A small posse of us headed up to WV for some more snow-based self flagellation. Having skied very hard 1.5hrs Thursday and biked fairly hard 1.5hrs yesterday, I was a tad concerned I'd be overdoing it. Conditions were quite good. Wicked windchills meant there would be no "down time" out on the trails. Glide was fast to slow, depending on whether you were on wind blown granular or dusting of abrasive powder.
A couple laps of Wicked Easy/Moose Run prep'd the legs for the meat and potatoes of the workout. Osceola at race pace was the shock treatment for two longer intervals up Tripoli. I gave my first Tripoli interval my best shot. I was about 15% slower than my PR climb a few weeks ago. I really don't think it was the previous two day's effort. I maintained an amazingly high HR. Unlike a bike climb, ski climbing times are more dependent on conditions than anything else.
After an hour-plus anaerobic work, I was nearly cooked. Cascade was now open to junction 29, so I just had to do that before calling it a workout. This is another 800ft climb that gains half the vertical in the last quarter of the distance. I chased another skier that was a better descender than I all the way back down Livermore at insane speeds. He wiped out with me drafting right on his pole tips. How I avoided a crit style pile in is beyond me.
UPS delivered this yesterday. Several reader suggested items here. Will they make me faster? Probably not, but maybe I'll feel faster.
That makes nearly 7hrs of skating this week, all of it at aggressive intensity levels. I'm feeling pretty good about my fitness right now. Coupled with improvements in technique, I just might be marginally competent in competition this season.
Originally, I got into skate skiing as a means to maintain fitness over winter. I think it has gone well beyond that now. Would I ever forgo a cycling season to train for skiing all summer? Unlikely, but I go through withdraw symptoms when the season ends in the spring. I really feel more cyclists would benefit by skiing in the off season. I saw several other cyclists at WV today. So here are a few reasons why you should take up skate skiing:
1. Some riders are burned out riding a bicycle outdoors by the end of the season. Riding a trainer indoors could push you over the edge to never wanting to ride your bike again. Skate skiing is a wonderful alternative.
2. Skate skiing is more aerobically challenging than riding. You will use all of your major muscle groups. Because you bear your own weight, your heart must work a little harder for that too. You will see heartrates not achieved on the bike. I believe the highest measured VO2max's in the world are of XC skiers.
3. Skate skiing is weight bearing yet non-impact. Running is stupid IMHO. Many riders are converts from running. Classic skiing technique is more impulsy, but still a tiny fraction of the hammering running does to your joints. Skating power transfer is very smooth, possibly even smoother than pedalling a bike. The motion is even hypnotic. You will still feel your body going through the motions when you lie down to sleep at night.
4. Skiing will bring some balance back to your body. Cycling is a very asymmetric motion, using only limited muscle groups. If you are like me and don't do much (or any) core work, skiing will bring your upper body and all sorts of bits around your hips back into play.
5. Equipment cost of entry is much less than cycling. If you ride outside in the cold months, you already have the clothing needed for skiing. An intermediate ski/binding/boot/pole setup costs around $500. Race level setup is only $1000. A racing road bike will cost 5x that.
6. Skiing is much safer than riding messy winter roads. No belligerent motorists, no helmet necessary, although you do need to exercise caution on the steeper descents.
So are there any down sides to skating? Perhaps. Skaters must drive to a place that grooms for skating. For readers in the greater Boston metro area, you can ski cheaply at Weston. Flat, but the highest 15 minute average heartrate I ever saw, skiing or riding, was at one of the Weston sprint races. Skiing a groomed trail isn't free, but a dedicated skier will buy a season pass that generally costs about the same as a pair of road tires. So there you have it. Head over to Weston, rent some skis and get a lesson. You might hate it the first time, but give it a few tries like I did. It just might grow on you.