Welcome, Willkommen, Bienvenue! I'm a full time cross country ski racer with the Alberta World Cup Academy based in Canmore, Alberta. I was born and raised in Banff, Alberta in a Swiss-Canadian household as the youngest of four. Follow this blog for a glimpse into the training and racing life of a full-time ski racer as well as what I do in my free time. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Olympic Installment

Olympic sprint qualifier
I've apparently suffered from over two months of writer's block - but putting this update off for so long means I'll only have room for the highlights!

Since I last wrote, I've raced U23 Championships in Val di Fiemme Italy, the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, World Cups in Finland and Italy and National Championships in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland.

There was a different team setup at each of these events, from a younger crowd full of dance parties and swagger at U23's/World Juniors, to traveling with some of the most experienced in the business at the Olympics to bringing it back Canada with one of the best crews you could ask for.

My best result at U23's was 19th in the skate sprint. Very far from the Afinal performance that I had believed in. I was less than half a second away from advancing to the semi's as 'lucky loser'. It was a blast skiing in a fast heat, with the eventual bronze and silver medalists of the day pushing the pace. I felt like I grew more as a racer in those 3 minutes of racing than I had all season!
Toblach World Cup

Meine Schweizer schwester!

Coupla chicas hanging out. Check out that view!!!
So - how was Sochi? It took time for it to sink in that I was going to the Olympics. It took a little more time for it to sink in that I was competing at the Olympics. And then it took the most time of all for me to absorb that entire experience. The Olympics sort of existed in two spheres. There was the incredible atmosphere of the people, the fans, the clothing, the 'hype'. And then there was the racing - the passion, the determination, the pure enjoyment of sport.  I describe my Olympic experience as everything that I know and love about of sport - but more so. It is like life on steroids. All of the emotions I experience in ski racing were heightened in the Olympic atmosphere. Going to these Games, I had it easy. There was no expectation on me and all I had to do was sit in the current and absorb the experience like a sea sponge. This sounds like an easy task - but it proved to be super demanding!

Chandra is moving on to next level life stuff - but her impact on my career and passion for skiing - well, it's next level too.

The Russians worked hard to get the scenes ready for the World to view. It may have been last minute, but they pulled it off!
I qualified for the Olympics as a sprint racer, but I was very fortunate to be able to start in the sprint, 10km Classic and 30km Skate. This was some of the most demanding and difficult racing I've ever done! However, if I can come out of those races - being absolutely annihilated by the world class competition - feeling motivated for the future of myself and my teammates in the sport, I think that's a good sign.
press conference

These girls. The Women's team in Sochi was a blast.
Facetime with my family in Canada moments after my first Olympic race. Technology!
Getting in touch with Mother Neature
The lessons I take away from the Games seem to be recurrent life lessons. My family is my most important ally. I love to ski race. Laughing and good friends cures anything. And I compete in the one of the hardest sports in the world.

10km Skate race podium
I wonder how many photos we've been in together? Thanks for everything girlfriend.
I rounded out the season with a win in the 10km skate race at Nationals and had a wicked time being back on Canadian soil and racing along my whole team again. Long time teammate, friend, roomie, Foothills alumni and awesome lady - Marlis Kromm - is joining the real world and leaving ski racing. I'm so excited for her future, wish her all the best and will welcome her back for a rollerski sesh any day.
Exploring the coast of Nfld on the last day. Speed touristing.
Nothing like some 'bubblay to celebrate.
He has a lot of patience to put up with my act.
Up-and-comer, Molly Miller, and I at the Fast and Female event in Cornerbrook

My brother, phil, is also moving on to life beyond the spandex suit. It is funny to think how absorbed we can be in the skiing world. Thinking that racing and results are the centre of the universe. I am so grateful that phil (and my whole family for that matter) has shown and continues to show me to zoom out the lens, take 5 and keep it real. I have so much respect for the phil as an athlete and I guess he's an OK person too. Kidding, obvs. He has shown me to risk big, live large, show love and that Sriracha sauce tastes great on just about everything.

The closing of the 2013/14 season brings a moment for reflection. I can now call myself an Olympian but I feel like my experiences and growth as an athlete and person in the last season is worth much more than that. I am so green in this sport - and the more I learn and know, the more I know I don't know - you know? Bring on the next Olympic quadrennial. It may not be a peach and cake but I'm ready for the adventure.

Spring time activities! Time for powder turns and surf sessions.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014 Chronicles Part I: Qualifying for the Canadian Olympic Team

Giving Emily Nishikawa a much deserved hug after she crushed the field in the 10km Classic race. This photo only starts to describe the pride I feel for all my teammates. Credit: Gaby Munz with Buff Canada

The emotional rollercoaster of the last few weeks finally feels like it’s in the passenger reload area. All of the excited theme park guests are getting off the ride, exhausted but stoked that they just survived that ride. Some may even jump right back in the line for another dose of the ride! The week of Olympic Trials, January 8-12, were the deciding races for the final spots available for the Canadian Olympic Team. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement, pressure and passion surrounding the events. 
Chandra Crawford and I just havin' a good time in the A final. Credit: Angus Cockney
Imagining the spirit of the games, the passion in the stadium and being immersed in such energy is what gives me goose bumps when I’m out training in the days, months and years leading up to the Olympics. The thoughts and dreams of representing Canada at the Games have been frequent flyers in my dreams since I was just an awkward little girl and have only become stronger in recent weeks. I would often find myself completely wrapped up in a daydream. I’d have to remind myself to bring it back to the moment. ‘Chop wood, carry water’. Focusing on the step-by-step process and attention to the moment is how I would make the most out of every breath, every training session, and every race.
About to start the 10km classic Credit: Gaby Munz with Buff Canada
After winning the sprint race last Saturday – I knew I had secured my spot on the Olympic team. Wait – did I just write that? I guess it’s still sinking in. Crossing the finish line first is never just about one person. With the support and encouragement I’ve had, you’d think I was a soldier heading off for war. I guess it is somewhat of a battlefield out there – but let’s not get extreme. In terms of support, my family is hands down the best safety net I have! After finishing my race, I tried to channel whatever remaining energy I had towards my brother, Phil, who had won the qualifier earlier in the day and was about to take to the battlefield (sorry, getting extreme again) in the men’s A final. Skiing so strong and with such passion, Phil finished second in an extremely talented men’s field. In the moment, it was crushing. But I never once lost an ounce of respect or doubted his ability. My ‘little sister admiration’ gene will never disappear and only continues to grow as I watch and understand how my brother has dealt with the disappointment and taken away the positives. He fought, he risked and he enjoyed it all. That is all we can ever ask of ourselves.
Big bro dominating the climb Credit: Angus Cockney

Canadian Olympic team! Well, most of it. L-R Chandra Crawford, myself, Emily Nishikawa, Len Valjas, Graeme Killick, Jess Cockney Credit: CCC
The days following the Olympic Trials, I was exhausted but kept awake by the lingering adrenalin. It felt like a bittersweet mixture of excitement, pride and gratitude. Excited for the opportunity I have ahead of me, so proud of the multitude of outstanding performances (shout out to EmNish, Jess, Gkill, Brian and Ammar) and grateful that I am able to pursue my dreams. I’m packing up my bags now and will head to Austria tomorrow for a few days of training in Seefeld before Under 23 Championships in Val di Fiemme. I’ve been given the opportunity to start a World Cup in nearby Tolbach, Italy that I am so excited to take advantage of. After the Italian experience, I will board a plane headed to Sochi for a whole other level of adventure!
Focusing on my penmanship at the Altadore Elementary School Olympic team announcement. Credit: CCC
Of course it will never be enough, but a sincere ‘thank-you’. To my family, my friends, teammates, teachers, sponsors, competitors, coaches, supporters, Mother Nature and even my enemies (which include my negative conscience and the fruit flies in my house right now, but they’ve taught me patience). This journey is just beginning so let’s hop back on that rollercoaster.
A little jumping action post-lunch at the Juniper Hotel in Banff. Thanks for hosting! 

Celebrating the New Year on Spray Lake with Brent followed up with a stay at Mount Engadine Lodge. Not only did he go skating with me, but he believed in me too.

My support network.
How do you celebrate 2014 in style? With cheese fondue, gluehwein, hockey and family. In the mountains. Out at Lake Minniwanka. Happy Birthday to my bro-to-be Lp!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Ball is Rolling

Classic 10k race in Rossland, BC - Courtesy of Shelley Peachell Photography

Racing season is well underway and it’s been a decent start! Not gonna lie, writing a blog update after you’ve missed a couple weekends of recap is a little daunting and I’m lacking the creative writing skills at the moment. Then I thought, we live in such a fast paced and ‘quick glace’ cyber world, why not cater to that? So, I apologize to my mom who is the creative writing extraordinaire – but this update comes in the form of hashtags. After all, I feel like I’m thinking more in short choppy sentences than full paragraphs these days anyways. 

#seasonopenener #ABcup #SkateSprint #fastcourse #Bronze #decentstart #10kClassic #ouchie #drivetoSilverStar #socold #butbeautiful #Christmastown #10kSkate #effingcold #NorAmGold #howdidIdothat? #I’lltakeit #nextdaySprintday #stillwickedcold #somanyBuffs #somanylayers #maybeifIsprintfastIwillwarmup #Qualywin #4thinfinal #needfininshingtouch #needhotchocolate #warmedbrowniewilldo #waxon #drivetoRossland #waxoff #testskis #fromwintertospring #NorAmLeader #SkateSprint #myfav #softconditions #flow #efficient #burninglungs #FastQualy #wow@oliviabouffardnesbitt #ontotheheats #squeakintofinal #Silver #longday #deepsleep #10kClassic #toughcourseraceswell #mindgames #digdeep #zerodegrees #worktheskis #9th #4thCanadian #1stU23 #qualifyforU23championships #SalomonNordic #AlbertaWorldCupAcademy #waxon #packbags #drivehome #long #long #longday #coma #greatstart #smallbreak  #Christmas #is #coming!

Note: I won't be offended if you didn't make it through all that. Brent only made it through because I was watching. 
First races of the season in Canmore, AB were the Alberta Cup Skate Sprint and 10km Classic. These races are a great opportunity to remember how to put the racing bib on and get back into the groove. I finished with a bronze in the sprint and 6th in the 10km Cred: Angus Cockney

Next stop was Silver Star, BC racing at the Sovereing Lakes venue. It was chilly and hilly but I managed a win in the 10km Skate and 4th in the sprint. It was all made possible with the help of many cold layers of wax, volunteer support, fast Salomon boards, multiple Buffs and beautiful blue skies.

This is me pretending to be part Ninja in my Semi Final heat. I won the sprint qualifier today but ended the day in 4th position. I wanted the win so will have to work on fine tuning my finishing kick to get there! Another cold day but the pink face tape really saved my life. Thanks ETribe!

EmNish and I in the Semi Final. We were both a little shocked to make it into the final as this heat proved to be a lot tighter in the finishing stretch than I had planned. Makes for some exciting sprint racing! Credit: peter Collins

When in doubt, lunge it out. This is the difference between Gold, Silver and Bronze. Emily Nishikawa, myself and Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt Credit: peter Collins

A little tuckered. Credit: peter Collins

EmNish and I Credit: peter Collins
I am happy with the start to my season, but it is just that - a start! I have a bit of a break from racing over the holidays to get some Christmas baking in and family time. When I return to racing in the New Year, there are many opportunities ahead. Olympic qualification races will be in Canmore January 8-12 and then I leave for Under 23 Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy on January 16. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the process and opportunities I have and see where this journey takes me! Wishing you and your family all the best over the holidays and here's to what lies ahead in 2014!
My Christmas baking party has begun!
Ginger bread men and date-pecan chocolate turtles

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wolf Versus Owl

Wind Ridge - Mt. Lougheed in background

The season of fall in the Bow Valley - blue skies, golden larches and summer temps. Just a couple of reasons why it's my favourite time of the year to train in the Bow Valley. Which made it all the more difficult to watch it pass by as I rested on the sidelines!

Before I get into that - I want to acknowledge and send out my gratitude to the Bow Valley and beyond for the support of the Trail to Sochi fundraiser that my family held at Ticino Restaurant last month. For me, it was the definition of community on so many levels. The ski community, the Bow Valley community, my family, the staff at Ticino's, local businesses and the supporters from near and far. Money isn't everything and by now it's obvious I'm not in this for the bling, but it really helps make things easier!

A special thank-you to the staff and my family at Ticino's. Fantastic meal (I know this doesn't just come together the day of) and the service seemed pretty nice too ;). To Ian Brown, Globe and Mail correspondent for hosting an entertaining interview post-lunch. Can be viewed here! To Mike, Bonnie and Michelle of Mike Wiegele's Heli Skiing for donating the 'drool inducing' 3 day all inclusive heli ski trip in their world famous powder skiing.

Thank-you to those who helped make the raffle draw packages a hit!

Assiniboine Lodge 
Baker Creek Mountain Resort
Buff Canada
Cross Country Canada
Chic Scott
Lake O'Hara Lodge 
Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing 
OneWellness + Spa
Paradise Lodge and Bungalows
Paintbox Lodge 
Ray Seguin
Susan Kun Jewellery
The Juniper Hotel and Bistro
Ticino Swiss-Italian Restaurant 

As for the update from the sidelines, here's a little background info. In September of 2010, I crashed classic rollerskiing and it left me without any recollection of the event and looking like Kanye West after his car accident. That is actually what I said to myself as I laughed in the mirror the first time I saw my banged up face.
So that's Kanye on the left, and me on the right. Just to keep it clear.
 The concussion from this crash meant that my brain is extra sensitive to anything crash related. This past September when I was out training at the nordic centre, I crashed again classic rollerskiing but it was OK! I did the 'ol superman into the ditch, didn't hit my head and was more concered from my teammate, Marlis, who took it all out on the pavement thanks to me. Aside from a couple scratches on my elbow, I thought I was just fine. Really, the crash was a bummer but I didn't think it would affect me more than the next couple of hours. Within a few minutes of crashing, I felt some pressure in my head and after cutting the workout, I went home to wash the dirt and pine needles off. 'Good move, Heidi' I thought. 'You're so smart, taking the symptoms in your head seriously so that you don't have to deal with it long term'. I thought I was off the hook.

After a rest day I continued to train normally for the rest of the week, but the symptoms came running back full-force attack mode with more headaches and that constant pressure in the back of my head.
No need to panic, I'll just take a couple of rest days and this will sort itself out. Treat myself to some September sunshine, yoga in the park and massage.

A more recent photo. Again, that's Kanye on the left and me on the right in case you're confused. Enjoying the rest in the fall and letting my brain heal. Little did I know, I had a lot more confusion and rest headed my way. 
I thought I would be cured in a couple of days. It turns out that a lot more rest was needed and six weeks later I am only now returning back to intensity. Little bit by little bit with lingering symptoms that I'm working on eliminating. In the rear view mirror - a couple of weeks doing completely nothing, followed by easing into Z1, easing into Z3 and I hope to be back into full intensity by the end of the month. My progress has been on an upward trend but it's been about the same upward grade as a metre stick on a table elevated by a marble. Trending up - but taking it's sweet time. 

It has been a frustrating, confusing and enlightening journey that isn't over yet. A mind versus body battle. It's Wolf versus Owl. My athlete life and body works best when it's constantly being challenged, on-the-go and hunting in the forest like a wolf. Then there's the Owl that is my head. It's just chilling in the tree. Observing, contemplating and waiting for the right moment and telling the wolf to wait to pounce until they're on the same page. I'm really flattering myself here, comparing myself to a wolf and an owl, but I feel they both have potential to be my power animal. I've learned a lot from the Owl this month. Don't rush it, become wiser from the experience and that a diet of mice and ground squirrels is the worst. The wolf is a pretty smart one too and I trust the body will be back up to speed in no time. And once Owl and Wolf are working together? A solid relationship of wisdom and will.

I've just started a Canadian Women's Training camp and am skiing on Frozen Thunder (the snow loop of preserved snow from last winter) on the daily. Coming up in November, I will head up to the North for another on-snow camp in Yukon and before I know it it's time for even tighter spandex and race wax. 

Here are a couple photos from the past month of rest, getting back into training and a Fast and Female event from last weekend. 

Ciao for now.

She's a beauty. Kiska and Fall go together like chocolate and more chocolate.
In my rest time, I headed to Nipkia Resort recharge. Kate and Blitz!
September and October were packed with birthdays
Climbing rope floor mat for my Phil's birthday present
Pig roast from Valbella's! Celebrating Phil and Matti's birthdays.
Getting back into training. Believe it!

Julia Ransom giving the low down on biathlon and winning some hearts along the way.

Chargin' with Zoe! The Fast and Female event last weekend was a great success under the sunshine and on snow!