Saturday, December 26, 2009

Como Championships

My first xc skiing race since 1983 and my first skate skiing race ever (third time out on skate skis ever). You see that I am suppressing any inclination towards great expectations. Fortunately, I had not any.

I am well familiar with the Como loop from my forays on snowy weekend mornings. When I strapped on my skating outfit for the first time just a week ago, I did not have any expectations either. I finished my two laps faster than I had ever done on classic skis, in something like 43 minutes. I am fully aware that my technical skills are minimal if not non-existent. I am determined to take some class to change that. I do not ski to race but I did stumble over the Como Championships when checking trail conditions at

For the start, I hung back, towards the rear of the pack for the mass start. Good thing that I did, because just about everyone was faster. But I felt good and I felt as though I was moving well, to my own standards at least. I was part of a a somewhat drawn out group of three skiers. With one in particular I kept trading the lead. He was a little faster uphill, while I did better downhill, in particular at quick-stepping the high-speed turns at the bottom of the hills. Unfortunately, I got a little too close to him during the second-to-last downhill and fell. That may have potentially cost me a shot at passing and finishing ahead of him, though I have to admit that that would have been a long shot.

Anyway, I am now aware of what should be my priorities: improve my technique. And keep skiing.

Results (I'm waaaay at the bottom)
Garmin Connect Summary

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My First True Skate Ski

Got up early this morning, 5:30 or so. When I went out to get the paper, it had just started snowing. But by the time I had read most of the paper and done the Sudoku,there was about 0.5" of fresh snow. Good enough, I decided to try out the new and freshly waxed Atomic Skate Race skis, today sans dog.

First I had a bad surprise when my Forerunner 305 would not turn on. It sat in the cradle after uploading the new data, sometimes it turns on. I took the spare unit and headed to Como Park. The track had not been groomed nor had it seen much traffic this morning. Two, maybe three skiers had skated, the traditional nordic track had also seen a little use, for obvious reasons numbers are harder to estimate. At first, the skating seemed to come quite naturally, but I have to admit that I got winded pretty quickly. I also noticed that the tracks left by my predecessors seemed much longer than my own. What was I doing wrong? I was getting so tired that I half decided to stop after only a single lap, but in hindsight I am glad I kept going because all of a sudden it clicked. I had been trying to use both of my legs with equal strength. When I started I push-glide sequence, things began improving. Push right, glide left helped me recover on the glide. Now I began paying attention to alternating the push leg. I definitely feel that my right works better as the pushing leg but I was able to switch to left on my right turns and when my right needed a little break.

Things to work on: my climbing technique, and switching back and forth between right push and left push.

I ended up having a faster and less tiring second lap. As a special treat, I observed a hawk eating a squirrel, just meters from where I was skiing by on the trail.

By the way, the Forerunner started working again after a soft reset. I don't know why Garmin makes it so difficult to find that type of troubleshooting and self-help information. Instead I read about the soft reset at this site.

Friday, December 18, 2009

First Skijoring of the Season

Snow is here, but there's not quite enough of the white stuff. Como Park was groomed last weekend but I did not trust what I saw when I jogged by. Later, during James' hockey practice, I hiked out onto the track laid out on the Highland nine-hole golf course to check conditions. Out in the open, there's enough snow, but close to or under trees, the ground is showing. We do need more snow, it's wearing thin. Too bad that the snow they were announcing earlier this week has not materialized.

Not enough snow means more time to wax those skis! On Monday, I had taken advantage of the Finn Sisu weekly waxing clinic to brush up on my skills. I had a day of classes and practice on waxing skis when I took the course to become initiateur de ski de fond in Belgium in the early 1980s. Either I have become more patient since then or waxing has become easier. The guy at Finn Sisu made it look easy, and it was easy. While I was working on my good pairs I thought that I should just do my old Landsem touring/telemark skis as well.

I did, and I took Mellie for a spin at the Highland 9-hole. No way to stay in the classic track, there was lawn showing every 100 m or so. We mostly stayed on the skating lane, and were thus able to avoid most rough spots. But those touring skis are heavy to skate (almost 4kg for the pair, with boots, as opposed to 3.5kg for my classic outfit and barely 3kg for the skate skis). A good workout for my quads. As I said before, my dog's obsessed by the devil in cold weather, she turns around, grabs the leash, feigns attacks, etc. Not such a great combination for skijoring. The first 400-500 m are great, she's got so much kinetic energy built up that she just goes, goes, goes. But then, she gets just a little out of breath, and the first hill comes and she gets bored. There are so many interesting scents, and occasionally one has to piddle. But she is a good sport and listens to me, at least keeping the tow out from under my skis. We did have a couple of falls, one, where I just lost control on a down hill and sat down, the other, also on a downhill, she decided in mid run that she had to investigate a scent off the trail. I got pretty tangled up that second time. We also let one skate skier pass who caught up to us due to our antics.

I did not have any great expectations for the first time out, on questionable snow and with beat-up equipment. When I looked at my Garmin I was amazed to see that we were doing a 4:38 pace. This is our best time on this course yet. Was it the wider touring skis, the fresh wax or Mellie turning into an adult dog? I do not know.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Orienteering Shoes Arrived Today: Inov-8 Mudclaw 330

Sadly, after O-season is over for me, for this year, unless I squeeze in a trip to Belgium. My Inov-8 Mudclaw 330s, size 12, medium arrived today.

After reading much back and forth on various posts on heel blisters and fit narrower than advertised I was somewhat anxious. I put them on immediately, even before changing out of my work clothes. They fit like gloves or rather socks, firmly with no tightness, maybe maybe with the exception of the top of my right foot big toe. But that is a known issue for me, in most cases my to molds the materials of most of my running shoes. An exceptions were my Adidas Marathon Trainers, a shoe I otherwise liked very much. The right toe ended up poking a hole through the mesh with the two pairs I owned. The Inov-8 materials feels yielding yet tough, I doubt I will have an issue with this. The heel feels very nice, too, and the knobby studs do not bother at all, even on the smooth surface of my home. However, I should not make a judgment before I take a run... Maybe when we have some snow.

Update: I now used the Inov-8s on several occasions. The first time, I developed some heel blisters. I taped the second time, which worked well. I meant to tape the third time but forgot. Still some discomfort after about 8 km in rough terrain, but no blister. After that, they were fine. See other entries in my blog.