We just finished unloading all the skis, about 80 pairs, in front of the wax room in Newfoundland when a large rumbling sound caught everyone off guard. People dove for safety as an avalanche of snow slid off the roof of the wax room, burying our skis and poles under three feet. Luckily our equipment was left intact.
Starting off the race series at the 2014 Haywood Ski Nationals in Corner Brook was the team-sprint.
A team-sprint is a two-person relay where each skier does three laps of a 1 km course. It was a classic race, but my teammate Colin Abbott and I chose to double-pole the course on skate skis.
You can’t stride on skate skis so we had to rely completely on our arms. Skate skis are faster because they don’t have grip wax; the hope was that the time gained by having faster skis would be greater than the time lost on the up hills, when grip is nice to have. We faired pretty well against the opposing striders and finished third, one second behind the winning team.
The next day I won my first individual medal in the open division at nationals with a third place in the classic.
Our team had awesome skis. We raced on zeros, a kind of wax-less ski for very specific snow conditions when there just isn’t any grip wax that works.
After a day of rest, the trails were set for the 15 km skate race. Four laps of the steep 3.75 km course made my legs feel like lead, and I finished a disappointing 17th.
The sprint was a much better day for me.
I had the fastest qualifying time out of anyone and passed easily through my quarter and semi-final races. In the final round it came down to a photo finish where Graham Nishikawa took the win by a boot length.
Second place was like gold for me because Graham is someone I’ve looked up to for a long time, and I’ve learned a lot from him. It was also the first time ever that there has been two Yukon men on the podium in the same individual race at the Nationals.
The grand finale of the Haywood Ski Nationals is the 50 km: one of the most prestigious races, a true test of endurance. I usually only get the opportunity to race a 50 km once or twice all year so it’s always exciting when the time comes.
When the gun goes, 80 people scramble off the start-line to get in good position. People want to be near the front to avoid crashes and tangle ups, but no one wants to actually lead the race because the tracks are faster and you use less energy being in someone’s draft.
The pack of skiers got smaller and smaller as the race went on, and by 40 kilometres I was the one making the pack one less. It took about two hours of racing before my muscles started cramping and I had to drop off the pack to avoid “hitting the wall.”
If you try and hang in there too long, you can blow up so hard that you’ll lose minutes in the last kilometre instead of a few seconds for the last ten kilometres. I paced it well and skied to 6th place.
The Yukon won a record 19 medals. What a great way to end the season.