Clubs: XC Chelsea Masters
Not Your Typical Cross-country Ski Club
For many, those first cool days in September signal the end of summer fun. But for the XC Chelsea Masters (XCCM), they signal the start of a new ski-training season – bounding up steep hills in Zone Four, grueling sets of push-ups and TRX pull-ups, or endless sets of double-poling on rollerskis. No, this is not a club for National-team hopefuls, but rather a unique mix of Masters athletes, aged 30 and up, with the biggest chunk of members more than 50 years of age. They know that by training hard and smart, they will improve their skiing and racing skills to meet the goals they have set for themselves.
XCCM is a registered ski club in Ontario that was founded in 2010 by Natalya Kuziak, who was seeking to create an environment for adults who wanted targeted programming and coaching, similar to what existed only for youth. After 13 years of coaching Masters independently or through local clubs such as Nakkertok and Chelsea Nordiq, she believed a community of like-minded adults could come together in a similar way – something that was long overdue.
While a number of clubs in Canada's National Capital Region have programming for adults, XCCM is dedicated to Masters only. It offers dryland programs with ski-bounding, rollerskiing and outdoor strength-training, indoor strength-training in the gym and long-distance rollerskiing, hiking or biking. In the winter, 10- to 14-hour weekly training continues on snow and in the gym.
The club has evolved over the years and now boasts approximately 100 members from the Ottawa-gatineau-chelsea area and a team of 13 coaches. It attracts a wide variety of people. There are those in their thirties or forties who are attracted to endurance sports such as triathlon, cycling and cross-country skiing. Ski neophytes Julie Coburn and Heather Tkalec had never been on skate skis when they joined approximately five years ago, and now regularly train and race in both disciplines. Others in their fifties, sixties and seventies have been training or racing a lot, are fit as fiddles and want coaching and community support. Ed and Cathy Cottell, also known as Blanche Drapeau, now in their sixties, are still kicking butt in ski races and doing cross-training such as cyclocross. “An inspiration to the rest of us,” quips Kuziak.
In the past six years, the club has attained a number of impressive achievements. A team of 12 athletes and two coaches, including Kuziak (president and athletic director of XCCM), went to the World Masters Championships in Sovereign Lake, B.C. in 2011. Two years later, another team competed at the World Masters in Asiago, Italy, with Kuziak as coach and Peter Hamilton as expert waxing technician.
Each spring, XCCM skiers head to the U.S. for such races as the Bretton Woods Ski Marathon, Ski and Shoe to the Clouds or the Rangley Lakes Loppet. Recently, it has run annual fundraising events, donating 100% of the proceeds – several thousand dollars – to promising local juniors.
But it's not all about racing. Many people join just to keep fit and to challenge themselves. And all love having a social atmosphere where they can socialize with friends who love the same activities and motivate and support each other. The club holds social events such as potlucks, pub nights, epic skis and overnighters to cabins.
According to Kuziak, “We think XCCM is special. It offers a fun social environment and recognizes that Masters need to train smartly to continue to achieve results, but stay injury-free. We strive to better adapt to Masters' physiological needs, such as reducing plyometrics, tailoring our training plans and strength sessions, incorporating yoga and promoting rollerskiing for its low impact and specificity. We invite clubs and coaches to get in touch with us and share ideas on how to improve training and coaching for Masters everywhere.”
(clockwise from the top) People join just to keep fit and to challenge themselves; The club is dedicated to Masters only, with lots of programs including rollerskiing; XC Chelsea Masters now boasts 100 members.