Friday, January 30, 2009


I always thought becoming a Masters runner would be enough to motivate me to train hard and achieve new heights – or at least better than average heights. However, with my 40th birthday still 6 months away, I’m not feeling motivated at all. I’m not sure if it’s because of skiing, 30 years of running taking their toll, or something else entirely. Maybe it has something to do with having a birthday in August, which means the first half of the season I’ll still be 39.

I don’t know what it is, but I do find myself thinking more and more about trying different events this year and focusing on having fun rather than performing at my best. Maybe these are the same thoughts that have led to less consistent training lately. I find myself skipping workouts more readily lately. For example, last week was solid, but this week I’ve slept in on 2 occasions and cut one workout short because I couldn’t warm up my hands. Of course, I’m able to justify all this by claiming that it’s a taper for this weekend’s race. However, if I “taper” much more, I won’t remember how to ski. And 6 miles of running in the last 2 weeks doesn’t bode well for tearing up the roads as a Master.

Stuff like this has me contemplating whether or not I should sign up for Grandma’s Marathon. Part of me wants to, just because it’s such an awesome event. Plus, I want to see how my skiing fitness will transfer to a spring marathon. However, even with 17 weeks to train between the Birkie and Grandma’s, it doesn’t seem like enough time – at least not to get into top shape.

I still feel like I have more marathon PRs in me, but not if I don’t find some motivation soon.

Looks like a bunch of Team USA Minnesota runners are not lacking motivation. You can read their journals HERE.

Quote of the Day;

“When I first started running, I was so embarrassed, I’d walk when cars passed me. I’d pretend I was looking at the flowers.” – Joan Benoit Samuelson

Monday, January 26, 2009


I’m still trying to figure out the similarities/differences between training for a running marathon versus a skiing marathon. Normally, I don’t like to increase my long runs by more than 2-3 miles at a time. Well, on Friday I was able to bump my longest ski from 32K to 40K or roughly 5 miles – and I feel no worse for the wear. That gives me a lot more confidence with the Birkie only 4 weeks away. And it doesn’t hurt that I skied 128K last week. Doesn’t that sound more impressive than 80 miles? Maybe I should start tracking my running mileage in kilometers too.

All this talk of the Birkie has nearly made me forget about the City of Lakes Loppet which is THIS SUNDAY!!! With all this training, I’m so looking forward to getting out and competing in my second x-c ski race ever. Just for a refresher, here’s my race report from last year’s Korte.

One thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to consume calories while skiing. The good news is that since skiing doesn’t involve bouncing up and down like running, anything works. The bad news is that carrying, opening and consuming everything is exponentially more difficult while skiing. If you’re not familiar with the latest in ski pole straps, they now wrap around your wrist with a Velcro strap – you no longer just put your hand through a loop and grab the pole. Trying to do anything with your hands, while they’re attached to 5-foot long spears is a challenge. So one goal for this weekend’s race will be to try and figure out my nutritional options a little more.

I did video tape some sledding over the weekend. However, the power supply on our home computer crashed, so it’ll be at least a week before I even have a chance to look into YouTube.

Quote of the Day;

“When you add in the terrain and having to dodge people, on top of the speed, pounding heart, and oxygen debt, it’s just a different kind of fun than a running race.” – Me, after last year’s Korte

Friday, January 23, 2009


I really don’t understand how people can live without snow. Of course, I’m mainly talking about the ability to ski during the year. But I’m also talking about going sledding in our backyard with the kids, building snow forts and snowmen, going skating, etc. Getting out and playing in the snow is so much fun, that I really can’t comprehend not having winter.

There’s a small hill in our backyard and every winter we build a cool little sliding hill on it – complete with a built-up starting area, a “jump” and a big “bobsled” turn that is banked. My only complaint is that we only have two round saucer sleds – one for each kid. Every now and then they’ll even let me take a turn. I’m not sure who has more fun.

I’m tempted to bring out the video camera and see if I can figure out the whole YouTube thing.

Anyway, I’m off the rest of the day and I’m going skiing. I’m looking to get in 35K-40K at Theodore Wirth before the next cold snap arrives.

Quote of the Day;

“Three hours slow is better than two hours fast.” – Pete Gavuzzi, marathon coach in the 1940s, on how to train

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Well I survived the cold snap. And as Adam predicted in a comment, there’s been some great skiing lately.

Even though it had been four days without skiing, I decided to go for a run with my Saturday morning group. I guess I missed them more than I missed skiing. I ended up with a nice 12 miler around the lakes – and 39 miles for the week.

Sunday started a nice string of skiing; 32K on Sunday, 13K on Monday and 16K today. I’m feeling a lot better about my Birkie prep after that 32K outing. But I do need to keep in mind that I still have another 18K to go. If I were training for a marathon and my long run was a comparable 16-17 miles, five weeks from the race, I’d be a little – okay, a lot – freaked out. But the long skis don’t beat you up like the long runs, so I think I can still get in at least 3 more of them. And I don’t know anything about tapering for a 50K ski race, but intuitively, I think the “normal” 3 week taper I do for a marathon would be too long. We’ll see… one month from tomorrow!

Quote of the Day;

“I'm already worried about the snow next year.” – Scott LaFrenz

Friday, January 16, 2009


I admit that yesterday’s -40 degree windchill scared me off. I crawled back into bed after seeing that. I was “rewarded” with an hour commute – double what it would have been if I had gotten up to run. Once at work, Eric emailed me a photo of him after his run – standing next to the thermometer that read -20. Of course, that made me feel guilty

This morning it was just as cold, but the windchill wasn’t as bad. I dressed similar to my last post – I just added another long sleeve shirt and ditched the feet warmers. It is really amazing how much heat your body can put out as I felt comfortable – albeit slow – the whole time.

These aren’t the conditions where you bump into a lot of people along the way. So I was a little startled when I came around a corner and saw 3 guys – at least I think they were guys – coming toward me. For a moment, I thought we were in some type of Enter the Dragon movie. We all had on dark clothes and all you could see were our eyes.

I managed an hour run that included 6 trips up the Bush Lake Road hill. I’m not sure if running hill repeats will help when it comes to the Birkie hills, but I figure it can’t hurt. Besides, the hill repeats take my mind off the weather.

Anyway, the warm-up has started. We should be above zero any minute now. Now, hopefully, everyone can stop pissing and moaning (and blogging) about the weather – including me.

Finally, here’s part 2 of the interview I conducted with Olympian Van Nelson.

Quote of the Day;

“First, we never missed a day. It didn’t matter if it was cold or raining. We just dressed appropriately, but we never missed a day. I ran two-a-days all the time.” - Van Nelson

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I realize yesterday’s post made me sound like a wuss. Plus, I’m sick and tired of having other people tell me how cold it is outside. I’ve decided that I’ll determine what’s cold for me – rather some weatherman on TV or a co-worker. Just because the thermometer happens to go from +1 to -1, doesn’t mean it all the sudden becomes brutally cold outside. It’s all about mindset and I think the “weather terrorist” have it all wrong.

As I tell my girls, if you can’t get outside and enjoy our winters, you’re going to be miserable.

Of course, starting this new hobby in my late-30s makes me wish I had started earlier. I did ski a little as a kid, but it was mainly back-country blaze-your-own-trail sort of skiing – not competitive skiing. On Sunday I was all pumped to get in another nice ski in the afternoon. However, when my daughter said she wanted to go to skiing at the county park, I happily traded a solo ski for a father-daughter outing.

Anyway, with all that said, I was bound and determined to get out and exercise this morning. Last night I re-waxed my skis and laid out all my clothes. This included, from bottom to top;

Thin socks
Toe warmers
Thicker socks
Wind briefs
Old running pants cut into half-tights
Thick pants
Thin pants
Long sleeve mock turtleneck
Long sleeve shirt
Thick jacket
Thick vest
3 pairs of thin mitts
Hand warmers
Face mask
With all this on, -7 degrees with a wind chill of -15 were no match. I was toasty warm.

Unfortunately, there were 2 problems when I got ready to ski. 1) I bought some new skis and I couldn’t get the back hook on one of the bindings to snap into place. I had a little problem with them the first time I used them, but eventually got them to work. Today I couldn’t get them to work at all. 2) I tried skiing anyway and there was absolutely no glide. Luckily, as I was leaving the house, I threw in my running shoes and I was able to get in an hour run.

So today’s question for the skiers out there is, how does a wax that claims to work from +10 to -25 degrees not work when it’s -7? Is it a grind issue? I’ve had problems with warm weather waxing too. It’s really going to be a bummer if I can only ski when the temperature is between 5 and 25.

Quote of the Day;

“I wish I learned to ski really early, so I could have taken it further than I was able to take it.” - Jan Guenther

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Cruelty = 4-6” of fresh snow, immediately followed by a cold blast.

Sure I could have re-waxed my ski today, put on every layer of clothing I own, throw in some feet and hand warmers and gone out for a ski. But I didn’t. I guess I’m getting soft when it’s -15 degrees and the wind chill is -25.

I’m sure running would be even worse given the fresh snow.

I guess the good news is that the conditions will “force” me inside where I’ve been trying to run harder workouts on the treadmill. My training plan for the Birkie – and I use the term very loosely – is to focus on technique and distance when I ski. Then I use running workouts, like tempos and marathon paced efforts, for my aerobic conditioning. I figure trying to do harder workouts on skis could lead to poor habits. Also, hopefully running harder workouts will make for a smoother transition back to road racing.

Quote of the Day;

“The key to making a commitment you can keep is to be realistic. It also helps if you ease your way gradually into a program that advances slowly enough to leave you eager for more rather than dreading each workout.” – Alberto Salazar

Monday, January 12, 2009


I’ve talked in the past about having those perfect training days when everything seems to come together. You know, you have a key workout planned, say a long run, and the weather is perfect, the kids are away so you have all the time in the world, you’re physically and mentally prepared, etc. Well that’s what happened on Friday – sort of.

With the 50K Birkie only 6 weeks away and my longest outing only being about 25K, I had plans to get in a long ski after work on Friday. The weather was great, the kids were at a birthday party, and I was ready to go. There was just one problem.

I forgot my skis!!!

Usually, I leave them in my car, but I took them out to wax and never put them back in my car. Given how far my office is from my house, I couldn’t just zip home and get them. By the time I got home I ended up just going for a run.

What a total bummer?!

Saturday I did get in a nice ski of about 24K – notice the conversion to kilometers when I talk skiing. During this outing I was eager to compare my V1 and Open Field techniques that I talked about in my last post. My experiment consisted of skiing a 6K loop of V1 and then skiing the same loop using Open Field - only using V1 for the hills. The first loop ended up taking about 24:30 and the second loop took just under 23:00. I wasn’t wearing a HRM to measure my level of exertion for each technique, but I’m guessing I was working about the same. If so, that means I can ski about 15 seconds/K faster using Open Field, which translates into 13 minutes over 50K. The 24K ended up taking about 1:40 – or 6:40 pace for those of you that like minutes/mile.

Now if I could just make those kinds of improvements to my running, I’d be set.

Under the category of “How did you spend your holiday break?” we have a little twist on my interviews. Working in conjunction with Down the Backstretch, I was able to sit down with 1968 Olympian Van Nelson over the holidays and talk about the good old days. Part 1 of that discussion can be found HERE. Part 2 will appear later this week.

Quote of the Day;

“I felt strong. I was strong. I was ready to get a medal. I just couldn’t withstand the conditions. We thought we were doing the right thing by training for the altitude, but we didn’t take the other conditions into account.” - Van Nelson

Thursday, January 08, 2009


2009 is here and I’m struggling to get into any sort of routine – whether it’s exercise, blogging, working, etc. This week has been hectic at work and, yes, if you can believe it, my social calendar. It seems like I’ve either done 2 workouts a day or zero. Hopefully next week I’ll get back into the routine of working out every morning. If I can do that, everything else should fall into place.

Obviously, I’ve been writing about skiing a lot lately. As a blogger, one of the cool things is that everything is so new. I have tons of questions regarding technique, waxing, ski flex, training, etc. As someone who’s been running for 30 years, it can be very difficult to remember what it was like when everything was so new and exciting. So being able to capture these thoughts and feelings along the way is pretty cool - at least to me.

Of course, being new to the sport can be very frustrating too. I still constantly find myself confused by all the different techniques, along with all the different names for the same technique – depending on who you talk to. It appears I’m still getting V1 and Open Field mixed up. Well, not necessarily mixed up, but my Open Field technique was such that I assumed it’s slower and more leisurely than the V1. Then last weekend, Chris showed me I was planting my poles at the wrong time. With this slight correction, Open Field “should be” faster than V1. Thinking back to last year’s Korte, I basically used V1 the whole way because I thought that was my best/fastest technique. Another indication that V1 might not be the fastest technique occurred to me when I read an article where it was described as the “granny gear” of skiing.

So it appears I still have a lot of work to do as I prepare for the Birkie. One thing I’m trying to do along the way is enjoying the journey. I know this can sound cliché, especially this time of year with all the resolutions floating around. However, too often, with marathons, I get so caught up in all the numbers and a time goal that I don’t enjoy all the cool things that go into each marathon build-up. Even when I trained for Ironman Wisconsin, it was more about just doing the training in order to get to the finish line. Looking back, I think I could have enjoyed that journey a lot more.

Quote of the Day;
“The problem for a 37-year-old athlete is they’ve probably been doing it for 25 years. At that point the mind goes, ‘Let’s do something else here. This is enough.’” – Lance Armstrong, talking about the challenges he faces, compared to younger riders, during his comeback

Monday, January 05, 2009


Not even a single “Yeah, baby!” for Giada? My readership must really be down.

Obviously, my blogging has been next to nothing lately. That’s what happens when you have 12 days off in a row from work. I could definitely get used to staying at home – if only I could convince my company to continue paying me.

With all that time off, my main goal was to ski as much as possible. I think I got about 8 hours on my skis and was able to increase my longest outing to 1:45. I did manage to get in a few runs too, although my 88 miles for the entire month of December makes it my lowest month in a very long time. I still managed to seek over 2,500 miles for the year with 2,515.

I’ve mentioned how an inch or two of snowfall can leave runners in a bad mood, but makes skiers extremely happy. Well, I discovered the opposite situation. A day of 35-40 degree temps makes runners happy, but it really does a number on the mood of a skier. The warm conditions make skiing really slow one day and then turn everything to ice the next. So goes the life of endurance athletes in Minnesota.

Quote of the Day;

“If you end up really loving skiing, you make a ton of time for it. And there are a lot of runners who’ve done that. But you do end up not running because it’s hard to do both unless you have a lot of free time.” - Jan Guenther