Thursday, October 20, 2011


Though we’re having an unusually nice and warm fall, the skiing is up and running (Oct. 15)! The Canmore Nordic Centre has opened its “Frozen Thunder”- a 2.5 Km loop consisting of snow they stored over the summer. I personally watched the process of moving the snow onto the trail last week while mtn was an amazingly complex process. Not just the building of the trail, but how they dug a massive pit to blow the man-made white stuff into last winter, then insulating it with sawdust and now moving it with multiple dump trucks and loaders . It must have cost a lot of money.

This is the 3rd or 4th year of early October snow at the Nordic Centre. The new director Mike Roycroft has done a wonderful job of meeting serious skier’s needs. Our nat’l team would normally be somewhere in Europe training, but they’re all here looping around Frozen Thunder.

It’s kinda cool to be skiing when the temps are still hitting between 5-10C in the afternoons. You can go for a real nice mountain bike or run in conjunction with your ski.

In addition to the xc skiing I’m meeting some of my Canadian skimo teammates at the Farnham glacier this weekend for some early season turns and vert training. Winsport Canada previously had set up a summer training site for alpine skiers, but it became too much of a “money pit” according to a friend of mine that formerly ran the camp. Mike told me that it’s a very “active glacier”, so they were constantly having to fill in crevasses and mold the run to the racer’s expectations. A good friend of mine, Jan Hudec, used to train there but as one of Canada’s super elite downhill aces, got to sleep at Panarama resort just over a line of mountains and then they choppered the guys over every day (after their massages, etc.).....we’re sleeping in our cars.

We’re also bringing avi gear (for those crevasses). Ropes, prusucks, atc’s, harnesses, ascenders, etc. Hopefully we won’t need them, but you never know when it comes to glacier travel.

I spent way too much time yesterday scoping out the whole scene on Google Earth and my GPS software. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get lost on the many forestry dirt roads out there (and be another GPS casualty lost in the wilderness).

I guess all this to say that winter is just about here and it’s time think snow!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Norquay Time Trial

This weekend the Nordic Centre is unveiling their 2nd annual “Frozen Thunder”. It’s a short xc ski loop utiliizng snow they store through the summer. Even though it’s mid October, we’re getting close to skiing! The challenge at this time of year is to keep the hours and intensity up. The days are short (especially with “daylight killing time”), it’s cold, roller ski tips slip a lot, etc.
One of my new workouts is timing myself roller skiing up the Norquay ski area access road. It’s several Km’s uphill. It takes me around :20 on a bike and :30 on roller skis. To do this workout I drive to the top with a bike (or a couple-for multiple runs). I then drive down, park my truck, warm up then set up the watch to time myself gong up.

Last Friday my plan was to do 2 runs at anaerobic threshold, timing myself on both. As I hurriedly loaded my truck (battling eventual fading light) I noticed I had a flat on one of the 2 bikes I was going to use. I then quickly grabbed another wheel from my tri bike. However, as I unloaded the bikes at the top of the run I noticed the replacement wheel also had a flat. “Ok, I reasoned, it must be the Higher plan for me to do just one run” (my 9 year old daughter was waiting in the truck watching a movie on my I-pod until we could go see daughter #2 play volleyball in Banff when I finished). So I was going to give ‘er on the 1 run.

Hoping for a personal best I went out hard, but reserved. For some reason on sustained uphills in classic skiing my back really tenses up... and it’s painful. I don’t know if I have to stretch more, strengthen it more, or just be tougher.

There’s 7 switchback turns on the way up and I call out the number as I complete each turn. On #4 the mountain sheep grazing on the roadside grass looked up when I did this and they had this look of panic on their eyes like they were about to stampede over me. Fortunately they herded each other the other direction. Then on the final switchback when I decided to really push hard to the finish there was a load of Asian tourists in a van that stopped right in the middle of the road to take pictures of me. I would have smiled, but with all the heavy breathing I decided to drool instead. I figured they’d have fun showing that picture around.

At the very top the light was starting to fade so much I had a hard time seeing the time on my watch. When I eventually got my delerious state under control I could see that I’d set a PR of 27:34. That always feels good. To get a little faster. In endurance sport (or maybe any sport) progress comes in increments. Athletes, like anyone I guess, are always looking for that magic bullet that’s going to lop off a huge chunk of time, but that usually never materializes. Instead, the real champs know that consistent chipping away....little by little improvement over time brings real and lasting results.

Now If I can just get ‘er under 27 minutes!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


After a summer of training in the "Valley" it’s time to get in some altitude-otherwise known as "vertical" or "vert". Since our skimo races have hills as long as :30 (N. America), 1:00 (Europe) you need to get used to climbing...and climbing hard!!

I was beginning to wonder if my training plan of building a base by preparing for Ironman Canada was the best idea. 2 and 3 weeks after the race I started knocking off some nice mountain hikes, but just felt sluggish. Duh, maybe it was because I wasn’t fully recovered.. Yesterday,3 + weeks after the big event I was hammering up Lady MacDonald mountain, doing 3x:10 intervals and I felt strong again. The Aerosmith song, "Back in the Saddle Again" started playing in my head. Initially my plan was to keep the intervals in zone 3, but it felt so good to go hard that I brought them up to a solid zone 4 level. As usual, at the end of the hike I was rewarded with a great mountain top view. What an awesome way to train!!

With a solid base from summer tri training it’s now time to do as much climbing as I can. This weekend my plan is to do a roller ski time trial up the Norquay access road, a :30 minute ski, then the next day scale up Mt. Allen- a close bike ride from my house.

Well, I’m off to lead a Sport/Faith Bible discussion group with some bobsled athletes, then watch them do start training in the ice house. On my way home I’ll stop in K country for a vert hike up to Baldy Pass.

Go vert or go home!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ironman Canada 2011 Review

Ironman Canada 2011

Now that Ironman #5 for me (#3 Canada) is in the books and 3 days later my head has finally cleared, it’s time for my race report.

My overall goal for this race and all the summer training was to be in top shape for skimo racing next winter. I made the decision to do an Ironman (after 3 summers off) while in Italy competing in the Skimo World championships. This sport requires a tremendous amount of aerobic fitness and Ironman prep as oppose to just summer ski training I felt would provide the impetus to be more focussed and intentional in putting in long training hours. So in light of this I met my goal as my fitness level was as good as can be for me.

With school starting early this year I had to fly solo as Deb is teaching this year and the 2 little ones didn’t want to miss their first day. I copied my plan I did for the qualifier “Desert Half” in Osoyoos earlier by simply sleeping in the back of my truck. With the warm weather and comfy futon it actually was a pretty sweet set up. I got to park close to the start. There were dozens of porta potties everywhere and my little totally equipped rig had everything I needed right at my disposal.


I tried a new line this year, I went far left. It takes you off course a bit, but the beach does curve up, so some of that is offset. The problem I had was that I continued to go left and was pretty far off course. There was absolutely no one where I was. Forget all those stories you hear about being kicked, dunked, swum over..... I was totally alone. And probably for good reason. I may have lost 5 minutes or more taking this sanity route. An on course canoe kept telling me to move back over. By halfway and the first buoy I was back into the fray, right in dead centre, which was ok as the pack of nearly 3000 had now spread out. Next time I’d start in the same place but move over quickly to get some fast feet to draft off of. My time of 1:17 was the slowest in 3 tries for me. I should have gone around 1:10. So I gave up 7 minutes.


After a relatively quick T1 (and getting yelled at for running so fast in the T1 zone by other athletes walking their bikes) I settled in to a controlled pace. That was the mantra for me this year... “control”. Or as my old ski coach Sten Fjeldheim used to say, “Overscrud”, a Norwegian term for “reserves”. In both previous IMC races I had no legs left for the run....this year was hopefully going to be different.

My first mishap happened going up McClean road, a steep, rough uphill. There were literally 100's of cyclists everywhere. Right in the middle of the road a fast swimming older lady threw her chain and veered left taking me and another guy out. She didn’t fall. We both went down hard. I was bleeding a lot from my elbow and knee with other assorted road rash. The elbow was especially annoying as the blood kind of coagulated on my arm rest and tore at my wounds every time I moved my arms off the pads. I could deal with that though.

We must have had a good tailwind going down to Osoyoos, but to me it didn’t seem like it. I just felt tired and a little “bonky”. I tried keeping up the eating, but it seemed my stomach was full and I felt bloated. Maybe I should’ve endured that long porta potty line for visit #3. Or maybe I hadn’t slept as well as I thought in my pick up RV. There was a drunken smart aleck that was yelling out ‘til past midnight at a couple other more obvious campers, “Are you Ironmen asleep yet?”.....funny guy. I figured you really don’t sleep that well the night before a race anyway.

As we turned to begin the more challenging part of the course I was kind of even relieved to start climbing up the 14km Richter Pass. Most years I’m ripping by people, but this time I was getting passed almost as much as I was passing. But all along I kept that run in the back of my mind.

My friend Myles Gaulin caught up to me. He’d flatted earlier. Myles is usually just a bit ahead of me in most races, except in Ironmans he crushes me. He had a 10:30 this year. Almost :50 faster than me. That’s pretty typical. I actually beat him last year in the Calgary ½, but for some reason I go slower than my usual competition in Ironman. Anyway, we rode together for a good bit of the climb and chatted away, so my pace couldn’t have been too slow, and yet given the conversation, not too fast either.

The climb seemed easy. So many of my long rides incorporated similar climbs (Storm Mountain, Radium pass, Sunshine and Norquay access roads, etc). Now the downhills and rollers. There are 10 roller hills. I’d done this part of the course at the Desert Half, so I knew it well...and from other rides too. I consciously held back on the uphills, but felt like I was still going ok.

Once we hit the flat section into Keremeos the headwind really picked up. It was here that my character was tested. With all the riders it was hard not to draft and for awhile an obvious pack really formed. I was in the back and at first didn’t try too hard to stretch out. After awhile though my conscious must have caught up to me so I backed off....and was I ever glad! Just a few minutes later the drafting police showed up. The guy on the back of the motor bike stood up and was writing down numbers. I made a few comments to the person close to me....a confession of sorts, but mostly relief that I wasn’t busted!!

When I got to the special needs bags (my kids love this term... “special needs”. These are the kids in their school that are mentally handicapped. They tease me, “Daddy, you have special needs?!”)...I was really feeling good. Not tired. Not tired of riding yet. My customary kit at this point is a Red Bull, peanut butter/Nutella sandwich and a Snickers bar. I’d bought a couple of insulated lunch bags to keep everything cool. I stuck the Red Bull in my jersey pocket while I ate the sandwich, but it popped out before I had a chance to drink it. Now those things are expensive. Something like 3 bucks. If you add on the 7$ I spent on the lunch bag, that means that Red Bull cost around 10 dollars. There was no way I was going to let that ice cold Red Bull lay on the road, so even though it cost me a few minutes I stopped and retrieved it. Of course it started rolling downhill, so I had to chase after it. Then the hill was too steep to mount my bike, so I uncharacteristically took a break. I cracked open the Red Bull and walked up the hill while I drank it until I got to a place where I could mount my bike. To an average person that would seem like the obvious thing to do, but for a competitive Ironman fighting for every second it was a luxurious waste of time.....I made sure I really enjoyed that cold Red Bull!

Next up is the legendary Yellow Lake hill. The true Tour De France experience. During this very long, and at times, steep uphill there are literally 1000's of people cheering you on. Just like in the tour there are sections where there is just a 5' gap of people to ride through. As tired as your legs are at this point, I love it!! I didn’t get caught up in the hoopla though and held back, again thinking of the run. However, there were a couple of times that I ran out of gear and had to stand up to pedal. At these points I could feel that my legs could possibly cramp. Not as bad as Ironman 2006 for me, but not a good sign either.

Once the Yellow Lake hurdle is done, it’s mostly screaming downhills into Penticton. Unfortunately this year’s head wind took out all that easy riding and rest. This 25km section was the hardest it’s ever been for me in several outings. Usually you fly into town feeling awesome after the long descents. This year it was a struggle and great relief to finally be off that bike.

I knew my T2 was going to be slow for a couple reasons: 1) I had to pee the whole bike ride. I knew a porta potty stop would cost at least an additional minute, so I kept putting it off. Some Ironmen just pee on themselves on the bike. I tried that once and it took 2-3 days to get the smell out of my system. I swore I’d never do it again. 2) I changed all of my clothes except for my compression sox. As you enter the men’s change tent, a volunteer comes up with your bag to help you. Mine was mostly really great putting my stuff in a pile, except for when he mixed up what I was changing into with what I’d just changed out of. In any case, I knew there’d be a point where I’d be buck naked except for my compression sox. So there he was hovering over me. I gave him a little warning, “You might not want to watch this.” It actually helped me change fast with him there! Then it was on to the porta potty and then the run.

As I was running through the transition zone, someone noticed my Hoka One One running shoes and called something out to that affect. I think I was the only guy in the race with them, but it was a good move. These shoes have 3x the cushion of a normal running shoe. As bad as my legs hurt, I couldn’t imagine how much more the pain would’ve been. The day before the race as I was hanging out at Skaha beach I struck up a conversation with one of the 1,100 first time Ironman would be’s. He informed me his plan to run the marathon in “barefoot” running shoes. Actually not even the ones he normally used as those developed holes the week before the race. I thought of him during the run when my quads were screaming with pain and wondered how this rookie Ironman’s plan was working.

Ok, so here’s where things get a bit interesting. I thought I’d “overscruded” my legs for the run, but quickly realized that probably wasn’t the case. I started the run, and with all the 1000's of spectators around the transition and start/finish area, it seemed easy...until mile #2. That’s when the first cramp started. Every Ironman I’ve ever done (4 previous) I’ve been totally messed up by cramping muscles. Always in my calves (hence the compression calf sox I was wearing), and in my quads if I went too hard on the bike. Sure enough, at only mile #2 I felt my first quad cramp. In the past quad cramps reduced me to a walk, but this time I was hoping for a miracle that I was packing on my newly purchased Ultimate Direction fuel belt.

Only 2 weeks before IMC I was listening to a podcast and they were interviewing an exercise physiologist that did his dissertation on alleviating muscle cramps by imbibing pickle juice. It seemed kinda weird, but intriguing. I followed up by sleuthing around the internet and found an abstract from his paper. In the research they found that only a very small amount is needed (2 oz/ 80ml) and sometimes just putting it into your mouth worked. I didn’t try this at all in my training and didn’t even know if I could keep it down. Besides, who wants to train to the point of cramping? So when that first twinge came, I thought, “Here we go, let’s see if this stuff works.”

Guess what? It did work. Miraculously. In under a minute the cramping stopped. 2 small swigs of the brine was good for about :30 minutes. I kept the regimen up and had zero cramping the entire race. If you’d know how bad I always cramp up in these super marathons then you’ll realize how astounding it was to have no cramps whatsoever on this especially hot one at that!

Looking at my watch I could see that a sub 11 hour Ironman was within grasp if I could run my goal time of 3:45. It’d be close and in the 35C weather probably pretty impossible for me to do, but I went for it. Over the first 10km (first 1/4) I actually was right on pace. I felt amazingly good. For the first Ironman ever I was actually running and not shuffling along nursing spasmodic legs. However, that heat (90+ F) was just too much. For the next 20km I had to slow down.

At the ½ way point it was time for special needs bag #2. Of course there was a cold Red Bull waiting for me. Man did that thing ever taste good!! It propelled me up the 2 mile uphill immediately after the turn around mid point. I have a mantra that I developed in my first Ironman Canada back in 2004. After the turn around on the run I tell myself that every step is one more step closer to home.

By the time I started to get back into town and through the 20 mile mark I was having a great time. My legs were really hurting, but it was so much easier with no cramping. I could run through that pain and continued to do so, even turning up the speed with 5 miles to go. This was by far my most enjoyable (if you could call what we go through “enjoyable”) Ironman run. As I finally hit main street and the spectator lined Lakeshore drive I told myself, “really enjoy this.” Instead of the usual grimaced painful look and desire to simply get this thing done, I had a huge grin and did my best to soak it all up. What a blast!

I saw my friends Mark & Julie Kent that came out to watch me finish. I gave a short wave. It means so much to have someone there that cares for you, if only to be a witness to the accomplishment you’ve just completed.

Some things in life we take for chairs. As you read this you’re probably sitting in one right now. But I’ve never appreciated a chair as much as at an Ironman finish. After hammering for 11+ hours, to finally sit down and get off your feet and legs is THE most wonderful feeling you think you could ever experience. I sat, smiled, drank a Dr Pepper and just soaked up the wonderful feeling of not having to propel my body forward anymore. Then it was off to the medi tent to finally clean up my 10 hour old road rash.

As any Ironman will tell you, the couple of days immediately after the race are still quite painful. The soreness in your legs is astounding. They’ve done biopsies on marathon runners and found that they have permanent scarring and muscle damage. I can only imagine how much more for an Ironman marathoner. The painful soreness in my muscles bear testimony to this. Yet, it doesn’t take long for you to begin planning next year’s come back. As the pain memories fade, the exhilarating, victorious recollections increase.

I guess after a 3 year hiatus I’m back in the Ironman game!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Compression, Ice, and Pickles

Ironman #5 (Ironman Canada) is officially in the books. Hot weather (mid 30's C) & hi winds on the bike slowed me down a bit, but it could have been a lot worse. I got off the bike after really trying to be conservative. I had my slowest of all 3 IMC bike times, but it still wasn’t easy enough to let me have fresh legs for the marathon.

I have this tendency to really cramp in heat and exhaustion. Every Ironman before I’ve had real debilitating leg cramps. It’s hard to run when your calves and quads are seizing up.

As I started the run I thought maybe I’d held back enough this time, but only 1 mile into it I knew it wasn’t to be, but  I’d planned 3 strategies for this: 1) compression calf sox 2) dump ice in the front and back of my jersey to keep my core temp down 3) pickle juice.

In case you’re wondering about #3, it was this magical potion that allowed me to keep running and actually run pretty strong. I’d read about this magic cramp cure just 2 weeks prior to the race and boy am I ever glad I did. It seems the acetic acid (vinegar) in the juice turns off the cramp response in the brain. Just 2 swallows and 20 seconds later and the cramps go away. For me it totally worked. The cure lasted about 30 minutes. And staying on top of this regimen kept me running cramp free.

I was on pace over the first 10k to meet my run time goal of 3:45, but over the next 20km I just had to slow down. The heat was too much for me....but I kept running. My previous IMC I was walking a good bit of the run because of the leg cramps. This time though as the sun got a little lower I was even able to pick up the pace again over the last 5 miles.

Pickle juice....who’d a thunk!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Count Down To Ironman Canada

While in Italy last winter competing in the world skimo champs I decided to make sure I did an Ironman this summer. I train hardest in the off season when I have a big goal and ironman gives me the biggest push. It's been since 2007 since I've punished my body in this way and I don't want to lose touch as it seemed I was finally figuring out the ultra long distance event.

So with that in mind I've been putting in the hours. Long bikes, long runs, even some swimming! My final big test of fitness came this week. I decided to do an "abreviated" Ironman. I swam "45 min in the cold quarry behind my house, then biked to Invermere, BC, a 180km ride (Iron distance), I followed this with a 10k run.

The swim was ok. The bike, really the big test. I did it in 6 hours. At training pace, yet at that time a respectable race time. My goal for this year's race is to do at least a 5:30 bike on a 6:00 effort. Meaning I'm trying to dial in my aero capabilities. I've got the coolest new aero helmet, aero over booties for my shoes, aero fabric bike shorts and I'm about to order an aero jersey today. For the training ride I used the helmet, as it has a definate sweet spot that feels most aero and I wanted to practice dialing that in.  I did wear my shorts, but not any aero jersey and in fact carried a very un-aero-dynamic Camel back.

The bike effort was easy enough that I felt like superman on the run. It may have also been the Red Bull, but I felt great! For this year's race I'm using a new shoe called "Hoka One One". It's got 3 times the normal cushion of a running shoe. Kinda spongy, but so nice on the legs.

In any case, after my test I recovered in 2 days and feel super fit and ready. One of my greatest challenges come race day will not be overpacing on the bike. Both previous Ironman Canada's I got too excited and sucked into a pace that left me nothing for the run. I hope to change that this  year. Hopefully go almost as fast, but with more juice left for the run.

I'll keep ya posted!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Each year there are a few skis I like to knock off and if my list gets long enough I’ll declare it a good ski season. One of those skis is right behind my house....the Canmore Couloir. Also known as Miner’s Gulley, the Canmore Ditch and other affectionate monikers.

This year I really wanted to do this one because the snow is so good if figured I could ski all the way down to the powerline behind my house and right to my back door. Which is precisely what I did! Usually the snow ends quite high...right up to the large open area necessitating a somewhat precarious down boot pack, then hike down the Highline trail and long walk finally to home. But even in low snow years it’s kinda cool to ski and then hike right to your house.

This year there were 5 of us on the expedition. Nathan Smith (nat’l team biathlon), Dave Hibbard (local extrordinare outdoor guy), Ian Murray (top nat’l xc racer) and Eric Carelton, who’d just returned from Russia where he was guiding Brian McKeever to several medals in the IPC World Cup.

With the incredible snow we were able to start skinning right from the parking lot, instead of the long icy hike up with crampons. After a quick snow pit stability check one by one dropped in.

“Couloir” is French for a narrow, steep gully in mountainous terrain, and this perfectly describes the start of the descent. Even though stopping within this steep section isn’t advisable, both Ian and myself (the first two in) took a quick break to clear some screaming lactic acid. After the brief pause we made our way down to a safe zone. On the way we skied over some avi debris that probably came down the day before in response to solar heating. It was a sobering reminder that we truly were “extreme skiing”.

From here the powder was exquisite....knee high. Then we came down to the less steep open bowl. The skiing would have been fantastic except for avi debris under the powder that occaisionally we’d slam into. We tried to read the snow, predicting where the underground bombs were, but they still would emerge and briefly interrupt our dreamy pow run.

We came to the choke where we’d usually have to take our skis off, but now we were able to ski high and go around some of the usual waterfalls. From here we hit the Highline trail where the fast, banked turns really made our day. Amidst the whoops and hollers it was a great way to end our adventure. Oh, and yes, I skied all the way to my back door. What a hoot! I love living in Canmore.

A New Race

Though it's been a few weeks since the last race of the season, the Lake Louise race, I want to post some thoughts. This being the first year it seemed like "the Lake" wanted to keep the race low key and make it somewhat of a test event. It was only formally announced 2 weeks before the event. This being the case though, the patrols and snow safety guys really pulled out the stops.

We started at mid mountain on the front side and proceeded to the top of the mountain, dropping into the “F-Shoot.” If you’re familiar with Louise, this is the steepest offering they have. Your feet literally drop out from under you. The first time I ever attempted this shoot (on Tele’s) my partner fell and slid high speed all the way to the way to self arrest on the steep run.

Next we worked our way over to “Speed Run”. Speed run is where they used to run speed skiing contests. You remember that sport. It was even a demo sport in the ‘92 Olympics. They had a fatality that year and this probably sealed its fate as an Olympic sport. Speed Run was a deleriously pow loaded slope, the only downside was the extremely long boot pack to access it. The boot pack had a huge climb, then we walked along a flat ridgeline for quite a long ways.

After Speed Run we tucked it all the way over to the Temple lodge where we started a long traverse into the Purple Bowl. At Temple lodge there was an aid station. They asked me if I wanted water, I said, “sure!” I only found out after the race they also had Monster Energy drinks-one of the sponsors. If they’d asked me I’d for sure say yeah to that! I could have used the energy shot.

If you’re familiar w/ the Lake, you know that Purple bowl (like Speed Run) is beyond the resort boundary. After the long traverse...very cross countryish-what I like!, we ended up at the top of the Elevator shoot. From the name you can only guess how steep this 3rd big drop is. It was great! With more quality pow. It exited into the Rock garden, a really fun area of rock covered pillows. From there we spilled onto the groomers (finally back inbounds) and down to the lodge via the ski out. It was here that xc skiers again had a bit of an advantage as it’s not very steep and skating and double poling were the order of the day.

I brought along a couple of xc friends for their first ever rando race. One is a World Cup top 40 biathlete and the other, one of the top xc racers in the country (top 30 in the recent nat’l champs in Canmore). I think they were blown away by how difficult the sport is. In XC you get some rest on the downhills. In skimo the downhills, especially in this race are total leg burners. And instead of uphills lasting a minute or so, some of our climbs can be 30 minutes to even an hour (the latter more in the Euro races).

I didn’t ski as well as I’d have liked on the downhills in Louise and lost quite a bit of time, but I did make up some ground on the lower angle uphills. One has to know your strengths and weaknesses. Maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. At this point, my fitness is as good as it can be. This training year is ending after this week and I’ve put in one of my biggest hour years ever. I knew that going to Italy was a privilege...representing your country, and I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could. Unfortunately the Euro races (and Louise!) revealed my downhill weakness, but since then I’ve really been working on it. And yes it has improved. That’s what makes sport fun. Evaluating where you’re at...trying to make yourself better and challenging yourself along the way to bring those incremental improvements that eventually lead to larger change and advancement.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


After a hard workout I like to imbibe my favourite poison as a reward....Coke. Really, you’d think it’d be the perfect post race recovery drink. It’s got 6-8 teaspoons of sugar per can-perfect for replenishing depleted glycogen stores. But sometimes I wonder if it’s the best for me. My fears may have been confirmed last weekend. With the cold winter we’ve had, some of the Coke cans stored in our insulated garage froze pretty hard and burst. They formed a nice tar like looking pool that in my procrastination avoided cleaning up for several weeks. Upon arriving home from the Dogtooth Dash skimo nat’l champs on the weekend, I noticed a dead mouse in the middle of the Coke tar pit. Now, I’m always looking for a new method to trap the elusive mice that invade my home, but this gave some cause for concern. Did the poor fella suck up the Coke tar causing an overdose of sugar? Perhaps a hyper-glycemic reaction to the concentrated Coke gob. Did he die of a heart attack? Remotely possible, but unlikely, Coca-Cola has gone back to the original formula and put cocaine in it causing a drug overdose. Maybe the fury creature was simply enjoying himself so much that he didn’t notice that his feet were getting frozen/glued/stuck in the tar mess. Man- that would have been scary...not being able to extract your legs. It’s possible he died doing all three. Realizing he was stuck, just decided to enjoy his predicament and continue to slurp up the goo, until his poor little sugar ravaged heart gave out. Maybe it’s time for me to rethink my workout recovery nutrition

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the Gear is Here

This year has been "gear-o-rama". With my expedition to Worlds I figure I needed to make sure I had what I needed and even some back ups. I've gotten Dynafit boots on a pro deal. A sponsor helped me get skis and bindings. I've purchased a few pairs of skins, looking for the elusive perfect mix of speed and kick. Through it all I've come to learn where to score the stuff.

I"ve tried getting ski companies to help out, but alas even my old Atomic connections couldn't come through. So I resorted to buying retail. But I learned some good lessons worthy of being passed on.

It's almost impossible to get the skimo stuff in North America, so I resorted to buying Euro. A strong Euro dollar didn't help, but there are 3 great online shops I"ll pass contact info on here. For my skis I called "Telemark-Pyrenees" ( They said they had 1 pair of SkiTrab World cups left. I ordered them and they were at my door in just under a week. They were packed better than any online purchase I'd ever seen. In contrast, earlier in the year, utilizing a pro deal on some back-country skis ordered out of the usa, they came falling out of the box, with messed up paper work nessesitating me paying double duty on them and took over 3 weeks to arrive in the mail.

Next I ordered some Haero bindings from Vertical world ( They also arrived in 1 week, with proper paper work. The vender even threw in a hat I hadn't ordered. It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen, but the gesture makes me want to order more stuff (which I did!).

Euro pricing is either comparable or way better. The skins I got cost me about 50 Euro (65$CAD/US). In one case comparable skins from a shop in Whistler cost 200$ the crazy BC 14% tax and shipping (way more duty than imported goods).

Another good shop out of Germany is: maybe a little more expensive than the others, but they've also got the skimo goods.

Good luck and happy shopping!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Well it's been a week since I've been back from Italy and the world skimo championships. Whenever you've geared a big part of your life towards an event/competition, I've found there's a certain amount of let down or even mild depression. You've been gunning in your mind and training for so long for the it's done.

Soooo, you've got to re-focus and set yoursites on the next challenge. For me there's a little dissappointment because the race didn't go as well as I'd hoped (teams). The entire race was going right according to plan. My fitness was good, we were in the hunt, then I fell apart on the downhill. Maybe I shouldn't make such a big deal of it. We probably only lost a couple of places, but still, one of my reasons for going over was to show myself that I could ski at that level. For that last downhill 1300 meters worth I felt I failed.

But any failure, dissappointment and set back are only opportunities to re-evaluate. See where you went wrong and correct the errors. So now that I'm back and have had plenty of time to mull things over here are a couple conclusions. First, I need to train downhill with my race skis. Our tiny 160 cm narrow, insanely light skis handle totally differently than any other kind of alpine board. I found this out while training this past week at Norquay.

Norquay is a smaller hill (by Rocky mountain standards) that has one chair with only knarly runs. All double black or hard black. I took my K2's with similar dimensions to my race skis and with a friend hammered 8 runs as fast as we could w/ no stopping. No sweat. A few days later I did the same, but with my race skis. I felt like a beginner!! The light skis required a totally different balance point. After 7 runs on them though I felt waaaay better. Why didn't I do this years ago? or even a couple of months ago? Duh.

I've actually got a couple bigger races left. Our Canadian Nat'l champs included. The organizer promises a more technical course (it was alreay the most technical course in Canada). I'm going to keep hitting Norquay on my race boards. Fortunately this year has officially become an epic year and the normally rocky Norquay has great snow. And thankfully I bought one of those 100$ mid-week season passes. Thanks Norquay. Now if you'd only let us do some skinning uphill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teams race: Race day!

Man! Do I feel nervous! Gotta make sure I enjoy this! As the starting gun goes off my heart rate zooms. I know I've gotta give 'er only enough that I can sustain for at least 3 hours. Even still my Polar hr monitor says I'm working hard and it FEELS like it too.

Quickly into the race is a very long bootpack. On go the skis to the backpack and we trudge away. From bootpack to more skinning the pace continues at a high level and though we're in the back third of the field, several teams begin falling off. Even some USA and Canada teams.

When we finally get to the top of the 2nd big climb, you can see how much snow fell up here in the alpine. It's over 70cm's. On our tiny race boards it's quite a challenge to get down. As a team we do alright. Not losing any places as I fall several times and StanO almost wrenches his knee. We promise we'll go a bit more carefully on the big descent.

For the final big climb I start to cramp a bit so we decide to do some towing. It's amazing that even though there wasn't a lot of drag on the line, my hr drops 15-20 beats as Stan mules me up the hill.

Now came the disaster. My legs were so cooked they really couldn't negotiate the deep pow and steep hill. I must have fell a dozen times. The vert would be similar to more than Whistler top to bottom and then some. We probably lost 15 minutes and dropped a few places (including the other Canada team).

When we finally made It to the valley floor it was one of the toughest slogs ever. I had several cramps going in my legs. It was such a relief to finally be over. Not the greatest result, but a victory for sure in perseverance!!

Teams race: pre-race

Team Canada 3 is StanO and SteveO. In the day leading up to our race StanO keeps bringing up important race strategy info. We really feel like a team within a team especially as we forego the usual free lunch up in Claut opting instead to avoid the drive up and various rigimoral associated with it and pay to eat in our hotel. The meal allows us to go over more race strategy.

Earlier that day we'd practiced towing. A strategy that many teams use especially if one person starts to fade or is a weaker skier. Using climbing harnesses and a mostly static line we give 'er a go with each taking turns as the mule.
The teams race is usually the most epic of the championships and this one looks like a doozy!! Three MAJOR climbs followed with a 1350m descent to the valley floor and a tour over shoveled snow into the finish line right in the village square.

I've been taking melatonin to aid my changed sleep pattern. ..hopefully it kicks in. I'm going to need it!!

Lets Get Vertical...Vertical...I wanna get Vertical

Ok, maybe the old Olivia Newton John song is before your time, but in any case getting vertical is one of my favorite things. its unusual then that I ve never done a vertical race before. In one of these pain fests you only go up. Usually from the bottom of a valley, village or ski area to the very top. This was the case yesterday. The venue was the ski area, Piacavella. The vert was "only" 540 meters. All up, no down, no flats, no rest, just hammer, hammer hammer.

I was still a bit tired from the epic teams race from 2 days earlier, but deb reminded me via blackberry text message that I love vertical. I kept telling myself that.

Just before the race began my heart rate monitor decided to go on the fritz. Too bad, cuz I would like to know how hi my old ticker can get...and maybe prevent going out too hard and blowing. Oh well, just take it as it comes.

As the race began I conceeded probably more than I should have, but in the end I truly felt like I had paced myself almost perfectly and gave all I could (always a good feeling). My only regret was that during the boot pack section (where you take your skis off and quickly lash them to your pack) I took an insanely long time to get them onto the pack before ascending. In doing so i lost a place to a Japanees fellow and someone else. I passed them back, but had to work for it. It is especially distressing because I had practiced this art. But being here I see how important fast transitions are and most accomplish the ski to pack art leaving the pole straps on. I thought i could do so without practice.....wrong. I got so tangled up the course marshalls took such pity on me that they helped me out and untangle myself. In this sport, outside help is strictly verboten so if a course marshall helps you, the ones suppossedly enforcing these rules, then you must be pretty hapless. in any case I probably lost a good half minute.

At least I did not get -"chicked" by our super stud female, Melanie. Who, by the way recorded North Americas best ever 6th place today in the sprint.

Back to the vert race. It was so foggy at the top that even though i was totally in the alpine and only a few hundred feet from the finish, I could not see anything more than 20 feet in front of me. Having not pre skied this portion of the course I had no idea where I was. At one point I asked someone, "how far?"...their response, "not far". Boy that really helped.

I could hear the announcers and crowd, and they were loud, so I knew I was close, but could see absolutely nothing. Finally the blow up arch came into view. Good thing too cuz the Japan dude was coming hard.

As painful as this sounds, it was kinda cool. Would like to do some more of these races, but I dont think we have any true vert races in N. America. Oh well there are always time trials!


Well, here I am, finally at the skimo world competition, arriving early enough to quell the demons of jet lag and a confused digestive system. However it was a little strange as there was not snow to be seen anywhere, not even in the higher altitudes. On Wednesday it rained hard all day then turned to snow late in the afternoon. By morning there was plenty of the white stuff to allay any fears.

The next few days were spent skiing on some of the wettest snow I've ever seen. This must be like Vancouver snow.

At this point I've got a couple of days to ready my system. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy soaking up some post storm rays and catch up on my vitamin D deficiency!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sunshine Race

Been a long time.....

Been a long time....not since I've rock and rolled (Led Zepplin), but made a post.

Today we had the Sunshine 5000. So named for the vertical feet. It was a beautiful clear, cold (-8C) day. The family came out to watch and all in all it was a great day!

I was feeling a little pressure cuz in just over a week I'll be heading over to Italy for Skimo World Champs. I felt like I needed to show I was worthy of going. As it was I finished 8th. Last among the team guys going, but not too far out of the hunt. In this I felt I accomplished a bit of my goals on the day.

Not sure why, but just didn't feel energized. I went out hard, backed off a bit to try to race smart. Tried to ski a perfect race (that was my mantra in my head). Fast transitions, no wipe outs, even pace. For the most part I did these. First race ever I didn't fall on any downhills. Maybe could have skied a couple a bit more aggressively, but mostly did ok.

With a lot of new and blowing snow I elected for full length skins for the 2 major climbs. I had great kick and could relax on the steep switchbacks. Unfortunately, both of them had longish lead ups and my glide was pretty slow on these parts. Deb even noticed on one of them when I went by..."your skis seemed slow". I think I'll replace the full lengthers with my new Pomocas once they get broken in. I bought them a little wider (65mm) for full coverage under foot.

So....hopefully I'll be logging in a bit more regularly as my adventure heats to Italy. Man! What a privilege. Representing your country in International competitions.

I'll keep ya posted .