New Sleds

fischer carbonlite skate classic hole ski

My new race skis arrived, thanks to Caldwell Sport.

  • Fischer CarbonLite Classic 202cm
  • Fischer CarbonLite Skate 192cm

The last pair of skis that Zach picked for me were like rocketships.  These should be even better since they were hand selected from the race room at Fischer in Austria.

These skis were stoneground for cold/universal conditions. My previous race skis were redone with a warm grind.  I can’t claim that I fully understand all the nuances of grinds, waxes, topcoats and rill patterns, but I’ve managed to have pretty fast skis some of the time.  My extended fleet will give me more precision in selecting the right ski for the day’s conditions…and a better chance to screw it up if I get it wrong

Now all I need is some snow…

1996: “Loser”, Mad River & Binghampton

 1996 was my make or break year in cycling.  I was single for the first time in a long time.  I had worked the fall and winter and saved up some cash.  I had given up on spring racing campaigns in Europe and decided focus on the “Fresca Cup” which was a national race series for riders without pro contracts.  My strategy was to race as many of these races as I could, place well in them, and finish somewhere in the top 10 overall.  It was an ambitious goal and one that I thought would help me to secure a pro contract.

On a Friday afternoon in early August, I drive out to Andrew’s in Greenwich to meet up with him before we head to the races for the weekend.  Mad River Glen Road Race on Saturday in Vermont.  Chris Thater Memorial on Sunday in Binghampton, New York.

We’ve raced together nearly every weekend since March.  We’ve spent hours in the car together this year.  We’ve roomed together.  We’ve shared the same bed when we were crammed 3 or 4 racers to a room.

When we weren’t racing, we were training together.  Hanging out watching TV together.  Eating meals together.  I’ve spent more time with Andrew than with any of my girlfriends up to this point.  At times, we’re like an old married couple.  We can start and finish each other’s sentences and sometimes we start to wear on each other.

Before getting into the car, we do an easy spin along the shore, past the town beaches and tidal inlets.

“I’m still having trouble breathing,” I tell him.  “Ever since I came back from Superweek.  That ever happen to you?”

“What do you mean? Like when you ride hard?” he asks.

“Yeah, but it’s all the time, really.  It’s like I can’t get that satisfying lungful of air,” I explain.

“Maybe it’s allergies.  Have you taken anything?” he suggests.

“Nothing seems to work.”

“That sucks.”

We ride some more.

“The other day my mom asked me if I’d ever done drugs,” Andrew tells me.

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Long Roll Redeemed

roller ski pole broken tip ferrule

I finally had a chance to do a long rollerski at Littleton this morning but it didn’t last long.

About 10 minutes in at the base of the first long climb, I lost my timing and  stepped on my ski pole. Then I tripped and did a superman onto the pavement.  I hit my left knee and hip pretty hard but at least I managed — this time — to keep my hands from getting pinched under the poles and thereby avoided breaking any fingers.

When I got back up I noticed I had broken the tip off my pole.  My day was over, I thought.  The group paused to make sure I was okay.  They suggested going back to the car to get an extra pole — I had none. Or maybe a run instead. Finally, Andy said, “You can at least ski no poles to the top of the hill.”

So that’s what I started to do. Half-way up the hill I realized I could ski the whole course without poles.

Or at least I could try.

Skating without poles is the nordic equivalent of pedaling a bike with only one leg.  Under typical circumstances, I  finish a long roll feeling exhausted. I figured I would just do the short loop. But I did the Harvard Extension instead.  And fought my way up the steep climb out of the town center.  Then I added the long loop extension.  And then the Neighborhoods.

When we got to Hill Street, I was pretty sure I was going to blow to pieces. But I cleared the first steep section and just felt stronger and stronger.

At the end of the day, I had done over 2 hours, 30 km and burned more than 1400 kcal. Moreover my legs felt pretty good (my arms felt great).  But, my hip and knee will be sore tomorrow.

And that’s how I turned a shitty start into a very good training day.


1996: Superweek and “The Girl From Ipanema”

getz gilberto album cover

1996 was my make or break year in cycling.  I was single for the first time in a long time.  I had worked the fall and winter and saved up some cash.  I had given up on spring racing campaigns in Europe and decided focus on the “Fresca Cup” which was a national race series for riders without pro contracts.  My strategy was to race as many of these races as I could, place well in them, and finish somewhere in the top 10 overall.  It was an ambitious goal and one that I thought would help me to secure a pro contract.

The Brewer’s Hill Criterium course snaked around the Schlitz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  We started at dusk.  Thursday evening.  Early July. Temperature in the low 80’s.  The odor of wort, hops and fermentation hung thick and heavy in the humid overcast night.  I lined up with 150 other riders, local and national amateurs, top pros from all around the country and some from Europe who hadn’t make their Tour teams.

The pace was fast from the gun and I was struggling to find my legs the first few laps.  But as the sun went down, the strength and resilience returned. My heart rate settled into a rhythm.  I clicked into a bigger gear.  I found the nerve to shoot through the tight inside lines of the tenuous, off-camber corners.  I was moving up through the field.

The course was rough, the pavement fractured and pock-marked.  Riders were elbowing and leaning on each other.  I was getting pissed, especially each time we squeezed through the start/finish where the course bottlenecked by the announcer’s stand.  I kept finding myself tangled up with orange traffic cones.  Each lap the gap narrowed until I slowed down enough to kick the cones back from the course.

I got to the front of the race, jumped hard on the pedals and put some distance between myself and the field.  The again, and again, trying to snap the elastic.  But I couldn’t sustain it.  I missed the breakaway group that went clear in the final few laps of the race; I was too spent to cover it.

I finished in 35th place, managed not to crash but placed out of the money. I was cotton-mouthed, my head heavy and spinning; felt like I had drunk a six-pack of cheap, domestic beer.

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Hot Mess


I’ve gone back to my cycling roots and started using what some may refer to as “old man cream”.  I prefer the term “embrocation”.  It’s particulary useful for these colder weather workouts where a vigorous rub down stimulates the muscles and breaks up some of the knots and tension that seems to get worse year after year.

I’ve been using Sportique Get Going Cream and D.Z. Nuts In Heat (high heat).

I can only use a little of the High Heat stuff.  It’s pretty powerful.  I put some on my knees, hips and lower back.  As you workout and sweat, the moisture activates the heat and helps fight the tightness.  Just make sure to take your last pee before you start messing around with the hot cream.  You should also pay attention if you wear contacts.

I shared this approach, a ‘secret weapon’ of sorts, with a friend.  He told me a story of the uphill rollerski races in Germany.  All the old men would show up lubricated with Sixtus oil and the younger guys would wonder what the smell was all about.

To me, it will always smell like bike racing.

Hillbounding at Dawn


With the time change, an early morning workout is now a reasonable proposition. It was still dark when I left my house but by the time I reached my bounding hill after a warm up run, the grey light of dawn was already etching the trees and buildings into visibility.

It was cold. Below freezing. A layer of frost covered the grass and fallen leaves and collected on my shoes as I ran through the grass of the training fields. My breath hung in the air. But I was already warm and sweating beneath my jacket.

The hillbounding workout is a short but intense one. This particular variation is called “jesters”. It involves bounding from one foot to the other up a steep hill with a focus on explosive power. The hill I use is plenty steep but a little on the short side. Since it is just a short run from my house, the convenience outweighs the deficiencies. When doing an early morning workout like this you cannot make it too complicated. Otherwise, it’s too easy to screw the whole thing and stay in bed a while longer.

Ten times up the short, steep hill. Brief recovery on the way down after each repeat. Turn around and do it again at the bottom. Remember to breathe deep lungfuls of air. Make every stride count. I did this three times with skate hops — V2, V2 alt, V1 — in between sets.

I was done after 45 minutes but it was plenty.

It was still early when I got back home. And there was still time for coffee before work.

Andover Rollerski Race 2012

Andover Rollerski race 2012

Photo courtesy of Chris City / CSU

If rollerskiing is, at best, a necessary evil of the dryland season, then what on earth is a rollerski race?  The sight of a bunch of skinny guys and gals clad in lycra rolling through Andover Sunday morning must have turned some heads.  I suppose if global warming continues, we’ll be skiing black powder in all but the remotest regions of the globe.  With temperatures in the 40’s, winter felt like it was just around the corner, so it was as good a time as any to test my fitness and competitive edge.  The only problem was that I felt pretty tired from the time change and not in a very competitive mood, especially on the drive up.  I had been wallowing in the recollection of my 1996 cycling season — I spent most of it on the rivet, exhausted — so I was feeling worse that I really was.

Once out on the course for a warm up, I felt much better.  I shook out the cobwebs, adjusted to the cold and was ready to go.  The start was fast.  Harvard’s Chris Stock took off immediately and was quickly in a race of his own.  I was in a chase group with a Frank, Max, Andy and some Harvard guys.  We were working hard, but the pace was smooth…until we hit the long hill on the back stretch.  Then it shattered a bit, but came back together on the flats and descent.  Coming through the start/finish for the second lap, I was feeling the effort.  We made the hard right onto Johnson Street, and the group blew apart again.  I could see Frank and the two Harvard skiers going up the road and I knew I needed to be with them.  I dug deep and found an extra gear in my kick-double-pole.  I closed up the gap by the top of the hill, hitting a max heart rate of 184 in doing so.  I’d never seen a max that high in nordic.  At least, not one that was recorded.

The last time up the back stretch, I was hanging with the group until I stepped on my own pole.  A gap opened up and there wasn’t enough hill left for me to close it.  I chased Frank and the Harvard skiers but, out in the wind on my own, I couldn’t close the gap.  I spent several minutes above 172 bpm, chasing hard, not giving it, digging as deep as I could.  I was surprised by the strength in my upper body and how much of my anaerobic capacity I was able to use.  But I was starting tear at the seems.  A stitch in my side, burning in my right shoulder, tightness in my back.  I refused to ease up.  My vision was getting blurry. My eyes were starting to cross.  I cleaned the descent and sprinted into the finish and a respectable 5th place.

I did this race for the first time last year.  It was brutal.  I suffered the whole time in a way that felt like I was doing real damage to my body.  This year, I suffered in a different manner, the kind of suffering I can embrace, into which I can immerse myself. It hurts and requires concentration to put up with it, but I feel stronger and stronger because of it.  The worst is when you hit the wall, your body fails you and you have no choice but to back off.  That didn’t happen to me this time.  It is a good sign for the season to come.

Pavement, “Unfair” and the California Cup

On a Monday in early March 1996, I left Linda in her bed in Albuquerque to make the long drive to Redlands, California.  I had pushed off the departure again and again.  Another cup of coffee.  Another 15 minutes.  Back to bed for a little longer.  I was hesitant to get on the road. I wasn’t sure when I would make it back to Albuquerque.  But I had a long drive ahead of me that needed starting.

Every time I went on the road, I missed her.  I missed her obscure Indie rock bands.  I missed her ironic Salvation Army dresses.  I even missed how she mocked me for spending so much time on my bike.  She missed me, too.  At least she said she missed me.  She was becoming a distraction from the racing.  Yet after every trip, when I found myself back in New Mexico and with her again, it all made sense.

Eventually, I got my stuff together, loaded up my VW, and got on the road.  I drove out I-40, through the canyons and red rock formations, past Grants and Gallup, into Arizona and across the Painted Desert.  At Holbrook, I turned south, onto state highways.  It was a shortcut.  Off the beaten path. Dry Lake.  Heber-Overgaard.  Payson.  Run down truck stops with names like ‘Gas n’Go’ and stores selling “authentic’ Kachina dolls.  I drove through the rugged terrain and pine forests of the high desert.  Then the long, slow, twisting descents, the earth dropping away at the edge of the road to the valley far below.  Past the rocky outcrops bristling with saguaro, to the sprawling megalopolis of Phoenix.  From Phoenix, there was the endless stretch of Sonoran desert, hours upon hours of featureless brown, past promising signs for Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree. The desert eventually gave way to the Coachella Canal, a manmade river flowing absurdly through the barren dryness, then the first signs of civilization in Indio and Palm Springs, and finally the orchards and orange groves of Redlands.

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Coming Soon: 1996

1996 was my make-or-break year in cycling.  I was 25 years old.  I was single for the first time in a long time.  I had worked all fall and winter and saved up some cash to augment my meager sponsorship from Kissena’s elite team.  I had given up on spring racing campaigns in Europe and decided focus on the “Fresca Cup” which was a national race series for riders without pro contracts.  My strategy was to race as many of these races as I could, place well in them, and finish somewhere in the top 10 overall.  It was an ambitious goal and one that I thought would help me to secure a pro contract.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be posting stories about this year on the bike, the places it took me and the people I met.  Because music was such an important part of being on the road, each story will have its own ‘soundtrack’.  Stay tuned.