Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cross Training Begins

Before any of you flip out over yet another blogger spewing the virtues of 'cross season, note the title to this post conspicuously omits the apostrophe. This is the actual word cross, not the 'cross as in cyclocross. We're talking about training in the off-season here, or training that in some sense is orthogonal but complimentary to in-season training. For me, cross-training is cross country skiing. XC, not CX.

I have nothing against CX. I plan to dabble in a race or two in fact. It's a ruckus workout, and like a good hillclimb, the suffering is over quickly. I suck at CX though. The only CX race I did that I did not suck at was the Ironcross race in PA several years ago. It was more like a 60 mile MTB race on dirt roads and ATV trails through the mountains. A 500ft vertical run-up made it a 'cross race.

I still suck at XC skiing too, but not as badly as a couple years ago. Progress is slow but steady. It really doesn't matter what kind of engine you have. If you don't have the technique down, you will squander your precious kJ. I know I should be doing core workouts and get some professional coaching. Maybe these will start and happen this winter.

Cycling and skiing continue to become more blurred, as in which sport is real cross training. Is skiing cross training for cycling, or the other way around? When I first started skiing, it was something to do on the days it really sucked to ride. I rarely use an indoor trainer. So skiing was something to help maintain fitness over the coldest months. But my fondness for the sport continued to grow. I now ski 5-6 months out of the year, conditions permitting. I haven't quite made the leap to maintaining ski fitness year round like others do. From a cardio fitness perspective, skiing is far more rigorous than cycling. It draws on many muscle groups that atrophy over summer just cycling. It's a tough choice to make come March, do you keep skiing or start pouring on the miles? The cardio will certainly be in peak form, but cycling specific muscles give up some strength over winter. It's all good. Having two endurance based passions is good insurance should one ever become problematic.

To come into ski season with some semblance of ski fitness, I begin rollerskiing in the fall. For a skate technique skier, rollerskiing actually comes fairly close to emulating the real thing on snow. Last week I did 11km on Tuesday at work. My hips hurt for three days. That's what I get for not skiing all summer. Then foolishly I did 40km on Sunday. That destroyed my back for a day. But I felt pretty good on the rollerskis. I've never been able to do 40km getting right back into it early in the fall. Hope this is a sign of good things to come this winter.

This blog will slowly morph into a skiing blog as snow arrives. But posts will be true to the Hill Junkie theme. Like cycling, XC skiing is all about vertical, 40-50k epic ski sessions, and a little competition. Having already purchased a season pass for Waterville Valley, I'm looking forward to the 800ft Tripoli Rd or Cascade Brook climbs. My goal is to have fun while sucking a little less than last year.


Colin R said...

See you at one of the 50ks this year!

You're right about the coaching thing. It's not always easy to get find a lesson (or "coaching session," if you want to make it sound less embarrassing :) ) from someone qualified to work on race quality skate technique. Every ski center has someone teaching, sure, but plenty of those folks are mediocre skiers teaching total beginners how to walk on skis without falling down.

Drop me a line if you want to talk more, I don't want to be that guy who leaves epic, rambling comment.

JB said...

I love about 20 min from the Ironcross start now, so if you're headed down there ever again, drop me a line and i'll put you up!


Dave said...

Looks like there is a singlespeed CX category for Iron Cross. Suddenly, I'm interested.

Hill Junkie said...

I haven't ruled out heading back for Ironcross this year. 62 miles in mountains, hmmm, hard to pass up. It would be sort of a season finale for me. If Davie would like to give it a go, I'd definitely go back. Stay tuned...

Anonymous said...

Mountain Biking, road biking, skiing - you do everything. :) Are there ski races in the area at all? And have you ever skied in Tuckerman's Ravine on Washington? I was there hiking on the fourth of July, and even then there were people skiing.

I was looking back over your recent posts, and struck by how many of your races go uphill. I'm a small guy, and tend to do well on hills but nowhere else, so I was thinking about trying more hillclimbs instead of straight road races next season, but I live in Strafford County - probably the flattest county in the state. How do you train for that sorta thing without hills? Or are there hills where you live?

Hill Junkie said...

There are a lot of Stafford counties around. We talking CT here?

There are training ski races within an hour of my house, south actually to the Weston golf course near Boston. Most serious races like 50km marathons are in the mountains, 2-5hrs away. With good snow, Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle MA is decent for skate ski training. Not much for hills though. I have been to Tuckerman's in May and watched the fanatics ski there. Not me.

It is fairly hilly where I live and work. I can reach several 500-600ft hills that take 6-9 minutes to climb on my lunch break. These are perfect for interval training. Loop rides are often chocked full of 3-5 minute hills, which I get my interval training on. You don't need 2000ft+ hills to train on to be a good climber. With out hills, next best thing is to find long stretch of uninterrupted road for intervals. Push a slightly higher gear than you normally would, and drill it for 5, 10 or 30 minutes if you have a road that lets you do this. Of course, 5 minute efforts should be quite unpleasant and you would want to do several of them in one workout. Just don't go too hard on the first couple. If you are racing already, you probably already do this. Climbing cadences tend to be lower and demand more strength, and you don't get recovery until you reach the top. If you don't have steep hills locally, emulate this with longer, uninterrupted intervals pushing a bigger gear.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in trying some CX races this year myself. Problem is, I don't have that kind of bike....yet. If you were me or if you were you, what kind of bike would you get?

Hill Junkie said...

Anonymous - Do you have a mountain bike? Many local 'cross races allow MTBs if you remove bar ends. Put some skinnier tires with low profile knobbies on it and you'll be all set to experiment. I used a MTB for my first cross race, the Iron Cross race in PA. But that is more like a really long MTB race anyway.

If you are looking to get a real 'cross rig with drop bars, there are many models to choose from that won't break the bank. I don't have a favorite to suggest, but Salsa, Surly, Redline and Ridley come to mind. See what your local shop offers or check out Craig's List for deals. I'm actually checking out a sweet cross bike on Friday. Just in case my sneaky friends are behind this inquiry, this mission will be classified.