One Athlete's Mind
When I looked at my training plan at the start of this week, I have to say I was a little caught off guard by the 22km running race I had coming up on Thursday. Having never done a running race any longer than 10km, I was a little skeptical about what to expect out of myself over 22km of racing. And this wasn't just any race 22km route, this was the Lappe Concession Run, A.K.A., "The Pancake Run." This is a 22km loop on the very hilly dirt (and snow covered) roads of Lappe, on which Lappe owner and former National Team skier Reijo Puiras once ran his PB in a time of 1 hour 20 minutes. As I am told, he ran this time the same year he qualified for the World Championships. So, the rule is that if you can beat Reijo's best time of 1:20, you are entitled to FREE FINNISH PANCAKES whenever you want at the Lappe Ski Center (for anyone who hasn't been there, their pancakes are to die for). So with this added incentive to break the 1:20 mark, my nerves were a little high going in, not knowing if I was even capable of accomplishing such a time.
But at 10:30am yesterday morning, the race began, and I got my first shot to prove to myself how fit I am these days. As soon as Timo said go, my teammate Chris Hamilton broke away from the group (there were only 5 of us racing yesterday), and he went on to win by about 1.5 minutes, and I think he actually set the new course record. Behind him, the rest of us ran together until about the 5km mark, where I felt that the pace was a little too slow to break 1:20, so I went to the front and picked up the pace a bit. To my dismay, no one followed. I ended up putting a small gap between myself and the other 3 guys and running on my own for about 5 or 6km. At about the 11km mark, so geographically half way (I say that because the first half is mostly downhill, and the last half is pretty much all climbing), Mike and Andy caught me again and we ran the next 4km or so together. When Andy passed me after they had just caught me I was so relieved. I couldn't believe how much easier it was to follow than to lead. Even following behind Andy, who is much smaller than I am so didn't give me much of a draft, I was able to run faster than I had been but using less energy. So I got a nice little recovery time (relatively speaking).
With 7km left, Andy picked up the pace a bit, and despite the agonizing pain in my legs, I managed to match his pace. From what I could hear behind me, I'm pretty sure the two of us put a few seconds between ourselves and Mike at this point, but by 5km to go he had caught back up and the three of us were racing for the finish. We were getting splits at each km marker from here on in, and knew that if we pushed our bodies to their absolute limits and ran as hard as we could, we still had a chance of making it in under 1:20. With 1.5km to go the pace was getting very high, and Mike and I managed to run away from Andy. I stayed with Mike until about 70m to go, at which point we started sprinting for the line, and he got me by 1 second. I finished with a time of 1 hour 19 minutes, and 46 seconds.
I couldn't believe it at the time, to be honest I really didn't know if I had it in me to run that fast for 22km. I'm fairly confident in saying that I don't think I have ever pushed my body that hard before. This race was a sure sign that the mental training that I've been doing this Fall is really paying off, because you know that feeling you get when your muscles just give out and you want to slow down? I got that with 14km to go. But I didn't. I was saying yesterday to a couple friends, that in a very different way, I felt as proud of what I had done yesterday than I did last year after I had qualified for World Junior Championships, so yesterday marks the second time I have ever really felt proud of something that I had done :). Obviously it's not the same because last year's feat. meant I got to represent Canada, while this one to most people just sounds like I had a really good race. But to me, this is a race that I can always remember, so in a tough race this winter when I'm feeling like I'm gonna die, I can just think about how I felt yesterday and the pain that I was able to push through.
And, on a far less important but still happy note, I GET FREE PANCAKES!!! Haha, I'm very excited :).
Until next time,
A couple weeks ago I was contacted by a woman who runs her own website for people to share their inspirational/happy life stories. After reading through my website and seeing who I am, she asked me if I wouldn't mind taking a few minutes to write an inspirational piece for her website about my experiences as a skier. Always happy to do things like this, I jumped at the opportunity, and she just let me know this morning that it has been published and is being featured on her website today. So if you have a few minutes to kill, go have a look at http://agreatplace.ca/!
The weekend before I headed to Lutsen I did some running and rollerski training races. About 200m into the running race I had a very familiar sudden pain in my mid back. It almost felt like I just really needed to crack it, but it stayed with me for the whole race. When I finished I told my coach about it and he asked if it had happened before, and I was reminded of two summers previously when I had the same pain occur. That time it had turned out that one of my ribs had popped out of place, and was making it feel like I was being stabbed every time I took a breath in.
Luckily it wasn’t quite as bad this time, though it was still quite painful for the first few days and kept me up for an entire night when it first happened. I almost didn't start the rollerski time trial because of it. When it happened two years ago the massage therapist who fixed it said that he guessed that it had been caused by my sudden change in elevation, as I had just moved from Penetang ON to Canmore AB, and hadn’t adjusted my training plan to accommodate such a move. So the thinking was that I had to breath harder than I was used to in order to get the same amount of oxygen to my muscles, which caused my lungs to inflate to the point of shifting one of my ribs from it’s usual position.
This time however, the chiropractor I saw said that it had been caused by the fascia in my back being too tight, which had caused it to pull that rib away from it’s normal position. After a few chiropractic moves on my back, he put two 12” pieces of physio tape on my back, one on each side of my spine. Over the next four days the tape worked to relax my fascia and pull it back to it’s normal place. This was definitely a different approach to fixing it than two years ago, that time they just massaged my back until it popped back into place (it felt glorious). This was a much more interesting way of doing it though, and productive too, as we fixed the root of the problem, hopefully making it so that it doesn’t happen again anytime soon. I also learned a fair bit about the muscles and fascia in my back, and how things work, so that’s always a plus.
My back has been pain free for about 5 days now, so it would seem as though all is good again, and I’m ready to race!
Last Wednesday, Nov. 2, the team and I packed our things and headed to Lutsen, Minnesota for our final training camp of the year. The team heads down to the Caribou highlands condos every year around this time for a training camp, so for the returning athletes, this was nothing new. But for myself, I got to experience some new training venues which is always a nice change of pace. The location of our condos was the perfect place for a 4 day training camp like this, as there is nothing nearby aside from other condos. This meant no distractions, leaving us able to focus all of our time and energy on preparing and recovering from each workout. Being in Lutsen, I also got to see just how big Lake Superior really is, IT'S HUGE! If someone would have told me I was on the coast staring out at an ocean, I almost would have believed them.
This camp had a big intensity focus, but still had a high training volume, so it was definitely one of the harder training weeks I've had in a while. With the race season only a month away, this was my chance to make some final improvements in my fitness, and also to try out some new pre, during and post race strategies. I managed to make some very helpful technique breakthroughs early in the camp, and was then able to apply them to the intensity workouts and was quite pleased with the outcome. I've also been playing around with my warm up before races, and I think I'm finally getting that dialed in too.
I arrived back in T-bay on Sunday night, completely exhausted, but feeling quite satisfied with how the camp had gone. This week we've toned down the training a bit to recover from Lutsen, though you couldn't tell watching our intensity session this morning, phew. This Saturday we have our team's biggest fundraiser event of the year, NordicFest, and after that it's just a mere 17 days training and ski prepping before we leave for Silver Star!!!! (I'm pretty excited :)). BRING ON THE SNOW!!
Until next time,
Keep up that snow dance!
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach