Andrea Dupont

Scando Racing

The Scandonavian cups sprints were the perfect lead into the World Cups in Lahti. The level of competition is a step up from NorAm racing, but a step down from World Cup. This meant that the Canadian crew got to mix it up in the sprint heats with athletes who were in the top 10 a little over a week late in the world cup. My race day started a bit slow as I chose to double the qualifier on a course that was borderline. In the heats I felt quite strong and just missed having enough grip on the final climb and ended 3rd in my heat and just out of advancing to the semi final. I finished 15th. Unfortunately I woke up with a sniffle on the morning of the second Scando sprint and sat on the sideline to ensure I would not compromise my chances of having a strong result in the Lahti World Cup 10 days later. After a few days I was back to preparing for the Lahti World cups.

 

The goal heading into Lahti was to crack the top 30 in the qualifier, which gets you into the heats. All week we were preparing on soft sloppy snow and I heading into the sprint thinking it would definitely be sloppy conditions which are not my strength. I think the entire team was thrown off because they shut the course to preserve it from breaking down, and then they salted it. So we got on the course expecting soft snow and were met with bullet proof ice. I was happy with my race, but I could definitely see the 3 seconds I needed to qualify and where I lost them on the course.

 

Post qualifier cool down with Cendrine and Dahria.

Post qualifier cool down with Cendrine and Dahria.

I think a major theme of my season has been to live in the moment in the race because you can’t prepare for every possibility. Just heading into each race not knowing what to expect but being excited to test my fitness and speed in the race. In the past I tend to enter races expecting certain things to happen, instead of entering it with a mindset of responding to how the race unfolds, and then when the unexpected happens, I have been caught off guard. But I feel like I am now physically fit enough to race hard and not need to plan each attack ahead of time. You can bring this into the everyday. You can prepare for every possibility but often times what you least expect will happen. Often it is best to master whatever skills it is you need to accomplish a task and then just head into a challenge not with a preconceived plan but with an attitude to meet the challenge with your skills mastered and ready to fight.

 

It is both frustrating and motivating at the same time to look back on a qualifier and figure out for the next time how to reel in those extra seconds, knowing that the next time won’t be for another year. This year has allowed me to finally attain the fitness I need to be at the next level. And so, I will head into the next season with skill sets that have taken me years to build and with a mindset ready to fight in each race.

 

I would like to add a special thanks to WoodPecker European Timber Framing, who came on board to support my efforts to preform on the world cup this year. This company is Bow Valley based and uses materials technology from Germany to build super efficient houses all over Canada. Check out some of their work at http://www.europeantimberframing.com

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B-Tour Take 2

About a year ago I had the opportunity to come to Europe to represent Canada at Latvian Nationals and some Scandinavian cup races while preparing for the World Cup starts in March. Unfortunately last year about a week after arriving in Europe I caught a bad chest cold, that I spent the rest of my trip fighting. Instead of feeling like I was able to test my fitness on the World Cup level, I felt like a fish out of water after not being able to train properly for several weeks.

You are not always given the opportunity to redo everything in life, so when I was offered the opportunity to join B-Tour again, jumped on the chance to my fitness once again in Europe. I am currently over in Scandinavia with a team of Canadians as we prepare for some Scando cup and world cup races. We are a team of This year on top of being super conscious about hand sanitizing before meals, I decided to have an easier training block on either side of my travel to ensure my immune system was ready to fight whatever it came in contact with. Previous years I have always done a bit more volume when I first got over to Europe to help the body feel tired enough to sleep well while dealing with jet lag.

The first week here we had warm up races at Latvian National Champs where Canada had a strong showing on the podium. It was a good day and a good chance to shake out some jet lag and prepare for much tougher races to come.

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Next weekend we will race in Madona, Latvia in distance Scando cups before moving on to Joulumae, Estonia for 2 sprint Scando cups. To give you an idea of the level of competition we expect at these Scando cups, there is apparently 90 racers signed up from Norway alone. The Scandinavian countries take these races quite seriously, so I am excited to test my speed in the sprints next week. I would expect to see anyone who didn’t quite make World Champs to be here.

Then we will have a training week leading into a weekend of World cup racing in Lahti, Finland.

Here’s to second chances!

 

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Behind Door #2

They say when one door closes another door opens. When the door closed on my chances of going to the Olympics, I did not expect that there would be anything behind door number 2 that could compare.

I started planning out the rest of my season and decided since I was the fittest I have ever been in my life and I should use my fitness while I had it. I decided that one way or another I was going to find some high level sprint races.

Initially my plan was to head over with my racing team to do some smaller races and to peak for German nationals champs at the end of my trip. Before leaving, I headed to Ottawa to finish the NorAm race series. Heading into the weekend I did not think there was any chance of me taking over the NorAm lead as I had missed some key races earlier in the year due to sickness.

A solid weekend of racing at Easterns left me a few points in the lead of the NorAm series and completely changed the rest of my season. As a sprinter, I have never been in contention for the NorAm lead, but with many of our top women at the Olympics, I was able to get some decent distance rankings. This opened up the opportunity for me to race world cup for the month of March and to race some Scando cups to prepare in February. This includes 3 World Cup sprints after having 3 weeks to adjust to Euro time. In terms of racing opportunities go, this is actually way better than going to the Olympics, as I would have only had one or two world class races and this way I have many!

I am still a bit in shock and excited for the rest of the season!

Here’s a quick summary of my new race schedule:

Madona, Latvia – Scando Cup -Skate Sprint, 10km Skate

Otepaa, Estonia – Scando Cup – Classic Sprint, 10km Classic

Lahti, Finland – World Cup – Skate Sprint, 10km Skate

Drammen, Norway – World Cup – Classic Sprint

Falun, Sweden – World Cup Finals – Classic Sprint, 15km Skiathlon, 10km Skate

Most results can be found at

http://data.fis-ski.com/global-links/calendar.html?place_search=&seasoncode_search=2014§or_search=CC&date_search=&gender_search=&category_search=&codex_search=&nation_search=&disciplinecode_search=&date_from=today&search=Search&bt=next&limit=50&bt=prev&rec_start=0

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It takes a village…

They say it takes a village to raise an athlete and I have definitely felt incredibly supported through out Olympic trials and this last week.

We had two sprint races for Olympic qualifiers from which they were selecting one women and one man to join the rest of the team that is already in Europe racing. I qualified well both days in second only a fraction of a second behind first. It was exciting racing both days in the heats, but my legs did not seem to have enough juice on the final climb.  It is a little crushing when you don’t quite have enough on race day, but it does feel good to lay it all on the line.

Sport is about training your body to get to its’ peak and then laying it all on the line. I did not realize when I set out on this journey how much I would enjoy training and I definitely did not realize how fit people at the top level were. I am happy with my effort, disappointed by missing Sochi by a small margin, but mostly feel so frick’en fit right now that I need to go race.

The race season really has only just begun. I am excited to test my fitness in the rest of the season. The original plan was to test my fitness in Sochi, but I will now find some other fast women somewhere to race. And I am confident it will be a season full of adventure.

Thanks everyone for the incredible support. Thanks especially to my beyond dedicated coaches and wax techs. Thanks Rossignol for the fast boards and Skigo for the speedy poles. And team Buff for being there on race day and beyond.

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Another season begins!

The first weekend of NorAm races of the 2013/14 season took place this past weekend in Silverstar, British Columbia. The NorAm series has 2 stops in BC before Christmas and then a weekend in Canmore that also serves as Trials for any remaining Olympic spots and other European tours.

Unfortunately this weekend coincided with an extreme cold snap that had set into the western part of the country.  With temperatures hovering around the legal limit of holding a race, I opted to skip the distance race and save my lungs and energy for a slightly warmer sprint day.

Sprint day was still brutally cold. It was one of those days that you wear multiple Buffs and you want to breath through something to warm the air a little before it hits your lungs. The perfect day for a Polar Buff… which I call the -20 Buff!

I felt like my body took a little extra time to warm up in the cold. With each heat I felt a little warmer and more ready to actually race. In my semi final, I realized the importance of lane selection in the finishing straight as there was fresh snow falling and some lanes were not being used and accumulating snow. Part of the fun of sprint racing is that it is tactical and sometimes these casual observations are what makes the final difference. After ending my semi-final stuck in a slow track full of snow, trying to make it into the final, I realized which tracks were more used and faster for the final.

I should add here, that I have an amazing wax team mostly made of parent volunteers from our club. Our skis were awesome and they definitely gave me a noticeable edge heading into the final climb of the course. After that I was able to pick the best track heading into the finish. Which all adds up to my first NorAm Podium of the season. YAY!

Thanks to all the volunteers at Sovereign Lakes for braving the cold to host this race. Us athletes only have to show up for our race, but the volunteers are out there all day.

Next stop on the NorAm circuit this weekend, a skate sprint and a classic distance 10km in Rossland, BC.

You can check zone4.ca for live timing and results.

Until next time stay warm!

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VASA Loppet Adventures

The last stop on my European trip was to Sweden for the VASA loppet. The VASA loppet is the biggest and the longest ski marathons in the world, with 16000 people racing on the big day and 60000 people racing variations of the course the week leading up to the big race day. The full course is 90km or 9 Swedish miles and travels between the towns of Salen and Mora. You might be thinking that 90km seems far for a sprinter and I would totally agree with you. But somehow sprinters also tend to do well in the long distance, it’s the middle distance where our body produces more lactate than it can deal with.

Regardless, I was excited to be a part of this big ski event and to see how my fitness would fair over 90km. The longest races I had done up to this point were a couple of 50kms in previous years, and those races boasted at most a couple hundred people.

My time is Sweden was amazing! I really could not have asked for a better setup. I stayed with a ski family in Mora, the town the race finished in, and they could not have been more perfect. The father is a well known waxer for the local club and insisted on waxing my skis for me everyday I was training. The mom would drive me to ski and do ski-mom-like things to make me feel at home. It was so nice to settle in to this Swedish family for a week after living out of hotels for a good part of the season.

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My Swedish family photo

The week leading up to the race I was able to ski what I thought were the key portions of the course:  the 3km uphill at the start, another ‘bump’ on the relatively flat profile and the last 30km. I have to say, that after skiing about 50% of the course, I was thinking that it would be a huge advantage to double pole if I could be confident that my arms would last 90km. Bear in mind that the typical course that I train for is hillier and much shorter, so I decided that I was not strong enough to double pole, at least not this year. I hear the guys that double pole this course do 3hr double pole workouts… not really something on my sprinter training plan.

Race day I was incredibly set up as 2 local clubs, Asarna and IFK Mora both helped with logistics and feeds and SKIGO provided me with wax support. I felt incredibly supported as there was someone telling me step by step what I needed to do, because when 16000 people are starting at the same time, the morning is a bit chaotic. Here is a photo of the start from one of the helicopters. Yes, this race is such a big deal in Sweden, there were 3 helicopters covering the race. Crazy how big skiing is over here!

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Start Photo

Fortunately I was given an elite seed, which meant, I had less than 500 people starting in front of me. This is important because the trail hits a bottle neck about 1km after the start. The track comes to an absolute stand still for many. Even in the elite wave, all I could do was keep my poles and skis in tight to make sure that no one broke one of my poles or skis. Here is my special women’s elite bib that entitled me to start in front of wave 1, composed of pretty fast men who probably train more for than me, who I spent the entire race just trying to hang onto.

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Bib photo

I really had no idea what to expect. I decided to treat this race as I had the 50kms I had done before: go out comfortably hard, feed as much as possible and try and hang onto a pack of guys that are a little faster than me. In the end I was so happy that I had grip wax on my skis. It definitely made it harder to hang onto people on the flats but I would make up ground easily on any sections that I could stride.

 There is so much double poling terrain I was ecstatic every time there was a hill to climb. There were somehow more hills than I remembered and surprisingly it was my legs that fatigued and not my arms. The first 60km flew by. I am not sure if I needed to feed more, or if it is just when I started to feel the effects of the race, but the last 30km was tough. I started to look at every coach holding out a feed bottle hoping they were offering it to me. My support crew starting feeding me a mix of Cola and coffee, which may sound disgusting but tasted like the best thing in the world and helped fuel me to the finish.

Quote of the day from Super Women aka Karen Messenger “Never underestimate 90km”.

I know this might not seem like a ground-breaking statement…  but sometimes when you are in good shape you underestimate challenges that any rational thinking human beings would consider ridiculous.

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I lost a few spots in my delirium in the last 30km but managed to finish as the 11th women of the day. Not too shabby for a sprinter:) Lots of pain, but lots of fun:)

Until next time I will leave you with a random innovation I came across while in Sweden… pole extensions for double pole specific races… who knows if these will all the rage in years to come.

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Funny poles

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Steep Learning Curves

At the beginning of February I was thrilled to learn that I had qualified to represent Canada at World champs in Val di Fiemme, Italy. This was one of my big goals for this season and really what I have been working towards since I have been training full time for the past couple of years.

I did not head to Europe with many expectations. I knew everything would be new and there would be many adaptations necessary to have a top performance in an entirely new environment. In addition to the World Champs sprint, I was given the opportunity to race in a World Cup sprint in the Davos 4 days before World Champs. I was so glad that I had Davos to prepare for World Champs. Davos was the epitome of a steep learning curve for what I needed to do well in a European World cup race. Between jetlag, adjusting to new wax techs and the new race set up, I felt like I was just getting the lay of the land and not actually racing. This actually set me up well for World Champs where I felt more comfortable with the set up and where I felt like I had a reasonably good race. I finished 49th at World Champs, outside of my goal of making the top 30. But I felt like I learned so much in the 2 races.

I felt like I was on an upward trend and it definitely left me craving more. I left with the sense that if I only had a little more time in the European time zone that I could make the goal of top 30 in a world cup:)

 

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December Update

So I know it has been ages since I last posted. I really struggle with the concept of a Blog being a regularly updated site:)

But this season has been eventful and it is high time that I post an update.

December went by quickly with a NorAm in Canmore, followed by 2 race weekends of World Cups in Canada. The NorAm race was on the Canmore World Cup course and was excellent prep. There were some Swedes in town for the NorAm which added to the competitive field. I was the top Canadian and felt confident in my shape heading into the 2 weekends of World Cups on home turf.

The first World Cup weekend of racing was in Quebec City, where the City put on the most exciting and fun races I have ever had the pleasure to attend or race. The course was literally lined with crowds, something we don’t normally see in north America, and there was not an inch of the course that there weren’t people cheering you on who actually knew your name.

 

I had the opportunity to do the team sprint with Kate Brennan and we had a hard fought semi and did not advance to the finals. Day 2 was the individual sprint. The atmosphere was contagious and most people were literally bopping on the start line to tunes that were blasting around the course. The level of support for North American skiers at this race was incredible. I have never seen this many ski fans in North America. Unfortunately for the Canadians, most of us did not fair well in the soft sloppy conditions. Most of us are power skiers and train mostly on rock hard ski tracks in Canmore, which many call ‘Canmore concrete’. The Quebec course, made of artificial snow and with temperatures barely dipping below zero at night, had been progressively deteriorating since its creation. This translated to only 1 Canadian making the top 30 for the qualifying rounds. For me, I felt like I had a solid effort but could feel my power disappearing into the soft snow with every push. I felt like I learned a lot and went home knowing that I needed to learn to ski efficiently in sloppy conditions. In Canmore it is easy to be lazy and only ski on perfect tracks. But really to prepare for these tough conditions, we all need to train in all conditions, especially crappy conditions. Lesson learned:)

The next weekend was World Cup races in Canmore. It was nice to race at home. It was a tough course, and I missed qualifying by only a few seconds. It is frustrating when you can see exactly where those seconds could have been. I am thankful to have 4 more World Cups under my belt and feel more comfortable with World Cups races, being just another race, with faster competitors.

Not the top 30 I was shooting for… but I felt like I could see exactly what I needed to do to get those last few seconds to get there.

 So all in all, a good start to the season.

Next up, World Champ sprint trials in Thunder Bay and Duntroon, Ontario.

 

 

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For those of you who think you’re getting too old…

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Tough Questions

How sick is too sick to sit out a race?

Although athletes lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, this is a question many of us struggle with. Now it might seem quite obvious that if you’re sick you shouldn’t race but add in years of dedication, training and a little bit of expectation and it is quite difficult to sit out a race that you have been aiming towards.

Ultimately racing is hard on your body. You push your body to the point of utter exhaustion and to crazy high lactate values that would be a sign of septic shock in a healthy human being. So naturally racing sick will cause your already stressed immune system to take another hit and most likely make you sicker.

So at what point are you no longer hurting yourself? On our team the general rule while recovering from illness is to do one hour of easy activity daily (depending on what your body is used to) until you feel healthy and then add one day before doing anything longer or harder intensity. In principle this is solid advice, in practice it can be quite tough to make that call.

Leading into nationals this year I got quite sick. I had been preparing for these races for several weeks and was excited to see the fitness gains that I had made throughout the year. So when I got sick, it was really tough to sit back and let the first few races go by without starting. By sprint day I was feeling a some better, but as the results show, I was not quite 100%.

So my season ended with a tough lesson of looking back and contemplating what I could have done differently to not get sick. It is a good reminder that being an athlete is not just about optimizing the workouts you do, it is about optimizing everything. Often times the recovery is just as important as the workout itself. To be at the top of your game you need to eat like a champ and sleep like champ.

Next up is our month to recover like a champ! For me that means no official training, just staying active and doing what I love. So… for me April is my month of crust skiing and climbing.

Happy recovery month everyone.

See y’all May 1st for the start of training season.

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