Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Post race musings

1. Pineland is too good. The trails at Pineland are so beautifully laid out, and the grooming has been so good this winter, that certain parts of my skiing repertoire are not being challenged and improved. This includes especially making 90+ degree turns at speed and with a grooved out channel with soft piles of snow pushed to the side.
2. There is a very small midpack and essentially no back of the pack in these ski races. It's bad for the ego but maybe that is good because it is fewer people to have to pick my way through.
3. That said, the Pineland winter-tri brought out many back of the packers! The only point of comparison is Matt Lunt who had the 3rd best ski time at the winter tri but was 56/86 at the Rangeley Loppet.
4. Most everyone uses a water bottle belt in the ski marathons, not camelbaks. The problem is one bottle isn't enough so you have to have someone hand you a new bottle at the lap, or I guess tuck one along the course somewhere. My camelbak worked pretty well and I wanted it especially to carry a set of dry gloves in case my first pair got too soaked and my frostbitten fingers chilled. That didn't happen. But maybe I'll start practicing eating gels while moving (not so easy with glove and poles strapped to the hands).
5. The timing crew/race director made several mistakes in timing and awards. Some were fixed during the awards, some that I know of were not. This included Dave Roberts  (runs the Pineland 25K and Craig Cup) 2nd place in 10 year age group but no acknowledgement during the awards. And this guy actually finished 10 minutes slower than the official results (he's got a nice race report, by the way). How did that happen and why didn't it happen to me?
6. The report is that all of the new england ski races have been down in numbers this winter,by 20% or more, despite the good snow and weather. It will be interesting to see how the trail race numbers shake out.
7. Cross-training - I cannot recommend hanging up the running shoes and skiing all winter highly enough. It's a great way to rest weary joints but maintain super fitness. Plus the downhills are just wicked fun.
8. Today has been the first day that I've thought about running (not actually going out and running but thinking "what a nice day to run").


  1. You know, a real man would ski the 50k at Bretton Woods this weekend.

  2. Hah! It's that kinda talk that made me ski the 50K last weekend! I'm just hoping not to get lapped by the 50Kers

  3. ooh, an excellent chance to be the annoying know-it-all guy!

    a couple responses to your musings:

    4) No wears a camelback because you just don't need that much water/gear in the race. You sweat out so much less water in the winter that normal summer hydration techniques are way off. A single bottle + drinking at feed stations is definitely enough. If you saw the pic on my blog, the women's winner didn't even have a bottle, she just drank at every feed station and had gels pinned to her suit. Less water = less weight = faster.

    6) I agree that numbers are down, and Rangeley was especially down because it conflicted this year with the Craftsbury Spring Fling 30k in Vermont, so almost no one from Western New England came over. There's always more events than reliable snow weekends at the end of the year it seems.

    One trick for eating gels is to pin/staple them to your belt or suit so you can tear it open with 1 hand, leaving the tab attached to you. Much easier than fishing around a pack and a then trying to precisely tear it open in your hands.


  4. Thanks for the gel tips - I've enjoyed your blog posts on skiing, especially the boot cam!

  5. You might want to consider a gel flask and using Hammer gel from the big bottle (if you think you'll ever get through that much!) www.hammernutrition.com That way you won't have to worry about tearing into the package and disposing of it. Unless of course skiers are like road runners and just drop their gel packs on the trail.

    As for hydration (bear in mind I don't ski) I still use a Camelbak on long winter runs (over 2 hours). I guess it depends on how much you think you need to drink, I find that I still need to drink quite a bit during the winter. I would think that the Camelbak would be easier to drink as you go without throwing off your poling (as much). I also like using a Camelbak in races so I can get in and out of aid stations quicker. I think that time lost from the increased weight of a pack on your back (minimal) is less than the time that can be gained by moving in and out of an aid station quickly and efficiently.

  6. Feeding in XC ski races should be a bit easier than in running races, because you can glide. On the other hand, you don't have free hands. But anyway, you shouldn't be stopping or even slowing much at the feeds.

    General technique for feeding would be to dial it back a bit when you know the feed zone is coming (so you aren't breathing wicked hard), then take the cup in front of you with both hands (poles dangling) and down it in one or two gulps. And you're done. You'll only miss about five pole plants if you're smooth about it, and of course you can skate the whole time.

    Skiers litter horribly just like everyone else I'm afraid. I put my wrappers back in my belt, but a serious racer wouldn't. The only rationalization I can offer is that because it's on private land and trails, there are no landowners to offend, and the promoter can "easily" clean up the dropped wrappers after the race.

  7. Yes, gel packs were all over and not necessarily at the water stops. Volume of water is interesting. Yes many skiers did the 50 with only one bottle but maybe they could have skied faster drinking two. I went with the camelbak because I became wicked dehydrated during the Great Glen 300.

    A second reason I went with the camelbak was it was 2 for 1 - that is, by using Heed, I thought I wouldn't need to take gels. And I I really lose almost no time sipping from the camelbak. In the end, I was thirsty for real water and the gels taste better than heed, so I did stop 2X on the back 9. But I do like the idea of pinning gels to a water belt. Because fishing gels out of a zipped pocket with gloves bound by ski straps sucks.

    I also bought a new gel dispenser that is like a toothpaste tube, only smaller. I seriously considered pinning this to a flyfishing zinger (a retractable wire) and pulling this up to my mouth - sucking - then letting it zing back to the belt. No gel pack to tear or toss on the ground! But because I only thought of this the night before I didn't want to try it during the race. This is a flyfishing zinger...

  8. Ok I promise I'll shut up after this one.

    Looking at the HEED mix on my shelf, it says 100 calories per heaping scoop, and you generally mix 1 scoop per 1 large waterbottle, so maybe 2 scoops for a whole camelback? So you're looking at 200 calories max.

    Meanwhile, most gels have ~200 calories (I don't have any on hand to check), so you can drink an entire camelback to get 200 cals or eat a single gel. Which sounds easier? :) Which is more likely to make you uncomfortable as it sloshes around in your stomach?

    I ate four gels during the race (800 calories) and drank most of 1 bottle, plus some at the feed stations, so call that another 900 calories total. There's just no way you can replicate that kind of calorie intake by drinking Heed.

    In my experience, going without a drink for over 1.5 hours on skis tends to lead to problems (assuming you come in hydrated), but as long as you're drinking modestly, the biggest difference in performance down the stretch will be gel intake.

    Anyway -- drink as much as you can get away with, I guess, but from what I can tell consistent gel intake (every 10k or so) is far more important than getting lots of fluid. A prime example of this is that many of the Dartmouth kids (who are way, way better than either of us) went gels-only and only drank at feeds, and they all performed about where I'd expect them to be.

  9. hammer gels are about 100 cal/pack but yes, for me to drink the equivalent in Heed I would need to drink much more fluid (at the recommended dilution) than 1 bottle. A problem that I've had with my bottle is that it occasionally bounces out, especially when herringboning up a hill. I guess the best solution is learn to stride better! (note to runners - ski bottle holders hold the bottle more loosely than running bottle holders for easier in-out with glove/poles).