Monday, December 31, 2012

Swiss sunshine!!

We arrived late in evening last night in absolutely beautiful Val Müstair, Switzerland. Unfortunately our drive south from Oberhof was shrouded in darkness,and I am pretty sure the final two hours south of Munich, past Innsbruck, Austria into Italy and then popping in Switzerland would have been spectacular. The enjoyment of the drive was also heightened by the fact that the Audi I was in charge of driving didn't hit its until above twice the legal driving limit of most highways in North America...;-). I won't say the exact speed to save my mother a nights sleep. Once within about 50 km of our final stop we started to go through towns where the roads were definitely paved long after the homes were build. At times winding through the towns the street went down to a single lane and an almost 90 degree turn past the corner of the two storey stone building. Completely blind corners. Also, lot's of lit castles high up on the mountain side captured my imagination for when they were new! It is incredible to see this living history that far outreaches our lifetime in North America. Tomorrow will be the one and only sprint on this years Tour. I think Kikkan will win it. We will again pack up right after the race and head to Toblach, Italy for stages 4 and 5. Along with it being New Year's Eve (best wishes to all), it is also Kikkan's 30th birthday. Here are a few pictures for you from the race site this morning.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tour de Ski time!

Just a couple hours away now from the start of the Tour de Ski in Oberhof, Germany. After finally getting some freezing temperatures in Oberhof yesterday, high winds arrived in the evening which took half of our table at dinner scrambling back to the stadium. A phone call came in from the groomer that all the inflatable arches had blown across the course and most of the banner fences were down in the stadium. The wind brought with it a return to warm temps and fog.
The sport of Cross Country is changing with the arrival of Team waxing trucks. Sweden started the trend I believe in 2009, and Norway followed suit. Now there will be 6 trucks during the Tour de Ski (Sweden, Norway, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy). Finland will debut a truck in February at the World Championships.
Two years ago the Canadian team arrived at the Tour with their own bus. Now Petter Northug has come with his own. Suddenly, there isn't much parking space in the wax areas any more!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas/Germany/Picture post

We have arrived in Oberhof, Germany. Much to the race organizers dread it has been at least +5c everyday with rain and wind. The snow is melting quickly. Fortunately they had quite a bit of natural snow and have made enough snow that that race courses are fine. But the weather has been miserable for training. I have managed to fit in a couple workouts with the US team. Today Liz Stephens did some damage on what I was hoping was a Level 4 (race pace workout), it turned out to be just L3 (50km - aerobic thresold pace). I was all pumped up at doing 30 second sprints with Kikk and Holly Brooks, which was my kind to length, only to have humbled as I struggled to stay in with Liz for 6 minutes. Fortunately I outweigh her by 50lbs, and there were long downhills! The travel to Germany was a breeze. So nice to just have one flight to Europe and then just a 3 hr drive to Oberhof. 6 hour time problem! My flight to Munich from Toronto didn't start out so well though. Kikk and I were one row apart and both on the aisle which we were hoping to swap for seats together. We were on the far left side of the plane which just had a window seat and an aisle seat and my window seat buddy was a very drunk polish man that was causing a scene. I decided that the nice girl that was going to switch seats for Kikk and I to sit together didn't need to put up with him on our behalf. So I settled in for a long flight beside him. He ranted to me for roughly an hour before I managed to get my headphones on indicating that I was done listening. I actually couldn't understand most of what he was saying. The only thing stronger than his accent was the alcohol on his breathe. He was served a double gin and tonic with dinner which he had been requesting for 45 minutes. Fortunately, I had put a blanket over me because I assumed at some point he was going to throw up on himself (blaahh) and I was in very close proximity. Not 2 minutes after they served him his drink he passed out and managed to drop his hand in the drink which went everywhere. Mostly on him and partly on my blanket. Being on the road for 3 more months and unsure of my next opportunity to wash clothes I was quite thankful for that blanket. I waited about 10 more minutes until I was sure he was out cold and then I escaped to the back of the plane to request another seat. The male flight attendant felt terrible that he had served the guy the drink as the other's new he needed to be cut off so he took it upon himself to get me into first class. It didn't work out but I was moved up about 10 rows and across the plane, and slept well the rest of the flight. Here are some pictures from Christmas in Collingwood and here in Oberhof.
Big Jack and his new best friend!
Jake enjoying the snowfall = white Christmas!
Jake and Lamp Chop (aka drumstick, pork chop, butterball)
Jake and his new toy duck...ducky last about 5 minutes.
The best gift the Ellis boys could receive!
How did the cat know?
Seriously "Mr. Randall" on the table can't get worse from here ;-)
Christmas eve in Oberhof.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Kikkan and I just spent a great 6 days at my parents in Collingwood. Despite having no snow until Friday, she was able to get in some good training via bike, running shoes, and rollerskis. For the first time in my life I participated in a "spin" class at a local gym in Collingwood. If you are ever in Collingwood I recommend a stop at Tag Fitness. It's a $15 drop in but a great spot for a workout. I was skeptical about the spin class, but myself and the 7 other ladies present rocked out a great 75 min session. The entire class was scripted to a soundtrack of music with beats that matched the intensity as it ramped up and slowed down. I think I sweated off about 3 kgs, and won't sit on a bike seat comfortably for a week or so, but other than that I would do it again. We are now in the Toronto airport awaiting our flight back to Europe. This will be the final stop in North America until April. We will arrive in Munich Dec 24 at 10am local time and meet up with Andy Newell of the US ski team and then head 5 hours north in the team cargo van to Oberhof, Germany. Oberhof will host the first stop of the Tour de Ski starting Dec 29. It will begin 12 weeks of World Cup work for me. There are two single weekend breaks in their in late January and early Feb. This trip will include stops in Germany, Switzerland (twice), Italy (3 times), Czech Republic, France, Russia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. I am looking forward to getting back onto the World Cup scene. With my 10 day dose of antibiotics almost complete I should be back in action for the WC lifestyle just in time for the first races. Pictures to come from this past week hanging with the family and friends, playing with big Jake (my parents 8 month old Golden), and opening some early Christmas gifts. Wishing a Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rest Day

If I had forgotten how beautiful Canmore was, it is not the case anymore. The World Cup stop here has run very smoothly, with great conditions and weather. It's amazing to see what countries thrive when in Canmore. It is the 4th World Cup start here since 2005 and there really is a consistency to who stands on the podium. Yesterday's results with two German's on the podium. Tobias Angerer of Germany won here 7 years ago, and was third yesterday. It has been a while since a German was on a World Cup podium. This result was great for the sport of Cross Country skiing. Germany is by far the largest television market. On the women's side Anne Kylloenen of Finland recorded her first ever podium in second place and it was the first podium for a Finn since the World Championships in February 2011. Kikkan continued to ski strong finishing 6th yesterday. She finished in a pack that stretched from 3rd - 7th. She made a move on the final climb but put herself under and it cost her on the long homestretch. 6th place ties her best ever classic distance result. It's no fluke anymore, and she is definitely not just a sprinter. Pretty exciting to see her in the mix each weekend. What Canada lacks in a deep history of hosting World Cups, we have made up for with the enthusiasm of hosting. Quebec, brought thousands to watch an "event" more so than just a ski race, and celebrated with champagne and the anthem on the podium. Neither occurred on the previous World Cup stops. Here in Canmore the annual stop of the CP Rail Christmas Train was timed for last nights awards for the top 10 skiers from each gender. This train travels all the way across the country fully decorated with Chrismtas lights and stops in towns all along the way. There is a band on the train that plays on a stage that folds out from one of the freight cars. It was a huge hit for the athletes and spectators to see the train arrive and then go up on stage for the awards. Unique for a World Cup for sure.
My colleague Michal Lamplot and I looking official during the Quebec World Cups.
German Trio Katrin Zeller, Hanna Kolb, and Denise Hermann with Cross Country Canada's mascot Klister. Sault Ste. Marie's own Brady Dunne in the costume.
Vibeke Skofterud of Norway trying to climb Klister
Kikkan with Tim Tscharnke, yesterday's winner. His first ever World Cup podium, and it was a win on his birthday. The crowd sang happy birthday while he was on the Christmas Train.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Next stop on the World Cup, Canmore, Alberta. A place I came many times to race myself , but I have to admit I am more than happy to just watch from the sidelines nowadays. It is such a beautiful location and the snow conditions are great. I am continuing to suffer from my attempt to take in all aspects of my World Cup experience. My cold has not improved at all and it is now limiting the experience so it is time to rest whenever possible. Quebec did the country proud whether they meant to or not with their World Cup stop. There was an estimated 50,000 people over the two day race series. The food was unreal. I highly recommend brunch at the Chateau Frontenac, and the walk through the old city. Three races on the schedule here in Canmore, with the first one beginning Thursday with mass start 10/15km classic races. Skate sprints again on Saturday and a skiathlon on Sunday.
Same computer. Different hotel with a view.

Friday, December 7, 2012


It is just 2hrs now until the start of the team sprint here in Quebec. I am sitting in the hotel across the street twiddling my thumbs while I wait for my new computer to downland the needed video editing program that I need. Not sure how I always end up with jobs that revolve around computers when I know so little about how to use them. Good thing I am married to someone who loves computers! I have to say that I am really impressed with the organization of the Quebec sprints. The organizing committee Gestev, are the ones that put on the Crashed Ice competitions in Niagara Falls, and here in Quebec as well as the Snowboard World Cups and Mtb World Championships twice in Quebec and the annual World Cup stop. They know events and are quick to learn about xc skiing of which they knew very little about. The course looks great, and now we just have to hope for spectators. Last night, for the third week in a row FIS has been invited to a opening dinner for dignitaries. This one was hosted by Gestev at the Quebec Parliament building. I missed the Quebec "Prime Minister's" speech.
We made sure to have a drink or two on the separatist budget. Again it is a value amount of social time. I had a great conversation with the Kazakhstan coach which will make for getting interviews with his athletes much easier down the road. However, that progress didn't stave off my headache this morning! Here is my view while I get ready for the races to begin today. Hopefully the computer on the right uploads this editing system in the next one hour before I have to head across the street to the finish area.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

La Belle Province - Quebec

I arrived in Quebec just before 1 am this morning. Wrapping up a solid 24 hrs of travel. Despite delays on three flights, and as a result of the delays being able to catch two of them (which featured two mad dashes through Frankfurt and Toronto airports) all my bags made it. On my flight from Frankfurt to Toronto we were delayed on the runway for two hours leading into the 9hr flight. However, we as passengers were treated to a great show by a Toronto based band called the Lemon Bucket Orchestra, who had just wrapped up their month long Eastern European tour. It was the happiest group of people I have ever been on a plane with during such a delay. Here is a youtube clip I put together of the band on our flight filmed with my phone. Ironically, this very band was on our Air Canada in-seat entertainment, under Canadian Movies with their documentary called "Let's Make Lemonade".
Bedtime finally came at 3 am, but by then it was 10am Finland time...a couple sleeping pills fixed that problem. Warm weather has stripped away the winter time feel and beauty of Quebec City. Nonetheless the race course is ready to go, and the city still has it's old world charm. I have been fortunate to get a room on the 22nd floor of the downtown Hilton. Providing an incredible evening view.
And not a bad spot to do some computer work.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pack it up

The first two weeks in northern Scandinavia have absolutely flown by. Although at the same time my trip over here feels like a long time ago. I have just finished packing and will be headed to Quebec in the morning. Will be a pretty long day of travel. Kuusamo - Helsinki - Frankfurt - Toronto - Quebec City. But it will give me plenty of time to catch up on some sleep. The last two evenings I have been doing research in the local night club to study what happens when the quiet and reserved Finnish people mix with alcohol. I have come to the conclusion that they become the most unaggressive staggering drunks I have ever met. It's been a blast and I feel like the know the people better. It's been amazing how many Finns have a connection to Canada. Last night I met a guy who through a Rotary exchange in high school live in Owen Sound, Ontario (1 hr from where I grew up). Not exactly a hot bed for Scandinavian culture. Once he found out I was from the air he wanted to talk Canada all night. He is now the CEO of a company out of Helsinki that is a big sponsor of the Williams F1 racing team. Another Finn I met was born in Finland raised in Thunder Bay, worked in Scarborough and retired back to Finland. With Kikkan's racing success, the evolution of my job on a daily basis and a couple of nights on the town it's been a great trip to Northern Finland. I found out today that we are only 40km from the Russian border. My regular phone will be turned back on tomorrow and until Dec 23 I will be able to be reached if needed at 907.360.9653. Time for bed.