Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ski Your Age in Ks Day: Not this year!

Lucky loser here, I went in not even planning to attempt to ski 53K on Monday at the annual Ski Your Age event at Birch Hill. I've participated almost every year they've had it but I decided about from the get go that conditions have to be decent enough to ski the distance within about 3.5 to 4 hours. With temps in the -10s in the morning (and slow fresh snow) I decided just to ski what I could within 2.5 or 3 hours.

More power to all those (old timers in particular) who skied their age and then some.

Don't know how/why I just happened to be skiing in the stadium when the Daily NewsMiner photographer was snapping pictures.

Roger Sayre is followed by his son, Tristan, and Mark Ross as they participate in the "Ski Your Age in Kilometers" event Monday, Dec. 26, 2011, at the Birch Hill Recreation Area. The elder Sayre felt it was to cold to complete all of his laps but that Tristan had already surpassed his required amount. Sam Harrel/News-Miner

Might as well of said: Fairbanks loser wimps out on Ski Your Age day.

In a way the ski was goofed up from the before starting as I gave out my last handwarmers, thinking I had another set in my bag. D'oh! Then I brought the wrong orthotics (really old ones with quarter-sized hole dug into what should be the resting spot of my big toes), and skied 16K of classic in skate boots. What was I thinking? Got the boots changed and finished 22K with Tristan before setting out on my own. I took off the mask and sort of hammered (marathon effort) out on White Bear (7K)/Moilainen's before wrapping up with an easy cruise around Warm Up Loop and a fourth circuit around Rollercoasters.

So I did 35K (my age transposed) in about 2:50, including a couple of wax stops. A fair to decent distance workout. Personally, I don't have all day (would have been 4.5 hr worth on Monday, and I would have had to taken a break) to go 53K for Gold, 54K for Platinum or even the extra hour+ to make it 47 and a "Century"). Neverthless, I do think that Ski Your Age in Ks is a great little community event on Boxing day and it's growing in popularity.

Anyway, all seemed well until I got inside and the big toe on each foot felt like it was burning up. Uh oh, I thought maybe frostbite? My toes never felt cold out there. Got home and lo! found half dollar sized blisters on each one. So I had to sit out from Tuesday's workout, and rode the bike trainer instead.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sub 5 Over 5 Decades?: A Solstice Pipe Dream

First, Happy Solstice! Officially they're (USA East Coast & EuroZone) calling the 22nd as the winter solstice, but technically for Alaska it's today. 3 hours 42 minutes of daylight. We gain three seconds tomorrow. Yes! Light, bring it on. Actually it will take about three or four weeks to notice a difference, but after that it's simply amazing how fast we gain light. February and March are awesome months if we can avoid any deep, long-lasting cold snaps.

Okay, on one of the running message boards someone positited the question of running sub 5 for the mile over five decades. They weren't exactly clear whether this meant calendar decades (e.g., 1970s, 80s, 90s and on) or chronological decades (a given runner's teens, twenties, thirties and on). Either way, I come up just short. I need a sub 5 in the 2010s/my 50s. Maybe have one or two more chances to do this. It's a worthy goal.

Here's the chronology, and below I'll write up the strategy.

I started training seriously just before turning 19 in early 1977. In years that I ran 1500 instead, I use a converted time. Some years I didn't attempt a mile/1500, but use race splits (only the first mile counts) as a time.

4:41 (1977)
4:39 (1978)
4:55 (1979) - first mile of a 2 mile track race
4:31 (1980)
?:?? (1981) - did not race a mile but did run 33:30 10K; may have done a workout sub 5
4:45 (1982)
4:57? (1983) - race split, did not race a mile but ran 15:28 5K
5:00? (1984) - not sure, ran 15:53 5K and ~10:20 for 2 mile
4:26 (1985)
4:26 (1986) - also ran 1500 in 4:05, converts to 4:24 mile (PR)
?:?? (1987) - ran 16:00 5K, maybe ran a sub 5 in a workout but not sure
?:?? (1988) - ran 49:50 15K (5:22/mile), so was in pretty good shape
4:31 (1989) - converted from 4:11 1500 m
4:32 (1990)
4:32 (1991)
4:43 (1992)
4:46 (1993)
4:51 (1994)
4:56 (1995)
4:58 (1996)
-:-- (1997) - mostly injured, but ran 35:44 10K, 17:21 5K (not = to sub 5)
4:38 (1998) - Masters PR
4:40 (1999) - converted from 4:20 1500 m
4:45 (2000)
5:00 (2001) - road mile at altitude, but slight downhill
-:-- (2002) - injured all year
5:03 (2003) - road mile, same course as 2001
5:08 (2004)
4:56 (2005)
4:54 (2006)
5:08 (2007) - road mile (Need to check if I did any track miles that year)
5:00.8 (2008)
5:00.8 (2009)
5:14 (2010) - converted 1500
5:11 (2011)

The tentative plan, finances and logistics permitting, is to run Eugene Marathon in April with ski training as my base (sub 3 hr would be cool, but we'll see), and then take a two week recovery and then focus on miler training for about six weeks in preparation for Flint Hills Mile, and a serious attempt at sub 5:00.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday Night Series: 5th time is a charm

Fall 2011 has been my worst start to a ski season, ever. And I'm a slow starter (learner too!). Been a regular master of disaster, what with skiing off course last month at the 2nd Wednesday night race; classic skiing personal worsts at Turkey Day Relays and the GundeLoppet races. Now the sprint race was decent, I stayed on my feet, but a distant, and I mean distant, third is nothing to write home about.

Last night was supposed to be classic, but yesterday morning race director Ken informed us by email that it would be a skate race. This was both good and bad. Good because I'm much more confident with skating these days (see several recent entries for that story), but sort of bad because on Monday I had just dropped off my trusty skate skis for a stone grinding, thinking I wouldn't be skate racing until next month. Enough time to for multiple wax layers. I like to get in between 5 and 10 layers of warm wax (CH7/LF7), plus a fair amount of skiing them in, before actually prepping the skis for a race. This process usually takes weeks.

I had all of 2.5 hours to get it done! Base layer was on and they were hotboxed (which totally helped), so I put on a quick layer of purple then blue over lunch and after work it was blue--temperatures were dropping faster than the European economy--so two layers of LF4. By then it was 6:15, only time for a quick preview of the course (no wrong turns planned!!!!), with some pickups and a hit of albutorol to stave off an asthma attack.

By race time it was about 4F. Most of the usual Wednesday night suspects were there, sans Kramer and Arvey.

The course was a rolling 5K, with the trickiest part over the first 2K, with a short blast out of the stadium and 180 degree turn after about 200 meters followed by flat for 300 meters and the entire 1.5K, fairly narrow, hilly and twisty, Warm Up loop. I tucked in nicely into 5th or so through the first half K, with Max, Jim, Jim, and Dave taking the lead (first names used to protect the innocent). Surprisingly, on Warm Up's first downhill national class skier Tyson skied around and tucked in to our group.

What the heck?

I just cruised and drafted through 2K, and the into the Stadium Tyson busted out and was not to be seen again (by me at least), while Max and Jim pulled away. Dave set a strong pace too, so I tried to hang on. Played a little masters cat and mouse with Jim, through Relay Loop while Dave did the work. Up East Ramp, Dave started to pull away by 30 m or so, and Jim slowed so I went after Dave, who obviously had younger-fresher legs.

I was close on White Bear Access, but he put no a powerful hop step up the hill leading into the switch backs and his gap grew from about 2 seconds to maybe 5. So it was pretty much over. Just before heading into the stadium I was tying up, barely hanging, and expecting Jim to go blasting by. So I committed a cardinal error and looked back. Shouldn't do that but he was a good 50 meters behind and looking as pekid as I was feeling, and I knew I'd be able to hang on for the sprint. So I regrouped and set my sights on Dave. Gained on the stadium backstretch, but he was definitely faster on the sprint to the finish line, and I was 5th about 7 seconds behind Dave.

1st "masters: (Max and Jim are over 40, but for this series masters starts at 45), and shook that bad monkey of my back.

It was a good night to race, and as my cool down partner aptly said, "how racing should be. You show up, line up, the RD says a few words, and you go!" Simple, laid back, straigtforward.

Unofficial Quick Results:

13:40 Tyson
14:16 Max? (I didn't find out who won that duel)
14:17 Jim?
14:36 Dave
14:43 Me
14:59 Jim
~15:20 Gary
~15:40s Davya (1st woman)

Monday, December 12, 2011

A walk down classic ski tip lane

So many skis so little time.

Although I started skiing at about age 5 or 6 in Colorado during the early-mid 1960s, I didn't try cross country until about a decade later. My family had moved to Iowa by then and every year (sometimes twice) we'd make a trip out of corn land to ski country. Some years we'd go to back to Colorado, but usually it was a trip to the upper Midwest: Wisconsin and Michigan's UP.

I was all set to go to Michigan on New Year's 1974, but caught the flu. So my dad and brother went, and I had to stay home. My friend who was supposed to travel with us and I decided to try cross country at Kent State Park, near Iowa City. So we rented some skis from a local bike shop, and I recall it was a lot of fun making fresh tracks in the 6 or 8 inches of fresh snow.

That winter I don't think I even left the state for downhill but took an interest in cross country, so my parents bought me a pair. I felt guilty taking their money and took the cheapest things on the shelf. Old wooden skis with cable bindings that were suitable for any kind of shoes. My dad tried to get me to at least go with a 3-pin system but I refused.

I spent hours prepping the bases with pine tar, and actually used them a lot over the next three years, usually just on my own. My favorite was Hickory Hill Park just a mile or two from home, but also City Park, or back at Kent State Park. Then I went to college and hardly gave it a try; maybe two or three times. I was into running by then and did downhill on winter vacations.

After graduating I moved back to Colorado for a while, and picked up a pair of recreational Fischer waxable skis, with something like these Skilom bindings. I used this system for light touring and a couple races a year.

By 1983-84 I decided to get sort of serious about skiing and got a pair of silver top of hte line Rossignols. Broke one of those within a month. The shop replaced the ski, and then I quickly snapped another. They shoo'd me out of the store. So I had to borrow a friend’s Kneissels to finish the season. He moved to Hawaii so I think ended up buying those, and I used them for another half season, and broke those at the same place at the same race as the second pair that I'd broke the year before!

So in January 1985 I got a good deal on some Fischer Air Carbons (205 cm). Those were the bomb! Light and fast. But that was at the start of the skate revolution and by early 1986 I blew out the sidewall of those (4 broken skis in 2 years, not a good pattern). So I got the first generation Fisher Skate ski, with metal edges and sidewalls made of iron. Virtually indestructable. I still have those!

But we're talking classic here. Nobody did classic in the 1985-86 season. It was all skating (if you wanted to be competitive), but before the 1986-87 season the FIS and USSA governing bodies brought back classic and issued the edict that World Cup and championship type races would be 50-50 classic-skating. So I went to SNIAGRAB (bargains spelled backwards) at Gart Brothers in Denver an picked up a 5 or 6 (8?) year old model of Kastle classic skis for about $50 and resurrected my classic skiing, usually twice a week for recovery days of 45 to 60 minutes.

In early 1987 I went to my first big time race, the World Championship tryouts in Biwabik, Minnesota. I got some looks, and remarks from people saying hey those were great skis back in the day. I should have taken that hint. The opening race was a 15K classic. The skis were soft and slow on the icy northern Minnesota trails. My big time race debut was auspicious in that I was so far back, near the bottom of the rankings, and 25% back from the winners (will have to look that one up!). Fortunately, the skate races went better.

So when I got back to Colorado the first thing I did is got to the ski shop in Boulder, where I stumbled upon the best deal ever. A pair of 1986 Fischer Air Carbon Klisters (soft flex) for $50. No one was buying classic skis yet. At the retail and local level skating was all the rage. Only racing nerds knew that classic was back. I snapped those things quicker than you could say Flatirons, and got out of town before the shop owners realized the steal I'd gotten.

Those were simply the best skis ever! That spring I went to California and race US Nationals and placed in the top 40 overall in the 15K, and was about 16% back. A 9% improvement from two months previously. Those skis made a big difference.

I raced on those Air Carbons for years, a full decade! By the end they were beaten up and patched together with epoxy, but I was still kicking some classic butt (by then in northern Minnesota, where we lived for a few years) until the spring of 1997. I tried them a few times ca. 2000-01 when we had moved back to Colorado (for the third time), but they'd lost their magic. I did maybe two classic races between 1998 and 2004 and they just felt slow and old. I still have them and plan to keep them forever.

Okay, up to modern times, and I must admit it hasn't been pretty.

Bought a pair of 206 cm Atomic RC11s in the fall of 2004 and immediately hated them. Slow and noodle like. So I asked around a bit, and local skier Mike Kramer had some 206 cm Atomic Beta Classics that he didn't really like so I tried them out. Hmmm. They'd do for the season I figured. That was November 2004.

I kind of muddled through that first season here, and actually did better at classic than skating.

For whatever reason (i.e., investing in skate skis and my kids' equipment) I kept on those Betas through the ‘05, ‘06, and ‘07 seasons, and they served fairly well. At the beginning of ‘08 I decided it was time to get a new pair of classics so I went after some Atomic World Cups, but asked for a stiffer pair. Now Fred at Raven's warned me, but I insisted. And lived to regret it. Those were just way too stiff and I could barely get up anything more than 6% grade without falling on my face. As we know, hills like South Tower, Tower Direct, White Bear, and Black Funk are all well over 6% grade, so I spent a lot of time on my face that year! Bad Bob has video tape, which I hear he likes to show to friends from time to time.

Shelved those puppies and bought some new skate skis. (indeed, I have two great pairs of Atomic skate skis).

Went back to the beaten up blue Betas for 2009. And then in 2010 I was injured with the knee thing, but jumped into a few races (all classic). With the Betas.

At the beginning of last season I decided it was time to give Atomics one more try and I got a pair of the new World Cups, this time easy to handle 201s with a medium flex. Perfect. They feel good. Light, handle well. Setting the pocket for the kick phase usually isn't that hard. I've got the wax pocket dialed, at least for practice.

But I'm now convinced those things are slow. When my 120 lb. high school freshman son pulls way on an easy downhill on Tower, and puts a minute on me from top of tower to the Biathlon range (almost all downhill), yup, it's time for a switch.

Guess what? I just dropped off the (what, 8 or 9 yr old) Betas at Goldstream for one more grind. I'm going back to those this winter for any more classic races.

They're not the greatest. Besides being old, they're too long (206), and certifiably too stiff for me. But I've had some good races on them (the Skiathon a few times, some of the 10 and 20Ks at Birch and the 25K classic for Tour of Anchorage) and can make them work.

Next year, however, I'm saving up and will place an order through Boulder Nordic to get a handpicked pair--right out of the factory in Europe--that should fit just so.

A really good racer can probably make about any decent ski work. Likewise, an everyman racer like me can make skate skis work. It’s harder with classic. I really think you need the right fit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

GundeLoppet 15K, that was pretty awful

I now have the certifiably slowest skis in Fairbanks. At least they were today. No glide whatsoever. Got a bad start, but was still in contact with most everyone as we got off South Tower and onto Tower switch backs, but on that first downhill everyone just glided away and several more skiers came up from behind and went past. I just ended up stepping out of the track several times to let people past. Lost 40 sec between top of Tower to the Biathlon Range. That's just not right.

Course was great (probably a bit short of 15K), snow perfect and loved the temps. My only complaint--and it's significant--was that there was only single track from 1K on. What's up with that? There should be double track almost the entire way!! Passing was almost impossible because the outside lane wasn't even groomed much--very slow.

Anyway, fell way back by the 4.5K, 6K, and 7K cutoffs but coming back on White Bear I began to up some ground on the long climbs. That was good. The bad part was I would have needed another 5K and 800 ft of vertical (with no down) to make up enough ground to move up much. The good thing is that I gained a lot of confidence on the climbs. It's not my technique that sucks, it's the skis and the wax job. I had a short pocket, but maybe VR45 was too sticky for those skis on this day.

The damage:
26th male (last year 15th or so)
32nd overall (last year 15th or so)

The kids did well though. Erich 9th overall in 15K, David 2nd and Tristan 3rd in the 7.5K.

Friday, December 09, 2011

December 2011 Blues

This is the season of the SNAFU, at least from my perspective.

I'm actually pretty happy with last week's skate sprint. But I'm definitely not a sprinter and couldn't sprint fast on skis (or on foot) anymore if my life depended on it.

Got the kids all waxed up and ready to go in the morning, only to have Tristan run into one of those metal barriers the start corral and he broke his brand new--never been raced on--Rossignol Xium 174 cm skis. He raced one round with the broken ski, and made the semi and we switched him into his warm up skis (4 yr old jr-level skis) so he didn't make the "A" final. On the final round I retrieved his good ski and he went one old ski, one new ski and ended up 4th in the "B" final of the B bracket. Decent for a freshman with a broken ski. Likewise, Mikko had a good day, and made A final of B bracket and was actually leading with just 300 m to go, but he rigged up at the top of East Ramp and finished 4th.

Good experience for the boys and a lot of the kids.

The masters heats were all messed up. We were supposed to go at 12:30/35 in two heats, with a final at 12:40, but there was schedule misprint so many (most) of the skiers thought we'd be going an hour later. Oops. So it became a one race final at 2:00, after all the A bracket racing was done. I did 2 warm ups, which probably isn't so bad.

Started out cautiously in 4th, not wanting to go after Arvey (hey he's only 33 and not really a "master," if you count 40+ as masters) and Kramer. But by the time we got to the spruce tree hairpin (maybe 350 meters in), I decided to hammer and go after them. It was too much to ask, so I ended up the rest of the way in a lactic acid induced no-man's land hoping to hell that I'd stay on my feet and finish. So took a suprise (remember I'm not a sprinter) 3rd OA (actually 2nd). But jeez, 3 min and you're done!? What kind of racing is that.

Gundeloppet 15K tomorrow. I've always managed to be competitive and finish within 20% of the top UAF skiers and to beat the top women. Not going to happen in a classic race anymore. I'll be lucky/happy to be within 30% and be behind no more than three of the women. It might end up a lot worse than that the way classic racing has been going.

Honestly, I used to be good at classic. In 1990-91 I was 4th overall at the Tug Hill Tourathon, one of the biggest classic marathons in the East, 1st in the Empire State Games championship classic race, and 2nd at the Gatineau 25K classic in Canada, also a big race out there. I just can't do it very well anymore.

Tomorrow will be perfect skate weather. If the 20K in January is too cold to skate or if it gets cancelled due to cold (& I'm not racing if it's colder than -10 F), I will be one pissed local customer.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Belated TD Relays Report

Only five days late. Skiing on the 3X5K relay with my own kids was memorable, even though I'd like to forget my own race. More or less shot myself in the foot, not to mention some other factors. Still it was a lot fun.

Weather could have been warmer, but -5 wasn't too bad compared to what we'd had earlier in the week. The course was tougher than in the past, but it wasn't a killer either: Stadium, Relay to South Tower, onto Tower for a K or so, then down the sprint course (over a jump and round a big S turn), Rollercoasters, White Cub, White Bear and WB Access, and then just a little jog around the first section of Warm Up.

I felt off from the get go, worse on the hill and that's just 1K, and it went downhill from there.

18:27 (me)
17:57 (Tristan)
17:00 (Mikko)

8th overall, and a surprise 3rd in our division.

I signed up for the sprint race on Saturday. Not quite looking forward to that--would rather do a 15K freestyle or the 4 mile snowshoe race. But the former is not happening this year and the latter conflicts with the ski races. So I'll be there. Might as well jump in and go against the masters.