Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reaching Further, Needing More

I finished the 2016-2017 racing season in the best way possible, racing for my club, my team and my province at Canadian Nationals in Canmore. Although I was still getting over a cold and I was mentally exhausted from 4 months of racing and living on the road, I had a great time. After Nationals, I headed home to Thunder Bay for some R&R and exam preparation. It felt amazing to finally unload my suitcase, sleep in my own bed and settle into a somewhat normal routine. Over the course of the month, when I was not in the gym, studying, eating pizza or watching Netflix, I had time to reflect on the past season and come up with a plan for the upcoming one.



As you all know, the Winter Olympics are just around the corner! This year my focus is to qualify to represent Team Canada in PyeongChang. It is exciting for me to think that after all these years, it feels like a very real possibility rather than just a dream. Of course, I realize that earning my spot on the team will not be easy. In order to make this dream a reality, I must take advantage of every opportunity that is offered to me, and not be afraid to seek help when I need it. To compete against the best in the world, I must go above and beyond which is why this year I am making the small things a big priority. This means working with a nutritionist, with a sports psychologist and more closely with my strength coach. This means asking questions and seeking advice from all coaches, not just my own. This means learning as much as I possibly can to be the best athlete I can be.

This year I have been given the opportunity to attend  3 official National Team training camps over the course of the summer and fall. Right now, I am in Tremblant QC, for the first training camp of the season where we are focusing on regaining general fitness. In July, I plan on attending a NST women’s camp in New Zealand where I will be able to ski on snow for over 2 weeks in real winter conditions. Then in the fall I will head to Park City, Utah for an altitude training camp. Each of these camps have a different goal and will be critical towards my racing this season.

I believe that these training opportunities, combined with the coaching and support team that I have in Thunder Bay, I have the right tools to succeed. However, with more training and racing opportunities come higher costs.  Many people assume that once you are on the National Team and racing on the World Cup circuit, your racing and training costs are mostly covered. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth.  In fact, on World Cup I must pay a fixed fee of  $160 a day to cover all of my expenses. 

If you combine my training, racing, coaching and living expenses, my season is going to cost me approximately $40,000. During the last 3 years, I have  been able to cover most of my expenses with the funding I receive through grants and  Federal and Provincial Carding (Athlete Assistance Programs). I feel very lucky and honoured to receive this financial assistance because without it, I would definitely not be where I am today. This year however, to be able to attend all the training camps and races that I wish to attend, I am short $8,000. I am trying to raise this through sponsorships and grants.


On my blog I have created a Support Me page. If you click on this you give a donation, which will go straight to my PayPal account. Anything would be greatly appreciated! If you are a business owner and you are interested is creating a partnership with me, I have also posted my sponsorship package on this page (Demande de commandite aussi disponible en français)!

As always, thank you for reading!

Katherine 


Monday, March 13, 2017

Lahti WC



Before heading to Lahti, I spent a week training in Davos, Switzerland. The skiing there was amazing with beautiful blue bird skies and perfectly groomed trails. Although, to be honest I was probably most excited about the breakfast spread at the hotel. Croissants and brie every morning? Yes please.
Enjoying Davos with Emily

Annika Hicks taking in the beautiful view

From Davos we headed to Otepaa Estonia to race a World Cup weekend. The Saturday was a skate sprint and it was probably the best qualifier I had all season. I crossed the line feeling really happy with myself. The next day, a 10km classic race, usually one of my favourite races, was absolutely brutal. The course was punishing, the most challenging course I had ever encountered and my body just didn’t feel good. I left Estonia feeling discouraged and intimidated by the international scene. “Stay positive, push it aside and focus on the next” I told myself. Unfortunately this is easier said than done.

Skate sprint qualifier in Estonia 


The next day we were off to Lahti. My first race at World Championships did not go any better. I was desperate for an explanation to why my body wasn’t responding. After approaching my teammates about how I was feeling, I realized two things. The first was that in order to race fast I had to continue to believe in myself 100% no matter how hard that may be. The second was that they believed in me and believed we could succeed as a team. As simple as this may seem, knowing that they had my back and that I had theirs gave me the extra boost of confidence that I needed for the rest of the races.
As the week went on, I felt the team energy build. The wax techs, the coaches and the entire Canadian ski community started to get excited about our women’s team and our standout performances. On the 10km classic day, I finally found that “perfect feeling” I had been looking for. I often find it difficult to give an explanation as to why some races go better than others. This time though, I know why. I was extremely confident. Before the race started, I knew that my body felt good, that my skis were fast and how the course would feel. Everything had already to come together, I just needed to do what I love best: ski my heart out.

Skiing my way to 36th in the 10km Classic 

Post 10km. The spit on my face shows just how hard I went...

By the time that the team relay rolled around I was more excited than ever to show the international scene what us Canadian girls were made of.  We all agreed on who was going to ski what leg, playing to each of our strengths. I was going to ski the first leg, Emily the second, Cendrine the third and Dahria would anchor. The morning of the relay, we decked ourselves out in glitter, ribbons and Canadian Flags. Even some of the wax techs and coaches joined in the team spirit. The result was a 10th place, which is the best Canadian Women’s relay result since 2006.  More importantly though, it was a real team effort. 
Starting off the relay
Tagging Emily after the first leg

So happy!!!

Need I say more?

The team behind the team. Thank you!!
 On my last day in Lahti, we all went to cheer on our men as they raced the 50km. Watching Alex win gold was really inspiring and it was incredible to be part of the excitement. We celebrated the end of a good week the best way possible, with gold medal cake and lots and lots of pizza.

I am now at home in Chelsea recovering from a head cold but I am hopeful that I'll be ready to go on Friday for World Cup finals in Qc. If you can, you should come out and cheer me, 7 of my NTDC teammates and the rest of team Canada on as we race on home soil.

Thanks for reading,

Katherine 




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Plan A

             
        Ever since the very first workout of the season last May, my eyes have been set on U23 World Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah. I sat down with my coach, as I do every season, and we put together the ideal plan, Plan A. The plan was pretty simple. Part 1 would consist of the summer and fall training, arguably the most important months of the year for cross-country skiers. The main focus would be on training at altitude to be as prepared as possible when it was time to race at 1800m in Utah. Part 2 would consist of the ski season leading up to the championships. Together, we decided it would be best for me to race the Noram circuit in December rather than race on the World Cup circuit. This would allow me to build into the season, gain confidence (something I was lacking last season) and hopefully race at my fastest come February.  After Worlds we had no plans, I would go with the flow. Plan B was buried somewhere in the back on my mind, but I would not allow myself to think about it.


How did Plan A work out I the end?

The summer training went almost perfectly. With only a few minor setbacks I came out of the training season feeling fitter than ever! Then, as planned, I built into the racing season and earned myself a spot on the U23 World Champs team. Seems alright doesn’t it?




Then came time for the real test: U23 World Champs.

If I had to describe my races at U23’s in one word it would be “okay”.

OK1 (əʊˈkeɪ/) (adjective): Satisfactory but not especially good.

Although now that I read the actual definition I realize that it is somewhat flawed. “Good but not especially satisfactory” would be a better description. Overall I am quite happy with my races. I pushed hard, I had a lot of fun and I learned a couple of things along the way. But am I satisfied? No. Like any high level athlete, I am constantly on the search of that “perfect feeling”. The feeling where you are racing your heart out and your legs, your arms and your lungs are hurting but you feel amazing all at the same time. The feeling where everything comes together. For all 3 races in Soldier Hollow, I can think of many positive points and these small accomplishments are what make them good races but I was missing that "perfect feeling". I left U23 World Champs with a pit in my stomach, a growing hunger that got me fired up for the rest of the season.


Fortunately my season was not even close to being over. I was given the opportunity represent Canada at senior World Champs in Lahti, Finland. SENIOR WORLD CHAMPS!!!!!!! 

This was a dream come true.

To add a little bit of suspense, a blog post about Senior World Champs will be posted later this week.

As always, thank you for reading!

Katherine 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Training High & Pumpkin Pie


Fall is my absolute favourite season for so many reasons. I love the crisp, cold air, I love the beautiful change of colours, I love the change of pace with the start of classes, I love the anticipation of the ski season approaching, but most of all, I love pumpkin pie (seriously though…). A lot has happened since my last post about the Tremblant Alignment camp in July, but I will try my best to keep this post short and sweet ( just like fall). 

In August I traveled to Canmore with three of my NDC teammates for a two week volume camp with the Alberta World Cup Academy. The number one purpose of the camp was to train some big hours at a higher altitude in order to be prepared for World U23 Championships that will be held at 1700m in Soldier Hollow, Utah.  The training was structured as a yo-yo camp. This means that I spent 3-4 days training in Canmore, then spent 3-4 days training at a higher altitude before returning to Canmore and repeating the process. The higher altitude training sessions were done in Kananaskis Country, about an hour outside of Canmore.  Over the course of the two weeks I hiked 3 different peaks, did numerous long roller skis and spent 4 days skiing on the Haig Glacier.
Hiking tent ridge (2500m)

We did it for the snacks
A foggy hike up EEOR
 Other than the obvious physiological benefit of training at altitude, I believe that this camp had an important psychological benefit. I am not a routine kind of person. I love spontaneous adventures, discovering new training locations and trying new workouts. Going to Canmore was a great way to give myself a little more freedom with my training and do the things I usually don’t have the opportunity to do. It was a refreshing way to finish off the summer before returning to Thunder Bay for the start of classes and the fall testing week.
An amazing view for a stretching session on the Haig

A beautiful morning on the Haig

Taking the helicopter up to the Haig


The fall testing week is a great way to evaluate our fitness, our improvements and make adjustments before race season. While not all the test went the way I had imagined, there were still some great silver linings to take away from the results.  As you may have read in a previous blog post, one of my big focuses this summer was on improving my double pole with the goal of setting a new PB in the uphill DP test. As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed to have not improved on my time, and to have actually skied slower than I did in the spring. The thing is, after a lot of thinking, I have realized that the result doesn't truly matter. I know that my technique feels better and that I feel stronger and that is what is important.  Yesterday the testing week wrapped up with a skate rollerski time-trial where I was happy to set a new PB. 

After the skate TT, celebrating the end of testing week with lots and lots of pink.
Finally, for those who didn't know, a couple of weeks ago my big brother, Andrew won a silver medal at World Rowing Champs in the coxed pair in Rotterdam, Netherlands. I have always looked up to him (literally) so it was extremely inspiring to watch his hard work pay off.  Thinking back, I realize how much both my brothers have taught me. Growing up, my sister and I watched our brothers compete against each other in everything (and I mean EVERYTHING). They taught us to be competitive, tough and to always try our best. 


Andrew on the podium receiving his silver medal ( tall handsome guy on the right, he's single ladies) 

I am also super excited to be teaming up with Bounce Canada.  If you have never tried their energy balls, you should definitely check them out, they are delicious and nutritious!
There is never too much choice

That is all for today, I hope you enjoyed the update as much as I enjoyed writing it. Until next time!

Katherine 

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!