). But thankfully, Friday morning arrived warmer than predicted, so everything was a go. In all my years of racing to date, I don't think I have ever raced on a course as hard as I did for that 10km classic race. It was 3 times around a 3.3km loop which essentially brought you from the stadium, straight up to the top of the course, and then straight back down to repeat. So in other words, it's a great race course as long as you don't hit a wall (figuratively speaking of course, because one of the climbs is actually called "The Wall"). So while I may have hit a little one my second time up The Wall, I was able to ski pretty smooth for the rest of the race, and still get in to finish inside the top 30 Open Men. My biggest issue in individual start racing these days is that I have a habit of thinking about my competitors and how fast THEY are skiing while I'm racing, instead of just focusing on what I am doing. On that second lap when I was really feeling the pain, that's exactly what happened. Comparing to past races last year however, I am definitely improving with this, so I'm really looking forward to my next individual start race for another opportunity to try to overcome this obstacle.
Day 2 was the skate sprint, and not a great day for me. I had a combination of things working against me in my qualifier, and when I arrived at the base of the biggest climb on the course, I was bagged. I'm happy with how I still managed to fight hard all the way to the finish, but unfortunately I just missed the top 30, meaning no heats for me.
Finally the 15km skate handicap start arrived on Sunday. I started in 29th place, and was really hoping to be able to pick off a few guys ahead of me and improve my ranking for the tour before I crossed the finish line. We had the privilege of racing on the Men's World Cup course, which is a very hard, but very fun, 3 x 5km race. For me this was one of those races where I felt pretty good about my race, but the result didn''t quite match my feeling (apparently I wasn't the only one who had a good day). I ended up crossing the line in 27th spot, a small gain, but still a gain nonetheless. One cool part of that race was that Canadian World Cup Team member Ivan Babikov was racing. Since he hadn't done any of the other races in the mini-tour, he had to start in the mass start, which started 2 minutes and 46 seconds behind me. Before the race I had kind of expected him to catch me on my final lap, but during the race I really wasn't thinking about it, so when I came sprinting in to the finish line and could hear someone trying to pass me, I really didn't know who it could be. So I sprinted as hard as I could and managed to beat this mystery person to the line, then turned around to see that it was Ivan! He may have put 2:46 into me, but I still managed to stay ahead of him at the finish, so I felt pretty good about that :).
Yesterday I traveled back to Thunder Bay where I'll be spending the next week recovering from these past 2 weeks of racing. Next Tuesday I'll be heading to Ottawa for another 3 race mini-tour, the 2012 Haywood NorAm/Eastern Canadian Championships Mini-Tour. While these race courses may not be nearly as challenging as those in Canmore, it will be the distance of this weekend that will be the real test. The races will be a skate sprint on Day 1, followed by a 15km skate race on Day 2, and wrap it all up with a 30km classic handicap start on the Sunday. I have always enjoyed the race trails at this race venue, Nakkertok, so I'm really looking forward to these races. And by the sounds of things my parents and Jacquelyn will be making the trip over to watch, so it'll be great to see them again too!
Until next time,
"Look me in the eyes. It's OK if you're scared, so am I, but we're scared for different reasons. I'm scared of what I won't become. You're scared of what I could become..." - Michael Jordan
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach