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