Saturday, January 3, 2009

Is this cross-training, or is it something more?

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.


Mookie said...

Bjorn Daehlie has the world record for the highest score of a VO2 max test, 96 ml/kg/min which I've read was tested out of season. He very well could have been over a 100. I guess that had a hand in his 8 Olympic golds, huh?

Do you ever find the waxing process frustrating? I mean if you dont' get it right it's akin to riding a bike with two flat tires, right?

Hill Junkie said...

Yeah, I think Armstrong was "only" 85 ml/kg/min.

Waxing can be a chore. Brett hates waxing. I don't mind so much. I wax pretty much everytime I ski since I ski 30-50k each time. In dry snow, the bases can start to turn white in <30k. I usually wax the night before, only to find it is 15 degrees colder than forecasted or new abrassive snow fell overnight. I'm learning it usually pays to err on the cold side. I wonder if some snow is just so stubborn that no wax job in the world will make it any faster than two flat tires.

We did a glide test starting out yesterday. Dave's skis were considerable slower than Brett's and mine. Brett seemed to have a little less stiction, as he started quicker from a stop down the slight incline, but then I stayed even with him. I think we both used a cold temp flourinated wax. Not sure about Dave. At least skate waxing is easy compared to classic waxing. You don't have to get two waxes right (kick and glide).

Luke S said...

I would say I wax my good skis once a week, and my crappy rock skis once or twice a season. Waxing really isn't that much of a chore, and a lot of people really enjoy it. Until they get to their 6th pair of skis in a row or something stupid like that. The skiing at Waterville was great. I went up with CSU to do some easy classic distance, we climbed Livermore, Snows Mt, and Cascade, then I did parts of Osceola and Tripoli but chronically tight and sore hip flexors sent me right back down the hill.

Hill Junkie said...

Luke - we must have crossed paths then. The whole CSU gang came flying by as I was crawling up Livermore in a depleted state. I had my red and white NorEast Cycling wind breaker on. I thought it odd that there were practically no skate tracks going up Cascade, yet so many tracks coming back down. I didn't know you guys were doing classic at the time.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you were going to keep me in the loop for WV.

A glide test would be hard to get right unless both skiers are the same weight, use the same stance, have same skis, and have the same initial velocity.

Classic waxing can be a lot more frustrating because if you miss, you may have no kick.


Hill Junkie said...

Skogs - Sorry about the heads up. It's been a long break.

We got at least two of the four covered. We all started at precisely the same speed, zero. We all weigh within five pounds of each other. We do have different skis and stances obviously. But because we started at the same speed and weigh about the same, the test is valid as far as showing who might have to work a little harder (Dave in this case). If he was consistently slower over different conditions and wax jobs, he should then consider ski or stance changes. Were the skis planted flat?

I have critical deadline at work when I get back (literally on Monday). We'll probably get an extension with the foundry until Friday. Normally this would be a 60+ hour week, but I would still like to get down to Weston on Tuesday. Interested? I just signed up for an intermediate/advanced skate clinic at Weston on the next two Wednesday nights. My colleagues will probably shoot me for cutting out early two nights in a row this week.

Luke S said...

I had my incongrous blue Colby jacket on, and I was probably leading the pack...I felt so snappy and fresh...a state that ended promptly upon attempting osceola. Andy is a good coach, he really knows what he's talking about. Those Wednesday night sessions should be pretty valuable.

Colin R said...

Andy is a good coach, he really knows what he's talking about.

Are we talking about the same guy that is "spun out" all the time by doing V1-only in the Weston races?