Saturday, 19 March 2016

Whitehorse Nationals!! March 19-26

Greetings from beautiful snowy Whitehorse! Posting from Saturday March 19.

We had a relaxed morning yesterday, giving athletes a chance to sleep in and recover from the long travel day.  12 hours of travel but here are some fun  details on how we spent the day:

- The flight to Vancouver was easy and uneventful, which is always a good thing. We left Winnipeg at 11:40 AM.

- Pauline had a short stop in Vancouver and was off to Whitehorse 5 1/2 hours before the rest of us.  She almost got bumped from the flight (and would have been happy to join the rest of us) but then ended up bumped to first class with a BC coach! How sad for her. Poor Pauline had a giant seat, hot towels and a full meal including quinoa and a kale salad.  How poetic. When she arrived she organized the rental vehicles, shopped for groceries and checked out the accommodations.

-Meanwhile the 8 athletes and I received great tips from a Vancouver coach on how to spend a few hours in Vancouver.  And so we were off! We jumped on a sky train directly from the airport which was fast and smooth running.  We saw some great scenery but then disappeared under ground for half the journey. Within 20 minutes we were at the waterfront area down on False Creek.  We caught the worlds cutest and smallest ferry (I think it was Fisher Price ) and made our way up to Granville Island to spend an hour.  The weather was amazing, the grass was green, flowers out, trees budding (cue Walt Disney music). We walked back along the sea wall which was a great chance to stretch our legs.  Impressively we found the sky train terminal  and in good time made our way back to the airport.

- One sad lowlight of the day was that Lisle got pooped on by a sea gull but bounced back magnificently thanks to hand sanitizer and Tim Hortons napkins.

-The flight to Whitehorse gave us some incredible views of mountain ranges!

With 2 hour time change we arrived in Whitehorse at 11 PM Winnipeg time.

Today was our first training day. We had a relaxing morning and then made our way to the venue. Everything is very accessible in Whitehorse because it is a small community. The Canada Games complex is right at the stadium area for the main cross country ski trails. Whitehorse ski club is a booming 1300 members so skiing is very big around here!

We had a ton of fresh snow falling for most of the day today.  The trails are in great shape! Stay tuned.


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Easterns 2016 Day 1

Easterns 2016 Day 1

Greetings from Québec! Hope everyone is well. As you know, today the Manitoba HP ski team departed from Winnipeg for Gatineau to compete in the eastern Canadian cross country ski championships. To be perfectly honest, I don't have a whole lot to tell about today’s events. But keep reading for exciting news! Put quite simply it was a nearly seamless travel day. We departed from Winnipeg at 9:45, and touched down at Ottawa international at about 12:50 local time. We then loaded rental vans and made our way to fresh air ski shop, to top up on our klister supply. Today the temperature was a balmy +6 degrees Celsius with light rain, so of course if the temperature drops below freezing our lovely wax techs will have the thorough pleasure of applying said newly purchased ice klister to our classic skis for Sunday’s classic races. Let's just say all of us athletes really  appreciate having someone there to do that for us. After the ski shop, we then headed to a local superstore for some groceries. We divided into teams and bought copious amounts of eggs, milk, bread and of course quinoa. It wouldn't be a Manitoba ski trip without quinoa. I was also informed that without Elora on the team anymore, I am the only remaining vegetarian. I was also informed that I was a loser and was off the team as a result of this. I feel very loved and appreciated to say the least, but I digress. After superstore, we made our way to our accommodations. The place where we are staying is roughly 30 minutes north of Gatineau and is ingeniously named “The Barn”. Yup, you guessed it. It's a barn. A renovated barn of course, that includes several bedrooms and bathrooms, a living space and kitchen. The walls are lined with hundreds, maybe thousands of books. They range from encyclopedias published in the 40s to the latest people's magazine, if you can consider that a book. We may even end up reading some of them, because of the absolutely horrifying realization that we would not have access to wifi for the duration of our stay. I was able to interview Jordan Hamilton, someone who was deeply affected by this tragic news. “It's like living in the Stone Age” he said. “We may even have to revert back to the ancient technology that is text messaging.” Simon however is quite content, because people are finally going to play some board games!  We've all settled into our barn quite nicely, it’s quite peaceful out here. Now our main focus is to prepare for tomorrow's training day at Nakkertok Nordic centre. All of the skate skis were sorted in preparation for Friday's prologue free technique race, which most of us are very very excited for. The smell of burritos has now wafted into the living room from the kitchen, which marks the end of my blog writing for today. Hopefully I'll have more to tell about tomorrow's training day, but for now it's so long from Québec!

-Liam Allan

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Canmore- First 4 days

Well, it seems about time we dusted off the ol' blog. This is our fourth day in Canmore for our early snow training camp. The trip started off at 5am Sunday morning and the long drive from Winnipeg to Canmore began. Megan, Elise, Lucas, Casey, Levi W, Conor and Lisle were joined by Levi N, Pauline and Imogen in Brandon. The drive was largely uneventful with a stop at Costco in Medicine Hat, which for the most part consisted of Megan, Elise and Pauline shopping for groceries, while the rest hunted the store for free samples. Van activities included Conor learning how to play "Go Fish" and Simon battling the team for control over the music.

The ok sunset over a majestic Costco

The camp really kicked off with a classic ski at Lake Louise.

We skied up beautifully bumpy, twisty trail.

Some pretty incredible leaf-like ice crystals had formed from the morning fog coming off the snow...

At the end of the trail, we found a different trail called Moraine Lake road, which is a long, uphill mountain road in the summer and a ski trail in the winter
Group pic on Moraine lake road
After returning from Moraine Lake road, we regrouped at the parking lot and went in search of trails by Lake Louise
Unfortunately we couldn't find a groomed trail, so went back and skied a bit more where we originally were.

Monday night we were joined by Ian Murray (CRTG coach) for dinner, and then Dom and Amelia, came over for a visit.

Tuesday morning we went for a skate ski with Ian Murray and pre skied our race course for the weekend.

Levi W showing off his modelling prowess

The afternoon we went for a skate ski with some speed in the biathlon stadium. Drama ensued when we couldn't find the van key. After turning the wax room inside out and looking up and down the trail, the other van (which had already left the Nordic center) rolled up and Levi N tossed us the key. Thankfully it turned out the key had been found and someone had brought it to the help desk.

Tuesday night was an eventful one with burritos for dinner, which involved a heated argument over who had the best wrapped burrito. Simon displayed some highly controversial wrapping techniques.

Tuesday night we tested each others skis, attempting to determine which skis would be best in certain conditions
Levi W expanded his modelling portfolio with some interpretive dance

Today we all had intervals planned. We decided to head back to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake road to do some skate zone 3 and to watch the giant slalom World Cup training runs afterwards.

Levi N and Simon woke up early to fuel the team with pancakes. Elise was especially exited.
After our intervals we headed to the Lake Louise downhill resort to watch some of the best female downhill skiers in the world do their training runs before the real race on the weekend.
On the way back we took a moment to be tourists in Banff and then Lucas, the Levis and Conor went to do a double poling workout at the Nordic center while the rest of the team went to Safeway.

At dinner we were joined again by Ian Murray and by Colin Ward, a Nova Scotia skier who's staying for with Ian for the week. Additionally, the legendary Steve Scoles arrived about an hour ago with all
his official Federation Internationaux de Charades Association (apologies for the lack of accents on the 'e's).

That's about all for now, goodbye from Canmore.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Salute to Jesse and his Amazing Paranordic Season!

This blog would not be complete this season without a shout out to our Team Manitoba paranordic skier Jesse Bachinsky and his guide Brendon McDonald. 

Jesse has not been on skis for long (2 years) but he has put in some great training with coach Pam at Kenora Nordic.  Jesse was out in Canmore early this season at a paranordic training camp, and this was really his first full season of racing out of province.  Jesse and Brendon were part of Team Toba at both the Canada Games and the nationals in Thunder Bay.  Jesse and Brendon have had some amazing results, winning medals at both the Canada Games and nationals.

It was so great to hear how Jesse was always excited about having lots of good down hills both in Prince George and at Lappe in Thunder Bay.  Skiers who have full vision were afraid of some of those wicked corners, but Jesse was just happy to get out there and ski FAST!

My favorite moments this year were watching them race in Thunder Bay.  Brendon broke a pole and I was standing at the top of a climb beginning to realize that Brendon was having a hard time with only 1 pole. Not being at all phased, Brendon continued to call out instructions to Jesse as Jesse looked for all the world like he was about to take off on his own.   Luckily for the team, Lisa Patterson was standing beside me with spare poles.  She sprinted down the hill and saved the day by giving Brendon a much needed new pole.  And happily Brendon continued to guide Jesse for the rest of the race!

My other favorite moment was standing at the top of "The Grunt", a challenging climb at Lappe.  I listened to this amazing pair of skiers as Jesse and Brendon argued their way up the hill "I can't do this!"  "Yes you can do this! Let's go Jesse! Come on!"  "I am going to quit"  "No you are not going to quit.  We are almost at the top!"  That was quite a moment and I was so proud of those two!!!

Pam and Megan caught by a pro photographer
 out on the Lappe trails.


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Nationals wrap up Thunder Bay March 2015


I left you on our training day before classic sprints, so I will pick up from there.  In the evening of our training day, our 2 incredible host couples cooked up a feast for us and treated us like royalty!  Not only did they open up their homes to our team, now they were cooking us feasts!  Cam Roe summed it all up very well with a big grin on his face . . . " I am soo happy!"

Feast for Kings and Queens!

Next up was the classic sprint day for younger age groups (open men and women went the day before).  In a word: awesome!

We had more good weather, with temperatures around -6 at the start of the day.  The snow remained coarse grained and icy but the groomers did another great job of preparing the trails.

The team raced well in the qualification rounds. Levi N and Conor made it through to the quarter final heats (all age groups take the top 30 skiers to advance to the heats).  Simon put in a great race and ended up 31st, a mere .07 seconds from a spot in the heats.  5 spots ahead of Simon all within 1 second.  Sooo close!  Great job Simon!  Conor qualified with 13th fastest juvenile boys time, within 3 seconds ahead of him were 7 finishers,  and 4 more behind him within 1 second. Levi N qualified with the 11th fastest junior boys time.

Advancing to the heats meant more waxing for our ever capable gurus - Andrew and Alan.  It was great to see Alan looking so pro in the stadium area with his Team Toba wax apron. 

Caution: wax guru
Sprint touch-ups in the stadium.
 Heats were VERY exciting.  By then temperatures had climbed up to about +2. Levi N moved from his semi-finals to the A finals as "lucky loser".  If you look at the zone 4 results you will see that the top 5 of 6 skiers all had faster times than the first place skier of the next semi final.  In his A final, he came from behind at the start and gradually moved his way up in the field, finishing 3rd at the line (and 2nd for national championships because the winner is actually a visiting Norwegian). 

Conor had a very solid quarter final race, finishing a comfortable 2nd place.  He also had a good second place finish in his semi final which qualified him for the A final!  He skied into a 5th place finish with great tactics, just 2 seconds shy of a medal.  Well done!

The team did some good relaxing after races were over for the day, including more sauna action and some good rest and recovery.  We also piled into the vans in the evening to attend the awards ceremony for Levi N and Conor.  We arrived in plenty of time and got good seats up front to support them! 

En route home we stopped for a few quick groceries.  In the aisle of Safeway, Alan announced "Pauline, we are out of treats for the snack room, er, the wax room".  And some non organic non-quinoa items were added to the cart :)

Levi on far right, blue toque
Conor Sprint podium

Levi Sprint podium


One week home and this day seems a little fuzzy.  I know we made the switch from classic to skate skis in the wax room, and that the team all got out for a pre-ski of the course before lunch.  The team had the bonus of having both Tim Wintoniw (with the boys) and Andrew (with the girls) provide their technical expertise and tactical tips during the ski.

During the afternoon, Simon, Elora and I met up with Sean to go and see the Lakehead University campus.  We were just in time to join an official tour and Sean was pressed into service as one of the LU ski team guides as well.  Sarah Tipples also joined us to check out future possibilities for combining high level ski racing with University.


Well we came to our last race of  Nationals and the weather dipped down significantly. -16 on race morning!  This was the first Nationals in at least 5 years that we have not finished the week of racing with a slush fest and so the cold was most welcome. 

Open men and women started the day with their 50km and 30 km races and a significant number of male racers were heard openly regretting their lack of sufficient wind panelling during their races.  Our crew had a later start which allowed things to warm up somewhat.  It was really not feeling much like March.

Junior boys and girls were first off the mark.  82 junior boys and 54 junior girls lined up for their respective mass starts.  It was pretty darned crazy.  The course was very congested on the first few km especially, and those not in the first few had to slow down to a walk as skiers reached a bottleneck up the first significant climb.  Levi N went down fairly early in his race and the first time I saw him a few km in, he was sitting in about 30th place.  He was to fall a second time in the first of two 7.5 km laps.  His second lap was epic, as he made his way back up through the pack to cross the line 11th.  Check the zone 4 results and you will see his lap 2 split was 4th fastest.  Now THAT's how to refocus and get back on task!

 Levi W put in a really strong race and had his best finish of the week, 48th of 80 with a very strong lap 2 (43rd).  Also very proud of Cam as he gritted it out to finish the 15 km skate. And still smiling too.

The junior girls race was equally crazy, according to Elora.  Poles were broken, people fell left and right, poles were grabbed (and yanked) and Elora had to lift a foot to clear a fallen skier.  She stayed on her feet for the duration of the race!   She looked strong each time I saw her, and she finished with former Red River Nordic skier Sarah Tipples just seconds ahead of her.  Lisle skied a gritty race ("We are Strong. We are grit." ;) and posted a strong 11th place finish.  Top 10 if you remove the Norwegian skiing for Edmonton Nordic!! 

The juvenile boys race later in the afternoon was a similar festival of broken equipment.  Conor started strongly but had a fall early on in the first lap.  He broke a pole.  The first replacement pole he was given had a bad strap; the second time he asked for a new pole he got the wrong size.  He finally got an acceptable pole on the 3rd try.  Meanwhile some bad sportsmanship from a competitor fuelled him to an epic come back all the way from about 28th to finish his first lap in 13th and climb up to a 7th overall finish of 73 racers.  He just needed a bit more time! 

Simon and Lucas, meanwhile, were experiencing the exposed icy corners and were fighting for their race.  Simon took a hard fall and hit his head.  He showed great determination as he re-focused and continued the race to finish strongly.  Lucas managed to avoid adversity and raced a steady race, finishing in 64th place.

The evening saw everyone cleaned up and at the Awards Banquet.  A highlight of course was
seeing Levi N accept his second overall award for aggregate points in junior boys 1998 birth year. Toba Pride!

Another evening highlight for 5 of 8 team members was something that passed for "dancing".  This consisted of  5% of the space in a very large room being used for a whole heck of a lot of people all pressed together with sweat, jumping up and down.  Three of them ran away when I went over to speak to them. I think I broke some kind of code by going too close - what, with some grey hair showing and all.

And now the season ends . . looking forward to a summer of hard work and even more great racing next year!  Congratulations to the team for some seriously good results this year.

Simon looking determined.


Some of the crew as viewed from the take out window.
Cam passing through the stadium
Conor looking for speed.


Levi looking bright in his Games gear

Pony tails flying.  Mass start Junior girls skate race.
Lisle is in Team Toba neon near the elbow of bib 203.

A flying Lucas

Elora looking smooth!

Elora getting ready for cold mass start on skate day.



Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Thunder Bay Nationals

Hello from my very comfortable resting spot on this training day for junior racers.  Most of the team have gone into Thunder Bay to hit a few ski stores but I have elected to chill out for a bit.

Our team has been extremely fortunate to be hosted at 2 private homes as described in the last blog post.  This last minute change of accomodations has benefitted the whole team in many ways. The short drive time has made shuttles to and from the ski venue very easy and has resulted in more sleep for everyone, and better use of rest times this week.  The team has also taken advantage of the sauna and have replace recovery hot and cold baths with alternating sauna and snow burials.  Some of the team have had slight colds and so eucalyptus oil added to the sauna steam has been a nice addition!

Team bonding Finnish style!
Andrew and our host Roy chat at that back of the house.
The more painful part of the sauna recovery routine.

Sean in classic distance race yesterday. 
A fantastic 10th in junior men!

Levi looking powerful in classic
race yesterday.

Lisle at the top of "The Grunt".  Looking strong!!!
We have now done 2 of the 4 individual races for the week.  Tomorrow it will be the classic sprints!  The conditions have been very good.  There is still plenty of snow here and the weather is staying reasonably cold this week.  Classic tracks have been great, getting very cold at night. The grooming machines are breaking up the ice and mixing it in with the crystals of icy snow so it has been straight klister.

We have a good amount of wall space in our room of the wax trailer which is nice.  Some years we have really been squeezed into tight spaces so this is much appreciated.  We have a new start wax bench which is AMAZING! (anyone who has gone shoulder to shoulder at our smaller Swix table will know what it would mean to have more space).  Andrew and Alan make a great team. Both like a very tidy work space and everything is well organized.  We have a window that looks out to the area where athletes convene to wait for their equipment .  This has become something like a take out window and we have been known to ask "would you like poutine or a smoothie with your skis?"

The team are racing very well and have been mostly happy with their efforts.  It is great to see young skiers like Lucas with such focus at his first nationals. He is taking in every detail and learning every chance he gets.  Cam has great enthusiasm with his races! He was spotted cooling down for a lengthy period on the 1 km loop after yesterday's race, smiling and soaking it all in.  Simon is settling into racing and showing good focus with lots of excellent technical questions.  Elora has been networking and is currently trying to find a way to be adopted into a Norwegian family, using her Edmonton. Nordic contacts.

We have had some amazing results so far and people are making more and more comments about Manitoba.  As of today, aggregate standings for birth years have both Levi N and Conor in 4th place and Lisle in 6th.   This is outstanding!

Andrew has been a ton of fun in addition to being extremely knowledgable.  He has a great sense of humour  and most of the team still can't tell when he is joking.  He played a trick on the team at an early team meeting and pretended to be upset for being levied a fine for Manitoba skiers going the wrong direction on a trail. Now this is actually a real punishable crime but our team had not in fact been singled out in front of the whole meeting as Andrew outlined.  Conor was quite white as he listened to Andrew, and it took him some time to process when Andrew could not continue his ruse any longer and started to laugh.

To cap off our great day yesterday, we arrived back to Surprise Lake last night to a wonderful display of Northern Lights.  We all went down onto the Lake to enjoy the show along with the beautiful bright stars.  We have enjoyed the dark night skies out here, unobscured by city lights.

Today we were out at Lappe preparing for the classic sprints.  We walked the trails as a team and got a thorough review of the course from Andrew.  It was a great opportunity to see the open categories ski the course and watch how they skillfully handled corners and track changes.


The welcoming committee of host family dogs (plus a neighbor!)
Would you like fries with that?? Wax room take out window.

Klister anyone?


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Nationals day 1+2

This is Conor and Lucas (aka birthday boy) reporting lakeside in our beautiful accommodations.

Yesterday we departed from Windsor Park around 8 in the morning. Our drive was for the most part uneventful with some minor paranoia around getting hit by a truck (not sure about the cause of this) and a stop at a lovely little bakery in vermillion with amazing calzones. We arrived around 5 in the afternoon (T-Bay time) at two houses near Lappe.

Our accommodations so far have been pretty incredible. We're staying in two houses within 100m of each other situated on Surprise Lake. The guys are in one house, the girls in another. Both houses are absolutely stunning and we have 5 dogs between the 2 houses (including a duck toller who brought back a dead walleye the other day). The major advantage to our accommodations is that they're literally 8 minutes away from the Nordic center (which the Juvie boys are pretty happy about considering our previous accommodations were an hour away from Lappe and we have a 9:20 start time tomorrow).

Today we all pre-skied our courses for tomorrow (short distance skate interval start). The juvenile boys (Simon, Lucas and Conor) and the Junior Girls (Elora and Lisle) will race 5km. The Junior Boys (the Levis and Cam) race 10km. We're all on the same 5km loop (with the exception of a small hill the Juvie Boys cut out on their course). The course starts with a small climb out of the stadium, then loops back and goes back through the stadium. It then takes a sharp right hander and climbs a short but steep climb to a little ridge about the stadium. There's then a long, fast (but not too technical), downhill, which leads into the course's first major climb, Klukie line (about 1.5 km into the course). Klukie line is long and gradual, not crazy steep but long enough to really burn out your legs if you attack it too much. After that there's 2 small rolling hills, a long descent, which leads into about 1.5km of fairly easy rolling terrain. Don't be fooled by the easy flat section, however, for it leads into the infamous "Pilon's" and "The pretty self-explanatory name. Only about 150m, it's steepness is deadly. What makes the Grunt so hard is that it's at the end of your race and it's right after Pilon's. After the grunt there's about 150m of flat, then a quick downhill with a right hander into the finishing stretch.

After pre-skiing we returned home and kept it pretty mellow for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner was a coconut curry with brown rice, which we devoured while watching snowmobilers take jumps on the lake.
 Grunt". Pilon's is long and steep, about 400m the only relief comes in a short, slightly less steep section in the middle of the hill. At the top of Pilon's, there's a very fast downhill into "The Grunt". "The Grunt" is a
Well, that's been the first two days of Nationals 2015, folks. Rumour has it that they've been clearing a track on the lake, and there will be some car racing on the ice, so we wouldn't want to miss that.

This is Conor and Lucas signing off