Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - Exel Racing team
Exel Racing Team Update: Snow, Sun, Hardwax and Control

- By: Gordon Jewett

Unpredictable mountain weather is the bane of every athlete who ever walks out the door to train in Canmore. Warm sunny days can turn to rain, and then snow, in far less time than it takes to seek shelter. Of course, this also makes the decision of whether or not to bring an extra jacket along very easy. One simply has an extra jacket along anytime they go outside! There is however an upside to unpredictable weather: when the forecast is for terrible conditions and a look out the window leaves you procrastinating training with every tv, broom and computer at hand, take heart, the skies could be sunny and blue in ten minutes!

Rhonda and I have just returned from a camp with the Alberta Ski Team at the Haig Glacier, just southwest of Calgary, and the lessons in weather always seem to be rather acute up there. When we headed into the mountains last Monday the forecast was hardly delightful, although far from terrible. We were fortunate enough to run in under sunny warm skies, which made all the extra clothing in my backpack delightfully useless. We knew the weather forecast was on the ball when high cirrus clouds started appearing in the early evening. Sure enough Tuesday dawned with a fog so thick that finding the trail up the glacier was like finding the bathroom on a dark night. Of course it's always wise to use caution when wandering onto a glacier completely blind, but after overshooting the hut by about 300m, the fog lifted just long enough for us to find the hut easily and make out our ridiculous looking zig-zag tracks.

Wednesday's forecast had been calling for heavy rain, so were all crossing our fingers that being at high alpine elevation, the Haig would be pilled with snow. Sure enough, by Tuesday evening the snow had begun with nary a raindrop in sight. The snow continued to hammer away at us all day on Wednesday, but nobody was complaining. Although the strong winds blew the trail in within minutes and made for tough conditions that day, it was very clear then when the storm blew out we'd be enjoying the best skiing of the year at the Haig.

Our best hopes were met when a high-pressure system rolled in behind the snowstorm leaving us with 5 straight days of beautiful sunny skiing on over a foot of fresh snow. Summer skiing on the glacier almost invariably means messy applications of klister wax, but we were even treated to a few rare days of hardwax skiing - not something you get too often in late August, when glacier skiing literally means skiing on ice and slush when all traces of snow have melted away.

We got out just in time as a blustery storm blew through Canmore yesterday evening, and likely made the skiing just a little bit worse up on the glacier as it reverts back to it's usual late summer slush fest. The grooming machine also went haywire the last day we were up there, and while we were lucky not to be affected this week's group of Haig skiers unfortunately may be.

The tough block of training that got kick started with the camp last week will continue on for two more weeks for me, and I'll likely spend the bulk of that time at Rhonda's cabin, an hour southeast of Canmore. It is weeks like this where balancing training, work and the logistics of running a ski team becomes most difficult. Heading to the cabin is a way of isolating myself from the distractions of the real world to some degree, and the change of scenery also gives a breath of fresh air to my training. As the racing season quickly approaches my training focuses are also changing as dramatically as the weather. From here on in I'll be much more careful with my energy levels, ensuring that I never dig so deep that recovery can't be made during my designated rest periods. I'll also gradually focus more and more of my energy into psychological training and the mental fitness that will ensure I can ski fast when I want to, and not just when I'm lucky enough to have an “on” day.

Psychological training is something that almost all athletes ignore to a large degree, and it's something that for the first time in my life I'll begin to put a much larger emphasis on this year. I've started with the complete basics, as I'm relatively new to this, by just reading a book. I've chosen Peter Jensen's Inside Edge as my first read, and through the fall I'll be digesting as much information as possible and detailing a personal psychological training plan for the coming winter. I believe that peaking properly for the events that are important to me this winter will hinge almost entirely on mental preparation. One of the first things I've learned? Focus on what you can control. All I can control is how well I prepare to ski fast, so that's all I've got time to worry about.

This is also one of the very important driving forces behind the Exel Racing Team. My teammates and myself have been in seemingly endless training and racing environments where we had no control over our destinies, and where we were not empowered to focus on the specific details needed to make each of us fast skiers. We've now created our own environment, hand picked our own teammates (and I consider all of our sponsors to be our teammates as well) and moved ourselves in a direction where more and more things fall into the arena of “can control” every day. As things out of our control pop up, we'll just brush them aside and remain focused.

The weather, the grooming and so many other factors are completely out of our control as athletes, and we head out the door regardless of the conditions, but it certainly makes training a lot more enjoyable when the sun is shinning and the trails are perfect. Here's hoping for some sun over the next two weeks, but in any case, the whole Exel Racing Team will be out to train and chase our dreams come rain or shine.

Thank you to our sponsors, without whom our dreams would not be possible

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