June in the Rockies tends to be monsoon season, for some reason this year seemed much wetter than normal. The river levels were some of the highest on record, because of the large rainfall as well as a rapid melting of a deep snowpack. Both reasons combined to create a lot of flooding and erosion issues throughout the mountains. Dry creek beds became raging rivers nearly overnight. Quiet streams grew to tsunami scale and widened their banks significantly. New valleys were formed and mountains grow with each passing hour beneath culverts. For some time the World Cup trails at the Nordic Centre had a brand new ‘A’ category climb, 150m from the finish. Overnight the Biathlon mass start area turned into a marshland, complete with a murky lake. The challenge was to get to the range, which involved a complex obstacle course in order to remain dry. July began with some brighter weather; clearer and sunnier days, but again short lived before the clouds and periodic showers returned. I still had tan lines from a ski I did in early May! There just never was enough sun to erase that tan. It was getting better; the hours with sun were starting to outnumber those of rain. It wasn’t a cheery spring or early summer by any count. On June 9, near noon my car easily had 6-8cm of snow on it. It was one of the biggest snowfalls I’d seen since moving to Canmore. Again on June 25, a fresh blanket of snow fell again, this time with the snow line just above the town of Canmore.
During all this we had a volume camp, putting in some big weeks. There were a few nights it was hard to get everything dry in time for the next day’s workout. As the volume weeks continued with the added workouts for intensity I was fortunate enough to workout with a friend and competitor of mine, Yoshihiro Nitta of Japan. Nitta won both classic races in Vancouver at the 2010 Games. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see how one of the best in the World trains. How we both defer in the resources we have to train, and how we train. His attention to detail and drills was astonishing. I learned a lot from seeing that and what I could do to improve the little things that will one day lead to becoming the best. We complement each other really well. My weaknesses are his strengths and vice versa but we also both struggle on similar things because of the similar disability. He is an incredible classic skier, where I’m just starting to become comfortable with my classic. Nitta is improving his skating which is one of my improving strengths. We were able to work together and help the other improve. I’ve always trained with able-bodied athletes but given this opportunity to train with Nitta, someone with an almost identical disability, it was different. Nitta is a very fit dude. One of my favorite workouts was a striding session, with some short pickups. It was like training with a twin. We were so well matched in these striding pickups. In one particular pickup, I remember Nitta missing a pole plant and he instantly was half a stride behind me, he fought back just as I missed a pole plant, suddenly I found myself half a stride back. I fought back and we finished the pickup side by side. There is no better training partner than that. The confidence I gained from the short two weeks Nitta was in Canmore, that I’m able to train with the best in the World cannot be replaced.
With my volume block coming to an end, Nitta was traveling back to Japan; it was time for a rest week, vacation and some sun. Naturally I flew home back to my Island. A short stay on the island, for only a week. It was incredible trip, sunny every day, hot but not grossly humid. A solid round of golf with my dad and his brother, my uncle and aunt (who were visiting from the Nederlands). Together my dad and I played a +2 on 9 holes. Didn’t warm up at all and my first drive was near perfection, too bad I couldn’t putt that day to save my life. It was a restful week but before I could blink the week was over and I was on my way back to the mountains.
My stay in the mountains is short lived though. In less than two weeks I’ll be back at the Calgary Airport on my way to the next training camp. This time in New Zealand, for a three week on-snow camp at the Snow Farm near Wanaka. Looking forward to returning to the Snow Farm.
Best of Luck to all the members of Team Canada in London for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games.