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Archive for January, 2011

It’s Cold in Ottawa…

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

How cold?

This morning when went I went skiing at 11 AM it was -25 Celsius, or -39 Celsius with the windchill. Needless to say, the race which my athletes were planning on attending was cancelled.

Instead, a dozen of us went for two hours, and avoided frostbite with some solid bushwacking. I may need a new pair of classic skis, turns out there are rocks involved with bushwacking…

Oh Canada!

Some sweet face-ice... nothing like a good ski below -20 to make your beard grow icicles

Face- Ice Pros and Cons

Pros

– it means you have a rad beard

– you look intense

– if its cold enough for face-ice, it’s probably cold enough that you were able to ski

– athletes ask you if you can include “beard-growing to skills we develop at practice”

– hair and ice covers up lots of skin, reducing wind burn

Cons

– there is a gigantic icicle hanging off your face

– small children and women are afraid of you (the children part may in fact be a pro…)

– older adults chirp you about “growing a Santa Claus beard”

– ice can freeze your beard to your buff/balaclava, making it difficult for other people to see your facial expressions. it’s also difficult to clean off your face after your ski, even with a scraper

I like intense. I think I’ll keep the beard for a little while longer.

Pancakes and Hills – Must Be Lappe

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

In my other life as a cross country ski coach, I recently had the opportunity to head to Thunder Bay, Ontario, for the trials for everything. Seriously, just take a look at the race notice.

After hopping on a plane with a few of my favorite athletes in Ottawa, we cruised through Toronto, met a bald man who you may or may not know, and then disembarked into the cold air and disorganization that comes with having a team of 39 athletes who have arrived on multiple days at different times.

Do you know this man? First person to name him, and why he's ridiculous gets a burnt bagel courtesy of Charcoal.

After some quick shuttling, organization, and a broken rental van, we ponied up, and headed out to the race site, Lappe Nordic.

I have been to Lappe often, and in my mind, skiing at Lappe in Thunder Bay means two things – large difficult hills, and pancakes. This may be an indication of my skiing career, but that’s not really important.

As an athlete, the hills sucked, and the pancakes made Lappe the best stop on the Ontario Cup circuit by a landslide. As a coach, the hills suck even more, I just now get to avoid them, and the pancakes are exactly the same, I just get to eat more.

If you’re busy wondering why a ski race is known for pancakes, let me explain. Thunder Bay has a pretty prominent Finnish community, and that community, other than being really into cross country skiing and plugging a lot of time and effort into the ski infrastructure at Lappe, like pancakes.

As a result, the little kitchen at Lappe churns out hundreds of pancakes each time the Ontario Cup, or other larger events come to town.

Almost more like crepes, these thin pancakes technically come with two options – without sauce, and with strawberry sauce. Now, far be it from me to tell you what to do, but if you get pancakes at Lappe without spending the extra 50c on sauce, you are not only a cheap bastard, but you are missing out on half of the pancake experience.

It’s pretty awesome to come in from skiing/waxing/running around/yelling/throwing your friends in snowbanks and be able to hit a pile of warm pancakes covered in tasty strawberries.

Man I love breakfast!

As for the hills, they are about as difficult as the pancakes are awesome. On the 15 k loop, the last 1 k features as far as I can determine something like 900 m of climbing. And that’s only a slight exaggeration. They even come with sweet names – Klukie Line, Pilon’s, The Grunt – you just know that when people start naming hills (Morderbacken, Alpe Cermis, anyone?) it’s NOT because they’re so easy and fun. Luckily my position as coach means I get to audit hills from the comfort of my NEOS, rather than the up-close and personal version – although just before you think I’m really lazy, I did ski every hill on that course during the weekend – I know exactly what it’s like.

Favourite Workout of the Week: Two hour classic ski around the rolling terrain at Nakkertok, a trail system that has struggled with snow coverage so far this year. However, Ottawa has finally received enough, and two hours of classic skiing on an awesome sunny afternoon, on narrow trails with lots of cool terrain turned in the best ski of the year in Ottawa for me, despite being pasted by a friend in the one intensity set we did.

What I’m Watching These Days: The NFL Playoffs. I watch very little football during the year, but once things get down to the nitty-gritty, I start to pay attention. Last weekend was sweet, because Green Bay and the Bears both managed wins, and now face off for a trip to the Superbowl. My roomate likes the Bears, I’m pulling for the Pack. Should be a good weekend.

Is YouTube Really Worth My Time?: If you don’t get excited about cross country skiing after watching this video, you don’t have a pulse.

Weekends Need More Hours

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I would never dream of complaining about being a cross country ski coach and working for FasterSkier – I have a job which allows me to be outside doing exercise in a sport that I love, and a job which lets me interact and follow the best cross country skiers in the world. That being said, sometimes having two jobs which rely on the same schedule can make things – a little tricky, let’s say.

This last weekend was a prime example. Saturday and Sunday I was slated to take a coaching course which involved an on-snow component, as well as some classroom time, and some video technique analysis – all things I have no problem learning, and I was actually pretty excited about the content. However, when you factor in the rest of the weekend which was jam packed full of things I enjoy, I would have liked an extra few hours of daylight.

Things Which Made My Weekend More Hectic Than Anticipated:

-Thursday, Dec. 30, fellow FasterSkier staffer, journalism legend, and poor Fantasy Nordic competitor, Nat Herz swung through Ottawa on his way down from a little vacation in the back woods of Ontario. This is the second time Nat and I have managed to connect in Ottawa, and he was irate after his first visit due to his total lack of Beavertail consumption, which I had promised. For those unfamiliar with Beavertails, they are basically a piece of fried flat bread, most often covered in butter, brown sugar and lemon juice, and then eaten in seconds. In my short experience with him, I have discovered Nat is a bit of a sucker for desert, and the Beavertail definitely fits in that category. As a result, he was set on finding one, but after some slight evening diversions, including a quick visit with a veteran of the ski community and a dinner that involved a guy with a greasy beard, we flat-out ran out of time, and Nat was stuck Beavertail-less for the second trip in a row. He now hates Canadians, and my job may be in jeopardy.

A Beavertail not consumed by Nat Herz

– After a scant five hours of sleep, I bounced up Friday morning to watch The Tour de Ski begin on Friday, Dec. 31, with a prologue. After catching the women’s race and eating a few pieces of toast (actually toast, as a result of his sister standing in front of Charcoal the entire time), Nat headed for home, leaving me to watch the men’s prologue, and then get started on coverage for both. Quick note on prologues – kind of a goofy format, which I don’t really like. Not that exciting to watch, and random people do well, only to drop off the face of the earth in every other format. Not sure what the point is, but judging by the lack of spectators, not that many people care.

– The coaching course started on Saturday, January 1, at 8:30 AM. And if you check your dates, that would be New Years Day. Not entirely sure how it got there, but clearly the other people in the course and the organizers were not in the 20 to 25 range.

– The weather was brutal. Saturday was several degrees above zero, rain, and then a freeze Sunday night resulted in tricky conditions to say the least. I made a pair of hairies in an attempt to have classic skis with grip – no dice. Instead of benefiting from perfect snow, we dodged puddles, patches of grass and dirt, skating-rink-like conditions, and pouring rain. I’ll be honest – the conditions sucked. Impressive reaction from the participants however – absolutely everyone (including myself) was still keen to be out there, and there was a complete lack of whining.

– The World Junior hockey tournament is in full swing. Like at least a couple of other Canadians, I’m somewhat interested in hockey. I know who Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are, but I also know who Danny Carcillo and Brayden Schenn are, which should give anyone vaguely interested in hockey just an idea of how closely I follow the sport. World Junior’s is a fixture on my calendar around this time of year, and the elimination games began on Saturday – when I finally arrived home from the course, around 6 PM, the Canadians had just finished ousting the Swiss from the tournament.

The exact opposite of the ski conditions at my coaching course

– More importantly, Saturday morning was the second day of the Tour de Ski – and it turned out it was a wickedly exciting hunter-style classic pursuit. With the Canadians killing it (Kershaw second, Harvey 9th)and after watching it today, it was an awesome race which would have been unbelievable live. A quick note on hunter-style pursuits – completely sold on this concept. There is nothing more intense than the start, with so many skiers going out like crazy. While the end result in men’s racing is often the leader getting swallowed up and then destroyed, the fact that total time plays a factor means the mass start racing is way better.

– Sunday morning I woke up feeling terrible, and seriously considered staying home to avoid the skating rink skiing, and more importantly, to catch my favorite World Cup format (a classic sprint) with two Canadian and one American man clearly looking for top results. But I hustled out the door, but not before I was able to check qualifying results – and with the top qualifying by Kershaw, Harvey, Newell, and even Freeman in the heats, not to mention Randall, I just about pulled the plug. While I love all cross country skiing, sprints, and in particular classic sprinting is almost an addiction for me. The speed, tactics, close finishes, falls, and upsets all make it the best format on the World Cup today. I left home exacting a promise from a friend to text me results as the day went on, which turned out to be an awesome idea, until the final. He gave me the start list for the men’s Final, I waited, and then received “Oh man, you have to watch the mens final for yourself,” which, at 10 AM when you have another 7-8 hours of coaching course without internet access, was probably the most painful thing to hear.

– During this whole 3-day process, I finally managed to sell my van. Except the guys who bought it picked it up when I wasn’t home, leaving me to collect bits and pieces of paperwork and spare keys, and finding a way to get them to a small town 45 minutes away before he left to head back to school after the Christmas break on Sunday morning.

– And a huge thank you to George, Sabrina, Jordan and Duncan McTaggart for dinner on Sunday – not having to make dinner after a busy weekend was awesome!

Favourite Workout of the Week (or last couple of): This is tricky, because in 7 days in Canmore I skied 17 hours, including two amazing 3 hour classic days. However, just before heading to Canmore I went to Ontario Cup #1 in Duntroon, ON, as a coach to support 20-ish Nakkertok skiers. The first testing run around the skate sprint course on Saturday morning reminded me why I no longer race – my legs burned after heading up the one steep uphill on the course.

What I’m Watching These Days: 24/7 – a pretty cool new HBO series that covers the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. A lot of behind the scenes stuff, including some intense coaching moments. And obviously the 20 km Pursuit and Classic sprint from the Tour – both were deadly, and without a doubt the highlight of World Cup racing so far this year.

Is YouTube Really Worth My Time?: Surprisingly, for once it’s not. If you’re out there making YouTube videos, hurry up, because I need some entertaining stuff to watch

Testing in the morning. Don't tell anyone I took this picture - I was supposed to be testing, not having fun.