Time! Tick, tock. The only thing you can ever count on is that time never stops. It’s constant; never slows, never speeds up, but is always ticking by. It’s time! J.R.R. Tolkien, in his book The Hobbit, riddled; “This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountain down.” In sport you are always fighting for time, for those few extra seconds faster, hundreds of seconds or fractions of seconds it makes no matter. Sport is about getting to the future sooner than everyone else. In the words of Dr. Seuss “How did it get so late so soon?” The end of August is only a few days away and with that the realization that the training season will soon be over.
August has always been one of my favorite months of the year. When I was younger it was the best days of summer. It was the sunniest and hottest time of the year. Over the past few years the month has stayed sunny (for the most part) but it is no longer my warmest month of the year. That is because I usually spent August at the Snow Farm in southern New Zealand. On-snow and enjoying every minute of it. It is easily my favorite camp of the year. Great skiing, incredible food (usually eating way too much of it) and an awesome atmosphere up at the lodge. The sad reality though is once I fly back home, September is mere days away. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against September, it’s a lovely month. The downer is that between the end of August and mid-November (when the first competitions of the year are planned) there is very little time. It seems funny but I have just trained over the past four months so that I can train over the next two and half months. After that the racing starts. The New Zealand camp is very important on its own but acts as a great break between two very important training blocks. The earlier block is where I build my base, putting in long hours. New Zealand is the break from dry-land training, getting the opportunity to ski on snow and get some races in. A pleasant interruption from the pounding of roller skiing. Then the next block is where I take that base and develop it into speed.
The snow conditions this year in NZ were different from the norm. There was plenty of snow on the trails themselves but most of the snow had melted away once you left the hard-packed trails. After two large blizzards early in the winter season, the Snow Farm hadn’t really received any fresh snow in nearly five weeks. During those five weeks the snow was playing a disappearing act, helped along but the great magicians of Radiant Rain and Wonderful Warm Weather. It wasn’t until my final week in New Zealand that some fresh snow fell and gave the trails a new lease on life. The training was still excellent. The gains the rest of team and I made down there will be invaluable later on in the season.
The training camp was actually quite race heavy this year, with two regional FIS races and the Merino Muster. First up was 15km Mass Start classic race. For me there were some great aspects of the race. When it was on, technique was good but there were a few lapses in focus and technique faded or ‘fell’ apart completely. A reasonably successful race according to my race plan. Next up was the second FIS race; a 10km Skate. After the kick start from the classic race, the skate race went very well for me. No podium but seeing that the start list had some of the fastest men in the World (including but not limited to; Olympic Sprint Gold and Silver medalists, multiple World Champions and National champions from several countries) I did myself proud. Besides the result of the race had some great technical aspects and one of my best executed races. On my penultimate day in New Zealand, I raced the Merino Muster, a 42km freestyle loppet. Unfortunately the weather rolled in overnight and that morning pea soup thick fog had descended upon the entire Snow Farm. Making it near impossible to see a measly few metres ahead of you. The race was scheduled to start at 10, initially being delayed to noon and finally the starting pistol went off at 12:30. As we started the fog had completely burned off and the sky was bright blue, looked to be a great day. Soon after the start the clouds yet again rolled in and this cycle back and forth continued for the remainder of the race. Warm temperatures had left the course incredibly soft and wet. There were times where I easily skied through almost a foot of slush. Because of the delay they could only groom a short course. The race now consisted of one shorter 7km loop and three longer loops. By no means was this an easy course. As tough as the skiing was, I really enjoyed the race.
If visiting New Zealand isn’t enough to convince you of a trip south then the Air New Zealand safety briefings are well worth the ticket. Each year I look forward to seeing what new and exciting briefing the airline has in store. In recent memory they’ve had safety briefings that all the staff were wearing uniforms which were only painted on. The All Blacks and their fans were featured during the World Cup of Rugby; a scrum mid-cabin was pretty entertaining. Gandalf, Frodo and many others from Middle Earth shared the importance of buckling up and where to locate your lifejacket (if need be). This year’s featured British adventurer Bear Grylls, star of Man vs. Wild, and was filmed along the Routeburn Track, a 32km hike in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
The trip to New Zealand always feels too short and before I knew it was time to get on a jet plane and head into the past; with New Zealand 18 hours ahead of Canmore, I arrived home before a left New Zealand on the same day, so I traveled back in time. Though, most of the time I gained I spent sleeping. As great a camp that New Zealand is, it is the realization that time is flying by. “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” – C.S. Lewis. With that I give you one more reference of time- 195 days, until the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Paralympics.