Full Throttle Nordic

As any Sierra Nevada resident knows, we actually got some snow . . . in the winter. Incredible. How long did it take for people to get out and start playing in it? By my count, about 32 hours. The snow was flying on Donner Summit at midnight Friday and I arrived at the Auburn Ski Club at around 9:45AM Sunday morning. The trails were already full of skiers. There was a traffic jam at every trail junction. It was great to see the ASC junior teams, Sugar Bowl Academy, UNR Winter Sports Club, school teams from Nevada Union and Colfax, the ASC masters group, Super Sliders, and maybe a few other groups that I forgot to mention. At any given time there were maybe 30 skiers on the trails for the entire morning.

It was fun to see how much pent-up energy is out there in the Nordic community. It seems like everyone is trying to make up for lost time. We have a base to work with now and future snow dumps should have some more staying power when falling on snow instead of earth.

Git after it!

From the Sea of Cortez to the base of Diamond Peak

Well, it turns out that this was not a bad year to miss two weeks of “winter.” I spent the Christmas and New Year break in Baja California Sur, Mexico (Cabo, La Paz, Loreto, and Todos los Santos). As someone who grew up in Los Angeles, I am embarrassed to say that I had not traveled to Mexico in my life until now. Baja strikes me sort of like the Tahoe of Mexico. The cultural offerings are a little limited compared to other travel destinations, but the outdoor recreation more than makes up for it.

Thus I found myself running, biking, kayaking, and ski bounding around Mexico. My favorite spot was without a doubt Loreto. These two pictures show Loreto from the Sea of Cortez. My next trip (hopefully camping-based) is already bouncing around my head. Of course, to do it right, one needs to go in March or April when the whales are calving.

When I came back to Tahoe lots of people were skiing on snow but it was the man made kind and always at the base of an alpine resort. Such is the way of Nordies. Nothing can stop us! From the afternoon twilight training at Diamond Peak to the CNISSF opener race at Sugar Bowl’s Nob Hill run, it’s been really fun to see how dedicated the Nordic community is to the sport.

I am really excited about the upcoming weather forecast. Oddly, I am wondering how to plan the training for Incline High School with snow on the ground. Probably it will look similar to last year. I feel like I have the dryland training sort of laid out so I could just keep going on dryland for the rest of the season. But for racing puposes, it’s pretty clear that we need snow. Epic races like the Tahoe Rim Tour, Great Ski Race, and Billy Dutton Uphill will need snow to run. And it’s not a moment too soon. Kara’s point that we can always make the best of our conditions and continue training hard resonates with me. Huge swathes of “snow country” are without snow and no one can get off of competition by complaining about training conditions at the home area. Nearly everyone is coping with a poor year!

Keep it Up

Training in this time of the season is rough. Snowy km’s are hard to come by and traveling to the snow on a regular basis can be really tough. How to stay in shape during this awkward phase? Here’s a few ideas:

Swimming: Playing (basketball/water polo) in the shallow end with feet off the floor requires a lot of core strength

Bounding for technique or cardio fitness: It never fails to amaze me that I can max out in 2 minutes and go hardly anywhere. Or maybe that’s a bad sign . . .

Core strength: All the regular pushups, bicycle crunches, and dips. Tuck jump with a 1-2-3 count in the tuck position and do the superman trunk flex while tossing a ball between partners.

Trail running: I spent all of June wondering when the snow would melt so I could train for the upcoming trail runs. The Tahoe Rim Trail and Pacific Crest trails are still wide open. Get the most out of your running shoes while you still can. But you’ll need the hat, windbreaker, and gloves.

And no matter what, keep the excitement and focus up. When the snow does arrive, there will no time to catch up and get into racing shape.

I’m on the Mala Rodriguez channel at Pandora. Here’s a sample:
Reina de la Calle

All In Good Time

The snow conditions in Tahoe have been slightly underwhelming recently. However, Incline Nordic did spend our first day on snow at Tahoe Meadows on Nevada’s Hwy 431. It was really a blast. I would like to say we did lots of carefully planned technique drills in the 12″ of powder but that would just not be true.

However, conditions at Auburn Ski Club are great right now. It’s little comfort to the North Tahoe and Incline teams when they have school midweek, but then what are weekends for if not for skiing?

Also, I am really excited to see some great results from Far West juniors and seniors at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. I had a large family gathering in San Francisco, but I am looking forward to some excellent out-of-region racing later in the year.

Winter Tease

I have been preoccupied with a few too many juggling balls recently. Finally I get some free time and – presto – winter has (nearly) arrived! So much so that the Turkey Trot was cancelled :( My most recent adventure was to Fort Bragg for my birthday (the 27th and my favorite one so far). It was a quick weekend getaway to the coast for some seafood and some more seafood. Driving from San Francisco to Fort Bragg is an experience like nothing else in California.

Incline High School Nordic Ski Team begins training next Monday. This is going to be an exciting year for me as a coach and as an athlete. I have been running some long miles in the Tahoe Basin and I am thrilled to be working with Incline athletes this winter. We have a couple of new faces and many returnees.

Let’s hope for a white Thanksgiving.

Thank You Far West

First, I want to show some love for the Far West community. I am honored to be selected for the Far West Nordic Farm Team a second year. This is a great opportunity for me to develop as a ski racer and as an ambassador for this excellent winter sport.

Second, is this a ridiculous year or what? My last day on snow was July 3rd, when Auburn Ski Club hosted an end-of season summer sprint relay 3 months after the ski “racing season” was over. My first day on snow was October 8th, a couple of days after ASC received 23″ of snow. It was a long 3 months, but somehow I managed.

I look forward to travelling to some new venues this ski season. I hope to see Bear Valley XC for the first time. The Bjornloppet races (freestyle and classic) are on the schedule for March 10-11. I hope to see you there. I would also like to get over to Sun Valley for the USSA Distance Nationals (aka Spring Series) for a solid week of high-caliber ski racing. It’s one of the most celebrated XC race venues in the West, and I can’t miss that opportunity.

Git after it!

Wrap-up and Inspiration

This season was a long one for me. It started in November and stayed busy through the middle of February. After a trip to Maine gave me a break, I had about a month and a half of rest (with the Great Ski Race in the middle) until the Mammoth Marathon/Billy Dutton Uphill/Gold Rush triple whammy. My race season has never lasted so long, although it was a little bit discontinuous. It was loads of fun though. As much as I feel tired now, I have a feeling I’ll miss the ski racing by July 4th at the latest. Mostly I am thrilled to be living in the location with the longest and sunniest ski season anywhere in the country. (My knowledge is limited though. Let me know if I have omitted your hidden paradise. Your secrets are safe with me, right?)

I had a few new adventures this year. From the Yellowstone Ski Festival to the Mammoth Marathon, I had the pleasure of skiing on a lot of new trails. Also, working with the fantastic student-athletes at Incline High School was an adventure all of its own. Since I picked up the sport on the relatively late side for ski racing purposes (at age 20), I am pretty excited to see new athletes giving the sport a try. Unlike running (and maybe cycling?), XC skiing has a rather high learning curve. Fitness doesn’t get you very far unless you can first stand up and move your skis without doing a faceplant. No one is born skiing, and there is a lot of work needed right from the start even to finish a race.

Perusing the interwebs I stumbled upon a skier who gave me a great deal of support when I was brand new. Brad Marden was one of just two athletes (out of 14) completing the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic. Wikipedia tells me that the course changes every 3 years. Distances range from about 200 to 380km. It takes days. No grooming or feed stations, either. Sleeping bags are highly recommended. Tents are optional (but heavy!)

When Brad was assistant coach at Colby College, he taught me everything a Los Angeleno needs to know about XC skiing. Mainly: to keep my butt forward and my skis pointed in the same general direction away from any trees or bushes. Credit also goes to Paul Smith, now coaching at University of Maine, Presque Isle, for tolerating some cluelessness on a great many subjects. They had no obligation to help me, but they decided to anyway. The sport thrives because we love it, and we will do whatever it takes to get new skiers excited.

So I have to wonder: When am I going to get up to the Brooks Range for some classic skiing?