One Athlete's Mind
Last week I was in Whistler BC for the World Junior/Under 23 Trials races held at Whistler Olympic Park in Callaghan Valley. For those who don’t quite understand my reference in the title of this post, the last time I raced at this venue was the 2008 Canadian National Championships, and it was a complete disaster. It was so bad that since then, every time something hasn’t gone my way, I’ve told myself, “Well at least it wasn’t as bad as 2008 Nationals.” But after last week’s set of races, while everything didn’t entirely go my way, it was incomparably better than those races 4 years ago.
Racing got underway on Thursday with my first ever 30km Skiathlon (for those who don’t know, a skiathlon is a race where you do the first half classic style, enter an exchange zone where you switch your skis and poles, and then do the last half skate skiing). I had done a couple of 30km races last year, but never a skiathlon format, so I was very excited to see how I’d make out. I got off to an alright start in the classic, and by the end of the classic leg I was really starting to gain momentum and was picking people off as we headed into the exchange zone. I then had my best ever transition (and was therefore disappointed when I learned they didn’t time people’s exchanges, meaning I couldn’t compare myself to everyone else). But unfortunately this was a case of all good things must end eventually. As soon as I hit the first climb on the skating leg, my muscles began cramping. By muscles, I don’t just mean the major ones like quads, I mean everything from quads and hamstrings to triceps, abs and even some little muscle in my forearm I didn’t even know I had. I knew right away that this was being caused my a severe deficiency in something, so being halfway through a 30km ski race, there was very little I could do. On the downhills I was able to give my legs a bit of a shake and quick massage which helped me to stay on my feet and keep skiing, but my race was, for all intents and purposes, over. Since I was still standing I told myself that dropping out was not an option, so I just put all my focus into each stride and, slowly and painfully, made my way through the final 15km to the finish line. While this may sound like a complete disaster of a race, I was able to learn quite a lot from it which I know will help me in future 30+km races, and even in the races to follow in those next few days.
Saturday marked day 2 of Trials with a skate sprint. After being dumped on with snow overnight, the course set up incredibly soft compared to what we had been skiing in, so it made for a slightly unusual sprint day. When the snow gets too soft like that, you have to really change your race plans, right down to your technique, how you are physically skiing. Having had some success in conditions like these in the past, I knew I had it in me to still have a good qualifier despite the conditions. And having never qualified for the heats in the Senior Men category, I had that added bit of motivation to have my best qualifier of the season to date. It ended up going pretty well, and after having skied it smooth and relaxed like I wanted to, I managed to qualify with the 16th fastest time in Senior Men, giving me my first opportunity to race the heats.
Unfortunately my quarterfinal didn’t go quite as well, my legs having lactated out on the final climb and running out of gas in the final 200m. But I achieved my main goal for the day to make the heats, so all in all, a good day.
The final day of competition came on Sunday with a 15km classic individual start race. This is the race I had been really looking forward to most, so I was hoping to make it my best race of the weekend. I had a good head going into the start area, and really kept it throughout the race, skiing smooth and relaxed and even embracing the pain of pushing my body well past its limits (always a good day when you can do that). One of my goals in every individual start race this year has been to cross the finish line as the current leader (this means that you beat everyone who started before you). And for the first of what will hopefully be many times this season, I achieved that goal on Sunday. After crossing the finish line I was able to hear the commentator announce that I had the new fastest time, and I even got to look up and see my name at the top of the results list on the jumbo-tron in the stadium. That felt good haha :). I held onto the lead for a few more minutes before the top guys started finishing (maybe important to point out that in individual start races, the lowest ranked people go first, with the highest ranked athletes starting last). After all was said and done, I ended up finishing 16th in Open Men. This meant a lot of good things for me. It was both my first time finishing in the top 20 Open Men at a NorAm, and also my first time finishing in the top 10 Under 23 Men at a NorAm. And with this latter accomplishment, I also will be receiving a small ‘performance bonus’ if you will, from my team.
So while I may not have achieved my goal of qualifying for the Canadian World U23 Team this year, I was able to take a lot from these races and learn some good lessons. I am now back in my first home away from home, Canmore AB, preparing for the Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships which are being held here this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Despite the current frigid temperatures (currently around -40), the forecast looks a little warmer for the weekend, so I’m looking forward to my next chance to have some great races!
Until next time,
P.S. On occasion I like to browse the internet looking for quotes that speak to me, so after doing so I thought I’d share a couple. Enjoy :).
“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
- Christopher Columbus
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach