Canadian National Championships Team Reports

Report # 1:  Hello from Ste Anne de Beaupre Quebec!  I would like to report that we are safe and mostly sound after the first 2 days of our Nationals adventure.  Our travel day was filled with taking off and landing, as we went briefly into Ottawa before landing in Montreal and changing planes for Quebec City.  The Ottawa to Montreal leg was 17 minutes of flight time which seemed a bit strange!  As we landed in Quebec City we were relieved to look down and see quite a lot of snow still on the ground.We successfully navigated our way out of the city, and Megan was very happy to have Ben as chief navigator in her van.  Accomodations are a bit on the small side but meet our needs well.  The owner has provided us some space in a garage for some waxing which really helps.  No late nights though, as she has to key in a security code to lock up after us.  We took the local grocery store by force and sent 4 carts out with separate lists . . and our first team meal was truly a group effort.  A few good lessons were learned, one being that it actually does not take a full pound of butter to make garlic butter for 2 loaves of garlic bread!  Hmm. . I think we will have to have garlic bread a few more times this week.Race day today was team sprints, on the Plains of Abraham right in the heart of the city.  None of the racers have ever done a team sprint before, so we didn’t really know what to expect.  Teams had to be club teams as opposed to Division teams, and we had 2 Red River Nordic teams – Alex Druwe and Sean Carter in the “Challenge” boys and Elora Adamson and Anna Kroeker in the Challenge girls.  The Challenge groups included both juvenile and junior boy/girl categories and the race consisted of 2 by 3 times 800m.  Firstly, most of us had imagined a MUCH flatter course, and we were surprised to see a couple of good sized hills.  The snow was largely shoveled in, and man-made, and some of it pretty dirty.  Real corn snow.  There were actually recognizable classic tracks for the most part, but also portions of the trail that were pretty deep mush.

Waxing was in one level of the parkade of the Chateau Laurier Hotel and it was a complicated series of ramps and stairs to access.  Some teams had their own generators and set up outside in the nearby parking lot, and we even saw a few good old propane torches.  Corey was on glide, and I was on grip wax.  We went with a straight Swix violet klister and had pretty good success for kick.  I was happy to only have 4 pairs of skis to klister today, and we are hoping that Mont Ste Anne will have more natural snow to ski on (we have not skied up there yet).

Oh .. I should mention the incredibly thick fog that hung over the race site for almost the entire time that our 2 teams raced today.  It was crazy – at one point as the challenge girls were waiting in the transition zone you could only see about 30 feet away . . the girls had to wait until their team-mate appeared out of the fog for the exchange.  Corey was happy they had practiced exchanges without much visual warning!  Each team skied a qualifier which was timed (can’t see the results on Zone 4 yet); Sean and Alex were 21st of 43 teams, and Anna and Elora were also apparently 21st of I think 33 teams.  Both teams did a spectacular job of skiing on difficult conditions, and we were all very proud of them.  Following the qualifiers there was only one final for the top 3 teams in each heat plus a 4th fastest time, so 10 in all for guys, and 11 for the girls.  Hopefully they will post the qualifiers in Zone 4 soon.

We had a few hours in Old Quebec in the afternoon and 7 of us went for a walk to look for the “Crashed Ice” downhill ice course that was set to host a crazy downhill skating race which participants complete in hockey skates and full pads/gear.  The final was slated for this evening, and the expected crowd was to be tens of thousands.  You can Google “Red Bull Crashed Ice” and see what I am talking about.  The engineering behind the course was amazing, but it did seem a shame to be upstaging the beautiful old streets and character of Old Quebec.  And a few of us did ponder the fact that there were so many thousands of people interested in the Crashed Ice, and just a kilometer away the best skiers in the country were racing and not getting anywhere near the attention!  We finished our afternoon watching the Open men and women categories in the team sprint finals.  By this time the fog had cleared and the sun came out, so we picked a great viewing spot up on a hill and relaxed in the sun.

Evening activities featured another group supper with the highlight of Corey actually eating salad!  We thought we would never see the day.  And of course, more waxing.  Tomorrow is a training day and our chance to make it out to Mont Ste. Anne.  Next race will be Monday, short distance classic races.

Hope to send some photos soon.


Report #2:  Well we are drawing to the end of our training day here near Mont Ste Anne.  It has seemed like several days just today, and we have had some challenges!  The first challenge would be the rain that fell for most of the night last night.  I woke up at 4:30 AM to the sound of rain on the balcony awning.  Not a great thing to hear at a ski competition.We made our way up to the competition site early on in the day and found parking lots filled with wet sand and mud.  We were assigned a tent for waxing space (along with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, plus the US team who we didn’t really see today) while most of the other teams have trailers.  Our tent sides were flapping so hard in the wind that the sides were unusable for propping up skis, and the wood ski racks that had been assigned to the tent had been taken by other teams before we arrived.  We found just the right official to come to our aid; Renee, the competition secretary, took up our cause with an appropriate amount of outrage and eventually secured for our tent 3 ski racks.  Tomorrow we have been promised a wood slab floor for the tent as already we are standing in puddles in many places.The team all made it out to ski their courses for tomorrow and the sun shone bright and strong, melting the plentiful snow to a slush.  Thankfully there is a ton of snow so I don’t think we are in danger of getting down to the grass and rocks too soon.  Many skiers were out in shorts!  Sean and Alex are already sporting tans that have the “racoon eyes” white area where they wore their sun glasses.  The course is reportedly tough, and Jamie’s sit ski course has 2 very tough climbs that are beyond the recommended grade so that promises to be very challenging.

Corey was heroic in the wax tent today with his quiet calm.  He performed a miracle when he ran out of shop towels from cleaning klister, and managed to clean 8 pairs of skis with wax remover and a single sheet of shop towel!

The afternoon was quite relaxing.  I had help with groceries and preparing dinner.  Corey took the boys shopping for shorts and they arrived back at the condos with extreme compression shorts (knee length) which interestingly were all extra small womens!  Corey was reluctant to talk about it.

The team is bonding well, and tonight Elora was dutifully studying Romeo and Juliet with Maya assisting by role playing.  At one point as I typed this I heard “be quiet . . . Maya is trying to confess her love to you!”

Sean, Alex and Ben have been superb with their waxing assistance, and Corey and I left them working on the team’s skis as we headed off to the coaches’ meeting tonight.

I have one correction to report from yesterday – the juvenile girls team sprint was not in fact 21st out of 33 but we think 34th of 39.  Results are on Zone 4 but separated out into the qualification heats, so you have to note the time and figure it out yourself.  We are no less proud of them with this changed result!!

Photos attached are team sprints yesterday, and exploring Old Quebec yesterday afternoon.

Report #3:  Great first day of racing for Ben, Maya and Jamie and a continuation of racing for Sean, Alex, Elora and Anna!  Thankfully no rain today, and the temperatures stayed more or less the same with an overcast sky for most of the early part of the day which kept the tracks in slightly better shape in terms of snow condition however the boys reported that putting in any kind of poling power was difficult due to the “pole trench” (Ben’s description).

Grip waxing was tricky again, and Corey and I were digging through the wax box trying quite a few things.  The snow was not wet enough for some of the warmest klisters and skiers were initially coming back to report that nothing was great.  The favorite with most skiers was an old tube of Swix red that must have been in the wax box a few years.  The newer version KR70 Swix red was not getting the same results.  Corey and I decided that wax must age like a fine old wine.  We squeezed that old tube like there was no tomorrow and just managed to get enough last sticky ounces.

All skiers were focused, and gave great efforts.  You can check out results on Zone 4 but to put things in perspective Sean and Elora were within 86% of the winners’ times (and both the younger birth year for their age groups); Alex was 85%, Ben and Anna 84% and Maya 80%.  Very respectable!!  Sean managed to be in the top 1/2 of the field for his year of birth.  Jamie completed her sit ski course which included 2 very tough climbs.  She met her goal of staying upright which was no mean feat.  A few sit skiers tipped over as the snow was so soft and chewed up.

Maya and Jamie were impressive in the wax tent after the races as they initiated the cleaning of klister from the team’s skis.  Elora and Anna got rewarded for their great racing efforts with a hands-on lesson on how to clean klister off their skis.

Quotable quote of the day came this morning as the junior boys were pondering the strange and confusing way the team sprint results had been posted on Zone 4.  Alex:  “This makes no sense.  They must be doing it by looks and tight pants.”

One other amusing quote came yesterday at the coaches’ meeting when coaches were warned about the possibility of seeing a Moose on the trails.  “Don’t chase the Moose”.  Fortunately nobody encountered a Moose today as the technical delegate promised that no time allowances would be made as this would be an “Act of God”.  (I am not making that up)

No photos today – sorry my technical assistant Elora has gone to sleep.  Middle distance interval start skate race tomorrow and hopefully a nap in the afternoon!  Early start as Jamie races at 8:30!


Report #4:  Well, we are well into this competition now, with 2 races left.  We continue to get ridiculously high temperatures, and tomorrow the forecast is for a high of 16 degrees.  Even at 4 AM it will be +10.  The fashions are interesting for racers, and include shorts, tank tops, and even just wearing the bib with no shirt.  Today I managed to completely miss seeing Sean race until the last 50 m because I did not recognize him in his new short tights and bib.

The low point of the day for me as a coach was arriving at the venue on the first shift to discover we did not have Jamie’s sit ski in our van.  Jamie was racing at 8:30 AM, first up.  She was remarkably calm, and took up a position in a sun beam in the back hatch of the van while I made a few frantic phone calls to hurry Corey up a bit faster than the plan.  I was relieved when the sit ski arrived in time for Jamie to do a warm-up and get on her course.

The paranordic group had the advantage of early snow and some decent glide for their course.  This was important for Jamie as the 2.5 km yesterday had been so tough.  She skied her 5 km strongly, and even finished with a smile this time!

Today the juvenile girls raced 5 km, juvenile and junior boys 7.5 km, and Maya had the longest race of the day at 10 km.  The happiest skier of the day by far was Ben, who raced very strongly and finished 41st out of a field of 81 – just squeezing into the top 1/2 of the field!   Ben’s calculation was 88.7% behind the leader; Alex 86% and Sean 84%.  Maya moved up quite a few spots on the list today and finished 38th of 56, 83% of the winner’s time.  Meanwhile in juvenile girls Elora placed 52nd of 76 racers, and Anna 56th with 84% and 82% respectively.  Great job all!

Corey and I enjoyed a more relaxing day in terms of race support as Corey had prepped the skis almost entirely the night before.  When the temperatures are so very high there just is not a lot of choice in the wax box!!

We enjoyed an unexpected bonus today when a Norwegian team was assigned space in our wax tent.  They are not speaking any English so we can’t steal too many secrets but it is still a neat thing to be sharing space with them.  On another good note, it has not rained so the floor of the wax tent is pretty dry at the moment. No wood floor yet though.

The end of the race day was pretty exciting as we stayed to watch the start of the Open men’s race.  The “Nordic Knights” have arrived home to Canada from an incredibly successful World Cup season, and we got to see Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey (among others) race.

Maya was actually finishing her race as the Open men were starting which was pretty good!  Sean and Alex were out doing a cool down ski, and the Nationals men’s team were out skiing the trails.  Alex stepped to the side of the trails to let them go by and sank in the deep snow to the level of his waist!!  This was not exactly the cool pose he was striving for as they passed by!

On the “home” front the team all enjoyed a period of forced rest for 1 1/2 hours this afternoon.  Actually there was no forcing involved as all happily leaped onto our pillows for well earned rest.  Later on, the vegetarian gang and I shopped for supplies, and Ben cooked up a very delicious tofu and peanut ginger sauce recipe from home, along with some quinoa that Anna had brought from home.  We meat eaters enjoyed a beef stir fry version of the same, and it was quite delicious.  The team continues to pitch in with meal preparation and clean up, and they are a great group to travel with!

Photos from today once again courtesy of team technical assistant Elora.





Report #5:  Another warm day comes to a close!  Today was the free technique sprints and we were all off to an early start, arriving at the course at 7:30 AM in order to pre-ski the course before it closed at 8:55.  Today’s distances were 1100m for the juniors, and 800m for the juveniles and paranordic.

The snow was quite fast when we first arrived, and it was nice for the skiers to finally have a bit of glide.  Today the junior boys were the lucky ones who got to race first, before things got too slow and mushy.  Alex, Sean and Ben all had good races, with times 93%, 87% and 86% behind the winner.  Alex was 28th which qualified him for the quarter finals!  Great job Alex!  Next up was Maya with the junior girls and she skied like a rocket, placing 22nd and earning Manitoba another spot in the quarter finals (top 30 advance).  Maya’s time was 89% of the winner.
Juvenile girls Anna and Elora had strong qualifiers, with times 88 and 87% of the winner.  Megan finally got the chance to get some good video of all the skiers including some of the top skiers which we will be able to study.
Jaymie did not race until 11:00, by which time everyone was walking around in T-shirts and the snow had slowed down considerably.  She raced her qualification, and a direct final within 30 minutes of each other, and had beautiful strong sprint finishes each time.  There was a challenging downhill with a right and then left turn which she conquered on the final.
After a break, the heats got under way, and we felt rather proud of ourselves as the wax tent emptied out and we were left alone in the tent to prepare for 2 skiers in the heats. (The other teams went home early as none of their skiers qualified.) Corey worked his magic as much as possible.  There was a good crowd, and all team members were on hand to cheer for Alex and Maya as they raced their heats.  Maya had a great finish, and managed to pass the skier ahead of her in the finish lanes to finish 4th in the heat.  Both Alex and Maya reported that it was a slow slog, and by the afternoon there were actually slush puddles to ski through in some parts of the course.  But both Alex and Maya increased their % behind the winners – Alex to 94% and Maya to 93%.  Great work!!!!
Ben managed to get his picture taken with Alex Harvey in the parking lot some time during the afternoon, and he showed us the evidence tonight as we were downloading photos.  I am enclosing a link which Elora has prepared, which should lead you (by some process not fully understood by me) to a Facebook album containing lots of our photos from the past few days!
Our late afternoon and evening have been relaxing.  We ordered pizzas so the group got a break from meal preparations.  We gathered to watch the day’s videos/slide show, and hung out together. Corey was VERY happy to get a break from ski waxing, and to celebrate he and the boys watched really bad TV shows.   Meanwhile Maya entertained Jaymie and I with her recitation of a monologue and a poem for school.  I provided some really bad suggestions on dramatic gestures which resulted in a full blown laughing fest which I have still barely recovered from.  I conclude that I am suffering from sleep deprivation and should get to bed now.  We plan to SLEEP in tomorrow as we don’t have a race now until Saturday.
Report #6:  I am rolling our last 2 days into this one report.  Last night Corey and I were up late doing skis and examining every last klister possibility in our wax box, getting ready for the classic race day tomorrow. Last race!Thursday was a day completely off training and racing.  We had a great longer sleep and a bacon and pancake fest.  Then we headed to Les Chutes Montmorency which is a pretty impressive waterfall tourist attraction that is only 20 minutes from our town of Ste Anne de Beaupre.  There is usually a very long staircase that winds up very close to the falls in the spray.  Unfortunately the pathway and stairs were not open yet for the season.  We drove to the top of the embankment and were able to walk the boardwalks and bridge that crosses the top of the falls.  The view was fantastic!The plan was to head to Mont Ste Anne after that to see the senior and junior men and women race.  We were surprised by the fact that the open categories were not saved for the finale of the day – and just missed seeing the senior categories.  We did see the junior semis and finals.  One slight compensation for our mis-timing was the team being able to get Alex Harvey’s autograph and a photo with him.  Megan was happy to meet Alex’s father Pierre Harvey who was standing nearby, as he was an Olympian of her era. 

In the evening Sean, Alex, Maya and Anna headed off with Corey to attend a University evening that was supposed to inform them of university ski teams in Canada.  The evening was not that well attended and was not very well prepared this year (it had been excellent at last year’s Nationals).  The team had the chance to do a good relaxation/yoga stretch later in the evening. Corey managed to find a unique way of stretching using his jeans as a stretching strap which threatened to send Megan into another uncontrolled fit of laughter. 

Today was an official training day that required a lot of “going with the flow”.  The course was only open for 1 1/2 hours as the snow conditions have become so poor.  The courses originally planned for the long distances have been closed, and racers will be on the same trails that they have raced on all week.  There have been sump pumps, lots of shovelling, and apparently fertilizer and nitrogen used to try and get the snow into some sort of shape for tomorrow.  The racers were let out on the course today en masse, with an official sending groups out in manageable waves to control the ski traffic.  We were very happy that a number of our tested klisters worked well so hopefully we will find something suitable for tomorrow. The schedule has all but Jaymie racing quite late in the day (juvenile girls after 3:00 PM).  In our team meeting tonight we talked about the challenge of racing on what will likely be very poor snow – a chance to put the team’s mental preparation skills to the test!

The afternoon was an opportunity for the girls to be part of a “First Ladies of Skiing” panel discussion hosted by Beckie Scott and featuring Chandra Crawford and Perrianne Jones.  There were a number of Olympians in the audience as well, which made for some really interesting sharing and discussion.  Later in the afternoon Megan attended a coaching session that was primarily aimed at coaching female athletes, but also included some very excellent discussion from the National team coach Justin Wadsworth.  He particularly shared information about recovery and time off in April, including the importance of continuing intensity work and strength work after a 2 week complete rest.

We just had our last team meeting, preparing for tomorrow.  Spirits are high and as I type I was privy to an enactment of Romeo and Juliet with Elora in the parking lot below, and Maya up on our balcony.  I am not sure what the locals are thinking of us.

Technical assistant Elora has updated the photo album on Facebook, so check the link below:
Report #7:   We are safely home!  I am taking this opportunity to submit one last report as I am awake this morning waiting for Air Canada to deliver the wax table and Sean’s ski bag. Somehow the team’s ski bags all managed to stay in Quebec when we flew home yesterday.  At least this did not happen on the way to Quebec!
Our last day of racing was the massed start long distance classic events on Saturday.  We finally had some cooler temperatures, and the snow was mercifully in the best shape of the week.Jaymie was first up for our team, and a new paranordic course had been set which was apart from the main stadium.  This was a nice compromise that allowed the 3 female sit skiers to start early in the day with faster snow.  The course did not have such difficult climbs as the previous course which was much appreciated by Jaymie, who bravely undertook to do her 7.5 km distance.  This was to be the longest ski that she has yet done!  Jaymie got into a good rhythm after a difficult first lap, and finished very strongly.  This was a great accomplishment as all week she had not been sure whether she would attempt the long distance race.  We were extremely proud of her effort, and she even had the energy to ski her way back to the stadium area which was about 1 km away.The rest of the distances had all been re-vamped, and all were using the same 5 km loop due to poor conditions on the rest of the trails and the high maintenance required.  This meant that by the time the younger skiers (our team) raced after lunch that 5 km loop had already seen 70 senior men do 10 laps for their 50 km (equivalent of 700 skiers), 55 senior women do 6 laps for their 30 km (equivalent of 330 skiers) and an additional 83 junior men and women doing more laps than I want to count at the moment.  In other words the trail had seen a lot of use.

The first coaching challenge of the day came when the junior boys headed out to test the 6 best klister bets.  Only Alex felt he had reasonable grip at that point, and Corey and I did some quick adjusting.  The situation was the same for the Nova Scotia team who shared our waxing space, as they were having similar dismal testing results at that point in the day. We were doing our best to spy on the Norwegian wax tent in our tent but I could only tell that they had some of the same waxes out and lying around.  And their skiers had all raced before lunch anyways so waxing had changed.  It was very much down to the wire.  Alex ended up going out on the same wax he had tested, and Sean and Ben ended up with a mix of Start universal klister and rode silver.  Sadly for Alex the wax just did not perform at all on the race course, and that is why you will have seen him as a DNF on the results.  Note that there were a fair number of DNF’s in the results.  In addition to the poor wax, he also found that his gas tank was empty.  Meanwhile Sean and Ben ended up with good skis, and both had great races.  Both fell on the first lap (Sean twice and Ben 3 times) in the conjestion, having their skis or poles stepped on, or in the case of Ben, having a skier glide up behind him on a downhill and take him out on one occasion.  Their wax held out for the 15 km distance (talk to Corey and I some time about base klisters), Ben caught Sean some time on the 3rd lap, and the guys finished 40th (Ben) and 42nd out of a starting field of 75 skiers which was very close to top 1/2 – great work!!!  Times were 86.3% of the winning time (Ben) and 85.9% (Sean). 

Maya was next up, doing a 7.5 km distance.  We were able to hit the wax this time.  It was a grunt but Maya raced very strongly and finished 36th of a field of 58 with a time that was 84% of the winner’s time.  After a long day of waiting, and a further 45 minute delay in the start area, Elora and Anna also raced a 7.5 km distance.  All of the girls had been hard at work prior to their races putting into practice some positive self-talk, and this is making them into much more confident racers.  Elora finished 40th in a field of 64 skiers (5 DNF) and Anna was 47th.  Race times were 84% of the winner (Elora) and 81% (Anna).  Fabulous work!
The resting did not start with the end of the races, and would not start until well after midnight.  First was the lovely task of removing klister from both testing and race skis.  This was made more challenging by the extra ridiculous layer of base klister on all the race skis.  Then it was on to travel waxing skis for the trip home.  All of the team pitched in.  It was after 5 PM by the time we had finally packed up the equipment and headed back to our hotel. Then it was the world’s fastest turn around to get cleaned up and dressed for the formal banquet in Quebec City that evening.  It was fun to see everyone so dressed up. Thanks to Heather Schilling and Dom Druwe arriving before us to bag us some seats, the team ended up with a great table near the action.  There must have been 1000 people there.  It was a catered meal, and an excruciatingly long wait before the food came, as well as a slow start to the programming – however a nice evening nevertheless.  The footage of Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw winning the World Cup team sprint was played, and there was a lot of energy in the crowd with a standing ovation that followed.  It was pretty exciting to be there.
The van ride home from the banquet was filled with lots of laughter in both vans.  Megan’s van made a detour over the St. Lawrence on the beautiful bridge to L’Ile D’Orleans which was spectacular with the city lights and the spotlights on Les Chutes Montmorency.  Much to Jaymie and Ben’s chagrin the energy was high and included some interesting animal calls and much singing.
All skiers are very pumped to race at Nationals again, and are already thinking about when they can start dry-land training!
Check the facebook link in the next few days and we will see if we can download more pictures from the last 2 days.  Many thanks to Corey and all athletes for a wonderful 10 days.