Weekly Update #25

Well, a lot has happened since I last posted about our team’s crazy travel day from Sochi to Dresden. First of all, I’m already back over in Europe, having just arrived in Budapest today for a week long training camp before we do the short drive over to Debrecen for the World Championships. So since I’m back in a battle with my good friend jet lag, I figured I’d do a quick summary of the last couple weeks to help me fight the urge to sleep and give my few faithful readers something new to peruse.

So, the last few weeks went like this. First, I competed in Dresden. I started out shakily, not unlike I did in Sochi, but was able to pull out a decent 6th in the 1000m and 4th in the 1500m. Not my best results, but closer to my capabilities after the train wreck that was Sochi.

Following Dresden, the team flew home and brought with us an extra passenger that a few of the team picked up the week before. A nice little cold virus. I was one of the majority who got it on the trip back and I spend the better part of the first week back getting over that. It only stopped me from training for one day, I maybe could have taken a second, but training calls and we needed to put in some good strong training in order to get ready for Worlds.

By the middle of last week, I was feeling much more closer to my normal self and it started to show in training. I’m interested to see what type of form I can bring to Worlds in two weeks. It will be my first individual World Champs and I’m excited!

First up though, like I mentioned above, we have some training and time zone adaptation here in Budapest to do, so keep watching back here for updates from Hungary.

Video of my 1500m final in Dresden

Highlight video put together by the ISU

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A travel story

A travel day involving two stop overs enroute to your destination while travelling through two countries can lead to some potential mixups on the best of days. Doing that same travel with a team of 20 and a massive snowstorm in one of the aforementioned stop overs is a recipe for potential disaster. That is exactly what our team headed into yesterday.

We started our travel day from Sochi to Dresden like any other travel day between world cups. With a bus ride and the seemingly interminable process of checking in 20 people and paying for excess luggage. The Sochi airport was a bit of a zoo since there was also a cross country ski world cup last weekend and ski teams were heading back home, massive ski and wax bags in tow. After sitting on the tarmac for a while, we finally got on our way with the knowledge that our connection in Moscow would now be quite tight.

Upon arrival in Moscow, it was apparent the airport was in a bit of chaos. Visibility was reduced to almost none due to a snowstorm and there were long line ups of planes waiting to take off. The baggage arrivals area was very busy as we waited for our bags to come out. Finally, we collected all of our bags, except for one. My skating equipment bag. This is about were the trouble and adventure started. While the rest of the team ran to the check in counter to attempt to make their connection Munich, which was now delayed due to the storm, I waded through the mess that is lost baggage claim in a busy airport that functions in a language that isn’t yours. After an hour and a half of being shuttled around from desk to desk trying to get someone to give me back my baggage tags and let me fill in lost baggage forms, while hearing horror stories from other skaters, including the entire Korean team as well as most of the Norwegian cross country team, our team leader Yves came back. Both of us had to run immediately to the Lufthansa checkin desk or miss our connection. We were finally able to fill in forms but by the time the paperwork was ready, our flight was closed. Looked like we would be spending the night in Moscow.

Waiting for a hotel shuttle in a Moscow snowstorm.

Waiting for a hotel shuttle in a Moscow snowstorm.

Meanwhile, the rest of our team had now boarded the flight to Munich, and were beginning their three hour wait on the runway. Unsure whether they would get away or not, Yves and I had to wait at the airport in case they didn’t take off. While we did that, we rebooked our flight for the next morning. Finally around 1030pm (we left the hotel in Sochi at 1030am and accomplished a 2 hour flight in 12 hours) the rest of the team took off. Yves and I headed for an airport  hotel and by midnight managed to check in so we could grab a few hours shut eye before our 545am flight the next morning.

After four short hours of sleep, we were headed back to the airport. Upon check-in, Yves got a bad surprise. His Russian visa had expired at midnight. Now, not only would he have to fill out paperwork and head to the Russian immigration office at the airport, the office wouldn’t open until 6am, after our flight was to leave. Yves would have to book another flight and would arrive in Dresden, tired and sick this afternoon.

I meanwhile, boarded my flight to Munich where, after a very tight connection, I managed to meet up with the team. They had spent the night in the airport trying to sleep on army cots that the airport provides to travellers with missed connections that have to stay overnight. I felt like a zombie and so did they. We boarded the flight to Dresden and finally had a flight go off without delay or mishap.

But our day wasn’t over yet! Our practice time, and only chance to skate today was at 10am. Having landed just after 8am, we grabbed our bags, and headed straight to the arena. Because I had lost my bag with all of my skating equipment, minus a clean skin suit, a pair of spare blades, and my boots (which I always carry on the plane to avoid situations like this), I had to borrow a helmet, gloves, glasses and guards from various members of our team. After a quick 1 hour ice session, we finally headed to the hotel for some much needed lunch and rest. A routine travel day that turned into a marathon was finally over!

Weekly Update #24.

I’m at the Sochi airport right now waiting to board our teams flight to Dresden for the next World Cup. We’ve got a long day ahead of us with stops in Mosocw and Frankfurt before we arrive tonight in Dresden. I’ll write a more detailed post today on the plane and post it when I get some internet.

The Sochi airport is a zoo this morning with teams from the short track and cross country ski world cups leaving today after taking part in test events. I thought short trackers had a tough time in the airport! Definitely happy I’m not lugging a ski bag around the world!

The Black Sea.

The Black Sea.

tons of food was consumed, including a lot of sausage.

tons of food was consumed, including a lot of sausage.

We went for a team lunch last wednesday. Sorry for the blurriness...

We went for a team lunch last wednesday. Sorry for the blurriness…

Sochi pictures

So, as promised, I brought my camera to practice today. Luckily, the sun came out!

Sochi has been great so far. The rink is new and nice and the volunteers are friendly and will check your accreditation more times that you can count. The biggest thing that we have all noticed is that the entire area from our hotel to the Olympic park (about a 15 min drive without traffic, 45 with traffic) is one enormous construction zone. Everything is being built. Roads, train tracks and stations, hotels, Olympic venues. You name it. Even one part of the road that we drive on is open only to us as its still under construction. It seems like there is a TON of work still to be done, but I’m sure that they will finish it all up for next year and that everything will look great!

Another shot of the main stadium under construction.

The main stadium under construction.

The iceberg is huge!

The iceberg is huge!

Security is tight even for a test event. X-ray scanners, metal detectors and pat-downs everytime we get to the rink

Security is tight even for a test event. X-ray scanners, metal detectors and pat-downs everytime we get to the rink

This building will house the IOC during the games. The dirt construction area is what everything around the rink looks like

This building will house the IOC during the games. The dirt construction area is what everything around the rink looks like

The temporary dirt road that we use to access the rink

The temporary dirt road that we use to access the rink

Contruction of something Olympics related

Contruction of something Olympics related

Flat roofed building is the Long track oval.

Flat roofed building is the Long track oval.

Morning view of the Black sea from my hotel room
The stadium that will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies is, like so many other things in Sochi, still under construction

The stadium that will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies is, like so many other things in Sochi, still under construction

Some snow up in the mountains. Kind of reminds me of Vancouver. Warm and ocean influenced city with snow capped mountains in the background

Some snow up in the mountains. Kind of reminds me of Vancouver. Warm and ocean influenced city with snow capped mountains in the background

The biggest rink is home to men's hockey.

The biggest rink is home to men’s hockey.

Inside our rink.

Inside our rink.

The Iceberg, the arena for Short Track and figure Skating

The Iceberg, the arena for Short Track and figure Skating

LOTS of construction all around the Olympic park

LOTS of construction all around the Olympic park

Weekly Update #23 So(rt of)chi

Just popping on to post a quick update from Sochi. We arrived safely yesterday and are settling in to our hotel. We skated twice today and had our first experience at the rink. I’m hoping it will be sunny tomorrow and I’ll bring my camera with me so I can throw some pics up here of the rink and surrounding construction zone(s).

Weekly Update #22 – Canadian Champion!

Like I mentioned last week, this past weekend was our Canadian Championships. Its a big meet. Not only does it serve as the Canadian Championships, it serves as a selection meet for the remainder of the World Cup season and the World Championships, it also goes a long way in determining who is on the National team for next season.

Its a meet you want to be ready for. Lucky for me, I was. And I came away with my first ever Canadian Championship. Heres how it unfolded.

Friday was the 1500m. Despite a (as normal) nervous lead-up to the weekend, I had found a really good feeling in the last couple days of practice. During warmup on Friday, I could feel that I was physically on a good day. Knowing this, I stayed out of trouble in most of my races, made smart moves when I needed to and managed to win the 1500m. Good way to start!

Just after the finish of the 1500m final. A little bit of intensity... Photo by Patrice Lapointe, Fotosports.ca

Just after the finish of the 1500m final. A little bit of intensity… Photo by Patrice Lapointe, Fotosports.ca

1500m podium. Guillaume Bastille, myself, Vincent Cournoyer. Photo by Patrice Lapointe, Fotosports.ca

1500m podium. Guillaume Bastille, myself, Vincent Cournoyer. Photo by Patrice Lapointe, Fotosports.ca

Saturday, we raced the 500m. In the past, I have had some trouble with this distance. Too often, I have finished well down the results and failed to score big points. Since the teams for World Cups and World Champs are selected from a cumulative ranking of points amassed over two sets of trials races, it is important to count as many points as possible on any given day. This season, I have invested heavily in fine tuning a new start position in order to improve my start, which is crucial in a 500m sprint. It seems to be paying off. While I’m not always first off the line, I am in the mix a lot more often, and almost never find myself with a gap to close if I get off the line in last. Instead of focusing on closing the gap, I can focus on passing and winning the race. By the end of Saturday, I had made my way to the A final, a first for me at a Canadian Champs, and finished with a slightly disappointing (at the time) 4th place. Still, my best result in a 500m to date.

Sunday is the longest, and hardest day, of trials. Why? Well first of all we already have two days of racing in our legs, and second we have to race the 1000m four times, as well as finish an intense weekend with a grueling 3000m. In the 1000m, I again made my way into the final and like the 500m finished 4th. In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed with this result. I never really managed to make a move in the race and felt like a bit of a passenger. I have to give kudos to the distance winner Charles Hamelin though, because his skating was a big part of that feeling. He was simply extremely strong on that day and I think all of us in the race felt a bit like passengers on the “Locomotive de Ste-Julie” as world famous announcer Dany Lemay likes to call him.

Next up was the 3000m. What can I say. The 3k is always a slog. A stressful weekend of racing takes a lot out of you and grinding out 27 laps is going to hurt. I managed to win the bonus points sprint after nine laps with a cheeky little acceleration. After that, for whatever reason, I decided that I should go ahead and pull about 15 of the remaining 18 laps. That kind of effort catches up with you and unfortunately for me, it caught up with me in sight of the finish line. I was passed 3 times in the final lap to finish 4th again. I’ll save you the details, but I was definitely cursing myself. In a weird twist of fate though, Charles, with who I was battling for the overall, fell of his own accord and thanks to my taking the bonus sprint, I managed to have just enough points to take my first Canadian Championship by a razor thin 16 points (very slim margin, as each distance is worth 1000 to the winner)

All in all, a good weekend for me. With that result, I’m qualified for the last two World Cups of the season and I will also be competing individually at the World Championships. I’m excited for the rest of the season! Thanks to all of my supporters, especially the Government of the Northwest Territories, currently my only personal ‘sponsor’.

Lastly, below is a picture of my new World Record Ring. My teammates  Charles Hamelin, Olivier Jean, Francois Hamelin and each received one of these last week for our record breaking relay at the World Cup in Calgary this past October. The Olympic Oval has the fastest ice in the world and anybody who breaks a world record there become a member of the brothers of the wind and receives a ring as recognition. I am happy to be part of the club!


 

 

Weekly Update #21 Christmas and Trials

Coming up this week is our Canadian Championships. They are being held here in Montreal, which is nice for us Montreal based skaters since sleeping in your own bed and competing on your home ice is always a nice comfort. The Canadian Championships are also the selection competition for the last two World Cups in Sochi, Russia and Dresden, Germany as well as the World Champs in Debrecen, Hungary.

For me, this week will be all about refining a few specific things that I have been working on and focusing on relaxing and gearing up to hopefully have some good performances on the weekend.

To end this blog off, check out a couple pictures from my short Christmas trip to Canmore. Because travel to Yellowknife from Montreal takes at least a whole day each way, our family decided to meet part-way in between the two, in Canmore, and easy choice and pretty awesome place all around. I took advantage to get in some mountain time, one day of snowshoeing and anther of hiking.

Group shot at our destination for the day, Rummel Lake.

Group shot at our destination for the day, Rummel Lake.

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There hadn't been many people up the trail since a recent snowfall, which made for some good bushwacking powder adventures

There hadn’t been many people up the trail since a recent snowfall, which made for some good bushwacking powder adventures

The beautiful Spray Valley. The day started out cloudy and cold, but the sun came through just as we started out.

The beautiful Spray Valley. The day started out cloudy and cold, but the sun came through just as we started out.

If you are in Montreal and want to come out and watch this weekend, come on out! Racing starts a 2pm on Friday and Saturday, and 10am on Sunday.

Weekly Update #20 Photo Blog!

First of all, happy new year and welcome to 2013!

This week, I have a few pictures that show a little bit of what a day at the rink during a World Cup looks like. Since I was racing, I was only able to take photos when I wasn’t getting ready for a race or racing, so there are only a few. Meh.

Waking up to a fairly nice sunny, smoggy Shanghai day. Racing doesn’t start until 2pm and we head to the rink around 1130am so its nice to take advantage of the late start to relax in bed for a bit.

Can’t lie in bed all morning. Getting some abs done to wake up the body.

Arrival at the rink. I was racing the 1500 on this day, which was the last distance to get underway, so when I arrived, the 500m guys and girls had already been on the ice for warm-up and were getting ready for their first races. Liam and Charles sharpening their skates.

Our super hard working and always smiling physio Vero. Our staff work the longest hours of anyone on the team and they are always happy and smiling even when they’ve been on their feet all day. They are one of the big reasons that our team is an awesome one to hang around and travel with.

After my on ice warm-up, I had some time to kill. Time to pull out the book. There are sometimes long waits in-between races and I like to read to pass the time. Its way more relaxing than watching races all day and listening to Gangnam style play over and over. It’s also a good escape for the mind. Sometimes a rested mind is better than (or at least equal to) a rested body.

 

After all of the individual races for the day have been finished, the relay races start up. This is a pic of the our team racing our relay against Japan (front) and Hungary (3rd). I didn’t race the relay this day, so I was in the stands  to cheer on the guys.

So thats it. After the relays are finished, its wait for the bus, get home to the hotel, cold bath, dinner, relax, bed. Repeat!

Weekly Update #19 Shanghai Re-cap

On deck this week is a re-cap of my races at World Cup #4 in Shanghai.

After an unsatisfying week of racing in Japan, we did a short travel day over to Shanghai. The week of training went pretty smoothly. The rink in Shanghai is great. They do a great job of maintaining the ice. It grips a ton, holds up well and is quite fast. It keeps you honest though as you must be efficient or that speed will evaporate quickly due to how much grip there is. Because of this, it is a very fair ice.

I again skated a 1500m and 1000m. I had the opportunity to do a 500m after my teammate Olivier Jean suffered a concussion in Japan and couldn’t race in Shanghai, but I opted to stick with the same two distances in back to back weekends so that I could continue to work on the racing tactics that I was practicing in Nagoya.

Friday’s qualification day went well for me. Winning all of my races I tried to build some confidence for the weekend and I think I achieved that. The tactics and race strategies that I did employ, or attempted to employ, seemed to go smoothly. The qualification day is always a marathon of 10-12 hours straight at the rink and I was happy to be done and safely on to the rounds on the weekend.

Saturday was the 1500 for me. I had pretty good feelings in my warm-up. It is always my goal to be on the podium in each distance and I felt that on that day, I certainly had the legs to podium. In my semi final, I used a well timed outside move to get through a rough and tumble race and on to the final.

The final was, hmm how can I put it, interesting. Early in the race, I was well placed and thought I would be right were I needed to be when the sprint to the end started. Unfortunately, I gave up my 2nd position too easily to a Russian skater and thats when the mess started. That forced me to start working on the outside for the front. Only problem was that just about everybody wanted that route. In the end, I got tangled up in a collision in the straightaway between another Russian and my teammate Guillaume Bastille. This caused me to go down. You can see the video of this race in the post below.

I was none to happy with this race for a couple of reasons. First of all, I felt a bit like I wasted an excellent opportunity to be on the podium. Secondly, I made several tactical mistakes. Oh well, put it behind you and on to Sunday. Oh ya, we made the relay final at the end of the day as well. Moving up from the week before!

Sunday was 1000m day for me. Final chance at a podium? I think so. A couple of good races and I was on to the final. Once again, for the third or fourth time this year, I was in a final against the formidable trio of Kwak Yoon-Gy, Noh Jinkyu and Victor (Ahn Hyun-Soo) An. Also joining us in the final was Freek Van der Vart of the Netherlands. Again, it would prove to be a frustrating race for me. A slip on a well timed outside pass early in the race put me at the back of the pack. A couple of missed oppourtunities later and I was playing the last ditch card for bronze. Never a good card to have to play. It cost me, I collided with Freek and down we went, a Penalty for me.

So that was that. I guess the positives I can take from World Cup #4 is that my consistently is continuing to improve. I am hitting A finals often, and you have to make A finals to medal. Next step is transforming an A final in a win. Its coming.

After the competition, we were treated to an awesome show by the Organizing committee. We (the world cup skaters, staff etc) attended a circus/acrobatic/mind boggling show. My jaw was on the floor the entire time and my hands were sore from clapping. I also met up with my Chinese fan/friend Kyle on the bus ride back to the hotel. He was at the competition working as a journalist and got to check out the show as well. The organizers in Shanghai do an amazing job at putting on a show. I’m happy that the World Cup is supposed to stop there for the next 8 years!

So if you made it this far, congratulations! That was a long one. Check back in a few days. I have a bunch of photos from Shanghai, including a sort of photo essay on what a day of competition on the world cup looks like to share with you guys, so trust me, less reading is coming!

Video from Shanghai

Here are the videos from my two rough and tumble A finals in Shanghai.