One Athlete's Mind
Last weekend wrapped up the last Haywood NorAm race weekend of the year at Mt. Orford, Quebec. Having been racing Nationally for several years now, it was nice to be going to a new domestic venue where I had never been before, as it doesn't happen that often these days. We had a solid week of training leading up to it getting to know the trails, which was nice because there was so many! Definitely a little narrow in places, especially for Sunday's 20km skate mass start, but very fun all the same.
It was a 2 day race weekend, first one of those since before Christmas, and started off with a 10km classic individual start on Saturday. It was a unique race in that it was one lap of a 10km loop (usually it's 2x5km or 3x3.3km), so it had a bit of a different feel to it. I was feeling pretty good going in, and was pretty happy with the race overall. I hit a bit of a wall (figuratively) about 4km in where I was really feeling the pain and fatigue from going for it from the start, but after fighting through that for a few hundred meters I managed to get the feeling out of my head and was feeling good and strong again. I ended up 17th Open Men, 10 seconds out of 13th, so it was quite the close race.
Day 2 was the aforementioned 20km Skate Mass Start, and it was quite the race for me. The race began and 5km into the race I got into a good pack, chasing the leaders. My race had been feeling great and at the 17km mark, the beginning of a long, 2km climb on the last lap, I decided that after the next corner I was going to put in a big attack and try to drop the pack I was with. Not two strides later however, someone behind me had skied over my pole and broke it. Normally when this happens you ski another 50m-100m and there is someone on the sidelines to give you a new pole. Not in Orford. I went on to ski that 2km climb with one pole, because there was no one on that section of the course with spares. Obviously, this was the end of my great feeling race, and when I finished I was crushed. To race 17km as hard as you can only to have something completely out of your control end it like that is a tough pill to swallow. But about an hour after the race I started to see clearly again, and realized that I had a great 17km race, and at that point where it all went to hell, I was feeling so good I was ready to attack and blow the pack apart. I later looked at the results and learned that had my pole not broken, I would have finished up around 10th place, 2 minutes 20 seconds behind the winner. That would have been my first top 10 at a NorAm, and 2:20 off the lead is closer than I've ever been in a 15km race, and this was a 20km. So while it was a devastating race, it had some pretty positive undertones.
We stayed in Quebec for one last night before packing up, driving back to Ottawa and then flying home to Thunder Bay on Monday night. I now get some much needed down time after 8 weeks or so of a serious travel and racing schedule. I'll be here in Tbay for the next 4 weeks getting in a nice big training block before heading to my last races of the season. Those will come mid March with the 2012 Canadian Nationals in Mt. St. Anne Quebec. This will be my first time repeating a Nationals (my second Nationals in 2007 were at the same venue), so I'm looking forward to getting back on those race trails.
Until next time,
"A Man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes."
- - Mahatma Gandhi
After a couple solid months of racing out west, the Haywood NorAm Series has finally returned to Eastern Canada. This past weekend was the 2012 Haywood NorAm/Eastern Canadian Championships held at Nakkertok Ski Center near Chelsea Quebec. This was my 7th time racing at Eastern's and I have always really enjoyed these races, both for the competition, and the great race trails at Nakkertok. This weekend of racing was also another mini-tour. It began with a 1.4km Skate Sprint on Friday, followed by a 15km Skate Individual Start on Saturday, and wrapped up with the Handicap Start 30km Classic race on Sunday.
My weekend got off to a pretty good start in the sprint qualifier. I had a strong feeling qualifier and ended up clocking the 12th fastest time in Senior Men, giving me a spot in the heats for my second time this year. I felt really strong in my quarter-final as well, but unfortunately my inexperience in the heats got the better of me, and some tactical errors resulted in my not advancing to the next round. My first mistake was not being aggressive enough to hold my line around one of the 180 corners, which resulted in dropping from 3rd to 4th half way through the race. I rallied back after this though and was feeling good about my position leading into the final climb. That is until the guy in front of me seemingly blew up, and the two guys behind me managed to get up beside me and box me in, leaving me stuck with no where to go. So a tough lesson learned, but still my best sprint of the season so far.
Day two was the 15km Skate race, 3 laps of a very fast 5km course. My legs were surprisingly drained from the day before, but I was still feeling good during my warm up. Unfortunately my legs did not hold up for long in the race, and the last 10km were a real fight to keep everything working and pushing hard. I crossed the finish line happy with how I didn't let my super sore legs stop me from giving my all, but disappointed because I knew I was not going to get the result I was hoping for. I ended up finishing 27th, which now that I think of it, would have been OK with me at the beginning of the season. But I was really hoping for a top 20, so it gave me some extra incentive to have a strong 30km the following day.
And so came the 30km Classic race on day 3. Since it was a handicap start race based on the results from the previous two days, I was starting in 25th place, with the two closest guys ahead of me starting 3 and 8 seconds before me. I was really looking forward to this race for a number of reasons. It was 6 laps of a great 5km course, and I was pretty confident that I had the right concoction for my feeds this time around (my feeds in my last 30km race resulted in the hardest 15km of my life). So I went out feeling good and caught the two guys starting in front of my within the first kilometer, and kept the pedal down. As it was 30km, I was really hoping the three of us could work together pushing a strong pace in order to catch the guys ahead of us, but after pulling them along behind me for the majority of the first 10km, I decided it was time to put the pressure on a bit to see if I could get rid of them. It worked, and I ended up opening a 1 minute + gap on the two of them by the end of the race. I skied the next 20km by myself, and managed to pull back some big time into a couple more of my competitors, crossing the line in 21st spot. It was a great race for me, clocking the 18th fastest time of the day in Open Men, and 10th for my Under 23 category. One of the biggest highlights from this race was comparing it to last year's Eastern's when I did the exact same 30km classic race. Last year I was over 7:30 (7 minutes 30 seconds) off the fastest time of the day, and this year I brought that gap down to 4:15, so I was quite happy with that improvement.
And while all of this was going on, my parents and Jacquelyn made the trip over to Ottawa on Friday to spend some time with me and watch my races, so that helped make it a fantastic weekend. With my busy race schedule being all over the place these days, it's not very often that they get to see me race, so it was great to have them out at the race site, and of course to spend my down time in their company :).
I am now sitting in my new home for the next week at the Fleur de Lys Motel here in Magog Quebec. This weekend will be the last Haywood NorAm of the season, with a 10km Classic Individual Start on Saturday, and a 20km Skate Mass Start on Sunday. After that it'll be back to Thunder Bay next Monday night for a solid 4 week block of training (and the odd local race) to prepare for the final races of the season, the 2012 Canadian National Championships.
I'll throw another post up here after the weekend to let you all know how it went! Until then,
"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." - Walt Disney
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach