This weekend I made my way to St-Jerome (north of Montreal) for the fourth Quebec cup. I stayed with my old club, Skinouk, and we co-operated on testing and waxing skis. The Saturday was a classic sprint. Not exactly my specialty but I figured I should do them and gain experience if I were there. There was a new little hill on the course and the conditions were slow enough for very few people to go without kick wax. Interestingly more junior B and junior A skiers went without kick wax than the senior men.
The qualifications were typical for me as I struggled to find the timing to sprint fast, striding or double poling. Everyone made it in the rounds as they separated the juniors and the senior men. The quarterfinal was the only race where I felt on top of my game which is surprising as I had decided to double pole the whole thing in a desperate attempt to pass for once beyond the quarters. At last I could go out with an energetic technique. At this point it was already about two o'clock and I was kind of deceived to have had a good lap when we were told everyone was passing to the semis. On the start line I figured I would do the same as in the quarters. The horn went and I started double poling too wide which made my left shoulder cramp up for some reason. This has happened roller skiing when I'm not reaching forward enough. I noticed what was wrong and corrected my arm position but it was too late. I struggled to put any strength in the poles for about 400m then the feeling went away. On a 1100m course, the race was pretty much over for me so I made my way to the finish and hoped for a better B final. As the B final started I was in a very bad line but managed to stick with everyone. Until the second hill that is when I started herringbone running and proceeded to sticking my left pole on the wrong side of my ski. I tripped and they were gone once again. I'm not a sprinter extraordinaire but I've made huge progress this year. Currently I need good kick and hard tracks to tap into that potential. During the night and over the course of the morning, about 15 cm of snow fell and I didn't exactly have killer skis. Another sprint day, a little more experience and maybe eventually I'll get the hang of it.
Sunday featured a 10 k skate race. This race is the real reason I made this trip. Ever since the season started in Silverstar, this was my third distance skate race. Distance skate is by far my best and favorite event yet I've only done three in 15 starts this season. I wanted to do two other Quebec cups featuring skate races but I wasn't feeling very rested or had a cold. Saturday's long sprint day with a ton of waiting had taken its toll and I didn't feel very optimistic at the start but I'd do my best. The course was a very narrow 2.5k loop to be repeated four times. Most of the course had a large number of turns, short dowhills and short uphills; the longest climb was maybe 50 m long. Once again not my forte as I prefer a long 1.5 k uphill then a fast downhill and a little flat in the stadium if I have to race track style. Cross-country should really be on 5k or more laps (quite a few skiers and too few course organizers seem to agree these days) but I doubt St-Jerome has more than about 7.5 k of trails total, most of which are not raceable.
Open men was the last category to start. We went off in beautiful weather racing in nothing but a race suit. No tuques, thick gloves or baselayers. Weather predictions were very unprecise and the weather had warmed quite a bit faster than expected. Right off the start I knew my skis were waxed on the cool side and hoped this would not set me back too much. The start was given and more so than usual, everyone was fighting for a good spot before the trails quickly narrowed. I had a good start and snuck in about fifth despite being seeded further than that. I quickly noticed that the skis were not quite up to par with the competition yet they were far from being bad. Two skiers crashed up front in the big downhill. Big is relative but it had 3 turns all of which were shear ice or a 6 inch snow bank by the time we were racing. The last corner started easy and then became a 90° turn into another direction. It was off camber in the wrong direction and you were propelled in deep powder if you were able to miss the huge tree trunk.
The race went on and by the second lap a lead group and a chase group had formed. I went ahead of the chase group and tried to reel in the leaders that were not far away. The snow was deep and soft everywhere but the stadium and this made it hard to catch up as it was a little slow. I was eventually passed on the third lap but managed to regain one lost position.
It all translated to an 8th place which is very respectable considering the time differences and the depth of the field. I was ahead of or very near to people who would take 2 minutes or more on me last year so I can't complain. In the end it was probably one of my more solid results this year. I hope this keeps up as Nationals and next season could be pretty good for me.