Heart Rate, Revisited

I’ve trained with a heart rate monitor for years, going all the way back to the Polar Vantage XL I had in 1991. I tracked, compiled and analyzed data day in and out.  Resting heart rate (morning and night), time in target zones, recovery, thresholds and so on were all meticulously recorded. I really understood how my heart rate could change under diverse conditions, affected by heat, humidity, altitude, fatigue, racing versus training. I eventually got to a point where I didn’t need the monitor anymore. I remember once being in a “guess your heart rate” contest where you ride for some time on a trainer under effort, then had to estimate why your HR was.  I guessed within 2 BPM. Continue reading

Long Distance Run

I’ve tried to run at least once a week during this ski season. It works as a quick workout, for recovery or some cross-training. It should also help with the springtime transition from ski season, the ramp-up in road miles, and will hopefully stave off the inevitable injuries that come from not having run for 3 to 4 months.

The day after the Bogburn, I ran an easy 50 minutes. My legs were tired but felt better throughout the distance; my arms were ready to fall off from the previous day’s race. I consider it “distance” because this is typically the longest I’ll run even during the running season. It has been reassuring to be able to carry that through the ski season.

The Bogburn 2012


The Bogburn, located at the Haydock farm in Vermont,  is one of those races “the way things used to be.” A great course with 7.5km (done twice) of single track over twisting, rolling trails. Low-key atmosphere. Six to eight inches of fresh, natural snow. I remember real snow.

I skied one of my better classic races.  Good preparation, testing a number of hard wax alternatives, in tricky conditions:  fresh snow, sun and shade, temperatures at freezing point.  I eventually went with Rode “Fast” Extra Blue with some Rode “Fast” Red underneath to fill out the klister pocket.  My kick was good over most of the course (when I could force my fatiguing body into the right positions and timing) and the wax was fast.  I was able to handle the technical downhill turns at speed, albeit with a few exceptions that resulted in some face-plants.   Mostly, I skied the numerous transitions far more smoothly than past races, and I was able to stride uphills with less slipping.  All that time spent on reinforcing the technique is paying off.


R.I.P. Hannah Randolph

We train together.  We race together.  We coach each other’s kids.  We watch them progress  from children having fun to promising young athletes.  We understand the thrill.  We see the rewards.  We know the risks.  But nothing prepares us for this.  When we lose a 15-year old girl in a ski accident, the way we lost Hannah on Sunday, it cuts right through.  So tonight we came together to support Marshall and Karen, to remember their daughter, as we skied a lap in silence.

I coached Hannah in her last year on EMBK.  I trained with her at the CSU workouts.  I could appreciate her drive and dedication, but I barely scratched the surface.  I cannot do justice to who Hannah was, every little thing that made her unique and special, nor the emptiness that her departure creates.  What I can tell you is how much this still hurts.

Seven years ago, after my own son died, I started skiing laps at Weston.  At night.  Alone.  I found some peace in the endless repetition of V2 on the trails. I found a group of skiers who helped me–whether they realized it or not–simply to exist from one day to the next.  So I know we will do the same for Marshall and his family.

Classic Over-distance

Today was another klister day with 2 hours of classic over-distance on corn snow in warming conditions. I tried out the Swix KR for the first time and was not disappointed. KR 60 provided reliable kick and lasted the full session, even as the snow turned to a watery slush on the sunny sides of the hills, and it really helped me fine tune some of my technique issues. I finally reached the point where I could get body position and timing consistently lined up and when I did so, there was plenty of kick. A few times I slipped and I could immediately correct it without losing momentum.

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Goals are important to focus effort and set a cadence to training and preparation.  At the end of each ski season, I plan and set my goals and approach for the coming year, usually because I feel I still have a lot to work by the time I complete the last race of the season.  I’ve only been racing nordic “seriously” for three years, so I still have a lot of improvement to make, despite carrying a good amount of fitness and training psychology from bike racing.  The goals and the way they get captured don’t have to be anything real fancy, but they have to be realistic and actionable. Continue reading

Craftsbury Marathon 2012

I raced the Craftsbury Marathon for the first time on January 28th.  Craftsbury is the stuff of legends, the preeminent nordic marathon of the northeast.  I’d avoided it for years because of the travel and logistics involved.  Craftsbury, a small village in northern Vermont, is only miles from the Canadian border.  The race has an early start time and you have to take a shuttle with all your gear from the parking lot to the starting site.  And because it’s a classic race, you have the kick wax to figure out which is usually left to the last minute and often done under stress.

We hit snowstorms on the way in the night before which made an already ambiguous waxing situation worse.  In the car, I could feel the chest cold that had been running through my family since New Year’s starting to tickle in my lungs and it only got worse over night and into the next morning.  At the start, I consulted the wax gurus.  There were a number of options that seemed to be working.

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Swix Klister

I’ve heard good things about the Swix KR line of klisters, so I got myself a set.  Fewer options makes for a simpler application and less panic waxing on race day.  I’ll keep working on the magic concoctions and potions using Toko, Rode, Rex and goose poop, but I need something reliable since my classic technique isn’t.

Weston Tuesday Night Race #7

photo courtesy of Jamie Doucett

The Tuesday Night sprints at Weston Ski Track are a staple of my nordic skiing season.  These races are often faster and more aggressive than some of the actual competitions and being 10 minutes from home, it’s a no-miss event, even on Valentine’s Day.  In last night’s race, we covered 5 laps of the 2km race course — including four ascents of Mt. Weston — in near-perfect conditions.  The snow-gods of Weston have outdone themselves this year and last night was the best of the season:  fresh, machine-made snow, firm with very few voids or icy spots.  For a guy like me, who has a more engine than skill, it promised to be a good night.  I spent most of the race trying to snap the elastic between myself and a front pack of 8 to 10 skiers.  When the elastic did finally let go, I was on the wrong end of it but skied to a solid top-5 finish.



A workout on the Ercolina tonight. An Ercolina is like a bike a trainer for Nordic skiing, only more boring because I have the back of a door for the view. The exercise is all about upper body power and it’s one intense and efficient workout. The mirror is there to make sure the form stays good.