9th in Estonian National Champs Sprint!

Today I was reminded of just how fun Sprint racing is! It made me really wish that I processed a few more fast twitch fibers so that I could actually one day be a good sprinter! There’s just a lot more glory in doing well in a sprint!

Today was my first sprint race of the season and I could certainly feel that in the prologue. I was nervous and just unsure of how my body would cope with the long 1800m course! I started well and stayed relaxed and efficient for the first half, but by the end it was as though I just forgot how to ski! I still had good energy, but I just haven’t done the training to stay technically strong with legs full of lactic acid. The prologue was good, but not my best. I placed 15th, a little over 12 seconds which was not my best but not too far off and certainly enough for me to qualify and go through to finals.

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The finals were much, much better. Probably even the best finals racing I have ever done! I had great energy for the duration of each heat and for once, I felt aggressive and found it fun fighting for positions. I got myself in a good position in the quarter final and made it through! This was unexpected, considering I would have to beat at least one person that was faster than me in the prologue.

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I then raced the semi-final and despite being ranked far worse than the others in the heat, I managed to really fight for positions spending most of the race in 3rd. By the end, my lack of finishing speed let me down a little but I was absolutely stoked to finish 9th overall! With next to no sprint training this year as a result of trying to progress in many areas of my distance skiing, I am quite amazed! I might actually try and see if we can incorporate a little more sprint training in my program for next year.

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The real hero of the day was Phil who absolutely crushed every heat and placed 3rd overall! Bloody stoked for him snagging his first podium of the season and showing some damn fast skiers how it’s done! This was all done on completely different boots and skis to what he is use to (as a result of his bag probably still being sent somewhere through Asia). Respect!

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If you read my latest life blog, you will understand why today I was feeling a little on the tired. After a long travel I tested skis and was Stoked to discover that the new transparent base skis are amazing in this rain effected snow! This fills a huge gap that was in my fleet of skis and should be perfect for tomorrow’s Estonian National’s Skate Sprint.

The training was relatively easy, just a 6min threshold, followed by 2 x 3mins of threshold going into sprint pace. Hopefully I can freshen up a little for tomorrow

Travel Day Nightmare

If you ever want to know just how well you can mess up a travel day, you’ve come to the right place. Jackson, Phil and I have all had pretty good experience when it comes to traveling, however don’t let this fool you into thinking that we have it dialed. Sweden and Estonia are right next to one another, but even still we found a way to mess it up!

So there is usually a part of any trip that is considered smooth sailing. This just didn’t exist! First up was the air ticket blunder. A few days ago I suggested that it would be a good idea to have the one person book the tickets so that we could all be on the same flight. So when it came to booking the flights, both Phil and Jacko were looking for the best deals and found a good one. I wasn’t there so Jacko booked a ticket for me. Next day, Phil says in a sigh of relief something along the lines of ‘well I’m glad I’m finally getting my life sorted, it’s good that you got those tickets booked yesterday Jacko’. Jacko, then responds with, ‘ah didn’t you book your own ticket in the end though?’ After a quick rush back to the website, and undoubtedly a bit of cursing as they discovered the flight was full, and Phil found himself having to fly via Moscow. He had to leave 3 hrs earlier and should have arrived 20mins later than us – pretty indirect to say the least.

When we left yesterday morning on the train to Stockholm, Phil sends a message saying that he only just made his flight because the tracks were knackered after Uppsalla. This cost him $80 for a 20min taxi ride but gladly just got him there. We therefore were on the same line but had fortunately left just a little more time than he had done. So we risked it, waited for the next train on a different line and only just made it in time as well.

Then it came to the flying part. Now I’ve done a lot of flying during my ski career and have only ever been scared on a plane a couple of times in my life. This was something else though! As we were landing, the plane was now only dropping suddenly and wing tipping, but also getting blown sideways. This is all fine when we were higher off the ground but when it only got worse and we were just 10min above the runway, that burger I had eaten just before we took off was about ready to be tasted a second time over. With an almighty thud, bounce, thud, we managed to land, mostly sideways, but thankfully we made. How the wheels didn’t get torn off is beyond me!

After going to the connecting gate in Riga and back onto the next flight, I recognized the flight attendant as we were boarding. As I was the asking Jacko if he thought it was the same plane, the flight attendant unenthusiastically says in a thick, Russian accent ‘It’s the same plane’. She was obviously about as pleased with going out there again in the same plane as we were! Turns out after the Pilot has started to fire up the engines, there was a ‘technical problem’ and we would have to be put on a different plane. Essentially, something had broken in that crazy landing!

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1hr later, we were on the next flight and arrived safely in Tallinn only to discover Phil (who had kindly waited for us) only had a plastic bag! We had all packed lightly to avoid having a checked in bag and his skis had already been taken to Estonia. After discovering he had a free check in bag anyway, he came up with the awesome idea of checking in his carry on – I completely understand it, it’s dead miles to be carrying around that extra weight through the airport. So the plan fell apart when this bag got lost…. He had nothing except the clothes he was wearing! Not ideal when you are going to a ski race. The latest update is that his bag has gone to Beijing, China!

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After all this, we had missed the final bus to Tartu and would have to spend the night in Tallinn. So in a positive light to finish, at least we got to see the old city of Tallinn. Quite a nice sight really

World Cup Selection and a New Sponsor!

Today is a travel day, as we are heading to Estonia. Not a bad day for travel either considering it is +1 degree C and snowing heavily! The good news is that I have been given starting rights to Falun World Cup, where I will compete in both distance events in 2 weekends time. I will then travel to Lahti and compete in the World Cup there and then onto Canada for the first ever Canadian World Cup Tour. I have always wanted to see progression in my skiing and I have therefore been working hard to develop in many areas that have previously been my weaknesses. This has meant taking a back seat with races for a good part of the season, but now the hard work is done and I am ready to turn these improvements into results.

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To go with this good news is the announcement of a new sponsor! Just last week I was officially invited to become a part of Team ‘Out There’. The values and ideals of this company are astounding and makes me excited to be part of the Team. So get Out There,  check ’em out and have a look at the bio they are done for me: Out There

Further details about this support will be posted soon on my upcoming ‘Support’ Page

Fruits of the Season

Today was a tough 4hr 45min training day. It is the last of a training block since Ostersund and my body is definitely telling me that it very close to the limit. But that’s a good thing. You need to be close to pushing close to the limit to see good progression and now is a tapering period leading into the bigger races.

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Today consisted of a 2.5hr classic which actually felt really good in terms of energy. As you can probably tell by the photo, it was another ridiculously warm day. It’s a bit of an ‘end of winter’ feel – a little worrying to say the least as there are some big races coming up! I kind of feel like my season has still only just begun! Before the start of the 1hr run / gym session this afternoon energy was not so good to say the least. I knew it was going to be a rough one! That’s the thing, once you get going, the energy feels like it is back, but this is only temporary because by the end, the crash is monumental.

When Mangoes are on special at the supermarket making them almost cheap as Aussie prices, it can never be a bad day! It matches the current climate here too, so all great timing really!

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Tomorrow we head off to Estonia for the Estonian National’s being held this weekend.

Tropical Tuesday – Daks’ Super Speeds

This is how we arrive to training these days. 5 guys from 3 nations each with skis in the one old yellow Volvo! Mattias’ response as he sees each of us pile out was ‘are you trying to see how many foreigners you can fit in the one car!’ I’m all for it though – car pooling is good for the environment!

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After weeks of ridiculously cold temperatures, we finally got a warm change today. It wasn’t even just a small change either! From -21 Degrees C just a few days ago, to +6 degrees C today! Everything is feeling a little spring like, and for the end of January, that really isn’t a good sign!

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Training today was awesome. Because everyone has gone North for the Swedish National Championships, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves! Good day therefore to use the entire width of the stadium with 5 guys across doing Dakota’s tough speed session. They were 30 second sprints, but you would keep moving around the short loop and do it over and over for 35mins. Great way to get competitive and try to remain technically strong. This was then followed by 2 X 5mins at threshold.

This afternoon was just an easy classic, however with the temperatures dropping again, it was about as icy as yesterday’s ice hockey session!

Ice Hockey! (with a ball..)

Today was a day to try and get my life ironed out and get things sorted. Sometimes this process is a little like trying to iron a cheap chinese shirt. No matter how many times you go over it, very little progress is made! With time and perseverance, some cheap chinese shirts can actually look quite good and seem like the real deal! So that’s what I’m going for with my life planning – eventually I’ll have it sorted.

The day was made brilliant however by a game of Ice Hockey with the crew! Yes, technically we used a ball, so it should be called ‘Bandy’ or something, but that doesn’t sounds anywhere near as cool and besides, I’m not Swedish so I’ll call it what I want!

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Philpot is actually pretty good on the skates so we disadvantaged him by giving him the strap in skates that didn’t really quite fit his salomon running shoes. ‘Blow outs’ (where his shoes would fall out of the skates under pressure) were therefore a frequent occurrence….

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Finally, a Win!

Even though the Matsboloppet isn’t the biggest of ski events around, I am still satisfied to be able to say that today I had my first win here in Sweden. It’s a good thing that this guy wasn’t here today, otherwise then I could have been in trouble!!

The Headline translates as 'Sweden's Fastest Aussie' - Full article can be read on: http://www.sydsvenskan.se/malmo/halla-vastra-malmo/han-ar-sveriges-snabbaste-aussie/

The Headline translates as ‘Sweden’s Fastest Aussie’ – Full article can be read on: http://www.sydsvenskan.se/malmo/halla-vastra-malmo/han-ar-sveriges-snabbaste-aussie/

No, but in all seriousness, good luck to Henry and his preparations for the Vasa Loppet. His results have been impressive and therefore the positive exposure is definitely not unjustified however put him against someone like Philpot Bellingham in a sprint and I think I could safely back my team mate in for the win.

Anyway back to today! The 11km classic event was held on a pretty flat 2.2km loop and my initial intention was to use grip wax to try and concentrate on the technical changes that I have made in the striding technique. It just wasn’t worth it in the end, I was there to win and choosing to go with an option that I knew would have surely been slower was just not doing it for me. It was a good decision in the end because I had to fight for the lead the whole race!

After the first lap, I was slightly ahead according to the splits, then after the second lap Måns Sunesson (http://m-sunesson.se) and I were even. This made me really try and find another gear on that 3rd lap, which gained me 10 seconds, however really sent me into what we commonly refer to as ‘the Hurt Box’. I then red-lined and had to fight hard to stay powerful and aggressive but lost 5 second in the 4th lap. The 5th was therefore torture, I left everything I had out there and managed to grab the win by just 1.3 second. Congrats to Måns, and fellow DSA member Gilberto Panisi (http://gilbertopanisi.weebly.com/)from Italy who placed 3rd. Team mate Jackson Bursill also skied a strong race finishing 4th!

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No one was really ready for the photo, but that’s the best I’ve got!

These were the skis of the day – all part of the new pairs I was given this year. The new narrow tip and tail may look strange, but I’ve got to say that I love the way they feel! Thanks again Atomic Nordic.

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Mattias said that I should go for the win as you get this ‘sweet trophy’ at the end of it. Not sure what happened to that end of the deal, but I’m probably even happier to receive these bed sheets as a prize! Exactly 1 week ago in Stockholm, Teresa and I  were wanting to buy ones exactly like these for the apartment, but we weren’t stoked on the prize tag! So despite what it may look like, bed sheets were a sweet reward

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This afternoon was back to the gym for Strength and a short 40min run. Quite a hard schedule to follow after 2 days of tough races but soon I will be tapering for the bigger races that I have been waiting all season for!

Avesta 9km Skate

9km is a short race, but that doesn’t mean it is easier – quite the oppositie actually! On a flat course with minimal rest it was a power man’s course. You just had to work every single segment, including the downs as they were so gradual! It was good for me to really push with everything I had and I was satisfied at just how hard I forced my body work even when fatigued. I have lacked that top gear with slower tougher courses being much more prefereable, but today I felt I kept the urgency which is at least one improvement.

The result wasn’t what I was wanting, placing 6th and 15s off the podium. But the good news is that I know it is completely different on World Cup with far tougher courses and that’s what I have my sights set on. Tomorrow will be a 10km classic on a similar style of course but it’s good to have another opportunity to work on my weaknesses!

Faff, Followed by a 2hr Classic with Speeds

So the Faff part – today the boys were hopeless! I went to pick Jacko, Philpot and Dakota up from close to where they are staying and seems like it must have just been one of those days for all of them. Jacko had forgotten his sunglasses (pretty painful when eye balls freeze over on the downs at -21), but then I look at Philpot’s set up. Classic boots and skate skis… Nice mate! Whilst everyone is having a laugh at Philpot, Dakota then starts searching in his bag to discover he forgot his boots entirely! After a bit of a cursing, laughing and running around town, all was resolved, well almost… Phil still forgot his sunglasses…..

Anyway I can’t complain or laugh too hard because I’m usually the one that is the worst of the lot! I like to think I’m on the improve 🙂

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Once we were finally skiing it was amazing! Yeah, we had to re-wax a couple of times because the cold aggressive snow was ripping all the wax from our skis in less than 10kms but even still,  the perfectly prepared courses here in Falun just make training that much better! Always nice to have Teresa out there also enjoying the conditions with me – not a bad day to get off work 🙂

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Today was just 2hr classic with 10X20s speeds to try and get the body activated and working efficiently at speed ahead of this weekend’s races. Just small, fun, local races with tomorrow’s 9km skate in Avesta and a 10km classic in Hedemora. Good short races to really trial higher pace setting ahead of some pretty serious racing coming up!