Race Season Begins


I know I have not written in this blog for a VERY long time.  Sometimes life gets busy, sometimes it gets boring, and recently, it has been both!!  Lately my life has been work, work, work and as the famous saying goes, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy!”  You folks didn’t need to read about that. 

This weekend, things got a little more exciting.  The ski season started up again.  Sara actually raced last weekend in Golden, but when you are only skiing in a field of three people, it also is not headline news.  This weekend we were in Canmore and it was a crazy weekend.  Sara was skiing in the Alberta Cup series.  She participated in a sprint on Saturday and a distance race on Sunday.  Sean was also in two races this weekend and also in Canmore.  He raced a sprint on Saturday and a pursuit on Sunday.  Don’t worry is this is all Greek to you, I will do my best to explain it all.

First I will explain Sara’s races.  In a sprint race, you race a very short distance, in Sara’s case only 500m.  Usually sprint racers use a “skate technique”.


At the beginning of the day, racers race a qualifying heat, where they race individually against the clock.  This seeds the racers, so that the can be sorted into various heats.  You then race in groups of 4-6 racers, and the top two finishers of each heat move on to the next race.  The idea behind a sprint race, is to finally race the fastest skiers against each other in the final heat.  Sara made it to the last heat, meaning she would finish in at least 6th place.  Now let me take a moment to set the scene for you.  Sara skis for Foothills Nordic, and as a Foothills skier, she stuck out like a sore thumb in a crowd of Canmore Nordic skiers.  The Canmore girls are a powerful team and they have dominated Sara’s age group for YEARS.  So the finals was comprised of 5 Canmore girls, one Foothills girl.  Even though the course was short, it was technical.  The course started out on flat ground, then the skiers would make a tight turn(test your turn technique), work up a steep hill (test you strength), tuck down a downhill(test you ski speed-thanks waxing team), then pull another hairpin and skate like crazy to the finish.  The first time, Sara had a false start, maybe she was overanxious.  The start official had a few words with her and I think it worried her a bit, because when the race started again, Sara did not jump out in front, in fact she was dead last.  As they manoeuvred around the first corner, she had made up one spot and was racing in fifth.  Then came the hill, and here, powerful Sara made up another 2 spots.  On the downhill, she kept her speed and maybe even gained a bit on the leaders due to her fast skis, and on the final corner, she managed to sneak ahead one more spot.  With a powerful finish, she pulled off a second place!!  Yippee Sara!!  She was only beat by Molly Jane Strum. 


Molly Jane an Sara have a VERY long history (as long a history as a 13 year old skier  can have).  The very first race that Sara participated in at the age of 5, she won a bronze medal and the winner of that race was Molly Jane Strum.  Molly Jane is a fabulous skier, and a really nice kid too (also, she and Sara were born on the exact same day!!).  She used to ski for Foothills Nordic, but now skis for Canmore.  To my knowledge, Molly Jane has only placed second in two races in her career, and Sara has NEVER placed ahead of Molly. 

This afternoon, Sara raced in a distance race.  This race was in “classic” style, and was a total distance of 2 km.  I know it doesn’t seem very far, but you have to realize that half of that distance was up a very steep hill, the other half was down.  This race was an individual start, meaning each racer skis the course by themselves and racers start at 30 second intervals (every 30 seconds, another racer starts the course), so it is a race against the clock.  You can see racers ahead of you and behind you so you try to chase down those in front of you and not let those behind you pass, but until all the racers finish, you do not know who has won.  When the results were posted, it was Sara in first, Molly Jane in second and another Canmore skier in third.  What a fabulous job!! 


Sara has been training 6 days a week since the summer and we were very curious to see where all that training would put her once the race season got under way.  I guess we can now safely say that all that hard work has paid off!  Also, the race today served as a qualifying race for the Alberta Winter Games, which will take place in February this year.  The first and second place finishers from each Zone (Calgary is Zone 3) get to go to the games, so Sara handily qualified!

Now on to Sean’s weekend.  Sean raced a sprint on Saturday.  Sprint races in biathlon are a little different than a cross country sprint race.  In a biathlon sprint, for Sean’s age group, skiers race a total distance of 3 km.  They ski one km, then shoot a series of five targets, ski another km, shoot another series of 5, then hurry on the last km to the finish.  Sean is shooting air rifles, but he is now shooting on small targets.  Let me tell you about small targets.  Kevin and I have recently started a series of biathlon classes.  We too shoot air rifles, and we too have to shoot on the same targets as Sean.  Big targets are about 3 cm in diameter and you shoot at them from about 10 metres away.  Small targets are roughly 1 cm in diameter and are also shot at from 10 metres away.  Now ski good and fast, get your heart pounding and then see if you can shoot at a 1 cm target….sound fun?  It is very difficult!!!  Sean has NEVER shot clean, on small targets, in a race situation before.  In fact, he told me today, that he has never even shot clean, in a practice, with an elevated heart rate.

Sean finished sixth in his race, second from Zone 3 AND he shot clean both rounds!!!  Amazing!!!  Because Saturdays race was the qualifier for the Alberta Winter Games, Sean qualified and will be participating. 

The second race that Sean raced in was what is called a pursuit.  In a pursuit race, the way you finish in the sprint, is the racing order in the pursuit.  The guy who finished first starts first, the guy who finished second, starts second, etc.  The pursuit race was 4 km long, with three shooting bouts.  Sean had a few difficulties with this race.  He had some trouble getting enough air in on some of the hills, so his ski time suffered, but he shot clean two out of the three visits to the range.  I actually am not even sure how he finished, we left before the results were posted.  He didn’t medal, and he was too tired to wait for results and medals.  I was perfectly happy to get an earlier start for home. 

So all in all, I would say the McLean kids had a great weekend, both qualified for the Alberta Winter Games and achieved new heights in their training.  Way to go kiddos!!