Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Adventures

I'm feeling a combination of excitement and sadness as I announce that I have decided to move on from ski racing. I know it is time and I know it is the right decision.

I have come out of this sport with so many amazing memories and experiences, and have learned so much along the way. I transitioned from a childhood playing in the powder on single track trails at Larch Hills, to the BC Ski Team, to the Alberta World Cup Academy and onto the National Ski Team. My love and passion for this sport has always been an integral part of my life. It has been a privilege to travel around Europe and race with the maple leaf on my suit!

I have been ski racing since I was a kid and I couldn't have done it without all the people that have been part of my journey. My family has always supported me: from my mom who was my first coach and biggest cheerleader, my dad and brother who always supported my dreams, grandparents who started the skiing tradition in my family, and extended family. Also a special mention to family friend and avid skier Phil Jones who recently passed away. My personal coaches in chronological order: my mom, Lizzie van Bergeyk, Doug Egan, Mike Cavaliere and Chris Jeffries in addition to all the other coaches that worked with me along the way. My boyfriend Chris, who got me through some tough times. Some of my amazing sponsors include Fischer, Swix, Salomon, Bliz Eyewear, Rancho Vignola, One Way, Stoneham, Usana, Auclair, Skookum Cycle and Ski and Lakeside Insurance. Other supporters include Jamie Coatsworth, Joan Sholinder, Winston and Cathie Pain, Anne and Don Champion, Marcia and Jim Beckner, Larch Hills Nordic Society and the community of Salmon Arm.  A special mention to Peter Collins at Buff Canada who was my first big sponsor, a great employer and one of my biggest supporters throughout the ups and downs of my ski career.

I was fortunate to be part of some amazing teams with fantastic teammates. The Alberta World Cup Academy has been my Canmore family for the last 7 years. Cross Country Canada has supported my journey and gave me the opportunity to compete in almost 30 World Cup races. Larch Hills, Silver Star, Sovereign Lakes and the BC Ski Team were all instrumental as I transitioned from provincial to international events.

While letting go of a dream is never easy I have come to terms with it. The last few years of racing have been tough for me and although I've had glimpses of success, I am not consistent and there have been more tough races then good ones. I have struggled with my health and feel like I can no longer handle the level and quality of training necessary to achieve my athletic goals. I have truly learned so much from my time in the sport. The people, experiences and personal strength I have gained is invaluable and I feel like it has made me a better person.

I am excited to start the next chapter of my life. I will continue working on my Biology degree and hope to go to Medical School in the next few years. This should provide a new challenge and will keep my goal-oriented personality satisfied!  I will stay involved in the ski community on a more local scale and in great organizations such as Fast and Female.

I've tried to capture a bit of my journey with some photos:


"I'm not so sure about this skiing thing"  1 1/2 years old

My grandparents were a big part of my family's skiing and racing tradition. They are pictured here in front of a mural in Vernon featuring their younger selves

I did my first loppet at age 4 (6km) and apparently loved it!


Thunder Bay Nationals with the Silver Star racing team

BCST camp with my buddies Clare and Sydney

Team BC at the 2007 Canada Games in Whitehorse

I was honoured to  be the BC flag bearer at the closing ceremonies of the 2011 Canada Games

Jr National Team silliness on the Haig

My first International experience and first time in Europe at the World University Games in Torino

2008 World Jrs relay team in Malles, Italy

The inaugural AWCA team on the Haig

AWCA year 2

Lots of fun adventures with the team

Switching things up

Academy girls on the top of Centennial Pass in 2012

Training in Park City

Skiing in Seiser Alm, Italy, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.



NST training camp in Utah

US Ski Team camp in Alaska. I'm lucky to have met such great people from around the world!
On my way to 12th at the 2011 World U23 Champs

Racing in a World Cup sprint heat in Stockholm

Coach Chris and I in Latvia

Some of my favorite girls after our last race at the 2014 Canadian Olympic qualifiers. While I didn't qualify, watching some of my friends achieve their dreams and others stay resilient through disappointment was one of the most powerful experiences of my ski career. 

The best support crew I could ask for!

Some of the Larch Hills racing team at Nationals, I'm excited to work with them this summer!

The 3 retirees after the last race at Nationals. Thanks to Heidi for the retirement leis and champagne! Photo: Russell Kennedy

Thanks again to everyone who has helped and supported me during my ski career. On to new adventures!

Alysson

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tour of tiny European towns: 2015 edition

I have been racing in Europe since the beginning of January, mostly in small remote places, some without even a gas station! 

I started with 2 weekends of World Cup sprints in Otepaa, Estonia and Rybinsk, Russia. The World Cup races did not go anywhere near how I hoped. My body wasn't moving well and I was far off the all-important top 30. It was really disappointing to not perform when it mattered and I missed my chance at a World Champs start. It's one of those experiences where I learned a few things, and now have to move on and let it go! I started feeling more like myself after a few weeks in Europe and racing has been going better since then. 

Otepaa was my first stop. We stayed in the nicest place I've stayed so far in Otepaa. It was a small, cozy hotel and was a relaxing place to get over jetlag despite the 24-7 Christmas music soundtrack (it was mid-January!)


After 2 days of travel we arrived in Rybinsk, Russia. Our bus had a police escort from the airport and we passed lots of huge concrete apartment blocks along the road. We stayed and raced at a resort well out of town, on the Volga river. This was the view on my walk to the restaurant:


The conditions were great and it was nice to have lots of snow to ski on.


The stands with lots of excited Russian fans in fur coats:


After the World Cups I decided to stay in Europe until the B-tour trip started, along with Patrick Stewart-Jones. We rented a car and went up to Jami, Finland for the Finnish Championships. It was a fun weekend of racing against a deep Finnish field. Everyone was so welcoming: Rex ski service waxed our skis and Lahden Hiihtoseura club let us stay in their cottage! So nice to make some new friends!

This was the skate distance day, thanks to Jyri for the photo and cheering!


Next we traveled to Mantta, Finland where Ilkka and Auli Nikmo hosted us for a week of training. Ilkka is the brother of a family friend in Salmon Arm and it was so nice of them to take us in!


It was such a treat to stay in a home with laundry, a kitchen and sauna after weeks in hotel rooms. The skiing was good too, with lots of terrain for long workouts.


Auli took us on a cultural tour of Mantta, showing us a beautiful new art museum and some historical buildings. This was the door of the old part of the art museum. It used to be the home of the owners of the paper mill that is the main industry in Mantta:



After a relaxing week we met the rest of the B-tour team in Helsinki for the next stage of the trip. We headed to Vietalva, Latvia for some warm-up races at the Latvian Champs. We were in a remote area with not much to see but our hotel was very nice and the food was great. Our hosts took us on a tour of a nearby German mansion is being restored which was a fun afternoon outing.



These were small races but I was happy to win Valentine's day flowers in the sprint, as well as a freshly printed laminated certificate of achievement. 


We just arrived in Madona, Latvia for the main reason we are in Latvia: Scandinavian Cup races. These are always very competitive events so it should be a fun set of races!