Sunday, February 12, 2017

Back on the skinny skis...

What a winter....

Record snowfalls. Roofs collapsing. Lots of snow days: my daughter actually starting wishing her school would re-open.

Just a mess. 

What kind of idiot tries to train for a marathon in these conditions?

Guilty as charged, Your Honor.

I had planned on running the Eugene Marathon in May. Indeed, my fall fitness was improving nicely, and my metrics were looking very good. This was the first time in awhile that I spent a couple of months doing little except long, slow distance. And most of that was on dirt trails. Huge difference.

Then a local pro runner fell on black ice and fractured her shinbone in several places.

Yeah, let's rethink this running through the winter thing. I don't want to do 30+ hours a week on a treadmill again.

Hmmmm...there's these long skinny things in my garage that haven't gotten much use in the last 3-4 years. Nordic skis.

Why fight the conditions? I don't mind running in the cold, but I do mind slipping and falling and breaking parts of my body. Take what I'm given, right?


A few years ago, I skied all winter and didn't run more than a few times. Then I ran a 5k and smoked it, on nothing but Nordic legs.


I  bought my skis at a swap meet. Not ideal for me, they are sized for someone smaller, and ski flex is a very critical issue. Time to get real gear.

The local guru told me to visit Webskis: they will fit me in a suitable pair and won't sell me anything that won't work. They sized me up and gave me a test pair to try, saying these will be the difference between a Chevy and a BMW.

And they were right! Wow, big difference. I could notice the change, even though it was a few years since my last workout like this.

Then I made a calculated decision: if I could ski much better on these skis after virtually no skiing in 4 years, then I want to buy skis another step up in performance so I'd had something to grow into. They warned me about the trade-off: faster skis are looser, more unstable. You need to be a better skier to make them work well, so it's critical to have better form.

Fischer RCR Skate Skis...awfully purdy. And fast. 

I started doing running-type workouts; mostly 350m intervals to work on form. Very quickly, my speed jumped while effort level became manageable. Meaning, less like an all-out exercise in trying not to red line with every stride.

The best Nordic skiers have better physiology markers than Steve Prefontaine. It's a hard, hard sport. More so when your technique is lacking.

Anyhow, my form quickly returned. Felt really good to glide, as always. Ten minutes faster on a hilly five mile loop. And it's fun, too.

And fresh air, besides.

Of course, I need to try things I haven't tried before. Like the Great Nordeen: 18k or 30k, with some screaming downhill from Mt Bachelor Resort. Hmmmm....30k? That's about 19 miles. My previous long was a 10k. And that was a few years ago.

But I was still thinking about it. Until I looked at a topographical map and saw long gradual climbs after 14 miles. Maybe next year.

In the meantime....race day morning had an amazing sunrise. 

I felt a little tired early, like I was missing some zip. Did a full warmup with dynamic stretching, so I don't know...

The downhills were pretty crazy, max speed 28mph. I need to work on my footwork; at one point, I lost control and 'fell' into a snowbank. More like I simply leaned over and the snow kept me from falling. 

Best mile: 3:42....that's pretty quick for me. 

The long gradual uphills weren't very steep, but I was short on power. And part of the course didn't get groomed due to mechanical breakdowns. Made for slow going at times. 

The last 5k was nice. Gradual downhill, hard snow, and I simply worked on form while going pretty fast. I keep adding to the distance where I can cruise at that speed. The skis felt a lot more stable than the last two times, and I'm not sure why. Growing into them, I guess. And I'm not arguing. 

I think the course was around 1k short, my watch showed 10.2 miles. 1:08 overall, pleased with that. The 30k course joined up with the 18k course near the end, and a small number of the longer racer went past. Those guys are very fit. 

VERY glad I didn't attempt the longer version. I would have been toast. 

Two weeks later, my company entered a team in a benefit ski/snowshoe event. Ski as much or as little as you want, for a nominal $10 fee. 

Great! Except I was sick for the better part of the previous week. No workouts for 8 days, lousy sleep, lots of congestion and fatigue. I was finally able to get back on the skis the day before the event, just to start getting my legs back. 

Race morning, and I'm feeling yesterday's work in my legs. No expectations: just stay smooth. 

It went better than expected. 20k covered, about 12 miles, and some really nice high speed cruising at times. An hour and 43 minutes, 35 minutes farther than my previous long workout, and that one was half downhill with lots of coasting. Today was flat, which meant consistent effort. And all this only one day removed from an extended hiatus. 

Oh, and then there's this....

Four years ago, I remember skiing on a day when a social service organization had an outing with their menntally challenged clientele. This group was routinely showcased in the newspaper for their efforts. 

One of the guys was around 35. He and his brother both seem to enjoy skiing, and are pretty sunny and cheerful out there. Back when I saw them last, the one guy was hootin' and hollerin' as I skied past. I think I stopped to one point, the guy changed his focus, looked directly at me, and yelled, "YOU'RE FIRED!" Then he howled with laughter. 

Cracked me up. 

Today, I saw the same guy, skiing the oval. And I smiled. 

It was a good day.