Friday, July 22, 2016

The perfect compromise

What does it take to succeed as an athlete?  Hard work, of course. But if the answer were that simple, success would be much easier, wouldn’t it? Most athletes compete because they love pushing their limits. The truth is, to succeed in a sport like cross-country skiing you need more than just the ability to go as hard as you can. Recently I came to the conclusion that, although hard work is important, the hardest part of being an elite athlete is actually self-discipline, the ability to hold yourself back.  If you always trained as hard as you possibly could you would end up running out of energy and eventually burning out.  Of course if on the contrary,  you played it too safe and didn’t train hard enough, you may never reach your full potential. My theory is that both hard work and self-discipline are essential to becoming the best athlete you can possibly be, but you must learn to balance both. I call this the perfect compromise.

Ready for our 3h run in Tremblant
The alignment camp in Montreal and Mont-Tremblant was the perfect opportunity to practice the balance between hard work and self-discipline. The first two days were spent in Montreal at the b2ten facility where we did four different hard intensities sessions on a stationary bike, ski erg and Jacobs Ladder (basically a never ending ladder machine). During these two days I focused on the hard work aspect. It was fun to push my limits alongside all my teammates and competitors and get an idea of where I am in terms of my fitness.

Testing our limits on the bike at b210. Deep in the pain cave
After the testing in Montreal, everyone headed to Mont-Tremblant for a ten day volume camp. It was now time to put in the big hours and work on the self-discipline aspect. This meant I had to put aside my competitive nature and focus on my personal goals for the week. During my zone 1 and zone 3 workouts I worked on my efficiency and my technique and reminded myself constantly that I must listen to my body in order to race fast when it really mattered.

Although it was my biggest week of training ever, it didn't feel that way. We were spoiled in so many ways. I had a big group of training partners from all over Canada to train with, great coaching support and access to trails and roads right from the door of our hotel. It really can't get much better than that! My favourite workout of the week was a 3 hour run/hike up Mont-Tremblant on July 1st , an amazing way to celebrate Canada day! 
Afternoon skiwalk (Teammate Mia)
Testing out our new ec3d compression socks 
Speed session


Spotted a dear before a swim at sunset

After the camp, I headed home to Chelsea for a short (but sweet) visit. It was great to catch up with friends and family and spend some time relaxing on the Gatineau River. I also got to attend a Nakkertok practice, something I always look forward to.

I have been back in Thunder Bay for over a week. Last week we did the infamous 3km uphill TT and I was super excited to get a new personal best ( by 27 seconds) as well as a new women's record! It was even better to see so many of my teammates get a PB as well, a  good sign that our hard work ( and self-discipline)  is paying off.
A hard post training camp ski striding session in Thunder Bay

The team at the top of the Sleeping Giant 


Enjoying a rest day with my sister and dog at home 


As always, thank you for reading,

KSJ

P.S If you have not heard already, my home club Nakkertok Nordic is a finalist for the Kraft-Heinz Project Play grant of 250,000$. This Grant would be used towards improving the trail system and investing in snow-making. This grant would benefit not only Nakkertok, but the entire ski community by providing early season skiing and better trails for racing at the Eastern Canadian Championships. You can vote as many times as you want between July 25th and 26th by visiting http://kraftheinzprojectplay.com/en/

                                                                       

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Double pole, double pole, double pole, repeat

At the beginning of each training season, I meet with my coach and discuss my training and racing goals for the next year. Last year, my biggest goal was to make my transition from home to the training centre in Thunder Bay as smooth as possible. This May marked the end of my first year in Thunder Bay which meant it was time to write down some new goals.

 I usually separate my goals into two categories, process goals and result-based goals. My process goals are extremely important because they are the things I need to focus on in order to achieve my result based goals. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, I decided to share with you two of my process goals for this training season.


Take advantage of my team’s IST (Integrated Support Team)

To be clear, when I say “take advantage” I don’t mean it in the “exploit them” kind of way but more in the sense that I should use all opportunities that are offered to me. In Thunder Bay, our support team includes a physiotherapist, doctor, nutritionist, chiropractors, massage therapists and our strength coach. The reason we call it “integrated” is that instead of dealing with each support member separately, they communicate information between each other in order to provide the best support possible. For example, during Boot Camp, every athlete does a FMS (Functional Movement Screen) which is designed to assess our body’s strengths and weaknesses. In my case the FMS revealed that I need to work on my ankle flexion and my shoulder mobility. After my FMS, our strength coach, Paul, gave me a series of exercises to do in order to work on those weaknesses. He also communicated this information with our massage therapist Kelly as well as my coach to make sure they knew what I needed to work on. Although the FMS is organised through the team, making appointments, asking questions and doing our personal exercises is our own responsibility, which is why I have made it a huge priority this year.


Functional movement screen with our physiotherapist and  massage therapist


Working with strength coach Paul at Thrive 


Double pole, double pole, double pole, repeat

Double poling is becoming more and more popular on the World Cup. Before almost every single classic race there is the discussion about whether it would be faster to go on skate skis and double pole the race instead of using regular classic skis with grip wax .Some people even claim that double poling is the future of classic skiing. Although I refuse to believe that, I am still convinced that it is an extremely important technique.
                                                                      Erg technique work
video
Double poling has always been my weakest technique. For as long as I can remember, when I write down my goals at the beginning of each season, I have included double poling in the list of things to work on. I have always blamed this weakness on poor technique and lack of strength. So, in order to improve, I would focus on those two aspects.  It had never occurred to me that to get better I simply needed to do more of it. This year I have taken a different approach to reach my goal: double pole, double pole, double pole, repeat. In fact, I have challenged myself to do at least a quarter of my summer and fall training double poling.
                                                                     Treadmill testing
video


In exactly a week I am heading to my first training camp in Montreal and Tremblant. This training camp is an alignment camp which means that all 3 Canadian training centres will be training together for 12 days. The first two days will be spent in Montreal to do testing on stationary bikes at B210. After that, we are heading to Tremblant for a volume block.
Thanks for reading!

Katherine 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

West Coast bound

The month of April has come and gone. After a winter on the road (and too few in the classroom) it was time to rest up the legs and put the brain to work. As I prepared for exams, I got a little taste of what it was like to be a full time student. It was refreshing to change my focus from my skis to my books and to replace my hours of training and napping with studying and coffee drinking. I was glad when it all paid off as I officially finished a little over a year of my university degree.

This year, for the first time, I finished school before the end of the off-season. So, a couple days after exams were over, I packed my shorts and sun screen and caught a typical Thunder Bay 5:30 AM flight to Vancouver for a little vacation. (Thanks to my amazing friend Sadie White who kindly sacrificed her sleep to drive me to the airport). In Vancouver, I met up with Jack and my sister and we headed to our final destination, Tofino!  We spent over a week on the west coast camping with friends including my two brothers. It was great to have a sibling reunion on the other side of the country. I had never been to the West Coast before, and I was not disappointed! Thanks to Emilie, I have lots of pictures of the trip to share with you!

We found big trees!!!

As it turns out, fires are hard to get going on the humid West Coast

Getting ready to go surfing



Rocking the wetsuits

Decent view on a jog along the ocean


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A beautiful day for a picnic





Eating fresh crab on the fishing boat

View from the boat

The only fish we caught... although our guides gave us some salmon and halibut at the end.

our little fishing boat
 
The crew
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Surfing at sunset

After Tofino, I went to Canmore for a week and skied at Sunshine!

Cooking up the fish on the campfire


I am now back in Thunder Bay and eager to get into the regular training routine. Unfortunately I have come down with a slight cold and have missed out on most of my teams annual Boot Camp (testing week) which runs until the 22nd. I am in full recovery mode and hoping to be back on track as soon as possible!





Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Patience


And that’s a wrap! It’s the new year for those whose world revolves around the sport of cross-country skiing- a time to reflect on the good, the bad, the past and the future. This ski season has been a rollercoaster of emotions- the craziest ride I have ever had the chance to embark on. The ups where enough to make me smile for days and the downs were heart wrenching. The amount of emotion I have felt is not surprising considering the hectic racing schedule of the season. I spent a total of 117 days on the road since I left for the early season NorAms at the end of November.

I am so lucky to have been provided with so many opportunities this season. I realize that in the past, getting World Cup starts has been extremely difficult and so I am grateful to have had the chance to race both the B tour and the Canada Ski Tour.  As I chased the infamous World Cup points (top 30), I tried to get the most out of each race and observe and learn from the best.  
Excited about racing a World Cup in Gatineau! Photo Creds: Evan Kealey


I have always been told that patience is a virtue. I am trying to be patient.  I want to take my development as a skier one step at a time. I think that too many people try and rush into racing at the top and end up getting discouraged, lose sight of the reason they ski in the first place, and eventually burn out. Here in Canada, we don’t have the depth of competition that they have in Europe so we can’t afford to lose anyone. I think it is important for people to know what is best for their development. World Cup starts are great but for someone like me I see as much, if not more value in racing Scandinavian Cups, OPA cups or even American Super Tours. Something I have learned this year is that self-confidence plays a huge role in my performance.  When I race at a level where I feel more competitive, I am more motivated, I gain more confidence and then I race faster. Simple enough!
Photo creds: Doug Ranahan


With all these racing and training opportunities came the chance to get to know many new people. All the great times we had together are a source of motivation for me.  I want to thank you all for the great memories, whether it was when we challenged each other to mini-put in Quebec, to all the rollerski intensities in the heat, to the many pizza making parties, to simply racing each other on the NorAm or on the World Cup, to guitar jamming sessions or to just celebrating our accomplishments together, these all contributed to a great season! I am proud of everything we have accomplished this year. Our women’s team has come a long way; we finally entered a woman’s relay team on the World Cup and two of our girls scored their first World Cup points! All I can say is that the best is yet to come!
I raced both the Club and University team sprints, Camille Hamm and I won gold for Lakeahead. Photo creds: Jenn Jackson

After finishing the 30km
With the Nakkertok ladies after the team sprints
The entire Canada Tour team
With the girls at B tour

Of all the places I skied and raced this past season, here are my top 4 :

1.       City sprinting on home soil in Gatineau. Most skiers can only dream of ever having the opportunity to race a World Cup at home. The cheering was absolutely insane. It was amazing and inspiring to see so many people, especially from Nakkertok come out and cheer me and the rest of Team Canada on.




Photo creds: Nicholas Place
The day before the sprint in Gatineau



2.       Racing in Montreal with sky scrapers as a backdrop.It was a unique experience. Mother nature threw us snow and wind and we dealt with it the best we could. Although there were some complaints, notably from World Cup skier Martin Sundby, I personally loved the challenge of the course.
Racing in Montreal



3.        Skiing in the European Dolomites Mountains. Although the body felt heavy and I did not race as well as I would have liked to during the European B tour, skiing in the beautiful Dolomites made up for that. The skiing in Toblach was mind blowing, especially considering the very limited amount of natural snow. They had more than 30km of groomed trail with man-made snow.




4.        Returning to the Yukon 6 years after my first Nationals. Last time I was in the Yukon I was experiencing my first ever high level of racing and I remember leaving so excited and motivated for the season to come. My experience this time was similar, after so many ups and downs it felt amazing to find my consistency again. It finished 3rd aggregate Open, 2nd aggregate U23 and 1st CCUNC (university).  Nakkertok also won the club banner for the 7th year in a row, yay! Take a look at this article in the Ottawa Citizen: http://ottawacitizen.com/sports/local-sports/chelsea-cross-country-skier-making-big-strides
The banner signed and ready to go up in the Nakketok Club House!!


10km Skate Podium

I am now back to living the student life as I study for my exams. Already one down, 2 more to go! After my exams, I will be heading out West for a little vacation in Tofino and to spend some time with friends and my 3 siblings. Can't wait! Thanks to everyone for the great season!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Moving on and up!

Since I have returned from Europe 2 weeks ago, many people have asked me about my experience. To most I simply responded “It was fun”, or “it was a great experience” but this does not truly summarize my time spent in Europe.


In the pain cave in the 10km skate in Nova Mesto
                
One thing that is very different about racing senior as oppose to junior is the depth of competition. When you have a mediocre race, it is a lot more obvious when you look at the results. In Europe on the OPA cup and on the World Cup, where the competition is even higher and the time gaps are even smaller, it is even more obvious. I have always been a very consistent racer. This year however, consistency has been a big struggle. One advantage of having not so great races is that, as I’ve discovered, it is much easier to learn from bad experiences than from good experiences. Although it is good to evaluate the things that need improving, I also realized that it can be pretty discouraging. When after every race you think “that was terrible, I could have done this better, and this and this and this...” it becomes negative rather than positive. This negative attitude was lowering my self-confidence instead of making me faster. The difficult races I have had has helped me see the importance in picking out things that went well, no matter how terrible you felt, and to celebrate those little achievements.

Overall, all I can say is that there are no regrets. I was provided the opportunity to race 5 highly competitive European races and the chance to train and race with an amazing team!

Watching the WC heats in Planica
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We stayed in Ranmsau Austria between the 2 WC weekends

Water break on one of our beautiful skis in Ramsau

Sprint qualifier in Planica

Taking in the beautiful scenery in Toblach, Italy

On our way to go skiing in Toblach
After the race in Nove Mesto, I headed home to Chelsea for some rest and a short volume training block in order to get ready for Eastern Canadians . It turns out that the comfort of home was just what I needed. The endless Km's of groomed trails in the Gatineau Park was a nice change to the short loops of man made snow I had skied on in Europe. Over the week I also got the opportunity to help out at a Nakkertok ski practice and meet the next generation of Nakkertok skiers.

After a rough first 2 races at Eastern's, I was glad to finish off the weekend on a high note with a 3rd place finish in the 15km classic race. Over the weekend, I was absolutely blown away by the amount of support I got from my home club. The endless words of kindness and encouragement really made me feel at home. I want to thank all the volunteers who came and helped out, thanks to you the weekend was an absolute success.

10km Skate. Photo: Phil Daoust


Thanks to Fischer and the NDC wax techs for the wicked fast skis!
Up next are Western Canadians in Prince George, BC.

Here's to moving on and up! 

Katherine