World University Winter Games Opening

The expectations for this year’s Universiade were honestly very low. I came here to Strbske Pleso many years ago and it was more or less quite a run down facility from an era during the 70’s that would have looked like a promising affluent ski resort. It was all a bit sad really – I find it hard to see once great and promising places just being left to rot.

View of the stadium from our hotel

View of the stadium from our hotel

Amazingly now however, lots has changed! With huge developments and refurbishments it has actually turned out to be an awesome venue for these championships. Unfortunately, the big jump has still not been touched and appears to only be used as a satellite tower – a little sad for those who worked towards creating such an amazing structure. Who knows, there may be plans to give it the maintenance it deserves.

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The opening ceremony was an absolute blast and being given the flag bearers role was an honour and something I had always wanted to do in my sporting career.

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The Freestyle Sprint on Sunday was the first event of the champs. For the first time this season I felt like I was able to maintain the power and technique needed to put down a competitive time in the time – trial despite feeling completely flooded with lactic acid. Fortunately luck was on my side and I scraped into the finals by taking 30th fastest time with around 92 pts. This was my first ever Championship where I have qualified for heats and seeing the result gave me huge satisfaction. I then raced aggressively in my heat trying my chances up in the top 3 for most of the race but cooked out quite bad towards the end. To pick up an extra few positions to place 25th overall was a rewarding result irrespective. I have been struggling with sprinting due to the lack of training in that area due to the disrupted preparation I have had this year. To know that I am right back on track and to produce a sprint result which could well be considered a new Sprint PB for me gives me a lot of confidence heading into the next lot of races here. Huge Congrats to teammates Phil and Jess Yeaton for both achieving 8th!! Australia’s best ever Uni Games results. The skis were also honestly some of the best I have ever had so huge thanks to Randy, Mantra Wax and Radoslav!!

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Tomorrow I will race the 10km classic but Sunday’s 30km skate is what I have been most excited about for a long time!

Falun Scandinavian Cup

The DSA E-cup that was held just after my last post showed a positive result and despite a tiring lead into that 20km Skiathlon, I felt surprisingly energetic and able to maintain power. More importantly was that my classic leg was actually quite reasonable with only a small amount of discomfort under my ribs. The conditions were tough, with rain over night causing the man-made snow to set rock hard but it was a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that I was able to get through it with a 5th place result at the end!

Similar to other races this season however, I didn’t exactly pull up too well afterwards. It seems like I am able to push myself to the same level as last year (even harder maybe), however I am feeling the toll of the effort far greater. I continued with the training block as planned after this, but was forced to take it a little easier two days after when I developed quite a rough cough and amazingly low energy levels. I’m still not convinced that I was sick, but certainly quite run down. With only a few days before the Scandi Cup to be held here in Falun, I was losing confidence I was going to bounce back in time to even compete! On one of the easier days it was nice to get out for an easy ‘långfärdsskridskor’ (Ice skate) on a pretty beautiful day! Becoming a little more mentally refreshed is always a good place to start when trying to re-boost energy levels.

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Luckily on Thursday, my energy levels improved and managed to belt out a few good pre-race efforts. As I started Friday’s 15km Skate I knew I wasn’t quite 100% still. I had no top gear and started appallingly losing a lot of time in the first 2.5km’s. The skier behind me who was having a good one caught me and I held with him for about 2km before blowing up majorly. For a good 5mins I felt like I was crawling, feeling completely flooded and losing even more time. The urge to pull out was pretty tempting to be honest, but luckily my body finally decided it wasn’t a worn out old tractor from the late 80’s and allowed me to ski quite a fast second half of the race. With so much time lost in the first half though, the result was average, placing 106th in a strong and large field, 3min 23s back (just under 10% the winner with 93 points). Realistically this is not a bad result by any means. With the top guys here also at the top of the World Cup, this is a good percentage, however I just know my body felt absolutely terrible and is capable of so much more.

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Sunday’s 30km skiathlon was rather similar, but maybe even further impacted by the lack of a good warm up due to the delays and difficulties in testing skis. Right from the start I felt uncomfortable, having to work for the grip and struggling to stay relaxed as a result. It was even more disastrous than the start of Friday’s race. Gradually my body began to feel better and better. By the time the skate leg came around I felt like I was almost firing on all cylinders and skied a solid final 15km making up more than 15 places. The end result; very similar to Friday’s race, placing 88th and just less than 10% behind once again.

The negatives; many. The positives however are also there which is important to always consider also. I know I have the aerobic capacity and strength back to where I need it to be to perform well. Thinking back to a few months ago – this was my greatest concern. Additionally, I made it through two classic legs of each Skiathlons with manageable chest discomfort. For this next period I just need to focus on the identified weaknesses and luckily they are mostly relatively easy fixes!

Next up, thanks to the recent storms, we finally have some quality training to get done on some big loops around Falun before we head to World University Games on the 22nd!

A New Post for a New Year

Similar to Phil, if you have read his latest post, www.pbellinghamxc.wordpress.com I too had the intention of keeping the blogs regularly however have found myself becoming a little slack again! I have also had a slightly frustrating 3 weeks since my last post, all of which is nothing too motivating to write about. After seeing that my form was in fact much higher than I expected it to be in Lillehammer, Davos on a whole was a complete disaster! With my skating feeling stronger all the time I was very excited to see what I could produce for the 15km skate. My body felt good the morning of the race, however the extremely icy corners managed to catch me out during the warm up. I had my first crash since my chest injury and as luck would have it, a lot of the impact went through the area where I am still experiencing a lot of sensitivity and nerve pain. To be honest, it felt as bad as it did when I got out of hospital. I tried to do another effort but it just wasn’t sensible to push through that kind of pain. I had it checked out and luckily no further damage had been done. So from 2 good opportunities to perform whilst in good shape I unfortunately can’t really say I achieved anything positive. I returned straight to Falun to start a new training period to ensure my form doesn’t drop off.

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View over the Falun World Champs venue

I traveled straight back to Falun and already I have felt glad to be hitting out the hard training again! With such a disrupted preparation for this season, I can tell that my body has already begun to lose a lot of strength. This is largely gauged by just how sore and tired I have been getting from the increased load. So it’s safe to say that this is a much needed few weeks before I race again here in Falun for the Scandinavian Cup on the 9th, 10th and 11th of January. Gradually I have begun to feel strong again in the intensity session and tomorrow I will do a 20km Skiathlon test race with DSA. Should be exciting to see what I can pull out! With heavy rain predicted I’m going to test out the new white base skis – let’s hope they are rockets! Thanks Atomic for the recent support!

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Overall for me, the Christmas / New Year period with Teresa and her lovely family has been a refreshing and enjoyable time for me. Experiencing a Swedish Christmas and watching my first Leksand Ice Hockey match in a sold out arena packed full of amazingly passionate supports are both times I will never forget!

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