Thursday, February 25, 2010

Support Your Local Rando Races

Each year the rando racing scene grows.  Crucial to that growth are local races.  I keep promising to grow the local scene, and I will once I shift my effort and focus from training to promoting races.  Until then, I am grateful for promoters who put on rando races nearby.  Equally crucial is participation.  I know that there are a lot fit ski tourers out there.  You should try rando racing.  Here are some that you should try to attend. 


From the USSMA Site:

Pebble Creek Ski Area and the Idaho State University Outdoor Adventure Center co-sponsor the Matt Barrett Memorial Telemark Festival and Rando Rally.

The Pebble Creek Randonee Race is February 28th at 8:00 am. The straight lines will mostly be switchbacks so the course is longer than it looks with a roughly 3000 ft ascent/descent. There will also be a rec division which is basically the same route as the race in years past with about 1800' feet of climbing. Please direct any questions to the ISU Outdoor Adventure Center at 282-3912 or to


Note: this is not an adventure race. Not multisport, only AT, Tele, split board.

Date: March 6th, 2010

Place: Logan Canyon, Logan, Utah



This is the classic.  One of the longest running and best races around.  For two years, it was a World Cup event attended by the best racers in the world.  This year's race will be run at Brighton.  Check it out here:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Silver --> Days --> Cardiff

We got out for a tour this morning. The forecast said that there was was an 80 percent chance of snow. And we expected it since it seems we are always stumbling around in low visibility wet conditions these days. BUT, we received a pleasant surprise. Bluebird skies! Our route took us up Grizzly Gulch, into the East bowl of Silver Fork, up back to Davenport, back down a north facing run into Silver Fork, up the West bowl of Silver Fork, into Days via a north facing chute, up out of Days, down Holy Toledo, up to Cardiff ridge, and out via a Cardiff chutelet. Every run was a quality Wasatch run. 4 hrs. 5400 vertical. Great weather. Great snow. Nice tour. Here are some pics. Here are some pics.

Sam with Little Cottonwood in the background.
From February 20, 2010

Alex and Bart topping out on Silver Fork because the cardinal rule is: "we ski from the top."
From February 20, 2010

Where'd you get those shades? Bart before heading up the West bowl of Silver.
From February 20, 2010

There is a nice happy cornice minding its own business.
From February 20, 2010

Hmm, what are those guys doing?
From February 20, 2010

Hacking on the happy little cornice.
From February 20, 2010

Happy cornice is now an angry, rather large cornice . . . bounding down a chute. Notice the crack in the new snow.
From February 20, 2010

Cornice is growing angrier by the minute (bottom right). And it took a little soft slab with it.
From February 20, 2010

Close up of the slab.
From February 20, 2010

Apollo dropping in, avoiding the holes left by the cornice.
From February 20, 2010

Sam launching off a ridge (center).
From February 20, 2010

From February 20, 2010

Ivan Drago ripping a turn.
From February 20, 2010

On top of Cardiff, getting ready for a home run into Alta.
From February 20, 2010

The weather started acting up, shutting down the visibility. We're used to that though. Sam, dropping in.
From February 20, 2010

And into the abyss.
From February 20, 2010

Great weather. Great snow. Nice tour.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Going Fast Part III: Skimo Training Principles and a Plan

Last night as I got in the car, soaking wet, just having spent the afternoon climbing and skiing 5600 vertical in dumping snow, I turned to Bart and said, "well, that's all I can do." He said, "yep, that's it; that's what you are." And that concluded a two week build period during which I put in about 36 hrs and 47k vertical.  Between now and the end of February when I go to Andorra, I will taper down so I can be all I can be at Worlds.

This season is the first season I have prepared (and I use that term loosely) and followed a structured training plan for skimo racing. Thanks to my world class endurance think tank, I have put together a structure that has been beneficial and has led to some improvement. My think tank and mentors include Bart "Apollo Creed" Gillespie, Billy "Olympic Gold Medalist" Demong (I see into the future -- trust me), and Bad A$$ Brian Harder. These guys are great athletes and more importantly have a good understanding of endurance training. They have reduced my learning curve dramatically.

Since skimo racing is a newer sport and a fringe sport, there really isn't a lot of written discussion on how to train. A lot is unknown and a lot of voodoo is required.  But given the demands of a skimo race,  for the most part, basic principles of endurance training apply.  Here are a few of my thoughts and theories on how to train for skimo racing.
  1. Periodization.  As with other disciplines like cycling, running and nordic skiing, a training plan should include a base period, build periods, rest periods, taper periods, and peak periods.  In addition to working physiologically, mentally, it's nice to break up your season into periods so that you can have short term goals, have something to look forward to, and see improvements as you continue to build up and peak.
  2. Volume.  In any period, whether it's base, build, taper, etc., there is always a volume component.  There is always the question of how much should I do?  This is a complex question for lots of reasons.  How much depends on who you are, how much you can handle (fitness), and what phase you are in.  Too much in any phase is bad.  Too little in any phase is bad.  More is not always better.  If you are in a base or build phase, as much as you can handle is, for the most part, good.  If you are in a taper or rest phase, doing as much as you can handle is bad.  Amidst this uncertain calculus, however, one principle remains true: volume -- lots of it -- is required.  As Mark Twight says, there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Having a job and a family makes it tough for me to get all the volume I need/can handle.  This season, I have generally tried to get 10-15 hrs per week.  Rest weeks and race weeks I might get less.  Build weeks like last week, I might get more.  For example, last week I logged nearly 20 hrs.  A few of those hrs were downhill hrs at the resort with my kids.  One of those days was a 10,541 foot day.      
  3. Intensity.  Like volume, intensity is always a component of each period.  There is always the question of how hard should I go?  It is well-proven that going as hard as you can all the time is not the proper way to train.  In fact, one thing Billy has taught me and one thing that I am learning to trust is that most volume should be at low intensity.  I have tried to incorporate this into my plan, but sometimes going easy is not possible, especially if you tour with Apollo Creed and Alex aka Ivan Drago.  On the other hand, it is important to do high intensity workouts.  Brian recently posted an interesting article about how sprint workouts benefit endurance athletes who don't sprint.  In my training, except for rest and race weeks, I try to do at least two sessions at high intensity.  I like doing 4 minute intervals, between 4 to 8.  I also like doing steady state 20 to 30 minute intervals.  The former builds speed and lactate tolerance.  The latter increases threshold and efficiency at threshold.
  4. Specificity.  In order to ski fast, whether up or down, you have to ski a lot. While it looks pedestrian, skinning requires a special technique and employs specific muscle groups.  It goes without saying that, there is a lot of technique in fast ski descending.  Putting in ski-specific hours is an indispensable component of training.  Those hours allow you to hone technique and ultimately become more efficient.  Bart is a great example of this.  Of course, he has a good engine, but very few are as efficient on a mountain bike or cross bike.  One tough aspect of ski training is the fact that you have to have snow to ski train, which means you have to live in the right place or you have to travel a lot. 
These principles may seem pretty basic to those of you who compete.  Of course, understanding them in theory and actually applying them in training are two different things.  I have found it difficult to apply and to trust them.  For Type A, obsessive-compulsive, psychopathic, masochistic, over-achievers (like most of you) it's hard to force yourself to take it easy.  It's hard to force yourself to cut your interval session short if you are not recovered.  There is a tendency to go as hard as you can as much as you can.  In the end, as Billy told me a few days ago before he left for Vancouver, "you have to learn to trust yourself; you have to trust your training."  That trust component may be the secret of his success.

In conclusion, I think a weekly training plan for the weekend warrior should look something like this:

Monday - rest
Tuesday - 1-2 hrs, intensity
Wednesday - 1-2 hrs, endurance/recovery
Thursday - 1-2 hrs, intensity
Friday - rest or endurance/recovery
Saturday/Sunday - 8 hrs mixed endurance and intensity or race

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tour in Little Pine and White Pine Vicinity

On Saturday, I headed out with the crew for some training and touring in that order.  The first leg was Little Pine Couloir, which twisted the emphasis to touring over training.  Little Pine Couloir is pictured below.

From February 6, 2010

Little Pine had heated and slid (probably on Thursday) and at the bottom we met a frozen debris pile. Questions were raised as to whether we were making the most of our time, but for whatever reason, we kept getting drawn further into the chute. "Let's just go up to the rock and see if it gets better above." After getting to the rock, our conversation turned to, "Well, we've come up this far, we may as well just go to the top." Here we are going to the top.

From February 6, 2010

The conditions in the chute weren't optimal. Once we got above the death balls, we encountered variable snow conditions ranging from bullet proof ice to breakable crust to a nice 6 inch layer of graupel (little styrofoam ball-like snow). It was a constant debate as to whether to boot or skin. We did both. Suffice it to say that the chute was a time eater. It took us a little over 2 hours to climb the 3000 ft to the top.

The descent was fun. There was some decent snow at the top and then it progressively more "interesting" as we descended. Here's Sam showing some good technique.

From February 6, 2010

The bottom shot looks like good pow. Really, Sam is surfing a graupel loose snow wave, not that there's anything wrong with that.

From February 6, 2010

By the time we hit the death ball section, it was truly fascinating. Death balls are frozen snowballs that range from the size of a softball to the size of a soccer ball. They form when wet snow slide and rolls into a ball. They freeze and their life's purpose is accomplished if they can trip a descending skier and pitch him headlong down a 42 degree chute. With the right technique -- keep skis close together, stay on top of ski and apply relatively equal pressure to each ski on the turn -- you can blast through death balls, some of the time. It also helps to have one of those mouth protector thingys that football players use.

Here' a shot of Sam working the bottom, half-pipe style.

From February 6, 2010

And here are expressions of the crew after skiing 3000 feet of character building snow:


From February 6, 2010


From February 6, 2010


From February 6, 2010

As I mentioned above, the day started out with an emphasis on training, but that degraded quickly as we had to deal Little Pine. We had hoped to get in 10k vertical, but as we sat at the White Pine parking lot, it was 11:30, we had been out 3.5 hrs, and we had only 3k under our belts. I had to be back to the car by 2:30, and it was unlikely that we'd be able to pop out 7k in 3 hrs. Aiming to do our best, we headed the slope opposite of Little Pine -- Scotties. We climbed Scotties into No Name, followed the ridge above Snowbird and Gad 2 and then dropped west down through the Birthday chute area and into White Pine. Sam dropped back out of Scotties to make it to Provo by 2:00. Sorry, no pictures.

We then skinned up and drilled it to the top of Red Baldy. I didn't want to drill it, but had no choice because Alex went to the front and well, drilled it. We climbed 1800 feet in just over 1/2 hour and topped out at 11,000 feet on Red Baldy.

From February 6, 2010

Our descent of Red Baldy was the best of the day. A long powder line. And we would have made it to the car by 2:30, except that we took a slight detour to climb a ridge to drop into Scotties, a more direct and powedery route to our cars. We made it back to the cars by 3:00 and had 8600 for the day. Fun tour. Good training.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Andorra Bound!!!

Preview Here.

So it looks like I'm going to Andorra to the World Ski Mountaineering Championships. Unfortunately, one of the qualifying members of the US Ski Mountaineering Team is unable to go. Fortunately for me, I am the first alternate, and I get the slot and a shot. Of course, I will do all I can to do my part, but am a bit nervous about measuring up. I suppose I could look at it this way: I will be the fastest Japanese-Chinese-American in Andorra. Very happy to go.