my journal


  chronology of a dream

  the list

  reader polls

  training data



  a piece of my mind

  about this site

  rollerski series

comments, problems
  or suggestions:

  send me an email

  advanced search
Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion
  February 1
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:

The Slow Skiers Anonymous 12 Step Program To Quit Slow Skiing.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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 through.

Step 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.

Step 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)

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 11) Start training. This probably should have come before step 11, but I got side tracked with the videos, itches, and such.

Step 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.

February 2
When 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.

February 3
Day 2
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 find.

February 4
Day 3
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.

February 5
Day 4
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?

February 6
Day 5
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 pm eastern.

February 7
Day 6
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.

February 8
Day 7
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.

February 9
Day 8
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.

February 10
Day 9
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.

February 11
Day 10
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.
Grafton Ponds Volvo Eastern Cup Results

February 12
Day 11
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.

February 13
Day 12
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.

February 14
Day 13
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.

February 15
Day 14
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.

February 16
Day 15
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.

February 17
Day 16
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 tomorrow.

February 18
Day 17
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.

February 19
Day 18
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.

February 20
Day 19
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.

February 21
Day 20
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.

February 22
Day 21
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.

February 23
Day 22
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.

February 24
Day 23
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.

February 25
Day 24
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 slow.

February 26
Day 25
I slept in and went to bed early. And that is all I did. A great day.

February 27
Day 26
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.

February 28
Day 27
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.

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.