Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December Update

Lots of great stuff going on. This blog entry may not be the most eloquent ever, but a quick update.

-first skimo race was Dec 2 at Canada Olympic Park. Went good for me. Came in 2nd in the solo division. Hard fought battle, but mostly went hard, maybe not all out, but still race mode. Felt like my transitions were good. I think my de-skinning were around 10 secs. Maybe I pushed the rules a bit as I’d quickly rip the skins and while descending wrestle them into my suit. Was able to lap a tired Andrew (hanging Christmas lights all day) and make about ½ lap on Peter. Didn’t get "chicked" by Mel, but she’ll be strong as usual this year. I won a really nice MEC jacket. Cool. Oh, Reiner lapped me 2x. He’s amazing. Top skier in N. America.

-Immediately after this tough 3 hour race we had a 4 day training camp at the Asulkan glacier at Roger’s pass. A nice 3 hour ski in with pack followed by days of endless powder skiing. Due to the wind and constant snow all the turns were a treed run below the hut. It was a 300m vert run we’d do 5-8 times each day. The second day I cried "uncle" after only 5 laps as I hadn’t really recovered from the race and ski in.

-yesterday (Dec. 16) did a nice time trial up Sunshine ski area. It’s 14km with 1000m vert. I did it in 1:29:22. I would have gone faster, but the upper bowl was really windblown in. For a bit I tried bootpacking, but was just post-holing. I used my race gear as this was a prep for the vert race at worlds. I need to do more of these to prepare, but maybe not as long.

-This weekend doing an xc race at the nordic centre. It’ll be a 3x1 km sprint. I’ll need to get a long one in somehow, probably Sunday. Time’s counting down to Worlds in mid Feb.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ramp Up Time

The countdown has begun. My first skimo race is in 2 days. After months of training and 4 months with no significant races I can’t help but be just a tad anxious about my fitness and race readiness. Yet I do know that my fitness is good and possibly the best it’s ever been. It’s at times like these that you’ve got to trust in the plan.

Canada has a tremendous resource in sport physiologist, David Smith. Dr Smith states that one cannot have maximal performance without the long, long workouts. The shorter intense efforts simply bring out the best of your fitness base. Kind of like topping off the tank.

The long ones broaden the base of the pyramid and the hard ones make its pinnacle go higher.

In previous years I did well in the summer months with the long ones. Long days of sunlight coupled with an Ironman goal make the 3 hour runs, and 5 hour rides easy. However as winter approaches, days shorten and family weekend sport commitments increase it gets harder and harder for me to get those lengthy efforts done.

Short, hard interval sessions, while testing your drive, are easier time wise to fit in. Sometimes all it takes is an hour of hammering and you’re done.

Last year it seemed like my performance dived a little at the end of the season. After a great summer of Ironman training (& fastest Ironman for me), my long ones tailed off as winter approached. I had a good season with a couple podiums, but by the end of March I felt like a gear was missing.

So far, my interval intensity training has been steady, strength training still being maintained...I just need to keep at least one 4-5 hour ski per week.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Marcialonga v. Adellamo Ski Raid

I had an interesting experience over the weekend. On Sunday I skied 3 hours with my daughter’s ski club up at Lake Louise on Moraine Lake road. It’s a gradual (sometimes not so gradual) 10km uphill, out and back. They’d received several cm’s of snow overnight and the groomer was just completing his duty when I hit the trail. The skiing was magical. Classic technique with perfect wax... a wonderful time.

After replenishing my bonked body once at home, I settled in for a relaxing afternoon before getting ready for our evening church service. Opening up my computer and dialing in on youtube, I decided to watch one of the classic ski marathons of the world, the Marcialonga in Italy. This is one of the few remaining xc races I’d still kinda like to do. It was really entertaining....mostly. The race is a 70km double pole derby in a pancake flat valley (until the last 2km, when they climb to the top).

Quickly a lead pack formed and it was fun to watch....for about 7 minutes. That’s when nothing but watching double poling got sort of boring. Hard for me to believe, being the ski nut that I am who for most of my life was tv starved of my sport.

But every once in awhile, the helicopter cam would turn away to the spectacular Dolomite mountains. The amazing rugged mountains loaded with snow were quite a site. I imagined myself skiing some of those slopes, which wasn’t that hard to do since I’ve raced skimo twice now in Italy on mountains exactly like those. That’s when I realized a transition had taken place.

I switched youtube channels over to a skimo race (also in Italy) and saw an amazing contrast. The skimo racers were hammering up the mountain using a variety of techniques, even boot packing...even boot packing that was so gnarly they had to be roped in. Then of course came the descent. After ripping off the skins they descended an incredibly steep powder bowl that would have demanded highly advance alpine skiing skills. After repeating this whole process a couple more times they finally reached the valley bottom where a ski skate to the finish awaited them. With all the variety of skiing techniques and challenges it was pretty entertaining to watch.

The Marcialonga was mildly entertaining, but I moved the cursor over to the final 6 minute of the race electing to skip over 3.5 hours of double poling. Even with names like Aukland (2 of them), Northug, Carrera... the drama of the double pole derby couldn’t compare to the skimo action.

I’ve loved my xc ski life. And now my kids are entering the same world at my leading. However, part of me is so glad that I discovered this unique ski mountaineering race sport. Also glad that I live in an environment that I can also introduce my children and their friends to the great skimo sport.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Goodbye BackCountry (magazine)

My 3rd letter to the editor got published this month in BackCountry magazine. As usual, the editor took the liberty to comment on my letter after it. Leaving me looking kinda stupid. I hate it how they always get the last word, it seems so unfair. I'd commented (after making several positive comments on the magazine that would help their advertising for the gear issue) that their reviews were almost all on huge skis that almost no one would truly back country ski on, being quite heavy).  I suggested that in the future they tested actually in the backcountry and make testers skin up thus weighing the factor of lightness into the test. They came back with some smarty pants answer that they’d do that when we start having rando races out of bounds (a true back country race).

Well, duh, just because in North America they have the races inbounds doesn’t mean that the sport is really this way. Pretty much every Euro race is held in the back country, with the possible exception of vertical races. American and Canadian races really don’t reflect the true nature of the sport. Euros would laugh hysterically if they saw our small fields with telemark skiers taking part. In one ad for the COSMIC series there was some dufus running at the start carrying a snowboard. Good Grief! What a joke! It’d be like Lance Armstrong not taking drugs!

"BackCountry" mag used to be "Couloir"..... a really classy journal for serious skiers. It profiled real heros of the sport and gave super good instructional tips on bc ski survival and skills. This new mag is becoming increasingly irrelevant to true, hardy, back country skiing. Their gear issue only reviewed gear you’d use for side country and the cover (the cover!)... profiled some fictional brandy swilling, cigar smoking non-skiing moron. I couldn’t imagine anyone appreciating their attempt at humor.

Add to that, I opened the cover looking for Adrew McClain’s column only to find that Biff had replaced him. Biff already had a column on the last page and I’d thought for years they needed to get rid of this self serving, self acclaimed slacker that’s afraid of Christians, conservatives, skimo racers and anyone else that reminded him how pathetic his life is.

I then began to reason that I need to replace my BC subscription with a real ski magazine. Realizing that this would be hard to find in N. America, so I dug out a copy of an Italian mag I picked up a couple years ago at skimo worlds in Italy. "SkiAlper" turns out is way more informative, instructional and motivational to me even if I can’t read a word of it. They had a great pictoral-instruction section on kick turns, several pictures of classic skimo races and racer profiles. They profiled a couple old skiing legends with pictures of their past and now present skiing. The magazine profiled a jr. skimo race club and thoroughly reviewed a new ski brand called "Lighter Ski". There was so much more too.... a review of ski boots Evo v. Alien, great places to tour in Italy and Europe, etc.,etc. There’s no way BackCountry, or probably any other N. American mag will give any coverage to skimo racing or true back country skiing. In it’s day Couloir was pretty good, but things have really degenerated. Unfortunately, magazines like BC have a pretty big influence on the sport. Hopefully, BC mag has just lost it’s way and really doesn’t represent the state of true back country skiing in the USA & Canada.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Seemingly eons ago, when I lived in MN, a good winter was measured by if we were skiing by Christmas. Here in Canmore a good winter is when we’re skiing by Halloween! This last week I was on snow 6 days. 3 on Frozen Thunder, a 2km loop utilizing stored snow from last season. The Nordic Centre puts all the guns on a massive dug out hole, then they bring a semi load of sawdust to cover it. They lose about 25-30% of the snow over the summer, but when they bust it out in October it’s enough for some decent skiing. National level skiers from across Canada and as far away as Vermont in the USA have descended upon our "training-central town".

In addition to my 3 days on the Thunder, I stopped 2x at Nakiska ski area on my way home from working in Calgary. They’re making snow like gangbusters, but I stayed off the runs anyway, electing to skimo ski up the access road (where my ski patrol friend told me to go). It’s mostly pretty low angle, but it’s a nice long sustained climb. Day 1 I did my 20x:30 intervals (w/ :30 rest); day 2 was 2 x 20 minutes at zone 4. Both excellent gut buster workouts.

Finally, today I skied three and a half hours at Lake Louise’s Moraine Lk road. It’s a 10km uphill out and back, great for classic nordic skiing especially. Since it’s a road, they don’t need a tonne of snow. When they get a foot of snow, it’s usually enough to at least roll the trail. Waxing was tough with near 100% humidity and new snow around freezing. My Atomic Multi-Grade waxless skis did the trick.

When I look at the peaks around my house being so covered in snow it’s hard to believe I took my new MN friends to the top of one of the tallest (Grotto) just 1.5 weeks ago. Summer’s over and our (now) typical 7 month ski season has commenced.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some thoughts on Climbing Skins

As an ex-xc ski racer I'm always trying to find a faster skin combination for my skimo skis. I've got about a dozen pair of racing skins. I delight in the fact that unlike ski wax where once you put it on the ski it’s gone for good, skins, though initially expensive, only get faster with each repeated use. Among my collection are several SkiTrab/coltex skins, Amplatz blondies, Pomoca race mohair (race width and full coverage). This summer I purchased 2 new sets. First- Coltex specials (teammate Reiner swears by them for cold weather). I bought the carving ones as they were the only ones I could find. I may keep them "wall to wall" up front, then cut them off just behind the heel. My Pomoca "wall to wall-tip to tail’s" have been awesome. In N. America so many of our races are on steep climbing dh ski areas, where you really aren’t gliding, so you go with the big grip and relax. The other pair I purchased was the new Coltex racing skins. I think they’re the purple-PDG model (named for the race). They claim 20% weight reduction and faster glide....we’ll see.

Yesterday I was talking to my old Atomic rep (I was sponsored back in the day), and he was explaining their new waxless ski. They’ve gone back to 70's technology and put a mohair insert onto an xc race ski. He says that skin company Kohla developed a teflon coated skin hair that is impervious to water. I’ve tried doing some websearch, but haven’t come up with much. It could be a pretty cool (and fast) development though for us in the skimo world.

Pre-Competition Training Phase

I’m now entering into the pre-competition phase of training. This means less hours (slightly), but more intensity. I’m now doing 2 hard quality workouts each week. I stumbled onto French physiologist, Monique Billatt’s research. She came up w/ an interval protocol that increased VO2 max by 6-8% and running time improvement also at the 6-8% level. Her recommendations have found their way into the track running world and cycling world (& maybe now skimo!).

Her workout (for 8 weeks to bring improvement, then continuing) consists of ~20 x :30 sec effort at a 1 mile race pace. Each interval has only :30 sec rest between. Do this for as many as you can before your performance significantly drops...typically around 20.

I find that the first few intervals aren’t that hard, but it doesn’t take long until that :30 rest seems waaaay too short. When I go, I monitor my heart rate. I also count out loud so the quality interval isn’t interrupted in any way by constantly checking the watch.

I also perform them on a long uphill. I was going to Nakiska ski area and running up the access road, but then discovered a great trail at the Canmore Nordic Centre. I go up the World Cup ski trails, then a trail up the ridge leading to Rundle mountain. The further you go up, the steeper it gets.

Last night the last few steps on interval #20 brought me to total exhaustion. I think my last step was the last possible one I could have done. Lactic acid piled up and there was no strength at all in my legs to take me another step further. It might have helped that I did leg strength that morning.

Small victory there too as I accomplished my goal for squats (I do ½ squats). My body weight (150) x 50 x3. There were a couple pauses in there to achieve the goal, but w/ continued work I think I can do the 50 straight. It really feels like a downhill ski run as lactic acid and fatigue really build up. I imagine myself going down a mogul filled skimo race course and try to push through the pain.

Oh, by the way, they’ve fired up the Frozen Thunder ski track at the nordic centre. 2km loop of summer stored snow. It’s been great to be sliding again. I’ve been skiing there on my easy days. Won’t be long ‘til winter is here in full force. I’m ready.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Calgary 70.3 Triathlon

Calgary 70.3 2012 is officially in the books. My best ½ ironman to date. I would have broken 5 hours if the bike course wasn’t 4 km long. My time was 5:03. I only decided to do this race after I didn’t get an Ironman Canada slot in the Desert Half. But get this, during the warm up iconic tri announcer Steve King announced that this year’s IMC might be a wetsuit ILLegal swim. Apparently the temps have been so warm that the water temp is also high. Man...I don’t do non-wetsuit swims (w/out wetsuit floatation not only would I be slow, I’d be scared of drowning!). Good thing I didn’t get that slot!

I’d done the Calgary 70.3 the innaugural year (2009) and the next year, 2010. So my challenge was to see if I could get better. My swim was 1 minute slower. You never know with the courses though, they tend to vary so much. The Ghost Lake is so cold! Fortunately I have a neoprene beany to go with my wetsuit. It makes the 16C water so much bearable. A swimmer actually drowned just 1 week to the day before the race. He’d jumped off the bridge we swim under, but probably due to the cold water was unable to make it to shore. A sad thing for sure.

After the swim I jumped on the bike hoping for a little improvement from the previous year. I was 6 minutes faster. My tubeless clinchers really performed well on the rougher roads. I wouldn’t doubt if the better rolling resistance accounted for some of that improvement. Even though 90km is pretty long, the km’s just seemed to fly by. I love the bike!

Onto the run. After burning a good couple of minutes draining my bladder in the porta potty in t2 it was off to the races. The day turned out kinda hot, but nothing like the 38C I’d encountered earlier this year in Osyoos. My pace seemed good, but my body wanted to go faster, but every time I dialed it up I felt a little "bonky". My energy stores seemed right on the edge, so I tried to be conservative. With about 5 km to go though it was time to rip. There was a lot still in the tank so it was fun to finish fast.

The last 8km or so I ran with a 55 year old guy that set a record this day for his age group. I ended up dropping him. As I passed and began a long surge I reminded him that I wasn’t in his age group. He sounded relieved that he didn’t have to fight me off. He made an interesting comment earlier in our running together though. He said that he was going faster in triathlon than when he was 31. The improvement curve was still on the upward trend. That’s kinda cool. So is mine!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Last Saturday I did one of my favorite rides... Canmore to Calgary via the Highwood Pass. It’s a long one. I didn’t have my cycle computer, but as I rode I tallied up the road signs and figured it was about 275km’s. The Highwood pass route takes you up pretty high into the alpine. There was still snow up there and evidence of a very recent, very large avalanche. When you turn off the highway into K country it seems like about a 3 hour climb up to the top of the pass.

Ironically, the toughest part of the day seemed to be the 1 hour downhill descent from the pass. It took about 4 hours to get up there and my usual stop is at Highwood crossing, another hour from the top. It’s funny that when you anticipate a break or even the end of a journey it seems to take forever. Such was the case from hour 4 to 5 in this long 10 hour ride. Though it was all downhill I kept looking for the junction where I’d take a short break and have some lunch. When it finally came and I took a short 15 min stop I realized I was just over ½ way done. That thought seemed a little intimidating.

This ride takes you through many eco-zones. From mountain valley (where I live), up to the high alpine, then down into dry foothills and grasslands. It’s an amazing journey. When you’re on the final leg, you look way off into the distance to the west and see the mountains that you had ridden to the top of and they look so far off! It’s quite a thought that you dwell on the fact that earlier in the day that’s where you were. Sometimes I find it astonishing that a body and a bike can traverse over so much distance in a day.

From the Highwood junction there’s a gradual downhill for 44 km’s and though I had a small head wind, this section went fast. When I reached Longview and the prairie I still had a ways to go, but calculated that I’d ridden the equivalent of an Ironman bike leg 180km’s.

As I made my way along the long roller ups and downs I was caught from behind by a somewhat studly looking rider who was visiting from Danmark. He said I was flying and he had to work hard to catch me. I told him I found that hard to believe since I felt like I was in survival mode. On the long downhills though, in my aero tuck and with my tubeless tires I would really pull away from him, so perhaps I was going better than I thought.

As I made my way gradually into the city it was a great feeling to feel actually pretty fresh knowing how many k’s I’d put in. The most frustrating part of the day was when I finally reached the city limits. Finding my way through town trying to avoid the major arteries was tough. I criss-crossed going much farther than needed just trying to safely get to my destination.

Man what a feeling when it’s all done. This is one of the epic rides I wanted to do this year. The other is Revy to Canmore in a single day, a 300km ride. With my not doing an Ironman now, we’ll see if the long rides are still in the plan, but they sure are a fun way to train!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rough 70.3 Day in the Desert

The Osoyoos Desert ½ tri was supposed to be my qualifier for doing another ironman this summer; however it wasn’t meant to be. The race was fine (explained below), but the advertised Ironman Canada slots didn’t materialize. Last year they had 30 slots, this year 12. Of the 9 guys vying for these 12 I was one of the 3 left out. Yet, as I walked out of the meeting to decide who got them I was totally at peace. I’d earlier decided to do an Ironman to "up" my fitness level so as to be maximally fit for skimo worlds next Feb. This strategy has really worked for me in the past, most recently last year. However; I was considering doing more skimo specific training instead, but in the end decided to go with what historically has worked. But as you can see a higher plan overrulled.

My alternative plan immediately kicked in. That is, to do Calgary 70.3 ½, trying for a p.b. Last time I did this I actually came in 3rd in my age group qualifying for 70.3 worlds. I really feel my bike swim and run are the best they’ve ever been so I’ve got to go for some kind of tri challenge. This race is 1 week before August long weekend (first in Aug.), so I’ll have a full August summer month plus Sept. & Oct (some on snow in Oct.) For skimo dryland.

Now to the race.....

Swim: course was short. I didn’t mind as my time of 38min was pleasing to me (slow for most probably).

Bike: I really wanted to at least equal last year’s bike time. I did to the minute. This course is super challenging, I love it! We start by going up 14km steep Richter Pass, descend the pass, then hit the 7 roller hills into Keremeos. Turn around then do it all backwards. By far the toughest part of the IMC bike course and this Iron bike course is probably the toughest one out there.

I hadn’t gotten the bike km’s in I’d like as we’ve had a really, really wet and cold spring (up here June is spring). So in equalling last year’s time I was stoked.

Run: my run training has been more focussed and intense than ever before so I was hoping to bust last year’s time of 1:45. Coming off the bike though I felt rough. A result of pushing for a good bike time. At first I was moving along fine (once my body made the transition from bike to run-typically the first km), yet the 38C temps began to really take a toll on me. Having hardly trained once over 20C this was going to be a challenge. Indeed, approaching the halfway point I was in real distress. No energy, no sweat, slowing to a crawl. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish....it would be dangerous for my health, except for one try...

At the 9km mark I entered a feed station, they called out the typical, "water, gatorade?" I calmly said I’d be back in a few minutes. I then proceeded to jump into the lake and sit there for about 5 minutes. I’d thought about doing this during races, but would never sacrifice so much time. Today it was do it, hope it works, or not finish.. Guess what? It worked! My core body temp really began to cool down. That and some ice down the jersey at every aid station from then one got me going again. I don’t know if what I did is legal, but otherwise I wouldn’t have finished. I actually got faster and faster. By the time the run was over my time was only 9 minutes slower than the previous year.

I finished in 5:30. Only 5th in my class. I felt I had a good effort and decent time especially considering the heat, but there must have been a pretty good field. I finished 42 over all. Last year I was 41 overall, but there were 100 less athletes. This race really attracts some quality as many of the pros live and train in the area.

So in a couple weeks my short tri season will be over. I only start training in late May after skiing is done. And with the wet (and even snowy!) June, it all goes by pretty fast. But I am looking forward to doing some long mountain hikes and trail runs. Much more vert this summer to get ready for France (skimo worlds). More roller skiing too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Steve0 goes Road BikeTubeless

Yup..... I no longer have tubes in my tri bike. Going without tubes is nothing new to the mountain bike world, but I don’t personally know a single person that has made the transition on their road bike. So far the experience has been radical. One of those game changers that ups your game significantly (at least it appears this is what’s happening).

My first test ride was up a long hill to the Canmore Nordic Centre. The wheels seemed to move so smooth and effortlessly I had to check and make sure there wasn’t a big tail wind pushing me along. There was a little one, so on the way down and on the protected flats I closely brought my awareness up to see if the same feeling was there.....it certainly was. Stan’s NoTubes claims a 12% decrease in rolling resistance. Based on my preliminary ride I can believe this.

It’s been 30 years since I’ve ridden on tubular tyres and have a vague reminiscence of how they feel. Though I remember that smooth feeling, I don’t recall how much faster they seem compared to clincher tyres.

It was a little challenging to install them, but Stan’s Notubes website has some really great video to help you along. I really don’t know how I did anything before the internet (From changing the brakes on my car to horticultural procedures there’s tutorials for everything). Stan’s makes it clear you have to follow the steps closely and not leave out any detail. In doing this I had few problems. Probably my biggest challenge was getting the bead on the tyre to seat properly onto the rim. This is an issue even with tubes, but some of the tricks I’ve picked over the years to accomplish this are compounded with the Stans juice that leaks out if you deflate the tyre and try again.

It’s been 4 days now since I’ve installed the system and the tyres are just as hard as the day I put them on. There a couple other advantages in going this route. First, the most common flat I get on my road bike are pinch flats. But with no tube to pinch my flat rate should dramatically improve. Also, those little wires that break off steel belted car radial tyres that litter the road when they ex/implodes are my 2nd most common flat. Yet, Stans claims that when you pull them out you’ll hear a little psssst of air, then the juice quickly seals it up.

Currently there are only 3 tyres on the market that will work for the tubeless system, because you need a tight, non-stretching bead for the hi-pressure road wheels. You can buy a kit from Stan’s that includes everything (juice, tape, valves, tyres). That’s the route I went and so far it seems pretty great.

I’ll have to blog an update in the near future though after more rides and km’s.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Event

Every once and awhile a geographical event comes along that changes the landscape. We had one last night. Even though I was totally oblivious as I slept to the torrential rains that came, nonetheless the extraordinary change to the environment was amazing.

The first clue I had that something big had happened was as I ascended Spray Lake road. There were at least 6 mud and rock slides across the road. One of the rock slides was mid thigh deep and would certainly close the road. In at least a couple places the posts holding up the guard rails were standing in mid air, the road below them having been totally washed away.

I peaked the road at the "gap" in record time (:47 from my home staying close to zone 1), then descended "Riders of Rohan" trail. It was really washed out good. I then planned to cross the mountainside via the venerable "Highline trail". Every stream crossing had turned into a river. One of them, the stream coming out of the Couloir, was impassable. Amazing considering it’s usually just a couple hops on stones over barely flowing water.

The large avalanche that came down Ha Ling this year had it’s surface swept clean by the water, then covered with a thin layer of silt. There were mini crevasses formed from the rushing water that made crossing it interesting and a bit hairy.

One of the cool alluring aspects of training is that you get to see and discover new things. As my feet hit the trail early this morning (5:30) my eyes were the first to witness this powerful display of creation. It was both astonishing, yet beautiful in it’s power.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Obsessed with Improvement

"Obsessed with improvement". That’s a line from famed FortyNiner football coach, Joe Walsh. I recently read his book, "The Score Takes Care of Itself". I heard of the book from the blog of Sami Linkin. The blog is here: http://www.samiinkinen.com/archive I highly recommend it. Sami’s theory is to have a spread sheet for everything and keep track of details. If you’re not seeing improvement (this is for training and every area of life), then adjustments need to be made. Either in training or rest.

So this morning as I prepare for Ironman #6, I was doing 1 km intervals. Recording the time in my spreadsheet. Earlier I’d done a 5km time trial on the same course. We’ll see if the times can come down this summer.

In my training spreadsheet I’ve got columns for strength, body weight, VO2max (my Polar heart rate monitor has a quick & easy test), time trials for cycling and swimming, weekly hours, mountain peak running time trials, summer skimo transitions and sprint course test (more on this in another blog) and summer bootpack course.

When you actually record yourself you find that you give it just a bit more effort each time to improve...and improve I’ve done. One of my goals is to get up to 20 pull ups by the end of the year. In May alone I’ve gone from 11 to 15.

Each Mon. A.M. I pull up my 4 spreadsheets and review the last week....see if I improved and make a plan for this week to get better.

They say that the difference between an Olympic champion and the other Olympians, all at the very top of their sport in the world, is that the champion sets and achieves goals in the sub areas that make for success in the sport, while the others simply have outcome based goals such as "winning a gold medal".

Man, if I’d only have discovered this 20 years ago! If incremental improvement is striven for and accomplished consistently over the long haul, there’s no telling what someone could accomplish!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Skiing the Sister in late May

Man I look old and tired in this photo! Oh well, I guess that’s what happens when you get almost no sleep the night before an anticipated ski. Even though it’s June 1 today, this past week I knocked off the Middle Sister right here in Canmore. It’s kinda fun to do a ski that stares down at you every day. In the photo she’s right behind me.

For this mission I enlisted the partnership of Eric Groenevold, who actually is the son of a very good friend and competitior of mine (Jon). Eric had previously done the line a month ago, yet is pretty new to backcountry skiing and I think was glad to have me along.

We hit the trail at 5:30 A.M. for the requisite early start. It took 1.5 hours to get to the snow. Part of the hike entailed climbing up a gully with previous years avi debris to clamber over...a good reminder to play it safe. The whole time up we were quite sure we’d have to turn back as the forecasted cold night didn’t seem to really materialize. Patches of snow we attempted to walk over always gave way as we sunk down deep.

However, as we reached the snowline, crossing a recent avi slide, things began to harden up. Skiing up the moderate angled slope we constantly were checking the hardness of the snow. As long as we stayed in the shaded part of the mountain, things seemed good. The original ridge we’d planned on booting up was more in the sun and we began to ominously break through. So with a little beetle back over to the shade and what we felt was bomber, it was all a "go".

We elected to use crampons...a good decision. The boot packing was steep and though slipping wouldn’t be fatal, still not a good idea in the very firm conditions. It’d be a fast ride for sure!

The ski down was pretty uneventful. Fun, but not crazy. It’s funny because from the road this line looks incredibly steep and epic. Yet up close it’s just another black diamond run. It’s fun though to tell friends what you skied. They think you’re crazy. I shared the adventure with one of the official "Crazy Canucks" downhill aces, Jan Hudec. He thought I was studly, until I told him the truth.... "it looks a lot steeper from the road". Oh well, at least I’m honest.

So am I done for the year? It’s been a wonderful 8 month ski season. Maybe it’s time to dust off the bike, lube the chain and try some other stuff. However, after meeting with our federation president, the honourable Dave Dornian, I’m committing to go to World Skimo champs next year and being in the best absolute condition I can be in. The adventure continues!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wailin' on the Wapta

It's been 2 weeks now since our Wapta Glacier trip and the tan has finally faded. One week after the trip the 6 of us got together to share photos and vids and generally reminisce. While together, 5 of us realized that we shared the pain of sunburned lips. You think you’re putting adequate sunscreen on, but in late April/early May the sun burns pretty bright in the hi altitude reflective snow. Our lips had cracked and opened up to reveal a painful sore.

But ultimately the pain is always worth it!! Such great memories. The ski in was stellar with hardened snow and cold conditions that made the avi conditions real safe. We elected in this trip to stay at the Bow hut and do day missions as oppossed to traversing the glacier, which is what I’d always done before. This way you could really enjoy the ski without that heavy pack on your back and the pressure to make it over the heavily crevassed high col.

With the extra freedom this method allowed, we bagged a couple peaks. Gordon and Olive. The latter we came back to our last day bootpacking up with our skis this time so we could ski the seldom shushed slope just off the peak. After waiting out the whiteout we were rewarded with some fab pow turns.

I find it amazing that even at the beginning of May you’re basically skiing in mid winter powder conditions. I love living up here! My MN friends put their skis away 2.5 months earlier. Actually, this trip was supposed to unite some of my flatlander midwest pals and open them up to the wonders of the Canadian Rockies and skimo. This was year #2 where they didn’t make it up. Oh well, thanks Ben, Kylee, Ian, Dave and Arnfinn! It was a spectacular trip!!

Friday, April 13, 2012


A few years ago the day after Ironman Canada I had breakfast with two friends that had raced the previous day in the pro category. One had a stellar performance, the other wished the day had gone a little better. I can’t remember which one of the two made this statement, but I’ll never forget it, "you take what the day gives you."

Great wisdom. Whether it’s an Ironman where you spend seemingly countless hours preparing for just one race or skimo where you’ve prepared for months doing all kinds of training, to get ready for just a few races that count in the final standings... in either case in the end you have to "take what the day gives you." Some days everything seems to click and the body has great energy, other days not so.

This year I’ve had races where I came down with a cold the week of the race, gotten lost on course... or as the case in the final race of the year (Lake Louise), just felt a little flat. Of course there was at least one race where it mostly all came together and the podium was achieved.

In Lake Louise I was determined to not go off course as I had in the previous nat’l points race. Going from 3rd place in the latter stage of the race to dnf. So I volunteered time the day before to help set the course. Never before a race had I felt like I really knew the course well. A great confidence booster. I also got to sleep that night in the luxurious Fairmont chateau Lake Louise. I always sleep incredibly well there. I woke up at 5 a.m. for the early start feeling rested and ready to go.

However, early on I just felt a little bit missing on the high end. I could see most everyone right in front of me and even in late stages of the race spectators were saying, "they’re just right ahead of you!" But nevertheless, I just couldn’t fire up the engine to give that extra push.

I don’t know if it was the 2 xc races I’d done in the 11 days before. Both hard, longer efforts, but designed to keep my head and body in competition mode (with a whole month gap between Canadian skimo races I felt I needed this, plus a desire to stay in contact with the xc sport I love). Perhaps it was the 4 hours spent on course the day before.

As it ended up, places 3-6 were all within 5 minutes of each other. Of course I was in place 6. With just a little more umph.... I’m sure I could have gone 5 minutes faster. Of course I could have skied those downhills faster too. I definately improved this year on the downs (also in transitions, bootpacks, turnover speed and maybe even overall fitness), but I’m still losing time to better dh skiers.

So man! I did have a great season. I podiumed twice (one being nat’l champs). I improved in so many areas. Got to race in CO for N.A. championships. Probably qualified to go to World’s next year... so what am I complaining about? Well as an athlete it’s always about trying to go faster, get better, improve, place higher. I think I accomplished this....but still...

But at the end of the day.... you take what the day gives you. You train hard. Prepare the best you can in every area possible, then try to put it all together on race day. If you podium, get lost and dnf, or just feel flat, in any case you walk away with satisfaction that you did the best you could, you know where you’re going to be better in the future, but ultimately be glad and satisfied with what the day gives you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Timing Your Intervals

Wow! Do I love March! It’s been snowing like crazy this week. Currently it’s piling up behind my house so that my "Stealth Run" is going to be awesome. I’ve been skiing back there the last couple of weeks as the snow has finally gotten good enough so that I won’t wreck my skis. Last summer I laid out a little 1.5 km loop. It has a steep bootpack, short steep uphill section with 12 switchbacks, then a steep narrow descent that requires jump turns and squeezing between pine trees. I didn’t cut down any trees except the one wind fall at the very bottom that hikers will be glad for as it fell completely across a wide meadow trail.

I’ve been doing intervals on my course and have seen my times come down. The uphill takes me around 13-14 minutes. This year I’ve begun to see the value in consistently recording interval times. It makes you go harder and try to find seconds, even milli-seconds in various places. Transitions, working harder, skin selection and technique are areas you can shave time. Yesterday, 3 days before my last big Canuck race I did 3x 5-6 min. intervals on a course I put together at the nordic centre. When I started timing 2 months ago it usually took me around 6 minutes for the uphill. Yesterday I did it in 5:33, 5:36 and 5:31. It felt great to drive home knowing that my fitness has improved, is at my best so far and i’m ready for the Lake Louise skimo race. I`d been feeling like my confidence was shaken as the previous week I’d done 2 xc races and in both of them felt like I was about 2-3 minutes slower than a couple of years ago. A few people beat me that usually do not. One exclaimed at the end of our race last Sunday, "I never thought I’d beat Sellers"...oh well, enjoy. I guess my fitness is more dialed in to skimo as that’s what most of my training has been, skimo, not xc.

Back to quantitative training... since the goal in racing & training for racing is to go fast and hopefully get faster it only makes sense to time yourself during your quality-intense workouts. If your times don’t improve then either an adjustment is needed in the training, or more likely, rest. Weight trainers normally record their lifts and expect to lift more. If not, same thing, make an adjustment technically or in training or rest.

That last interval I was telling myself that this could be the last interval of the ski season. It made me really move! Although I really wish there were more races to do!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Nat'l XC Masters Championships

So I finally competed in my first Nat’l masters xc championship race. I could have started a long time ago (xc ski masters starts at age 30), but at first I viewed myself as a fast Sr men/open category, but the last several years I think I’ve just been living in denial....not wanting to admit that age group competition is as good as it’s going to get in xc skiing for me.

For 2012, the competition was close by-Golden, BC, and with 4 weeks between skimo races I needed to get my competitive mojo going. But the race turned into somewhat of a gong show (funny how younger folks these days use this term-"gong show", but have no idea where it came from. I wonder if youtube has any old Gong show episodes?). The grooming for the race was the worst I’ve ever seen in 30 years of racing. It had rained the day before, then froze up. Challenging conditions, but they had a Piston Bulley, and some hi tech looking grooming equipment. The end result was frozen ice balls everywhere the size of baseballs and softballs. They were frozen into the hard track, so when you hit them, with our skinny skis, we just crashed.

For my category the race was looking good. There were 4 of us that have gone head to head over many years and we’re all about the same ability. Actually there was a 5th. He didn’t look as good technically, but looks can be deceiving as he not only beat us all but had the fastest time of the day.

So here we were, pack of 5. All the guys I expected. I tucked in behind Peter, who’s like 6' 3". A super nice draft domestique. Next to him was my perennial partner and race foe John Groeneveld. John and I have been racing head to head for 17 years. Actually even more. One day we were skiing together and comparing notes and realized that we’d raced against each other in a world cup. Jon for Canada and me (at that time) for USA. I don’t think either of us did that great that day. One of the greatest skiers of history, Gunde Svan, won. I later met Gunde and his family when they vacationed in Canmore & stayed 4 doors down from me.

Back to the race...so here we were, the pack I assumed would hammer and draft the entire 20km until the last long uphill wasn’t meant to be. I hadn’t pre-skied the entire course and a few km into it came the death hairpin. I was flying up to that point, cruising right by my nemisi, utilizing all my newly gained skimo downhill prowess....that is until I decided to check my speed by throwing in a small snowplow. Immediately I hit one of the softball deathcookies that we were skiing over like giant ball bearings and BAM!!! I hit the snow hard. Actually, of our pack of 5 only 2 didn’t fall. Keep in mind each one of us have been racing at a very high level for decades. We hardly ever fall! But 3 out of 5! And each one was a classic. After the race Peter had a swollen lip and a lot of "road rash" on his face from this crash. Actually, I saw several skiers that looked just like him. Almost like a war zone, or extremely rough hockey game!!

One of the things that kinda bugged me was the fact that there were a few people at that corner. I think they may have been official volunteers, but they simply stood there and did absolutely nothing productive. In most races people with rakes would be keeping an icy corner like this one a little sane after so many skiers slide by. Not here at this national championship (kind of a joke). I think their self appointed role was to just watch the carnage and enjoy themselves.

Besides injuring my pride, rotator cuff and rib, I lost one of my double caffeine Power bar gels. Not good! Actually on the second lap (of 2) I looked for it. I really needed a boost at this time and remembered that I’d dropped the precious elixer right in the middle of the trail just after the hairpin disaster zone. Slowing down I lunged for it, but was rewarded with just a leaf in the trail. My next attempt scored the magic potion. I was surprised it was still intact (& surprised I was actually able to snag it on the downhill on my first try!). There it laid, right in the middle of the trail. A ski could have easily popped it open and spurted the sticky gel all over the track. So while skiing down the hill I squirted that double caffeine wonder into my mouth. I was hoping it would pick me up, but probably it just saved me from a bonk.

There was a long uphill at the end of the lap and it seemed to go on forever. My time ended up being 62 minutes. Super slow for a 20km race under these fast conditions, so a few of us surmised that the course was a tad long.

Soon after the race I realized I’d done some damage to my rotator cuff and ribs. The shoulder had just started to hurt a bit and in the past if I did shoulder strengthening exercises the pain would go away. Now however it really hurts! I can hardly raise my arm. I’m going to be icing, strengthening and stretching for a few days. Oh, I should mention that I came in 4th. Just under 2 minutes behind John. I guess I should be happy, I haven’t been xc skiing all that much, but on the other hand I’ve been hammering the skimo training, probably harder than I ever did in my xc days. I thought maybe it would transfer to xc, but perhaps the tricky conditions.... I’m really not sure.

My plan was to do the rocky mountain ski marathon this weekend, but we’ll see how the healing comes along. Priority #1 is Lake Louise skimo race. Gotta do all I can to ski as fast as I can!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Ok, so this may be a crass attempt to titileze my readers and increase the readership numbers, but this being the case I’ve got some thoughts on this very important topic.

As I got dressed for my early morning skimo ski out my backdoor (as of Mar. 1 it’s still either fantastically good or fantastically bad back there), I lazily kept my cotton underpants on instead of donning the hi tech synthetic material ones. It’s only been a couple of years though that I switched, mostly because they weren’t available. Funny when you think about it...we switched away from cotton undershirts and long johns way back in the late 70's & early 80's.

Now, those first generation "Lifa’s" were nothing to write home about. They were scratchy (far more than any crude weave of wool could be), stinky, shrunk easily and developed holes way too fast. Yet the comfort over sweat storing cotton was immeasurable. Before Lifa came along with the blue or red with white marks on the sleeves (those of you old enough know what I’m talking about) the only alternative was either wool, which no one wore, or fishnet underwear. I first saw the fishnet on skiing legend Bjorn Lasserud. No, he didn’t steal it from his wife’s lingerie drawer, it looked actually like a fish net. It couldn’t have been that warm, but perhaps allowed some parts of the body to escape sweat smothering cotton.

As the years progressed so did base layer technology. Smoother fabrics, odour suppression (which still doesn’t work that great) and other upgrades have made our outdoor winter training lives more comfortable. But why did it take almost 30 years for underwear technology to catch up ? You’d be wearing these wonderful tech base layers in various arrays of thickness and wick ability, but your boys down there were wet, cold and clamy....yuck!

I started seeing non-cotton underwear in non else than Walmart. They’ve got some good choices. The ones I prefer are the mostly lycra black long shorts that look like bike shorts. They’re cheap, wick great, hide skid marks, work well to prevent chafing on my inner thighs while running and give comfort where comfort is of the utmost importance on my body!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Ok, so I learned my lesson..or so one hopes! With a long drive to race #2 (of 3) for our nat’l points ranking-8 hours in blizzard conditions-I elected to rely on the course map posted on the internet. Earlier that day I’d decided to cancel my "SportFaith" bible discussion group at the speed skating oval so I could make that meeting. But when I got there to inform my friends, I saw that the world cup team made a quick trip back from Europe and was leaving the very next day to go back over the pond. With 2 jet lag episodes to contend with in less than a week it seemed crazy to me, but I was happy to see the gang. Of course several told me they were coming to the as yet to be cancelled event...soooo how could I abandon them?! That meant skipping the meeting and on race day that proved critical.

Nelson-ROAM Rally:

Th race started well. I used my fast skins, the shorties that are quite bald. I settled into 2nd place behind the "Burner" and was gliding without effort. Next came a short downhill and then a long skate section. Time for this xcskierboy to shine! Actually, I let Stan pull me along after awhile, but I knew I was burning much less energy. At the first transition both Stan & I were stalling as neither of us wanted to break trail in the fresh snow (I made a remark to this & Stano confirmed our shared strategy :).

When I put my "climbers" on though it was like hitting the brakes. I’d waxed my skins, but used a colder wax than the temps called for. For some reason this had the opposite affect and slowed the skins to no glide at all! With no glide I quickly went from 1st to 5th. Yet when we started climbing, those wall to wall skins really paid off and I worked my way back up to 3rd. That was especially true on the 2nd long major climb. I easily reeled in Stan and broke away from 3 other skiers. However, things were about to change.

As I made my 2 major descent in dreamy blower pow, I was clearly in 3rd, but had a hard time seeing the little red seismic flags our Canuck races use. Europe uses nice big wood stakes that are close and clearly visible. Somehow N. American race organizers think that skimo has an orienteering component and we’re responsible to find our own way. At the point I got lost, several others I talked to almost did too, but probably b/c they made that pre-race meeting had an idea of where the course was supposed to go. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I missed the last climb going right, when I should have gone left.

The feeling I had as I skied back was utter demoralization. I can’t describe how deflated I was. 2 weeks prior after coming in 3rd at the Dogtooth, I’d made it a (not so secret goal now) secret goal to end up 3rd in the rankings. I wasn’t so sure that I’d go to World’s next year, but if I could achieve a ranking that high, I’d have to go...and I was getting excited. Nothing like having a difficult goal to shoot for, even if you don’t make it, your life is still energized. Now however, all that energy was sucked out from me.

So here I am a couple days after the event. In time the depression will go away and new goals will be set. The tough thing now is we all have to wait 4 weeks for our next race. I still feel like such a rookie in this sport and if we’re ever going to close the gap between us and the Euros we gotta race more. I looked into going all the way down to the Powder Keg in UT, but it wouldn’t be good for family time. I’ve missed a lot of Anna’s xc races and there’s a big one in 2 weeks just 5 min. from my door at the nordic centre. So I’ll do that (30 km skate) and the nat’l master’s champ the Monday before. I’ve hardly been doing any xc this year and it’ll be fun to fire up the skinny’s again. Gotta keep that race intensity hurt capacity going. Just wish we had more skimo races around here (and better marked courses).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


In mid December I remember sharing with some athletes at a couple of the Sport/Faith Bible studies I lead how I couldn’t remember the last time I had a cold. It’d been at least a couple of years. I wasn’t bragging so much as just being grateful (or so I thought to myself :).

Of course at Christmas time the tingling in the nasal cavity began and I was about as helpless to stop its progression as falling and sliding down a dble black alpine ski slope (in Jan. during a period of snowlessness I fell at the top of the dble black "Lone Pine" run at Norquay and slid almost the entire run to the bottom). Now here I am the week before race #2 (of 3) for our nat’l ranking and once again a cold, complete with super stuffed nose and lung hacking cough has hit me hard.

I remember reading multiple Ironman world champion Mark Allan say that if you get a flat tyre in an Ironman, it doesn’t mean your race is over, it just means there’s a tyre to fix. So too for me, all week I’ve felt absolutely energyless, but it doesn’t mean my race this Sat. is over, it just means I’ve got to do all I can to get that energy back and be able to ski somewhat what I’m capable of.

After the Dogtooth Dash. I identified 6 areas where I could gain time. Kickturns; downhills, transitions; nutrition; skin glide; fitness. Though it seemed at the time I was doing all these at my capacity even an improvement for example of 1.5 seconds over 50 kickturns would give me 2 minutes. As I evaluated each area I believed that with realistic improvement I could have skied 8:40 faster. I still wouldn’t have caught Andrew, but that’s a lot of time!

I found that pre race nerves are really alleviated when you stop focussing on who’s in the race and how you want to do against them and simply dwell on your race. Performing each area the best you possibly can.

Most of this week’s focus has been on what I can do to get over a cold in less than 1 week. Probably totally impossible, but even if I can get back to 90% that’d be great.

Better get to bed. ‘Nite!


4th year for Dogtooth Dash, the Canadian Nat’l skimo championships. Kicking Horse mountain hosts the race, but the moniker for the event comes from one of the mountains we ascend. In the previous 3 episodes each one turned into a "Dogtooth disaster" for me. Broken poles, stickless skins, sprained ankles, etc. etc. Each year it seemed like I found a new way to have a poor race. This year was different...no disaster.

My mindset was, have fun, put together the best race you’re capable of and let the results take care of themselves. Perhaps too in now my 5th year of racing I’m finally figuring this sport out a bit. We started with the traditional run around the restaurant. Funny how the big guns hold off on this part. I think there were 3 women out of the top 4 in the run section.

It was crazy socked in this year. We tried flying as usual down the cat track, but you couldn’t see through the fog, hence it was a bit spooky. One guy was blitzing so fast that he didn’t see the groomed edge and yard saled so far it couldn’t believe it. I heard later that he never did find one of his skis and had to drop out.

I couldn’t believe how high my heart rate was. I was in the top 3 or 4, but knew I better calm down a bit. After our 3rd descent there’s a series of switchbacks that in previous years really slowed me down. I didn’t lose time on them this year, but with about 50 of these kickturns in the race, if you’re just a couple seconds faster, you can pick up a couple minutes.

As the race progressed I fell into 6th place. For awhile I was 3rd male and thought how cool it would be to podium at our natl’s, but I lost a couple places (one to eventual women’s champ- the Burner). This is a tough race and didn’t panic with Peter passing me about 2/3 in and another newer skier just behind me (I later learned he was fresh off the NCAA xc ski circuit-so it didn’t bother me that I couldn’t easily pull away from this unknown newbie). I tried to focus on my race and tend to my nutrition. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the heat of trying not to lose any seconds you don`t fuel your body enough. I downed a couple double caffeine gels and on the final bootpack felt a trend towards cramping, so I pulled out my gel flask of my trusty pickle juice (see my earlier blog entry from Ironman about this miracle cramp cure).

As I climbed I used a new strategy this year. Last year I discovered that in steep terrain and new snow wall to wall skins really allow you to climb and stay relaxed. You don`t get a whole lot of glide, but in so many N. American races (as opposed to Euro races) you don`t get a lot of cross country terrain....it`s mostly going steep up. So as I used my ``wall to walls`` I put my head down, relaxed and really tried to go.

Just before the final climb to the finish I got a couple breaks. Peter, who`s becoming a good friend travelling to the last couple races together, had a slow transition and then fell and sorta died out, so I passed and put 3 minutes or so into him. It seemed like Erich an American skier from Montana, who was just in front of me all day simply dissappeared. At first I reasoned he must have took off, but then I wondered if he`d made a wrong turn at the confusing last intersection. Turns out the latter was the case. I felt bad for him, but then later remembered that at his home town course in Whitefish, I ALWAYS seem to get lost and make wrong turns, including this year where I think I scrubbed about :10 going off course. Erich`s a good guy though so I did feel a little bad. But then on the final bootpack and uphill into the finish Jeff C. Let me know that I was 3rd, but I better get moving `cause Erich was charging hard. It took all the energy I had just to keep moving, but a couple glances backwards made me realize that the male podium was back in my grasp. Yahoo!

In one of the skimo blogs a writer mentioned about this race that a couple of the faster guys (including himself) weren`t there. But when I reviewed last year`s results (where most of the big guns WERE there) I still would have come in 3rd and done so with a 7 minute cushion. Next up is Nelson ROAM rally. There should be plenty of guys gunning for it!!

Racing and Not Racing

Well it’s been almost a month since I raced the North American Champs in Crested Butte Colorado, so I suppose it’s time to do some writing!! With our Canadian nat’l team staying domestic this year, this was the big race. But my "race" turned into not quite a "race".

Day one (Sat.) Was the sprint, a handy little course that should only take 6-8 minutes. The skin to the start was about :45 and started in -30C temps. The guy next to me quickly developed frostbite on his nose, so I clued him in. Once at the race zone, it was a cool course. But let me say this, the base elevation was 9400'. Just skinning easily left me out of breath (heck, just walking from the parking lot did that!). When you race at this altitude it feels like you’re having an asthma attack- not that I’ve ever had one, but if I did I’m sure this is what if feels like).

I started fast, died 2 minutes into it and staggered to the finish. I also crashed, hitting a rock on the first downhill. It threw me off so much that racing into the transition zone I did a slow motion fall over that I was hoping that no one witnessed. By the time I got to the final bootpack my legs were so full of high altitude lactic acid that they felt like concrete blocks.

Ok, so day 1 was over. It took me over 2 weeks to finally check the results. I wasn’t last, but I was about as far back as I thought.

Day 2....the main race:

the night before as they described the course I began to get really, really nervous. They described this incredible rock climb bootpack that would be over ½ the race. It was a 5.6 degree climb with fixed ropes the whole way with each racer being hooked in by via ferrata and an ascender. They tested us out on the stairway, to make sure we knew what we were doing. I’m sure I’m not the only guy that was totally bluffing my way through the test, but I’m sure I gave myself away when I asked the assigned guide how much exposure there would be. He must have sensed my trepidation because he asked me if I really wanted to know. Sheepishly I said yes and the answer was "a lot, with sections of 1000+ feet of nothing on either side." Great.

Hopefully learning from day 1 not to go out too fast I still did. Still felt like I was having an asthma attack with legs the weight of concrete. This time though it seemed like almost everyone was in front of me. I picked it up a bit on the 100 kick turn section. Big acclimatised motors that weren’t as dialed in on skimo technique had to be passed. When I finally did get to the big rock climb section I tried racing through, but quickly realized the whole idea of a "race day" was disappearing and turning into an adventure.

The course was so bottlenecked that we spent a lot of time waiting. Like maybe a total of :40 to an hour. I was prepared with a down sweater, warm gloves with heater packs. The climbing stuff is kinda new to me and I’m glad I had some tutors on either side of me. I was almost glad I didn’t have to go at race pace, because with this serious rock climbing I think I was incapable of really moving very fast anyway. In times like this it’s best not to dwell too much on results, how much you trained to get ready, etc. Go with the flow. It was a new and life expanding experience. I truly was glad to have been there-done that.

Again, it took me weeks to finally check the results. I couldn’t believe how few people I actually beat. I heard that with the back log on the rock they had to pull several people off the course as they would have taken too long to complete the race.

Day 3:

The next day, Monday, there was a CO cup race at Winter Park as part of the Denver ski show. I was pretty bagged, but what the heck, I’d travelled a long way for some racing and racing is what I was gonna do.

We started the race with this cool promenade through the vast city of trade show ski booths, then it was let ‘er rip up the hill. Asthma attack #3. Sometimes you just can’t believe who is passing you. We went up a downhill run, then funnelled into the woods for a series of switchbacks. I got trapped behind 3 kick turn challenged dweebs. I was happy for the rest though so didn’t make much of a fuss. Maybe my previous days adventure took the race spirit out of me, but one by one I politely asked them if I could go by and when I finally did I realized how much they were slowing me down.

The first downhill was a nice mogul steep face, but not nearly as steep as Norquay where I do my downhill training, so I let ‘er rip. At the bottom a cute 30 something gal skied up behind me at the transition and said something like, "Dude, you were flying!!" I was so pumped it propelled me up a couple places on the next downhill. I could see teammate Ian ahead, not too far ahead, but couldn’t reel him in. Kinda made me wish I’d not lolly-gagged so much earlier.

Flying home I reflected on how wonderful this experience was. It made me glad I’m not an asthmatic, but more significantly I got to see some really good friends. I have 2 friends, both named Phil that live 4 miles from each other in Monument CO. 2 days before I left an old friend I hadn’t talked to in 23 years contacted me by email. Turns out he lives in Crested Butte. We had a tremendous reunion. We were hosted by a really cool guy named Sean that opened up his home to a couple of strangers. We couldn’t stop talking. It was really fun. Finally, Janelle Smiley (who won the women’s race) gave me and my friends a generous welcome. Hope to see her and husband Mark again this summer in Canmore. I realized it was the friends, not the racing that made the trip so unbelievably special.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dynafit Evo boot review

Well, here they are--Dynafit Evo boots. If you're living and racing in Europe, they're old news...if you're living in North America, you probably haven't seen 'em yet.

I first saw a pair at last year's world championships in Italy. Javier, a Dynafit sponsored skier from Spain, had the only pair. He graciously offered to let me give them a try, but being a 1/2 size small and immediately after he'd raced on them I declined. Not that I have anything against Spanish sweat, it's just that I'm not into sharing footwear.

What I noticed about Javier's boots was the incredible lightness. Mine weigh in around 680g. Lighter than my xc skate boots! Apparently Dynafit mapped out the boots in square cm's and adjusted the plastic (grilamid) for each segment in order to minimize the weight and put it where needed. Last year I skied on the Dyna's (980g)and I thought those were light. Evo has definately raised the bar in lightness. This is why I really wanted to get these as now they're in the lightness category of an all Carbon boot  (racers never like to give any advantage to the competition!).

As for stiffness, there's nothing lacking. They got those sq cm's dialed in and with the carbon upper cuff, the boot is as stiff as it needs to be. I haven't skied the Gignoux al carbon boot or LaSportiva, so I'm not sure how the stiffness would compare, but with the Evo it's certainly adequate.

One heads up, the wheelbase is about 9mm shorter than the D.y.n.a.'s. An advantage for the boots in skiing feel and lightness, but if you're planning on using your older model race boots for training and saving the Evo's for racing it can be a problem with our race bindings. When I remounted my Trab WC race skis I laid down a layer of carbon fibre to strengthen the ski with the additional binding holes (I remember seeing my team mate Ian Gale break his WC's in the last race of the season due to the multiple holes in his skis). For my training Trabs I've installed "quiver killer binding inserts". Another option would be to mount with an adjustable plate (ATK or Plum make these).

So how do the Evo's ski? My first impression as I strided uphill was how much quicker I could move my feet due to the lightness. The stiffness made it feel very efficient (I've also used Scarpa F1 race, with the bellowed sole). But overall I felt like I could fly effortlessly. On the descent I'm still evaluating. I've only taken them down one somewhat gnarly downhill. What I did notice was that with the lightness, any thicker windblown and cruddy powder tended to "kick" them around a bit. But after all, with a ski-boot-binding combo this light, what can you expect? My skis and bindings together weigh only 850g and with only 680g on your feet there's not much there to push back in tougher snow conditions. I kinda feel like good skiers learn how to ski on anything. Maybe that's why when N. Americans show up in Europe with our big mountain fattties, the Euro's kinda sneer and look down their noses.

Dynafit has a unique race tour/alpine closure system. For the most part it works seamlessly. When I upgraded to Dynafit over the Scarpa F1 race boots I immediately felt like I was getting a stiffer, more efficient alpine mode. The Evo essentially employs the same system as last year's D.y.n.a. boot.

In tour mode the flexibility is quite amazing. I don't think a running shoe would give you more unencumbered mobility. The feel is truly amazing. Evo liners are 20g lighter than last year's Dyna but they retained the neoprene flex zone at the achilleas. Again, I haven't skied on the PG's or LaS....but I couldn't imagine these being as flexible as the Evo's.

I finally get to race on these babies this weekend in Whitefish MT, then next week head to CO for the N. American championships. ' Can't wait to see how they help my performance.

A special thanks to Chris Clausen at Dynafit for letting this Canuck have the only pair up here in the Great White North!


Blog deadbeat that I am...it’s been awhile-sorry. Yesterday’s hi temp hit a not so balmy -27C (-15F). Tough to get motivated to train in that. But I had a change of mind that made getting out exciting. I decided to make a challenge out of the weather. "Could I bring all my cold weather outdoor training experience together to master even this unbelievable chill and have a comfortable, safe experience?" Old man winter threw down the gauntlet, now it was up to me to see if I was up to the task.

I have been having a hard time getting out for my long skis and couldn’t neglect yet another one, so a minimum 3 hour ski was the plan. I decided to go up Healy creek as the parking would be Sunshine DH area and in case I couldn’t restart my car I wouldn’t be stranded in K country without cell service.

Venturing out into the backcountry totally alone in those temps you don’t want to make any mistakes. I decided to go around the backside to Sunshine ski area, a trip I’d once gotten counfused in a white out and had to turn back arriving 4 hours late in total darkness (returning to an extremely panicked wife). This time as I hit the cliff band...the only avi hazard in the tour, I made the choice to turn back as the conditions seemed a bit "slabby". With a partner it wouldn’t have been any big deal, but alone I needed to be ultra safe.

So, how did I do in the cold? Primo!! I was totally comfortable and safe the entire time. Here’s some of my tricks:

-recently I purchased foot insole heater packs. You know, those chemical things that give off heat. These new models look just like an insole you’d put into a shoe. My feet were totally toasty

-I put 2 heat packs in my pockets in case my hands needed them later, which they did. The heater packs take ab out ½ hour to really get going, so if you only break them out when you’re cold they don’t help you for quite awhile. I got ‘em going on the drive over.

-polar fleece 200. I made myself a jacket of this stuff a couple years ago. It’s wonderful in cold -20C and below. I only wear one thin base layer underneath. The 200 has an incredible wicking ability. You finish your workout and the outside is coated in sweat frost, but inside you’re dry. The only drawback is it’s really permeable to wind. So when I was in the woods, no problem, but when I hit the alpine I put my new RAB team jacket on over the pf200. Our Canadian team jacket is super duper light, but I only needed it to stop windflow in.

-no skin can be exposed in these temps, so I typically wear my favourite mask...a cotton ski mask with a mouth hole. Breathing the cold air isn’t that big of a deal as air warms up tremendously fast and before it hits your lungs it’s at a safe temp. having the breathing hole helps to keep all that breath condensation from totally icing up your mask.

-over my mask I wore my fur bomber hat. With a warm head your body stays warmer longer.

-ski goggles. Though I didn’t use them too much on this trip, they can be really important. I’ve seen a couple of my friends frostbite their eyes during xc races. It’s not a pretty site. You basically go blind for a bit and for a week or two have "dog vision" only seeing in black & white. Crazy...isn’t it? Not something to mess around with.

One of the keys to comfort is temp regulation. If you dress too warmly, then overheating sweat becomes an issue. If you slow down and are totally wet, you’re in for a big problem. Hitting the right layers and skiing at the right exertion level are really important. Later in my ski, as I slowed down a bit and the terrain was more downhill, my hands and feet started getting cold. Popping my heat buzzing heater packs into the hands totally did the trick and for my feet I loosened up my boots for better circulation and consciously worked my legs a bit more to generate heat and get the blood moving.

Well there you have it...a couple of my tricks for staying warm and comfy in real cold. I guess you could just cancel your workout and stay on the couch, but it’s more fun to see if you’re up for the challenge!