Category Archives: Skiing (XC)

Why I Race: Health Hope Happiness

By Cory Boddy:

There are a lot of reasons to race, whatever your discipline. Over the years I’ve focused on mountain biking, then switched to running, then mixed it up with duathlon, and now I’m pretty into road cycling and cyclocross. The disciplines have changed, but my reasons for racing haven’t. I like the challenge, I like to see improvement, it keeps my head clear and my heart healthy, and I like social aspect of cycling. There is something else though; a bonus, an added motivation that comes from being part of Fiera Race Club.

Whatever race I compete in, my race entry fees are matched with an equal charitable donation from our sponsor, Fiera Biological Consulting, to the club-supported charity of my choice. My choice is always Camp He Ho Ha.

Camp He Ho Ha or more proper: Health, Hope, and Happiness is a local camp near Edmonton, for people with special needs. Every summer over 800 campers attend, some as young as 7 and others as old as 90.


One of the best summers of my life was spent at Camp He Ho Ha. I was a Camp Counselor and for four months 800 campers with disabilities brightened every moment. I’ll never forget that summer and I try to use that experience to steer the decisions I make some 20 years later. That’s why I continue to support Camp He Ho Ha and why I’m thrilled to be part of a race club that allows me to give even more.

We are truly fortunate to be able to race, train, and ride with a club that makes this possible.

Since joining Fiera Race Team, I have participated in enough races to see Fiera Biological donate  $1,800 to Camp He Ho Ha! These are donations that are direly needed, and appreciated, and all I had to do was something that I already enjoyed, and fill out a simple online form after each race. That’s it. I didn’t have to win, or do well… or even finish, come to think of it. I just had to do what I’m already passionate about doing … get outdoors and challenge myself.

So as the race season sets upon us, I hope the rest of my Fiera Race Club teammates will challenge themselves to race and remember to report their race achievements to secure a donation to Camp He Ho Ha or any of the other worthy charities we have chosen to support. There are plenty of reasons to get out there and race. This just happens to be one of the better ones.


Since the club began, the racing adventrures of our membership have generated nearly $10,000! Below is a list of the awesome charities supported by Fiera Race Team as a result of our racing efforts. To report your results, just look to left side-margin of this homepage where it says Recent Results, then click “tell us about it!

Right to Play

Doctors Without Boarders

Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Canadian Red Cross

Food Banks Canada

Camp He-Ho-Ha

Stollery Children’s Hospital

Environmental Law Centre






Kindness matters!

As I hope you all remember, when Fiera Race Club members race, donations are generated for a select group of charities (for more information see our About Us page). We have chosen these charities carefully, weighing a few key criteria:

1) we want to support some local charities – charities that are making a difference close to home for most of our members.

2) we want to support charities that make a large, lasting, and tangible difference.

3) we want to support charities for which there is a personal connection for our members

4) and finally we want to support charities that reflect the values of a recreational, athletically motivated sports club, such that we are.

Additionally we want our modest donations to have as big an impact as possible, and at the same time we want to spread our impact around as widely as possible.

Taking all these things in to account, I think we have come up with a most deserving list of eight recipients.  They are as follows:

Right to Play

Doctors without Borders

Food Banks Canada

Canadian Red Cross

Stollery Children’s Hospital

Camp He Ho Ha

Nature Conservancy Canada

Environmental Law Centre

We don’t always receive thanks for our donations, nor do we expect to.  I hope that the knowledge that we are fortunate enough to feed our passion to train and race all while generating funds that ultimately help to make to world a better place is more than thanks enough.

Still, it is awfully nice when we do recieve a note or letter such as I recently recieved on Fiera Race Club’s behalf, from the Executive Director of Camp He Ho Ha.

“This act of kindness is written on the hearts of so many who benefit from your generosity”

Here is the letter in full.  I hope it motivates us all to keep training, racing, and giving.

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Winter Meltdown

If you check out our race calendar, you will see that February has been pretty bare of race events. However, as winter melts down things are really shaping up in Alberta, into a season void of reasons not to race — take a look at March and April!

Newest addition to the Calendar is the Canmore Winter Meltdown – a winter triathlon and duathlon.

First Race of 2012

Pete VanWesenbeeck was first off the line for the Fiera Race Team in 2012, racing in this past weekend’s annual Ottawa Winterlude Triathlon.

UPDATED:  Here is Pete’s first-had report.

Saturday Feb. 4 saw the staging of the 29th edition of the Winterlude Triathlon: a unique winter event featuring an 8k skate on the world-famous Rideau Canal, a 7k ski in the Arboretum, all capped by a 5k run, in part along the icy margins of the canal. If ever there were an opportunity to test your endurance sport skills, with the added challenge of Canada’s unpredictable winter weather thrown in, this is it!

Kicking off the triathlon is an exhilarating 8km mass-start skate that winds along three-quarters of the total length of the Rideau Canal skateway. To be competitive in this race, it is crucial to use long blades with ski bindings attached, enabling a quick transition from the skate to the ski (as well as profit from the incredible efficiency of long-blade skates compared to hockey skates). Competitors share the surface with the general public, so vigilance is required throughout the race. An 8am start, however, means most Ottawans are still tucked cozily in their beds – only the keeners are out taking advantage of the glass-like conditions on the canal after a cold winter’s night of diligent work by the maintenance crews. The skate portion has the feel of a criterium, with all the requisite drafting, periodic bursts of speed, and jockeying for position found in a bike race. It has the added adrenaline rush of sharpened skate blades flashing inches from your nose, or worse, in the event of a tumble. Two people went down – that I know of – in the course of the skate. I finished, unscathed, in the top 10, benefitting from the strong draft in a relatively tight pack of lead skaters.

On to the ski – definitely my weakest event… It started off poorly and only barely improved. My hands were cold and shaking a bit as I tried to get into my bindings. I marveled at how this minor lack of manual dexterity could compromise so significantly such a basic task. Did I say “marveled”? I mean “cursed”. I hope the words going through my head at that point weren’t said out loud…they weren’t intended for public consumption. At least a half-dozen skiers passed me in the T-zone, adding to my frustration. The course is set/groomed only the night before, so passing is tricky as the snow hasn’t had much time to set and is pretty mushy. Anyway, my arms felt a little leaden for the first few km of the ski and my lack of skiing this year didn’t help with the overall co-ordination factor. I didn’t actually fall, but I did feel pretty wobbly out there until about the midway mark when I finally started to find my ski legs. The two-loop course didn’t work to my advantage, as I began the 2nd loop just behind a group of 1st loop skiers beginning to climb a small incline. One person fell just in front of me, forcing me to wait until he righted himself so I could pass. The format is definitely an incentive to ski like stink on the first loop to avoid encountering (i.e., having to pass) so many people on the 2nd loop.

After passing a few people on the first loop, I skied most of the distance on my own – the lead pack was fairly spread out. The second loop was busier, but I knew I wasn’t likely picking up any positions on the front-runners. I had no way of knowing how far ahead anyone was now that the competitors were jumbled up on the ski course, and its curvy format made it hard to see much up ahead anyway. The race director did a nice job of maximizing use of the arboretum, incorporating a few small climbs, some straightaway and lots of turning, to make for an interesting ski race, overall. It finished back down on the canal, where the second T-zone awaited with our frozen running shoes, stuck in a snowbank.

I guess the transition from skate-skiing to running isn’t completely unlike going from cycling to running: the heart-rate is high, the quads are spent, the calves have to adjust to more of an abrupt contraction, and the hip flexors have to drive forward with much more authority. I quickly unstrapped my ski boots, donned my runners, tore off my vest to proudly expose my Fiera Race Team singlet, and headed for the exit. (Editor: images of superman!) After a few hundred meters of adjusting to the new cadence of running (and missing the timing mat on the way out of the T-zone: my fault), I settled into an easy pace and attempted to catch my breath. I don’t know why, but starting the run in any sort of triathlon always catches me and I have to ease into it. Apparently I don’t do enough brick workouts (it shouldn’t be hard to improve on this…doing one would be a good start…). By about the halfway mark, I was in a good groove and slowly started picking up a few more people that had kicked my butt in the ski. Cornering on the ice was tricky at times and I began to understand how Bambi felt. It’s hard to suddenly change direction when the only contact between you and Zamboni-smooth ice is a pair of snow-encrusted runners, and you have a decent amount of forward momentum, to boot. I had been playing around with trying to mount screws in the soles of some runners the night before, but only succeeded in puncturing an air bag in an old pair of Nikes. That sucker ptttthhh’ed around my workshop like nobody’s business! My Wile E. Coyote days are behind me, much to my wife’s relief.

All told, I finished in 6th place; 4th in my age group. It’s the third time I’ve participated in the race, and every time reinforces how much fun it is. Part of the thrill is being part of a 300-strong group of fellow winter enthusiasts, taking advantage of the unique conditions that exist in our nation’s capital enabling such an event: a (typically) robust winter, a super-long canal that is flooded and turned into a massive skating rink, and a group of people who recognize the potential of the above and undertake the effort of organizing the race. I strongly urge anyone on the team to give this race a try if you find yourself in Ottawa in early February – it really is a good challenge, and a good time!

Full results here.

Too Cold to Win

By Jan Plavec

Here is the report about my ski racing experience in Alberta. My resolution was to participate at least in one ski race so I could get some hot test before the Birkie. Actually, I wanted to check just my classic skills, but after all, only pursuit race of the Alberta Cup was an option so I said what the heck, and signed up for both skate and classic parts. Alberta looks like pretty ideal country for skiing as there are good winters here. But international rules for skiing don’t count on such good winters and they allow to ski just above minus 20 degrees (Hey should we ski in June or what!). Forecast for the race day said minus 23 so they postponed the race to the 29th and 30th January.  Temperatures were high, close to zero all week before the race, but than for the race day the forecast said minus 23 again. Nobody wanted to cancel the event and so volunteers were breathing hard on the commissioner’s thermometer and the Saturday free style part could go on.

I really enjoyed this race as the trails were awesome (thanks to Emily’s uncle and other volunteers) and the snow condition ideal (fast but not icy). Less enjoyable was fact that the guy who was with me in Masters 1 category passed me after 2 minutes (he started 30s behind me) so I could calculate that in the next 40 minutes of the race he would gather at least 10 minutes (which actually was the final result). But I didn’t let this fact to change my strategy and I focused on defense of second place (smart move as there were only two of us in the category). However, my deep focus was bothered by some juniors and junior boys passing me too. That was too much for my dignity and I pushed hard to keep up with some bored teenager and finally on a flat non-technical part I managed to get in front of him. Unfortunately, on Esso hill he took advantage of his light weight, left me behind and went into the finish while I had to go for another lap of shame.  I have to say that this all was disappointing and surprising to me because only my team had the word “RACE” in the name, so I considered others participants to be a bunch of recreational jokers. However this slightly humiliating experience was forgotten once I was called to the podium and got the silver medal which I will be showing everybody back in the Czech Republic telling stories how just one Canadian was faster than me.

Sunday should have been my big day with classic technique. I saw the leader shivering from fear as he knew that five minutes is nothing if I am behind him. But the weather was merciful to him and it didn’t give me the chance to fight. Breathing on thermometer didn’t work and the race was canceled definitely.

Results here

Sorry for this long report about nothing but there is not much to report in winter, so hopefully no harm. May be I should write more about a real racer – Emily who took the second place in the elite category, where there were more than two people and the first girl was a national level competitor. Also thanks Emily for all your help, advice, and company during these freezing days. Skol!

Emily skiing hard at the Alberta Cup

Friday Poll: How do you slide edition

I always thought the rivalry between roadie and mountain biker was as strong as (or stronger than) the animosity between Oilers and Flames fans.  But then I started racing cyclocross, and I learned that the two could co-exist quiet nicely (provided the course isn’t biased towards roadies with a bunch of flat, so-called “power sections” that anyone with the bike handling skills of a monkey could ride… but I digress)

Anyway, with the arrival of the ski season, I am wondering what FRT members think on another grande question sportive: classic or skate? Pick a side in the perennial debate:

Friday Poll: Looking forward to the snow edition

Since cyclocross season has officially come to an end in Alberta (boo 😦 ); the Friday Poll turns its mind to winter; heaps of snow; and hopes of an awesome cross-country ski season.  Which begs the question, are you planning on racing this winter, and if so, how much?

Oh, and by the way Alberta cyclocross fans (not to make you jealous or anything)… despite the problems with the city, the Ontario crew  still has another 3 weeks of racing left in the season.  In fact, this weekend, we have our choice of 3 races (1 Saturday and 2 Sunday).  I am contemplating a journey to the heights of agony, and am registered in all three.