The time has finally arrived, my bags are all packed (after about three days of getting things ready to pack), and the taxi is booked and there is nothing in the frig that will perish in the next four weeks. After seven months of training, tomorrow I leave for Norway and for the first IPC World Cup of the 2011/2012 season. I’m excited to race. I’ve had so much fun this year training, whether it was in the long, long distance days or what seem like the endless intensities. I gained a new found enjoyment for training. Now my focus for this upcoming competitive season is to carry that enjoyment over to racing and forget the stresses of racing and simply go out to enjoy it. This year has been a huge development year for me yet again. Not just physically but I learned and developed a lot of mental tools as well. The big one within the training session was focus, or focus on my movements. Making sure I’m technically in the right position for each stride, that the motion from starting point to end point are correct and are the most beneficial to forward motion. This skill is crucial, but very difficult to get a handle on. At first I could only keep my mind on a few strides, but as I forced myself to focus longer I slowly developed to the point that I could focus for extended period of time. Then more on the physical aspect was technique. Classic technique had a much larger role this training season than ever before. With the developing technique I experienced a pleasant side effect. Before, classic was a challenge, there were days where I enjoyed it but not the many. Most days I went through the motions, I wanted to get better but the personal drive wasn’t there entirely. Now, the challenge is to see how steep a hill I can exactly climb! Classic began to grow on me and my enjoyment for it started to develop. Technique is a challenging thing because no matter how long I stay with the sport I will always be working on the technically side of it. But now I have the personal drive, the love for it to continue on my path of improvement.
One of the surprises from the training season was the training load I could handle. I am currently on route to surpass the plan for my training hours but it all has been beneficial at this point. So am I right at the limit for training or am I capable of more? That is something we will have to wait for, I’ll let everyone know how things progress in a years’ time. Another check-mark on the training season ‘to do list’ was a steady improvement in my shooting. Improvement in shooting is similar to improvement in skiing, there will be highs and lows, times where it is going so well you feel invincible. There are also times where you struggle to find form. In the end my change has been positive.
Most of these observations were based on feel but a few are from actual race results. Earlier I spoke that this World Cup trip is the official start to my competitive season. In the way I’m talking about the training season it would seem to be. In a way it is, but in another I’ve already had three races this year. Two Biathlon races and a single Cross Country race. All three have been at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Today, Sunday, was my first cross country race of the year. A 10km classic race. It was a beautiful day in Canmore, with bright sun, the temperature around -5. I would be one of the first to start in the Senior Men’s category. With the technical work in classic throughout the year, I made that my focus in the race. I wanted an opportunity to put the hard work down on the snow and see what would happen. I’m pleased with the race. I felt smoother then I had ever in a classic race, I was climbing well, up some of the steepest World Cup climbs out there. It is hard to judge but I did feel faster as well but that is something I have no proof for yet.
The first biathlon races were in the middle of November, they were Biathlon Canada’s Senior Team trials. I would race the second of the two races. It was a tough one, as the first race for the season they are known to be tough. I shot well but not great and skied well but not great. Most of the guys I train with made these races their focus, because those races decided in large part what the remainder of their seasons would look like. For me it was an opportunity to race, knock the cobwebs out and get the feel for racing once again. The race did just that for me. It heightened my senses to the little things I need to race well, and sharpened my mind to that race mentality. Because this first race went well and not great it was a huge contributing factor to why my next biathlon race was great. On Saturday I race the Alberta Cup #1, Biathlon Sprint. It was a great day, sun was shiny, and the wind had calmed down to barely a wisp. I had a great pair of boards. I skied a fantastic race; unfortunately I missed a shot in my prone bout and added another two in the standing bout. I felt I should have had one of those shots but that was not the case. As I mentioned before the shooting was improving, in this same race a year ago I hit 5 out of the 10 targets. Give me another year and may be shooting clean.
As I watched the Cross Country World Cup began with some solid Canadian results and the Biathlon World Cup starting this past weekend again with some flickers of Canadian strength. I’m eager to get my WC season underway. And after almost a day and a half travel I’ll be in Sjusjoen, Norway, the venue for our first WC. First up will be the Biathlon races, three of them a Sprint, a Pursuit and an Individual. A relay is chalked up to be next and finish the WC off with three Cross Country races. First race is on the 10th of December; stay tuned to www.markarendz.com for (hopefully) up to date race results and other exciting tim-bits of experience.