After several early season domestic races in Canmore, it was finally time for the main event- the IPC World Cup. This would be the first time Canmore would play host to an IPC World Cup. Canmore has hosted a few World Cups but this IPC World Cup had its own unique differences and challenges. The organizers did a tremendous job putting on the first IPC World Cup of the year, of this Paralympic year. I’m sure there were a few trying moments along the way but the end result was a fabulously run World Cup and an eagerness from many nations to return to the Heart of the Rockies. Mother Nature was proving to be a little fickle as the nations arrived, giving us majestic views of the mountains but temperatures nearing the negative mid-thirties. Come race time, the weather warmed up nicely. The World Cup was well attended with fields that were large and depth that could rival a major event. There were a few key names missing but the races were still a great test of form early in a Paralympic year. The World Cup provided a great opportunity to test out some final details that need ironing out before March.
It was nice not to have to travel across half the globe to a World Cup but instead driving the five minutes to the Nordic Centre (~20minutes to run but at -20oc I try to avoid running to the Nordic Centre). But hosting a World Cup in your own backyard poises its own challenges. One of the hardest things I found was getting into that racing/World Cup mindset. As the World Cup neared, it felt like any other training day. Sure there were other athletes slowly showing up and training as well, but it didn’t have that ‘World Cup feel’. It wasn’t until the day before the first race, the official training day that that feeling came to me. That day I went out training but so did everyone else. It was that realization and atmosphere of the final preparations before racing, where I could finally say it felt like a World Cup. Something that differed as well to other World Cup events was the little things outside of racing that I had to do. All these little differences might be something I need to get used to. With the success of this event I think it might be more a question of when than if the next IPC World Cup will be held in Canmore.
The week of racing kicked off with a Middle distance Cross Country free technique race. We were on the Biathlon race courses, so courses that am I very familiar with seeing that I have raced this course already three times this season alone. The Standing Men’s race consisted of three laps of the 3.3km course. This would be the first test of shape I would have to compare myself with the other athletes. I started a touch hard but I wanted to see how the body would hold up throughout the race. It felt like a great first race, I need to still work on pacing in a Cross Country race but I was happy with that start to the year. Once I saw the result it was even more surprising. I would end up in fifth, the fastest non-Russian in the field. One of my best results in a Cross Country race. The next day was the classic Sprint. Sprint days are a strange being. Your whole day could last about three minutes and that’s it, days over. Or it can turn into a whole day ordeal. Unfortunately it is not something I get a lot of practice at. I got my practice in with this Sprint. I raced hard in the qualifier, trying to push the speed and create that high tempo snap that I would need later on in the week. I surprised even myself when I found out I qualified second. The shape was there. Next up was the semi-final. From the start I led the earlier parts of the course. By the time I reached the last climb I was being told I had a fairly large gap (in a semi-final the top-3 move onto the final). I kept going but was conserving some energy for the final. For the final, I had a solid start, with one of the Russians out just ahead of me. On the climb I was just running out of steam. I had to settle for a fifth place, my second in two days. It was a great result on its own but I still have that little feeling that I could’ve had that tiny bit more. In favor of saving some energy for the Biathlon races over the weekend I elected to skip the Long distance Cross Country.
Saturday would be the Biathlon Short and the start to the Biathlon season. Being at home, the first race of the year and with the results of the Cross Country races I wanted to win the race or at least podium. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the result. What I forgot was to focus on what I could control. Focus on the range and do my best on the course. After that, a result will come. I skied well in the Short but after missing two shots in my second bout I thought things were over for me. I finished sixth, but it was the wakeup call I needed. Sunday was the Middle distance race. With four bouts of shooting there was plenty of opportunity for me to focus on my shooting. I started well, skiing a well-controlled pace. My focus was on the range and the two first bouts were perfect. A strange miss in the third bout interrupted my clean slate but I was very much in the race. The focus was there, I was making sure I would hit every target, I was confident I had the last shot, pulled the trigger and was getting out of there. Oops, that rushed shot stayed black, my second miss and now I really had to go! I skied as hard as I could but I could not catch a hard-charging Russian. In the end I was 7.7seconds short. A much better race personally for me, and the result was there as well. Monday was a day off with Tuesday being the last race of the Canmore World Cup. The Long distance was the closing competition. The Long race is already a shooting race with a minute in penalties for each miss. If the shooting wasn’t already important the wind was really gusty. Not only gusty but changing direction just to keep it interesting! This time my focus was on all twenty shots. And I needed all the focus I could use. I waited and held and napped and aimed way off target, all in an effort to hit something. It worked; I finished the race with one a single miss. After the fifth race in a span of a week I was tired. As I crossed the finish line, everything indicated that I had finished second. With the wind conditions I faced that was a great result. The race was an awesome way to finish my first truly home World Cup. The same winds that wreaked havoc during the race; brought in a little change before it was all said and done. The race was reviewed and it was found that the Russian that had won broke some rule, leading to a disqualification. Meaning I was moved up to take the win. That was an incredible surprise to end a World Cup. I was also the only non-Russian to win any biathlon race in Canmore. After a rocky start I put together two very solid shooting races.
Now that the first World Cup of the year is over, I get a few days to recover before I leave for Europe and the bulk of the World Cups. Next up is the World Cup in Vuokatti, with two Cross-Country and two Biathlon races on the schedule. The following weekend three Cross Country races will be held in the German super-center of Oberstdorf. To cap off the World Cup season, three final Biathlon races in Oberried, Germany. Then the crowning jewel of the 2013-2014 season with the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope Mother Nature grants you all a white Holidays and great skiing!

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