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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

West Yellowstone Training Camp

Select Journal Entry by date, or scroll down.
November 21|22|23|24|25|26|27|28|29

November 21

AM Workout: Skate Distance 2:30

It's kind of funny. I have been on-snow for a month now, two weeks in Fairbanks and two more weeks in Park City, but it's not until I got into West Yellwstone last night that I really felt like winter was here. Everyone comes to West for Thanksgiving Week to ring in the ski season with a bang. U.S. Ski Team members, the Fischer/Salomon Factory Factory team, college teams, ski reps for every major company, and hundreds of other skiers ranging from teenagers to masters join in what is probably the biggest skiing "scene" in the country. The ski season really hasn't started until you've experienced West Yellowstone. It was snowing when I got up this morning and didn't stop all day. Supposedly, the skiing was marginal before today but this morning it was beautiful. I skated for two and a half hours. After going around and around a single five kilometer loop in Park City for the part two weeks, it was nice to ski for over two hours and not retrace my steps once. For those of you who have been here before, they have cut a new trails behind the biathlon range that is a lot of fun. It's not very tough, but it's great for cruising during a distance workout.

PM Workout: Classical Speed 1:30

I have been fighting a sickness for the past week and I think I am finally on the verge of kicking it. It's still got me a little run down and so I took great pleasure in having nothing better to do this afternoon than take a nap. I woke just in time to head out for a p.m. session before it got dark. I did an hour of distance and twenty minutes of speed, varying the time for each sprint from 15 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the terrain.

November 22

AM Workout: Skate Intervals 2:20

I might have spoken a bit early about winter being here. The weather has been crazy. It has been above freezing since I got here. In the past 24 hours, I've seen snow, sleet , rain, and plenty of wind. The net result is that we have about a foot of snow on the ground and beautiful skiing. I was supposed to do classic intervals, but I chickened out on the tricky waxing conditions and decided to skate. I did 4 x 12 minutes at level three to four. I felt pretty good and was cruising along pretty well. 48 minutes of interval time is a long workout, but I was just as strong at the end as I did when I started. I was very tired after the workout was over, but encouraged that I have finally kicked my cold. Now I am ready to pick up where I left off in Fairbanks.

PM Workout: Classic Distance 1:40

I was extremely tired this afternoon from the intervals. It's nothing to be concerned about - if you don't feel tired after intervals, then you should be concerned that you didn't go hard enough! I sat in bed and watched football for a few hours. I had quite a headache and didn't really feel like training this afternoon. I eventually got out the door and felt better the longer I skied. The fresh air and the water I drank along the way really helped the headache and I skied easy for a bit longer than I had planned. I will sleep well tonight.

November 23

AM Workout: Classic OD 3:00

Having been sick for the past week, I've gotten lots of advice and unsolicited philosphies on sickness and staying healthly. I was thinking about this as I skied today, because a number of other skiers are taking the day off due to sickness. In any endurance sport, health is critical. In cross country skiing, it is even more critical due to the fact that you spend hours outside in the cold weather - sweating, getting chilled, etc. As a result, health is always on a skier's mind. Unfortunately, I think many skiers worry too much and are actually paranoid about falling ill. Sure, it's a good idea to eat well, get plenty of sleep and wear proper clothing for skiing, but some people take it too far. I believe that sickness is mostly mental. Those who won't train because their heartrate is a couple beats above normal, or won't go to a movie or get in a hot tub because they are afraid of other people's germs are paranoid. I strongly believe that these people make themselves sick by worrying so much. If you constantly say to yourself, "I'm going to get sick," you certainly will. The term "worried sick" is more than just an expression, it's a real disease. If you remain positive you will stay healthier. You might be thinking, "Why should I listen to a kid tell me how to stay healthy, when he was just sick?" Well, everyone will get sick once in a while. I'm saying that how you handle the sickness will go a long ways towards how often you get sick and how quick you recover. I caught this cold from my roommate in Park City, who had it for almost a month. He said that most people he talked to who were sick had the bug for three weeks or so. I think I recovered in only a few days due to the fact that I remained positive and convinced myself that I was getting better. As with most things in life, it all comes back to a positve attitude. That's a long enough harangue for today, but that's what I thought about for my three hours of skiing today so I thought I would share.

PM Workout: Circuits 1:30

Circuits are one workout that is easy to forget once the snow flies. When I am at a training camp, I want to ski, not stay inside and do situps. But it is hard to maintain overall body strength just by skiing alone. So, ciruits must be done. I did a series of sit-ups, bench press, squats, leg press, dips, seated rows, and pull-downs (double poling motion) for 45 minutes after a good warm-up. Not only is this workout a good idea for maintaining strength, but it is also a way of shaking out the muscles after a few days of skiing. Kind of an "active recovery." Speaking of recovery, I came back to the hotel and took a nice soak in the hot tub. Life is good.

November 24

AM Workout: Skate Distance & Specific Strength 2:20

The weather here has been outrageous. Usually, Yellowstone weather is all the same; cold with a lot of snow. In the past few days we have seen everything. When I went to bed last night, it was about 38 degrees and the snow was melting fast. I fully expected the conditions to be minimal this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to six inches of new powder! This was great news, eventhough I was planning on skating this morning and the trails hadn't been groomed since last night. Due to some motivational miracle, I was the second person out on the course today. It figures that the one day I get out skiing early is the one day that the trail isn't packed. I gave it a shot anyway and trodded through half a foot of fresh powder for an hour or so. The best perk to breaking trail is that you get to float through smooth tele-turns on the downhills. That makes it all worth it. After an hour, I decided to do some specific strength and double poled for the rest of the workout.

PM Workout: Classic Distance 2:15

I ended up skiing in the dark tonight due to the fact that I got a late start and I skied fairly long for a PM session. The only other person crazy enough to be out there at that time was my coach, Torbjorn Karlsen. I ran into him after about an hour and we skied together the rest of the way. I don't really get the chance to ski with him all that often, so it was nice to have him there to analyze (and criticize) my technique. I finished at about six and then headed to dinner. We are on a mealplan here and the cooks have obviously been informed of the endurance athlete diet stereotype - lots of carbos. This is not a good thing. When training 4 or 5 hours a day, it is impossible to get enough energy from just pasta and rice. You need to eat meats not only to get enough calories, but also to get the protein you need to rebuild broken down muscles. Obviously, vegetarians find other ways to get these nutrients, but for most of us meat is essential. I have been getting post-workout headaches this week and I am convinced it is because I am not getting the total nutrition that I need. After walking into dinner tonight and seeing a selction of rice, pasta and vegetarian lasagna, I couldn't take it anymore. I walked out right back out and headed for McDonald's. Admittedly, not the best source of meat and protein, but it's OK by my standards. In fact, in college we would eat at McDonald's after every race - but that's another story (and don't even get me started about the donuts). I savored my burgers and fries and went home very satisfied. Anyway, we'll see tomorrow if Cheeseburger extra value meal does the trick.

November 25

AM Workout: Classic Intervals 2:30

Ahh...Classic tracks! I've been on snow for exactly 4 weeks now, but today was the first time I was able to ski in bona fide classic tracks. The tracks showed up at a perfect time since I was do to hard intervals this morning. When you have tracks to ski in, it;s much easier to concentrate on technique and going fast, rather than trying to keep the skis going straight. I warmed up for 45 minutes and then dug right in. I did four 5 minute intervals with 5 minutes of rest in between. The first three minutes of each interval was in rolling terrain, just up and down enough to get me tired out before I hit the two minute climb to finish it off (or, more appropriately, finish me off). After thoroughly exhausting myself on the 5 minute intervals, I did ten 50 second intervals in varied terrain. 50 seconds is just long enough to make it really hurt, but short enough that you recover in time to think, "Hey, I feel pretty good, maybe I'll do a few extra." Then you quickly correct your foolish thoughts when you get 45 seconds into the next one. I was doing these by myself, so it was hard to tell whether I was going relatively fast or not. I felt strong and had decent technique, so I'll call it a successful workout. In case you were wondering, I did not get a headache this afternoon, even after a really hard workout. Maybe I'll write a book - "Following the Golden Arches to Athletic Success."

PM Workout: Skate Distance 2:00

Today was my sixth day in a row of double sessions. I have trained 25 hours in the past six days. I'm a bit tired, but encouraged that I was able to handle that volume and even do intervals on the last day. This afternoon I was just cruising. I didn't get started until 4 pm, so the last hour of skiing was in the dark again. I am beginning to think that after dark is the best time to ski. Everyone else had gone in for the day, so I had the trails to myself. I saw an incredible sunset and no matter how slow I was going I always felt fast because I couldn't see more than 5 feet in front of me. It's always a rush to go down a hill at 30 mph, just hoping that your skis stay in the track. I am looking forward to a day off tomorrow. Nothing but turkey and football for me. I feel like I could keep training for a few more days, but I have a race on Saturday, so it's time to start resting. Besides, it's always better to take a day off before you really need it.

November 26 Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is one of those days that it's hard to be a ski racer. Being on the road away from my family for Thanksgiving is one of the sacrifices that I have to make. I will have a good turkey dinner with the rest of my ski club, The Utah Nordic Alliance, but it's not quite the same as being home. This morning I had to videotape a teammate of mine. He was supposed to do intervals yesterday with me but post-poned because his AM heartrate was too high. He had the same problem today, so he bagged the intervals altogether. But he videotaped me yesterday, so I repaid the favor and taped him today. We try to do technique video once a week or so. It lets our coach see how we are skiing, and he critiques the tape and gives us tips. I skied very, very easy out to the video spot, taped three reps up the hill, and then waddled home. The rest of the day was spent watching bad football, and eating good food.

November 27

AM Workout: Classic With Speed 1:30

Race tomorrow. I hope tomorrow is just like today. It was 25 degrees and sunny at ten o'clock when I skied. I just slapped on some extra blue and it worked like a charm. The worst part about classic races is figuring out the kick wax. It's hard to test wax, warm up, and wax race skis all within an hour before the race. At important races, we have coaches to help with waxing, but tomorrow I am on my own. The forecast I have heard says just like today, but a bit colder which is perfect, simple waxing. I skied the course, doing 8 pick up speeds on the last 4k loop. It is a rolling course with no killer climbs and lots of double pole. Just the way I like it. I finished skiing, did some stretching and headed back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the day. I did go to see the IMAX movie "Everest" this afternoon. It was spectacular, though I was a bit disappointed that it was only 45 minutes. The one part that really hit home was when one of the climbers was making the final push for the summit. He was completely exhausted and barely able to stand up, but knowing that he was so close to his lifelong dream, he kept saying to himself, "Just a few more steps, then I can relax." I think along these same lines when I am racing. I'm not exactly at the top of the world, where one step is the difference between life and death, but it is easy to motivate during a race if you think of all the hard work you have invested just to get to that point.

November 28

AM Workout: 10 K Classic Race

Well, so much for easy waxing. A cold front was supposed to move in last night, but when I woke at 7 am this morning, it was 35 degrees and raining. Over the next two hours, it changed from rain to snow and back at least 3 times. I rewaxed my glide zones with Solda S-20 White and S-30 Violet and hoped for the best. We stopped by to see Torbjorn after breakfast. He gave me a pair of skis with "hairies" on them to test in case the snow kept falling. He also recommended testing a couple types of red klister. The trailhead was a zoo today. All sorts of ski reps trying to find the perfect wax concoction for their skiers. I opened my wax box, took out tubes of red klister and silver klister and applied them about 50/50. To my surprise, it worked really well and after testing the hairies, decided to race on my 5 minute klister job. By this time it was raining and continued to rain throughout the whole race. Once I got racing, I felt pretty tired. It was mostly a double pole course, usually my specialty, but today it was extremely slow and my arms were feeling a week's worth of training. I quickly caught up to Pat Weaver, who started 30 seconds ahead of me and was doing the whole race without kick wax. Even though I caught Pat, I knew I wasn't having a great race. My arms were real tired and I was begging for more uphills, so I could stride it out and use my legs. I muscled through ten k's and was wet. cold and exhausted at the finish. I skipped a warm down and headed straight for the hot-tub. I knew it wasn't a great race, but I just hoped that everyone else had the same problem I did. When I saw the results later this afternoon, it was apparent that not everyone did. I am disappointed that I was over two minutes out, but on a slow course like this, things like that happen. The season is still young and I am glad that I got in a lot of training this week, even if it was at the expense of this race.

November 29

AM Workout: OD Classic 2:45

OK, this last installmment is a little late, but after getting back to Park City I had to do all the things I didn't do last week (pay bills, write letters, work, floss, etc.) so I've been quite busy. Anyway, before leaving Yellowstone, I skied for almost three hours on beautiful snow that fell immediately after the race ended yesterday. It was wonderful, and I enjoyed every last minute, since the weather reports from Park City had been less that perfect (60 degrees and raining). Sure enough, upon arriving home I saw people playing golf where I had been skiing only days before. Surprisingly, it doesn't bother me right now. I have been on snow training hard for over a month and I am ready for a little break. This will give me a chance to run and, more importantly, use my new mountain bike. But if we don't have snow in a week or so, heads will roll. Stay tuned for reports from upcoming races and news of note from Park City.

© 2003 Cory Smith. All Rights Reserved.