EvanPalmer-Charrette and Annika Richardson live and breathe winter. As elite Nordic skiers, the pair chase snowy climates year-round to pursue their sport at the highest level. In Evan’s case, this isn’t hard, as the Thunder Bay native notes thatit’s cold most of the year there.While many young adultsin their early twenties are finishing up school or entering the workforce,Evan and Annikatrain hard day in and day out.They both got into the sport as kids, and the passion never went away — it’s grown to the point where they’ve both put their educations on hold (or in Annika’s case, in a very part time capacity) so that they can pursue the highest level of the sport and achieve their big goals of making it to the world championships.
“The world championships is as competitive if not more so than the Olympics in our sport”they both explain, when asked what the pinnacle of competition would be for them.
As a couple, the two feel lucky to have their partnerworking towards the same goals as them. However, as elite athletes, their seasons involve lots of travel and life is centred around training. While Evanused to train at theLapine Nordic Ski Centre near his home in Thunder Bay, he now trains with Team RADin Canmore, Alberta. Annika, a member of the national development team, trains in a number of different locations for camps, and the two have spent January travelling separately for the domestic and international competition. It’s a tough sport to make a living in, but both agree they’re not doing it for the money or the accolades. It’s about the love of being outdoors and the rush of adrenaline from competition.
“It’snot a lucrative career no matter how you slice it,” says Evan, noting that in North America a good racer may only make about $5000 in prize money.. “Sponsorship isn’t a big part of it and the prizes for wins on the North American circuit don’t add up to much. I’m doing this because I want to see how far I can push myself in the sport.
As it’s the middle of winter, the two are in the thick of competition season right now. Annika had a tough 2018 and is working hard to get a spot at the senior world championships.
“I’m only now getting back to pushing myself hard,” she explains. “I was sickbefore the world championship qualifications in November and just not in a great head space. I’ve needed to learn how to push myself again.”
Evan’s season has been a bit more consistent this year, and he’s feeling good with where he’s at. He’s been putting in some consistent training and feels like he’s heading in the right direction to qualify for the world championships. Right now, if it’s not a race week, atypical trainingday has about two hours ofskiiingin the morning and the afternoon is focused on strength,prehab and rehab and maybe some more low intensity aerobic exercise.On average, Evan thinks he probably skis about 200 kilometres per week, but explains that it’s all based on time, not distance.
“The conditions are always changing with being reliant on the snow, so even in a race, the duration for the same event can vary a substantial amount,” heexplains.
Unlike in some endurance sports, nordic skiers don’t really specialize in one distance for their whole season. A race weekendusually has two or three races in it, with two distance events and one sprint. Races range from1200 or 1500m sprints— which are formatted to have six skiers going head to head —to a middle distance 10K to 50K.Races can be time trial style or mass starts.Racing can be tactical —draftingplays a big part, and racers need to be strategicaboutwhen to lead and when not to.Equipment plays a big role; not everyone has the same ski speed or grip,which plays intogettingahead on the downhills.
As with all endurance sports, recovery and nutrition play a huge role for skiers. Evan and Annika have been using First Endurance for a while now, incorporating different products into their daily nutrition regimes.
“I love theUltragen for recovery,and I use the EFS electrolyte drink mix in lemon lime,” Annika says. “For workouts longer than 90 minutes, I’ll pack the liquid shots in a fanny pack.”
Evan has struggled in the past to find a texture of recovery drink that he likes, but agrees that the Ultragen works well for him and goes down easy. He says one of the best aspects of First Endurance’s liquid shots (read more here) are the fact that they come in a reusable bottle — “it’s our responsibility to be environmentally conscious,” he says.
First Endurance Canada looks forward to seeing what the rest of the race season has in store for Annika and Evan. You can follow their adventures on their Instagram accounts (@epcharrette and @annika.richardson) and also on our social media channels, as we’ll have interviews and photos up all season and will check back in with them to see how their world championship bids have worked out.