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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

November 1

My second of two days off. Since my last day off, I have felt really good and have enjoyed the skiing. I was not really in need of a day off today, but after talking with Torbjorn, we decided that with the amount of training I have done here and the fact that there are races in two days, I should take today off, just to make sure I am rested and ready to race. As I have said many times before, "Too much rest will rarely hurt you, but too little rest will always hurt you." Mark it down. If you learn one thing from this website, that should be it. No actually if you only learn one thing it should be that the Yankees are evil incarnate and messengers for Satan, but if you learn two things the second should be the thing about rest. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a nap to take and some "Blind Date" I need to watch.

November 2

On our way to ski this morning, Barb Jones commented that the name of the ski trails sounds a lot like "Brrrrrr Chill." It was so appropriate, that we were all dumbfounded that we had never thought of this before. Between all of us in the van we had about 25 training camps worth of experience in Fairbanks and no one had ever realized this clever little play on words. I'm sure the locals either named it on purpose, or picked up on this long ago, but we apparently aren't too quick. But from now on whenever I hear the words Birch Hill, I will be thinking Brrrrrr Chill. After we amused ourselves with this for a while, I was almost disappointed when I headed out to ski and it was almost warm. It was close to twenty degrees! Okay, so I wasn't disappointed. Especially since it is supposed to stay fairly warm for the next couple days. Nothing is worse than a sprint race in extremely cold weather, with the definite exception of the Yankees winning the World Series. I will gladly stand out in the cold for 12 hours tomorrow in -5 degree weather (if its -6 it is not legal for us to race) if it means that the D-Backs (who were second to last on my list of playoff teams I wanted to win the World Series) can win two more games at home. But I digress, what I meant to say is that I classic skied easy for an hour and then did 6x20 second sprints to get juiced up for tomorrows race.

November 3

The Sprints. I won't lie to you, its a bit hard for me to convince myself that this an important race since it is barely November. I have never raced this early in the year, and neither has almost everyone else. And it is doubly harsh to start the season with a sprint race. We all know that we don't have our speed yet, no need to rub it in. But, alas, it is a race, and an important one at that, so we treat it as such. The course was just over one kilometer long: up a gradual hill, down a hill, up another hill, down another hill and you are done. I did a nice long warm up (another word of wisdom from Cory Smith: "The shorter the race, the longer and more thorough your warm up should be." or better yet "The length of your warm up is inversely proportional to the length of the race." Yeah, I like that. Maybe I should start a Words Of Wisdom section) and stretched out and did some 15 second sprints to get ready. I fired out of the start and tried to keep a quick tempo up the first hill. I was moving fast, but I knew everyone else was also and that it would come down to fractions of a second. I free-skated down the hill and started back up. At this point, I knew I was moving as fast as I could, but I wasn't that tired. Sure I was breathing very hard and pushing myself to the limit, but I felt like a golf cart with a governor on the engine. I just couldn't take it up to 11. When I crossed the line, I was spent, but I didn't have the usual sprint burn that you usually feel in your muscles and lungs after a short hard effort. It was a solid effort, but I know that I can go faster with more speed work and more time on snow. After most of the top skiers had come in, John Estle (MC for the race, Fairbanks' resident Nordic Guru and originally from Littleton) announced some unofficial results. He said that my time of 2:24 was good enough for 13th place unofficially. Not bad, all things considered, I thought. Then I went and skied my warm down, packed up and headed home to eat lunch and prepare for the afternoon sprints. About halfway home, Scott Loomis, who also thought he had qualified for the heats, realized he had left his skis at the race. We turned around and went back to Brrrrrr Chill to get them. While he was there, he saw the official results. It turns out that I was 18th and he was 20th. We would not be racing in the afternoon. This hit me very hard, especially since I thought I was in. It turns out that what happened was that John Estle was not reading times he announced from the computer, as we assumed. He was just doing a very good time of calculating split times himself off the clock in the stadium. The only problem with this is that in the start you are allowed to leave up to three seconds before your start time, or up to three seconds late. This means that the time that appears on the clock as you cross the line is only accurate to within +/- 3 seconds. The computer then takes into account your actual start time when your time is recorded. But it also means that the margin for error when calculating splits is 6 seconds. This is huge in a sprint race where there can be 50 guys within 6 six seconds. (which reminds me of yet another Word of Wisdom: Always leave a couple seconds early in an individual start race, because if computer timing ever fails and they have to use the back up hand timing, you have just subtracted a few seconds from your time. But also remember that if you get splits out on the course, you could be as much as 5 seconds slower, relative to another skier, than the information you hear. It works both ways.) Thus as it turned out, I finished 18th, a mere half a second from Carl Swenson, the 16th qualifier who ended up making it all the way to the final. As Carl said later in the wax room, "I felt like I was going as hard as I could in the prelims, but once I got into the heats, I realized that I needed to go even faster and I was able to pick it up." That's the way I felt. I thought I was going as hard as I could, but I know if I had someone to chase, I could go much faster.

Sprint Results 11-3-2001

November 4

Remember what Carl said yesterday? Of course you do, you just read it. Well today's race can be summed up in one word: ditto. Just like yesterday, I needed someone to chase. I started 30 seconds in front of my roommate, Scott Loomis, in today's 15K Classic race. I thought I was skiing well for the first 5K lap. I was feeling smooth and strong. Then I heard cheers for Scott not far behind me! How could Scott catch me so soon?!? I just beat him in a time trial a few weeks ago. He could definitely beat me in the race, but he should not be able to make up 30 seconds in 5K in a classic race. I did manage to hold him off until the 9K mark, when he finally went by. But, of all the people on the course, I knew I could ski with him and I latched on and stayed with him. The weird part was, I felt better skiing behind him, at a faster pace, than I had skiing alone and slower before. Going up a couple of the hills, I even debated whether I should pass him and try to break away. I decided to hold off and stay where I was and maybe make a move closer to the end. I felt good, but not that good. I held on for the rest of the race. In the end, Scott picked it up and it was all I could do to stay on his heels, never mind try to break away. But he had pulled me for the last third of the race and had given me that person to chase that I desperately needed. I knew my race wasn't great. Scott hadn't been in the top ten, so there was no way I could be. But I also knew that it was better than last year and that I had been able to get the engine up to 11 when I needed to. I ended up in 17th place, only one place behind Scott as it turned out. Not exactly the top 8 finishes I will need to make the Olympic Team, but still a positive race that I can build on.

10K/15K Classic Race Results 11-4-2001

November 16

Ahhh, back on the road. Must be time for more journal entries. So what has happened since I left Fairbanks? Well, hold your horses and I'll get to it. But first let me tell you a little something I have learned about making plans for ski camps. Always be flexible. There are so many variables that we have no control over (snow, sickness, travel delays) that if you don't relax and go with the flow, you can work yourself into hysterics in no time. Now, back to our regularly scheduled summary of the past 12 days. Immediately after the last race in Fairbanks on Sunday, I jumped in a van and hitched a ride back to Anchorage with the APU/Gold 2002 team. I was scheduled to fly out of Anchorage on Tuesday and I wanted to get a chance to ski there at least once before leaving. I knew there was no snow in Utah, so I wanted to take advantage of it while I could. The skiing in Anchorage was so good that I decided that I wanted to stay an extra day. I was using a frequent flier ticket so it was no problem to switch it. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but I promised the people at work that I would be back sometime that week. So I skied in Anchorage on Monday and Tuesday, then flew back to Utah on Wednesday. Upon returning to Utah, where it was 65 degrees and sunny, I promptly got sick. This really bummed me out. I had seventeen days between the Fairbanks races and the first Silver Star race and it was a great time to get in a solid 10 day period of training. But now, instead of training up a storm, I was laying in bed trying to get my resting heartrate back down below 50 beats per minute (it is normally 40). From that Thursday until the following Thursday, I trained only four times and only did half of one interval session, instead of the three I had planned. I was very frustrated. I did everything I could to get healthy, but this illness was stubborn. As much as I wanted to train, I also knew that the most important thing was to get healthy before heading to Silver Star. So I rested and drank tons of fluids. By the time I boarded the plane this morning I was feeling better, but I was still tired from fighting the virus. Looking back, there are many things I could have done differently. I could have stayed in Anchorage longer and skied. I could have come home right away after the races to rest. Any number of things might have been better. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Hind sight is always 20/20 and no plan will ever be perfect. The key for me now is to accept what has happened and move on. Relax and go with the flow. The season is still young, and its better to be sick while I am sitting at home rather than at Nationals or something.

So anyway, that is all behind me and I am back in one of my favorite places to ski in the whole world. Silver Star, British Columbia. In mid October, reports started circulating about huge snowfalls in Silver Star. The word was that by October 20, they had close to three feet of snow and as of the beginning of November all trails were open and groomed. I couldn't wait to get here. But then earlier this week, just days before most of the racers were supposed to arrive, it rained for three days and washed away most of the snow. We all feared the worst. We heard that there was still skiing, but we had no idea what that meant. I arrived here this evening and I have to say that it is worse than I feared. On the drive up the mountain we did not see any snow until we were less than a kilometer from Silver Star village, and even then it was mostly ice, not snow. In the village, the parking lots were a mixture of ice and dirt. The town square had snow, but it was rock hard (I slipped and fell on my butt just trying to walk on it). When we asked some skiers who have been here a few days how the skiing was, they all just kind of smirked and said, "Well, its fast." Uh oh. I tried not to think about it and went to bed. After all, I am in Silver Star, in the general scheme of things how bad can it be?

November 17

Still not too optimistic about the snow, I grabbed my rock skis this morning and walked over to the town square. Here at Silver Star there are two main trail networks, the lower trails - which are the race trails, and the upper trails on the mountain. The rain had wiped out the skiing on the lower trails, so from the town square I hiked up the upper trail access about a hundred meters until I reached skiable snow. From here, I made my way up the mountain, checking out all the side trails on the way to see what was groomed. Once I was about a kilometer from the village I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had tilled the snow last night and the skiing was pretty good. I skated for two hours, checking out all the trails to assess the conditions. Looks like there is about 20 k's of groomed trails, and though it is hard and fast loose granular, there is plenty of snow. As long as you don't think about how good it must have been a week ago, its pretty good skiing for mid-November.

The morning ski tired me out more than I would have liked. I guess I am still recovering from my illness. After lunch, I climbed into bed to read and promptly fell asleep. Our bedroom has no windows and was pitch black, so I was out like a light for two hours. When I woke up I had no idea what day it was, where I was, or what my name was. Now THAT was a good nap. When I finally came to and got my wits about me (such as they are), I went back out to ski. It was clearly klister conditions, so I slapped some violet klister on a new pair of skis and headed out the door. Problem was, I didn't know the pocket on these new skis and I waxed way too short. I had no kick at all. Refusing to admit defeat and rewax, I instead did a double pole specific strength workout. After about an hour, I realized that I was about 10K from the trailhead and it was getting dark. No, it wasn't getting dark, it was dark. I had forgotten that it gets dark just after 4:00 up here this time of year. Fortunately, snow is white (this just in. . .) and the minimal moonlight was enough for the tracks to show up and lead me home.

November 18

I was happy to see that my morning heartrate was very close to normal this morning, even after my first full day of training in over a week yesterday. I wanted to charge out the door and do some intervals, but I restrained myself. One good day doesn't mean I am 100%. One day last week, I woke up feeling better, so I tried to do rollerski intervals and it almost killed me. I haven't felt that slow and exhausted in a long time. So I decided that this time I would do one more day of normal training before attempting intervals. This morning I couldn't bring myself to deal with klister again, so I skated for two hours. The skiing was even better today. I think that every time the groomer goes over it, it will get chopped up more and improve.

After another good nap this afternoon, I was debating whether I should do the strength workout in the gym that I had planned. I was still groggy and I had a headache. Should I rest or should I push it? Just as I was trying to make a decision, my roommate Erik asked if I wanted to join him for a gym workout. I took this as a sign that I should go and promptly got changed into my running/gym clothes. Push it I shall.

The gym was packed. There were probably more people in the gym than on the trails this afternoon. It was good for motivation to see so many people doing the same thing. I did strength for an hour (20 minutes longer than I planned) and then went home. I felt great and was glad that I had motivated to do the workout.

November 19

For some reason, I have been having a really hard time waking up in the morning. When I am at home, I wake up at 7:00 am like clockwork. Here, we are a time zone behind, so I should be waking up at 6:00.. But the first two days here, I woke up at 8:00 and that was only because Erik got up, which woke me. I guess its because of our cave of a room gets no light. It could be noon and I'd think it was 2:00 am. So this morning I actually set an alarm for 7:00, and got out of bed at 7:15. I decided that this morning I was ready for intervals, so I waxed up my skis with combination of Violet and Universal klister in a longer pocket. But just as I was finishing my beautiful wax job, some strange white stuff started to fall from the sky. Snow? Snow!! Yesterday I had been insisting to everyone I saw that it was going to snow today, even though it was not in the forecast for at least the next week. And lo and behold I was right. I debated taking some hard wax with me, just in case there was significant accumulation. But then, on the other hand, I might jinx this gift from above if I plan for more snow. I left home without hard wax and hoped for the best.

I did 3x3 minutes level IV intervals, followed by 4x 1 minute level IV-V, and despite the fact that the snow continued to fall and fill in the tracks, my klister did not ice up. It got slow, but I was so happy about the snow that I didn't care. I finished my intervals, which went okay even though I was still tired, and skied for another 45 minutes before heading home.

This afternoon, after my third nap in three days (boy I guess I have been tired recently) I skated for just over an hour without poles. I went pretty slow (my speed workout was this morning - no need to kill myself now) but it was still a good workout for the legs. By now the snow was starting to let up. In all, we only got an inch or so, but that should really help improve the skiing. This afternoon I dare say it was great skiing.

After skiing and good dinner, I climbed into our hot tub to soak my weary muscles. I was sitting in the hot tub, looking across at the ski hill, the lighted Christmas tree on top of the knoll, and a light snow still falling though the streetlights in town. At the same time the clouds were clearing and the stars were coming out. Now this is Silver Star. It is good to be back.

November 20

A day off - the traditional rest day two days before the race. As I have said many times, usually I look forward to rest days while I am on the road and milk them for all they are worth by doing absolutely nothing. Today started out that way. I woke up at 7:30 and rolled over and went back to sleep until 8:30. By then I was itching to get up and see if it had snowed any more last night. As I stumbled out into the kitchen, I took a glance out the window and sure enough - another 3 inches or so! That's when I started to feel it - a burning desire to go out skiing started to build within me. The combination of the new snow and the knowledge that my time to ski here in Silver Star is limited made me REALLY want to ski today. My roommates thought there was something very wrong with me - mild mannered, mellow Cory was now pacing back and forth and jumping up and down, walking to the window and then back to the couch at least once every two minutes. Physically I knew I needed a good day of rest after being sick and then training a lot my first three days here. But mentally, all I could focus on was the heavenly white stuff piling up outside our door. Good training sense eventually prevailed and I decided that I would not ski - I would just take a walk around the village instead to get some fresh air. This idea worked great until I found myself in the coffee shop ordering a tall mocha, and after that I was all amped up again. It's ok though, I would much rather feel like this than experience the lack of motivation I felt a few weeks ago in Fairbanks.

November 21

Tomorrow is our first race, a 10K classic, so today everyone headed out to the race course to test skis and wax. Because the lower trails, where we usually race, only have the recent 6-7 inches of snow on them, we are racing up higher on the mountain. This is no big deal except that the course is about 5K from the nearest trailhead, meaning that it is a hassle to cart in a lot of test skis and wax benches, etc. This didn't bother me because I already know which pair of skis I will race on - I have a great pair of Atomic classic skis that are perfect for soft, new snow - so instead of testing 3-4 pairs of skis, I decided to test kick wax instead. It was tough to get a wax that worked great because the temperature was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit and it was snowing heavily. The weather forecast is predicting exactly the same for tomorrow, so despite the tricky conditions, I really wanted to find a kick wax that worked well. Eventually I settled on Rode Extra Violet which was a little slow, but in the range. Once wax was determined, I skied the course twice. It is a 6K loop which climbs gradually for just over 2K, has a fast downhill for 1K, then has a flat 3K back to the finish. I will need a strong double pole to do well tomorrow, which is great because I have worked a lot on my double pole this year and it is probably the strongest part of my classic skiing.

November 22

12K Classic
This morning, a lot of people were freaking out about all sorts of stuff. How will I get all my skis to the start? What wax am I going to use? Where do I pick up my bib? The race was well organized, but the weather and snow conditions had made it a bit more frantic. I couldn't really see what all the fuss was about. I just ignored the mayhem, strapped two pairs of skis to my backpack, filled the pack with kick waxes and a dry shirt and skied off to the race course. Luckily, today was a bit colder than yesterday, so waxing was a bit easier than yesterday, or at least I thought so. I slapped some Rode Mulitgrade Violet on my test skis and skied a lap. I thought it was great kick and fast glide. That's why I was surprised to return to the start/finish area and find most people trying exotic wax combinations, hairies, and generally panicking. It seemed so simple to me. The tracks were pretty firm, so instead of using the soft skis I thought I would use, I pulled out the other pair I had glide waxed (always wax two pairs if you can) which is slightly stiffer - more of a binder & hard wax ski. I waxed them up with Multigrade Violet, still wondering why everyone else thought waxing was so difficult today. When I finished waxing, I had 12 minutes until my start. I took a quick spin on my race skis to make sure they were working, and that's when I got worried. The Multigrade was very slick on my stiffer skis, I hardly had any kick. Without time to test any other waxes, I had to make a quick decision - use the stiffer skis, which were very fast or use my test skis which had kick but were not glide waxed for the conditions. After a minute of internal debate, I decided that since the course had so much double poling, I would be better off with fast skis. I kept the stiffer skis on my feet and went to the start with only 4 minutes to spare.

On the first 2K uphill, I began to regret my decision. I had very little kick and was struggling to stride up the hills. Near the 2K point, I got a split time that I was in either 3rd or 23rd (I couldn't quite understand what he had said). Knowing I wasn't skiing well, I figured it was 23rd. But as I came over the top of the hill and started down, my ski decision started to pay off. My skis were VERY fast. I passed two people going down the hill and on the flat, I was double poling as fast as I could and I felt like I was really moving. At 5K, I got a split that I was in 9th. Wow! I had really moved up. As I started the second lap, Colin Mahood was just starting his race. Going up the hill it was all I could do to stay right behind him. But as soon as we started back down, I went by him so fast he hardly had time to get out the way. Again I double poled like crazy and finished strong.

I ended up 11th. I was a bit disappointed to just miss the top ten, but it was still my best result in a Continental Cup in two years, and much better than my Fairbanks race. I was very happy with my race and glad to still be in the thick of the hunt.
12K Classic Results - Nov 22

November 23

Sprint Race
After my good race yesterday, I was really looking forward to a good result in today's sprint event. The disappointment of being so close, yet so far away in the Fairbanks sprint was fresh in my mind as I lined up to do my preliminary heat today. The only problem was that the course was very winding, with three sharp corners, and I had not had a chance to warm up on the course because of all the racing traffic. I watched a lot of good skiers take the corners and felt confident that the turns weren't too bad. This was a very short sprint course - most people were doing it in less than a minute and a half - so I made sure I was really warm and loose before going to the start. I sprinted as fast as I could go the entire way. I carried too much speed through a couple of the corners and ended up going too wide, but not too bad. Other than that it was, I thought, a good effort and should have given me a chance to compete in the evening heats. But when the results came out, I was 21st, only 0.7 seconds from making the top 16 qualifiers. Another disappointing sprint race for me. Had I lost it in the turns? Maybe, but I should be at least 2-3 seconds faster in a sprint than I am right now, and I didn't lose that much in the turns. So instead of racing in the evening, I was spectating. I tried to use the opportunity to take some race pictures for you all, but it was dark and snowing heavily - a bad combination for taking action photos.
Head To Head Sprint Results - Nov 23
Sprint Preliminary Results

November 25

15K Skate
Our last race in Silver Star was a 15K skate. It has been snowing steadily for almost a week now and there was enough snow to hold this race on the normal race trail in the village. This was good news, of course, but it also meant a pretty hard course with a lot of climbing and fast descents. I had confidence because two years ago I had a great skate race on this same course in nearly the same snow conditions. I waxed up my Beta's with Solda F31 Pink (which has been running great all week) and I knew that I would have fast skis once again.

The race was three laps of a 5K loop. I knew that since it was a hard loop, I would need to pace myself well. But I also knew that if I wanted to be in the race, I needed to start fast and just try to maintain it. I started quick, and going up the first hill, I felt great. I was skiing smooth, but fast. As I climbed, I caught a glimpse of Scott Loomis, about 15 seconds ahead of me on the trail, just starting his second loop. I knew that if I wanted to have a good race I needed to catch and pass Scott soon. After all, he was on his second lap, so he should be more tired than me. I continued to reel him in and at 4K I put on a little sprint and went by, trying to make sure he wouldn't stick with me. As I started my second lap, my other roommate, Erik Stange, was just starting his race. I smiled a bit, thinking about how the three roommates were now one after the other out on the trail. On my second lap, I began to tire, I tried to maintain the same tempo I had on the first lap, but I could feel myself losing power. Near the end of the second lap, I got a split that I was in 23rd place. Not very good, but I still had one more lap to make up time. The third lap was hard, but I felt like I was skiing well - gliding fast and keeping a quick tempo. When I finished, I knew it had not been a great race, but I was hopeful that the result would be respectable and that I would be within striking range of the top 15. But uhhh -- no. I finished 32nd - way out of it. It is frustrating because even though I thought I was skiing well, I was just getting slower and slower as the race wore on. I started well, but I just couldn't maintain the pace that I needed to. I tried to write it off as the first skate race of the year and the last race of a hard week, but I was still pretty bummed.

November 26

It seems like this happens every time I have to leave Silver Star. I just can't bring myself to do it. With all the snow that has been falling for the past week, I really wanted to stay here and enjoy training in it for a week or so after the last race. After all, the next race isn't until December 8 in Thunder Bay, so I have time to spare. I had all but made my decision to stay a couple days ago when reports started coming in of record snowfall in Utah. "Snowbird got 100 inches in 100 hours!" "We have three feet outside our door in Park City!" That sort of stuff. That made my decision harder. The training up here would be better because there are better trails (Soldier Hollow will not open until Dec. 1), but it would also cost more money. Luckily, my original departure date isn't until Tuesday (tomorrow) so I had one more day to make a decision. This morning I decided that I would make my final decision while skiing. I had planned on doing a 3 hour over distance ski, which would give me plenty of time to see what trails were open, how the snow was, etc. I figured that if everything was groomed and the snow was good, I would end up staying.

I headed out the door and immediately went to my favorite trail - the Around the Mountain loop. This loop goes from Silver Star, over to Sovereign Lakes Nordic Center, then around the mountain back to Silver Star. And as I had prayed for all week, it was groomed. I was almost giddy, I was enjoying it so much. I skied around the mountain counter-clockwise, then skied up Silver Star mountain, and dropped down the back side back to Sovereign on the Aberdeen trail, then back around to Silver Star, where I skied most of the trails there before being too tired to go any further. It was the best ski I have had in a very long time. But a funny thing happened while I was skiing. Instead of the fantastic ski making me want to stay longer, I thought, "You know, it doesn't get any better than this. I could stay for another month and never enjoy myself this much again." I eventually decided that this was the perfect note to end the trip on and I skied back to our place to pack up.

November 30

Sure enough the rumors were true - Utah is buried in snow. When I returned two days ago, I could barely find my truck in our driveway because of the three feet of snow piled on it. Even Salt Lake City, which rarely has snow that lasts more than a few hours, was over a foot deep. All the ski resorts are open and enjoying "the greatest snow on earth." As I said earlier, Soldier Hollow does not open until tomorrow, but John Aalberg (SLOC Cross Country Director) had told Torbjorn that the trails were groomed and ready to go. So Erik and I went down there this morning to ski. Sure enough, they were groomed. The only problem was that they had gotten even more snow in the last day or so, and we had to slog through 4 inches of powder in order to do our skate workout. The Soldier Hollow trails are tough enough already, and the extra snow made this a hard workout. That was fine by me, since my goal for this week is to work on leg strength and skate power. Besides, when it is still November, it is illegal to complain about too much snow. In some small Scandinavian countries they will throw you in jail for that. Now if only the midwest would get some snow for our races next week...

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.