Monday, 17 December 2007

Haywood NorAm Cup - Days, 3,4, and 5

I have a bit of catching up to do. Day 3 was a day off, in honour of my birthday! Okay, maybe not, but it was good to have an "almost" day off.

There was still a course to ski and a captains meeting to be held, but other than that, Day 3 was uneventful. Except for the cold! It was still in the -20's!. There is an incredible amount of snow here, as you can see in this photo of the timing hut. Have a look at the snow piled on the roof!

On top of the snow they already had, a storm blew through on the last day (we were able to finish the event, though) and dumped even more snow. The storm was so bad, Trish and I had to stay an extra night before hitting the road.

The facilities continue to impress me. The stadium has lighting, which means the volunteers can get set up the night before an event and not rush around trying to get the stadium set up just before the event. Also, there is a place for the volunteers to go warm up while running an event. I think this is hugely important, since with out the volunteers, there wouldn't be any events.

Of course the volunteers are in it for the athletes and there is nothing as rewarding as seeing them perform to their topmost ability and enjoying the event.

Day 4 saw the continuous pursuit event where the skiers start in the classic style and change over to the "freestyle" (which is almost always a skate technique). This usually requires a change of gear. Skiers place their skate gear in the exchange boxes, then after their prescribed distance in classic style, they enter the exchange area to change over their gear and continue the race in the skate style. There is one time for the whole race, so changing over quickly is key.

One enterprising coach handed out skate poles to his athletes at the top of the hill before the stadium, saving them precious seconds on the change over (they changed on the downhill portion prior to entering the stadium). A couple of skiers thought this unfair, but there is nothing in the rules that say you cannot change poles on the course (or use skate poles during the classic portion, for that matter). The temperature was warmer than the sprints and surprisingly, the Ski Patrol reported a number of black fingers and toes. I think the extra distance made for worse exposure for wind chill and resulting frost bite. Racing gloves do not afford much protection! Results from the Continuous Pursuit race one Zone4 are here.

The event for Day 5 was a classic-style middle distance event, which ranged from 2.5 km for the "midget" category up to 20 km for the "open men" category. The weather took a turn for the worst, with a blizzard warning issued from Environment Canada. The temperature was a balmy -13 C, but there was even more frostbite than the day before. High winds and exposure over a longer distance (i.e., longer time) dramatically increased the risk of frost bit and I saw a lot of white patches on skiers faces, especially the younger skiers. I was disappointed to see so many of them in racing gear. I don't think they can generate the heat while competing that the elite athletes do. The "buffs" (you can see some in the photo below and go here for info) can help, but I really think parents and coaches need to step in and provide more directed guidance on appropriate clothing.

Its not just the athletes who need to dress properly. So do the volunteers!. I found the NEOS overshoes to be awesome. They are very warm and offer a high degree of improved safety since you can wear them over ski boots (which are notoriously slippery). More information on NEOS is here and results from the day are here.

The event was very well organized and congratulations are due to the event organizing committee. It is obvious this team has run this caliber of event many times. More photos from the event are here.


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Haywood NorAm Cup - Day 2

Sprints were the order of the day, as was the cold. Today was a bitterly cold day. It was -25C at 7:30, so the Jury met a couple of times to decide if we should postpone or keep on time. Fortunately, at 9:15 it was -20 and at race time (9:30), we were just under the wire at -19. The races went off with almost no issues. There was one late start that required a quick Jury decision and finish that was no more than 1 cm between two finishers, requiring a photo judging. It was my first X-C photo finish and was an indication of how close a number of the sprints were today.

Ian Murray from Nova Scotia had a good round of sprints. He finished 9th out of 31 in the Open Men class in the qualifying round, and was just edged out and finished second in the B Final. The qualifying results on the Zone4 web site are here and the final results are here. Despite the cold, the kids still found time to play in the snow, a time-honoured tradition at every ski race I've ever been to!

After a short meeting to prepare for the continuous pursuit race on Saturday, I headed down to Petite Champlain with Trish for a great meal at the Lapin Sauté. It was still very, very cold, but after a nice warm meal we went for a short walk to look at the lights. The area has wonderful character that fits nicely with the season.


Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Haywood NorAm Cup - Day 1

The drive up was a lot shorter than I thought. It is 1,000 km from Halifax to Quebec City, but it only took 9.5 hours of driving. Not realizing it would be so short, we stopped at Chateau Edmonston in Edmonston, NB. It turns out:

1. Edmontson is only 3 hours away from Quebec City, so the stop isn't really worth it if you leave early enough, and

2. The beds at this hotel are terrible, so we didn't sleep anyway. We would have been better off driving straight through.

Fortunately, the Hotel Normandin in Quebec City is much, much nicer!

NorAm Cup #2The Haywood NorAm Cup is being held at the Myriam-Bédard Biathlon Center. This is my first NorAm cup as ATD and what a great place to get in this season's "first tracks! It was quite cold, but the snow was fresh and there is a nice, solid base down. Grooming today should set the base up quite nicely for the sprints tomorrow. The organizing committee has things well in hand. I'm sure they've done this more than once!. I had a chance to pop up and meet them ahead of the first Captain's meeting as well as take a peek at the team wax rooms. Quite an impressive facility.

NorAm Cup #1

It will be an early morning tomorrow. The OC is on site from 6:00 a.m. onwards. I'm looking forward to the event, which will run from 9:30 to about 3:00. Hopefully the athletes will have fun.


Saturday, 8 December 2007

Start of the Season...

Trish and I are off to Quebec City to the Haywood NorAm Cup cup event. It should be a fun one and my first as ATD at a big event. In the mean time, we'll be thinking of everyone as you prepare for the the upcoming holidays. All the best!!