Monday, September 7, 2009

Sweet as New Zealand

Sweet as New Zealand
Mark Arendz
The Guardian

Again I’m in an international departure Star Alliance lounge, checking my ticket for my boarding time.
Then hoping that there are some new movies to watch onboard the long flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Vancouver, B.C. By now these things have become routine, but what wasn’t routine was the Awesome (with a capital ‘A’) camp in New Zealand. As August came it was time to go down under to the snow farm near the town of Wanaka, on the south Island. The camp would focus on technique and high volume with the added bonus of three high caliber races just before we would leave.
The team left on July 31 and arrived on August 2 and the skiing started that afternoon.
The next five or so days were to adjust to the climate, the travel and to get the body and especially the mind used to skiing on snow again.
Following that we put in a lot of hours and also had some ‘sweet as’ (kiwi expression for awesome) intensities. That was what we did until August 17, the only rest day in New Zealand!
For the rest day, the team decided to go on a tour, similar to last year, but we had been told that this one was a must see.
We went to Doubtful Sound. The tour took all day, but it was breath taking.
The tour started with a boat ride across the lake to a small docking area It continued with a bus ride up and over a pass to another dock, where we boarded the actual ship that would take us through the Doubtful Sound.
Luck was on our side again, the average rainfall in Doubtful Sound is around 6-8m (no mistype that m means metres) over 225 days a year. We had a mix of sun and cloud in the morning, but by the time we reached the sound it was crystal clear and sunny.
A little disappointed we didn’t see any dolphins, but I’ll live.
After the sound tour it was then back to the buses to continue the day. The next part of the tour was of a hydro-electric plant that presently produces 15 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity. We had to drive for two kilometres while descending around 800m underground to get to the power station. After touring the plant it was back on the boat to cross the lake and head back to the snow farm.
It was now time to race. The races were part of Winter Games NZ , with skiers from all around the world.
The first race was a 15-kilometre classic. The worst thing that can happen with a classic race is it snows during or just before. Guess what it decided to do the morning of, as everyone is warming up – yes, snow!
Not to worry, my team has the best wax techs in the country, it would be OK. I finished second to the leading classic skier in my category.
The following day was a sprint. I was feeling fast, quick and relaxed. My start in the final was not the best, but I held on and took my second second.
It now came down to the 10-kilometre free race. The weather was OK, but as I started (as the fourth last starter) it began to snow.
I finished the first lap right where I wanted. As a began my second lap a coach yelled ‘You are in... place by 12 seconds’, but I didn’t hear the placing but as I could not see anyone right behind me it must be a good one.
I kept very consistent through the lap, going hard and then came a part of the course where I had the opportunity to look back and see where I was; I was leading.
With 1,500 metres left I went for it, I was not going to lead like that and lose it in the final kilometer. I was driving hard right to the finish line, and I just fell over I was ‘in the box’ (kiwi expression for ‘I’m dead’ or ‘I’m done’).
It just hit me like that; I had won my first international race!
An amazing milestone to hit with only 201 days before the opening ceremonies to the 2010 Paralympic Games. The camp ended with that, and it was time to get back to Canada, I was tired from all the training and racing that had taken place in the N.Z.
All the fun and games had to come to an end and it was time to go back to Canmore with a forecast of sunny and 28 degree Celsius for the next week.
It will be a quick turn around with only 20 days before the team heads off to Austria to ski on one of the glaciers there.
Enjoy the rest of the summer.

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