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A Painful Tradition Continues: Silverstar Race Report
By:  Colin Abbott   (2010/12/15)

 The early season races at Silverstar are some of the most competitive, difficult and downright painful races I've ever had the pleasure of completing. The XCOttawa representation this year consisted of Sheila Kealey and Colin Abbott in addition to XCOttawa alumni Eva Szabo. The field this year consisted pretty much exclusively of Canadian training centers, provincial teams, national team members, the Alaska Pacific University crew and Central Cross Country. The two races this year were a classic sprint and a 15km skate individual start.

The new sprint course put together by Sovereign Lake is challenging and fun. At 1.4km, it's one of the longer sprints on the Noram circuit. There are three big climbs, a couple of fast downhills and lots of room for maneuvering. The qualifier for the men was incredibly tight with spots 10-30 finishing within 6 seconds of each other. I just barely squeaked into the heats after a tie with Steffan Lloyd (down to the 1000th of a second) for 30th spot was tipped in my favour based on CPL points. While I maintained contact with the rest of my heat for most of the course, I never felt I was in a position to make a convincing move on them and I finished the day in 30th place. Sheila qualified in 26th place. After getting knocked out of a competitive quarterfinal she finished the day in the same spot she qualified.

Day two brought a foot of fresh snow overnight and groomers going around the course two at a time until the start of the race. After the first lap every climb was turned to mush and every descent was rutted and soft. Despite feeling like I'd taken the first hill at a good pace, my legs turned to mush at about the same rate as the course. Not once in the whole race did I feel like I could get myself out of oxygen debt and back on a balanced budget. My recovery time was beyond what any downhill could supply. I buried myself on that course, put my head down and thought of the finish line. After dropping out of the same race two years ago, I couldn't let quitting become an option again. I knew I would be near the back of the pack long before I finished, but I didn't realize the company I would be keeping at the bottom of the list. It seems that a lot of other racers usually much closer to the front ran into the same problem as me and struggled throughout. I finished the day as the 42nd open man. Sheila finished the day as the 24th open woman.

For myself, it's back to Whitehorse for 3 weeks of skiing, eating and sleeping before the trials races in Thunder Bay in early January. The rest of the team is off to Mont Ste. Anne or Duntroon to race in Quebec and Ontario cups. Below are some anonymous quotes overheard from the mouths of athletes and coaches from Sunday.

"on your left!" "on your left!" "on your left!" "F**K YOU!"
"It was like swimming"
"I was ready to shoot myself out there"
"I'm going to phone cross country canada and tell them to stop holding races"
"Look at all this powder! We shouldn't have to cross country ski on days like today"

The start for my quarterfinal heat. L-R are Kevin Sandau, Drew Goldsack, Colin Rogers, Jess Cockney, Anthony Killick and Colin Abbott.

Colin (Team Yukon suit) coming around the corkscrew into the finish.

Sheila racing in the sprint.

Colin getting underway in the 15km skate.

Sheila skiing in the soft snow: note the oversized baskets.
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