Friday, September 18, 2009

My Horrible Friend

About this time last year I spotted these switchbacks on the northern aspect of McGee Mountain. I knew as soon as I laid eyes on that road that it was exactly the training terrain I had been looking for: maximum vertical over the least linear distance. Obviously one could take "most vertical gain over least distance" to its end, which would be a sheer face. But I was looking for the steepest trail that could be run. I haven’t yet found something that equals these switchbacks. 2,200 vertical feet in under 3 miles.

Last year I trained here nearly everyday. Not having any formal education in workout theory I reasoned that since I was training for a sport that took place moving uphill I should only train going uphill. That idea certainly made me tough, but all the smart folks I talk to say that I wasn’t getting the most out of my workouts.

I had only been back to the road up McGee Mountain once this year. Going back to ski walk there this morning felt good. It was like visiting an old friend. Last year that horrible road and I became very close. I trained there no less than three times a week from the beginning of September to the end of December. I ran on that thing in the blaring sunshine, in 40 mile per hour winds, in the rain and in the snow. I visited him to suffer and in return he gave me strength. Even though I will see him less this year he will always be my favorite place to train.

Today’s workout designed by Sue Burak for my cardiac pleasure was a series of four 7 minute intervals at 75 - 85% max heart rate. The intervals were done moving uphill and the one minute rests in between were done walking downhill.

Having a hill like this is the ideal terrain to prepare for ski mountaineering races. Learn from my mistakes, don’t use such a hill everyday. But certainly make use of the hill you find, it will be the best terrain to run your intervals on and it will provide the best dry land simulation of our sport.

Train hard, but smart.
The first races are 16 weeks away.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rollerskiing! Spandex!

It was a long week at the store I work at. It was busy with the holiday weekend and on my "Friday" I went home completely drained. I wasn't able to workout three days this week so I was amped for some training.

Today Sue was kind enough to let me borrow her rollerskis and boots yet again. I'm still acquiring my own rollerski set up, but I'm not far from finally owning my own rig. Rollerskiing seems to me the ultimate summer time sport for rando racers. Plus you can get away with wearing spandex! Everyone knows we can't get enough skintight clothing.

I had worked fairly hard over the previous two days, running some hill intervals and doing some ski walking intervals on a fairly steep trail, so today was supposed to be an easy to moderate roll.

As per usual it was an easy jaunt for Sue and an absolute beatdown for me. I'd like to say it's because she's on the faster roller skis. On the bright side we got some pictures of ourselves to evaluate form.

We worked on double pole technique today. If you're unfamiliar it's a technique where your legs remain motionless and you use your poles to roll yourself along. It works nearly every muscle in the upper body, but focuses especially on the abs and triceps. Dynafit has stated that racers often produce 50% of their uphill force with their poles. Obviously double pole workouts will be a boon to poling power.

As far as technique, here are the key points. Keep your head up and your body in a forward fall. Your torso can move up a bit, but should not become upright. As you pole think about locking your torso to your arms. Compress your upper body toward the ground, but not so far that it becomes parallel to the ground. Arms should be close by your sides to keep the poles pushing straight back. My upper body looks fairly good in this photo.
My leg positioning could use some work. Hips should be over the ankles and knees should be over the toes. My knees need to come forward a smidge and my hips need to come forward quite a bit. As for the photo up top... yikes. Those knock knees are downright grotesque. The other glaring error is that my arms need to be in next to my body.

Sue could also move her knees and hips forward in this photo. If you haven't taken rapid fire continuous photos or video of yourself skiing, you're missing out. The first few times I saw myself on video I dropped my jaw. "I ski like that!?" The things that need to change about our technique never seem to feel significant until we see images of ourselves. Images of ourselves seem to make a special connection. Suddenly we begin to work on improving our habits. If you're not up for seeing photos of yourself looking like a gaper, don't worry- I'm a master at it. And I put my photos on the internet.