Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Sunny Day at Mount Washington!

I'm sure all of you will recognize Mary, myself and Andrea in this photo, but on the far right is Emily. Emily is one of my favourite people that I have met through skiing. She has a heart of gold and always has a smile on her face and is a huge supporter of adaptive skiing. But she doesn't just talk about supporting athletes, she puts words into action. Emily is the one that organized the condo we are staying in for free this week, but bigger than that, she was a key member of the organizing committee that hosted the 2007 and 2009 IPC World Cup races I raced in up here at Mount Washington. She continues to be involved, helping with the school ski program and is always trying to push for a greater level of inclusion for people with disabilities in ski programs held at Mount Washington. It is people like Emily that make skiing possible for people who otherwise would be excluded. Emily also is a proud Canadian who never misses a chance to cheer for Canada. Her back is to the camera (sort of!) in this shot in the hopes that you could see "Canada" on the back of her jacket. Thanks you for everything Emily!

I love skiing at Mount Washington. The lodge is one of the most awesome ones I've seen, the trails are great, the views are spectacular, the people are very friendly and the staff are incredible. They go out of their way to help us get what we need. Today they essentially gave us the key to the biathlon shed and let us take out whatever we needed and they are willing to groom whatever we need. If you are looking for a nice ski getaway, you have to check out Mount Washington. You won't regret it!

So Andrea and I spent the morning session working on cornering. Skiing with a guide certainly makes things easier, but it also makes things trickier. When going downhill especially, things are more complicated that with individual skiers. The idea is for me to ski as close as I can behind Andrea without tripping her up so that I get the benefit of drafting off of her. However, by getting a draft, I tend to go faster than she does so this morning we tried to solve the problem. I try to stay as close as I can but as soon as I get really close, I yell "Pole!" and she pushes the tip of her pole back towards me so I can push on it and keep her ahead of me. Sounds simple, except you have to keep in mind that we aren't exactly going slow when we try to do this. Nor are we always going in a straight line - sometimes we have to negotiate corners at the same time. And then you also have to add in the whole slippery snow thing! And the fact that I have less than 10% vision so pushing on a small moving target also poses an interesting challenge. However, when we do manage to pull all of this together, which is starting to happen more than not, it certainly helps us move through a course better.

This afternoon we set up the biathlon gun and did some intervals in between shooting. The first two shots are the hardest simply because I'm still breathing hard from skiing, but things are getting better. Andrea and I have decided to do the pursuit biathlon at the Paralympic Games, which involves three laps of about 1.2km with two rounds of shooting. With the course being so short, it is essentially a sprint race with some shooting! Doing intervals and shooting in training helps practice shooting clean while being tired and every time I do this, I learn something new about how to shoot better. Today I realized I need to slow down taking my first shot and focus more about relaxing, breathing and getting on target and then be faster between shots. So tomorrow I will try it again...

As part of my cool down, Andrea and I alternated taking turns shooting. Now Andrea obviously has limited biathlon experience but kudos to her for wanting to give it a try. She actually shot the best she ever has today. At least she did once I told her that she was holding the gun upside down. She couldn't figure out why it was so awkward and I didn't see that the gun was upside down until I actually got down on the mat to see why things felt so off kilter for her. I think she might need a little more practice before we enter her in the proposed biathlon race for guides in Canmore during our pre-Paralympic camp...

So now that I have told you about Andrea's upside-down gun incident, I feel obligated to also tell you about my incident. I arrived here yesterday and was all excited to get out to ski only to realize I hadn't brought my suitcase. Luckily my ski boots, gloves and a warm up suit were packed in a separate ski bag, but I have no ski clothes - no tights, no shirts, no pyjamas, nada. But I am lucky to be surrounded by generous friends who don't mind sharing because Emily bought me some undies and socks this morning and Mary dropped off a bag of clothes so I have stuff to wear. Thank you both!

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