Monday, March 4, 2013

The Magic of the Shirt....Ski Mountaineering World Championships

I have a Nike base layer shirt. It either brings me incredible luck or disaster. I first took notice of this shirt’s magical powers after I wore it while winning the Footstock running marathon in 2006. I’d entered simply for a quality training race leading up to an Ironman Canada berth. Long story short, I ended up winning. In the ensuing years I’ve tried to somehow relive the magic of that special day, yet as far as I recall it hasn’t happened. Apparently, there was only one good race in that Nike shirt’s luck arsenal.

The shirt’s last chance was the Ski Mountaineering World Championships teams race in Pelvoux France. I even told my race partner and roommate, Peter Knight about the shirt’s history. Unfortunately, the black Nike once again didn’t deliver, so never again will I wear it in a race.

The day started out a bit dubious as I barely made it to the race venue. My teammates had been there a full week in advance to fully scope out the course, country and ski treasures. I on the other hand was stuck in Torino, Italy. I’d been in Schladming, Austria to support my good friend Jan Hudec at his world championships-Alpine skiing (a slightly larger affair with over 100,000 spectators and a world wide audience. Jan did his country proud, finishing both his races as the top Canadian, yet was disappointed when he didn’t achieve a podium finish). After stressing out for 12 hours waiting in the Torino airport, I had to go back to my hotel room after the plane my ride FINALLY got on, had a mechanical-cancelling the long awaited flight. Incredible bad luck all around. Fortunately, the next day, he did arrive so we could make the short 2 hour drive to our remote ski venue.

Reaching the destination the next afternoon I skipped the opening ceremonies to get a short ski in on the course just hours before I had to start the race which I’d been labouriously preparing for the past several months.

It was a tough course with the first climb sending us roughly 1600 vertical metres upward (4000+ ft.). Being a world championship I didn’t hold back. I had a heart rate monitor on and was trying to race steadily, but it’s hard to hold back, especially when it doesn’t seem that hard. However, about halfway into the climb my engine started crashing. I don’t know if it was the pace, the stress of the last couple of days, the diet that wasn’t super good in the week leading up to the race or the aura of that black Nike shirt, but in any case, my day was done. Unfortunately, we still had a lot of real estate to cover before the finish.

I still owe my race partner a steak dinner. He pulled out the tow cord and helped me through the rough parts. I owe him a big debt. There was a lot of disappointment, especially when you start counting up all the hard hammer workouts that were done especially for this particular race. However, I summed it up at lunch that day to our team leader. I told him that "you take what the day gives you." For every great race, there’s usually about 5 or so you wish you could forget. Of course you want that good one to come on the big days. And maybe that’s what makes great competitors so good. They’re able to put it together on those big days when it really counts.

I had 2 other races during the championships-the sprint and the vertical race. The sprint I’d like to get back. For some reason I didn’t push hard enough. All I’m going to say about that. The vert was a 600m climb that took about ½ hour. I was 4 minutes back of our best Canadian (and top North American). A decent result for me. I was satisfied. I didn’t beat a lot of country’s skiers, but I wasn’t last either.

So I figure my international ski career is over.... at least on the world cup level. However, we did go to a small town in France where they hold the "Super Bowl" of skimo, the Pierra-Menta, a 4 day skimo stage race. Looks pretty intriguing. I`ll keep ya posted.

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