BC Athletes & 2018 World Junior/U23 Championships Trip: Jan 24th - Feb 3rd »

2018 World Junior/U23 Championships
Goms, Switzerland
January 27 - February 3

Journal, February 3rd – Team Relay

I raced my heart out in the team relay today.  I had an excellent start and was able to get into 4th position by the end of the first long climb.  I maintained 6th position until about 3/4 into the race where I could really feel the lactate building up.  I struggled to keep going as fast as I could up the long second last climb.  We were in tenth spot when I tagged Natalie.  I had planned on cheering the rest of the team but once I peeled myself off the ground I wasn't feeling too good.  I got my warmups on just in time to see my breakfast again.  I guess even for a 3.3km you need to pace.  The rest of the team gave a solid effort and we finished in 14th.

We watched the Junior Men race.  Antoine was first and seemed to have the same strategy as I did.  Stay with them as long as possible.  He felt it too in the last bit.  All the guys put in a really good effort.  They ended up 11th.

That night some of us left for Geneva to fly out in the morning.  Others flew the next day.  I could feel every muscle ache in my body.  I knew that I had given it my all, not only the relay but in all of the races at World Juniors.  For me, that is a satisfying feeling.

Hannah Mehain

This Swiss band was serenading us outside of our hotel before we left.

Journal, February 2nd - Evening Raclette

I took the gondola and the train with Alexe and Cat to the race site to watch the U23 men's Skiathlon race.  By the time we arrived onsite the women had already finished...well some of them.  They had a rule where if you were lapped you were pulled from the race.  It was a 2.5 km loop that they had to do 4 times for classic and 4 times for skate.  Only two of the Canadian girls were able to finish the race without being lapped.   Katherine was 31st and Maya was 42nd. 

We wondered how many of the guys would be able to finish because they had to do 6 laps of the 2.5 classic and 6 laps of the 2.5 skate for their 30km.  We watched in anticipation as the gap became smaller and smaller.  Phil was pulled, then Ricardo. Would any of the Canadian men make it?  Gareth only had one more lap to go before he was safe and Alexis was even closer to the finish but they were all pulled.  Less than half of the field finished.  It was hard to see so many not finish after coming so far to compete.

That evening, nearly the entire Canadian team went to the awards ceremony because there was supposed to be free beer and raclette, which is melted cheese.  After standing in the cold for an hour we still didn't see any of the promised raclette and beer.  Though we did see the young American woman Hannah Weible receive her silver medal for the Skiathlon which was inspiring!  Finally after the awards were over and everyone was leaving we asked one of the organizers where the raclette party was. He said, “Over there, the building behind this building!” Hooray! At last we got to taste the traditional Swiss dish. The cook would warm a huge block of cheese under a heater and then scrape the melted cheese onto your plate.  We ate it with baked potato and a pickle.  It was delicious!

Hannah Mehain

Journal, February 1st – Great Skiathlon Race

I raced my second Skiathlon race ever, with the first being at the Quebec Trials this year.  This was also my first mass start race at World Juniors.  It went better than I anticipated.  I didn't fall.  I didn't break a pole.  I took the right skis and poles in the transition.  I paced it so that I could still move on the last hill.  My skis were very fast.  It was a success!  Natalie Hynes from Whitehorse did very well.  She looked strong and relaxed when I was skiing behind her in the classic portion and was chasing 18th spot in the skate leg.  She ended up 24th and I was 37th out of 65 competitors. 

Hannah Mehain

Journal, January 31st - Distance Race for U23’s

Today was the classic 10/15km for the U23's and a training day for the Juniors.  Katherine Stewart-Jones made top 30 in a very competitive women's field.  I skied my course for the skiathlon. The course is challenging, looping back into the stadium four times and doing the two very long sprint course hills each loop.  My goal is to pace it well in the begining so that I can notch it up in the last 2.5km.  It will be my first mass start race at World Juniors as the skiathlon was cancelled in Romania. 

In the evening, I went hunting for a deck of cards in order to do something that didn't involve doing homework or staring at a computer screen just before bed.  I heard strumming coming from the floor above.  Intrigued, I followed the music and ended up in one of the U23 girls rooms where they were singing along to the ukelele. They invited me to join them so I spent the next hour singing popular songs with them. Now that is what I call fun!

Hannah Mehain

Journal, January 30th - 5km Classic Race

I could hear the traditional Swiss cowbells cheering me on as I raced the 5km Classic today.  Overall, my race was not too bad.  I think I could have done much better in the last half of the race.  The first half was fantastic.  I was thinking about making every second count.  I was very focused on skiing the terrain my best.  Then I received a split.  At that moment, I was leading the race.  I could not believe it.   I thought, It can't be.  It must be only for the Canadians.  The next split showed I was in second overall.  I still couldn't believe it.  At that moment, it did not occur to me that the fastest start at the back.  Instead of pushing this information to the side and focusing on my race, I let it it distract me.  I think I could have let it fuel me instead of allowing it to worry me.  Though I will admit, that I paced the first half too hard because I did not have enough to push and progress in the second half.  It was good learning and a tough race.

After my race, I warmed down and went to get lunch at the race site with Catherine.  Catherine had a very tough race.  She left it all on the race course.  She literally collapsed in exhaustion.  Unfortunately it was before the finish line.  It takes a lot of guts to be able to push yourself that hard in a race.  I admire her for taking the risk and pushing to her limit.

When I came back to the hotel I had a nap and then went for a little run to mail a postcard.  On my way, I saw some traditional Swiss cowbells in a shop window.  The rest of my run was accompanied by jingling.  I am looking forward to cheering on the U23 men and women tomorrow in the 10km/15km classic.

Hannah Mehain

Journal, January 29th - U23 Sprint Race

Today was a training day for the Juniors and the skate sprint race for the U23's.  Three women qualified into the heats!!! Maya, Katherine SJ, and Laura.  Girl power!

I wanted to rest and do homework today so I just went to the race site for a half hour to test skis.  I skied my course the day before yesterday and will ski it tomorrow morning before the race for my warm-up.  I am just about to draw out the course and make a race plan.

Driving to the race site every day is very scenic with the white mountains and small villages.  Some of the houses are on stilts while others have some sort of base.  Still others have carvings in the wood that makes the house look like it is covered in feathers.  It is very unique and I have never seen it before.

I am looking forward to racing tomorrow.  It looks like another hard race with many up and downs.

Hannah Mehain

Journal, January 28th - Qualified in Sprints!                                           
I have exciting news! For the first time at an international competition, I made it to the heats!

My qualifier was fairly good. I skied it how I planned with pacing the first hill, sprinting over the top of it and going as fast as I could on the last uphill.  I think I was slightly conservative.  I felt like I still had some in the tank come the finish which may have been a good thing on this course because I could still ski well the last half of the course.

I got a light massage from Kelly, the massage therapist for Thunder Bay, between the qualifier and heats.  To wake my body up a bit for the heats I did a couple of hard minutes and some sprints.

I lined up at the start.  They had a start gate for each lane.  I put my poles in front of the gate like I did in the qualifier.  Go!...Bzzzz!  I false started.  Apparently the poles are supposed to be behind the gate.  We started again.  I was on the outside edge and tucked in behide the group of girls.  They were going fast up the first hill.  Halfway up the hill they started to pull away from me.  About that point is when I got some awesome cheering from the Canadians.  I sprinted over the top and tucked into the downhill.  By that time there was a bit of a gap between me and the other girls.  I spinted as hard as I could going up the last hill and into the finish.  Looking back, I think if I had kept on their tails on the uphill I would have been in a better position to make a move, but where I was, I was simply too far back to catch up.  Even though I finished last in my heat, I was so thrilled to be racing.  It was good for me to realize just how fast I need to be in order to be competitive with the top.

I had finished my warm down just in time to see Graham Ritchie race the semi final. It was very neat to see him race with the other men. He did so well!!

This morning, I skied my course for the skate sprint tomorrow.  It is a challenging sprint with a long long climb off the start, a technical downhill and a short uphill and downhill to the finish.  I skied the downhill over and over again until I was confident with my line and made a plan for the uphills. 

After lunch I wanted to get better internet to do homework so I planned on going to a coffee shop.  When I was in the lobby of the hotel, on my way to the coffee shop, two people from doping control asked me what my name was and said that I had been selected to do a blood test. The coaches were out so the massage therapist was the witness and they got another athlete to do the test as well. It was my first doping control test.

I am very excited to race tomorrow. I am ready to do my best no matter what happens and learn from the experience.

Hannah Mehain

Journal, January 26th – Preparing to Race

The races for World Juniors start in two days! The Junior sprint is the first race. Having skied the sprint course yesterday, I skied the course for the classic 5 km and the skiathlon 10 km today. I am especially looking forward to the 5 km as the course has a nice flow to it.  There are many small ups and downs and therefore many transitions/opportunities to make up time.

In the afternoon, I went with some other athletes to check out the suspension bridge down the mountain. On our way there, we rode in the gondola with some children who looked like they were going home from elementary school.  Imagine taking a gondola home from school every day!  The suspension bridge is strung across a deep gully that allows access to a little village on the other side of the river.  It was a little nerve racking to walk across. but it gave a spectacular view of the mountains when in the middle.

Hannah Mehain

Journal, January 25th – Arrived in Goms Switzerland:

Last night we left Le Taconet, France around 4:00 pm.  I felt sad leaving there because the owner and his family made it feel like home. But, I knew that another wonderful place was awaiting us with new and exciting adventures. The sun was still shining when we drove through France. The peachy glow lit up the old buildings along the lakeshore in Évian (see photo below by Alexandra Racine). 

We arrived at the hotel in Goms at about 8:00 pm and had a late dinner.  The meal consisted of cooked carrots, roast beef and spaghetti.  The restaurant here is super fancy. The servers are all dressed up and the tables are covered in white cloth. Coming from France, I found myself speaking in French to the servers even though I didn't have to.  In Switzerland they speak French, English and German.

This morning, we woke up to sunny peaks surrounding the little ski village of wooden cabins. 

Hannah Mehain

Journal, January 24th – Last Day in the French Alps

It is our last day in the Alps and I don't want to leave! It is so incredibly beautiful here.  I skied over the pass to Le Sommand ski area and back. I didn't want to stop skiing so I took the t-bar up a few times and came down the downhill run simply enjoying the beauty all around me.

Hannah Mehain