Sunday, December 30, 2012

US Nationals Prep

I love ski racing and pretty much race as much as possible.  This year is unique in that I have had three weeks to prepare for the US National Championships.   I spent a large portion of last winter skiing short loops on man made snow.  We were treated to a big storm in the Methow Valley and all 200km of ski trail were opened.  The trails are groomed nightly so the skiing was fantastic. 

Caitlin checking out 'a little bit' of snow outside

We parked the car at the end of the driveway so we could make it out in the morning.   Although the trails were groomed and ready it took a while for us to get to the trail head.  I had planned to do intervals on a particular long uphill, but we we went to turn on to the county road to the trail head it had not been plowed.  Crazy to go from too little snow to too much snow.
Prepping skis in the wax room at Soldier Hollow.
The day after Christmas Caitlin and I flew down to Salt lake City.  Both of us are huge fans of Soldier Hollow the venue of the 2002 Olympics.  The Olympic 5 km course which is scheduled to be used for the distance races next week is really hard.  We both really like hard courses with big climbs.

In addition to about 8 inches of natural snow, Soldier Hollow has 11 snow guns and there are some huge piles of snow.  As I finished up with my work at the venue this afternoon the groomer began to spread out the piles.  I am excited to see if the entire course will be groomed and open tomorrow.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Normal (2)

Most mornings when I wake up I conduct a little heart rate test to monitor my recovery and my response to training.  Many athlete take their morning heart rates and this is something I had done off and on for a while.  The idea is that it can give you a heads up about when you might be overdoing the training or beginning to catch a cold.  I perform an orthostatic test that is run through my Polar heart rate monitor.  I lay down for 3 minutes and then stand up for 3 minutes.  The test uses five data points including heart rate variability.  Heart rate variability is a measure of the variance in a single heart beat.  Heart rate is just the number of beats per minute.  My heart rate monitor uses the information gathered in the test and compares it to the baseline I have established through multiple tests and displays a score of 1 through 9.  This is the first year that I have used such a test but throughout the summer and fall I have found it to be extremely useful and accurate.

It doesn't take a fancy test for me to realize that something was a little off with me.  My resting, standing, and recovery while standing heart rates were all high.  My test results were consistently an 8 indicating 'sympathetic over training'.  I think part of the high numbers were a result of being at a higher altitude but they continued even when I returned combined with my race results I figured it was time to take some extended time off.

I recovered and rested for 3 full days.  This might not seem like much, but it was one of the largest breaks I have ever taken during the winter.  Resting and taking time off, especially when I feel healthy is challenging for me.  My reward has been finally seeing normal heart rate values and a test result of 2 (Normal)

Sam grabbing the skis for our ski.
Great to be on trails with complete coverage  Winter still exists
Although it is only 45 minutes away I skied at the South Summit trails on Loup Loup pass for the first time ever.  Over 50km of trails to explore up there and I am excited to come back and explore more.

Training is back on track and my mood has improved greatly.  Caitlin and I are training in Washington with Sam and Scott and getting ready for US Nationals.  My first race will be the 15km Freestyle on January 4th.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Rough Start

For most of the season my training has been focused on the Canadian World Cups this December.  Training has been great and I traveled to Montana feeling the best I have ever felt.  Everything was going great and then I got a scratch in the back of my throat.  I bought a humidifier and went in to isolation to rest and get healthy.  After a few days of solid rest I started to feel better and went for my first ski on Tuesday.  I skied with the Master's Team and worked on technique with the group.  I felt better and raced on Friday.  I felt good racing and finished a respectable 6th place.  This is a decent result but it fell below my expectations and not what I would need to qualify for the Canadian World Cups. 
Happy to be back on snow
 The next set of races were moved to Bozeman, MT for a total of three races in four days.  Since getting sick my morning heart rate has been high, although I have felt fine.  I felt great in the skate sprint and finished 17th in the qualifier and 3rd in my quarterfinal.  This was a good race for me.  

Then the classic races came and things started to go downhill.  I went on skate skis, similar to most of the top men in the classic sprint but I didn't even qualify in the top 30.  I am amazed how fast the top guys are in the classic sprint. I went all out and still finished 20 seconds out.  I enjoyed watching the heats of the races and cheering on my friends and teammates.  The really good guys look so relaxed and that is something I still need to work out.

The view from our bedroom on the road.  We have a few skis with us. T
he snow coverage has been thin which makes it hard to test skis.
My focus for the weekend in Bozeman all along was the classic distance race.  Thankfully the race organizers worked hard and the warm weather cooperated for the races to happen (barely, Bozeman set a new record high on Sunday of 58 degrees).  The course was moved to a 3.8km loop but really was a great course.  I started at the front of the mass start pack.  I started fast and quickly found myself at the front of the pack.  About a hundred meters in I lost my pole basket.  I stopped about 500m up the trail for a new pole and the race went downhill from there.  My skis were ridiculously fast out of the start, but I went without enough grip to kick up the climbs.  When the group started climbing I could tell I was relying a lot on my arms.  On the third or four laps I increased the pace to try and make up some of the time I had lost.  I went a bit too hard and went under.   The last lap I fell apart and finished the furthest back in a domestic distance race in the last 3 years.  It takes a few bad races to appreciate the good ones.   This last weekend will help make the good races this season sweeter.

Instead of heading to the Canadian World Cups I am heading to WA to train and prepare for the next big set of races US Nationals.  I know that my preparations from this summer have gone well and I look forward to coming back from this setback.  If my morning heart rates recover to normal in the next few days I will race up at Silver Star, BC at the Nor Am races.

Green fields on Winter Wheat 

2 Feet of fresh snow today in Washington

Scott and Max were up early grooming.  Super tough grooming conditions today.  So much snow that the snowmobile and track setter kept getting stuck.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Let the Race Season Begin

This weekend the domestic race scene kicks off with the West Yellowstone Super Tour.  After 6 months of preparation and training it is exciting to have the opportunity to show off the hard work.  I actually ski more on roller skis, but the feeling of gliding on snow is hard to beat.  Snow skiing requires more maintenance than roller skiing.  I travel with 15 pairs of skis that all have unique characteristics.  The bases of the skis are ground with a special structure to match different snow types.  Ski speed makes a big difference over the course of a race so I make sure to take good care of them.  I wax them every time I ski on them.  

To say thank you to out sponsors Toko and Nordic Ultratune, the MOD Squad gave a free Toko clinic for locals to learn the latest on waxing techniques. 

Toko Waxes keep me gliding and kicking all season long.  Thanks Toko.

November and December mean darkness settles in before the completion of the second workout of the day.  Now I can train day or night with this new headlamp.  With 350 lumens the light is nearly as bright as a car headlight.

The day before we left for Montana we woke up to fresh snow at the Yurt.

Excited to meet up with my CXC Teammates for some early season skiing 
at Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT.

We are now in West Yellowstone and watching the forecast intently for more snow.  There is skiing up high, but it is pretty thin.  I unfortunately caught a cold so am sitting tight and resting.  Hopefully I will feel good enough to ski tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Weekend Coaching in Chicago

As a student of the sport of cross country skiing it is fun to switch roles sometimes and share my knowledge with others.  This year marked the 5th year I have made the trip to Chicago for a weekend clinic with some of the most dedicated and passionate skiers in the country.  Chicago doesn't get a lot of snow in the winter and so the local season is short.  The community is awesome and the lack of snow doesn't scare them.  We had over 35 passionate athletes come out to learn and improve over the weekend.

The Illinois Nordic community had a great showing for the King Keyser/CXC Clinic this weekend
Splitting in to small groups to give more one on one time to everyone

Working on the basics without skis

Creating more challenging terrain by pulling other skiers and dragging a tire.
Training can be creative.

Chicago does food right and we enjoyed a Saturday evening together swapping stories from last year as we get excited for the 2012/2013 winter to begin.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Driveway Butte Hill Climb

Last weekend was the 7th annual Driveway Butte Hill Climb in Mazama, WA.  This annual event has been an small informal test for the MV Nordic Team, MOD and locals.  The race is about 2 miles (perhaps a bit more) and gaind 1,900'.  This year Sam and Alison Naney took charge of organizing the event as a fundraiser for Jim and Jan Erickson.  Jim and Jan were road biking in Italy this spring when the tour group came around a corner at the same time as a group of motorcyclists.  The motorcyclists were in the opposite lane and the group collided.  Numerous people were injured but Jim took it the worst.  Together he and Jan have battled challenge after challenge as well as set back after set back with Jim's injuries.  Sadly, Jim passed away this week.  A witty and charming friend to all who lived life to the fullest, we will all miss you Jim.

Jim showing my brother and I how to ski a few years ago on a tour up Delancy Ridge (you can kind of see us trying not to fall in the background)
I met Jim through skiing as a junior on the Methow Valley Nordic Team.  Jim's wit and humor make him instantly likeable and we became friends.  In the Spring my favorite thing to do on the weekends was to go up on Washington Pass and ski with my Dad and Jim.  We had a lot of fun adventures together.  When I was 15 Jim gave me his old rock climbing rack which gave my brother and I a chance to explore the mountains further.  While I was in highschool Jim and Jan moved over to the Valley full time and Jim took an opening as the high school Math teacher.  I remember thinking that it was going to be strange to have my friend as my teacher.  Jim has to be about 40 years older than me but I never really thought about that when we were out in the mountains.  While in school, Jim was Mr. Erickson or Mr. E.  We had suffered a few years of poor Math teachers at Liberty Bell High School and Jim really turned things around.  He made Math fun and put 100% into it.  He is the best Math teacher I imagine I will ever have.  Everyday our homework, quiz's or tests from the day before were waiting for us on our desks as we came in to class, corrected and any errors were pointed out.  In one year we pretty much covered Algebra, Trignometry, Geometry and started on Pre-calculus.  I still can't believe the math that Jim could do in his head it made me break up my relationship with a calculator and really get my mind working. Jim has the ability to make anything fun and to relate most anything back to Math.  Jim helped me write my first computer program to help me qualify for Junior Noationals.  Back then the team was chosen based on percentage back from the top 3 in a JOQ.  I still enjoy calculating the FIS and USSA points from ski races today.   It is my goal that someday my work with ITA will have as profound long lasting affect on someone similar to what Jim's life has had on me.
The race happened to be on the second day of hunting season and in addition to the runners about 20 horses all made the big climb.  Thankfully they headed up a bit earlier than us because the trail really wasn't wide enough for easy passing.  Mud and horses on a trail can be a damaging combination but there were times where it seemed like they had kicked perfect steps for us.
Caitlin baked some delicious brownie cupcakes to celebrate Claire's 15th birthday and the race
Coach Scott and I with the prize for a new course record
My training this year has been quite different than in the past and I literally have been holed up in a small yurt training mostly by my self.  We chose this race early in the year to use as a marker of my fitness and preparation for the season.  My goal going in to the race was to go under 25 minutes based on times from felllow ITA athlete Torin Koos in 2010 and Erik Bjornsen, although Erik's times are from his high school days.

The evening before the race Caitlin and I went for a recovery run and to preview the course.   We also wanted to stash a bag of warm dry clothes at the top.  After a month of bluebird skies the weather for the day of the race was foretasted to be pretty nasty. It can be challenging to judge time and distance on an all uphill course because a mile might take as long as 12 minutes. Running at a constant easy pace we took splits along the way so that we would know about how far we were from the finish at any given point during the race.  It took 45 minutes to get to the top and so in honor of Jim we used math to determine the splits we would need to reach our goal times.   Working with Scott this year has been fantastic and I look forward to racing on snow in a little over a month.  Scott was pretty awesome on Sunday hiking about halfway up the muddy course to cheer and observe.  He had to use crutches as he is recovering from knee surgery.  For a small little race on the worst day of weather in 4 months we had a good showing.  

Thanks Sam and Alison of Methow Endurance for a wonderful event and raising $500 for Jim

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Big Foot

The smoke continues to haunt the Valley so we took Highway 20 about 40 miles west this morning.  When we leave Mazama and head up the Pass in to the Mountains there is a good 70 miles before the next town or services.  This area is pretty much all National Forest, National Park or National Recreation Area.  I remember reading Pete Vordenberg's book growing up and he talked about a crazy friend of his who spent his summers scouring the Pacific Northwest for the elusive Big Foot.  Those guys were training further south in Trout Lake, WA and I wonder if he ever made it North in search of the big hairy guy.

Ready to Roll
Almost every long ski we have done this year we have had the good fortune of vehicle support for dry clothes, spare gear and ride back down the mountain.  Thank you to everyone who has supported our skis over the years.  Today was an early morning and we were self supported.  I brought my bike to set up a shuttle, but we decided to take our chances with hitch hiking from the top.  Many times this has worked quite well, but every so often drivers just think you are an Alien with sticks and drive on by.  The unknown at the end of the ski can lead to some poor recovery.  We made sure to ski with plenty of water, clothes and food to make the wait as comfortable as possible.  Days like today really help make me appreciate the countless times: Scott, Igor, Andy, Mom, Dad, Chad, Alieta and others have run support. The pack wasn't too heavy though and I think the extra training weight is good for us.  Some day we will race the Norweigian Birkebeiner and be ready to roll.  Plus, I have found that Solomon makes a fantastic ultra light backpack.  The pack is made for running so it is ergonomically designed for activity and adjustable it almost every way imaginable.  I have used it with a CamelBak for most of the summer because it allows me the luxury of drinking without having to stop.

Caitlin heading up the North Cascades Scenic Highway
We skied the first kilometer together because we thought we might have seen some strange tracks crossing the road while we were driving.

Big Foot?

Kuzzy often recommended to visualize  'skiing like Big Foot' while working on classic technique.  It works particularly well while tracking him.

Caitlin enjoying a good homemade turkey sandwich and dry clothes after a great ski.

Sometimes things really work out well and as I reached Rainy Pass I took my skis off as a train of cars approached from the other side and stuck my thumb out.  They all drove right on by.  A bit further down the road a car  near one of the trailheads a car did pull off the side of the road.  I walked towards it knowing that once I expained my situation surely I could get a ride back down the mountain.  As I got closer I recognized that the person was my good childhood friend Leah.  She was heading up to run the Maple/Heather Pass loop but offered us to use her car for the shuttle.  Huge thanks to you Leah.  We had to be a bit creative because of the smoke in the Valley, but the day worked out pretty well.  Now it is time for a little strength session indoors.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

CXC September Man Camp

September Camp at Telemark started with a huge bowl of fresh blueberries, oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, coffee, juice and just the boys.

Eric, Karl and Adam and I haven been enjoying a small camp here at Telemark Lodge this week with Igor, Andy, and Kyle (Team Physio).  We have had some pretty large camps this year which have been great, but it is nice to have a small group.  It is also great to have almost a 1:1 coach to athlete ratio.

Cool weather has allowed for great training and recovery.

Classic Speed Session- few skiers in the country have the double pole finishing speed of Karl and it was great to try and hang on to him during our classic speed session.  Igor had us do the majority of the speeds with weights on our write.  They didn't feel like much when you put them on, but you felt like a rockstar when you took them off for the final few of the set.
note: Video plays on Eric's new blog

Skate Intervals- I have logged a lot of time climbing up OO in the past 6 years.  I would even wager that I have gone up and down it on roller skis more than anyone else (although I believe the Team FAST skiers should hold that honor soon).   The pavement was getting pretty bad and this summer the county repaved it.  Sadly the shoulder is even smaller than before, but it is one smooth ride which is nice.  The pavement made a one minute difference in interval speed according to my training logs.

 Mt. Telemark Bounding Intervals-  Igor mowed out a loop on Mt. Telemark which makes you wonder if you really are in the Midwest.  With a wonderful mix of steep and gradual ups you are either climbing or descending the entire 20 minute loop.

My Roomate is pretty chill, although he needs to pick up his boots and helmet. (yeah he is a boy dog so he can come to Man Camp).

Video Review
Man Camp has been fun and we have two more days to go.  I enjoy hanging with the boys but I am looking forward to seeing the Mrs. on Wednesday.     

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Adventure Continues

Ships across the ocean.
Ships across the sea.
Captain, Captain.
You can't catch me!

Ships Across the Ocean is the favorite game of the summer.  After several weeks in the 90F range we have been blessed with some cool weather in Minneapolis which makes playing outside even more fun. My main goal with my project at the Club is to encourage a healthy lifestyle through exercise.  The best kind of exercise is just having fun, where you don't even realize you are giving your body a good workout.

I came to the Club last week to find about 30 kids sitting in the bleachers with nothing to do.  It has been a busy summer at the Club and we have been short staffed. When I come it means a group can go outside.  Who has the best juke, shakes and moves? 
Who likes roller skiing?

Partnering up to learn to roller ski.  It takes guts to try something new.  Most likely you will start out and not be very good, but the struggle is usually worth it.
What started as one week of Adventure Camp has grown to three separate one week camps for the Boys and Girls Club.  Nice work crew making a good impression. 
At the end of her first day on roller skis Emily made it don the big hill on her own.  I missed the time trial on Thursday morning but I suspect she had one of the top times.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adventure Camp

One of the highlights of my summer has been taking a van full of kids from the Boys and Girls Club to Wirth Park for Loppet Adventure Camp.  The City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation made this partnership possible.  The logistics weren't easy but with a bike, running shoes, and one van we were able to make it all happen.

Adventure Camp is a full and active day.  With temperatures in the 90s we enjoyed visiting the well for a nice cold drink.

Eric and Kendal visiting Nesse the (friendly) monster in Wirth Lake.

Working on the basics on Day 1 of roller skiing.

It is incredible to watch how fast these young athletes learn.  The first day was pretty ugly and frustrating for most, but by the end of the week the kids were full on skiing.  Fun to watch the struggle and triumph.  At the end of the week we held a roller ski race and some impressive times were posted. Competition is even more fun when we can compare ourselves to the best athletes in the world contesting in London.

The Concept 2 Ski Erg turned a rainy day into a fun day.  Plus it was fun to see how much power your arms can generate, yes they aren't just for balance.

Getting the hang of things and able to ski down the big hill, but taking a quick break before heading back up.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

LCO Club Reunion

With the CXC Team training camps based out of Telemark Lodge in northern Wisconsin it makes it pretty convenient to catch up with my Hayward family and friends while in town.  Hayward was home for a good six years and although I live in Minneapolis it still feels like I am home.  In many ways things are the same, but the most fun change to see is with the kids.  The last time I saw the LCO Boys and Girls Crew was February for the Birkie.
Snack time at The Club, Enjoying milk, apples and PBnJ in the shade.
 I had a very proud moment when I drove up to the Club and climbed out of the car.  A young boy wearing a Boys and Girls Club t-shirt sat at the picnic tables watching me.  As I approached he yelled out 'Hey Brian, How's it going?'  He then came up to me and shook my hand.  'I have a summer job now, I work at The Club'.  TJ told me about how he know works with the younger kids at the Club.  I met TJ my first day at the Club when he was a wild little 10 year old. It is really great to see him grow up and mature and be a responsible teen.  His ride pulled up and he said goodbye.

I came in to the Club and to my surprise found all of the kids watching one of two movies.  In all my time at the Club I had never seen the kids not moving around, but with no A/C and warm weather on a Friday I could understand.

I sort of snuck in to the dark teen center and it didn't take long for the kids to start whispering and word to spread that 'Brian is here.'  Some of the kids I did not recognize but over half of them I knew well.
Who want's to go to the Park?

Lava Tag, our favorite game.

Climbing and Team Work to get to the top. Jasper, Savannah, Aaron, Kiara, and Indanis.
One of my favorite activities growing up was climbing and I encourage the kids to climb as well. There is always a risk of falling and getting hurt, but I think it is important for the kids to learn to climb and fall when they are young so that they are able to do so safely when they are older.  The group loves the Giant Spinning Tree that the park added two years ago.  My only rule is that if you want to ride on top you have to be able to climb up there on your own or with the assistance of a friend.  Not only does this save me from the constant task of lifting up kids, it is great to watch them learn to work together to accomplish a common goal.  The best life lessons can come through the simplest of tasks.