Friday, August 28, 2009

Sweating in the Desert

It's hard not laugh at yourself poling along in the sagebrush in an effort to get fit for skiing. When I think of ski mountaineering I think of alpine terrain, above tree line, cold air and clean snow. Today I dodged cactus and sunk my feet into sand. I was dripping sweat in the near 80 degree air.

Sue took me to a trail that climbs about 1,500 ft in around two miles. We ski walked it at race pace. Sue logged a personal best on this course she uses as a "time trial," sort of a benchmark to assess her training. She came in at 34:15. I stunned myself and finished only four minutes behind her at 38:19. I think I did well because it felt so much like rando racing.

My favorite part of the workout came after our warmup and before the ski walking time trial. Sue and I did some sprints (just running, no ski poles), 10 seconds at about 80% max and then into 10 seconds at 95% of maximum speed. It was my favorite because it was the first time I beat Sue at anything in five or six workouts. I can probably beat Sue at anything that doesn't require any skill or technique.

Okay, technique... I have questions for the randonee racers out there. I noticed Sue and myself breaking with the nordic diagnol poling technique of poling with each step. When the terrain on the trail became too rocky or narrow we would move our poles independently of our legs. Our poles would come too far forward, breaking with another nordic technique rule. I've noticed myself doing this in competition on snow. I'm wondering whether this is simply a fact of working with uneven terrain which isn't encountered in nordic racing. Anyone else move two steps for each pole plant? Should this be avoided at all costs? Embraced? Used only when necessary?

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