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Early Races

The calendar has only recently welcomed the month of December, yet I feel that I’m deep into the 2018/2019 competition season already. The first World Cup competitions are a few days away, but I already have seven races completed for the season. A nice balance of Biathlon and Cross-Country races. There were a few incredible results, and others were good lessons to learn early. Overall, I was excited by the early results; it proves that I’m where I figure I should be at this point in the season. The start to the on-snow season in Canmore was on October 19th. Thanks to a snow farming project (Frozen Thunder) at the Canmore Nordic Centre and along with their supporting partners. The project allows the high-performance teams and the general public assess to on-snow skiing earlier, which gives us that slight edge once it comes to the early races.

Before the trick-or-treaters were out on the 31st, I had already twice put on a race bib. The season opener on Frozen Thunder was a Classic Sprint, in a King’s Court format. The format mixes all the gender and age categories, and you compete against others of a similar speed. This guarantees quality racing with each heat. The best way to describe the first race would be ‘a rude awakening’ for the body. Trying to go that hard, the body had no clue what was happening. The qualifying and first heats, the body wasn’t too happy. Fortunately, in the second and the final heat my body was starting to remember what it was like to race. It was the next day when I raced the Distance Skate where I was very appreciative of racing the Sprint the day before. I was pleased with the fact that my body recovered and was able to produce a solid effort in the Skate race. I was starting to feel more familiar with racing.

Skiing out of the range during the National Team Trials. pc: Noel Rogers

The following week was the first Biathlon races of the season — the National Team Trials; where I competed using my 22. Out of the three possible races I raced in two. After the races were finished, I was OK with both races, but I wanted more. First, the shooting, I hit 80% in both Sprints, knowing full well that I was capable of cleaner shooting. I found it a touch frustrating that I didn’t have the control mid-bout to hit all my targets. I suppose I was a race rusty. I knew I would be a bit behind regarding ski speed, but it seemed I was a little more than I had originally thought. There was room to improve.

I had almost two weeks before the next set of races. Time to regroup and focus on the weaker points of my racing. Learn from the previous attempts and improve for the final weekends before the serious World Cup racing begins. It was back to Cross-Country racing for an Alberta Cup weekend in Canmore. With the still somewhat limited trails on offer, it was four and a half laps of a 2.0km on Saturday. Again, four and a half laps, but of a 2.5km for Sunday. Saturday was a Freestyle race. Despite feeling sluggish and heavy in the legs, I had one of my best races against eventual winner and teammate Graham Nishikawa. I was shocked to see the result

but excited about the potential the race showed. Maybe I got a little too excited for the following day, an 11km Classic race. I was too narrow-mindedly thinking about throwing down during the race that I didn’t think about the preparation for the race. As I started, I quickly realized I had chosen to go very slick on the grip wax. It took me some time to find my rhythm and how to get the best grip. By the final lap, I thought I was getting it, but I had already bled far too much time. I realized my mistake and wanted to immediately have another crack at a Classic race, but I will have to wait until the World Cup in Vuokatti.

The next weekend Canmore hosted the first Biathlon NorAm of the year. For my preparation for the upcoming World Cup, I could only race one of the two days. I went for the longer Pursuit on Sunday (though skipping the Sprint on Saturday meant I would have to start in the back of the Pursuit.) I started 55secs back but consistently made my way up through the field. Again, in preparation for the WC, I was also racing with my air rifle. I had a fantastic race. Skiing my way to a fourth-place finish, with the second fastest ski time. I did start way too slow, and it wasn’t until the third lap where I started to ski! Had I only started skiing I might have been right there for the sprint for second. My focus for the race was the transitions from skiing to shooting; which were awesome. A lot of positives came from that last race in Canmore.

It was time to pack up the skis, finish the laundry and clear out the fridge. The World Cup tour is gathering in the Northern Finnish town of Vuokatti for the first World Cup of the season. I’m looking forward to kicking off the season.

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