Good day to all!
The Sigge's P'ayakentsut for those of you who do not know is a ski event (or Loppet) which Sigge's the nordic specialty shop which I have called home for employment over the last four and a half years has been the title sponsor for since it's inception. This was the third year of the inaugural event and it just keeps getting better. From the amount of skiers who participate, to the awards and smoothness of how it is organized, the P'ayak as it is becoming known as for short has quickly become the largest loppet in Western Canada. I can not take any credit for helping this event become what it is today, but I will continue to support it and share it with as many racers and new skiers as I can. The beauty of this event does not rest in the epic scenery of the Whistler Olympic Park/Callaghan Valley but more so in the fact that skiers of all ages and abilities are encouraged to participate. It follows so closely to the fact that no matter how old or experienced you are with the sport of cross country skiing there is an event which can cater to your needs and abilities. There are several events during the day for children as well and this year there were over 100 children partaking in their fun activities. For the adults or the superstar youngins there are three different event which can be done on either classic or skate skis; there's the 15km for those who are just starting out, looking for speed or just looking for fun, the 30km for those who are speedy but also have some endurance and then the big ole' 50km event for the champions of the sport.
Being it that my main sport is running I chose to do the 30km event. I did it last year and felt as though there would be room for improvement. The first year I attempted the 50km event and ended up with one of my only DNF's ever. After completing the Victoria Marathon in 2010 I was sure I had the fitness to complete it. Little did I know at the time how important technique is to this sport. (As it is with many others) My arms burnt out and I ended up exploding into a million pieces of spandex on the side of the trail at 38km. There is a lot of elevation gain in that one and the course was the toughest ever on the first year. I have come a long way technically and spent more time working on technique this year as compared to distance training.
In the shop we deal with many different companies and brands which we choose to have in our shop based on how well they will perform for our customers and the feedback we receive as well as how well we do in sales with their brands. The brands are brought to us by representatives and they are the face of the brands within our shop. Our two main ski suppliers are Fischer and Salomon. Salomon clothing has been great for us in the last few seasons and their boots have always been a hit with the North American market. Fischer skis have always had a global stronghold on sales by numbers and their skis speak for themselves. Salomon's Ski program has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last ten years as well as other brands and its safe to say now that a top end ski from any company will be an excellent experience underfoot. Each brand will do their best at saying why and how they are better than the other but one thing has become clear to me. Outstanding customer service, in addition to excellent quality products must be combined in order to win me over to make a purchase. Salomon and especially Chris Center their rep have been a top notch example of both of these and race day was no exception to the rest of the year.
I spent so much time and energy layering the wax into my Salomon Equipe 10 Skate skis the days before the P'ayak. I had never invested so much time or effort into making them race ready as prior to today it was merely a recreational event for me. I was convinced I had the speediest skis on the start line. I did not want to wear off my wax during warm up so I asked Chris if I could borrow some of the brand new 2013 Equipe 10's. He didn't even bat an eyelid and hastily grabbed me the slickest pair from his quiver. These were a ski which I hadn't yet tried called the Soft Ground. They have a cambered tip which is a bit softer for when the snow is not hard packed. He assured me this would be a great ski for the conditions out on the course that day. I normally ski on a 182cm ski and he gave me some 192's. I have never been comfortable on a ski of such length as they are usually too much for me to handle. I figured they would do for the warm up. I strapped my SLAB Skate Pro Boots into the Pilot Equipe bindings and started off. Well I almost fell on my face as they were sticking hard to the snow. "Woah!" I exclaimed to Chris, "What the heck are these things so slow for?" "Those are brand new." He chuckled. "You might want to peel the cellophane off the pre waxed bases before you go!" New for 2013, Salomon is shipping their skis from the factory with a Low fluorinated wax treated base protected with cellophane. Usually new skis take a lot of waxing work before they are race ready for speed, so needless to say I was a bit skeptical about how effective this might be. During my warm up, not only was I surprised at how stable they were, but my gosh they were fast. I came back after a couple of kilometres and exclaimed how excellent they were to Chris. He told me to race them. I am a racer who firmly believes it is a serious offence to change your game plan so close to an event but I figured I would put mine on and compare them before making any final decision. It didn't take long to notice how much more stable I felt in these conditions on the new 2013 SLAB Soft Grounds. I told Phil Villeneuve (50km winner and Salomon sponsored athlete) that I wanted to race them so he handed me some of his Start Wax Pure Fluorocarbons which I crayoned onto the base and rubbed in with my palm as there were no clean corks around. Out of the box with three minutes of prep, the skis were 30km race ready.
twoonie race series at Cypress mountain. We encouraged one another to keep the pace up and stay strong. By the end of the first lap we had all separated. Colin had lost us and Mike couldn't climb as fast as I. As I approached the second lap I could hear the familiar and comforting sound of race announcer Steve King as he spouted of many facts of the passing racers. I knew the podium was out of reach but the chance for a cash prize was still available if I could get my tiring butt up that start hill the fastest for the prime. It was a race within a race. I cruised through the line quickly after exchanging water bottles and the thought of going for it was in my mind. As soon as I was on the hill my muscles started to ache and I realized not only did I not have enough steam to push the tempo, but I could barely maintain the speed I had going up that hill again. It was now a race against the clock and to maintain my overall position. There were many different times of pain and doubt going through the last lap. I took my gel earlier than I had planned on the flats as my body was asking for fuel. I was drinking a lot more fluids than I am used to as well. This seemed to be just enough to keep me moving steadily along and whenever my body wanted to quit I had to remind myself of the techniques which I had been practicing to use my entire body instead of burning out parts. As I passed skiers who were in the 15k or part of the 50, I sputtered out words of encouragement between breaths to try to alleviate my own pain and theirs in hopes of sharing good energy. The final few kilometres were very tough and I had one last surge into the finish line. I caught my breath and moved through to congratulate all of my fellow skiers.
Post race celebrations and food were wonderful in the sun. I went for a warm down run back onto the course to cheer on some skiers up that last bugger of a hill. Awards went down well with lots of skiers winning great prizes including cash from Fischer, Salomon Skis and many trophies and medals. I came out in 2nd place in the men's 25-29 year age group as the age on race day was calculated as your age as of December 31st 2012. Had I been in the 30-34 year age group, I would have placed first. No complaints at all as I completed the goals I had set for myself in this event, Top ten (7th) overall and take 8 minutes off of last year's time. I am now ready for Marathon training. There will be some short fast races, plenty of VFAC workouts, The Vancouver Sun Run 10k and BMO Fools run Half marathon to get me in shape for the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May.