So Much Fun in the Playground

After arriving back in Canmore the next three weeks was a combination of different training weeks.  The first was a heavy or volume week, meaning that I trained 15 hours in six days all easy, no intensity work outs.  The following weeks we began tapering, which is what athletes do about two weeks before a major competition in order to peak and be at our best possible physical shape.  So I trained a grand total of seven hours in eight days.  Luckily the Olympics had begun so I had something to do.  The third week was something in between the two previous weeks.  I did about 11 hours that week; there were some volume workouts earlier in the week with some longer intensity in the latter part of the week.  Those intensities happen to be the Canadian Para-Nordic Nationals.

With the Haywood Ski Nationals being held during the Paralympics, we had two choices; hold our own Nationals at a separate time and place or not hold Nationals this year.  With the Canadian Paralympic Team all coming to Canmore for a Pre-Paralympic training camp anyway, we decided to host the Nationals here in Canmore at the beginning of the training Camp. The distances to be skied were planned to fit perfectly into the plan in order to peak for the Paralympics.  We were lucky enough to have the majority of the Russian Paralympic Team also training in Canmore and decided to race with us, making the races extremely competitive.  On Saturday February 27, we had our first of two races- a 10km skating race. The Canmore Nordic Centre is World renowned to offer tough race courses, and it sure delivered this weekend.  Four laps of a 2.5km trail that was either straight up or straight down, it made for a challenging day at the office.  I would end up finishing second behind one of the Russians, so that meant I was the top Canadian.  The following day would again test for every ounce of determination an athlete has in order to perform well on this course.  The race was a 5km classic.  I felt great, after a bit of a sluggish start the day before, the speed and snap was finally in my legs.  I pushed it to the limit and ended up with a great race.  I would end up with the fastest time and race I was very proud of.

As great as the Canmore Nordic Centre is (my nickname for Canmore and the surrounding area is ‘my playground’), and the weather being crystal clear blue skies and bright sun for the last three weeks, it’s great to go elsewhere and experience new ski trails.  Such an opportunity arose this past week and it ended up being amazing.  With coach Robin McKeever, we headed towards Mt. Shark, a 40 minute drive from Canmore.  These ski trails were designed to be the back-up site for Canmore at the 1988 Olympics (but with an altitude of close to 1800m it makes for a great training site).  Since it had been some time that Robin had skied here we decided to do the race course.  Wow!  What a trail, it had steep climbs, crazy fast down hills followed by sharp 90° corners, single, double and triple S-turns.  It all added up to be one insanely fun trail, but it was time to do some more serious training, haha right!  Our next adventure began where the groomer stopped.  We were skiing on single trail man-made tracks.  We went down this part of the trail which was crazier than an alpine slalom course, no joke.  It was all worth it in the end; we ended on a section of trail where it had been only passed over by skiers before us.  The tracks were straight for perhaps a meter at a time, but it was great training focusing on balance, stability and some finer details in skiing technique that cannot be trained on the pristine groomed trails that we experience at the Canmore Nordic Centre.  The unfortunate part was that we then had to make our way back.  That will be a day I remember for quite some time.

I want to take a moment and say a huge congratulations to all the members of the Canadian Olympic Team on the most successful Winter Olympics for Canada ever!  A special shout out to those on the Cross Country Team.  You set record after record with your results; and I hope that (in only nine days now) we will continue that success.  Together we will prove to the World that the Red Maple Leaf is a force to be reckoned with, on the skinny skis!

Mark


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