Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Early season skiing is tough on ski bases. For skimo racing this is the time to get in as much base training and general skiing as possible, yet conditions can be rocky. I recently found myself on an abandoned ski out run at one of my local hills in the Canadian Rocky mountains. This particular very steep and very rocky section lived up to the Rocky Mountain moniker.

In order to get down the very narrow steep section (I wanted to go carefully b/c of all the unseen rocks beneath) I recalled seeing a youtube vid where this guy did a double pole jump turn. I tried it- a little clumsily at first-man did it work! By having both pole arms in front, your weight stays forward, mandatory in steep sections, and with both poles I could jettison myself up and out of the sketchy snow conditions.

I’ve been employing this new discovery on my "Steve0's Stealth run", a little backcountry course I’ve set up behind my house. One downhill section has mandatory jump turns down a mossy (underneath), steep descent between closely spaced trees. It’s worked awesomely.

I’ve also found that the technique is a great confidence builder at the top of a steep coulior. I’ll start w/ double pole jump turns to get going (helping me keep my weight forward), then as confidence builds I may then move into a more standard single pole plant turn.

Happy steep skiing (and hopefully not too rocky!).


PS an older pair of rock skis at this time of year are your most important quiver tools. I ski on my old K2 Sahales far more than any other ski Oct-Dec.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Asulkan training camp

Last weekend the Canadian nat’l skimo team ascended up to Asulkan hut in the Rogers Pass area for what has become our annual early winter training camp. With heavily laddened packs it’s about a 2.5 hour ski climbing 1000 vertical meters to the hut. Once there, one can ski so many wonderful lines. We stayed off the glaciers surrounding us though, as the recent storm cycle produced a lot of fractures and long crown lines. Additionally, the snow pack was enough to cover cravasses, but only thinly, so we left the glacier safety gear in the car.

morning beacon check at the hut (above); some nice powder pillows on Moraine Triangle

Really, the point was to rack up some long days, big total verts and slay some pow. We achieved all these objectives.

Canadian super skier Melanie, joined us a couple days into the camp, skiing up with her race gear. The rest of us were on fatter, heavier touring gear. Mel knows what she’s doing and displayed great skill in navigating powder on her short 160cm skinny skis. My USA friend Scott Simmons once shared he only owns 2 pair of race skis, so does all his skiing on the light sticks. It’s probably great training for moving the legs fast, plus Scott, like Mel, can really make those things work in all snow conditions.

After the camp, I needed a day of rest, but jumped back in on Tuesday with some skimo intervals. First race only a week away!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Great Times at Tent Ridge. Short & Fat?

As I awoke and peered out the window it looked as if the weatherman’s prediction of snow, high wind and blizzard conditions was coming true. Being very tempted to pull the plug and turn back into bed I made a call, but to double check the plan. It turned out one of our skiers had a 4 wheel F-150, so knowing we would at least not get stuck we decided to duck back into the mountains and hopefully avoid the storm. Sometimes these storms are on the prairies and don’t seep up into the mountains. That is exactly what happened to us.

Our destination turned out to be Tent Ridge. A first for all of us, but we’d previously scoped it out in the guidebooks. Tent Ridge is known for sliding and this week it stayed true to that depositing a sizable avalanche right down the middle. With this knowledge, and observing the already formed cornices all around (ridge top is quite exposed from every direction and had cornices from every direction), we made for the trees. On either side are nice stands of well spaced larch trees. We made about 6 runs on one side, then bolted for the other.

Unlike the previous week, we didn’t see a single other skier. They were either all slugging it out on Highwood (a.l.a. last week-see previous blog), or hunkered down fearing the weather report. By the end of the day the sun even poked out. So much for the predicted blizzard.

On this day I dug into my quiver and pulled out the 163cm Atomic Kailas skis. Their dimensions are 125-85-100. Short, fat, shapely, kinda like a Maryln Monroe of skis (well at least the shapely part). With the short length they turn so well. The sidecut gives them a nice carve and there’s enough width to float well over pow. I got to wondering if I should have ordered the 167cm Dynafit Huascarans instead of the 178's last year. I’ve often felt a short, fat ski would be a lot of fun. Many of my friends get longer skis so they can "charge hard" they say, but I sure like the turnability of a shorter ski and the reduced weight.

That elusive quiver of one is still out there somewhere, yet to be discovered.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Not a Whole Lotta Love at Highwood

Led Zepplin’s hard driving rock song "Whole lotta love" cranked from the car stereo as we pulled into the unbelievably full Highwood pass parking lot for some early season turns. Usually that last song is the one that sticks in your brain for the day, so I was glad the music matched the stoke my Skimo world’s teams race partner and I were feeling. Unfortunately I was soon to learn that there wasn’t a whole lotta love in the backcountry scene that day.

First off, as we were staging our gear in the parking lot, a very slow moving large pickup truck proceeded to run over one of my skis. I quickly ran over, protesting loudly so the rear wheels wouldn’t find the same target. It was to no avail. The bandits seemed to uncaringly ignore me. I’m so glad K2's light paulonia wood core was up to the task as any foam core certainly would’ve been damaged for sure. I yelled at them, "you guys must be snowboarders. Did you know you just ran over my skis?" They didn’t care, no apology, nothing. Then when they got out I noticed they weren’t using split boards or snowshoes..hello post-holing on the skin track.

The next encounter featured 2 hikers. We saw them leave the parking lot and wondered why they’d travel all the way to the pass to hike in 3-4 feet of snow when the valley trails were still pretty usable. We quickly caught up to them. One glanced back when I was only 4-6' behind him. At that point he squarely positioned himself in the middle of the trail so I couldn’t pass. I didn’t feel like opening my mouth as I wasn’t sure I could resist chewing them out for walking/wrecking the skin track. As I attempted to pass he squeezed over to try to keep me from going around. I went anyway. As I did he sarcastically said, "excuse me". As if that’s what he was expecting me to say. I joined his game and sarcastically accepted his non apology and said, "ok".

Pter at the Pass

The next group was tailed by a snowboarder (he at least had a split-board and wasn’t screwing up the track). I politely asked to pass on the right. He didn’t budge. I patiently skinned behind him for a bit at a 1/4 of the speed I was previously travelling at. A 2nd time I asked to go around. No budge. Finally with just a bit of space I busted a move and got around him. As we passed his other slightly more cooperative ski mates, they gave me a look that said, "how dare you pass me?".

On the zig-zag uphill to the start of the run we passed a couple other guys. They were obviously a little more experienced and we had a nice chat. As we shared our stories I had the thought that these newbies need to understand the ethics of the bc world a little better. I wondered aloud if they’d even bother to help in a possible rescue scenario...or if they’d even be able to.

Once we got away from the masses though we got some great turns in. 10 runs in all. Stellar weather, great company (the more hardy that went a little deeper in the bc were great-even the snowboarders). Great to be in the back country and on the boards again!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Grizzly Ultra 50Km

So how do you define success? For athletes it’s often simply a comparison game. "Did I beat so & so?.. what place did I get? How many came in behind/front of me?" I feel this is setting ones self up for defeat. In 2 day’s ago Grizzly Ultra 50km at Canmore Nordic Centre I came in 28th out of 400. To some it sounds good, but that’s a lot of people in front of me.

I’ve said before that you simply take what the day gives you. I’ll add to that though, after the day gives what it may, what you do with it, giving back determines whether or not the effort was a successful one.

5 weeks ago I had a similar race, Mt Robson Marathon. Weaker field, yet it’s own unique challenges. From that race I was hoping to go upward still in my fitness. The next weekend I had a pretty good ½ marathon trail race at the Nordic Centre, then the following weekend I tweaked a muscle in my groin/hop flexor area while on a spectacular 4 hour mountain run. That run was the apex of my running season. My fitness was at its zenith as also was my experience in my newly found summer training passion-mountain running. But with that tweaked muscle came a little more rest, a little more prudence, and generally reined in enthusiasm.

Part of the joy of mountain running is an uncluttered joy of exploring. A freedom to hike when the going gets tough and to fly when the downhill beckons. With the injury and my hoped for full recovery for a maximum effort in the Grizz 50km there was less joy and maybe even a little anxiety.

In the race the first half went off great. I learned from previous experience to reign in early enthusiasm and pace myself for the long day. Yet on the final descent into the stadium on loop 2 (of 5), the ½ point, I could start to feel that muscle go. From then on I had to really step gingerly down the descents. Then my other muscles started going as I compensated. I didn’t have major cramping issues as in the Robson race, but they really started hurting.

I held on though, even passing a few people. But the highlight came for me when my 14 year old daughter, who was anchoring her relay team, caught me on the final leg with only a couple km’s to go. She blew by me on a short steep uphill I was walking up, but then I resolved to finish with her, so dug down deep and reeled her back in on the flats. The comeback was short lived though as we then began the final descent into the stadium. That pesky groin injury was just too much even with me applying pressure to it with my hand as I ran. She gapped me be quite a bit feeling pretty smug. I had a lot of joy though seeing her fly so fast!

So was my day a success? I’d say yes. I know I can go faster, but under different circumstances. I raced that day as fast as I could. I maybe should have dropped at the ½ point to eliminate risk of further injury, but I don’t think I made things any worse. Ironically, I won my age group. At Robson I was 10th male, but only 4th in age group. In the Grizz the closest in my age group was 40 minutes behind. So certainly you can’t judge success by place. You just never know who’s going to show up. I have no control over that, but I do have control over whether or not all of me shows up on race day. I think I did in this case....bad groin and all. So yes, I took what the day gave me, gave back all I had and walked (actually hobbled) away feeling successful.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I’m ready to be done running. After 5 months, my body has had enough. Maybe my mind a bit too. My pesky metatarsalgia in my toe, which I’ve had on and off for 6 years, is starting to bug me a lot. And 2 weekends ago while running one of my favorite epic runs, my groin started acting up. I’d strained it mildly 2 days before the Robson marathon doing some fast strides with my daughter. It was a little sore during the marathon. But then I raced again the next weekend at the 5 Peaks ½ marathon trail race and it felt just fine. But then it acted up on last weekend’s long run too. I’m good for about 3 hours, then it starts tightening up. I guess most people would say, "3 hours! That’s good enough!!" Except in under 2 weeks I have the 50km Grizzly trail race at the Nordic Centre. If there was no race, I wouldn’t panic, just roller ski mostly with a little bike.

Instead I’m doing a couple long runs a week very easily and roller skiing and some mountain hiking.

Maybe mentally I’m ready to be done too. I got my new ski boots a few weeks ago, got renewed with my Dynafit sponsorship and there’s snow on all the mountain tops around my house.

We do have a long ski season. Starting w/ the summer stored Frozen Thunder xc trail at the Nordic centre in mid October all the way practically til June. That’s a lot of skiing and at this point in my life after 7 months of skiing, I’m ready for summer.

But now I truly am ready for winter. I was really enjoying the high altitude mountain runs, but now there’s starting to be snow up there. Just over a week ago I did the Gordon Pass run. The Tamaraks were in full color and it was a truly magical experience (until my groin started hurting). This past week has been cold. My garden is barely hanging on with some leaf lettuce still to be picked, but tonight the temp’s supposed to be -4C. So I’m going to harvest it all and shut ‘er down.

Bring on the snow!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mt Robson Marathon

If you live in my area (Alberta), you’ve got to visit Mt Robson, Canada’s highest mountain. It absolutely towers over all. It’s an amazingly beautiful site. I was so stoked to do the 46km Mt Robson Marathon after one glimpse of that monolith (though when racing I rarely gaze upward). We made it a family affair with Deb and Anna doing the 12.5km and Kjirsti the 3km). All placed but me. But get this... 4 out of the top 10 were in my 50-59 age group. At first I thought it was a mistake, but realized those 2 places I surrendered in the final 1.5km cost me a travel mug. O well, as a family we got 2, that’s enough to clutter our cupboard.

The first half of the race for me was really enjoyable. Incredible location, wonderful trail, stellar weather. I felt really good. It was a pretty decent pace the entire first 23km, but felt extremely manageable. My h.r. monitor confirmed this. For much of that first ½ I was just behind a pack of 6 runners. Once we hit the 4km (500+m vert) uphill, I easily passed them all. Most of my trail running has been going up mountains and I crushed the pack with ease.

At the turn around I was in 10th at 2:05. I didn’t go in w/ any goals, but at that point decided that a top 10 in under 4 hours would be a worthy goal to shoot for.

But very quickly things began to change. In the rocky section along Berg Lake I tripped and took a rolling tumble. This is where I noticed my first calf cramp. Soon after this, I took tumble #2- rolled again (gaining some applause) but really hurt my bad shoulder. On this tumble I felt several more leg cramps...not good.

At the 4km downhill, I wanted to rock, but every sideways motion of my legs initiated cramps, so I took this section real slow getting passed twice- my first "chicked"-the women’s winner and another guy that I later reeled in later as his cramping was worse than mine.

I was a bummer as my energy was good, legs felt fine except for these pesky cramps. I had some pickle juice waiting for me w/ 10km to go, but I needed it much earlier. It didn’t really work anyway, not like the last time it totally shut down all my cramping in the 2011 Ironman Canada. So the last 20km or so were mostly cramp management. I had to totally stop on 3 occaisions and mostly slowed way down.

My down time ended up being almost exactly the same as my up time. When you consider that we gained 850m you realize how slow I truly was coming down.

Surprisingly I didn’t get passed that much. I was waiting for a stream of people to get me. I actually passed a couple guys that died worse than me. Although w/ that 1.5 km to go I was "chicked" for the 2nd time. On the final 2km road section I didn’t have to pick up my legs as far, so I could pick up my speed a bit without the dreaded cramps, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the 2 that went flying by.

So I ended up 12th overall in 4:09. I guess it’s ok. I had no expectations. It was my first true trail marathon (not including the Footstock marathon-which I won- in 2006 that was mostly on dirt roads). The longer distance probably added a good :20 and the 4km hike section definitely slows one down.

As I write this 2 days later I realize how different a trail marathon is. I'm a little sore (especially my right foot from hitting a rock hard that caused crash #3), but not really that bad. A road marathon would have me hobbling around for several days. That's even considering I used a somewhat minimalist shoe (which may have been a mistake). Although my fatigue level is still pretty high. I'll go for easy bike rides the next couple days.

In contrast, my friend Reiner, 2 years ago came in 2nd in the marathon, then because the conditions offered a great window, climbed Robson that afternoon and skied down (normally a 2-3 day  adventure). Crazy.

Next up is the Grizzly ultra 50km in Canmore in a month. Plenty of time to recover and hopefully make some adjustments.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


With an injured rotator cuff I was forced this summer to abandon my Ironman plans. This was the first summer in 13 years I hadn’t done a triathlon. I didn’t really miss the swimming, but I did miss the long bike rides. I love putting in the km’s on my tri and road bike. Instead I discovered a new sport. Not really a new one as it’s as old as the creation of man himself, but perhaps a new twist- mountain running. And I believe it’s going to eventually be a new sport- craze.

Ola, a Norwegian I met at the Euro champs in '09 runs in his native Norway.

Living where I do it was easy to fall into this endeavor. Basically it consists of running on trails that most everyone else hikes on. You run the flats and smaller uphills, but when the angle gets pretty steep you’re forced into a speed hike. In Europe these are called sky runs. They have several sky races, some with 1000's of entries. It’s easy to see why they call them "sky" as you often end up on top of a mountain...hopefully with a ridge top that you can run along. Of course having a spectacular view (though it is hard to look if you’re moving fast).

The first couple times you mountain run your legs are sore from the downhill running (and some old farts just can’t do it b/c of the pounding on the knees), but from then on I find I’m good to go and usually don’t get sore anymore. Another trick to the sport is concentration. You just can’t let your mind wander like you do on the road as you’ll end up tripping on a rock or root. Indeed, pretty much every step must be thought out...there’s no time to day dream. Because of this, the time actually goes by really fast. 2-4 hour runs just fly by. You clear your mind of most everything (except maybe for a tune in your head) and focus on the trail. It’s really relaxing as your focus forces you to block out and quiet the busy workings of your mind.

Another cool thing about mountain running is that you can cover long distances. One of Alberta’s best sky trails is the "Skyline" trail in Jasper. It’s 44 km long and hikers do it in multi day trips. That is if you can get the permits for the camp spots-they’re hard to come by. Yet, if you’re running you just figure out the start/finish shuttle and do it in 1 long day. It’s got 25 km of ridge top running. It’s one of my "to do’s" for this soon to end summer.

Next on my list though is the Robson marathon next weekend. A 49km race with Canada’s highest peak in the background. We only gain 500-700 meters, so we’re not really climbing the mountain. Most of my local runs typically gain 1000m.

A new favorite is what I did last Saturday. A 4 hour run up Wind Ridge. You can clearly see this smaller mountain from most of Canmore. It’s a 1 hour run to the trailhead, then another :45 min grunt to the top, then a wondrous flat ridge run. I love these local adventures that a quick glance up throughout the year bring back good training memories.

Happy trails!

Monday, August 19, 2013


As a young person I was the skinniest kid on the block. Even into adulthood I was like a POW, with ribs sticking through, etc. I once had a female doctor laugh at how skinny I was. She remarked, “you don’t have an ounce of fat on you!” All well and good... that is until you start creeping into the master’s ranks and apparently the metabolism must slow down a little. Hence, I put on a little weight. I can’t believe I’m even saying this. After all those years of wimpiness-skinniness.

I should have seen it coming. My dad was told to lose some weight when he was in his 40's and he did so. I remember him telling me though when he was younger he was so self conscious about his own skinniness that he would drink straight cream to try to get some fat. “Dad, ever think of

Competing in a sport that places a premium on going fast up very steep hills you can easily see how carrying any extra weight is a liability. When I was wed at age 34 we received a scale as a wedding gift. At that time I weighed 144. We kinda suspected though that it was around 4 pounds light, so I might have been 148. So that was my goal. Get to my “marriage weight” of 148. I would have to lose 6 pounds. A big deal? Not really. Since I started less than one month ago I’ve lost 9 pounds. I’m still not really that fat, so 9 pounds is a lot.

Yet, I’ve read recently about Tour de France riders, they’d train 25-30 hours a week, yet still restrict their diet. At one point in Tyler Hamilton’s book he described how Lance once ate THREE pieces of
chocolate cake for desert. His team was all too intimidated by him to say anything, but Tyler thought to himself, “Great, now we’ll all have to ride an extra 5 hrs tomorrow so you can burn off that cake.” Same calorie deprivation with Peter Reid, Canada’s multiple Ironman world champ. He’d go to bed starving even though he too was putting in 25-30 hr training weeks. Any extra weight would just slow him down.
So how does my 148 pound goal compare to other distance athletes? Arthur Lydiard wrote that the average weight for African runners at the time was 113....for Americans it was 130. His implication was that the USA boys should lose some. Killian Jornet weighs 125.

Ok, so 1 month into my reduction plan, I’m 145. I think it isn’t  unreasonable to get down to 140. My plan? The one that’s actually worked pretty good so far?

Basically 3 things:
eat less, train more, embrace hunger pangs. The first 2 are pretty obvious, the 3rd was kinda new to me. In our culture/country, when we have a craving-we satisfy it. Resources are abundant, you’re hungry-have a snack. No more for this guy. However, since I’m taking in less calories I can’t afford to eat anything that isn’t packed with important nutrients. Empty calories aren’t going to work as I won’t get nearly what my body needs. So, I’ve been supplementing just a bit....vit D, calcium, Mag, vit b mega complex. Might need to add to the list, but that’s what I’m taking for now.

A few years ago, when I first noticed just a bit of “extra” around my waist, I noticed an unusual feeling when I redlined it. When I’d creep into the Anaerobic zone, I’d feel a numbness around my mid-section. I can only speculate, but I wonder if that was the feeling of important oxygenated blood moving through my "spare tire" layer. Not only does extra weight encumber me in the uphills, it robs my working muscles of oxygen rich blood.

To be continued...

Monday, June 24, 2013


Of course it’s all over the media, so there’s not a whole lot more I can say about the AB flooding, except for maybe how it impacts one part of my

My old Finnish xc ski coach Ahvo, used to say, "skiers are made in the summer." This summer has been totally changed. Every road leading out of our town has been impacted. You can only come in and out if you live here (that’s an improvement from last week where no one could go anywhere). One benefit of living here is that I’ve got great training right out my door. That is if you’re running. And running is pretty much how I was planning on arranging my training. With my rotator cuff injury rendering my left arm pretty much useless, triathlon was cut off the radar. For some reason I was getting fascinated by world mountain running and skimo champ Killian Jornet’s exploits. I met this hero my first year of ski mo racing. The awards ceremony for the race in Whistler was taking forever, and no one seemed to be talking to this shy Spainiard, so I took the opportunity to pick his brain on the sport for around an hour. Little did I know that he’d go on to become one of the aerobic world’s most recognizable figures.

In Killian’s vid’s he has magnificent shots of him running in the Alps, Pyrenees and other Euro mountains. It’s incredible! I decided then that I would emphasise mountain running with just a bit of cycling. We have similar beauty and ruggedness up here in the Canuck Rockies. However getting to these places may be a challenge. As long as you make it into Banff you’re ok, but that’s going to be quite a challenge. The Legacy Bike trail has a bridge out. The west bound 2 lanes on the TCH are totally gone. They’ve got limited traffic going across the remaining ½ of the TC. I guess I can take a bus, toting my bike, then go from there. The back door to Banff up Spray lakes road is closed as mutiple rock slides closed that road and the Goat creek into Banff will have massive flood damage. The 1a out of town towards Exshaw has several problems (sections missing, massive rock slides), and when it’s done it’s going to be the summer route’s going to be a traffic nightmare on this slow 2 lane highway.

It’s a "preppers" scenario. Those of us with fitness and bikes can get to places. Everyone else either stay home or wait in insanely long detour traffic (that is when they finally get even the detours up and running).

The damage from this storm was unbelievable. The smallest creek (and there are many running out of our mountains) became swollen rivers with vast destructive power. The landscape has been forever changed and it will take months if not years for the repairs to be completed.

I guess instead of worrying about what’s not getting done work wise it’s time to realize what you are able to accomplish and when that line is reached...go out for a run!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I recently read Arthur Lydiards’ biography and also his coaching book, "Running to the Top". Older athletes may recall this coaching superstar. Many credit him with the world wide running boom in the 70's. He was an uneducated shoe factory worker who also had a milk delivery route at night, but he was also a runner. He loved experimenting on himself. Gradually, a few of the local track athletes sought him out for training advice. It turns out he was incredibly wise and insightful. He took a bunch of no name athletes and turned them into world and Olympic champions. His greatest runner was Peter Snell. Snell won 800m Olympic gold in the ‘60 Olympics, then repeated in ‘64 adding the 1500m title too. So far, the only one to win double gold in these two distances. Snell is now an exercise physiologist in Texas. Having the highest level of education in the field, interestingly he affirms all of his old coaches training methods. The ones Lydiard arrived at through personal experience, investigation and astute observation.

Arthur Lydiard

When Lydiard came on to the scene pretty much all middle distance coaches threw tonnes of interval training at the athletes. Lydiard’s method was to spend 3-5 months doing nothing but easier base long distance base running before moving into more race preparing intensity. He’s credited with the LSD movement (not hallucinogenic), long, slow, distance. Really though, guys like Snell weren’t really going that slow, running around 6:30 miles. But for him that was slow. The point is to not go into your anaerobic threshold. So I believe that would include pretty much everything up to zone 3 (on a 5 zone system). Lydiard was roundly criticised for this method, but people quieted a little when his no name athletes became world beaters. Of course, soon after this era, and even during it, the trend went right back to all interval and fast training. That’s where we find ourselves today.

Years ago I remember reading Peter Snell on this topic. He said that as a middle distance runner people were mocking him for doing 3 hour runs. But he also said that he really wasn’t that fast and a great "kicker", even though he was known for his final kick. It was just that his endurance was so much greater that he had the fitness to use what speed he had. He also mentioned that 40+years later, he still holds the New Zealand national record for the 800m. He then went on to say something to the effect, "You’d think they would figure this out!"

Peter Snell

The idea is to spend as much time as you can building the engine. The long, slower efforts do just that. Then when it comes time to notch things up a bit (really only 6-8 weeks of intensity training) everything about your body/engine is bigger and more efficient. More capillary beds to deliver oxygen, more mitochondria to produce ATP’s for energy, a higher VO2 max, the list goes on and on.

As skimo racers and our need to climb mountains as fast as humanly possible, I can’t imagine any other sport with higher physical demands. We absolutely MUST build a big engine. I recently read that Killain Jornet goes for 3-5 hour runs in the a.m. then does another 1-2 hours in the afternoon. His intensity training is only his racing, which is a lot...30 skimo races and 30 running races.

So I’m changing things a bit this year. So far this summer, almost every workout I’ve done is a minimum of 2 hours. Longer stuff, easier stuff, lots of vertical running/hiking to the top of mountains. Topping out on a mountain is fabulous! I love it! Going up, getting a view, being vertical.... after all as skimo racers we gotta get vertical!!

Monday, June 3, 2013


I’d heard about this fantastic race from a few friends that have done it over the years. It was with excitement, but trepidation that I accepted Mike Norton’s invitation to be a part of his 8 person team. Over the years I’ve had a few friends (all fast friends!) Team up with Mike and I knew that he enters to WIN! Be competitive for the victory or don’t bother. Since the Ski2Sea came US Memorial weekend it meant keeping my high end training up during the normally "detraining"period.

I’d heard that Justin Wadsworth, head Canadian XC coach, was instituting something different with his team during this important detraining phase... 1 day per week of 4x4min intervals. Maybe a bare minimum for those guys, but the idea is to not lose that high end so as to not be starting farther back once the detraining period is over. It might be kind of a risk for those guys as I remember years ago Steve Gaskill (at that time head US XC ski team coach) explain that if you don’t have that rest-detrain, then it’s been observed that athletes kind of peak out.

In any case my weekly 4x4's consisted of hammering up the Spray Lake road. By the time I’d top out around the Reclaimer bike trail I was totally exhausted. The only problem was I then had to run back home (albeit all downhill) a :40 run. With legs shaking and exhausted lungs it wasn’t an easy task. I observed that each week I seemed to make it just a bit farther up the road for the 4x4 efforts. Fun stuff!

As for the race itself, it turned into quite the wet affair. Not surprising I guess given the location, but the weatherman hadn’t predicted such a soggy day. I was actually a little glad for my leg. The day before I was pre skiing the course w/ Marshall, whom I’d met earlier this year in France at Skimo worlds as he was representing USA. As we skied the downhill portion, he was as slow as a tree on the side of the trail. I’d super rilled my skis and put flouro powders on them, the latter is something we never do as the skins wouldn’t stick (for this race we only bootpack, not even using climbing skins). This ski prep for the very wet conditions was rocket fast. I couldn’t believe how fast my skis were! On race day top USA skier Max Taam and Marshall peaked together and Marshall blew him away gaining over 30 seconds on the short downhill. I later learned that Marshall learned from our training foray and went home and powdered up his skis. Max didn’t bother. A lesson learned by all.

  Our team

I started my leg in 6th. On paper, our xc skier should have come in first or very close to it. Marco Andre-Bedard, one of Canada’s best biathletes and the prior month beat both Brian Gregg and Tad Elliot at the Canadian XC Nat’ls (Brian and Tad finished their S2S leg 1-2, with Caitlin Gregg a not too distant 3rd-amazing!), but unfortunately Marc only had tiny baskets on his poles that totally sunk down into the slop, essentially giving him no arm poling. I passed a couple skiers moving us into 4th.

I handed off to Dusty, who moved us up another place with his blazing fast downhill run. From there we faded a bit into 6th where we spent most of the day, that is until the last 100m. We were passed by 2 kayaks in the final 100m. It was hard to take, but our team did improve from 10th last year to 8th.

We were an open corporate team. It’s kinda cool because the local radio station announces the race live all day and the higher up you are, the more your sponsor gets mentioned. We did him well, especially in the first few legs!

This was really a super event. There’s 500 teams and lots of local media attention. The whole town of Bellingham WA really gets into it. The day caps off with a big party in the main street area celebrating Memorial weekend. Mike’s already asked me to come back next year, the biggest compliment ever for me! So I have one more reason to stay fit and give ‘er a good go next ski season!

PS the race consists of the following legs: XC, skimo, run, road bike, canoe, mountain bike, kayak

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Life is pain. This is a stark reality. So often we want the pain or problem to go away so we can return to "normal". However, pain and problems are normal. Way back in ‘95 I must have torn my rotator cuff in the Canadian Birky XC race. A friend of mine, one of the top sports doctors in the world (currently the head doc for the NHL), gave me some exercises to do. Every 1-3 years the pain would come back-I’d do the exercises and within a month I’m pain free and good to go. Not so this time.

The shoulder pain returned this year around Christmas (I remember thinking in the fall as we started skiing how great my shoulder felt-no pain). I put off the exercises since the pain wasn’t bad and I probably was overly familiar with the drill. However, I must have fallen on it. I’d really been pushing my downhills to get better this year. I must have torn it in several of my falls (I tend to fall on that particular shoulder with my arm extended-the perfect recipe for RCuff disaster).

So now if I raise my arm and twist it at all pain shoots down my arm feeling like a knife has been jammed into my shoulder. I’m useless for swimming as I can’t even extend my arm to do the freestyle stroke. This will be the first year since 2000 that I haven’t done triathlons.

Add to this my broken finger (injured in the most minor of falls) which is healed, but stiff and painful. This morning I lamented, "I wish I just didn’t have this pain." Well, I’ve got 2 choices... either wait until it’s gone to enjoy the things I like to do or do them anyway in pain (while still doing everything I can to facilitate the healing). My mother in law (passed away suddenly 1 month ago) was the epitome of this. She was in constant pain for most of her life. She’d spent most of my wife’s childhood in bed suffering. Her family really missed out. But one day, she decided to re-join the world in spite of her pain. She stopped trying to get over it and start living again. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but it was nice to have her back after all those years. Maybe there’s something too about getting involved, as it distracts us from ourselves and personal pain.

From what I’ve been reading and hearing from my doc, it’s almost certain I need shoulder surgery....bummer. I don’t know how long it’ll take to see the specialist, then I don’t know how long it’ll take to actually get the surgery, but once I do it’ll be at least 3 months of recovery. This could be a long frustrating ride.

Oh well, I’ll just get on with what I can do and not think about what I cannot. First on the agenda is this weekend’s famous "Ski 2 Sea" relay in WA. I’m going to ski and prepare as if it’s the last race I’ll ever do (hopefully not the case!).

Monday, May 13, 2013


Well, we’re into week 4 of next ski season’s training cycle. After every season I like to write down what I felt I did right in training and what I did wrong, or want to improve in. When it’s all done, it can be quite a list. Here’s a quick summary:

Did right:
-zone 4 fitness. Did consistent Z 4 workouts starting in the summer (taking a 1 month break after my peak triathlon) then 2x/wk. Doing challenging peaking intervals (:30 x 20 w/ :30 rest); time trials; long intervals, short intervals. I felt I came into the early race season (Dec 1) in top form.

-consistent leg strength. I saw a lot of improvement in my squats and deadlifts, etc. Didn’t shirk off or blow these off . It definately helped in downhills, etc.

-Got transitions dialed in What used to be a weakness has now turned into a strength.

-Downhill training at Norquay. Still improving on those downhills.

 Not Right:
-maybe peaked too early. Too much Zone 4?

-still not enough 5 hr workouts (like in my Ironman days)

-Nutrition suffered. Vit D, Calcium (1 broken bone this year, maybe 2), Mag.

What to do different this next year
-maybe 1 less workout/wk.... 2 days off instead of 1/wk.;

-no in between workouts. Go long, or go hard, or rest

-keep measuring.... but do more (tt’s; st.; hours; int’ls;). Record, challenge....always looking to improve

-roller skiing w/ skimo gear (tt up Norquay access road-record)

-more technical skinning and downhill practice in manky conditions (on race gear)

(left)-one of the awesome runs in my backyard

First off,  
I’ve got to get my shoulder healed. A torn rotator cuff from years ago really got torn up more this year as I kept falling on that shoulder. Surgery may be necessary (3 month recovery). I’m going to try to strengthen rehab it as I’ve done effectively for the last 17 years (when I first injured it). Secondly, I’m going to try to build more recovery into my weeks. 2 zone 4's, 3 long ones (2-5 hours); after that just strength training (in winter 1 day of lift downhill training). Lastly, I discovered some amazing terrain right out my door. The mountain behind my house actually has some incredible skiing (you’re probably thinking, "duh, what took you so long"). I’ve already been developing it a bit-I have a 1.4km race course complete w/ bootpack and jumpturn manditory downhill. But there’s a couple drainages back there w/ multiple couloirs. It’ll allow me to train difficult uphill skinning and manky snow, challenging downhills. Plus, I can get more hours in without having to travel to a venue. Just gotta figure out a way to ski there safely.

Well, it's finally getting summery out there, so it's time to have some dryland fun!  Oh wait!!!! I get to race in the Ski to Sea at Mt Baker. One more skimo race to go (I've been doing at least one z4 workout per week to stay in shape!).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thoughts on Avoiding Fatigue

The last couple of years it seems that come November I begin to feel more fatigued than usual. It’s impossible to measure energy and we’re left with a vague subjective evaluation, but it’s really seemed unquestionable for me recently. Also, this year after I returned from skimo world’s in Europe I just seemed to be dragging.

So what’s going on? I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

The Nov. fatigue in part could be due to ramped up training with more interval and quality sessions, but I suspect there’s another factor in play. One of my perpetrators I’m beginning to believe is a vitamin D deficiency. This essential vitamin (actually it`s a hormone, not vitamin) that we manufacture with our skin via sun exposure is sorely lacking in my Canadian northern climate. They say that our weekly requirements can be met with :30 min of bare arm skin exposure. Something I’d never do from Nov - April. Another way we apparently get vit. D is through our eyes. Bright sunlight taken in through the eyes gives us a workable amount of this vitamin, and it also stimulates the brain with melatonin production that aids our sleep and helps the travelling athlete acclimate to time zone changes (thanks to Tam the speed skating queen for tipping me off on this one). Of course the new trend is to never let our eyes be exposed to the sun so we wear expensive sunglasses. Perhaps we should wear the eyewear in the summer to protect our eyes from overdosing on UV light and resulting cataracts, but in the winter, let your eyes breathe!

Most young people get Vit D through fortified milk, but I don’t drink a whole lot of milk which probably puts me in Calcium and D deficit. (Maybe that’s why I broke my finger this year during a really small fall on skis). What we need to supplement with is called vitamin D3. In the winter we can need as much as 1-5,000 IU per day. One should take some blood tests to find out where you`re at because overdosing with vit D can be bad....real bad. According to one source I read your blood level should be 60-80 ng-ml.

It also sounds like proper amounts of D are necessary for vit B12 and iron absorption. Of course, low iron will decrease your blood carrying capacity (clearly slowing down the aerobic athlete). It doesn`t take too much to get those iron levels back up. Some red meat, Cream of Wheat is especially good (2 servings- a normal size = 60% daily need). Absorption is the key though, and low D may contribute to this problem. I also read that caffeine can impede iron absorption so coffee and tea shouldn't be consumed within an hour of a meal.

It seemed like I was racing much faster earlier in the season, but just kept getting slower. Next year I`m going to try to monitor my vit D levels more closely.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

End of Season Blues?

Ok....season over. I’ll admit I’m a little bummed out. I think I get this way every year at this time. Always have for the last 30+ years of racing. The bummage mostly comes from not living up to pre-season race expectations and sadness that the excitement of racing is over. Mostly the first one though. Especially this year. This was going to be my last world cup skimo go round I wanted to finally prove to myself that I could perform respectably at that level. However, I didn’t live up to my dreams. I’ve got a blog post on my sportfaith blog that discusses this in detail:

Yesterday I went for a little walk (& prayer) to mull over things. It took all of about 5 minutes to move from disappointment and disheartenment to hopeful expectation to the future. Shouldn’t be surprising if you take the time to read my sportfaith entry on "Dealing with Disappointment". I share how sport (& really all of life) is a challenging game....a puzzle. A chance to break an endeavour down into it’s micro pieces, find a way to improve each one and in the process get faster, and also grow in character. Ultimately, it’s not about results (though if you consistently chip away at each area you’ll certainly end up getting faster).

If you just focus on the end result, you’re fated to be disappointed continually as there’s always someone faster than you (especially for me now as I’m getting older, with new fresh blood coming into the sport....defiantly a good thing for the sport in Canada). The real challenge is improving yourself... making yourself better. If I can isolate areas of growth and measure them against myself, I can have satisfaction.

In my last race of the year, Lake Louise skimo race, there were about 6 national caliber guys. I finished 6th. Was I disappointed? Nope. My main goal was to make some headway on the downhills. This race especially featured 4 challenging double black diamond downhills. For me, I rocked them. Went faster than any downhill I’ve done in a race so far. Probably slower than most of the guys in front of me, but good for me. For this, I came away from my race satisfied. I felt I skied consistently hard too, with good transitions. Overall a personally solid effort. Just not podium worthy (didn’t even get a door prize!).

The week before, I pre-skied the DogTooth Dash race course with eventual winner Scott Simmons. He really went fast on the downhills. Really, quite unbelievable on the skinny race sticks. There was deep, manky, cut up powder and he just rocketed through it. It was a bit of a revelation for me. I now saw what one has to do to compete at a high level in this sport. Scott told me he only owns 3 pair of skis. All skimo race skis. It’s all he skis on. He mentioned to really get good at skiing all one has to do is ski every day on race sticks exclusively. The conversation made me feel like I need to cull my quiver a bit.

With my XC background and primary weakness being fast downhill skiing, my springtime goal now is to work on this deficiency while I can. No time for emotional let downs, there’s (fun) work to do! Plus, my good friend Mike Norton, has asked me to be a part of his "Ski to Sea" team in May (a huge televised race in Oregon with over 500 teams). One more chance to rock those downhills!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Doggy Tooth Dash

How to tell if you’ve had a good race? That’s a common question in skimo racing where courses, competitors and conditions can vary so much race to race, year to year. My good friend Stano, on his blog, Skintrack, has some good insights. He suggests having a few specific goals within the race to shoot for. At this year’s Dogtooth Dash, I had 3. 1) ski consistently strong (aerobically) 2) solid downhills 3) fast transitions.

For goal #1 I felt I mostly achieved my target. I used a heart rate monitor during the race to gauge my effort. Early on I used the device to control my excitement and not go too hard (I stayed w/ the pack the first climb, but backed off on the second). I observed that I was able to keep it pretty high for the rest of the race. One of my strategies to keep the intensity high was to attend to my nutrition. Going over 2 hours especially mandates a plan. So often in the heat of racing you don’t want to take the seconds to feed, but you’ll always pay for it later....hence a strategy/plan. I’d planned out ahead of time exactly where I’d take my gels (2) and drinks. I stuck to the plan and was glad I did. One more last feed was some Red Bull. I could feel it kick in. I’ll definitely do this again!

As for #2, conditions made the downhills especially challenging for me. It had snowed most days last week and with weekend downhill traffic the double black downhills were especially challenging with skied up powder and on one downhill, a cut up sun crust. This weekend, Scott Simmons (USA & race winner) travelled with me. He shared that he only owns 3 pair of skis, all race skis. It’s what he skis on exclusively. He mentioned that one really learns how to ski downhills well when you do all your skiing on our micro sticks. And boy can he rock on the downhills! When I think of where I’ve come in this mini skimo discipline (dh), I have satisfaction, as I’ve definitely improved the last 2 years; however, there’s a lot more ground to make up. But that’s what makes sport so fun... the challenge of applying yourself to improve. I’d say I really didn’t meet my goal for #2.

#3...transitions. Mostly ok. I was skiing with a taped up broken finger. This slowed me down a little as most technical stuff had to be done with just the one hand. Still I did ok. Except for the disaster. While ascending Terminator Peak boot pack the 2nd time, there were some ultra slow and out of shape hill patrons that were so worn out from their little bootpack that they refused to move over an inch and give me any room. The second person actually bumped into me as I passed them, actually my skis, attached to my pack. It made one of them come off and it slid down the hill and came precipitously close to going over a several 100m drop. I had to duck under a safety rope to retrieve it. If my skins weren’t still on it would have shot over the cliff and my race would be over. I lost about 5 minutes retrieving it. I was so bummed.

I ended up 18-20 minutes off the podium (which I was on last year). I could have done a lot better with solid downhills and no boot pack disaster, but when I compare where I’ve come through the 5 years of Dogtooth Dashes it’s pretty satisfying. I’ve actually really improved a tonne. Kickturns, fitness, transitions...even downhills have come so far.

I have an XC ski friend that was doing his first skimo race. He’s really fit and previously firmly booted me out of my local master’s xc ruling spot years ago. Yet in skimo he’s starting out where I once was. It was fun to recall the excitement of discovering a new, cool sport, yet one that is really hard. The challenge of mastering a new discipline and the frustration of making so many mistakes and having your result come nowhere near what your fitness level would dictate.

The adventure continues!
                                                                                                                    (photo: Malcolm Taylor)

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Magic of the Shirt....Ski Mountaineering World Championships

I have a Nike base layer shirt. It either brings me incredible luck or disaster. I first took notice of this shirt’s magical powers after I wore it while winning the Footstock running marathon in 2006. I’d entered simply for a quality training race leading up to an Ironman Canada berth. Long story short, I ended up winning. In the ensuing years I’ve tried to somehow relive the magic of that special day, yet as far as I recall it hasn’t happened. Apparently, there was only one good race in that Nike shirt’s luck arsenal.

The shirt’s last chance was the Ski Mountaineering World Championships teams race in Pelvoux France. I even told my race partner and roommate, Peter Knight about the shirt’s history. Unfortunately, the black Nike once again didn’t deliver, so never again will I wear it in a race.

The day started out a bit dubious as I barely made it to the race venue. My teammates had been there a full week in advance to fully scope out the course, country and ski treasures. I on the other hand was stuck in Torino, Italy. I’d been in Schladming, Austria to support my good friend Jan Hudec at his world championships-Alpine skiing (a slightly larger affair with over 100,000 spectators and a world wide audience. Jan did his country proud, finishing both his races as the top Canadian, yet was disappointed when he didn’t achieve a podium finish). After stressing out for 12 hours waiting in the Torino airport, I had to go back to my hotel room after the plane my ride FINALLY got on, had a mechanical-cancelling the long awaited flight. Incredible bad luck all around. Fortunately, the next day, he did arrive so we could make the short 2 hour drive to our remote ski venue.

Reaching the destination the next afternoon I skipped the opening ceremonies to get a short ski in on the course just hours before I had to start the race which I’d been labouriously preparing for the past several months.

It was a tough course with the first climb sending us roughly 1600 vertical metres upward (4000+ ft.). Being a world championship I didn’t hold back. I had a heart rate monitor on and was trying to race steadily, but it’s hard to hold back, especially when it doesn’t seem that hard. However, about halfway into the climb my engine started crashing. I don’t know if it was the pace, the stress of the last couple of days, the diet that wasn’t super good in the week leading up to the race or the aura of that black Nike shirt, but in any case, my day was done. Unfortunately, we still had a lot of real estate to cover before the finish.

I still owe my race partner a steak dinner. He pulled out the tow cord and helped me through the rough parts. I owe him a big debt. There was a lot of disappointment, especially when you start counting up all the hard hammer workouts that were done especially for this particular race. However, I summed it up at lunch that day to our team leader. I told him that "you take what the day gives you." For every great race, there’s usually about 5 or so you wish you could forget. Of course you want that good one to come on the big days. And maybe that’s what makes great competitors so good. They’re able to put it together on those big days when it really counts.

I had 2 other races during the championships-the sprint and the vertical race. The sprint I’d like to get back. For some reason I didn’t push hard enough. All I’m going to say about that. The vert was a 600m climb that took about ½ hour. I was 4 minutes back of our best Canadian (and top North American). A decent result for me. I was satisfied. I didn’t beat a lot of country’s skiers, but I wasn’t last either.

So I figure my international ski career is over.... at least on the world cup level. However, we did go to a small town in France where they hold the "Super Bowl" of skimo, the Pierra-Menta, a 4 day skimo stage race. Looks pretty intriguing. I`ll keep ya posted.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Race #2

2nd race of the year. 2nd podium. Granted, there wasn’t a very stacked field, but I still took the cash and nice MEC backpack. It was at Castle mountain. First race ever for them. At the start I let Peter and Stano get away just a bit, but past races I’d been able to reel both in so I wasn’t too concerned. We quickly got on to some very steep, rough switchbacks. About 50 of them. I was losing time...big time. I used some new skins I got over the summer. Wide up front, but I cut them off just below the heel. Thinking I’d have a nice compromise between edge to edge up front, but not all the way to the tail to speed things up a bit. In the end, it didn’t turn out so well as they didn’t give me enough grip in the loose snow and steep skin track. I lost a lot of time to the duo ahead of me.

As we approached the peak we had a boot pack. I later learned that Stano had to pack it in himself. Not a great move on the part of the organizers as the ridge line had some potential avi terrain to one side and some cliffy stuff on the other. Made it through ok, with a bit of postholing.

Then came descent #1. I’d always wanted to ski these steeper chutes at Castle, but the 2 times I’d previously visited the mountain there wasn’t enough snow. After the week’s dump of around 40cm’s there was plenty. Although the cut up pow on our short, skinny skis wasn’t the stuff dreams were made of, it wasn’t that hard and I don’t think I’d have given that run a dble back status.

We had another climb over to the cat skiing terrain. By now the 2 places were so far ahead I couldn’t see either. It was hard to push w/ no one behind or in front, so I maintained a fast, but relaxed pace. The second and final dh featured a fair bit of untracked. They’d asked us the night before not to take the pow runs from the paying customers, but hey, my skis just automatically went there....what could I do?

Both downhills turned into real leg burners. At one point on the second one I took a 2 second sit down break....not very competitive of me, but if you could have felt that lactic acid burn.... This second run was also supposedly a double black, going through trees and hitting some steep powder, but it didn’t seem that hard.

We finished down a nice and easy cat track descent into the finish. As much as I love the race, it’s always nice to cruise and be done. My days on the podium are certainly numbered as more young studs discover our cool sport, but I’m going to soak it while I can (2 last year, 2 so far this year).