Athlete Spotlight: Noah Hoffman

icon_boards

 

 

 

Athlete Spotlight: Noah Hoffman

(Reprinted from TUNA News, by Jen Santoro)

One thousand hours. For U.S. National Team and World Cup skier Noah Hoffman, that’s what it takes to be in the game. That’s nearly twenty hours per week of bounding, running, cycling, strength training, roller skiing and skiing—not to mention keeping a good relationship with all the people who support a ski career.

A child of running parents, Hoffman began running at eight. In his hometown of Aspen, running naturally led to Nordic skiing, and he became hooked on the social environment.

“I was involved in cross country running and all of my friends cross country skied. I got to hang out with my friends—it was purely social.” Hoffman continued to run through middle school, but as a high school student he was torn between soccer, tennis, and running.

“I tried to do cross country, soccer and tennis, but those are all fall sports in Colorado,” he says. “I ended up playing Varsity second doubles in tennis.” He soon found out that tennis is not the best dryland training for Nordic skiing. When his best friend qualified for Junior Olympics in Lake Placid and he didn’t, a fire was lit.

“I went from not training at all to five-hundred hours a year,” he explains, “and I was lucky to be in a sport where hard work pays off.”

Noah Hoffman. Photo Credit: Reese Brown

Noah Hoffman. Photo Credit: Reese Brown

By senior year of high school Hoffman had prioritized. He gave up soccer and tennis and worked out a deal with the cross country coach. He was able to swap some running workouts for roller skiing. Running about two days a week and on weekends he still managed to win the Colorado State Cross Country Championships.

“I had a great coach, and I feel like I was able to pay him back.”

From then on, it was Nordic skiing. Hoffman vaulted to the national level and trips to the U18 Scando Cup in Finland and Sweden as a 17 and 18-year-old.

“I got crushed,” he admits, “it was eye-opening, but it made me want more.” Hoffman didn’t give in. Perseverance paid off, and he had enough success as an U20 at World Juniors to be named to the U.S. National team.

Like every successful career, there are ups and downs. Hoffman is thankful the national team allowed him the time to find success, and that one down year didn’t ruin his chances.

“I didn’t qualify for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, my first year as a senior, but I had success at the U23 Worlds.” That was the beginning of a breakout year in 2011 that put him in an unlikely position.

“I had a top-15 finish in a race during the 2011 Oslo World’s pre-camp,” he explains. “I hadn’t expected to be a World Cup skier that year, but I ended up there and then at World Championships.” He finished in the top 30 twice that year, cementing his spot as America’s current top distance skier. He also finally felt like he belonged at that level and has continued to race in Europe every year since then.

Having barely missed the national team criteria for an “A Team” skier, Hoffman has to rely mainly on the support of sponsors and the National Nordic Foundation. With two training sessions per day, meals, stretching, and sleep, he also has to make time for the administrative aspect of being a full-time athlete.

“People don’t realize how time consuming and how much work it is to solicit funds,” he explains. Hoffman has his own personal sponsor in Thoughtforms Builders, a New England-based builder of custom homes. He also relies heavily on the National Nordic Foundation (NNF).

“The NNF is the vehicle the community uses to support us,” Hoffman says. “We could not be doing what we are without what they are doing. They are a reputable and safe organization doing the legwork.”

That support has allowed Hoffman and the rest of the team to have increased support in the last few years. He credits this new level of professionalism with the sudden increase in podium results for the U.S. Nordic team in recent years.

“There’s no more ‘spaghetti dinner in the neighborhood’ for fundraising. Having the money for a competitive wax staff with the ability to do it right, it’s crucial,” he says, “and NNF has made it possible to have an incredible wax staff.  Every additional tech we have brings it up.”

Hoffman also credits coaches Jason Cork and Chris Grover with the program’s steady improvement since 2000.

When he’s not training, Hoffman is well known in the ski world for the relationship he keeps with the public on his various blogs and social media outlets.

“I feel so much more connected with the skiing public than my European counterparts,” he says. “They can’t believe how public we are with our training and all that, but we have to be role models because that’s why people support us. It has value, even though it’s challenging.”

Although his family is still in Colorado, Hoffman has based himself in Park City for most of his professional career.

“I have been in Park City since 2009, so it’s my seventh summer here. Not only does it have everything—Center of Excellence, mountain biking, roller ski trails, etc.—it is also my training environment.” Hoffman regards Park City as an “office” of sorts, and associates it with hard work, while home and family are his time off.

Hoffman chases a national title in 2015. Photo Credit: Reese Brown

Hoffman chases a national title in 2015. Photo Credit: Reese Brown

A focused athlete who sees skiing as an opportunity for more than just competition, Hoffman relishes the ski community and its people.

“Not only does skiing open doors to the obvious things like seeing the world or college, or learning about yourself, there is another aspect that drives me—the people are amazing. They’re uniformly smart, passionate people, my best friends in the world.”

With what skiing has taught him, Hoffman plans to eventually move on to other things in the future. Those plans run the gamut from mathematics to behind the scenes in the theater. For now, though, he is putting the finishing touches on his most demanding training season yet. He leaves behind some sage advice for the young skiers who are lining up behind him.

“Stick with the things that make you really proud of yourself or excited.” For Hoffman, that pride comes from training as hard as he can and believing he is the fittest athlete.  No matter what the source of pride for an athlete, he advises, “always have something to hang your hat on.”

This article originally appeared in the TUNA News, December 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link

icon_boards

 

 

 

The Skinny on Skinny Skis with Wheels

Master blasters. They’re everywhere. Go to any groomed area in the winter and there will be quite a few of us “older folks” out there. We’re obvious because our form doesn’t look like the kids; maybe we were close to forty when we learned. Our speed is usually pretty good from a lifetime of other endurance sports like running or cycling. In fact, most masters compete at other sports over the summer.

Some of us love skiing so much, though, that we have braved rollerskiing. That usually means buying a pair of skate skis, often the ones with brakes, and gripping our poles with white knuckles for an hour. We kiss the ground at the car upon returning without a career-ending injury. If we make it past the first year, perhaps brave enough to ski fast, it might come to light that it is easy to be fast on rollerskis without good technique. At this point a few brave souls slow down and concentrate on getting all the way on the ski, gliding a bit more, getting hips more forward, and working on some technique above the ankles. After all, that’s the part that’s transferable to the snow.

SmartSelectImage_2016-04-23-11-55-07

The summer’s goal was to classic roll up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Sixteen miles and 4900 vertical feet of perfect kick.

For me, it was the transition from bad-form rollerskiing to thinking about technique that led me to a conclusion; it was time to stop training like a master’s skier and start training like a skier. It’s inmportant to distinguish between just training on roller skis and mindful roller skiing; mindful roller skiing means working on form first. Don’t worry, the heart rate will go up. For me, working on ski form  meant getting on some classic rollerskis. Here’s why:

1. Perfect kick. Sure it feels like cheating, but there are so few days of the year where you can throw on a layer of Blue and practice the positions of classic skiing. If you’re always trying to get out after work, the idea of dealing with kickwax and the setting sun isn’t always appealing either. On rollerskis you can practice the positions, weight shift, and quick hands all summer so you can make efficient use of your time on snow.

2. They used to call it skiing. After all, before alpine, backcountry, cross-country, slopestyle, and snowboarding, there was just skiing. Classic is the history of skiing, and being on classic skis actually improves your technique for classic, skate and even alpine.

3. It’s narrow. If you do any of your summer training on roads with cars, skating can be daunting. You have to be very conscious of traffic, which is no fun in the middle of an L4 interval or the rest in between. Classic skiing takes up about as much room as a bike.

4. Lazy skiing. This is that skiing you do when you’re warming up, or between intervals, or just want to drop your heart rate. Take note the next time you’re on skate skis how much of your “lazy skiing” time is spent no-poles skating. Then try classic skis. You’ll automatically spend your slow time double poling. If you’re paying attention, double poling is the buzzword of the year. If you come from cycling or running, let’s face it, those t-rex arms could use any help you’ll give them.

5. More time on skis. Rollerskiing is great training for skiing, but too much rollerskiing, especially of all one type, can lead to all kinds of overuse injuries. Splitting between classic and skate means you can spend more total time on skis and less time on just one type. At the very least, setting up a shorter pair of poles to use for double pole workouts can save your back from the extra leverage of skate poles.

6. It’s easier to go easy. Let’s face it, skating uphill isn’t easy for anyone. If you’re actually practicing good form, it can be difficult to keep your heart rate down. Classic skis are more forgiving uphill when you’re trying to get in that long OD workout.

7. Mental freshness. Who has spent so much time on rollerskis in the summer that you’re sick of skiing when it finally snows? Ok, almost nobody. But having two kinds of skiing keeps your mind fresh because you actually have to think a little.

8. Real skiers do. Just because you’re a master who competes 95% of the time in skating, doesn’t mean classic isn’t valuable. If it weren’t, why does the US Biathlon team do it? Exactly.

So now that you’re convinced you can’t ski another winter without summer rollerskiing, which rollerskis are the best? I can’t answer that. What I can do, though, is offer my opinion on the Swenor Skate Elite and the Swenor Fiberglass Classic skis. Prior to these skis I had been on another brand of carbon skate skis and some aluminum combi skis with varying levels of success. I got my hands on the Swenor Classics at the beginning of the summer in 2015 and those made me immediately want to upgrade my skate skis too.

Swenor Fiberglass Classic

This is the top of the line model classic ski from Swenor. They bill it as their most popular ski, and their claim to fame is that their skis have “on snow feel.” I received mine pre-drilled for my Salomon setup, easily mounted some bindings, and immediately took them out for a spin around the neighborhood.

Anyone who knows me at all knows how much I hate new equipment. At least for a period of about two weeks. After that, if I have done my research and adjusted to a ski or bike I have a better opinion. These skis were the first piece of equipment that I have loved from the moment I clipped in. Right away the ski gave a little under my weight. Just like a classic ski. That’s because Swenor’s design looks like someone just cut a piece of ski and put wheels on the end. Sounds simple, but I think other brands have over thought the rollerski. The Swenor is a piece of ski; fiberglass-wrapped wood. It is extremely low to the ground and the wheels are wide. I was instantly a better classic skier.

The first box of fun arrived and it didn't even need a bow.

The first box of fun arrived and it didn’t even need a bow.

Sure, I have lots of room for improvement, but most rollerskis are much higher off the ground than skis. With a floppy little classic boot, that means it’s often difficult for the less initiated folks to commit to a solid kick and glide on wheels. Swenor Classic’s wheels are nice and wide and super stable. So yes, instantly I was a better skier. And that meant I felt like going for longer classic skis, which allowed me to find out that these skis also soak up road shock. Much more than the carbon skis of other designs. Certainly more than aluminum.

The included wheels are medium speed, and they roll fast enough that double-pole workouts uphill aren’t a total slog, and those fearsome little rocks don’t stop them short. If you’ve spent any time on rollerskis you know to fear the little tiny rocks, and if you’re old like me, they’re hard to see.

I used to classic rollerski about 20% of the time. With these skis that number immediately jumped to 50%. They became my favorites and made my skate skis look so bad, I had to upgrade to…

Swenor Skate Elite

These skis appear to be built from pieces of ski as well. They are also wood wrapped in fiberglass, but like a skate snow ski they are noticeably stiffer than their classic counterpart. The first thing I noticed was that the ski, outfitted with medium speed wheels, seemed slower than the medium wheeled skis I had been using. I did a rollout, much like a wax test, and discovered that they actually accelerate fast, but the speed decays earlier. These behave more like a pair of snow skis than my previous roller ski.

The Swenor Skate Elite roll smoothly over the little rocks as well, and actually mimic the speed and resistance of a snow ski.

Team Santoro and our happy feet.

Team Santoro and our Happy Feet.

On long days I noticed less fatigue from road shock than from my previous pair of carbon skis. I believe because the Swenors use the same materials as a ski, rather than a solid carbon shaft, they are stiff in the right places and more forgiving where appropriate. I have always been a little frustrated the first skate of the season because my snow skis are so much slower and harder to ski than my rollerskis. The Swenors take me a little more strength to move, which made the transition to snow this year almost seamless.

 

 

The Result

After a summer of real ski training of all types (strength, cycling, running, bounding, lots of rollersking with attention to good form head-to-toe), I had my best season yet. I even topped my age group at the AXCS Master’s Nationals. Did I mention I had a baby nine months before the season in May 2015? That made no difference at all. The most noticeable change for me was that when I showed up for my first on-snow training in West Yellowstone, I stepped into my skis and continued my summer’s work. There was almost no period of feeling wonky and awkward and a little sad about the slowness of snow. Instead I was able to take all the hard work on body position and immediately hit hardwax kick on snow in a way I hadn’t before.
The take-away here is that roller-skiing is good, mindful roller skiing for form over speed is best, and Swenor roller skis are so close to snow that I even used them a few times this winter when snow was hard to find. I’ve never done that. Check out a pair as Rest Month rolls to a close and May 1 brings on the long days!

icon_boards icon_bike

 

 

Last year I drew a sketch of my ideal baselayer and sent it to Jane at C2 by Janeware. It wasn’t rocket science; just a solid piece of clothing to wear next-to-skin that is cut with raglan sleeves and enough shoulder room to move. When an online coupon popped up on my Facebook feed for C2, and such a baselayer had become reality, I decided to give it a try. It’s made from the new Polartec™ Power Wool fabric and cut for moving freely. I could think of no better way to test it than to run it through a typical weekend as a mom/athlete and all the fun that goes with that.

elitehalf

When we finished it was a balmy 16F and I was still dry.

The Fit. I have been blowing out the shoulders and underarms of most of my baselayers lately. It might be because I have recently put on some shoulder and arm muscle. I’m by no means huge, but until recently I have been suffering from the t-rex syndrome of having spent years on a road bike. The C2 top in small fits me with a nice amount of shoulder rotation and no binding. At 5’2” and about 115, I tend to hover between XS and S, but in this case I opted for the larger.

The Fabric. It’s very light, smooth on the outside and just barely brushed fuzzy on the inside. Very soft against the skin as well as sliding easily against an outer layer. It sounds silly, but if you know what I’m talking about then this is important to you too. See more about Polartec ‘s new fabric here.

Day 1. I went for a nice long skate ski. I wore this and my lightweight Nordic ski jacket. I think it was 20F. That’s just about the least clothing I have ever worn for a day like that and I stayed comfortable.

When I was done, I was pleasantly dry, which served me well on a grocery store run. I then had to continue to wear the shirt while I wrangled children and prepared food. I finally took it off to shower and go to sleep.

Day 2. I hadn’t done my laundry (surprise), but I grabbed the Half-Zip and noticed it didn’t smell. That was easy. The temperature that morning was a balmy 8°F and we took advantage of the cold snow for a classic ski. It was the kind of cold that freezes headphone cords and I boldly wore the zip-top with just my light jacket again. Luckily it wasn’t windy.

Nothing tests the arm mobility of a garment like classic skiing, and I didn’t feel the least bit bound by the cut. Once again I was warm enough and more importantly, dry. There were a few errands and some more wrangling, cooking, assorted spitting up, and other mom activities, culminating (finally) in a shower. After two days, the shirt probably needs to go in the laundry since many fabrics lose a little loft (aka warmth) when dirty. It does not yet stand and walk on its own. It does repel baby spit-up.

Uses. I wore this next-to-skin with a thin windproof outer-layer for a highly active aerobic activity in really cold temperatures. If I were going alpine skiing I would likely throw a middle insulating layer over it. In the shoulder season it would pair well with a wind vest for cycling or trail runs. When it’s too damned hot for that, I see that they are making one with short sleeves.

Really, the only problem I have with this shirt is that I only have one. For now. At $79 MSRP it competes for a price point with Patagonia’s famous baselayers and sits somewhere in the middle of their line as far as warmth/weight. It is 100% US product; the fabric is woven here, the designs are drawn up here, and the garments are sewn here. And before I hear about equality, there are actually two models for men; the wool blend as well as an all synthetic. Jonathan, a slim 5’8” and under 150, loves his size M synthetic model just as much.

But it’s just an undershirt. Yup, it is. And if it’s cold out and you move, that’s a pretty important job. You can order one here, and they ship cheaply and quickly via USPS. The tights are amazing too, but I wrote about that already here.

The Skiing Toddler

icon_boardsicon_baby

 

 

I often find myself writing the article I was trying to find on the Internet but couldn’t. Under “skiing toddler” there was some information, but I was having a hard time nailing it down. So we got some tiny skis, dressed M in her winter finery and jumped in with both feet. And now, here’s that piece I was looking for.

Background

M turned two in mid-November. She weighs about twenty pounds and is just over two feet tall, coming in at barely the single digits in percentile for her age. So, just like mommy, finding sports gear is a bit of a challenge. Luckily there are some people crazier than us who start kids even younger, so we were able to find some gear.

Since she started walking late (17 months), I had some doubt as to how liberally to use the word “skiing” for what we might accomplish this season, so we entered into the adventure with the attitude that we would be introducing some fun new gear and playing in the snow.

Supplies

tod_8

What gets packed to go up the hill.

Obviously the kid needs warm clothes, and there are so many wonderful things to choose from at the Patagonia outlet that will never, ever wear out before they are outgrown. We also got lucky through www.sierratradingpost.com, Costco and REI as well as a local second hand ski store in Salt Lake called 2nd Track Sports. They have an eBay store as well. Level Nine Sports is another great option for new, but very reasonably priced baby gear.

Long underwear: Hers is probably nicer than mine. Patagonia capilene. She still fits in her 12 month sized onsie and pants. Messes just bounce off these. It’s her second pair since infanthood and they are baby-proof. REI also has some synthetic long underwear sets for kids that are really nice.

Pants: We opted for an inexpensive pair of black insulated bibs. She is not potty trained yet, so this is feasible. It would be difficult if she were potty training and perhaps we would have looked for pants. (We’re waiting until after ski season to work that in).

Jacket: Her go-to winter coat is a Patagonia Down Sweater. It isn’t super heavy and isn’t appropriate for wet conditions, but then again, taking a toddler skiing in a wet storm isn’t really appropriate (or fun) either.

Mittens: Surprisingly we found an awesome pair of Head brand mittens at Costco. They have zippers up the side and are really long. We put them on before the coat and they never come off. The side zippers are such a huge bonus for squeezing little uncooperative hands into mittens. Don’t worry about the thumbs.

Buff: I got her an adult-sized Buff. It reaches from under her chin to over her head easily and creates a nice transition from jacket to helmet.

Helmet: This was an internal debate for me. On one hand, skiing with the level of supervision I anticipated, it really didn’t seem necessary yet. On the other hand, I wanted to create the habit immediately. I ended up finding a used Giro, who start their sizes at an XS to fit the smallest kids. The idea of a used helmet was a second debate, but after inspecting it I decided that it was barely used. As she gets older I will likely only buy new ones.

Goggles: Seems silly, but honestly, it is more comfortable and she can see better. There was a tiny pair of Smith’s used next to the goggles and I got them. They have been a popular item with her.

Socks: REI has excellent ski socks for toddlers. They are thick and come in fun colors long

Size 16.5, one size bigger than the smallest available.

Size 16.5, one size bigger than the smallest available.

enough for the boots.

Poles: No way am I giving ski poles to a toddler!

Boots: Here’s where I started to have trouble finding information, so I’m giving it up here. The smallest size that seems to be available is a 15.5 mondo. That’s approximately a 15.5 cm long foot. Here’s a mondo chart with toddler shoe sizes. The boots I found were 16.5 and a bit big. What I found is, they are so stiff and proportionally tall, you can get away with them being slightly big. Also, it’s really hard to get a toddler to tell you how a boot fits. You could probably take the liner out and size them, but honestly, if a boot were to fit the kid correctly today, chances are it won’t next week. We found some at 2nd Tracks, and Level 9 had an excellent selection. Fischer and Dalbello are the two brands that seem to make lots of tiny boots.

Skis. 70cm, smallest available. Ernie and Elmo stickers to use as a teaching tool later.

Skis. 70cm, smallest available. Ernie and Elmo stickers to use as a teaching tool later.

Skis: The shortest skis on the market are 70cm. While it’s one thing to buy the boots a little big, opt for the shortest possible skis. Here’s why: The longer the ski, the more surface area on the snow, and the faster they go. It would be far better for a kid to ski a “too small” ski as they grow, than for them to be skiing giant skis at first. The bindings can even be re-drilled for a bigger boot if you want to get a little more use. We also found these at a second hand store, never used once.

Wedge-ease: Those little clips that keep the tips together and keep the skis in a wedge. There are a bunch of brands out there – I found some from Lucky Bums on Amazon that work well. An added side benefit of this product is that they keep the skis together for the inevitable, unpredictable tantrum with kicking legs that undoubtedly will happen. This is your warning. They give no additional warning. The clips also save you the trouble of going back down for the ski they kick off on the chairlift (I speak from experience).

Ski harness: Also a Lucky Bums. I didn’t think we’d use it this year, but I got it because I wanted an extra handle to use to contain her. It turns out we are using it lots, and our backs are so very thankful.

A word on rentals: There are two ways to rent skis for kids. If you live in a ski town, there are

Ski harness. Cute factor of 10 for the small backpack, usefulness factor "goes to 11."

Ski harness. Cute factor of 10 for the small backpack, usefulness factor “goes to 11.”

often places that have deals where they will sell you a kid’s package of rentals, and each year they will trade them for bigger sizes. There are also deals where you buy skis and they will accept them for sale towards your next purchase. These are excellent options that we considered, and would have looked harder had we not found really good deals. We also know we’re having another kid, so we’ll hand them down.

The second way to rent is a standard rental. The shops in ski resorts do have the tiny sizes (Alta and Snowbird both have really nice stuff). However, they rent for a half-day at the least. Although I am thrilled to pieces by our current ski progress, there hasn’t been a single outing that has lasted longer than about an hour. We considered trying this to see if she was interested, but then we decided that one day of disinterest doesn’t mean anything with a toddler. If your skiing experience will be a week of vacation and that’s it, a weeklong rental might actually be a better option, because then they don’t need to be transported and they will be available for use the entire trip.

The First Day

Neat treats. Won't melt in your mouth OR your hands. Or your pocket, or their goggles, face and hands.

Neat treats. Won’t melt in your mouth OR your hands. Or your pocket, or their goggles, face and hands.

I loaded a bag of mini marshmallows into my pocket. Why? She’s not a dog, but I thought maybe a treat could be useful. These are less messy than MnM’s (again, I speak from experience).

Remember your first day on skis? I sure do. I was twelve, it was ski club at a tiny resort in Cleveland, and I stood in line and picked up my rentals. Life was rough in the 80’s, and you had to reach down and put your bindings on. And the stuff was heavy – disproportionally so for a smaller than average kid. Now imagine your stuff weighed half of you. That’s what it’s like to be two. So when I left the house (alone, with my toddler and pregnant), I didn’t even know if we would set foot on the ski slope. It was entirely possible we wouldn’t make it out of the car.

I left her strapped in while I put on my own gear. This is the ski equivalent to “secure your own

Bluebird days, ski buddies, selfies...we did it all our first day! Even Mr. Monkey came skiing.

Bluebird days, ski buddies, selfies…we did it all our first day! Even Mr. Monkey came skiing.

mask before helping others”. Because that timer starts the very second the child can’t move in all that stuff, so you’d better be ready to move. Think Randy from Christmas Story. I got her pants, gloves (before jacket), jacket, buff, boots, helmet and goggles on in that order. Fast. You must work quickly. I got a great parking spot within a few feet of the top of Chickadee at Snowbird and had already trucked our skis over the snow mound. I scooped her up and went.

First of all, those boots are very awkward. Remember that first time? Now imagine having just learned to walk. She wasn’t sure what to make of the boots, the snow, the chairlift…so we played in the snow a bit until she declared loudly, “I want to ride the chairlift.” Oops. I really hadn’t counted on that. Remember, I thought we’d maybe not leave the car. I had already tried to put her skis on, but she kicked and yelled, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was THAT MOM, so I let her be. But now she insisted on riding that chair. She agreed to the skis when I told her that was the only way to the bottom.

Tip #1. There will be yelling about putting on the skis. You’re not a bad parent for putting on the skis. If the yelling stops, there you go. If not, maybe take them off and try again later.

So there we were, with M between my legs, me bending over and slowly snowplowing, while suddenly she’s yelling “whee” and “skiing”! I stopped because I thought she was upset. It turns out that stopping makes her angry, so off we went.

The first day they are not skiing. You are skiing. They are dangling. Your back is killing you. But they catch on fast!

The first day they are not skiing. You are skiing. They are dangling. Your back is killing you. But they catch on fast!

The whole way down the hill, which is at least three times longer than my first ski run was at twelve, I was wondering how I was going to get back up. The thought of putting this possibly kicking and screaming toddler on a real chairlift was scary. Really scary. I had strapped on the little ski harness, giving me some hope that I could do this, but I was really considering walking back up the hill.

Tip #2: Just carry them onto the chair the first time. And if you ask ahead, the nice lift attendant will probably slow the chair down for you. If you’re skiing in a designated beginner area they are used to it, and it is actually better to ask ahead than cause an unplanned stop.

I hopped on with M, skis on the seat, holding her very tightly. I brought down the safety bar

Just like that, they're all grown up and skiing on their own. Not quite, but after two or three ski days our backs were in a much better place.

Just like that, they’re all grown up and skiing on their own. Not quite, but after two or three ski days our backs were in a much better place.

voluntarily for the first time ever so she wouldn’t push me off the lift. She loved it. In fact she asked to go “down down and ride the chairlift again”.

We took two more runs before my back was going to give out.

Tip #3: The first time, they are not skiing. You are skiing. They are dangling between your legs. Don’t forget to look up. Leave before you die or they freak out.

That was it; there were no tears and very little yelling. She got some mini-marshmallows and played in the snow some more and we left. A week later we went again, and that time she coasted for a few seconds between Daddy and me. She got some MnM’s.

Tip #4: MnM’s do melt in your mouth. If you’re two, mouth extends to “entire face”. See, those goggles were useful. Stick to neat treats.

We went a couple more times, and each time has surpassed our wildest expectations. I mean if you set the bar low, which you really should in this case, you won’t be disappointed. We were ready to leave upon arrival each time. Prepared to remove and replace skis multiple times. Prepared, even, to get that “look” from someone just like us, two years prior, who had never taken a toddler skiing. Instead we got to witness her ski an entire run standing on her skis, ride the magic carpet with assistance, and learn to sit still on the chairlift. And the season isn’t nearly over.

Keep moving! Even if it means playing in the snow. Remember, skiing is fun! Leave before it isn't.

Keep moving! Even if it means playing in the snow. Remember, skiing is fun! Leave before it isn’t.

Tip#5: Always leave the party while it’s still fun. Obvs. In fact, we normally leave about a week between outings and believe me, she doesn’t forget anything.

All told, the toddler skiing experience has been amazing. Would she learn just as fast if we waited until she was five? Likely. Is she learning to turn and stop? Probably not this year. What she’s doing is getting familiar with the activity and the equipment and seems to be having fun. And seeing her have fun skiing is enough to make any ski mom or dad’s heart full of joy; enough that I actually gave up a bluebird powder day to ski two runs with my sweet M and I didn’t mind one bit.

 

 

 

 

Stuff I Like – C2 by Janeware

icon_boards  icon_bike

 

Stuff I Like (That was sent to me, but then I ordered more)

C2 by Janeware

There is a sea of outdoor products bombarding our line of sight daily. From web ads to specially targeted emails, resellers like REI, Backcountry.com, EMS and the like are promoting the usual brands. If you have seen my closets you know that I am a performance sportswear hoarder. There is a family of black fleecy octopuses living in anonymity, pulled at and untangled for my various events and expeditions.

old_janes

Fifteen years old and still like new.

Among the tentacles is a 15-year-old pair of super-stretchy Polartec fuzzy tights I was given while riding cyclocross for Independent Fabrication. They were hand made with love by one of the owner/employees named Jane Hayes. She called them, simply, “Janeware”. Over the years they have moved with me, both on my legs and in boxes, and have kept me warm in a tight hug while Nordic and Alpine skiing, running, ski touring, camping; you get the idea. When I quit cycling I swore off riding in “that kind of weather”, but the tights went on.

Recently, Jane contacted me and subsequently sent some new versions of those fleecy togs for me to try. Now dubbed “C2 by Janeware”, and including clothes for men as well, these simple, mostly black, flat-locked fleeces haven’t changed much. Among the other players made from wool and polypro, they stack up weight-wise; feather light.

Sunny, but colder than a...well not really because I was wearing the Undertop and Crop Performance Tight.

Sunny, but colder than a…well not really because I was wearing the Undertop and Crop Performance Tight.

They are thicker than most underlayers because they are fleece, but most of C2’s products are designed to be worn as stand-alone garments. For cold weather cycling, trail running and Nordic skiing that’s all you’d want, but for some of the colder or wetter activities you might cover them up. That’s where I live; most of what I do is really cold, and I tend to run cold also.

There were four key players in the box for me as well as a pair of tights for my husband to try out. He is my partner in crime, a former bike racer as well, and runs equally cold outdoors.

The box showed up on a Friday and we immediately kitted up and rolled out Saturday morning in single digit temperatures for an early season session of suffering our downhills to get some ups.

Performance Crop; ski boot bulk problem solved, for good!

Performance Crop; ski boot bulk problem solved, for good!

Jonathan wore his performance tight, and I wore the performance crop. Right at the trailhead, Jonathan made a comment that would prove out; “Some tights keep you ‘not cold’. These actually make your legs warm.” And that was true. As sunny as it was, it was frigid. And we were not.

Right away I knew the Crop was my new ski tight for anything alpine. Among the octopuses, amazingly, there are so few ¾ length tights that I end up scrunching up long underwear. It bothers my knees and stretches out the ankles.

Problem solved! These are warm enough for me to wear lift-skiing under just a shell and they fit neatly over my calves and above the top of my alpine boots. I also sweat quite a bit while skinning uphill, and these wick incredibly so they don’t freeze on the downhill. I can’t believe more companies don’t make a solution to the problem that every alpine skier encounters each time they suit up. I came home and ordered Jonathan a pair of Crops immediately.

The Undertop (Photo courtesy of C2 by Janeware).

The Undertop (Photo courtesy of C2 by Janeware).

While I knew the crop would play well from the time I got dressed, the biggest surprise piece was the Undertop. I tend to buy cheap sports bras from Target most of the time. Not to give TMI, but I am very small except when I’m pregnant, and right now most of the sports tops I have are tight in the sides. I went ahead and wore this next-to-skin. C2 makes sports bras too, so I was using it a bit off-label, but I got away with it. My core was warm, no chafing under my arms, and most noticeable was that I wasn’t sweating and paying for it with a freezing downhill. I now refer to this top as “the piece of clothing I never knew I needed so much.” When one more shirt is too many, this is the answer. Much like the crop, it’s a piece of clothing not made by many manufacturers and I’m not sure why; it also comes in a men’s design. Cyclists wear sleeveless base layers all summer, but winter sport athletes may not. This takes care of that. It’s also great for Nordic skiing; in racing the bib provides an extra layer, but in training the Undertop gives that same core warmth while your arms move freely.

Performance Tight (Photo courtesy of C2 by Janeware).

Performance Tight (Photo courtesy of C2 by Janeware).

The Performance Tight got its real test in the first 15k Nordic race of the year. At over five months pregnant, they are stretchy enough to fit me. I wore them under my suit, which is pretty thin and mostly for show. More than once I have frozen in races because the biggest muscles (those old cycling quads) can’t take being so cold. Nordic skiers are special; they are practically naked half the time. I can’t hack it, so I just dress for my own climate. The tight is a one-sided fleece, which makes it easy to slide a tight ski suit over it; trust me, that’s a thing. Ski suits are skin tight.

There's Janeware under there!

There’s Janeware under there!

I had a great time skiing and not thinking about the wind picking up or sideways snow that intermittently graced us during three laps of a golf course in Park City.

Last, but not least, the Extreme Tight, which I am wearing right now as I type. That’s not to say it isn’t good for other things, it’s just that…it’s cold in my house and I live in these tights. I wear them instead of leggings under skirts because they feel a little more “finished”. They work really well under light ski pants for training on my Nordic skis because the ankle zips allow for boot adjustments on the fly. The upper is the 4-way stretch Polartec 2-sided fleece, and the ankles are fleece-lined and smooth on the outside with unobtrusive 8-inch zippers on the outer ankle. In the likely situation that my Crops are finally too dirty to wear, I could easily make use of the ankle zip to turn them up and alpine ski in them without the bunching that drives me crazy in other products.

Extreme Tight

Extreme Tight (Photo courtesy of C2 by Janware).

Four-way stretch paired with form-fitted ankles is extremely utilitarian for cycling; the area around the lower leg is not going to catch on any bike parts, the zippers allow for easy dressing, and the super-stretchy knees move freely so there is absolutely no binding like some cycling tights.

All C2 products are made of Polartec brand fleece. If you think that doesn’t matter, go to a fabric shop and touch some other fleece. There is no comparison, and many other outdoor companies skimp as well. Malden Mills Polartec is the Kleenex and Xerox of fleece for a reason; it’s simply the very best.

Flatlock stitching for next-to-skin comfort without any extra bulk.

Flatlock stitching for next-to-skin comfort without any extra bulk.

Just like the fleece of which they are made, all C2 products are sewn in Boston. Every garment is flat-lock stitched so the seams are iron-strong with minimal bulk. While some products used for rain and wind are glued now, fleece can really only be sewn, and this is the best way to sew it.

The sizing is as you would expect industry-wide. At 5’2” and a semi-muscular build, I hover between a XS and S, but am super happy to have the smalls right now. Jonathan is a lean-muscled 5’7” and comfortably wears a Medium.

C2 tights are designed as stand-alone garments. When it's a little warmer out, that's how I use them!

C2 tights are designed as stand-alone garments. When it’s warmer out, that’s how I use them! Baby bump well covered by the wide waistband.

Remember that C2 is designed to be worn as a stand-alone garment in most cases. For that reason, and because they are fleece, they are slightly thicker than an underlayer. They are, however, just as light weight-wise. Fleece has loft and loft = warmth (think down). I have been using them in a climate and for activities that dictate wearing them under something else, and they have performed spectacularly in that realm. They go through the wash and sometimes the dryer; I like to air dry most of my sports apparel because it takes no time and humidifies the house. These dry very quickly on and off your body.

Another pair, not as old, blown out. Gussets are important. C2 has gussets, these did not.

Another pair, not as old, blown out. Gussets are important. C2 has gussets, these did not.

Probably the best way to judge their longevity is to consider my 15-year-old pair. They pretty much look like the new ones to this day. Many other tights have come and gone, worn and ripped, or become permanently smelly. These have not. Attention to detail in things like gussets and the shaping of the patterns is obvious; these are made for athletes, by athletes.

gusset_2 copy

These are original Janewares, circa somewhere around 1999-ish. As good today as the new ones!

Bottom line: for about the same cash layout as a made-somewhere-else pair of something else you can have a warm, stretchy hug that will last forever (or at least fifteen years) that are made in America. That should reduce the size of the black octopus in your closet – unless maybe you fold your clothes between adventures!

 

Wedding Beer

icon_beer

 

 

Trying to maintain a constant temperature in the grain-steeping process.

Trying to maintain a constant temperature in the grain-steeping process.

We’ve been homebrewing for about three years now, with fairly few mistakes and many successes. Most of our beer is handed out to friends and family or consumed during parties. Either people have been nice, or it’s actually drinkable.

Awhile ago one of my oldest friends asked us a favor. He asked us to brew a beer for his upcoming wedding. This is a guy who would give you the shirt off his back, even if he didn’t have another. This was a must-do.

After discussing flavor options and timelines, and Ken’s request for a lighter beer than our normally huge stouts and porters, we decided on a California Common Ale.

If you’re not familiar with the beer, it’s actually a hybrid between an ale, fermented at room

Draining the steeped grains. After this you can let the toddler loose.

Draining the steeped grains. After this you can let the toddler loose.

temperature, and a lager, fermented at very cool temperatures. Ales are what we do; from IPA all the way to Stouts, the ale yeast ferments well at 55 to 75 degrees. Lagering requires a separate fridge rigged with an externally controlled thermostat,  and we sure didn’t feel confident trying that out for the first time. So California Common, or “steam beer” it would be.

Historically, the California Common was an

improvisation by the gold-seekers in California and Nevada during the 1860’s. Without refrigeration they were unable to make a true lager, but they were looking for a refreshing beer based on a lager yeast. You can read more about that here.

The most notable beer on the market of this type is Anchor Steam, brewed in San Francisco since the 1980’s. This was the beer we had to try and emulate.

Boiled, yeast-ed and ready to ferment.

Boiled, yeast-ed and ready to ferment.

Not only were we using a new yeast, we had the daunting task of brewing enough so that each guest could take home a big beer. It turned out that meant brewing three 5-gallon batches back to back. We intended to brew one for testing, then brew two more, but when we recalculated we figured out we’d have to use the test batch too. Nobody wants to be short on beer, especially when it’s a party favor!

With 18-month-old Baby M. milling around and gallons of boiling water being poured from here to there, timing was crucial. And the back-to-back brewing task really helped us refine our process. We would boil water in every available receptacle and wait…until morning naptime. Then it was a full-on race to steep the grain and make the necessary temperature adjustments in the brewing process before draining the wort. If we got

Yeasty-beasties doing their thing.

Yeasty-beasties doing their thing.

that far in the process with a sleeping baby we were good to go. Boiling and siphoning to a fermenter is safe enough with a toddler around and you don’t need four hands the whole time.

The first batch tasted right. We elected to go ahead and brew the second and third back to back in

a weekend. Aside from small temperature differences the beers came out reasonably similar; as well as can be expected for quality control in a home kitchen with a baby and a deadline.

As the beer sat bubbling in the basement, the second task was to make sure that it was well dressed for the event. That meant bottles and labels.

The label.

The label.

We are lucky enough to have a great friend in the restaurant business who saves us 22-ounce bottles. The Saporro Beer bottles are our favorites because the labels soak off so easily in a bin of Oxy Clean. (Pro tip for all you homebrewers out there). If you’re in Salt Lake, be sure to visit Yellowfinn for sushi and drinks (they have full strength beer, wine and sake). For months they collected brown bottles for us for this project, and we are forever grateful.

Next up was the label. Until now I had been printing black and white labels on our ancient laser printer. I would cut them on a paper cutter, wet with a sponge and stick them on the bottles. The paper, which can be bought at a brewing supply, does an ok job for a label here and there, but this project called for something a bit more professional.

I did a google search and the first company that appeared was

Comparing color between Batch 1 and a very young Batch 2.

Comparing color between Batch 1 and a very young Batch 2.

Grog Tags. That seemed right to the point. I read a little, downloaded advanced vector templates and went to work. I stole a picture from Ken’s lovely bride Wendy’s Facebook page and got to work with my limited Adobe Illustrator skills. Of course I consulted our friend Jessica of Petite Lemon along the way.

The result in one week’s processing time was far beyond my

expectations. The labels were very reasonably priced, professionally printed and made from a vinyl-like material that allows them to be peeled and re-stuck. Once people drink the beer they can easily peel and save the label without having to do anything special. Bonus!

Bottled, labeled, out the door.

Bottled, labeled, out the door.

When all three batches had been bottled and given their time to rest we had a little tasting with the bride and groom. The end product was about 4.5% ABV, illegal for a Utah grocery store, but slightly lower than the Anchor Steam. We tasted all three batches in addition to a bottle of Anchor. In all, the three tasted alike, which was our hope. They were not as effervescent as the Anchor, probably due to natural bottle conditioning rather than the forced-carbonation that beer manufacturers use. The style of beer is not my favorite, but it seems to have been successful as far as tasting like our example.

All that was left was to hand over the labeled bottles and attend the ceremony. The bride and her

The finished party favor. As beautiful as the wedding.

The finished party favor. As beautiful as the wedding.

friends really dressed up our beer, pairing it with a root beer and a beautiful Celtic bottle opener. They even called us up in front of the party to credit us with the beer, which was very sweet.

 

It was really satisfying to make a product, package it and send it out the door to such great people for a beautiful wedding. I know they think they got the great end of the deal, but the list of things learned and processes perfected is as endless as it is diverse. It was a win-win.

 

 

 

Training While Pregnant

icon_boardsicon_bike

 

 

We’ve all heard about the lady who ran the Boston and then went to the hospital and had a baby. I didn’t do that… So let me get all opportunities for hate mail squared away right off the top. I trained within a new set of limits while pregnant, but I did not compete. I am also neither a doctor, nor a certified personal trainer, nor do I have any official background on the subject.  My qualifications are: I was pregnant and I had over 20 years of experience as a self-coached elite endurance athlete and knowledge of my own heart rate zones and patterns.

Hiking "Suicide Chute" in June at 16 weeks.

Hiking “Suicide Chute” in June at 16 weeks.

I became “with child” immediately when the competitive season ended. I was at the highest level of fitness I had been since retiring from full-time bike racing, and perhaps even higher as my heart rates were showing. This was my starting point.

First off, no doctor will ever publicly give an opinion about this because I’m sure someone would do something stupid and sue. My doctor said some things to me, most of them encouraging, but as a very experienced and trained athlete many of the pieces of advice he gave me that he thought were in agreement were very contradictory.

Beautiful trail ride in Grand Junction AKA Fruita. A little puffy.

Beautiful trail ride in Grand Junction AKA Fruita. A little puffy, about four months along.

“Keep your heart rate under 140.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that in 1985 and has since dropped it for a more reasonable (and less concrete) undetermined maximum depending on the person.  Numerous sites and sources hang on to this number for dear life and it might have driven me insane if I hadn’t researched it more. A max of 140 for me would have meant I could not have done this:

“Make sure you get some aerobic exercise, but keep it aerobic.” As in, it has to be a little bit more than 140 bpm in someone with a max of 190 and an aerobic threshold of 160 to actually do any good. The recommendation for pregnant women who have never exercised a day in their life is to start an exercise program. For me, 140 beats would not have qualified as exercise.  I hit 140 getting off the couch to go get a drink. If that’s a problem, it’s not related to being pregnant.

Along with the advice to keep it under 140, I also heard, “heart rates and heart rate monitors don’t work when you’re pregnant because your heart is going to behave differently.”  Ok, now how am I supposed to keep it under 140 if 140 isn’t 140 and my monitor isn’t really going to work?

Downclimbing a rock section. It looks steeper than it is.

Downclimbing a rock section on Suicide. It looks steeper than it is.

Finally, “ride your bike for 3 or 4 hours if you want, just keep it aerobic.” I guess he gave me the benefit of the doubt on knowing about hydration, nutrition and heat since I was riding in the high desert in the middle of summer.

And so I googled. And googled. And did some more googling. But I didn’t Bing, for the record.  And what I found were individual accounts by elite athletes like Dara Torres, who trained at swimming throughout her pregnancy and breastfed her baby in the locker room at the Olympic Trials.  There were a few others.  I won’t claim to be an Olympic caliber athlete, but at one time I almost was, and at the time I became pregnant I was in some of the best shape of my life. I was competing and keeping plenty of data on my performance and heart rates.  I would put myself closer to the top end than the majority of pregnant women.

There is almost no good source of information for the high-level athlete who is pregnant. In all fairness, it is unethical to study this truly scientifically; it has to be voluntary and self-reporting. And if the internet has taught us anything, self-reporting isn’t always very accurate.  After all the searching and plenty of unsolicited crappy advice from acquaintances who are not doctors, I pretty much had to go by a few decent rules that are universally agreed upon:

1. Do activities you are conditioned for already. If you’re not a cliff jumper, don’t start now.

2. If you can still talk in sentences, you’re not going too hard. That’s the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) method for “keeping it aerobic”.  Due to the fact that I don’t want hate mail, I won’t share what my “talk test” heart rate is, but I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t 140.

3. If there are warning signs (there is a list) stop immediately. This is the pregnancy of equivalent of, “Hey doc, it hurts when I do this!” (“Then don’t do it.”)

4. Strength training is great too as long as it is high rep/low weight. Maxing out on your clean and jerk is probably off limits, but weight lifting is acceptable as long as it is moderate and proper form is used. Ceasing to breathe or hyperventilation is not recommended, so again, maximum weight lifting is off the table. Proper technique is really important because your joints soften up and you can get injured pretty easily. I used plenty of bodyweight exercises…and there is an automatic increase in weight as you go.

5. Eat, drink and be merry. You are not really “eating for two”. In fact, you get about 300 calories a day extra for a baby. That’s less than one PB&J. But if you’re exercising lots, you need more. And you need to stay hydrated.

6. Don’t overheat. Don’t cook junior. I spent most of my pregnant exercise time in the summer in Utah, so it was closing in on 100 degrees every day. I worked out at 6 am, inside, or swam.

And so it was with that set of guidelines that I set out to try and keep myself in the best shape possible to return to competition after baby.  I wrote a periodized training plan that included very low intensity and slightly higher, but still aerobic intensity.  I also included strength training.

Skiing "Suicide Chute", AKA "Country Lane".

Skiing “Suicide Chute”, AKA “Country Lane”.

For those not in the know, a proper training plan increases in volume and intensity over a set period of time and then contains a rest period before ratcheting up again. When I wrote the plan I had no idea if I would be able to follow it, but for me, it had to be written.  It’s what I have always done, and it was a good way to make sure I had appropriate challenges and proper recovery.

As far as activities, I did what I had been doing with one exception. I took up swimming. I hadn’t really been in a pool since I was a lifeguard in high school 20 years ago, but swimming is universally accepted as the only sport it’s ok to start doing pregnant. And it ended up being a saving grace because I could take my workout to the pool if it was hot or when the weather was crappy in the fall, or finally when the pounding of fast walking was too much around 37 weeks.

Cycling.  My original, all-time go-to sport.  Some folks might be concerned about this one due to

Little Cottonwood Canyon, about 28 weeks. For once I was excited about the road work because of this photo-op.

Little Cottonwood Canyon, about 28 weeks. For once I was excited about the road work because of this photo-op.

the danger of falling off the bike. Certainly this falls under the “don’t take it up for the first time pregnant” category. But remember that I have spent twenty- five years on a bike and I happen to have a pretty good record as far as falling.  I felt perfectly safe riding on the roads and some trails. When I stopped it was because it had gotten too cold, and I was already at about 37 weeks. Many professional and former professional riders stay on their bike through their entire pregnancy.

I borrowed Jonathan’s old shorts and jerseys in order to accommodate the belly, and I had to get used to my knees bumping into it, but other than that I was able to get in many three-hour rides and a couple four-hour rides too.

Roller skiing: At the outset I eliminated this activity due to my single year of experience and how tedious I felt on those things. But I missed it (never thought I would say that).  So one day I tried it very carefully. It turned out that after another year on snow I was much better on these things. I alternated double-poling with no-pole skating. Not only was this safer, but it vastly improved my skating technique.

I vowed that the very first day I felt off-balance on them I would not do it again. I never experienced a moment when my balance felt impaired, but I just had a day when I didn’t feel 100% and I stopped around seven months.

The long hike up Timponogos for some August turns. I was about five months along and feeling pretty great.

The long hike up Timponogos for some August turns. I was about five months along and feeling pretty great.

Nordic Walking: When I gave up roller I walked and jogged with poles. Extra bonus: if your hands tend to swell when walking, walking with poles helps keep blood flowing in and retained water flowing out.

Swimming: First I had to reteach myself swimming. The first day I went I was about 5 months pregnant. Since the maternity suits were so lame (not athletic suits), I bought a size larger Speedo and jumped in. My swimming technique was so bad I barely made it across the pool without going anaerobic.

I googled swimming videos and watched a few, went back to the pool and tried to perfect my stroke. I got some fins, hand fins and a floatie. I did some flipper time to make me feel better, and then some arms only to perfect my stroke.  In a few weeks I had made it 1600 meters and finally 2000 meters.  I took some of my land-based interval training and translated it to the pool. I also learned how to swim easy in between, which was perhaps the most challenging part.

In the end I gained a new lifelong activity. I believe swimming helped me build muscle endurance in my arms for skiing that had lacked in my tyrannosaurus-rex cycling body.

Showing off my bump on Timp. This was obviously more fun than the skiing was, as it was raining.

Showing off my bump on Timp. This was obviously more fun than the skiing was, as it was raining.

Backcountry Skiing: Again, something I was already doing. In fact we had the single most prolific spring of ski mountaineering ever while I was between one and five months along. We bagged some of the most sought-after peaks and lines in the Wasatch by hiking with climbing skins at a very moderate pace and picking smooth lines down.  During the first few months the danger of injuring a baby due to a fall is minimal because it is still hiding behind the pelvic bone. My doc gave me a 100% green light on skiing.

Nordic Skiing: The Monday before M was born, at 38.5 weeks along, we got enough snow to ski. We went out to one of the local groomed tracks and Jonathan had to put on my skis because I couldn’t reach.  I was amazed at the technique improvement I had gained with my summer of careful roller skiing concentrating on technique, and all my strength training. Balance wasn’t a problem. I was just happier than anything to see snow.  We went the next day too. On the Wednesday of that week I was feeling tired, on Thursday the doc induced me due to rising BP which he did not blame on exercising. Friday I had a baby.

Four days before Baby M was born. The balance loss I was promised never really materialized. This was the best ski pic I had ever taken and it was the first day we were on snow.

Four days before Baby M was born. The balance loss I was “promised” never really materialized. This was the best ski pic I had ever taken and it was the first day we were on snow.

Weight lifting and core conditioning: We continued our core strength circuit and weightlifting that we do every year in the base training phase. Although the recommendation is for pregnant women not to do any exercises that involve being on their back after first trimester, my doctor gave me the ok for regular crunches for awhile after that because I was very small and my weight gain was not an impairment.  I did free weights and squats – again with low weight and lots of reps. Good form was always a priority since pregnant joints tend to loosen, but I didn’t feel any pain and made pretty significant gains in this arena.

Expectations: I had few. I wrote out a training plan and followed it because that’s what I do, and expected to have to modify it along the way. I expected to stay active throughout my pregnancy as long as I didn’t have complications. That was just about it – I really didn’t expect much

I also expected to be “morning sick”, but the myth of morning sickness is the morning part; it can happen any time. I felt the worst at night or if I wasn’t eating correctly and I strongly feel that the nausea, at least for me, was tied directly to blood sugar.

I expected to retain a reasonable amount of fitness, provided I wasn’t sent to bed rest. I tried to be realistic and I ended up lucky.

Surprises: I was surprised that I felt good almost every day of the 39 weeks. In the first three months I was tired a lot, but I knew that getting out to do something would actually make me feel better. It did.  After that I felt pretty amazing every day until about 38 ½ weeks.

I was surprised at how much activity I could easily handle. I worked out twice a day many times; sometimes because I lifted and did something aerobic, and sometimes because I really liked swimming outside to cool off.  I was able to do three-hour bike rides very easily and I didn’t bonk because I was on top of my nutrition the whole time.

Another surprise was that I actually gained aerobic capacity and strength. My arms got way

I ordered one set of larger clothing because nobody makes "maternity cycling clothes". And of course a tiny jersey for M.

I ordered one set of larger clothing because nobody makes “maternity cycling clothes”. And of course a tiny jersey for M.

stronger, and I saw myself able to go farther and faster within the same heart rates as the season went on. I expected to maintain and then decline. I maybe hoped to just maintain. I never would have gone into this expecting to improve, but I did.

I was pleased that all of my work made delivering a baby (with full epidural) totally easy. Sure, I had no feeling, but I still had to push out a baby after 24 hours of induced labor. It was far easier than any bike or ski race.

The last surprise was my return to competition.  Eight days after M was born I was back on my Nordic skis.  I could see my feet again, which was awesome, and the first few days were rough. After a total of 11 days off pre and post baby I was back training, and at five weeks I was in my first race. By week six I was back to my race weight and after that I was lower. Seven weeks after baby I found myself sprinting for second in a local series race.  The remaining races were each results I would have been proud of had I never been pregnant.

As I developed a plan for the following season I noted that the bulk of any endurance training, even for non-pregnant people, is still at a very low heart rate. In fact, being forced to slow down may have actually had more far-reaching benefits than I had thought.

Blood Doping: Notice I didn’t say illegal blood doping. You see, I finally found out for real what all the hype was about with Lance and his team, and well, almost every pro cyclist from the 90’s.  When you have a baby your blood volume increases a bunch. Afterwards it sticks around for three months or so.  If you haven’t had your head in the sand for the last year, then you know that extra blood means extra oxygen available to your muscles.  So even though I was completely sleep deprived and missed the most crucial high-end training going into the season, I was racing as if I had trained all the way through.  Seriously – my husband was able to train much harder than I was last summer and he missed the same crucial block around Thanksgiving. I felt great racing and he didn’t. He didn’t have the extra blood volume, just the sleepless nights.

My view 8 days after delivery; I could finally see these again!

My view 8 days after delivery; I could finally see these again!

So my last unexpected result was that I now know the benefit of the cheating that was going on when I was racing bikes. It makes me all the more angry at the cheaters, some of them my competition, who were obviously gaining significantly from extra blood. But that’s a rant for another time.

Partly due to timing, certainly due to motivation and definitely with the help of my family (husband, father-in-law, parents), I managed to have a very healthy baby without missing a single ski season. Certainly it isn’t for everyone, and had there been any indication this was harmful I would have stopped in my tracks. In the end my doctor kept green-lighting me to do what I had been doing because things always looked great (until the very last day).

This is just one perspective, but I know I would have loved to be able to read this when I was pregnant. Hopefully someone else will see that having a baby and maintaining a high level of fitness is a possibility when the right conditions exist.

Because It’s There

icon_boards

 

 

Because it’s there.

When you ask most people what makes them climb Everest and the other giant peaks on this marble the answer is, inevitably, “because it’s there”. I raced the US Nordic National Championships (against most of the top collegiate and professional skiers in the country) for much the same reason; it was here.

Obviously with my 23 total race starts since starting this sport five years ago I was among the rookiest of the rooks. I also had the distinction of being the oldest racer by 7 years. Never mind the next oldest won by three minutes. I was one of two moms (that I know of and probably). The other mom also had her baby last year and had an awesome day, finishing 19th, and not from the front row either. Go Emma!

The race was on the 2002 Olympics course here in Utah, and the conditions at Soldier Hollow were a tad better than the big alpine resorts right now. It was way, way warmer than predicted, hence my waxing was a little off.

I knew going into the race that the lower you set goals, the easier they are to achieve. Ok, that’s negative. Let’s just say that you should set reasonable goals. I did. They were (in no particular order):

Finish better than last.

Finish without being lapped.

Ski well. In other words, ski without falling down.

Get a picture of my name on the cool Olympics status board.

20140108_123548

Jonathan’s only job during the race was to get this picture. Thanks honey!

Well, mission accomplished. I did all of those things. I ended up 60th out of 63 of the best in the country. There were probably hundreds better who didn’t show up, and for that I am probably thankful.

There were a few friends and industry folks out there yelling for me, even on the last lap. But one thing that really impressed and excited me was the number of complete strangers who cheered for me. By name. Ski fans who bothered to look at my number, check their start list and say my name. Of course I gave them plenty of time for research while I was crawling up some of those hills.

Behind every champion there is a team. And behind every old-ass lady in over her head at a huge event, there is also a team. So I’d like to thank the following:

Salomon – they have given me very generous pricing on boots, skis and poles. The boots I wanted because they fit my feet and are nice and stiff for great power transfer. I skied their awesome Soft Ground ski. They were perfect for the mashed potato-looking snow the women’s race skied on after the men and a sudden heatwave wreaked havoc on the snow and my wax job.

Skratch Labs – also gave me some generous pricing on their “secret drink mix” aka Skratch. Of particular importance to me today was the Hyper Hydration Mix, which in extreme conditions like 2500 ft. of climbing in a 20km ski race, kept me from having to take feeds and finish almost as strong as I started. Almost. But that’s not on them.

Bliz Eyewear – It was super foggy and humid today. Conditions that I don’t think would work with anything. The rose colored glasses I got from Bliz helped a lot with the flat light conditions on the downhills. Because remember, I didn’t fall down.

Bill Brooker – my wax tech in-absentia. This guy calls the wax from all the way in New York. Upstate. He is usually spot-on, and I believe he would have been today too, except that the temperature unexpectedly went up 10-15 degrees at the last minute. If I had taken my wax stuff to the venue I could have re-done it, but I didn’t.

My parents, AKA Grandma and Grandpa – they took care of M. while Jonathan and I were off at the races. And apparently they put up with quite a difficult toddler today.

Jonathan – my other half. He came to the race today for moral support, ski toting, water hauling and all around husband-ness. Usually we are both racing, but today he just came for me.

Not last, but skiing by myself. I just like to stay out of trouble!

Not last, but skiing by myself. I just like to stay out of trouble!

I probably won’t do another senior nationals unless it’s senior citizen.  I certainly won’t travel to one; maybe it’ll come back here and maybe I’ll be faster. Maybe not.  I am certainly thankful for the experience and for all those who indulged me in this, perhaps midlife crisis-type activity. It was cheaper than a sports car for sure (not much), and probably healthier.

 

And now that it’s pounding snow up high I’ll be taking the fat boards out for a spin on the chairlifts while I ponder my next aerobic adventure.

Core Shots – Strength Training for Ski Season

icon_boards

 

 

Before I lived in a place where I could be on snow seven to twelve months per year I had to get my fix in a one-week ski trip that was less like a vacation and more like a skiing Tour De France (sans dope).

Year-round snow on Timpanogos, September 2011.

Year-round snow on Timpanogos, September 2011.

We would race to make an early flight to Salt Lake, ski bell-to-bell for six days or so, and try not to get snowed in up the canyon the last day so we could sprint back to the airport.  In reality we needed a vacation when we got back.

After a rude awakening our first year we started to think about getting in some kind of ski shape prior to landing on snow. Now that we live at the source and ski almost year-round on skinny, fat and PHAT skis we still think about staying in shape for that first day on snow. And truth be told, even Bode Miller and his team of downhill pros spend a good deal of their off-season doing dry-land training.

If you’re like most ski vacationers you probably do some other athletic activities during the year, and perhaps those things get you ready for the big ski trip.  Or maybe you live in ski country and ride your bike all summer and have no arms or core. But what if….you hate the gym, want to save your pennies for those $10 hamburgers slope-side and don’t need some skinny, perpetually motivated, annoying fitness professional cheering you on while you do pushups? Then this is for you.

Hiking for turns in the Alta backcountry on Halloween 2011

Hiking for turns in the Alta backcountry on Halloween 2011

Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer, I don’t have a degree or professional experience in this area. What I do have is: a lifetime of needing to strength train and also hating gyms, a huge background in cycling and a small background in Nordic skiing, twenty-seven years of alpine skiing, eight years of ski vacations plus four years living in ski country, and a system that works to strengthen the muscles used for alpine skiing. Every year I’ve been working on this I have seen improvement. And I still don’t go to a gym. And I don’t do Crossfit either.

Equipment: Weights (an Olympic bar and free weights are great, but varied barbells will work), medicine ball, fitness ball, inflatable balance discs, pull-up bar, a step (like that old Reebok aerobics thing in the back of the garage gathering dust). If you do belong to a gym you can probably find most of these things in the fitness area. If not, these items will set you back anywhere from one to three months in membership fees at a gym, but they are yours to keep. You can find it all at Dick’s, But don’t google that at work.

Philosophy: Alpine skiing hammers your quads. But it also relies on balance, which comes from core strength. Additionally, people commonly forget about the upper body in skiing. Once your hands get behind you it’s all..ahem..downhill from there.

Hoofing it through a Memorial Day blizzard, 2011.

Hoofing it through a Memorial Day blizzard, 2011.

Arms and shoulders get tired from pole plants and risk injury from strange falls. Protecting them with a layer of muscle gives them the strength for that little knuckle drag or tree grab. Because I know, you never fall. Neither do I. Never once.

The workout: Each exercise is done for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds rest.  Correct form is always preferable to speed; as you get stronger your speed will improve while your form stays consistent.  Start with one circuit and work your way up to as many as you can.

Math Moment: If there are 12 exercises, each taking 30 seconds with a 30 second rest, it takes…..12 minutes to do a circuit. We max out at three, and have seen excellent results. So 36 minutes of effort for an awesome ski trip.  If you have a training watch that can be programmed, set it up to beep at you every 30 seconds. Otherwise get a big clock or count or something. You get the point. The exercises are listed in an order that allows certain muscle groups to rest while working on the other, but they can be done in any order and even with a ski buddy.

The Exercises:

Twisting squats - place the weight, don't twist the body.

Twisting squats – place the weight, don’t swing out of control from side to side.

Twisting squat: Extend your arms, start in a squatting position and slowly rise and twist side to side. This works your obliques and quads in a dynamic motion related to skiing.  Alternate sides on each rep and don’t swing; place yourself in each position solidly.

 

Pushups: Alternate one hand on the medicine ball and the other on the ground. This varies the angles to hit every part of your shoulder and it also gets you in the gut.

Pushups on the ball with alternating sides.

Pushups on the ball with alternating sides.

Can be done on your knees “girl style” and eventually as full pushups. Keep your back flat. Starts out easy and begins to suck at the 20 second mark. Hang in there.

Superman: Arch your back, tighten glutes, raise arms and legs. Pass the weight around your back in circles. Every few, switch directions. This strengthens your lower back (core) and works your shoulders at a unique angle. If you’re pregnant do this one standing…your baby will appreciate not being squished. If that’s not a baby in there then you have work to do.

Superman - gently pass the weight behind, switch directions every few.

Superman – gently pass the weight behind, switch directions every few.

Oblique crunch: Can be done without weights to begin with. Alternate sides while keeping legs stationary (don’t use them for help). As it gets easier try holding a weight to your chest as you crunch.

Oblique crunch can be done holding a weight or with hands behind head.

Oblique crunch.

One leg hops: Helps with dynamic strength. Spring from your ankle from one foot onto a box and land on the ground with the other. Repeat. Don’t miss the box. Or alternatively, wear shin guards.

Hop - generate power from the ankle.

One Leg Hop – generate power from the ankle.

 

 

 

 

 

Ball crunch: Isolate the upper abs by resting your lower back on the ball. Can be done with or without weights, but if you are using weights keep your arms static. It is a core exercise rather than an arm exercise. Don’t use momentum because that’s just cheating.

Upper ab crunch - very small range of motion.

Upper ab crunch – very small range of motion.

Pullup/Chinup: Hands facing you is easier than hands out. If you’re like me, and the most of these you’ve done was for the President’s Physical Fitness test in the 80’s, start with hands facing you. If you can’t do one, use a stool to start at the top and slowly lower yourself. Eventually work up to about ten, then switch to hands out. This works your core and lats for those steep hill pole plants.

Chin-up with hands facing you, Pull-up with hands facing away (harder).

Chin-up with hands facing you, Pull-up with hands facing away (harder).

Side Plank: Fifteen seconds per side. This works your obliques and lower back. Can be done with or without weights.  Make sure your body forms a straight line.

Side plank with weight. Switch sides halfway through.

Side plank with weight. Switch sides halfway through.

Ball smash: On a hard surface, bounce the medicine ball hard against the ground, follow through backwards with your hands, catch it and repeat. This helps with dynamic strength for your shoulders and skiing-wise, helps you return your hands to the front where they need to be for proper form; hands front. It is also a fantastic way to work out frustration…the harder you

Smash the ball on a hard surface and it will bounce back.

Smash the ball on a hard surface and it will bounce back.

slam, the higher the ball returns. Please don’t do this if you live in an apartment (your downstairs neighbor might maim you).

Plank: Works the whole core. Be sure to keep your back flat – no cheating. Can be done with or without weight. I didn’t post a picture because you probably know what a plank looks like and posting pictures of planking is just so 2009.

Military Press: With bar or barbells. Works the shoulders and helps prevent rotator cuff issues.  Also helps your beach muscles, but not as much as curls.

Military press - can be done with small barbells.

Military press – can be done with small barbells.

Balancing squats: Hands down my favorite. This is far more effective than a regular squat for the precise balance of skiing. It takes much less weight to be effective and it reinforces the point that skiing is about strength while balancing. You’ll expect to feel it in your legs, but don’t be surprised when your core tries to crash this party.  Be sure to use very good form and start light – these are harder than they look. Also, don’t do them drunk because you’ll fall backwards on your arse.

Squats on balance disks - can be done with just body weight to work on balance.

Squats on balance disks – can be done with just body weight to work on balance.

There. That’s it. Go do this three times a week starting now and until your ski trip. Then you can come home, hopefully with both knees and shoulders intact, and sit on the couch until you book your next trip, panic, and look at this again in October. Better bookmark it.

 

 

Stuff I Like (And Paid For*) Dryland Training Edition

icon_boards

 

 

*but not necessarily full retail

Fall is in full swing in the Wasatch and I can smell ski season. In fact I woke up to about an inch of soggy graupel this morning and realized that these are the few days of the year when it is really hard to do anything. Not enough snow to ski, too much slop to ride bikes or rollerski. It was exactly freezing and we had exactly four intervals to do that really couldn’t be moved. So we went for an uphill trail run in the snow with our ski poles. It probably looked RIDIC, but it gave me a chance to solidly review a few products that I have been meaning to mention for awhile.

Booking it up to the tram at Snowbird.

Booking it up to the tram at Snowbird.

Salomon Crossmax XR Trail Shoes

I’ve had this pair for two seasons now and although I am not a runner and use them intermittently, they are my go-to trail shoe. I have terrible feet and orthotics for everything, so I choose a neutral shoe that has some cush and I still complain. But I complain less in these.

Fit The lacing system is their proprietary “Quicklace” system. It’s easy for me to use when I am half-asleep, jumping out of the car with freezing hands and looking to get moving ASAP. Although it might seem like it is harder to micro-adjust than laces, I actually think it’s sixes; I can adjust them to feel good even on my terrible low-volume, crooked, gnarly feet. So that’s a plus.  I tend to have a small ankle and larger forefoot and this shoe fits me well even with my orthotics. I could probably find a shoe that is a little tighter on the ankle, but that’s not a Salomon problem, it’s a me problem.

Boing These are trail shoes and I have used them on the road before too. They have plenty of cush for the push on dirt, snow, grass, even asphalt if that’s what you’re into. Actually, if you’re into that, get a road shoe. But for mixed media, these will do the trick. Think of them as a cross bike for your feet. It is not a minimalist shoe by any means (and that’s just fine).

Tread I ran uphill in wet snow today and didn’t slip once. I would call that a pass.

Weight My best time scaling Snowbird Summer Road on feets was about 1 hour and 5 minutes. That’s 3000 vertical feet in 7k. And I was wearing these, which is why I mentioned all that. They are nice and light.

Durability I have had them two summers and a winter. I might use them for running once or twice a month, but I also wear them around all over, hike in them sometimes, etc. Let’s face it. There are runners who are serious and keep two (or more) identical pairs and rotate them every day and never EVER wear them to the grocery store or anything, and then there are the rest of us. Running is something I do to train for Nordic skiing, but it is also something I tend to avoid. They were dirty today from my last time on the trail, but the snow made them look like new. No stitches are amiss, the tread looks good, the lacing system is fine and the foam is still squishy.

After two years they still look this good.

After two years they still look this good.

Overall When they started making shoes the Salomons were not my first choice. They have consistently improved this shoe to the point that now they are my number one choice for trail running and cross training for everything. And I have a newer, cleaner pair that I wear around because they are nice looking and easy to get on and off with a baby in one hand and all her crap in the other. I give them a five beer rating (out of five).

Bliz Pace Cross Country Glasses

These glasses are intended for cross country skiing, but I have been using them this summer for trail running.

Fit This model is designed for “small faces”. The “Pursuit XT” model is the larger equivalent. I chose the smaller of the two because I am small. Pretty simple. There are regular earpieces and a strap that attaches instead, and I have mostly used the adjustable elastic strap. It fits very well with a hat or headband since these were intended for skiing. The lenses provide full enough coverage for my eyes, and since I wear contacts it is important that they not be blown out. They also feature

So happy to be done running. But our eyes are happy in Bliz glasses!

So happy to be done running. But our eyes are happy in Bliz glasses!

a removable piece on the forehead that is padded. Again, it works well for its intended purpose with hats and headbands. You can even flip the glasses up on your head if you need to.

Performance They are very light and work exceptionally for trail running because of the elastic strap. Road running too, but I try and stay away from that.  I used them once with a helmet to rollerski and they didn’t mesh as well with a helmet. They still performed well, shielded the wind and resisted fogging. There is actually another model of Bliz called the Velo that are more suited to fit with a helmet. I can say with certainty after today’s snowy run that they will be great for cross country skiing, which is their aim. The only time I had any fogging was if I stopped, and it is easy to prop them up on your head for a second. As soon as I got moving they cleared.

Lenses Mine came with two pair; pink and smoke with mirror. The smoke are dark enough for our sunniest of days. I wore the pink on my run today because it

Mine came with two pairs of lenses, the solid earpiece and the elastic strap, which will be my go-to for cross country ski season.

Mine came with two pairs of lenses, the solid earpiece and the elastic strap, which will be my go-to for cross country ski season.

was overcast, and just as we left the car the sun came out. We were in snow in the woods, and the pink still reduced the glare, but I was happy to have them because it was still not full sun.

Overall I will race in these this season for sure. The elastic band is the selling point for me; it really works well for any hat-related activities. Good enough for some really fast Norwegians, good enough for me. Five beers.