I have been in hiding for the past two and a half weeks. Because of the
World Cup, my plan to rest for a while got put on hold for a week, but
after the races were over, I eagerly jumped into the rest mode. I spent
the past two weeks resting, seeing the doctor, and playing (on xc skis,
tele skis, snowboard, etc.). I needed to get away from the frustration
and dashed hopes that have surrounded the first half of my race season.
But more importantly, I needed to find out what is wrong with me. I am
convinced at this point that there is something wrong with my body. Nothing
has changed in my diet, training, lifestyle or attitude significantly
enough to create the downward spiral that I was in. As my high school
coach said, "bad races happen...but people just don't drop 30 -40
places without some reason." I went to the doctor and got tested
for lots of stuff, some of which scared me to death. But he was unable
to find anything. I am still not convinced that I am completely healthy,
but seeing my doctor wasn't getting me anywhere I decided to take a different
tack. It was then, during my two and half weeks of seclusion, that I formulated
my comeback plan. What follows here is my plan, in excruciating detail,
of how I plan to get back into my former self before Spring Series. (Side
Note: This year Spring Series is very important because it will be the
best opportunity to score good points which will be used for Olympic selection.)
Will it work? I don't know, I guess we will all find out together. I have
never tried anything like it before. All I know is that what I was doing
was not working and I don't think I can do much worse. So here it goes:
Slow Skiers Anonymous 12 Step Program To Quit Slow Skiing.
1) Take time off to play. I took two weeks, but take however long you
need to fully recover from previous racing. Also use this time to make
sure you still have the desire to put in the hard work ahead.
2) See the doctor. Make sure further training will not do you any harm.
Make sure to ask him about that mysterious itching right under - oh
sorry - it's really none of my business.
3) Go through a long period of drug dealing, sex scandals and depression.
Otherwise, w hen you write a book about your comeback it won't be nearly
as dramatic and compelling and the seven-figure movie deal will fall
4) Consult coaches and other skiers who know you best. I f they don't
laugh at you, you might get some good advice. Actually listen to everything
they have to say - not just what you want to hear.
5) Heal old wounds. Make amends with ski racers you used to taunt when
you beat, but who are now taunting you. Apologize to former friends
who you insulted by comparing them to certain other skiers. (Sorry Paul)
6) Make a mix tape that you will listen to before training every day.
As anyone who has seen Rocky IV knows, any successful comeback must
have a good soundtrack. A few selections from mine: Hero Of The Day
- Metallica, When I Come Around - Green Day, Ray Of Light - Madonna.
7) Buy a bunch of inspiring videos of World Cup ski action. I went out
and got me a set of those fabulous videos
being sold by Hungry Athletes. They really are swell. I suggest
you do the same. Buy em all - they get better with each one.
8) Go to sea level. If you can't go to sea level (or if you are already
at sea-level) try chugging those new oxygenated waters before working
out. I doubt it will do you any good, but its cheaper than buying an
altitude chamber and it might give you a good buzz.
9) Formulate a day by day training plan to take you through the six
weeks of this program. Select races you want to do and set goals for
results along the way. "Win World Championships next week"
is not a good goal.
10) Watch a race from the sideline. Observe the other skiers to see
how they approach the race, the course, their technique. When we are
racing ourselves we forget to observe the other, possibly better, skiers
around us for helpful hints. See if this gets you fired up to get back
at it. If not, go back and redo your mix tape.
11) Start training. This probably should have come before step 11, but
I got side tracked with the videos,
itches, and such.
12) Race. The final step. The other 11 are worthless (well, except for
the videos - those are invaluable) unless you get out there and see
what happens. Remember, these things take time.
I got up this morning, I checked the internet and saw that Pawtuxney
Phil saw his shadow. This is good news because my 6 week comeback plan
starts today and without 6 more weeks of winter, the comeback would
be all for not. So, now assured that I have plenty of time, I begin.
Today I went skiing. Normally not a groundbreaking event, but once I
got out there I realized that it was the first time I had gone skiing
with the expressed purpose of training in about a month. Every other
time I have been skiing recently it has been to prepare for a race or
to see how I feel or whatever. It felt really good to just get out there
and ski. I didn't worry about how I felt, I just skied. This comeback
is not going to happen overnight, but I am finally getting started and
I am anxious to get to work.
Today I tried to lay out the plan for my training. I want to go to sea-level,
but some recent reading I have done has made me think that I should
see my doctor once more before I leave. So I decide to see the doctor
on Monday and spend the rest of the day worrying about what he might
I skied at Soldier Hollow today. I felt great. I skied for two hours,
not very fast, but it still felt wonderful to push up all the hills
and break a real sweat. I was exhausted afterwards, but for the first
time in weeks it felt good to be tired.
Saw the doctor this morning. He checked me out and ruled out a few causes,
which made me feel good enough to book a ticket back east. I have had
a frequent flyer ticket kicking around for a while, so I decided to
cash it in for a flight to Manchester, NH. I leave tomorrow which means
I have some packing to do. Also made my mix tape. Did you think I was
kidding about that?
Travel Day. I spent 5 hours in the Chicago Airport. Watched the CNN
Airport network's 30 minute show 10 times. Now I, like the rest of the
world, can't wait to hear Cisco Systems earnings announcement at 4:30
Now back in New Hampshire and I can not believe how much snow there
is. I had perfect timing. A storm came through yesterday and dumped
between one and two feet (feet! you never measure eastern storms in
feet!) of snow. There is more snow on the ground than I have seen here
in many years. Today I skied at Bretton
Woods, whom I need to thank for giving me a complimentary ticket.
They are still having a bit of trouble getting all the new snow groomed,
but it was great classic skiing. I skied for two hours. The whole time
I just kept thinking to myself, "this was such a good idea, I am
so happy to be here. " It felt so good to ski up the hills without
feeling completely out of breath. I wanted to ski more, but I limited
myself to two hours.
Today I did intervals. Speed and intervals will be a big part of my
program. After all, I still have a good base, I just need to be faster.
I hope to do at least 3 hard/fast sessions a week. Today I did 8 x one
minute intervals. Just some quick speed stuff to gear up for my first
race this weekend. I felt a little sluggish during the intervals, but
as I keep saying, these things take time.
Just when you forget what skiing in the east is really like - it rains.
It rained quite a bit today, but we didn't lose a lot of snow, it just
settled down a bit. I went running instead of skiing. A little bit of
running and strength training will also be a part of my training. It
will keep my muscles fresh.
Going through my 12 step program, I have completed up through step 9.
Moving on to step 10, today I went to Dartmouth to watch their carnival
races. It was fun to watch a race and observe. It was also fun to see
all the people who show up for those races. Locals, parents, students,
alums. There is a reason it is called a Carnival - it is a lot of fun.
I think that atmosphere is something I have been missing at a lot of
the races I go to. The college and citizen races out west don't compare
and the FIS races are too serious.
My first race. My plan is to do Eastern Cup races for the next few weeks.
I don't really want to worry about results, I just want to ski hard
and hope that I start feeling faster. I know that I can't expect a change
overnight, so results are secondary, at least for now. But having said
all that, when I arrived at the race I knew that I had a chance to win.
The only competition there, other than high school and college skiers,
was Pat Cote and Paul Stone, two other former Dartmouth skiers. I had
thought that the race was mass start, which would have been great -
I could just stay with the leaders, assess how I felt, and see what
happened. But unfortunately, it was individual start, meaning that I
would have to push the whole way. During the race I felt good on the
uphills, which was good because the course included a 2K climb that
was pretty tough. But on the flats, I wa struggling. I think I really
need to work on my V2. I just don't have any strength in my legs when
I try to push off in V2. (Mental Note: add more no poles skiing to the
plan). I had a few spots where I felt tired and sluggish, but overall,
it was a good effort. I felt better than I have in months. I did win
the race, by 30 seconds over Pat Cote. So even if I didn't feel spectacular,
a win is always good for the ego. So far, so good.
Ponds Volvo Eastern Cup Results
Day off from training today. I'm not feeling all that tired from the
race yesterday, since it was only 10K, but I want to make sure that
I am rested to begin the week. So instead of skiing, I did a little
work, watched some
World Cup race videos, worked on my skis., and stared in amazement
at the trash that passes for entertainment on daytime network TV.
The skiing at Bretton Woods today was very good. I skated for about
two hours, and did some intervals - 5x4 minutes. Because of my V2 futility
in the race the other day, today I played around with that technique
a lot. I tried reaching further forward with my arms. I tried a quicker
tempo, then a longer stride. I tried pushing out to the side more than
down, and vice versa. It seems to me that a main part of my problem,
other than leg strength, is that I am pushing directly down too much.
I need to wait until after I have initiated my weight shift, thus putting
the ski at an angle out to the side rather than right underneath me,
to really push off. Otherwise, I am just pushing directly down, which
does nothing except tire me out. This seems to make intuitive sense,
but I want to play with it some more.
Today was the New Hampshire High School State Meet for the high school
that I went to as well as for the school my dad coaches. So I went over
to Great Glen Trails in Gorham, NH to watch and help out with waxing.
Possibly my favorite moment in ski racing was when our team won this
race for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school. I won't
bore you with a story about the glory days, but I do get a bit nostalgic
when I see how much fun high school skiing is. I watched the morning
skate races and took some pictures of my dad's skiers, then helped the
team wax for the afternoon classic relay. Unfortunately, we chose to
use hard wax and it started raining just as the race started. The skiers
still did their best to fight through it and ended up doing quite well.
I skied almost the whole day without poles, to work on my leg strength
and by the end of the day I was exhausted. Sometimes I think watching
races is harder than participating. Sometimes.
More intervals today. If my body does not remember how to go fast in
a couple of weeks, it won't be for lack of reminders. Today, I did 2
minutes, 3, 4, 2, 3 on classic skis. I was going fast, but more importantly,
I wanted to feel solid. By solid, I mean smooth, long strides and getting
my foot forward to set the wax. No scrambling or stumbling. I haven't
really felt solid in a classic race yet this year, which is very strange
for me. I felt good today though and I hope that I can transfer that
feeling into a race situation. In some ways, I feel like I am a knuckle
ball pitcher who has lost his feel. One minute, he is unhittable. The
next, with no reason or explanation, he is giving up home runs left
and right. I need to get my feel back. There are times when, on classic
skis at least, I feel untouchable. Like I have everything under control
and I am firing on all cylinders. I haven't felt that way at all this
year, but today was the best I have felt. A little more work is required,
but I like the feel of making progress.
Weights. One thing I have neglected recently is circuit training. When
I was in college, we did circuits once a week all winter, usually the
day before a race. At the time, I liked the idea of maintaining strength
and it seemed like doing it right before a race was almost a way to
rest up for the race, since we weren't skiing. It seemed to work very
well. But since that time, conventional wisdom has told me to avoid
strength right before races, because you don't want to be sore. The
only problem with that is that the week is very short, by the time you
take a day off, then do intervals, you only have a day or two until
you race again. Thus it becomes hard to fit strength in. Since the races
I am doing now are not important, I am going to do strength, even if
it means a day or two before a race, like today. Sure I might be sore
(especially this week since I haven't done it in a while), but in the
long run I think it will pay dividends. Besides, this year I saw some
of the best skiers in the country doing weights the day before a race.
Maybe there is something to that old college routine. So today I went
to the gym. I picked out six exercises that I think will maximize my
core strength. Those exercises and a run and I was done for the day.
I am racing tomorrow, but the skiing today was just too good to stop.
I skied for two hours, throwing in a little speed to shake things up.
Since the name of the game for me now is speed, I have started incorporating
what I call the 20/20 (no it has nothing to do with Barbara Walters)
into my distance skis. This means that every 20 minutes, I pick up the
pace to a sprint for 20 seconds. SOmetimes the sprints are longer or
shorter depending on the terrain. I just pick a point down the trail
and race to it. It helps me stay sharp, so I don't get lulled into a
slow pace the whole time. After two hours I was tired (from skiing)
and sore (from yesterday's weights), and I now had to get ready to race
If ever if was apparent that I need to increase my speed, it was today.
Today's race, the Putney Pursuit, was a 5K Classic race in the morning,
followed by a 5K skate pursuit in the afternoon. In the morning race,
my skis were very slow. I decided to race on a pair that I had never
raced on, to gain some experience with them, but I didn't really know
the wax pocket very well. It cost me. I finished second, 20 seconds
behind Jesse Gallagher, which wasn't too bad, but I know I could have
been right with him, or ahead, with decent skis. People came up to me
after the race and remarked at how slow my skis were. You know it's
bad if even spectators can notice that.
I was less than motivated before the skate pursuit. If I had had decent
skis in the morning, I would be duking it out with Jesse for the win.
Instead, I was dueling with a junior for second place and trying to
catch Jesse at the same time. I started with Andy Newell, who stood
up and made me take the lead at the start. That was fine with me because
I was more concerned with Jesse. I was going to go all out to catch
him. I would either catch him or blow up trying. After 2.5K, I hadn't
made up any ground and I still had Andy on my tail. I just couldn't
go as fast as I wanted. I kept trying to move my legs but they wouldn't
go. I decided to let Andy pull for a while. Meanwhile, a couple of skiers
behind us had caught up. With about a K to go, I gave up. I was so upset
and embarrassed by my performance that I had no desire to sprint to
the line with a couple of juniors. Looking back, I am ashamed of this.
I should have sucked up my pride and sprinted. After all, I am here
to get faster and I know it isn't going to happen if I give up. So it
was a bad day and I was mad at myself. Just means I have to keep working.
A day off. I really wanted to ski today to get out and get yesterday
out of my system, but I think that maybe I did too much training last
week, so I want to rest a bit before embarking on this week.
Today I felt really bad. I was supposed to do intervals but after 30
minutes of skiing, I knew that intervals would be a waste of time. I
was not going anywhere fast today. Instead I skied slow for about an
hour and then gave up. Maybe it is just a hangover from this past weekend's
disappointment. It will pass.
So here I am, three weeks into the program. Halfway. I said all along
that it would take time. But I also had set this as a checkpoint. If
I wasn't starting to feel better or race faster by the third weekend,
then maybe something else is wrong and this plan is not going to fix
it. I have been feeling tired this week. That doesn't mean much - tiredness
will come and go - but what is important is how I feel racing this coming
weekend. So with that in mind, I am doing a lot of rest to make sure
I am ready for back to back races this weekend. Today I skied, but only
for an hour and a half. Most of that was without poles to work on leg
strength. It tired me out in a hurry, but a legs-only workout will do
that. After skiing I spent an especially long time stretching, hoping
that that would help my legs recover quicker.
This is an easy week of training. So today when I was feeling a little
tired, I decided to stay home and take the day off. Instead I spent
the whole day preparing for the next to last episode of Temptation Island.
Easy ski at Bretton Woods. Last week I did too much the day before the
race, so today I took it easy. Only an hour and fifteen minutes of slow
skiing with a few sprints. I will be ready to pop a good one tomorrow.
The debate this weekend was whether to do the Stowe Derby, a great race
that I have never done or do a two day pursuit with limited competition.
I haven't done back-to-back races in months and since I will be doing
some of that at Spring Series, I decided to do the pursuit and hope
that someone would show up to make it a good competition. No such luck.
Today's race was a 10K classic, mass start, and before we were even
out of the stadium I had the lead and was pretty sure I would win. I
decided that I would focus on skiing well and moving quickly. I haven't
really felt like I have had a solid classic race yet. I feel like I
am always running or herringboning up hills. I am not skiing. So today,
I tried to really set the wax and explode up the hill, getting maximum
glide. It was tricky on this course because of loose granular snow and
short steep hills, so I did not really accomplish my goal of skiing
technically well. But I did win by a minute and a half, which is always
fun, no matter what the competition.
Since I won yesterday by so much. I had no pressure on today's 10K skate
pursuit. I knew I would win. My goal was, honestly, to blow everyone
out of the water by as much as I could. The weather was brutal. It was
sleeting and the wind was blowing something fierce. It was so bad that
on my first of two 5K loops, a snowmobile had to lead me, grooming a
trail so that the course would be skiable. There were still big snowdrifts
and soft snow, but the sleet was fast so I was able to keep up a good
tempo. I felt good. I was hammering up the hills and recovering enough
on the downhills to do it all again. This was probably the best I have
felt all year in a race. Was it because I was skiing fast or because
I had no competition? Good question. I don't know for sure, but even
if I wasn't skiing that fast, it was a good sign to feel strong again.
I won today's race by three minutes and won the overall pursuit by five
minutes. I may not be all that fast right now, but I am certainly not
I slept in and went to bed early. And that is all I did. A great day.
The best ski day of the year! Somewhere on this website is a list of
my favorite places to ski. Number 3 on that list is Waterville Valley.
And today, for the first time since I have been home in New Hampshire,
I got to ski Waterville. Waterville has really slacked off in the cross
country department recently. But no matter what they do, the trails
are still varied and tons of fun. As I looked at a map last night, I
got an idea. I hadn't been here in years, so which place did I want
to ski first. I couldn't decide, so I resolved to ski every trail there
just to make sure I didn't miss a thing. The map said that they had
80K of trails, but I didn't believe it. It looked more like 50 or 60
to me. That was doable. So today I started in the northern trails, such
as Osceola and Livermore and worked my east to Criterium and Figure
3. I felt great. I was skiing very fast and covering a lot of ground.
To make it even better, I was this first one on the freshly groomed
terrain. It was like it was laid out just for me. The adrenaline was
pumping as each turn brought back memories of my junior racing program
here 10 years ago. As I remarked to my dad, the trails seem a lot shorter
now. After two and a half hours and about 40K, I made a quick pitstop
for lunch and a dip in the hottub, then it was back out the door to
the rest of the trails. I flew up Fletcher's and down the Hairpin. I
had now hit them all, but I was still so keyed up that I couldn't stop.
I skied for another 45 minutes before finally giving in to tiredness.
It was a fabulous day. No matter how much I race, I will always live
for days like this.
Intervals today. SInce I didn't get in my "solid kick" race
on Saturday, I decided that today I would do classic intervals. The
tracks were very hard, almost icy, but hard wax still worked well. Perfect
for what I wanted. I found a gradual uphill that was about 5K long and
did 10 intervals of 45 seconds each. I felt good. i was firing on each
stride, powering up the hill. I was getting tired, but I was also moving
fast and feeling solid on my skis. It was a good workout, so after the
intervals were over, I undertook the fun task of tucking back down the
hill and then called it a day.