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!