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!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cross Country Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. PART 1

It was 10 o’ clock when we arrived to Whitehorse Yukon on the 12th of March. This was the place where the Canadian cross country ski nationals was to be held. It had been an early morning getting to the airport at 4 am but I felt surprisingly fresh when we arrived to the tiny airport in Whitehorse. There was spray painted “EXIT” and an arrow on the wall and all in all it was quite an experience. Soon after we arrived at the hotel which was located just beside to bars. Even though it was only about 11 am there was people drinking outside the entrance to “98 Hotel” which was the name of the bar/hotel beside our hotel. We got to our rooms and started unpacking and soon we headed out to find some lunch. Vince, my roommate Tyson and I found a Subway after cruising through the little downtown of Whitehorse. When we came back to the hotel it was time to get ready for some skiing. After a little drive we arrived at the wax hut that Chris had gotten us into. We got our ski boots on and headed out for a workout. After a couple of hours we returned to the hotel and got a shower before heading out for some dinner. We were all quite tired when we went to bed that night…

Next morning we all left the hotel at 9.30 after eating breakfast at the hotel. It was time to go and ski the course for the following Sundays sprint relay. The course was 800 meters and Vince, who was my relay partner, and I would each ski the course three times. I would do a lap, and then tag Vince who would do a lap and then tag me etc. The time it would take us to complete the six laps would be our final time. We skied the course and the returned to the wax hut before we drove back to the hotel. It was not a lot of skiing that day but there was no need to waste energy.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling fit for fight. We drove to our wax room wearing our extremely sexy spandex race suits. We then skied the 7 minute ski to the stadium that was all ready for the races. Our race skis were already waxed thanks to our excellent wax techs so soon Vince and I wished each other good luck and I went to the start line. Bang and then we were started! I went off like a pro and tried to stick to the guys in front of me. Soon I had done my first lap and before I knew of it I was in the tag zone and tagged Vince who had already started accelerating. Vince went off like a champ and I made myself ready to get tagged when he returned and tried to catch my breath. After six laps of fighting Vince passed the finish line and secured us a 22nd place out of 29 teams. With a time of 13 minutes and 43.1 seconds and 1 minute and 45 seconds off the first place we were quite happy about our result. After getting some lunch at the athletes tent we skied back to the wax room and drove to the hotel. That day we ate dinner at a community center that we had rented and soon we were back at the hotel preparing for bedtime. First day of races was over…

To be continued in PART 2!

Friday, February 19, 2010

World Cup In Canmore

Kim and I left the house early morning on Friday the 5th of February. I had cancelled school to be able to volunteer at the World Cup but it didn’t really bother me… When we arrived we went to the volunteer center to check in. Here I got a very official nametag to put around my neck. There were also toques and some other free stuff for the volunteers, which I received happily. Next we went to the head quarter of the volunteers. It was also here, behind some sound isolated walls that the television commentators were talking out to audiences all over the world. After eating a couple of muffins there was a little briefing where everybody was told what they had to do. My job was to take off the transponders as soon as the athletes came in from their race. The transponder is the little automatic string that the athletes wear around their ankles and which is measuring the skier’s time.

After the briefing it was time to get ready with the snow pants. It wasn’t freezing out there but since it wasn’t us who were going to be skiing, the snow pants were not a bad idea! I came out and went to the finish line where I would be serving my duty. Kim was the starter and was getting instructions from some guys from Switzerland that was in charge of the timing. Soon the first ladies started to go to the start line to get their transponders on and to do their warm up. I was just watching the whole thing and taking pictures of it all. A couple of minutes later Kim send off the first skier and the long distance races had begun!

While Kim was sending off skiers with 30 seconds interval I was getting ready to receive the first ladies coming in. It happened after about 30 minutes after the first skiers had been send off and soon I was down on my knees taking transponders off the ankles of the skiers. According to the hardness of those skiers’ legs they were pretty fit… Most of them were going to the Olympics in Vancouver too so I guess that’s a useful skill. After taking off about 70 transponders from the ladies ankles it was time for a little break. There was time to go get a bag of lunch before the men started to move closer to the start line. The sun was shining and I was starting to get jealous about the fact that the pro guys were allowed to ski and I wasn’t. But it was exciting to see the athletes showing how to do “real” cross country skiing!

Soon Kim send off the first man on the course and the show was running again. I was catching all the good photos and before I knew of it the first guy came in from his 15 kilometer skate ski. Doing it in about 40 minutes I was stunned! Now I have realized that those guys’ bodies are more machines than actual bodies… Anyways I started the work with taking off the transponders as the guys came in. After a while the last skier had passed me and without really realizing it I had been close to the very best cross country skiers in the world! It was kind of weird to think about since I didn’t know any of the guys I was taking the transponders off. Anyways, soon I had done my job and as the winner was found (it turned out to be some Italian guy) me and Kim went up to the volunteer head quarter to collect our stuff and get going back to Bragg Creek.

After a nice sleep I woke up and got ready for the Saturdays sprints. My job today was not to take care of transponders. Instead I was the “false start controller” which meant that if there was a false start, my job would be to simply jump on the trail in front of all the skiers and wave with a big red flag until they stopped. A quite exciting job on the paper but when we arrived and Kim started shooting off the sprints I realized that professional skiers almost never make a false start… After a ton of sprints that included crashes and Swedish winners my job was complete. We started to pack up our stuff and after a hot chocolate we were on our way to downtown Canmore. Foothills Nordic Ski Club had a trailer on Main Street full of skis so that everybody could come and try cross country skiing. This would have been quite confusing if it hadn’t been for the fact that Main Street was covered with 20 centimeters of snow! A very local snowstorm had covered Main Street and nothing else in snow. The trailer was popular and there were lots of kids that wanted to try out skiing. Together with Vince, Darren and a lot of other skiers in the club, I assisted the kids on snow as well as I was able to considering my 4 months of practice. It went very well and at the end of the day there had been about 100 people at the trailer trying to ski. I spent the rest of the day in Canmore with Darren, Vince and Stephanie (a girl from foothills). I slept over at Darren’s hotel room in Canmore and the next day we went for a ski before Vincent gave me a ride back to Bragg Creek.

It was an awesome weekend and it was quite inspiring to see professional skiers do what they do!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dog Sledding In Ontario

Thursday on January the 28th I left Calgary in the morning. Kim drove me to the airport and helped me on a plane with my big duffel bag. After four hours on the plane I landed in Toronto Airport. I hadn’t been there since I arrived to the country and soon I was thinking about how fast time had gone by. I realized that I’m already halfway through my year as exchange student in Canada and it kind of scared me…

Anyways, in the airport Emily who is working at the YFU office was waiting for me together with a girl named Veronica from Venezuela who had just landed from New Brunswick. She and I were the only students who had flown in from other places than Ontario to go on the dog sled trip. We found Emily’s car and drove away toward the office in Kitchener. Emily had some work to do but soon we left the office and headed towards Emily’s home where we were going to spend the night before driving to Monkton the next morning. After a good night of sleep we were on our way towards Monkton which was a two hour drive north. We arrived and were welcomed by all the other exchange students who live in the area around Monkton and the rest of Ontario. We started the orientation that was the second purpose of my trip. We talked about our exchange so far and what was coming up for about an hour before the bus was ready to leave. We got onboard and made ourselves comfortable before the bus left Monkton heading out for a 5 hour drive north to Algonquin Park.
We arrived at the hotel where we were going to spend the night at 8.30 in the evening. After some pizza we prepared ourselves for the upcoming days in the wilderness and went to bed.

When we woke up next morning it was -32 degrees outside. Not really the temperature we were looking for but it was told that it would get warmer during the day. We ate some breakfast and got onboard the bus for the little drive to the head quarter of the expedition company that was taking care that none of us would die in the wild… After a short instruction we left the head quarter to drive just a little further to the place where all the dogs were. When we arrived the sight that met us was quite extraordinary. About 400 plastic barrels were arranged in rows all over the field and outside, chained to the ground, dogs were walking around. We were arranged with a partner so that there were two persons on each sled. My partner was a Belgian girl and soon we had packed our sled. Now to the next point, we pushed all the sleds on the road and tied them up to trees in the side of the road. Now it was time to get the dogs. One of our guides gave each of us a name of a dog and pointed at which row we would find the dog. And then it was just to go grab them in the collar, come bag, give them a harness on before attaching them to the so called ‘gang line’ in front of the sled. Soon all the sleds were hooked up and ready to go and one after one a guide released the sled from the tree and off we went! Soon we were in a nice line down the road and with a guide in front to show the way it was just to follow the sled in front. After the top of the excitement had worn off we went from ordinary road to some sort of gravel road. I must admit the dog’s strength hadn’t really impressed me that much but as the hours went by and the dogs just kept the same pace I really started to admire them. It would be nice with such stamina in a ski race. Anyways the names of my sleds dogs were: Marge and Myra as lead dogs, Jury and Tansy as point dogs and Fallon and Juno as wheel dogs. After a while I could simply not resist to make the Santa Trick and yell: “Go Myra, go Marge, go Jury, go Tansy, go Fallon and go Juno!”

After about five hours of running we reached the camp and it was time to put the dogs on long chains between the trees and get a fire going. There were stationary tents with stoves so we only had to worry about cutting down something to burn.

Almost everybody was divided into two groups and off we went to cut down a tree. My group ended up cutting down two trees and after about an hour we returned to the camp and started sawing logs out. Another group of people fed the dogs and even another group was preparing the dinner. Fortunately it didn’t take long before the food was ready and we all gathered in the big warm tent for dinner. After a desired meal there was still some wood to cut and we were all quite exhausted when it was time to go to bed that night. After a nice night of sleep we woke up the next morning and got some breakfast going for both ourselves and the dogs. After all the chores were done and the dogs attached to the sleds we took off again. We left in two groups and went in opposite direction on a loop so that we would meet midway. Since we were coming back to the camp to stay over for the night, our bags had been left in the tent and our sleds were empty except for the person who was not standing in the back controlling the sled.

After some sledding on big wide paths the trails narrowed in and I had to be cautious as I was standing in the back. Soon I was surprised by a tree that apparently didn’t intend to move. We hit it and stopped right away. After some dragging and pushing we were free again and could follow the sled in front of us as if nothing had happened. After a couple of hours we met the other group and passed them. A little while after we stopped for lunch. We attached the sleds to trees in the side and tipped the sled. After eating my sandwich I realized that out wheel dog Juno in the back of the group of our dogs also had been chewing on something. The problem was that it was his harness and now he needed a new one. I told one of the guides who fortunately had another harness in his sled. After changing the harness on Juno we were ready to continue. We went on for another couple of hours before the guides in front decided that we needed some extra wood for the fire. We stopped and chopped some trees down and loaded the logs on the sleds. After that little intermission we went on for another hour or so before we were back at the camp. Our dog team had been really strong and I was once again impressed by their strength.

We took the dogs off the ‘gang line’ and attached them to the chain between the trees where there was some hay waiting for them to lie on. We fed the dogs, cut some wood and ate some dinner. After that it was time for a little walk in the moonlight along the creek. When we returned we started up a bonfire and drank some hot apple cider. A pretty nice way to end the day. Even though it was only 9 o’clock we decided to turn out the fire and go to the sleeping bags and get some rest before the last day of dog sledding back to the headquarter. We woke up next morning and got some breakfast. We were even starting to be able to smell the aroma of dog and smoke hanging on us so I guess it was good timing to turn around and go back to civilization. We fed the dogs and packed our stuff before we tied it to our sleds. When we were all ready we started hooking the dogs up to the sleds and soon the first group was off. My group, number two, was ready to leave the camp in Algonquin Park soon after and off we went with six dogs dragging all our stuff and ourselves.
We rode for a couple of hours before we reached the big wide roads again and started a race on the last kilometer of the way. My Belgian partner and I not to mention our powerful dogs reached the head quarter first and thereby won the last honor that was available on the trip. We started releasing the dogs from the sleds and dragged them to their little barrel. I was quite impressed by the fact that the guides can actually remember all 380 dogs’ names… Soon the sleds were free and in their spot. We loaded our stuff on the bus and drove back to the office of our guides where a nice meal of chili con carne was waiting for us. After changing clothes and filling out an evaluation form with the words: “Awesome guys!!!” we said bye to our guys and started the 5 hour drive back to Monkton.

We arrived in Monkton at 8.30 and emptied the bus. Now it was time to say bye to everybody. It feels kind of weird to say: “See you in 5 months!” but that’s how it works. I ended up spending the night at the house of an YFU volunteer with two other exchange students. Next morning Veronica from Venezuela and I were picked up by Emily again who took us on the two hour drive back to Toronto where we were flying from later. When we arrived to the airport Emily got us checked in and soon I had said goodbye to Veronica too and took off from Toronto Airport on my way back to Calgary. After a four hours flight which equals one movie + 3 episodes of Friends + some jazz radio, I landed in Calgary and was welcomed by my dear host mom. After the one hour drive to Bragg Creek I was finally home after 12 hours travelling from Algonquin Park.

It had been an awesome experience and it had been just as nice to see all the other exchange students too. I wonder if I will ever try dog sledding again. If not I will always remember this trip!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grande Prairie

So... Time for another update. This time about my ski races in Grande Prairie. We left on Friday the 8th, the same day as I turned 17! After a 7 hour drive, Ken, Bryn and I arrived to the hotel. It was getting time for dinner so soon all the guys from Foothills Nordic Ski Club was gathering in the lobby area where there were some tables. After dinner it was time for two birthday cakes. Both Kim and Stephanie from the ski club had made me cake so I was quite stuffed when it was time bed.

It was with a feeling of happiness and style that I the next morning took on my extremely sexy race suit. Chris, my coach, had supplied me with a black and white spandex suit that I could use for the races. A couple of hours later we were sitting in the lodge at the ski club in Grande Prairie. Before I knew of it I was standing ready on the start line. Ready, set, GO! And then I was off. It was the qualifier so I was running alone and after completing without a crash a had the 6th best time out of the 9 people in my category. After two more rounds on the 750 meters sprint course I was in the B-Finals. As the gun went off I sprinted off and soon I was number two out of the 5 of us. If I kept this place I would have a 5th place in my category of 9 people! I remember thinking "Wow... This is going pretty fast..." and then my left ski catched the deep snow and I was rolling around on the snow. Three people passed me before I got up again, and right when I had got the balance back I fell again! I took a relaxed ski to the finish line and damned my left leg. It was pretty unlucky to miss a 5th place out of nine skiers. And quite unlucky too to have two crashes in one lap!

Well what the hell... I ended up with a 7th place which means that I finally beat somebody in skiing! I was pretty tired when we returned to the hotel to get ready for the dinner for all the skiers at the races. Soon I was sitting with the ski team at the community centre eating. After some entertainment and talk we returned to the hotel and the rest of the evening went away with having fun at the rooms. Next morning I took on my extremely sexy spandex suit again and we drove towards the ski club just outside Grande Prairie. It was the day for long distances. In my case that meant 10 kilometers of skiing! I was already tired just thinking about on the start line but soon I was off and the race had begun. After about 52 minutes my pain stopped. I had reached the finish line and this time only 14 minutes behind the number one skier. Even though I couldn't feel my body I was satisfied with my result. I had survived!

Soon after we were leaving Grande Prairie to start the drive back to Bragg Creek. I slept most of the way back and after 7 hours of driving we were back in Bragg Creek.

It had been an awesome weekend with races and the fact that I actually beat somebody out there was great! I'm starting to like those races quite a bit...

If you want to watch a video with my races then follow this link:
And thanks alot to Stan Prenioslo for filming my great skiing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Birthday In Bragg Creek

On January the second it was time for a big birthday party. In addition of my own birthday on the 8th, Ken had his birthday on the 10th and Darren's mom, Ingrid, had her birthday right on the day!

So that day on January the second guests came to the house in Bragg Creek. We ended up being about 16 people for dinner. After a nice dinner, I and the other guys went to the basement until Kim came down and wanted to tie a scarf for my eyes. I was led upstairs and Vince and Darren spinned me around until I got dizzy. Then I was finally allowed to sit down and all the sudden the famous Danish birthday song began. In a combination of a deep Danish voice and all the birthday guests' beautiful voices rang the song throughout the house. As soon as I had realized that this was the Danish version I started laughing and when the song ended I was allowed to take off the scarf. A big birthday cake was standing in front of me on the table with lots of candles in it. It was time to find out how many girlfriends I had. After a powerful puff 16 of the 17 candles was still burning and I had to confess.

After cake it was time for presents and I can report happily that I was quite spoiled that night. After some really nice presents for both me and the two other birthday "kids", there was lots of laughter and fun until it was time for people to go home.

The conclusion: the Canadians way of celebrating birthday is really nice!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Late Christmas/New Years Update

So the last weeks I have received complaints about my maintenance of my blog. I have been feeling guilty about letting my dear readers down which of course have been unacceptable! I would like to bring out to you my deepest apologizes and I hope it will not happen again. (Still unexpected blackouts on my behalf can cause missing updates that honestly can't be considered my mistake!)

Let's get to the point. This year, or last year to be precise, was my first year ever with a Christmas outside Europe and without my dear Danish family. It all started to be different and a little weird on December the 24th. Kim's parents had arrived and eight hours earlier the Danes had opened their gifts. Still I had to wait another 12 hours before it was present time 24 hours for the big lovely turkey dinner. The 24th went away without the big great traditions that I'm used to. When I woke up on the 25th the story was another! It was time to get up and rip up the presents. Bryn got a little frustrated by my patient way of opening gifts but she came through it all ok. It was nice to open all the nice presents and there could be no doubt that the most of the presents under the tree was for me. This was a fact that I did not complain about!

Soon Kim's brother and his family came by and after opening the last presents it was time to try another great Canadian tradition. Hockey! After getting into the rumble with keeping the balance and after Kim laughing about the fact that I had only tried skating about 6 times in my life, it went pretty good. Kim's brother taught me to shoot the puck and after some practice it started working. We got challenged by another group of guys on the rink and soon I was in the middle of a hockey match. I came out of there alive and when it was time to go home I could feel that my appetite was getting ready for dinner.

A couple of hours later we were all sitting around the table with turkey on the plates and lots of other good stuff. An excellent dinner even though I have to admit that I did not eat as much turkey as I did on Thanksgiving. The evening ended with some tobogganing down the hill in the yard. The ending of a nice, special and a little weird Christmas.

Soon it was time to enter 2010. I went to Darren in Calgary and spend the New Year's Eve with him and Vince. We started out with some movies until about 23 where we left the house and headed towards the rink close to Darren's house. After some hockey 2010 was sneaking up on us and we skated into the new year on an ice rink in Calgary, Canada... We played a little more hockey before we started returning to the house. I can't imagine a more Canadian way of getting into the new year then skating with a hockey stick in the hand...

December and the night of January the 1st was times I will never forget! Even though there was no fireworks on New Year's Eve and no presents on the 24th it was an amazing time with some amazing people! It feels weird to think of the fact that I will be leaving them all in only five and a half month...