If there is any disadvantage to being a skier from the Yukon it’s the remoteness; we are as far from Russia as we are the eastern provinces.
Traveling out east, I try to make the most of the trip by finding the most efficient and cost effective way to attend as many races as I can.
I take advantage of any personal connections I can find to make my stay more affordable — family, friends, friends’ friends. I’ve even gone as far as friends’ friends’ friends to shortcut a hotel.
Of the five weeks I’ve been away from home I only had to eat Super 8’s Eggo waffles for three breakfasts.
After finishing up in Thunder Bay with the Yukon Elite Squad and instead of making the 5,000 km journey home, we hopped the border, drove through the night, dodged deer and made our way to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Global warming welcomed us to the United States with a good old rain shower. Race conditions were not so hot (or too hot, rather), but it did make things more interesting. That’s one great thing about skiing; you’re not swimming back and forth in the same straight line, you’re not running the same direction around a standard track and you’re not trying to score on the same sized net. There’s something different for every race.
The first race in Minneapolis was a 10 km skate race. The track was blistering fast and the race was over in only 22 minutes. Usually a “ten k” would take 26 or 27 minutes. Whether the race is three minutes, 20 minutes, or two hours you’re still spent when you cross the finish line. I crossed the line in 25th place, but not too far from the lead and in a field of over 150 guys.
The next day the thermometer read -4°F (-20°C). I was quickly reminded of the Celsius-Fahrenheit conversion. Baffled how temperatures could change so drastically over night, I grabbed some long underwear to throw under my race suit. The racecourse was more or less the same skating rink that last week’s rain turned it into.
We stood anxiously at the start line; 150 athletes champing at the bit. It went off like a stampede: charging wild beasts, as if from The Lion King. It was hard to move. One stumble and 10 people pass you. It was about as close to the Red Bull Crashed Ice competition as you could get without wearing skates. I narrowly avoided several crashes until I met my fate on an icy corner when two other guys went down right in front of me. My teammate David Greer went on to get third place. Having a fellow Yukoner on the podium is always the next best thing to being up there yourself.
The following day Minneapolis had its coldest day in four years. Much to our disappointment the sprint race was cancelled. That put a wrap to our racing in the States. We headed back up to Ontario for… you guessed it, more races.