Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been around much the past couple years. In some ways, thinking I still lived here isn't all that unreasonable. I've popped in every couple months to ski, race Easterns, crash athletic banquets, canoe trip and generally take advantage of the people who actually live here. It's been so fantastic that I decided to come back! I should back up. What the heck have I DONE in three years? Mostly ski, I guess.
I left Ottawa over three years ago. In some ways this time turned into a three year long road trip of epic proportions. I've done a lot of living out of my trusty duffle bag, a lot of sleeping in tents, on floors, and in hotel rooms from the Czech Republic to Arizona to Alaska. I've lived in Whistler for a year and Whitehorse for two, though I never really spent all that much time in either place.
My time at the Callaghan Valley Training Centre was incredibly valuable to what I've come to think of as my "ski education". Learning about skiing has, at times unwittingly, been an overarching theme of my life. At CVTC I learned how to do a proper warmup before strength training. What questions to ask a coach to get the most out of him or her. Why I bother to check my heartrate while training and resting. What the benefits of different workouts are.
Most of all, I gained perspective on the philosophy of skiing from a new coach and team. The philosophy I learned at CVTC goes roughly as follows: To get better, you have to train more. In order to train more you have to rest more. You can only absorb as much training as you let yourself absorb. Therefore, rest in proportion to your training. Intensity and strength are key components of training. Incorporate some of each at LEAST once a week. The harder the intensity, the worse it should feel. Find the right feel for each intensity. Zone 3 should feel "good, efficient", zone 4 should feel "tough but sustainable" and by maximal intensity you should feel "unsustainable pain".
Following this philosophy for a year led to my best skiing to date. However, this philosophy was lacking one component: lifestyle. Life outside of skiing needs to be fulfilling, fun and purposeful. One cannot survive on skiing alone. This realization led to a big change for me at the end of that ski season. In 2012 the Yukon Elite Squad was formed. 5 men from the Yukon, Knute Johnsgaard, Fabian Brook, John Parry, David Greer and myself decided that living in the Yukon to train for skiing would provide that "lifestyle" piece missing by most of us previously.
This led to a whole other piece of my ski education: how to form a team. Here's a rough outline: You have two options 1. You become an entirely new entity unaffiliated or loosely affiliated with a previously existing team or sport governing body. 2. You associate yourselves with a previously existing team/sport governing body and work with them for race support, training and coaching. We chose option 2. It's cheaper to work with something that's already been established and has funding sources in place for paying coach salaries, coach expenses and providing race support.
For comparison, XCOttawa is a type 1 team. Benefits of a type 1 team include: independence in coach selection, selection of athletes by athletes, dedicated coach/support for the team (if the $ is in place to do so) and the opportunity to carve out your own purpose and mission.
Regardless of the type of team, there are a few things required for it to work: -An agreement between members; when is it just a bunch of friends training, and when does it become a "team”? After pondering this over, I believe it becomes a team when you have concrete obligations to each other that you respect, when you have a shared story that you can identify with and connect to, when you depend on each other for your success and do what you can to help each other succeed. -Money. Either through private sponsors, government funding or personal funds, you need to pay the bills somehow. -Support. You need people to make a team successful. Techs, coaches, hosts, officials and sponsors are key pieces to the puzzle of a successful team. -Knowledge. Who do you hire as a coach? How do you know if they're any good? How are you supposed to train? Do you know handily placed people in ski towns that have floors you can sleep on? -Suits. Don't underestimate this. A good suit makes a statement about the spirit as well as the body of the skier. -Motivation. Get after it. EVERY DAY. Be passionate about your team. This may seem simple, but a really successful team has to make a lot of compromises. You've committed to each other, and training is your first priority. Great. That means everything else in life comes secondary to training and racing. That includes school, work, boyfriends/girlfriends and other interests. Not an easy task.
XC Ottawa has proven itself as a great way to organize a team for 14 years now. The independent, athlete-focused nature of XC Ottawa is very similar to the Yukon Elite Squad. My previous experience on XC Ottawa helped convince me that YES was a viable idea from the start. It's been a surprisingly easy transition for me after three years away from Ottawa.
This leads back to now. Why am I here, in Ottawa? Part of it is money running out from funding sources dedicated to skiing. Part of it is a desire to complete my undergraduate degree from Carleton University. Part of it is the realization that I now hold something like a Masters degree in skiing and somehow want to learn more. Time to start working on my Doctorate.
The Yukon Elite Squad is the team I will be primarily racing for this winter. I helped to create it and it's a project I still feel passionately about. XC Ottawa has kindly let me re-join the team for training sessions this fall. It has been great to see so many familiar faces to train with in Ottawa and it comes close to making the thought of rainy November bounding and rollerski sessions bearable.