Wednesday, November 3, 2010


2 weeks ago I had a typical training week...including a quality interval session up Nakiska, a time trial up Ha Ling (2 min off my pb in 39:00) and a couple nice real long hikes (longest was a 6 hour jaunt up 3 Sis' Pass). On the Monday I was baked, so I did an easy spin on the bike. Tues I was still real tired and really had to push through my interval workout. I finished it and was really glad I did, but I knew a whole lot of punch was missing. The next day I did an easy 2 hour run, but it was here that I decided to take some days off.....4 to be exact.

I realized that since my 1/2 ironman in early Aug, I'd never had much of a training break. Each week I take Sundays off, and there were a few weeks when I was either busy or distracted with a project and took another day or so off, but really no rest planned in the schedule for the last 3 months.

I could tell that mentally and physically I needed a break. My motivation to do my 3x per week strength workouts was gone. So to was the pop in my legs. It's like Ironman training when you kind of get used to that "always tired" state of being.

So this week after 4 days of rest I'm good to go! I put more weight than I ever have on the squat bar. Did a new interval protocol workout at the Nordic Centre and generally feel great!

Here in Canmore we've seen a few athletes develop what Deb and I refer to as "Canmore disease". It's when overly gung ho xc athletes come to train full time either on the Nat'l team or just below it and train themselves into a hole. Some never climbed out and retired. Others went for months or even a couple of years before they felt energetic at all. It's a kind of chronic fatigue. So after witnessing this in several athletes I know it's critical to not let that training hole become a black hole from which there is no return!


Days are getting short...winter and ski season can't be too far away. It's a tough time of year to keep the training going though. With such little light it means my weekly middle long run on Wed. mornings starts in the dark. The nice part is I get to see the sun come up over the mountains. Usually it cast a really cool orange on the now covered with snow peaks.

I did my last high altitude hike this week. Corey Pass in Banff nat'l park. I made it up to the pass in around 1.5 hours, but there were some real sketchy-icy sections towards the top. The "don't fall or you're going for a long slide" kind of footing. At this point I'll keep it to the valley floor and hope for some winter weather soon.

It's suppossed to be a La Nina winter, which usually means snowy and cold. The last 3 of 5 La Nina's around here though have been warm, yet snowy. That's a nice combination! Snow, but not not killer cold.

Last year we had an unusually cold and quick start to the ski season, doing xc on the golf course from early Oct. It was fun and good training, but with the warmer weather this year I feel like I've gotten a lot more quality training in. I've kept up the 2 intensity workouts per week as well as the 2 long ones.

Sunday, October 3, 2010



For a gearhead like me this is a great time of year. Deciding what new gear I need for the season and pouring over the specs and comparing. Since I'll most likely be going over to compete in the World Championships in Italy for Skimo I'll want have the best gear I can obtain/afford. What makes things kinda fun too is that our team leader in charge of gear, Ryan, has drummed up great pro deals for us. Did you hear that word? "Pro"? When I go to the Dynafit page I get to check in as a "PRO"!!! I love that concept. It also means a lot of markdown for the "PRO"!!


So I have my boots figured out. I'm going to try to get some Dynafits. If I sell my Scarpas I can probably come close to breaking even there. Now comes the tricky part. Skis. It seems my 2 decade long affliliation with Atomic may finally be waning. The Dynafit skis are a super great deal, but word on the Int'l street is that they break and are really hard to ski on. Even the super stud Euros (the real pros that get them for free) are refusing to ski on them. Movement, a Swiss comany with the Canadian rep living right here in Canmore, may come through with a pro deal. I could always order some Atomics from Europe or try to get another pair of SkiTrabs.

So here's my dilemna. Even with a pro deal on skis and bindings it's probably going to cost me 800$ for a new pair. I've got 1 decent pair of SkiTrabs (probably the best skimo ski out there, but expensive). They're not the top line ski (weighing in 100g more than the World Cup model) and technically the bindings on there might not pass the new int'l rules (I have Gignoux heel-Dynafit toe, you're not suppossed to mix bindings). But in reality, they probably would work. I'd like to have a back up pair, especially racing in Europe.

But as I began to ponder the price.....800$ I began to wonder if I could get along with one pair. 800$...I wonder how much it costs to build a home in the 3rd world for a family living without one? I do have a fairly large quiver of skis....but racing at the top level demands good equipment. But 800$. I bet 800$ could purchase enough materials for a new home to be built in places like Mexico or Mongolia. I could get my pair of race skis, but a family could have a house!

I remember in the Bible there's a verse that says, "But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" Ouch.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Training Markers

Just recently got back from Wisconsin where I competed in the Chequamegon mountain bike race. 1700 start and at least that many others are denied entrance due to llimiting the size of the field. It was only my 3rd mountain bike race ever. The 2nd being the Cheq. 2 years ago.

My goal was top 200....I finished 286. Ironically, if I'd gone about 4 minuntes faster I would have made my goal. Alas, I'd given it all I had.

I find that in training you need some markers. Timed events or races that show you where you're at. When you repeat the time trial or race you have a realistic way of comparing and charting your progress or re-gress.

In 2006 my friend John Bauer elected not to go for another olympics. Although he was by far and away the USA's best xc skier in the '02 Olympics and a sure bet to make the team in '06 he stated that several markers in his training revealed that he wasn't where he felt he should be if he was to compete at the level he wanted to.

As athletes we should never fear laying it all out on the line and take an honest look at where we're at. So what if the test revealed that you need some improvement in a certain area. It could also show that the training is paying off and you're doing a confidence boost in the next big competition.

HOw did I do compared to my other Cheq? I was about 6 min slower and 30 places further back. I'm still not sure why, but it means I may have to buckle down a bit and get some riding it!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Training As Healing

Life can throw some curveballs at ya sometime. This week has seen not just one of those curveballs beaning right toward my head, but a couple. As one of my favorite rock groups, 7th Day Slumber sings, "life just sucks sometimes". But in the middle of harsh relational realities I've found that training can keep you from going insane. Each workout this week I had a smile on my face as I buzzed through the woods on my mtn bike or hammered up Ha Ling Peak behind my house. If I had to live in Regina or another vertically challenged place I don't know if I could take it. But no matter how sour things can get, there's so much joy by moving your body either through the woods or up a mountain.

Several years ago I had a friend that had just lost his wife and was himself diagnosed with a permanent physical disorder. Besides this he already suffered from depression. He'd talked of suicide from time to time, but never seriously- when these things hit him though I began to fear for him. In the midst of all this he began to run again with the goal of finishing a marathon. He joined a group at his health club. With the new goal and relationships he had a reason to get out of bed each day. I seriously think the marathon (which he finished) saved his life.

There's a lot more to training than going fast, beating someone or accomplishing a time goal. Sometimes a run can be the most spiritual, emotionally healing thing you can do for yourself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


There's something about doing a 5 hour workout. Whether it's all one discipline (run, bike, etc.), or a mix of cross training. I find that in the week following a 5 hour I'm stronger in any discipline. It's just something about going that long on your heart and lungs and muscles.

I remember reading how Mark Allen recommends not going over 6 hours (ironman training) as it has diminishing returns. But "The Grip" also talks about workouts that are so ridiculously hard that they make your race seem easy. Imagine the confidence that can give you come race day.

At this time of year when I still have some tri's to do, the 5 hour is mostly bike-run. Come August I'll be doing a mix of biking-hiking....maybe some long 5 hour run-hikes too.

The Norwegians used to refer to their research where the heart size begins to expand after 2 hours of training. Bigger heart = bigger stroke volume = higher VO2 max = faster race! So a 5 hour is way out there in performing this important function.

It's interesting to me that if I train for 1/2 ironmans (as I have the past 3 years) instead of the full, I only do a 4 hour bike-run. But for a full I'll make sure I do 5 hour bike-run. You wouldn't think it's significant, but for some reason that extra hour just has an exponential effect...hence "The Power of the 5 Hour"!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Strength Training Residual

Ever wonder if all that strength training you did in the off season is still paying off? Perhaps it's so long ago that you've lost all of it by now anyway. I've come to a conclusion on this based on this past ski season. Around this time last year I began whitewater kayaking (a new sport to me), weight lifting and swimming (prep for tri's). It was all too much for one of my rotator cuffs and it was really sore. I kept up the swimming and kayaking, but stopped doing upper body weights and did a fair bit of stretching. Usually this would be enough to quell the pain, but it persisted until January.

I knew I had to get serious about this so I began a series of dumbell strengthening exercises. Being during the ski race season time was short so I soon just worked out the offending limb. In a matter of 3 weeks all the pain was gone. A good enough lesson here...use strength development to prevent and cure injured areas; however another lesson emerged months later.

In May when I decided to do pre-emptive strengthening of those shoulders before the injury happens, I noticed how much stronger the past injured limb was. The one I'd worked exclusively for only 3 weeks. Here it was 3-4 months later and with only 3 weeks of training only that limb it was significantly stronger that the non-worked out shoulder.

The lesson I take away from this is that we may not lose as much strength as we think when we taper off intentional strength building in favor of racing in our chosen aerobic sport. Maintainace workouts are a good idea, but we may be retaining more of that hard earned fitness than we realize.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hanging On

Well here it is May 13. We’re still skiing after 7 months. Around here in the Canadian Rockies a good ski year is a 7 month ski season. 2 weeks ago myself and a couple other guys skied into the Little Yoho Valley and stayed 2 nights at the Stanley Mitchell hut. There was great skiing as we checked out both Emerald pass and President’s pass. On the way down the warm weather turned the snow iso under our really sore feet- due to some bad news blisters. I told myself as the skiing gave way to hiking, that I’d be at peace putting the skis away.

But that was 2 weeks ago, and it turned cold again! Last week I was up early (sunrise is around 5:00 a.m. now) and reasoned that if I got going I could get a ski in around Sunshine Village and be back in the office a little after 9. So I went up the ski out, then took a right up to Wawa ridge. It was cool topping out long before the lifts even got cranked up. The snow was fresh pow over a firm base....unreal for May! I resolved to come back on the weekend.

Saturday, top ranked Canadian xc skier Ian Murray and myself returned up to that Wawa ridge and yo-yo ‘d 4 runs off the steepest, longest run we could find. Bright sun and great snow really amped us up!

Then....Monday I returned yet again and skied at the Sunshine Village ski area downhill area. Yup, I took the lifts this time, even dropping into Delirium Dive 3 times. I was kinda tired and in the a.m. mostly unmotivated....pre-Delirium, and was contemplating an early departure (something the ski nut and cheapo in me would never do!). However, the Dive and the warming sun combined to give some amazing ski conditions. I squeezed out the day to the last lift going for the day. Mentally I was relieved as this is normal behavior, vs. that wimp out early departure stuff.

Am I done? Probably not. But it is getting warm this week. Maybe I finally should get those bikes going.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Zoolander of SkiMo

For goofy movie afficionados (I’m guilty) Zoolander is a big hit. The one main problem Zoolander, male model extrordinaire, had was that he couldn’t turn left. You can be male model of the year several years running, but inwardly when you know that you just can’t turn left it’s going to leave you feeling somewhat insecure.

In some ways I feel like the Zoolander of skimo. No, I’m not referring to my chiseled good looks, six pack abs or the "black lung" post race cough I experience. It’s that when under pressure I can’t seem to get into my Dynafit bindings or perform quick efficient kick turns. In our nat’l points race finale, the Dogtooth Dash, I experienced another Dogtooth disaster. The reason being I lost so much time on kick turns and Dynafit snafues. I didn’t help that my razor sharp ski edges....thanks to the world’s best ski tuners- Couloir Bike and Ski of Canmore.....sheared off 90% of one of my pole baskets while performing one of my technically disturbed kick turns. Those same edges sliced my pole in half mid way in the race on a downhill crash. I missed that pole and basket and certainly lost time because of it, but really-after all these years now of racing you’d think I’d have kick turns and Dynafit transitions down.

These are mental errors and can be fixed. Yes I practiced both before the race and thought I had them down. I think this summer I’ll go out to steep grassy knolls and practice the kick turns. I’ll also go down to my local rink, gather ice shavings, dump them on my skis and practice getting in and out of Dynafit bindings (everyone knows that ice and snow clogging the binding makes it more challenging).

So another race season gone. I’m already looking forward to next year. Who knows, if Zoolander can rescue the Prime Minister of Thailand from the evil Mugatoo by overcoming his disability, then maybe there’s hope for me too....the Zoolander of skimo!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Last Blast`

It had been a couple of weeks since my last race (Rocky Mtn Ski Marathon...30km....6th), so I felt I needed one last race type effort before our SkiMo nat'ls this weekend. What to do? Time trial up Sunshine ski area. I've gone from gondola bottom to the very top several times, but only a couple in a time trial format. The total climb is 1070 meters of vertical over approximately 12km.

It was a saturday so I wanted an early start to avoid the crowds. Starting out low the freeze/melt cycle had set up a bit of an icy course but I was surprised how quickly it gave way to untransformed powder. I used all my best race gear, mohair skins included. I find that icy conditions really eat up the mohair skins, so in the spring I switch to synthetic. Today though I could see the mohair was the right choice.

My format is to ski easy for 15 min., then give 'er. I don't know if it was the short night of sleep or the 3 hour easy ski I'd done the night before, but I was tired and I just couldn't get my heart rate up very high. O well, I thought, just go hard, see what the intermediate time is at the main lodge and see what happens.

As I started cranking. My first thought was, "I gotta shorten these race poles." I've already cut 'em down 3 times....any more and they can double as sledge hockey poles. But I'm finding that for climbing the shorter poles are the way to go. 125 cm for me, otherwise they just get in the the ups and the downs.

I made the lodge in 47 minutes, a pb by almost 3 minutes. Even though the heart wasn't getting very high, I must have been moving pretty good. As I continued to climb I could see the area had really been getting a lot of spring pow. If fact that day it was wind blown in. It kinda slowed me down. As I reached the "Bye-Bye Bowl" the steeper sections were challenging as the new windblown was slipping away over the ice. I had to make several extra switchbacks to keep the angle lower. This obviously was going to cost me time, but reasoned I needed to practice my switchbacks anyway. With each one I ranked it for its speed and efficiency.

As the top of the mountain lift station came into view I could see from my watch that a new record was in reach. I'd tell myself, "13 minutes to get to the top." Then, "7 minutes to get to the top." With each glance at the watch I could also see my heart rate also begin to climb. Maybe I'd just needed some motivation to get it high, which now seemed to be the case.

Final time: 1:28:02

My previous best was 1:32:00. A PB by 4 minutes. I was stoked. I guess I am in ok shape after all. How will this compare to the other guys next week? I couldn't tell ya (probably be in my next blog). But in the end it's not about beating anyone or placing at any position. It's about doing the absolute best that YOU can do. That's where you have to focus your energy. A lot of people really have big time race nerves, but I've found that if you just concentrate on you- your race and doing all you can to be the best you can be, it really helps the pre-race nerves. Go as hard as you can, maximize every opportunity to pick up time and let the results take care of themselves. In this way you can walk away from any race at peace with yourself.

After posting that time I must admit I was stoked! Though my legs were shaking I teamed up with someone and dropped into Delirium Dive. On my light 160cm race skis the powder mank was a challenge, but I was up to it. The ski out saw this skier with a big smile on his face as I contemplated how cool it is to live here, do a (shortish) 2 hour workout in this manner, in this environment.

Monday, March 22, 2010

ROAM...The One That Got Away

With all the nat’l team guys in Europe I figured ‘d better win this one. It had only been a week since my very hard effort at the US Birky, but I’d babied my body as best I could within that week in preparation. In retrospect I think I was tired and burnt from being away at the Olympics for 3 weeks plus the travel. I’d never been so exhausted after a race and took so long to recover.

In any case, at the start line I did the usual check out the skis to see who would be competitive. It didn’t look too threatening. It was almost comical at the start as several dudes with heavy gear really charged up the first incline. I was redlining it and still wasn’t in the lead with my lighter gear. Finally, after about 400m they all died off and I was off to the races. After the first small climb and very short somewhat gnar mogully downhill there was a nice 1.5 km cat track downhill. I was planning on skating away from the pack and skating up the first incline before the climb up into the woods. I’d even scoped it out the day before. It’s kinda funny though that the only part of the course I checked out was the one I took the wrong turn on...duh. The course took a Y to the right, but my speed was so high I went blowing right by it. After awhile sensing something might not be right I looked back and saw no one behind I stopped....a big hi speed hockey stop....still no one there. Shoot!! I realized what I’d done. Now I had to skate ski up the downhill I’d just torn down. By the time I was back on course at least ½ the field were in front of me. So much for my blazing skate ski speed and confidence after last week’s Birky.

Climbing up the wooded trail was tough. There had been several freeze thaw cycles and in the morning the south facing track was quite icy. Those with big skis and big synthetic skins actually had an easier time. However, I kept hacking my way up and by the time I got to the top of the climb (almost an hour later), the snow had turned untransformed and I’d caught everyone but the top 2.

It was here that I did something right. Along the ridge top it was a gradual up, down and flat. I brought my very short skins....the well broken in ones, and had waxed them with a hi flouro wax. I also put a hi flouro wax on the tails of my ski. On this section of the trail and later in the race a 1.5 traverse to the final bowl, I really made some time. There were even some downhill sections where we kept our skins on....I flew.

After navigating Ymir bowl’s death cookies, we climbed up to the top on the other side of the valley. It was here that I saw 1st and 2nd place. Time to move!! I reeled in 2nd no problem, but the lead guy was pretty far up there. In the end I ran out of real estate. At the top of the mountain they said that "Spider Man" had 2 minutes on me. Spider Man!! I know him! I skied with him in Whitefish (he beat me).

At the finish there he was. 2 minutes ahead. I figured I’d lost at least 5-6 minutes on my wayward tour off course. He looked kinda sheepishly at me and said he’d yelled out to me when he saw me go awry, but to be honest I’m guessing the yell wasn’t too loud. He was getting the interview and picture taken for the local paper. They weren’t interested in 2nd place. I was a little ticked at myself for letting this one get away...but get this...

First place award was a nice pair of Dynafit Vertical bindings. 2nd place was a really nice Arcyterx pack. I’d secretly been hoping to win such a prize (the pack). I’d just purchased those very same bindings just the week before to put on the G3 Tonics I’d won from Backcountry magazine. Everything works out in the end!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Since I haven't written since's about time!!! One of my goals for the year was to go to Andorra and compete in the Ski Mo Worlds. Fortunately I was named to the team (squeeking on), but with working in the Olympic Village for 3 weeks felt it was just too much additional time away (not to mention the cost). So my consolation prize was to race the Birky for the 23rd time.

My goal here was to continue to be in the elite wave, but now qualifying at age 50. In the 25+ years that they've had the elite wave, I've always qualified. Mind you, it's getting a bit tougher. The days where you would go out hard and fast but bonk midway, yet still hold on for a top 200 position are over. You falter even for 5 minutes and you're out. But still you have to go for it. The race is fast and when you start with the elites they suck you right in to a pace that most likely is over your head.

Such was the case this year. The first 15 km has a lot of climbing and as I kept an occaisional eye on my HR monitor I tried not to panic. "Can I really go this hard?" after 9 km my per km time was 2:44. I barely ski around 3min when I race in Canmore for 10 Km! But I hadn't raced this year...what? Yes this was my first skate race of the year! Maybe my only one too! That seems strange to me as the Birky usually is the cap of a season of long racing. Racing prepares you mentally and physically and I'd only done a couple of low key classic races (bombing in both) and 3 skimo races.

At the 10km mark I really felt a bonk coming on. I'd been going too hard trying to keep up with the group. I only brought 3 gels, even then thinking it was 1 too many. So I began to nurse that bonk flirting on the edge for the next 40km. I was able to pick up a couple of gels at aid stations and get drink feeds. Somehow I never fell over the glycogen depletion precipise and hung on and even kept the pace up.

I latched on to 2 other guys. One of whom was "Rocket" Rod Raymond of Duluth (I didn't know it was him until I checked the results). From OO on we had a nice pack of 3-4 except for when the lead women passed us at 30km. We hung on for 10 km, but then they started challenging each other for the win-trying various breakaways in the hilly section. Usually the the gals (who start 2min back) don't catch me until the lake, so I suspected maybe I wasn't going as fast as I thought I was.

It's always a huge relief to hit the lake knowing there's only a few km's left. You can hear the crowds, see the water tower and taste the finish line at the end of main street. Most years though the lake can be a long slog and usually I get passed by packs. This year the packs weren't around and though I couldn't quite keep up with my OO pack, I reeled in several stragglers...those drifting in bonk land just trying to make it in. My right tricept muscle began to cramp with every stroke of the pole. My legs had been on the verge of cramping for 20km and I knew that if the race was even 2km longer I'd be in big trouble!

It's hard to describe the feeling of coming down the spectator lined main street. Later on when there's streams and streams of racers the cheering may ebb downward a bit, but when you're still kind of up there and only dozens v. thousands of skiers have passed by, the crowds are still going pretty berserk. It's a lot of fun, but mostly because you know the end is just right there.

Finishing is such a good feeling. Not only can you finally rest after almost 2 and 1/2 hours, but there truly is joy in completing the journey. I know I had the biggest smile on my face. I'd raced with absolutely everything I had in me. When I felt bonkish at 10km I continued on pace for another 40km. Through the battle I felt I had skied at the top end of my capabilities the entire way. For the effort it seemed to me that I'd for sure be top 100, maybe even top 80. But it didn't matter because the real victory was in the effort. I'd known I'd given the best effort I was entirely capable of. I was a little surprised to learn later of my 160th place, but that didn't diminish the joy and satisfaction of racing my best.

My per km time averaged out to 2:48. For me really good!! I met my overall goal of top 200. It used to be that you'd be really happy with top 50. Then it was top 100. If you didn't meet the goal at least qualify for next year's elite top 200 wave so you could have another shot. Now though I think the goal is just stay elite! And to give an idea how competitive it is if I'd skied 31/2 minutes faster I would have placed in my age group (I was 5th-my best a.g. ever) and been in the top 100....if I'd have skied 4 minutes slower I would have been out of the top 200.

My head is still Birky buzzing 4 days later. But really my focus for the year has been on skimo racing. Somehow I've got to get it together mentally and physically because we have a nat'l points race in Nelson BC this weekend. I've never been so tired for so many days after a race. It's thursday today and the first day I felt like I actually had some energy (non-caffeine fueled).

I guess going to WI and racing my 23rd Birky gave me Birky fever. I've heard about it and for many years of my life lived, skied and trained under its clouding influence. Funny though....I don't really mind!