The start to the 2012 year kicked off with an insane schedule of travel, races and events. For the first five weeks this year I had at least one race each weekend. I raced in three different venues, two provinces and two countries. It all started on the 2nd of January when I traveled from the East (Right) coast back to Canmore. Five days later I was on the start line to race number one for 2012. An Alberta Cup, organized by the Blue and Gold of the Rocky Mountain Racers. I would crack the top-10 in the Open Men.
The following day the team traveled from Canmore to Vancouver and onto Whistler for Junior/U23 Trials and OPA tour trials. I had two days of training before the first race, a 30km Skiathlon. The Skiathlon is a race where the skiers switch equipment and techniques halfway through the race. First is a 15km classic portion, then immediately switching to skate equipment and continuing for another 15km. My plan was to race the first half, the 15km classic part and see how much of the skate portion I would do. I ended up completing the classic section but stopped just after switching my skis in favor of better preparing for the upcoming World Cup. I had one of my better classic races, but there were plenty of things to work on to improve my performance. After another two days training and focusing on key aspects of those issues, it was time to start the second race for me in Whistler; a 15km classic race. Yes, it was a repeat of what I had raced on Thursday. Fortunately the course had been changed so it wasn’t an exact repetition. I skied a much better race than I had earlier in the week. My time behind the winner was a lot smaller and I had improved on several of the worrisome areas from the previous race.
Next up was the quick trip back to Canmore, where I was preparing for one; the NorAm races over the weekend and two for the World Cup in a week’s time. Canmore had a nasty surprise for our arrival with daily highs of -28 or colder. It lasted only the four days but that was long enough. I did however go for a ski one of those days. I skied for just over an hour in -32. I wore two pairs of socks, double buff and tuques, three pairs of pants and two shirts, two jackets and a vest. I was quite warm, almost too warm but I got that workout in. By race time on Friday the temperatures were rising fast and for the Sunday race that I did, the high was above 0. Going with the trend the race in Canmore was a 15km Skate race. It was my best skate race I’ve ever had. My time behind the fastest skier was the smallest I’d ever seen. The leading pack was made up of some of the best skiers in the country. This was all setting up for a solid showing in the States.
The next morning it was off to the Calgary airport yet again. We were flying through Toronto and onto Minneapolis. Once we arrived we still had a four hours bus ride from the Minneapolis airport to Cable, Wisconsin. I had four days to prepare for my races. The training was going very well. The shooting though was the story of the week. I was on! During my visit to the States I did not miss a single target, paper or metal, race or training. I got into the mind set for shooting and never left it the entire week. The first Biathlon race was a Sprint. I didn’t ski that well, I was missing the quick twitch I needed on a relativity flat course. Though I shot clean, hitting all 10 targets (I had one target, I got super lucky on, but it went up and that is all that counts) I ended up finishing third. That night I had to rethink and focus for Sunday’s race. Sunday’s race featured four bouts of shooting, 12.5km of skiing and a penalty loop for any misses. I was again in the zone for shooting. I was astonished by how natural the shooting felt, there were no near misses. Every hit was dead center. The skiing was getting better, it still wasn’t the same me as I had seen in Canmore a week earlier, but I was skiing again. Even with the clean shooting on the range, I wasn’t able to hold onto a podium spot, finishing fourth. I was happy to see I was getting back on track after a disappointing Sprint. However I was not completely satisfied with my results in Wisconsin. I am capable of more. Monday would be my next race, a 10km skate race. I was getting a little tired. A bit from the month previous as well as the third race in as many days. My skiing was returning, I skied a very consistent race over the four laps. I was just running on fumes by the end of the day, to add to my trouble the Russians seemed to have ‘arrived’ in Wisconsin with an incredibly strong effort by every one of them crowding the top-10.
After driving back to Minneapolis, Monday night I flew to Canmore early Tuesday morning. I took the next day off to recover and prepared for my last set of races for a while. Canmore was going to host an IBU Cup (the IBU Cup is the B-tier circuit for international Biathlon, but caliber is that where an athlete can be on the podium at an IBU Cup and the following week podium on the World Cup). Canada was holding their team trials the first weekend in February. I was hoping the hard races from the World Cup would set me up for some solid results at trials. The first race, a Sprint showed more of my fatigue then my potential for results. My shooting wasn’t great either. These races for me were for fun, to see if I could make it. The next day was a Mass Start, 15km. I skied really well, after my cool-down from the previous day I wasn’t feeling any fatigue. My shooting improved as well, with only five misses on the 20 shots. The Mass Start hurt my race right from the start, as the double poling section put me behind right from the gun. Still, I was very pleased with the race. I could finally take a breath as that would be my last race for a few weeks.
I learned a lot over the past month of racing and travel. Though, I was happy to take a step back and rest a little. My rest week was pretty awesome as it coincided with the IBU Cup races. It was great to partake in the atmosphere up at the Nordic centre. The Canadian team posted some incredible results, Nathan Smith winning all three Sprints, the first IBU Cup podium for a Canadian women and a lot of other solid results.
To conclude an unbelievable start to the year, I received my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Level certificate. With my busy travel schedule over the past few years I seemed to always be away when the certificate ceremonies were held. But finally I got my chance on Tuesday, Valentne’s Day. The certificate was present by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. To meet Canada’s Governor General was quite a night, he is a super nice man and quite funny.
With no major competitions planned until mid-March, I get to hang around Canmore and enjoy some breathtaking training, with four weeks before the team hits the road once again. The next trip doesn’t start until March 13, to an old friend; Vuokatti, Finland for World Cup Finals.