Saturday, August 25, 2001 - Perspective
Phil's XC Journal #6

- By: Phil Villeneuve

Hi Everyone, here's my journal entry's forecast: Hot with 95% chance of getting the pasties!

What's going on here? Is that a giraffe I just saw chewing on the poplar in my front yard? Are those dark spots on the other side of the reservoir, rhinos? Where am I...Canmore or the Serengeti?

No, I'm not going crazy or delusional but with the dry heat we have been experiencing during the past month I'm starting to think I could be living somewhere in Africa! This year's heat wave has been incredibly hot, spicing up Canmore like I've never seen before. I wouldn't be surprised if I did see the zebras, rattlers, cacti and even sand dunes move into the region. You know it's hot outside when half the town is cooling off in Quarry Lake (local watering hole). Even the Bow river, which flows through town, is speckled with swimmers cooling off in water that is usually only bearable for a few minutes (It flows straight from the glacier melt about 130km upriver).

Canmore has always had a dry microclimate, but it's usually also very cool. That's what makes it such a great place to live and train. So what's going on with the weather? Why is it that for the past few years it has been getting drier and hotter? Is Canmore set to become a desert in the next 1000 years? Maybe I'll make that my official "weatherman millennium prediction"! You can argue with me all you want but the bottom line is...none of us will ever know if it really did happen. But you have to admit my case is pretty strong. I've been living in Canmore for 6 years now and I've never seen it this hot and dry for so long. Plus, the past few winters have been practically without snow (it's a good thing we have snowmaking). It's like we get a rainy season in early spring where it snows or rains for the month and then hot, hot, hot throughout June and July. It's mid-August now and luckily the weather has cooled of a notch but it still hasn't rained. In fact, I can't remember the last time it did rain. Hey, I'm not complaining. I love the sun and the heat but it gets to a point where a little rain to settle the dust down and cool things off once in a while would really be nice. Everywhere you look, the sprinklers are going like crazy! My whole road looks like a pretty little oasis in the middle of the desert! As for my lawn...well, I prefer to keep it crispy. The less it grows, the less I have to cut it, and that's just fine with me (I've cracked out the lawnmower twice so far, might be a new record)!

So how do you train when it's African hot? Well, no matter what you do outside, drink fluids like it's going out of style (water please!!). I've also adapted by training earlier in the morning and delaying the afternoon workout until the sun sets behind the mountains. Unfortunately for me, last week I had to plan a hard intensity in the afternoon. Because of other engagements, it was the only time available. The workout consisted of ski striding (running with poles while imitating classic skiing as best as possible) 5 times up this monster hill for periods of 5 minutes each at maximum effort. Even with the trail being partly shaded, as soon as I started my first interval, my mouth was completely sucked dry of any moisture. I don't know if you've ever had this feeling but it's not very pleasant. Feels kind of like you just sucked on a piece of chalk all day! (At this point, I encourage you to actually try sucking or eating some chalk while reading the rest of this entry. Come on it'll be fun!) My greatest motivation was to finish every interval just so I could get a drink of water and get rid of the pasties. Every time up the hill became harder and harder as my body and mind got more tired. The encouragements from my coach and my desire to go beyond my previous mark (at the end of each 5 minutes I mark the spot where I stop) made me give it all I had. This workout was meant to be really tough and it was, I can tell you that. At the end, I was completely spent! The heat had sucked every bit of energy that was left inside me. My thighs, calves and triceps were cramping up because of my body's loss of salt and water. After the intervals my head was spinning like a top and I couldn't really run anymore so I gathered my things and hobbled back home were the reservoir's crisp water was waiting to revive my body! Looking back, training in the hottest part of the day wasn't a very smart thing to do. I should've known that but...another lesson for the books.

Whether the Sahara is coming to town or not, Canmore is still a pretty awesome place to train. But if my prediction should come true, it would be kind of neat to see a rollerskier being chased by an elephant...just as long as it's not me!

That's it for today.

(Phil Villeneuve was a member of the Canadian National Ski Team for two years and has been a part of the training centre system in Canada since it's beginning. He now lives in Canmore where he continues to pursue his Olympic dreams.)

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