Birkie Fever

As I sit down and write this, there are exactly 297 days until the next American Birkebiner. Since registration opened yesterday, I am writing my training plan to ensure I’ll be more prepared this coming year than last year. Like a college student attending their first “real” party, no story could prepare me for what awaited at the greatest race on American soil.

It’s 4:32am. I can see the warm glow of last night’s embers in the fireplace as the clock slowly ticks above the mantle. I roll over but know I won’t go back to sleep. In 3 hours, 58 minutes and 13 seconds I’ll be losing my Birkie virginity, and I’m more excited than a kid on Christmas. Finally my alarm goes off. As I head to the bathroom, the gurgling in my stomach is a reminder of all the carbohydrates I ate the night before.

Before I know it, I, and thousands of others, are rolling up to the venue. As we exit the bus, anxious to get this party started, there is faint music playing in the background telling everyone that this is the place to be. While running to the start line, I am reminded that the real reason skiers wear spandex, is not because it’s easier to move in and aerodynamic, but because it does a great job of showing off all the squats you did during dryland. Looking around at the competition, I was hoping I had done enough.

The gun goes off. The flags go up. And before I know it, we’re racing! After the first surge of adrenaline subsided, I looked to my left to see none other than 4 time Birkie Champion, Caitlin Gregg skiing along side me. That should have been the first clue that I was a bit in over my head, but I was having too much fun to care. I was able to keep up for most of the race, but somewhere around 40k I fell off the cliff. Hit the wall. I bonked. But there was only 10k left, so how bad could it  be?

Somehow, (I can’t remember all the details) I crossed the finish line. My friends tell me that I finished strong, but for some reason that seems skeptical. What I can remember is stumbling over to the food truck, trying to ask the attendant for a chocolate milk, and not being able to form any real words. To this day I won’t be able to tell you exactly how many doughnut holes I consumed before passing out, but I can tell you that they’ve never tasted so delicious.

When I finally woke up from my nap, it felt like Uncle Fester was trying out his new clamp on my head. Guess I forgot to drink enough water. While filling my one gallon pickle jar at the kitchen sink, I reflected on the events earlier that day. A smile crept across my face. My head may be throbbing, my back may be sore, and my legs may barely be able to keep me upright, but skiing the American Birkebiner was great!

I can’t wait to do it again.

Birkie  Results

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Trust the Process

When I was in High School, I had a teacher that believed letter grades were simply an arbitrary requirement. He went on to explain that, with the way our school system currently works, these letter grades measure instantaneous intelligence and are very poor at representing how much a student actually learns in class. Therefore, his goal was not for each student to get an A, but rather for each student learn as much as possible while developing a passion for learning. Since then I’ve taken notice of the people in my life who have this “lifelong learner” outlook. These people focus on the steps it takes to achieve great goals, and trust that with hard work, positive results are sure to follow.

I’ve had years in my skiing career where the sole goal of each race was to move up the CCSA points list. I went into each race knowing exactly how much time I needed to beat my competition by in order to qualify for NCAA’s. It wasn’t until I stopped worrying about placement and started focusing on perfect technique, that I was finally able to qualify. That same year I became All-American, a goal I didn’t even know was possible until halfway through the race.

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15K Skate, Soldier Hollow UT  (Photo Credit: Paige Schember)

Last week at US Nationals, evidence of trusting the process once again became blatantly clear. Due to the time restraints of Grad School, I have been forced to take a close look at my training and specifically design it to match my race goals. Since all of big goals are in distance skate events, my training all summer and fall have been focused on distance skating. Add in a late start to snowfall and the resulting lack of time to get acquainted with new equipment, and it’s no surprise that my first race at US Nationals (10K Classic) was less than ideal. Negative race results are never fun, and it is REALLY hard to keep bad races from impacting your mentality in upcoming events. Going into the 20K skate, I was feeling less than 100%, but knew that if things were going to get better I would have to rely on habits and routines which have already been proven successful.

Proven Successes:
Nutrition: Parmesan Chicken for dinner and a smoothie for breakfast   √
Course Preview: I can ski these trails in my sleep   √
Skis: Pick the fastest pair (duh)     √
Clothing: Layers on bottom and less on top to prevent overheating   √
Strategy: Go out in control, with the best technique you can muster, then crank it up. Stay calm and intense, no matter what happens, you know how to do this.    √

 

US Nats 2016

20K Skate, Houghton MI  (Photo Credit: Skinnyski)

 

With my goals for the day so focused on racing smart, I thought I’d misheard my coaches that the front of our pack was top 10. Realizing that they weren’t wrong, I stuck to the plan and tried not to get dropped. At the end of the race, I went up to my coach and as soon as he saw me, all he could do was laugh. I was laughing too. Not only was it a fun race, but it also proved that all of the training I’ve done this year has worked.

US Nats classic

10K Classic, Houghton MI (Photo Credit: Annika Ferber)

I’d like to say that I never doubted myself, but I’d be lying. Having less than desirable results really sucks, and it’s very easy to start second guessing your coaches and yourself. What separates great athletes from the rest of us is not simply the hours in their training log and their fancy equipment, it’s also their ability to trust the process.  They are able to see roadblocks as mole hills, they understand that it’s not going to be easy and above all they never stop believing that their work is worthwhile. As one of my teammates shared with me before NCAA’s:

“I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else, I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.” ~Ken Venturi

 

The Snö Maker

For Immediate Release

CXC Introduces The Snö Maker

 

The Future of Skiing is Here.

Skiers all around the world are frustrated with the warm temperatures and the lack of snowfall over the past few years. Dizzy from skiing around 1km loops on manmade snow, our engineers here at CXC have been working around the clock using state of the art equipment to develop the first skier portable snow machine, The Snö Maker. Using all natural elements, no GMO’s, and zero carbon emissions, The Snö Maker blows a thin strip of snow right in front of each ski.

Sno Maker

The Snö Maker

Our Secret.

This revolutionary approach uses liquid hydrogen. Rather than carrying around an entire water molecule, we simply carry the hydrogen and pull the oxygen from the atmosphere allowing for a weight savings of over 900% as compared to traditional water systems. Hydrogen has an excellent safety record, with only one minor German incident in 1937. It is all natural and non-carcinogenic. Even Jerry Brown, Governor of California, has given our machine his gold seal of approval.

How Does it Work?

Conventional snow making requires air temperatures below freezing. This limits skiing to only when the weather cooperates. With our patented dual purpose water and power generation fuel cell unit, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to generate electricity and water which then passes through our Kjølerom© where a refrigerant and fan work together to freeze and propel the snow forward. One simply fills their drinkbelt tank with the liquid hydrogen and goes skiing. Initial results are promising with 10% more snow production than our simulations predicted.

From Our Lab to Your Trails

With the Holiday Season upon us, we have moved from the design and testing phase to full production. There was a small mishap involving a research assistant, but they were considered expendable and easily replaced by another “volunteer.” Progress has continued and The Snö Maker will be in stores across the country by January 2016.

With the release of this innovative new product, our friends at Toko have agreed to develop a brand new line of waxes specially designed for the conditions produced by the Snö Maker.

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1st working prototype at CXC Labs

(Disclaimers)

100 meters of skiing requires just 40 liters of liquid hydrogen. Skiing at a 3:20 pace only takes 2000 horsepower to freeze the water. Expected system weight is less than 10,000kg. CXC is not liable for fires, explosions or any property damage and bodily injury, including death and dismemberment, resulting from the use of The Snö Maker. Do not attempt to modify the The Snö Maker as this will void the warranty and may result in accidental suborbital skier launch. The Snö Maker should be stored in a cool dry place, with the standard safety procedures of an ammunition bunker.  

Don’t wait! Pre-order you very own Snö Maker today at your local ski shop.

 

(Special Thanks to Co-Author and Inventor Andy Brown for helping to prepare this press release)

For more articles like this and to support the mission of CXC, please consider donating to our year end Fundly campaign.  We proudly spread passion for skiing and aim to inspire athletes across the Midwest. With your donation we can spread the love even further. To elementary schools, adaptive athletes, master skiers, disabled veterans and your neighbor down the street. Simply follow the link below, click on the “I want to spread the love” (a.k.a. “Donate”) button, fill out the required information, and feel great for the rest of the day knowing you helped put a smile on at least two people’s faces! 

CXC Team Athletes Fundly Campaign 

It’s a Lifestyle

I’m waiting in the starting pen, the 20 degree wind blowing gently across the stadium as the clock beeps the tell-tale tones of another racer starting. I chisel the chunks of snow out of the bottom of my boot and clip into my skis. I step up to the wand.

“15 seconds”20150918_065452

“Beep… Beep… Beep….Beeeeeeeep”

I try to start but for some reason my feet just won’t move.

“Beep… Beep… Beep…. Beeeeeeeep”

“Thwap!”

Groggily, I fumble through the sheets looking for my persistently beeping phone. It’s 5:52 am and my body feels like a sack of bricks. I roll over placing my index and middle finger on the underside of my wrist. 10 beats in 15 seconds, 40 BMP. Not a bad AM pulse, but that’s a little higher than normal. I’ll have to drink lots of water today and make sure I haven’t caught the back-to-school-plague that seems to have taken over the school.

Stepping outside, the entire town seems dead. If it weren’t for the street lights, I’d be unlocking my bike by starlight. Occasionally I’ll pass by a group of ROTC students running in synchrony, but until arriving at the Student Development Center there’s no one in sight.  This morning we’ll be doing metronomes, a workout where we double pole around the track at different tempos to work on technique and speed.

Name: Metronomes

Total Time: 45-60 min

Goal: Focus on high quality technique while using different tempos. Immediately apply this to sprints and starts. 

Warm-up: ~10 minutes or 3 songs

The Workout:

Set 1:  (with metronome playing over loudspeakers)

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Speeds during Metronomes: Can you catch the blur in front of you?

2:30 @ 50 BPM

0:20 @ 60 BPM

0:10 @ 80 BPM

Repeat 3-5x

Set Break: Length= one song of your choice

Set 2: 

6-10x 100m sprints

Cool down: ~10 minutes

This workout has a lot of benefits.

  • It teaches the athlete how to ski using varying tempos
  • By skiing around the track, it is much easier for coaches to work with athletes of different speeds and track progress throughout the session
  • Technique and tempo can be applied immediately during the 100m sprints
  • It’s good mass start practice due to the amount of passing that occurs
  • Pace lines will form and it’s fun to go fast in a group!
  • There are a lot of opportunities for younger skiers to ski with, watch and learn from older people on the team. 
  • You get to listen to music
  • No Cars!

But be careful, this is an intensity session and should be counted as such. Recovery in between the 80BMP and sprints should be a priority.

Sunrise on campus

By 7:30 the sun is painting the sky hues of pink, purple and yellow. It’s not hard to realize how lucky we are to live in a place like this.

In class, while other students are guzzling coffee trying not to nod off, I’ve got positive endorphins keeping me engaged. However, as the day continues I find myself gazing out the window as storm clouds congregate on the horizon. It’s supposed to rain tonight. Right now I keep my fingers crossed that the rain will go somewhere else, keeping our roads dry for practice this afternoon. In a few weeks these clouds will hold potential for snow. As my professor fills the board with equations, I day dream about how much snow we’d get if it were 15° cooler.

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Class time: Where recovery and learning come together

Excelling in any sport takes an extreme amount of commitment and self discipline. It takes over your thoughts, drives your decision making process and rules your schedule. Every moment of the day is carefully crafted to strengthen your body through nutrition, intensity, recovery or education. It’s an all encompassing full time job.  Luckily, this job comes naturally when you have passion for the sport. It begs us to reach higher, to do one more pull-up, to push the limits of comfort and ultimately persevere. What are your goals this season?

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#MyRaceStartsHere

Ways to Stop on Rollerskis

Rollerskiing on the bike trails around the Minneapolis area, you get a lot of comments and weird looks. Everything from “Birkie Birkie Birkie!” to “Holy Crap arm strength,” if there’s an exclamation about seeing someone doing something odd, it’s probably been said to a rollerskier on  the Greenway. One of the most common questions I’ve encountered when people find out that I rollerski is,

“How do you stop on those things?”

This is a great question, one with a lot of really bad answers. Just as with anything that requires a quick decrease in speed, there are good ways and not so good ways to come to a standstill.

The following is a list of ways to stop on rollerskis, some of them good and some of them awfully painful.

10 Ways to Stop on Rollerskis

Superman

Also known as “face-plant” or “eating  the pavement,” this technique is best known for the momentary “OH CRAP!” weightless feeling quickly followed by getting the wind knocked out of you. Causes often include cracks in the pavement, railroad tracks and appropriately sized pebbles.20150817_100001

The Butt Scoot

This technique is common on snow but is much more effective at stopping you on pavement. When you get going too fast and don’t know how to stop, just sit down and eventually you’ll glide to a halt. Unfortunately pavement is not nearly as forgiving as freshly fallen snow and often contains small pebbles that are painful to remove. The Butt Scoot is not a recommended method of stopping on rollerskis.20150817_094911

Sliding into Home

“And Lucca nearly knocks it out of the park! The right fielder throws it to third for the out, but Hedblom is just too fast. Hedblom is sprinting for home plate. The third baseman throws the ball to the catcher. It’s going to be a close one folks! Hedblom sticks her foot out and slides into home, SAFE!”

20150817_094627There’s a reason we don’t play baseball on rollerskis. Similar to the butt scoot, characteristic results of this technique include road rash on the hip and outer leg, scuffed ski boots and ripped shorts.

The Black Stuff

Beware of The Black Stuff, especially on hot days. This is the goo they squirt into cracks in the road. The hotter it gets, the more it likes to grab the wheels of unsuspecting rollerskiers. The faster you’re going the more it likes to reach up and give you a surprise crash landing.

Rolling Stop

The rolling stop is one of the better stopping techniques. It requires having a good feel for the speed of the rollerskis, enough room ahead of you (or an uphill), and a back-up plan  in case your speed calculations are wrong. When done correctly you will slowly and gracefully come to a stop at exactly the right time and everyone will be impressed.

Stop Drop and Roll
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Thanks Rudy Project for protecting my head!

This is a planned fall method for the dramatic flair in us all. It is a good back-up plan when rollerskiing next to a grassy curb. To employ this method, aim for the softest patch of grass and like a paratrooper hit the ground with a solid roll. As always it is important to make sure your helmet is properly fitted and adjusted.

Grassy Knoll

Possibly one of the best and least technical methods, the Grassy Knoll allows the skier to control their speed and come to a stop without hitting the ground. For the Grassy Knoll, the rollerskier shall first stagger their feet and shift most of their weight to the back leg. The skier shall then aim for the grass alongside the trail and gently roll onto the grass while staying upright. Sometimes ski poles can be used to assist in balancing. Be wary of long grass, hidden rocks and sticks. If done incorrectly this can easily be adapted into a version of the Stop Drop and Roll.20150817_095145

Urban Tree Hugger

When coming into an intersection a little fast, the Urban Tree Hugger is your best option. Aim for a light post or crosswalk post, catch it with one arm and redirect your forward inertia into the stationary light post. Be careful not to hurt your arm and make sure the light post/ crosswalk post is strong enough for the collision prior to using this method.20150817_103224

“Snowplow”

Similar to how you snowplow in the winter, this is the most common way to slow yourself down on rollerskis. In order for this method to be successful, it is important to make sure your wheels do not touch (don’t cross your tips!).  To do this, push outward on each ski. This will force them to stay separated. You will stop due to the friction between the pavement and the rubber wheel as the wheel slides sideways across the road. This technique does take some practice to perfect. 20150817_095729

Water Landing

Water hurts a lot less than pavement. Summer days get hot. Sometimes it pays off to aim for the lake.20150817_100331

 

Lets enjoy what pieces of summer we have left. Train hard, go fast, and don’t fall down.

It won’t be long until the snow comes!

Exercising on the Fly

Since the fourth of July, I’ve taken a hiatus from the office and spent some time relaxing, training and traveling to the coast to spend time with family.

It all started with a much needed trip to Houghton. Being back in the U.P. and having the Lake Superior breeze provide a gentle tail wind along the shoreline was a much needed change. Getting enough training during a weekend in the U.P never seems to be a problem, mostly because playing in the woods tends to be synonymous with exercise. Chasing friends on mountain bikes, rollerskiing through covered roads and running away from mosquitoes is definitely training log worthy!

OD on the rolling hills near Hayward. #BirkieTraining

OD on the rolling hills near Hayward. #BirkieTraining

The next stop during the hiatus was Hayward, WI for R.E.G. Clocking an average of four hours a day, it was really nice to purely focus on skiing. Having the opportunity to work along side the R.E.G. kids with Bryan Fish was a treat and reignited a spark of motivation I hadn’t noticed was missing. Unfortunately I had to leave a little early, but not without a bucket list of things to work on for the rest of the summer!

Then it was off to the airport for a quick stay in Oregon’s wine country. This is also when sneaking in time to exercise became a bit more challenging. Thankfully my family has grown accustomed to my disappearing acts and sometimes even offer to come along on morning runs! Here are some tricks I’ve learned over the years to help stay active while on the road.

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Beautiful country road in Oregon

1. Bring your running shoes.

For many it’s a no-brainer. One time I intentionally brought a pair of shoes I thought could double as both running shoes and light weight walking around shoes. The run was painful and walking wasn’t much better. Never again will running shoes be left at home.

2. Look around for regional trails

Lots of cities have these, and even though they may not be very long they are generally pretty safe. They also tend to have maps and clear signage at intersections which helps prevent getting lost.

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Topping off the day with some big scoops.

3. Convince anyone and everyone you can to come along! 

The simple question “Does anyone want to go on a short easy run tomorrow?” can make sneaking in some training a heck of a lot easier. It always surprises me how many people are willing to wake up a little early to go on a short jog. As long as you’re willing to take it easy and get ice cream afterwards, an impromptu training partner doesn’t seem hard to find.

4. Beware of wild animals, especially the domesticated kind.

“Beware of Dog” signs should really say, “SPRINT NOW!” When training in a new place, it is super important to be aware of your surroundings. Charging moose or barking dog, both will likely give a great adrenaline rush, although it’s probably not the safest way to get into L5.

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Colorful and delicious breakfast in Portland

5. Eat quality food and not too much

This is a good general rule for everyday life, but I’ve found it to be especially important when traveling. It’s really easy to start feeling like a greasy mess while on the road but eating quality food can help delay this. Plus, you’re on vacation! What better time to treat yourself to a fancy restaurant.

6. Use Jet Lag to your advantage

Being stuck two time-zones east of your current location can be the perfect opportunity to sneak in an OD before anyone else gets out of bed. Plus, if you’re able to get your hours in early, you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day.

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I promise I’m an adult…. sometimes…

7. Sit at the kid’s table

Turns out playing with the kids can be a great strength workout. Piggy Back rides become squats. Being a human jungle gym turns bicep curls into child’s play. (Literally.) Plus it’s a ton of fun!

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This rollerski made possible by Miss Rachel. Thanks bunches!

8. Borrow equipment if possible.

Know someone in the area? Give them a call! Maybe they’ll be nice enough to let you borrow their rollerskis. Bike rentals are available in almost every major city, perhaps this is a good chance to meet up and get a tour of the city. I’ve never tried, but my guess is that TSA wouldn’t be too happy to see ski poles as a carry-on item.

9. Don’t get so caught up in your training log that you forget to be on vacation.

It’s vacation, take some time for yourself and enjoy the time you have away from home. The hours will come if their supposed to. Hours in a training log can always be made up. Visiting with family and friends while exploring someplace are experiences that are a lot harder to get back. So, have some fun! Talk to the people you don’t get to see often and have a vacation that’s truly an escape from day to day life.

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“D” River, the shortest river in the world. Yes this is the entire thing.

Laughter and Stress

“You gotta get mad… really pissed off, and harness that energy into your racing to beat the competition.”

This is the advice I was given before race day as a High School racer. With advice like this, it is not hard to understand why, I was a huge headcase before races. The headphones would go in and I would try to focus on beating the competition, try to “get mad” that they were going to beat me.

It didn’t take long to figure out that this was not an effective way for me to control the pre-race jitters. A few years later, someone recommended that I laugh as much as possible the Friday before a big weekend. Sure enough, that positive energy transcended the night and carried me through one of the best 5K’s I’d had up to that point.

Last week, while crunching numbers at my desk, I was reminded of how important it is to be happy the night before a big race. Sophie Scott was quietly presenting her TED talk in the background on my computer, discussing laughter. In her talk, Why We Laugh, Scott refers to a group of studies by Dr. Robert Levenson. These studies* find that married couples who manage stress though laughter (or other positive emotions) are more capable of getting though difficult or stressful times and are happier within their relationships.

Sophie Scott: Why We Laugh

A relationship with Nordic Skiing is no different. Racing and training place an immense amount of stress on a person, especially during the racing season. The racers that are able to best control and balance this stress are the ones that will achieve personal bests. Having experienced both extreme happiness and anger/fright before important races, I have found that the results in Dr. Levenson’s study holds true for racing too. High volumes of laughter the night before a race has directly correlated to a high amount of mental clarity the next morning.

I know laughter isn’t the magic ticket for everyone, but it’s fun to see that there is research behind the personal experiences myself and teammates have had.  So whether you end up pulling out  the deck of Cards Against Humanity, playing Charades, spending the evening listening to your coach dramatize “racing in the good ol’ days” or doing whatever else makes your face hurt from smiling; take some time to clear your head and forget about the stresses that tomorrow will bring. Laugh lots and surround yourself with happy people.

This sport is supposed to be fun! Remember: Happiness is paramount.

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*One of the research papers referenced in the TED talk
https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4dv197h9#page-1