Sometimes you don’t need a plan

We all have a tendency to reminisce. When it comes to skiing I sometime think back on some of the crazy workouts I did with friends. Back in the 90’s we would finish work at the Aspen Cross-Country Center (in Aspen of course) and my buddy Dave Peterson and myself would head out just as winter dusk was settling in. There were enough lights from town to bounce off the clouds and illuminate the flat trails around the golf course. It was just short of a 5k loop and our plan was to ski around 3 times.
For the first loop we’d set our poles to the side and just skate around the loop. We’d work on balance but also to build up our leg strength. Second time around we’d pick up our poles for a double pole workout around the loop. Then we finish our final lap with an easy skate.
I don’t remember if it was painful or not. It was just fun memories with my good buddy. But when I think of it now I reminisce that it was probably a pretty good specific strength workout but I remain is disbelief that we would enjoy such a crazy thing.
Now to the present.
I only had about 40 minutes to ski and decided to run over to the local park that is starting to pack out a short loop for cross country skiing. It’s really flat and short (about a 11 minute loop at a slow pace). I started out skating but decided to drop my poles to see what it was like to skate for a while without poles. The trail was pretty rough and bumpy and took me awhile to find my balance.
Too much weight on my toes and my ski would start to slow – bring my weight back just in front of my heel and my glide was easier. Then I started to notice my glide wasn’t equal from ski to ski. Hmm. Need to work on making my muscle movement from left to right ski and back equal. That’s better. Now what’s with my left hip hurting more then the right? Maybe I should do this more often?
20 minutes gives you plenty of time to work through the initial pain and start to fine tune the skating movement. Stroke out to the side (not back) and finish with a bit of a toe-off in the final push and it all felt right.
Okay, now for a double poling lap. Follow through with the arms and a good compression with my stomach to help distribute the pain. How about some sit ups and I remembered some of the isolation pole training from the past. Keeping my arm angle pretty stiff and bent, and no follow-through, I just used my stomach muscles to push the poles down. I looked pretty dorky but I got a stomach workout for the day.
So, what was my take-away for the day? Getting back to basics is a good thing. Ski without poles to help balance and strength, and gives you a internal check list on how your technique is doing. When I’m struggling with my skating glide I’ll throw in a few skates without poles and often realize I’m gliding more without the poles! Keep those skate steps the same then add the poles back in.
Last realization for the day: Double poling is more physically taxing then skating legs only.
I’ve been using a Fitbit lately and recorded my session that day. My heart rate was much more in control during skate only loops. During my double pole session my pulse jumped up 20-30 beats and I wasn’t trying to go fast.
I’ve decided that for a short skate session a little skate without poles and double pole session isn’t a bad way to go.
Alley Loop 42K a few weeks away. Yikes!
Happy skiing.
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What’s Up

I love cross-country skiing. The reasons are many but most important it’s the freedom I feel when I’m out on the trails. It’s just plain fun. I’ve had the opportunity, in the last 40 years, to ski and learn from the best, and ski all over the U.S. and Europe.

It all started at Columbia Junior College in Sonora, California. The college was starting a ski program and I jumped at the opportunity. Discovering cross-country skiing was by chance (as it turned out I wasn’t that great of a downhill skier). The team found a quiver of old, and beautifully laminated cross-country and jumping skis. We had no idea what to do with them back in 1971 so we started to experiment. This is a journey of 40 years learning how to ski: the lightbulb moment of discovering how wax worked, my first jump with sticky skis and sliding down the hill on my face and the moment my friend Audun Endestad showed me a skate step he saw in Europe in the early 80’s. If there were mistakes to be made we discovered them and the good discoveries were life changing.

This is a journey from that Junior College racing to teaching XC skiing at Telemark Lodge and racing the Birkebeiner 55 Kilometer race the three years I was there. An impromptu winter at Brenton Woods, N.H. to Sun Valley for 6 years and winning the Boulder Mountain Tour in my final year before moving to Colorado. There’s also the 12 years on the PSIA Nordic Demonstration Team to fine tune my teaching skills and helping my understanding of technique. Then suddenly it changes — a new journey of raising a family and working in totally unrelated fields.

Now my wife has jumped into the fray with plans to enter the Birkebeiner in 2017. Can a 60 year old make any kind of comeback? I have no idea but I’ll find out.

— Mark Pearson

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