Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Waterton Trip

I woke up on Tuesday the 22nd of June, realizing it was the day of my last (and also only) exam. But it was also the day where Kim, Bryn and I were going to Waterton! So after Bryn and I had written our social exams Kim picked us up at school. We went back to Bragg Creek to get our stuff packed before we headed out towards southern Alberta. After a couple of hours of driving and some naps later we arrived to a beautiful ranch placed right besides the mountains. The house we were staying at belonged to some friends of Kim and they had let us stay there for a couple of days. It was around 5 pm and we had started getting ready for dinner when some guy came up to the house. It was a guy working for the family who owned the ranch and before I knew of it I was sitting in the guy’s truck, on my way to see some of the bison that belonged to the ranch. We drove for a little while before we got out of the car and started walking. After about an hour of walking we finally found the herd of bison. We kept our distance as we walked around them trying to make them go through the gate we had opened so that they could continue to the next field. The big 500-1000 kilo bison were not the animal to get in a fight with… Soon out of nothing they started running towards the opening and I managed to get my camera out fast enough to take some shots of the 100 bison running down the hill continuing into the field on the other side. Another amazing experience that came from nowhere…

Next morning we woke up, got some breakfast and headed out from the house ready for a good day of hiking. We drove into Waterton, a beautiful little town invaded by incredibly tame deer and with a nice big lake right beside it, parked the car and headed up the trail. After a bit of walking we reached a waterfall and took a break before we continued up the mountain. Finally we reached our destination, the lake, and we started eating our lunch. We had been told that there were bears around the lake and after a while we spotted a huge black bear walking along with her cub on the other side of the lake. We watched them for a while until we were done with our lunches. The bears had moved pretty fast along the side of the lake and we decided that there was no reason to wait for them to arrive at our spot, so we turned around and started the trip down the mountain. We made it to the bottom without getting eaten by bears and after an ice-cream and a bit of looking around in Waterton, we found the car and started driving back towards the ranch where we were staying.
On our way back we found a golf course and since we had been talking about going golfing we decided to stop and check it out. After finding out that there was a free tee-time right away we got ready, rented some equipment and headed out. Since it was Bryn’s first time golfing and Kim only had tried a few times before, it took a while to complete the holes but we went forward and after a while we reached hole number 6. Bryn was about to tee out when she suddenly stopped her practice swing and told Kim and I too look up. I looked up and at first I only noticed a deer crossing the course a couple of hundred meters ahead. Then my eyes suddenly fell on something else moving a few of hundred meters ahead of us. It was a Grizzly Bear that had decided to come look at some golf and without really caring about us he was walking across the fairway of hole 6. Now I always freak out if only I see a chipmunk or a squirrel, so you can imagine how excited I was to see this Grizzly interrupting our game. After a bit of dancing around on my behalf and after Kim had taken some pictures the Grizzly had disappeared into the bushes and we continued golfing around on this beautiful course that was surrounded by mountains growing out of nowhere. It had been a magical day and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow at the end of the day…

Next day we woke up to another beautiful day with sunshine and high temperatures. We got some breakfast, packed some lunch and headed out on our way to the starting point of the days hike. Soon we arrived to a parking lot and off we went. After some hours of walking up the mountain, running into some ground squirrels, seeing some amazing waterfalls, we found a lake and ate our lunch sitting on a rock. We returned to the car and started heading back to the ranch. After getting a shower after the dusty hike we started the car and headed towards Pincher Creek, another little town out there, where we were planning on eating dinner. We arrived to Pincher Creek and found another golf course that looked interesting. We went into the clubhouse and got a tee-time for the next morning. It seemed like Kim and Bryn had started to like this relaxed hobby of mine… We found a nice little place and got some good dinner before we left Pincher Creek and drove back to the ranch.

Next morning it was time to get packed up and stuff the car because we were going back to Bragg Creek. We headed out around 9.30 am and managed to reach Pincher Creek in time for our tee-time. After four hours of golfing on a course that didn’t seem to like me, left Pincher Creek golf course and stopped my Subway to get lunch before we continued our journey back to Bragg Creek. After a couple of hours of driving we reached Calgary where we stopped to get some groceries. From Sunday the 27th till Wednesday the 30th the little house in Bragg Creek would be hosting a training camp for the ski team, so the car was full of food when we left Calgary to drive the last little bit back to Bragg Creek.

That is the story about my last trip away from Bragg Creek before my departure on the 1st of July. There is no doubt that time has flown away like the wind the last two months, but I can still not really believe that I am going back to Denmark in less than a week… What a great year I have had!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Weekend In Pincher Creek, Alberta

So it’s about time I make a blog entry eh.? Lots of stuff have happened in my life here in Canada since Nationals. I have raced my last ski race of this year where I did quite well together with my relay partner Vincent. Training continues even though the snow is disappearing and school is coming along pretty well too.

As I said training continues with running and strength workouts and this weekend, 28-30th of May, was spend in Pincher Creek, Alberta. It was supposed to be a biking camp but because of quite weird weather that resulted in about two feet of snow, only a few of us had courage to go out biking. Friday Bryn and I came home from school and got ready to leave. Ken was going with us and soon we left Bragg Creek. Ahead of us was a drive of approximately two and a half hour, which I of course ended up sleeping away…

I woke up and soon we arrived at the cabin where we were staying. Later more people arrived and soon there was a whole bunch of us. Vince arrived with his friend Alex that I had already learned to know. The three of us soon crawled into our room that we were sleeping in and which we soon after renamed as the Man Cave. The evening quickly went past and around one o’clock the guys in the Man Cave decided to stop playing games on the computer and instead trying to get some sleep.

We woke up at eight the next morning by our dear coach Chris sticking his head into our room. Since Chris had decided to stop coaching for Foothills Nordic Ski Club, this was his last weekend we had with him as a coach. He managed to get us out of our sleeping bags and around nine, after a nice breakfast, we were ready to go for a two hour run. Outside the snow was deep and while trying not to get too wet we started running down the road. Everybody soon decided that it was impossible not to get wet and so we ran through the slushy water as if it was nothing. After some relaxed running for a couple of hours we were ready to return to the cabin and get some lunch. Everybody got changed into some nice dry clothes and then we had the choice to go biking or go to the local pool. Obviously I decided that the pool wouldn’t be too bad right now, so soon we arrived to the pool and got a bit wetter than we were before. The day ended with a nice dinner and some sauna combined with a cold lake. A perfect way of ending a quite intense day of training!

Next morning it was up at eight again. After breakfast Chris presented the days exercise for us. It was time for a modified scavenger hunt! We had about six different exercises to do and for each one we had to take a good photo. Since the exercises consisted of kayaking, climbing mountains covered in snow, doing pushups etc. we ended up with some quite awesome photographs that are already up on Facebook. After about three and a half hours of running around, Team Man Cave finally returned to the cabin with some amazing photos and a smile on their lips. After a well timed lunch and some dry clothes it was already time to get packed up. The weekend had flown away as good spend time often do. Soon Bryn, Ken and I were sitting in the car on our way home and of course I fell asleep once again on the trip back to Bragg Creek…

Another amazing weekend of my stay in Canada has passed by and all that is left now is the memories and some sweet photos. With Chris, the guy that have taught me to ski without hurting myself, stopping as coach for Foothills it is getting more clear to me that my time in Canada is running out. Only one month is left of my exchange and even though I am starting to realize that I’m not going to say goodbye to everybody but rather ‘see you’, it still seems really weird that departure is getting closer…

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cross Country Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. PART 3

Thursday went away with a good long ski to get ready for the Friday’s sprint. Everybody was excited when they went to bed that night and I was aware that a short race was preferable from my side. With only 600 meters to race through I felt like I should be able to manage it!

I woke up on the Friday feeling a bit nervous about the upcoming sprint. I would be the very last person to race of all the skiers so I had good time getting ready and eating breakfast before we left the house that morning. After a couple of hours of warm up and waiting it was finally my turn to go hit the snow. It was a qualifier round so I had to be in top 30 to continue to the heats. Not that I was expecting to go there but when I left the start line I just pumped my way around the short course. When I finished my race I had a strange feeling though. I felt like I could have gone harder and it annoyed me quite a bit. When I later saw the results I knew that I was right. I had completed the course in 1 minute and 20.23 seconds. That was 13.02 seconds later than number one and my place therefore ended as a 78th place out of the 88 people in my category. It wasn’t as much the result as the fact that I knew that I hadn’t gone hard enough that was bugging me but what the heck. I’m not an Olympian athlete yet…
That night we had a Foothills dinner at the community center and quite a few people with connections with the ski club showed up. It was a nice evening and despite the day’s short race I felt really tired when I went to bed that night.

Next morning was our second last day in Whitehorse so besides from training and all the other usual activities it was time to get packed. The training was no big deal since the last race of the week that would happen on the Sunday was the long distance race. For me it meant only a 10 kilometer race but for some of the other guys it meant a 50 kilometer race! So there was lots of time to get organized for the trip back to Calgary that would start right after the race tomorrow. We took our last walk around Whitehorse and back at the hotel we started packing. I didn’t really pack that much that day since I would be racing late the next day and would have lots of time in the morning to get packed. It was with a bit of sadness that I fell asleep that night. It had been an awesome week with some intense races together with some really nice people. I felt ready to give the last energy boost in my last Nationals ski race coming up.

I woke up at 9 and slowly got out of bed. All I had to do before my group would drive to the stadium at 12.30 pm was to pack the last bit of my stuff and get some breakfast, and then of course get the incredible spandex suit on! We left the hotel as scheduled and soon arrived at the stadium. Some of the guys from the ski team were already done their races since they had had a longer distance and therefore had started earlier. I did a short warm up and tested my grip wax before heading to the start line to get ready for the mass start for my category that would include 87 skiers. I placed my skis in the tracks on my respective spot in the back of the show. Soon all of the skiers in my category was standing ready with their skis on and just waiting for the start signal. Soon it went off and all of us started poling our way out of the stadium. I had not really expected the amount of chaos that soon was developing around me and I ended up being between the two tracks caught between great amounts of skiers. After having a guy yelling at me to get my poles out of his way I found my way to a track and after a short while all of us were spread around. That was with me as one of the guys in the back… Still I was not alone and despite the steep climb that is not really my favorite part of classic skiing, I started the steep downhill piece from the top. There had been a lot of people out there that morning so the entire thing was quite icy. But snowplowing is for sissies and not Danish Vikings so I went straight down with full speed and slide on the ice in the turn that appeared for my eyes.

Suddenly my right ski decided to go right and my left ski decided to go left. This of course resulted in a great crash and the guy that I had kept behind me passed me as I rolled around in the snow. But despite the intensity of my crash I skillfully managed to get straight up on my skis straight after my rolling around. I soon caught the guy that had passed me and I never saw him again after passing him. Soon I arrived at the stadium. I had completed the first 5 kilometers of my 10 kilometer race and now headed out on my second loop on the 5 kilometer course. I was starting to feel quite tired and soon I noticed a guy starting to sneak up on me from behind. I speeded up and managed to stay away from him for a while but before I reached the top he had managed to pass me with a slight distance. Fortunately for me we were done with the hard climbing of the loop. We started the downhill and I handled staying on the course down the hill that I had crashed on during my first loop. I started to get close to him and it was about time cause now there was only about 1 kilometer left before the finish line at the stadium. Suddenly I released my final jumbo rocket and exploded in an insane double pole technique! I pumped past him and continued my glorious ride to victory. Double poling into the stadium was just great. I could hear my enemy behind me fighting to pass me but my solid double poling was impossible for him to keep up with! I past the finish line in the time of 35 minutes and 53.7 seconds. That was 9 minutes and 54 seconds after number one and it placed me on the 80th place out of the 81 guys who had completed the race. 6 guys had dropped out during the race so the guy that had been hunting me on the last part was the only person keeping away from the feared last position. I was lying totally exhausted on the ground feeling that I had just completed one of the best races of my skiing career. (if you can call it that…)

I had been through the most excellent crash of my life and had fought an intense battle to avoid getting last and I had completed my goal of not being last at any of the races! I felt ecstatic when I finally got on my legs again after I had been collapsed on the snow for a while. I hugged my dear coach Chris and my other teammates before we started getting ready to go to the airport. We had a little while to get changed before we all drove to Whitehorse Airport where our journey back to civilization would begin. It was late afternoon when we got on board on the tiny aircraft that would bring us to Vancouver where we would switch plane before completing the last bit of the trip back to Calgary. I soon fell asleep on the plane despite the fact that the guy in front of me decided to lean the seat back. One of the things that you learn to hate when you are 6 foot and 5 inches, and on board on a tiny airplane. We all the survived the trip back to Calgary where we arrived around 9 in the evening.

A great trip with lots of intensity, skiing and fun was over and now it was time to get back to Bragg Creek and get some sleep!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cross Country Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. PART 2

I woke up next day feeling good. My first race was over and I was pumped for the races that were coming up. The next one would be the day after. A Tuesday with 5 kilometers of classic skiing. We all ate some breakfast before it was time to get skiing. We left the hotel and drove to the wax hut from where we started our ski. After only 1.5 hours of skiing we went to get lunch at the community center. We arrived at the hotel after lunch and took a shower. There would be a couple of hours to walk Whitehorse before it was time for dinner.

I woke up Tuesday feeling a little nervous about my upcoming race. My category was one of the last ones to go so I had good time to get in my race suit before a group of us left the hotel at 9.30. When I arrived to the race site it was time to warm up. A part of the preparation to races that I don’t really give that much attention… But I completed some sort of a warm up and Chris told me to go test my skis. I soon returned asking for more grip wax. Since your technique decides what amount of grip wax you need, I usually need quite a bit. Soon I was standing on the start line ready to get going. It was an individual start where the skiers get sent off with a 15 seconds interval so I left the start line alone. Now my mission was to complete the 5 kilometer loop without too many guys passing me! It was a course with about 3 kilometers of climbing before hitting the downhill part. Since it is the climbing that really requires technique I got passed by quite a few guys. But on the downhill part I managed to keep up with one of them thanks to some aggressive double poling.

After 17 minutes and 50 seconds I passed the finish line. As number 85 out of 89 some people would argue that I should be crying. But considering that I had been skiing for 5 months and everybody else for at least a couple of years, I felt quite satisfied with beating 4 Canadians! After grabbing some lunch in the athletes tent we skied to the wax hut and continued in cars back to the hotel. I was quite exhausted when I was lying down on my bed that evening. My first individual race was done and I had managed not to finish last in my category. Next day, Wednesday, would be another race day with a skate 7.5 kilometers race. Hopefully I would be able to maintain my statistic with not being last!

I got in my race suit Wednesday morning not really thinking of what was ahead. I had heard that the day’s course would be even steeper than the 5 kilometer loop but hadn’t really thought about it. After all it would only be a 3.75 kilometer loop that I would do twice so how bad could it be? After some breakfast we left to the wax hut and skied out heading towards the stadium. When I arrived it was time to a little warm up before I would be going out on my 7.5 race. After a short warm up I was standing ready at the start line. Again today it was an individual start with a 15 seconds interval. I was ranked a little better than the day before which meant that a few skiers would be going out before me. The best skiers would go in the end so after just 3-4 skiers in front of me it was my turn to cross the start line and begin my 7.5 kilometers of pain.
I skied out feeling good and soon I caught a guy that obviously already was tired. I climbed and climbed up some very steep hills and I was starting to feel like dying when I heard someone standing in the side of the track saying that I was halfway up the hill. Not really the message I had expected! My thoughts about this course had obviously been wrong! After being passed by a guy or two I finally reached the top of the course. It was time to a couple of minutes of relaxation down the hill before I would reach the stadium and begin my second lap. I reached the bottom by the stadium and felt like just stopping for a break. But breaks are not a part of racing so I kept on going cheered up by the yelling along the sides of the course. There is nothing like hearing your name yelled out when you are about to collapse! I managed to make it through the challenging course once again before I collapsed on the snow after crossing the finish line in a time of 24 minutes and 37.9 seconds. This time provided me with an 82nd place out of the 89 skiers in my category. I was beating more people and still keeping myself away from the last place!

We arrived at the hotel soon after and after a shower some of us wandered around town. Whitehorse itself is not the most beautiful place. With first nation people doing drugs in the alleyways and open bars at 10 am it was quite sad to see how the old civilizations had been disturbed by the expansion of European explorers. That night we went to the hot springs outside Whitehorse which was really refreshing. It was nice to just lie in nice warm water after a long race and it didn’t take me long to fall asleep that night! I was already more than halfway through my races and the time was flying by! Next up would be the sprints on Friday which I was quite excited about.

But first a Thursday in between to get some strength back from the intense races that I had already been through!

To be continued in Part 3!