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.