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Archive for November, 2010

Cars, Chili, Skiing, and Beards

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Aside from cross country skiing, which I am obviously pretty into, there are three main things which I enjoy. They are, in no particular order, driving, eating and growing beards.

My pimped-out ride.

This is my car. 1996 Honda Odyssey. It’s a pretty sweet ride, I know. I am currently taking offers on it, actually – own a FasterSkier staffer’s former car!

In terms of eating, chili is pretty high up there on what I usually consume. The pictured version featuring beans, cheese, peppers, onions and sour cream among other delicious goodies. I actually list sour cream and salsa as independent food groups. For any of my athletes reading this, please disregard that last statement.

Man I love chili...

As for my beards, they all look pretty similar, so pictures are largely unnecessary. Other people find that they are recognized less when they rock a beard – I generally find people don’t recognize me if I’m clean shaven. You know when you get a chill up your spine, and something feels out of place? That’s what people get when they see me without facial hair.

But let’s stick with the car for now, because for most of this past summer it featured prominently in my life as both a method of transportation, and storage unit. After moving out of my parents house (I know! High-fives all around!) the storage unit component of my whip has been slightly reduced, but trust me, I still have a lot of things in the back of it.

A brief list of what is currently in my car (at least that I know of):

–          2 soccer balls

–          8 medicine balls of assorted weights, sizes and colours

–          2 pairs of rollerskis (one classic, one skate)

–          3 pairs of ski boots (two skate, one classic)

–          Laundry basket

–          Helmet

–          2 pairs of rollerski gloves

–          Drink belt

–          8 pairs of poles of assorted lengths and uses

–          Rubber boots

–          Overalls

–          Pellet pump-action shotgun (don’t ask)

–          Cookie tin

–          3 empty 1 litre cartons of chocolate milk

–          1 full set of sheets

–          5 rolls of shop towel

–          3 pairs of running shoes, assorted sizes

–          15-20 mini-chocolate bars, in assorted kinds

–          Duffel bag containing nothing

–          Notes from a French course I finished in August

–          Tool box

–          Trucker hat

–          Foam pad

–          Booster cables

–          Car Jack

–          Maps of several Canadian provinces except Ontario, and a few American states

Now, clearly not everything on that list is essential for the two tasks I mostly use my car for – driving to ski practice, and picking up groceries. For example, I don’t often wear my overalls during rollerski workouts, but it’s good to be prepared. Also, I have yet to find a use for my helmet in the grocery store, but again, I’m prepared.

(Author’s Note: For anyone looking at this list and thinking that stealing my car is a good idea, you should be forewarned. I have a pretty intense alarm system that sounds like lazers, and my exhaust is a little noisy (read: has a hole the size of the Canadian currency unit of a twoonie in it), so the chances of you driving away without me noticing are about zero. But if you do…just leave me the overalls. Those Carhartts weren’t cheap, and I really like them.)

For those car companies reading this blog, I am completely open to selling myself in return for transportation – if you would like to sponsor a budding coach and key cog in the FasterSkier machine, please contact me. Also, if you are from Volkswagen, I really like the Golf GTI.

I wrote this entire blog before the events of Friday, November 26th, which involved a muffler, a nice rock ski, and have culminated in the Kijiji posting of my vehicle.

I am also starting a new feature in my blog. It will go as follows:

Favourite Workout of the Week: Hour and a half classic rock ski! Sure, it was on 3 cm of snow, and my classic rock skis seemed to have zero grip despite being about 40 pounds too soft for me, but the first ski of the season is always sweet, even when you’re thinking about the fact that your car may need some serious help. Turns out I should have done more double-poling on my classic rollerskis this summer…

First ski of the season!

What I’m Watching These Days: The Grey Cup! It’s like the Super-Bowl of Canadian football, except with more snow, more people from Saskatchewan, more throwing of the football, and a lot fewer people care. I know very little about the CFL, but I’m determined to be Canadian and watch.

Is YouTube Really Worth My Time?: Yes. Because you know this dude would have hopped a lot faster if that was a piston bully rather than a Zamboni…mad props for professionalism in the face of… danger?…though.

Rollerskiing with the Canadian National Ski Team

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Earlier this the fall, I had the opportunity to show up at a Canadian National Team training camp in Quebec City, to do some coverage for FasterSkier. In addition to being the dude with sub-par camera skills asking questions, I wanted to take part.

And luckily, the coaching staff overlooked the clear safety implications of letting some jabroni off the street rollerski around next to Chandra Crawford, and invited me to take part in one of the workouts they were having while I was there.

After taking a look at the list of available workout options during my stay in Quebec City given to me by Head Coach Justin Wadsworth, I found that my strengths (something with running shoes, short, in a straight line) were not present, and that no matter what, if I wanted to take on the Canadian National Ski Team, I was going to have to do it on rollerskis.

Now, let’s get something straight – this would be no Shaq Versus style match-up (for a variety of reasons – I’m not a superstar, I don’t claim to be the greatest athlete, I’m not 7 feet tall and 325 lbs), but I do have some experience. I have spent my fair share (roughly ten years of competitive skiing including four years on the Ontario Provincial Cup circuit, five trips to Canadian Nationals, and four years of Ontario University racing) of time on rollerskis and skis. Also, in my current role as assistant coach for Nakkertok Nordic ski team based in Ottawa, Ontario, I spend a lot of time of rollerskis, most of it with 14-17 year old juniors who would like nothing better than to show me just how slow I am on a pair of F1’s or V2’s, or whatever your preferred brand of rollerskis is.

I picked the Sunday workout, a series of rollerski sprints, so I could get the work part of my weekend done on Saturday, and then rest up for a potential showdown with Chandra Crawford. As luck would have it, Sunday morning dawned with a vicious downpour, and after stepping into a pair of ski boots that are probably older than a few of the guys I would be sprinting with, headed out the door. Luckily my digs (courtesy of my Mom – thanks Mom!) in Mount Saint Anne, where the training camp was being held, was quite close to the start of the rollerski, so I had mere meters to stumble to find Wadsworth, most of the A Team, the B Team, and a van load of guys from the CNEPH development center.

After meeting the pack of 20 skiers in a wet parking lot, I discovered that I wasn’t the only member of the media in attendance – another unmentionable outlet with a significantly larger backer (possibly a government, but I won’t give too much away) had decided to brave the rain and cover Alex Harvey at the workout. Now, while everyone is aware that FasterSkier is nothing but professional in their execution of covering skiing in North America, people should also be aware that we do so on a significantly lower budget than many news outlets. So while I was standing there in the pouring rain in my shorts without my rain jacket, because I thought I was tough, the other crew (3 people, two vans) was nice and dry, prepping their video camera and boom mic for the workout.

While the rain soaked us, Wadsworth and Development Team coach Eric de Nys issued a few quick directions, and we took off on a half hour warm up of the local subdivisions. At this point, despite being slightly damp and feeling out of place, I settled in to do some rollerskiing. A quick look around revealed some basic facts which differed from my average rollerski – to my left, Devon Kershaw, 1.6 seconds from a gold medal, and World Cup medalist. To my right, Stefan Kuhn, 15th place at the Classic Sprint in Vancouver. Up front, Alex Harvey, 4th place in the sprint relay at the Olympics, and multiple World Cup medalist. Around me, Brent McMurtry, Len Valjas, Fred Touchette, Graham Killick, Harry Seaton – a who’s-who of up and coming Canadian cross country skiers.

Len Valjas explodes out of the starting gate, while Wadsworth huddles under his umbrella

Despite my head spinning from having the incredible opportunity to observe some of the best skiers in Canada and in the world up close and personal, I managed to settle down and do my job. For those still confused about what that is, I wanted to take in what was going on, and get the full experience of what it felt like to be at a National Team workout.

Luckily the warm up was just that, a warm up, and therefore I managed to bounce around the group and talk to a few people without getting too out of breath (junior athletes take note here: I’m not in great shape, yet in skiing a Zone 1/Level 1 warm-up, I was able to easily keep pace and talk – even the best in the world don’t rollerski everywhere at max speed). I introduced myself to Phil Widmer (“Don’t worry, I know who you are,” he said), overheard Alex Harvey being very unimpressed with the pouring rain, using some un-publishable language, took a few chirps (“You still in zone up there?”) from training center athletes who I used to race against, and finally was hassled by Dasha Gaiazova (“Are those actually your rollerskis?? I’m impressed! You just made my day!”).

When we arrived, dripping wet, at the street the coaching staff had designated for our workout, the place was bustling. Four coaches, a FasterSkier photographer, the other news crew, and a half dozen cars crowded the street. On about 800 meters of freshly paved blacktop, Wadsworth had set up a regulation World Cup start gate at one end, and at the other was two sets of markers, delineating the distance the athletes were to sprint. After a brief division of the group where Wadsworth sent the World Cup Team and sprint men in one, and female team members as well as development center athletes in the other, I chose to continue my quest to challenge Chandra Crawford in a sprint race, and went with the women.

Nothing like hanging out in the rain with a bunch of other rollerskiers...

As the rain continued to pelt down, we lined up to do six to eight 30 second ‘drop in’ sprints, which are basically sprints with a rolling start. Besides being intimidated by some fast women and the training center boys, coaches Louis Bouchard and Eric de Nys had decided to keep an eye on our technique. I was keenly aware of the fact that compared to most of the people there, my technique straight up sucked. However, I just ignored the eyes, and got down to getting the most out of my warm-up sprints, and staying on my feet. On my first sprint I lined up with Harry Seaton and Mike Somppi of NDC Thunder Bay – after some light banter, we rolled out. And BAM – we were off! All of a sudden I was sprinting alongside two guys who started World Cups last season – and more importantly, not getting dropped! I high-fived myself in my mind.

As we passed the cone indicating the finish, I pulled up, feeling pretty damn good about myself. I had kept up with two pretty decent skiers, didn’t fall on my face, and the coaching staff hadn’t said anything bad. The three of us skied back up to the top, and I casually asked “so, what effort level are you guys putting in here?” Just as casually “I dunno, about a 7 or 8 out of 10,” came the reply from Seaton, with a confirming nod from Somppi. Which pretty quickly brought me back to reality – I was going at about 13.

Just as we arrived at the top of the street, Crawford and Gaiazova were tossing out offers to switch sprint partners, and race with the girls. Despite getting a friendly earful from Gaiazova earlier in the day about my rollerskiing, I took her and Crawford up on the offer. I was now rolling in with the two top Canadian sprinters, and I couldn’t help but think about my balance, the occasional piece of gravel on the roadway, the sewer grates, and the slippery pavement in the pouring rain. It was hard not to imagine that with one stumble, one misplaced pole plant, one rock in my wheel, and I could accidentally take out the entire Canadian women’s World Cup team.

With nightmares of complete carnage, road rash, and Justin Wadsworth banning me from everything associated with skiing in my head, I was a little bit more cautious as we hit the starting cone. But I still gave it the beans, and managed not to look like a complete rookie (or at least so I though), and drew what I considered to be even with Crawford and Gaiazova. I was pumped – just getting warmed up, and looking forward to another.

However, after that the coaches told us to do the rest of the drop-in sprints solo, whether because of my sketchiness or not, I didn’t ask. We knocked off the rest of them quickly and without incident, except for one upstart training center athlete named Patrick Stewart-Jones (no relation, although he does ski for the club I coach), who decided on the last one that we were going to go head-to-head, where he promptly whipped my ass.

With the first part of the workout finished, we headed down the street to see Wadsworth, who had unloaded a World-Cup style start gate from the back of the team van, and was running the gathered skiers through start gate practice.

Crawford gets ready to bust out, while the camera crew looks on

At this point I should interject with a little background – if there is one thing that I think I am good at in skiing, it’s starting. Ask anyone I have ever skied with or against – I like to think I can ski 100 meters in a straight line from a dead stop fast – very fast. I don’t have great reaction times, or anything special that says I can do it – I just like to think so.

So seeing a start gate, and being surrounded with some people who can legitimately ski 100 m and more very fast was awesome. I was immediately psyched to get down to business. Until I realized that skate starts with a World Cup start gate are hard, especially if you have never done them before, and Justin Wadsworth is standing over you pulling the wand string.

It takes a lot more thought than you would imagine. I got a lot of feedback, both from the athletes, and Wadsworth – “get low, move your feet quickly, start with one foot back and off the ground, narrow your stance, explode forward, set your poles a little wider,” and while all of it was great, I still don’t think anyone should let me take to a World Cup start line, because I didn’t do one start that could actually be described as good. Unless it’s Rybinsk – I volunteer to go there, because I’ve heard so long as you cross the finish line, you get World Cup points.

Anyway, I learned very quickly that I was outclassed, but Wadsworth was great – he didn’t kick me off the start gate, tell me that I sucked, and was a lot less intimidating than I initially thought. Despite me being a bit of useless lump in his practice, he was positive, polite, and genuinely seemed to want to help me. (Although to be sure, I didn’t push my luck and ask for a straight sprint with Chandra Crawford, which is really what I wanted. Guess that’ll have to wait until she reads my blog and takes me up on it…)

After finishing up the start-gate massacre, as I was starting to think of it in my head, we moved on to yet another set of sprints, ideally on an uphill. The goal was to find one where we would be challenged to use our two-skate, one-skate and offset (or in American – V1, V2, and V2 alternate, I think).

The author getting ready to throw down, while Justin Wadsworth watches carefully

After a confusing bit of rollerskiing where the coaching staff tried to balance the needs of a construction crew using the hill we wanted to sprint up, the demands of the other media outlet, and the fact that there were 30 odd skiers anxious to continue the rollerski, we ended up at a 100 meter uphill. The news crew wanted some shots of the real athletes (it would have looked bad if I had out-lunged a Canadian star on TV, as unlikely as that was), so I graciously bowed out, and just skied around, took in some scenery, talked with a few others, and tried not to offend too many people with my atrocious French.

In the end, the workout took around two and a half hours, I had rubbed elbows with some fast skiers, gained some valuable coaching tips, took some good natured chirping, and even gotten some exercise. All in all – success!

First Blog Post: I am a Dude

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

For my first blog on FasterSkier, I thought I would answer some basic questions.

So, who is this Kieran Jones, and why do they think they can post on MY, you ask. First of all, let’s clear one thing up. My name is Kieran – it’s Irish, and a male name. I am a dude. I’ve had at least one prospective employer think otherwise, and I know it happens, but I am a dude. Full stop.