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.