Winter Down Under

Perfect winter conditions. That is what I was promised before I made the decision to travel 12,000 KM to New Zealand. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Before this trip the farthest South I had ever been was New York City. So, For the first time ever, I flew South far past the Big Apple to, ironically, find winter. I was joined by 6 of my teammates from across Canada as well as the Alberta World Cup Academy coach, Chris Jeffries. 24 hours after leaving Canada, we arrived in Queenstown, NZ. We then packed 7 duffels, 4 ski bags and 7 bodies into a rental van and drove the twisty, windy and puke inducing mountain road that led us to our new home, the Snow Farm. The Snow Farm is literally what it sounds like: lots and lots and lots of snow… AKA heaven for cross-country skiers!

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Enjoying the bluebird skies and mountain views
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Early morning skis
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Fresh corduroy
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Sunsets did not disappoint

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With 45km of pristine trails accessible right from our doorstep, the set-up could not have been more perfect. Not having to travel to and from workouts and having meals prepared for us really optimized our recovery between workouts and was a huge contributing factor to the quality of the training block. When I was not skiing, in the gym or refuelling at the buffet, I had plenty of time to do stretching and mobility sessions, take much needed long naps, catch up on homeworkand even squeeze in some episodes of the O.C. Although the Snow Farm is isolated, I never had to worry about being entertained because my teammates provided all the entertainment I needed. On and off the trails, we had so much fun together, even when things were not going perfectly to plan we were able to laugh it off and make it work.

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Typical mid workout pose
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Over the course of the 3 weeks spent in NZ we had a lot of time to work on our technique. As much as rollerskiing is a great alternative to skiing, it does not perfectly imitate skiing on snow. Normally before the race season starts, I only spend a couple of weeks skiing on snow, most of that in November, when the focus is on intensity rather than volume. Having 3 to 4 hours every day to focus on technique was a truly unique opportunity. Each day we would spend some time on snow taking video, doing drills and skiing behind each other to observe each other’s technique. In the evenings, we would look over video from the day and give constructive feedback. A common sentence in the camp became “it’s time to step it up” (in a very enthusiastic voice). We also had a few opportunities to test out our new technique at higher speed during Z3 intensity and sprints. Overall, I think we all made some huge gains and I am really excited to see it all pay off when Canadian winter comes around!

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This sheep kindly accepted to take a selfie with me. Thanks sheep.
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We visited a sheep farm in Queenstown on our day off!
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We took a boat to the sheep farm
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We went to the famous Fergburger in Queenstown. It was delicious
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MORE SHEEP!!!

I think that the best part of the camp, and what made it so productive, was the great team dynamic. Recently I realised that the biggest and most important thing when it comes to a happy and positive team, is having modest team members. I think that it’s pretty much impossible to always get along perfectly with every single one of your teammates, but being welcoming and humble towards everyone is the first step in making a team work (and the dream work). In an individual sport, it is extremely hard to put our competitive spirits aside when we are not racing, especially when the teammates we train so hard with over the course of the training season are also the ones we want to beat once winter comes around. But the truth is, no matter who you are, there will always be someone better than you at something. As soon as you’re able to admit this, you are opening the door to a new learning opportunity because instead of looking at what your teammates are doing wrong, you see what they are doing right. When you start appreciating your teammates strengths and asking them for feedback this not only boosts their confidence but will also help make you a better skier. I am still not perfect in this department, but I think that this realization is a HUGE step in becoming a better teammate.

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It is thanks to generous donors, sponsors and grants like the one I received from La Capitale and Fondation de l’athlète d’excellence du Quebec that opportunities like this are possible. Merci!

I have a couple of easier weeks of training before I head to CSIO (Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario) in Toronto for some testing and then I will finish the intensity block back in Thunder Bay. On another note, I am heading home at the end of September for a Fast & Female event. This Champ Chat will be held at Nakkertok on Saturday September 23rd, and is geared towards girls between age 8-18. This event is not sport specific, so everyone is welcome! Don’t hesitate to pass on the word and if you are interested in volunteering please send me an email at kstewartjones@fastandfemale.com.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Katherine

 

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