Friday, March 24, 2017


Spring is officially here. If you are like me this is not great news. Ski season is over and yes, summer is coming but it's definitely not here yet. It may still be possible to find some great skiing if you know where to look, though that too will be quickly fading into into the mud. This time period has its own word in Russian, rasputitsa, and we all deal with this time of year in different ways, I like to get out of town to warmer climates and generally ignore the problem as much as possible. It can't however, be avoided in it's entirety so here are some ways use this time of year productively.

For those of us that are coming off of ski season (fatbike season, snowshoeing, etc) it can be a great time to take a few weeks to decompress. Don't worry about training, spend time with your other hobbies and catch up on reading! Reflect on your season and look at what you did well and what you want to improve on for the future. Create goals and discuss strategies to achieve them with your coach.This important physical and psychological break will help you reset and be ready to start fresh.

If you can't sit still or your priority is in the spring/summer you have to find ways to train. Many of us participate in endurance sport to get out of town. We relish time on the deserted country road or winding trail in the woods. Both of these options have some challenges during mud season. Drivers are not thinking of cyclists or runners on the road yet. Often the melting snowbanks and debris that have piled up change routes and force you to take a risky line. Be careful! No workout is worth tangling with a car. If you do choose to train on a paved road or path work into it slowly. If you are coming off of a winter of skiing or running on a treadmill your joints are not ready to pound pavement. Starting by mixing pavement and treadmill running, gradually building to primarily running on the pavement.

For those like me that are super excited to get on the trails DON'T. They are sopping wet and the rutts your tire tracks and footprints make take time and money to repair. Leave no trace, just like camping. Nobody likes ridding rutty trail just like no one likes trash at their campsite. It is much better to spend precious fundraised money on new trail instead of repairing easily avoided damage.

This leaves a couple options, train inside or find some pavement and possibly gravel. The trainer, treadmill, rowing machine are all excellent workouts. Work with your coach to come up with creative workouts that utilize these machines and minimize the tedium. The precision and mental toughness that can be developed during these workouts will be instrumental in keeping you focused during a competition.

Don't let rasputitisa get you down, mix it up and be patient, summer will come. Hopefully soon. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Routine on the Road

One of the most important aspects to saying fit and healthy is creating a routine. This is much less daunting when at home, in an environment that you are familiar with and can control. While on the road it is best to create a routine of flexibility. You need to take the opportunities that your schedule provides and plan ahead to do some exercise each day.

While traveling I commit ahead of time to a 10 minute strength workout every day. This is not much but I know I can find 10 minutes each day to workout. By making this easily attainable it ensures that I will do something each day. I hope to add some skiing to this to create a good week of exercising but trip itineraries can quickly get packed with activities so I will hope for more but be content with 10 minutes a day. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Coach Collaboration

Yesterday I gave a lesson to another coach in town. Initially I was surprised that he wanted to take a lesson from me. He's been coaching for quite a while. We have never worked together before in any capacity so it was a request that I was not expecting. As we got started I was not sure how it would go. A coach can have a pretty delicate ego. It was actually one of the best lessons I have given this winter. Not only was he receptive to my suggestions but we had great discussions about why I made those suggestions and how we could relate that information to our athletes.

Coaches spend a lot of time recruiting athletes and trying to differentiate themselves from other programs. This causes a lot of opportunities for collaboration to be lost. I was excited that this opportunity came up. None of us are the best at everything. Many other coaches can give us great insight into a part of coaching that they excel at. The short of it is no matter how much you have learned you can always learn more and everyone has something to offer us as we strive to be the best athlete or coach we can be.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”– John Wooden

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Goals

The week between Christmas and New Years was crazy! Trying to pack a week's worth of work into three days made it hard to prioritize working out. While I was bummed about this I had a great time with family and friends over the holidays so it was okay. Creating a workout routine has been challenging since my life has very little in it that is routine. This is the main challenge I have when trying to be consistent with exercise. Just need to keep improving my time management and prioritizing my health and fitness. This is the main personal objective for 2017.

The new year weekend was active so that was a good start. Some friends and I rented a yurt in the UP of Michigan had a great time skiing lake effect powder all weekend.  for new years we skinned up the mountain (Midwest for very large hill) and skied down the main run right to our yurt. It was the perfect way to start the year.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Easing Into It

Athlete Jason Kask
This week is the first week in a long time that I have constantly worked out. These were not big workouts by any measure but they were workouts where I was there to train myself. No athletes to worry about, it was all about me (well one was about me and Tyr). This started on Sunday, a friend told me that she would and some mutual friends would be skiing at Korkki Nordic Center. This is a trail that I try to ski at least once a year. So why not on the coldest day so far this winter. When I was there it was not bad (-4 degrees F). I had overdressed but all in all it was a great ski. Just moving outside by myself. My friends got me out the door but I was pretty excited to ski by myself, something I rarely do. The woods were silent when I stopped moving. It was great. My second ski of the week was at another great trail, Chester Bowl. There I skied with Jennie Bender (amazing athlete and super cool lady), she was in town after Biathlon IBU Cup Trials at Mt Itasca. We had a great ski, three (Jenny Bender easy) laps of Chester is a solid workout when you are pretty out of shape. It is such a fun trail that any ski there is amazing. Jennie gave me some excellent technique tips. When you coach all the time you rarely take the time to really analyze your own technique so skiing with someone that is great at technique analysis was excellent. The third workout of the week was at Hartley Park. Jennie, Alena and I had a great classic ski. The tracks were amazing. Three days in a row was pretty sweet, up to this point it had been a bunch of coaching (that doesn't count) and walks with Tyr (which are great but at 8 months he is not supposed to run for extended periods of time). My fourth workout of the week was on Wednesday, Chris and I went for another great ski at Snowflake. With the little snow we have conditions are excellent there. We had a great ski, solved some world problems, solved more local problems and had a great time catching up. My fourth workout of the week (after taking a day off Thursday because I didn't prioritize working out) was on Friday. This one was short and sweet. Tyr went for his first ski! Pretty amazing day for me (they grow up so fast!) It took him a while to get the hang of it, we skied with Jennie as she warmed up for some intervals, and he would run in front of both of us, then jump out of the way as we almost mowed him down. After about a kilometer he figured out that behind is the best place for a dog. The next four kilometers went really well (astonishingly well) as he ran behind us. He would stop and smell (the snow...) then I'd call and he would be right behind us again. Everything went super smoothly and I was the greatest dog trainer ever until we got back to the chalet and there was another dog. Then all bets were off and I was thoroughly ignored. But, the first ski was an overwhelming success. That aside it was a pretty short workout for me, but I was OK with that because I had a lot of work to do. I got out skiing and had Tyr's first ski. Solid day. That makes us current. I don't know how much training the weekend will entail. There is a strong possibility of a run and maybe a ski on the lake but it's Christmas so I'm not going to worry about it.

I feel pretty good about this week. Four (legit, though easy) workouts in five days is good for me. I'm pretty proud of myself, to be honest. Hopefully next week the trend will continue and I will be in a good place to start working with a coach on the first of the year.

Coach Jason Kask

I know better than most one of the keys to success in sport is consistency. This was something that happened with this week's training. If any goals are to be met consistency is the key. The other thing that went well is scheduling and prioritization. Honestly this means I will have to work on Christmas Eve but all things considered it was worth it. Having a realistic approach to training is really important Athlete Jason did that well this week. He didn't try to go for workouts that he would have done in college, he did workouts that were what he needs now. This is hard to do as an athlete because we usually only think of ourselves at our peak fitness. It's also great to see Athlete Jason put his money where his mouth is and pay somebody to coach him. I shouldn't have to do that for free. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The 2011/12 Ski Season: Short and ...

This winter has been an interesting one for me. I live in a place with no snow, and no easy access to snow. It requires a two and a half our drive to get to a ski trail. That is a lot of commitment to just go for a ski. I've done it before and never regret the drive because I love to ski. The problem is I also like to explore Colorado Springs and it gets expensive driving up to the mountains every weekend so I have not skied as much as I would like this winter. In general this is not a problem, there are lots of ways to stay active without snow, none quite as enjoyable as skiing but fun none the less. It quickly becomes a problem when I decide that it is a good idea to sign up for all the crazy races Colorado has to offer. In my current detrained state I can still ski race at a clip that would be a  solid performance in a local Wednesday night race and it would be a great training session. Again there is a problem, I can't drive 5 hours on a Wednesday evening, to be honest I probably could but the next day would be long and with my mountain bike sitting next to the door is never going to happen.
Everybody wanted front row seats!
Instead I show up at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail for a weekend of fun. There will be ski races, bike races, climbing competitions and outdoor concerts- a plethora of fun to be had!  It made for a great weekend. I saw they were hosting a 10k skate race and though it would be fun to give it a go.  And it really was fun.  The mass start (with $1000 on the line and a $100 prem for the first k) went out hard as could be expected.  It just so happens that the next day was a marathon in Aspen and everyone was eager to get their hands on an extra couple bucks for the weekend so it as the most stacked field I have raced in years.  I skied my race after going out way to fast and held on pretty well through the flats on the fist half. I had some good climbs on the second half and finished. Not much more to it than that. I went home took a nap and headed out to watch the climbing competition.
Mixed Climbing 
It was pretty amazing to see what those guys can do.  I then headed to La Cantina for some great food and went back out to the street concert- an 80's cover band that was putting on an excellent show. The next day I watched a friend ski the ski mountaineering race which looked very like an exciting challenge and spent the rest of the day skiing Vail. That evening I went to watch the bike slalom, and on snow criterium as well as the boot race, all were quite fun to spectate!
On Snow Criterium
When I picked up my packet for the two races I was entered in, the 10k and the Vail Uphill, I was surprised to learn that I the only person entered in the 'track ski' category. Then after skiing a day on the mountain I began to feel the dread seeping in that I had made a terrible mistake.  This mistake was confirmed the next morning when I show up with my skate skis (the only ones I brought) and the first thing said to me is "those aren't the skis your racing on are they?" I proceed to explain that I am and not only that I don't have any other skis with me. All that I have in my car is a pair of worn out running shoes with no tread left. After having this conversation a couple more times I put my toes on the line for the two mile endeavor from Lionshead Village to the top of the gondola, two miles of the steepest climbing I have ever done. Here is the course map. It took 45 minutes of herring boning to get to the top. At this time I think it was the hardest event I had ever done. That would change later in the season...
Boot Run

A few weeks after the Teva Games a friend called and asked if I wanted to do a race in Steamboat Springs.  The North Routt Coureur des Bois (Glide the Divide) is an ultra-marathon that covers 90 hilly kilometers north of Steamboat across the Wyoming border and back.
I had heard about it before and thought it would be the year to do it because I am living in Colorado. That is a terrible reason to do a race of this nature. Again it wasn't a nice little Wednesday night race. It was 90 kilometers of the most grueling terrain I have ever seen. At the start I saw a volunteer with a sweatshirt on that said 'America's Toughest Ski Race' and I thought that was pretty bold. The first 14k were pretty flat, we raced around a lake. I ended up at the end of this section with a group of five, including a coach from JO's that I hadn't seen in years. We didn't get a chance to chat much but it was nice to know one person in the group.
Then we got to the first road crossing (we had to take our skis off and run across the street). A few more k's passed and we started to lasted a long time but I still felt good at the top and then we had some flats followed by the bumpiest, iciest descent I have ever experienced!  It was the first of many sections that felt like I was water skiing on a day meant for sailing! Then we climbed a little more and came to an aid station at about 30k. At a third of the way through the race it was still fast and I was feeling good- my former coach and I were cruising along at a good clip.
It started to warm up in the next few kilometers but I felt good through the 40k mark. After that it got a little rough. I made it to the aid station at 45k in Wyoming. Here I sat down and had a bite to eat. I had a few Fig Newtons, a slice of bacon and some Snickers. I decided to pass on the shot of whiskey that was offered, I am quite sure that would have made my situation worse!  The friendly volunteers kept telling me I was quite relaxed, this was true but only because I knew I needed to eat and gather my resolve for what was to come. I saw a fellow skier from northern Minnesota leave the aid station so I decided I would follow and we could ski together.  This was wishful thinking on my part. He had a 100m lead and I could not catch up. In about five k he was out of sight. I went through the 50k mark and then began to climb. It was a long section to the aid station at 60k. The whole time I thought of how jealous I was of my friend doing the 45k race. In the beginning I was excited to have this race under my belt for what ever bragging rights would come with it, at this point I only wanted to finish because I did not know how else I would get out of the middle of nowhere other than  skiing out and I did not want to feel like I had to come back and prove I could do it. When I made it to the next aid station I sat down and had some more to eat. Here I exchanged glances with a friend that classiced past (miraculously with excellent kick!). There was nothing for him to say, we both knew that I was in a bad place with a long ways to go.  After he left I remembered what I should have said a simple 'good job'. It would have been fitting but I couldn't think of those words at the time, I was pretty out of it.
I left the aid station and proceeded down a huge hill that was snow plowed out, I was amazed that I didn't fall during the entire event. I descended for a while which was nice except that I could not tuck for digestive reasons so I just stood there going fast in the shade and very slow in the sun trying to stay on my feet.  At this point I though I would finish, I wasn't feeling good but now I was more upset about starting than I was worried about finishing. There was a large valley where I saw a building and seriously though about skiing over to it for a nap but decided against it. I made it to the woods again and started to climb. Here a woman caught me that asked if I knew where the next station was. We had just passed the 75k mark and the previous aid station said that was where we would have the next one. I told here my friends that had skied it in the past told me it was at 80k after a huge uphill, they were right.  She said she was a little worried because she was coughing up blood. I though that was a legitimate thing to worry about but had no way to help her. We were still a long way from nowhere (aka the finish). We proceeded to the base of the large hill my friends described and took off our skis and started hiking. Once at the top we were at the aid station. This was the last one, 12k to go. there was a race official here taking someone back to the finish that had dropped and the woman coughing blood told him of here situation. He was very concerned (as any race official should be) but she refused to drop. He asked me how I was doing and I said I would finish, I had come this far and didn't want to have to do that again to remove this from my bucket list.
After leaving the aid station we descended and I started to feel a little better (though I still could not tuck). Again it was super bumpy and with my legs on the verge of cramping made for a few sketchy pitches. Once it flattened out I skied my way uneventfully to the finish. Here my friends were waiting with a warm coat even though it must have been over 50 degrees it felt nice to put it on. We sat at the resort that comprised the finish and had some food and something to drink. We shared the stories of our ordeal and how it compared to other races and previous years. As always the great company after any race makes it easy to forget the immediate pain. It was concluded that it was deserved to describe it as "America's Toughest Ski Race".

This will conclude my race season of 11/12.  Next year I can only promise one thing, if I remember how I felt during this race I will not sign up again. It was concluded at the finish that if you had a bad experience it takes about 4-5 years to forget it and sign up again, hopefully my memory lasts much longer than that! While it is always a bummer to see the snow melt, I am happy that it has led to longer days and great riding in the Springs. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Travels

Over the last few months I have spent a lot of time traveling. In the middle of December I went to Boston for a meeting. After that I headed home for Christmas and was hoping to spend as much time as possible skiing. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans- I only was able to ski four times!  Other than the lack of snow it was great to be back in Minnesota for a few days. I was able to see  my family and spend some time with my friends. My family spend Christmas at the cabin which is always a blast. There was just enough snow on the lake for perfect lake skiing! For New Years I headed back to Colorado to spend some time in Vail with friends. We spend a few days dodging rocks on the mountain. There was enough snow to ski but it was pretty thing in places.  On New Years Eve we decided to hike into the mountains. We cooked dinner over the fire, and looked down at the fireworks. It was an amazing vantage point to see the fireworks from, being able to look down on them from the top was awesome!  Once it was too cold to stay out any longer we began our hike home.  It was a great way to spend the New Year!

I left Vail and dropped some friends off at the Denver Airport, from there I headed back the the Springs where I repacked and headed to the airport myself. My flight headed to Orlando, from there I drove to Clermont. USA Triathlon sent me to help with the Elite Triathlon Academy's winter training camp. It was a great opportunity to work with some of the best up and coming triathletes in the country. They had a great week of training in Clermont, a hot bed for triathletes in the winter months.

After a little time in the Springs I went to Denver to help coach a camp there. It was a great group of athletes to work with. They were from all across the country and most of them had not met before. I have never been to a camp with such excellent group dynamics.  Everyone trained hard and looked like they got a lot out of the time they spent in Denver. Each night after dinner one person in the group gave a presentation on a topic that was important to them. These led to excellent discussion from topics ranging from psychology, altitude, nutrition and lessons learned from years of racing. All in all it was a great time all around.

The travels continue next weekend. I am headed to Houston to watch my grandpa play his alumni baseball game in Houston, Texas.  It will be great to see the family and the game!