Cross-Country Skiing is too Awesome to have universal appeal because...
It's too hard for most fat-assed Americans.
Now, I trust that the worthy readers of CyclovaXC aren't going to find fault or objection with that comment since the fact that you are reading this page at all shows you are fairly familiar with badassery. Perhaps you, as well as I, lament the detriment to the people watching scene which occurs due to the fact that so few of our objects of observation are out their pushing the kickboards up semi-vertical country hills (thus producing an exhorbidant amount of what I like to call...cottage cheese).
Cross-Country Skiing is hard, that's not debatable. To have fun with it, you have to make it the center of your existence. You have to eat right and train regularly and none of this is easy (believe me, after being out of the loop for several years, I'm finding just how difficult it is).
But aside from the physical demands, there is also the technical problem. It takes a LOOOOOONG time to learn how to properly wax a ski or to identify the fifty billion types of snow you're likely to encounter. It takes patience when there is no snow, and experience when you have weird conditions (like a classical race in the rain...just try to get kick THEN).
And on top of everything...there's also the COLD to deal with (and that's a deal breaker for about 99% of the public).
Yes, Cross-Country skiing is a niche sport that will never be mainstream. If you go to anywhere in the US and just mention Minnesota, or Wisconsin, the response will be a shiver, a denouncement, and a declaration that those areas aren't inhabitable.
Well, I'm here to tell you (as you already know...but it's worth repeating in print) that those people are MORONS! In fact, it's all the difficulties of XC skiing that makes it great!
Cross-Country skiing isn't a sport, it's an artform! It's a Zen lifestyle that will reveal to you the mysteries of the universe! It's the ten fold WAY my friends!
But...like all delicate and beautiful things, XC Skiing needs to be nurtured and loved. You can't take a massive general education credit in a 10,000 seat lecture hall on XC skiing....no, no...you need to be apprenticed! You need to be a XC-PADAWAN! And frankly, I don't think most of the people who love this sport are doing enough. It seems to me that the numbers in XC races are dwinding (which is half the reason why we've stepped in with CyclovaXC to give this whole crazy enterprise a big shot in the arm).
And there are other factors that are eroding Cross Country skiing from the inside like a cancer, but I'm rolling up my sleeves (always prepared for a stubborn, probably ridiculous fight) and we'll be taking them all on throughout the course of this year.
Stay tuned...the craziness is about to start rolling!
Having these suits be here upon my arrival to the US (after many a fierce battle with immigration officers, Mikey Mouse, and airline stewardesses) was just an added joy. I spent the whole night sprinting through the streets of Minneapolis wearing my CyclovaXC duds much to the joy of all the 2AM street dwellers who were looking for a few coins or cheap hamburgers (I burned probably 1,500 calories). And the fact that they (the suits) surpassed my lofty expectations as to their true realized greatness was just a bonus.
Where/What: At the "Mustache Ride", the International Festival of Mustaches and World Championship Bike Race for People With Mustaches (real or fake). Half way across Lake Harriet in Minneapolis in a race for a bottle of whiskey...
And the story goes: After the chaos at the start of the Mustache Ride (fake mustaches flying through the air, beer cans falling from bottle cages, full on tackles, etc) we were finally off. A handful of people made it through the start chaos clean including Owen and Frank. We were racing at 100% effort to a man standing in the middle of the lake, who we thought represented the finish line. While there was minimal snow on the lake, there were still occasional drifts that you couldn't see which our bikes would almost "endo" info as we tried to roll through them (we had to do a 'cross dismount and run through most of them). Owen surged as we approached the man of mystery in the middle of the lake, lured by the thought of quality whiskey. As we sprinted for the man, Owen surged and pulled ahead of Frank. We were both surprised to find out that this was just a random guy standing in the middle of the lake and the joke really was on us. We were only half way done with this race and had to race all the way across the lake as we noticed the official finish line.
Discouraged and entirely hypoxic, Frank took off seizing the opportunity to gap Owen. With 200 meters to go and the bottle of whiskey in sight Frank thought he had this race wrapped up and began planning his victory salute. The #1 rule of bike racing is to never think about the win until you cross the line - it bit me in the ass once again as Owen sprinted by me only meters before the line. We collapsed in steaming heaps into the snow and agreed that this 5 minute race through snow drifts across a lake was the toughest race we had done in years.
As the rest of the mustaches finished, we were able to stand up and Owen cracked open his sweet prize. The champion he is, he passed the bottle around and around until it was gone and everyone was warmed up. This my friend is cycling's greatest prize and will go down in history as one of the great stories of both CyclovaXC and the Category 6 Race Squad!
Bio: If you find yourself in a bike race riding with Dr. Owen, pat yourself on the bike because it means that you're flying! Owen can commonly be found at weekend bike races, riding around the Twin Cities Metro area, and enjoying the world through the sports of cycling and skiing.
Owen started mountain biking back in college, and then started MTB racing in 2001. He was hooked then and picked up road biking to mix it up and get some longer road miles in. While Owen loves biking, he still stands firm on his favorite outdoor activity being downhill skiing on a good powder day.
He started XC skiing 2 years ago and is getting more into it year by year. Owen did the 2009 Birkie for the first time and this year is looking forward to starting in Wave 5. Sadly, that Wave 5 start will have to wait for 2011, as Owen will be out of town on Birkie weekend this year.
The Spring of 2009 presented a significant hurdle to Owen as he broke his leg. While he recovered quickly and was back in the saddle quickly, he is still working hard on recovering from this setback.
Owen enjoys living an active lifestyle with his wife Kate "because it's fun and allows you to eat whatever you want, plus you get to see some beautiful areas. I especially love being able to ski comfortably in light clothes when it's zero degrees out and everyone else is doing everything they can to avoid being outside."
Part of a series promoted by Lifetime Fitness and operated by a company called "On The Run!", this is a very well run event. All of the details are very much dialed in. As this race is in early December, it is often cold. There are huge heated tents at the start/finish area with all kinds of tasty snacks, warm drinks, etc. Considering how much is put into this race, the entry fee of $25 is actually very reasonable compared to many other events.
What is the one thing you'll also find at every single endurance event, such that you can't really call it an endurance event without? Endless rows of blue Porta-Potties of course! I digress, but doesn't it seem that no matter how many porta-potties there are at the start of a race, it is still like a 15 minute wait to go to the bathroom? Crazy...
Back on topic now... This run starts and finishes at the Lake Harriet Band Shell in South Minneapolis and does the full lap around the lake. Runners do enjoy a close course all the way around the lake, which is a nice added bonus!
In terms of a fun run to do, possibly with a group, I'd give this event 5 out of 5 stars. If you're looking to set a 5k PR though, look elsewhere as it will be difficult with this many people. Click HERE for the official event website.
Continuing from part 1 of Stonegrinding for Today’s Skiers, we will now address how to get those freshly stoneground skis race ready with a minimal amount of work. In this article, we will discuss how to prepare your freshly stoneground skis so they will be rocket ships the very first time they touch snow.
Before we begin talking about handwork with your skis, there are a few very important point to keep in mind.
Stonegrinding exposes a fresh layer of base material improving the ability of the ski to take wax. With this in mind understand that immediately after a ski has been ground, the base will absorb more wax with less effort on your part, than at any other point in its life. This means that for most skiers, you are getting more wax penetration with the first 5 or so layers of wax after a fresh grind than you may have gotten in the last 100+ layers of wax before the grind. This illustrates how having your skis stoneground truly does make the most of the time spent working on your skis!
The problem in the past with stonegrinds has been the hairs and loose excess base material on the base of the ski after a grind. As mentioned in the last article, skis, stonegrinding machines, and grinding techniques have improved to greatly reduce the formation of these evil hairs. Most stonegrinding shops also have some sort of finishing process, which removes any remaining hairs. With your grinding technician taking care of this, this makes your job of preparing your skis much easier .
A good stoneground structure is a perfect structure. You DO NOT want to destroy it by touching a metal scraper, aggressive metal brushes, or anything else that will remove this structure to your ski. Why remove this optimum structure from you ski if there are other ways to prepare you ski?
This is also a great time to brush up on your waxing technique. Since your skis are off to a good start, make sure to wax them properly. Often times waxing technique has more to do with having fast skis than the wax you put into the skis!
Before you begin waxing don’t forget to make sure your plexi scraper is very sharp! You can damage your ski by scraping with a dull plexi scraper. If your scraper is dull, you are often chipping wax off of your ski as well as applying too much down pressure on you ski. This can create waves in your ski base and remove the stoneground structure. A properly sharpened scraper will actually cut soft or even hard waxes off the surface of the ski rather than “chip” or “push” it off. You can sharpen your scraper with a “Plexi-Sharpener” tool, or some people with a steady hand have success using a file. Either way, having a sharp scraper will make you a better waxer!
Ski technicians have been experimenting for years on the best way to prepare a freshly stoneground ski. This is my recommendation on how to prepare your skis. The following steps are a combination of personal experience, World Cup methods, and recommendations from major wax companies. The following steps assume that the shop which ground your skis has gone through a finishing process to remove the most of those “evil hairs” from your ski base that we spoke of earlier.
- Scrape and brush out the layer of wax the shop has put on your skis after the grind.
- Inspect the ski. Notice the flatness of the base, the beautiful structure, and even the consistent shine the base seems to have.
- Using a copper brush (not a brass brush), lightly brush the ski using long, smooth strokes from tip to tail. This will clean the ski base and stand any micro hairs on end that may still remain on your ski base. The copper brush is soft enough that it will not create hairs in the base, it will only stand any existing hairs on end.
- Now is time to perform a hot scrape. When hot scraping, use a soft wax (Ex: Toko World Loppet Yellow). Apply a generous layer. While the wax is still warm, scrape off the wax using your sharp plexi scraper. Remove any wax from the groove of the ski. Begin brushing the ski immediately with a stiff white nylon brush. Use the stiff white nylon brush aggressively until very little wax comes out of your ski. Finally finish brushing with the horsehair brush. The hot scrape, if done properly will cut off and remove hairs that we stood up with the copper brush. I normally begin every race wax job with the hot scrape to clean the base of my ski.
- It is now very important to get a few coats of a soft wax into the ski allowing each coat to fully cool before scraping and brushing. Ideally you would be using a fluorinated wax for this (Ex: Toko Dibloc LF or HF Yellow). These layers of soft wax deeply penetrate the base of the ski, saturating the ski with wax.
- Next, it is important to get a variety of hard (Ex: Toko Dibloc LF and HF Blue and Grey) and soft waxes into the ski. To clarify, apply a cold wax, then a warm wax, then a cold wax scraping and brushing each coat. By using these harder waxes, you are physically hardening the base of the ski because ski bases take on the characteristics of the wax you put into it. When saturating the base with soft waxes, this enables the harder waxes to penetrate the base deeper.
- At last, you can move on to your wax of the day. You are well on your way to enjoying the fastest skis possible!
Remember that this method of ski preparation is for optimum results. In many cases, you will see a dramatic improvement in ski performance (compared to before your skis were stoneground) by simply putting a few coats of your wax of the day over the cover wax the grinding technician applied to your skis.
Waxing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Stonegrinding is a useful tool, which will help you get maximum results from the time you do spend waxing. It is important to work with a wax system that you feel comfortable with. With just a little bit of knowledge on waxing, it is very possible to have fast skis all of the time; if your ski base is healthy, this is half the battle! Generally speaking, the more wax you get into your skis, the faster they will be.
Above all, don’t loose sight of the reason you are waxing your skis; to enjoy skiing! Too many people spend too much time in the wax hut and not enough time on the trail. Having fast skis is a sure way to improve your performance, but an even better way is to get out skiing. Make sure to spend more time skiing than working on your skis. Also make the most of the snow while we have it as skis glide better on snow than they do on grass and rocks! Oh, and be careful, you skis will now be very slippery; make sure not to slip when clipping into your bindings!
Photo Credits: Marty Wood
Not long ago, it was believed that the average racer would bring in their skis once every few years to be stoneground. After the stonegrind, it was then thought that there was a process that basically took the entire ski season to get the ski running at its highest potential speed. This may have been true in the past, but stonegrinding has evolved past this. Now, many top skiers have their race skis stoneground multiple times per season. This is possible due to improvements in ski bases, improvements in stonegrinding machines, additional procedures performed on ground skis, and lots of testing. I personally know of many top racers who have had their skis ground within a few days of major races (including last years Masters National Championships), have had the fastest skis there, and went on to win some of these races. This is a fact that some people can’t believe, but is definitely true. More and more tech shops are advertising race ready stonegrinds and this isn’t far from the truth.
There are just several things to keep in mind when choosing where to have your skis ground and which grinds to pick. When choosing a shop to have your Nordic skis ground at, I would recommend consulting someone who specializes in Nordic skis as there are very specific demands on X-C skis. It is also very important to find a shop that not only grinds skis, but a shop that normally goes through a finishing process with all skis being ground. Different shops have different ways of finishing skis, but it is very important that they have some definite way of cleaning excess material from the structure and removing hairs from the base. Many grinding machines have a finishing side of the machine for doing this specific task. The shop should also get some soft wax into the freshly ground skis.
When considering which type of structure to have ground into your skis realize that there are literally thousands of possible different grinds out there. Stonegrinding machines have special diamonds that “dress” the stone for different structures. Thankfully, most shops have several recommended grinds that they regularly do. And of these grinds, there should be a “univeral” grind which is what 80% of skiers choose. The grind, or grinds, that you choose should depend on how many different pair of skis you have to race on. One must also consider the type of snow that you normally ski on. If you rely on one or two pair to ski on, you would be best off with a “non-linear universal grind.” If you are one of those hard cores blessed with a quiver of skis, then it is time to do some thinking. If you live in an area with very diverse weather patterns like myself, you will need a variety of grinds. Serious racers commonly have four or five pair of skis with various grinds for different conditions.
- Commonly after we get big snow falls, the temperature drops dramatically. Because of this, one should have a pair of good soft pack skis with a cold grind. We have had phenomenal success with this combo here in the Midwest.
- A pair of soft pack to medium skis should be selected for a wet corn snow grind.
- A medium to hard pack ski should be selected for a linear grind. The linear grind excels in corn snow, man-made snow, or fresh wet snow.
- The most important grind to have in your quiver, the universal grind should be on a pair of soft pack skis and a pair of hard pack skis for normal (10’F to 30’F untransformed snow conditions).
With this array of grinds, one will be prepared for virtually any snow condition. Obviously, when you figure out the weather and snow conditions for your event, most of these different options will be ruled out. Just choose the skis with the appropriate structures and prepare and test those one or two pairs.
Now that your skis are ground, what are you to do? There are several things you can do to ensure that your skis will be rocket ships the first time on snow. Before you start working on your skis, refresh your memory on proper waxing technique as this is often more important than the wax you choose to use. Another thing to note is to make sure to have a very sharp plexi-scraper. Having a sharp plexi-scraper will ensure that you cut off any remaining hairs on your ski base and will work much better for scraping. I recommend following these guidelines to achieve optimum ski speed the first time out…
- Scrape and brush out the layer of wax the shop put on your skis after the grind.
- Using a copper brush (or other soft metal brush), brush the ski using long strokes from tip to tail. This will help stand any hairs on your base on end. The copper brush will not create miro-hairs.
- Now we will be performing the hot scrape. When hot scraping, use a soft wax. Apply it. While the wax is still warm, scrape off the wax using your plexi scraper. Make sure to use long, smooth strokes from tip to tail with the plexi-scraper. Begin brushing out the ski immediately with the copper brush, using long strokes from tip to tail. (You should only use the copper brush for brushing out wax when performing the hot scrape.) Finish brushing with the nylon brush and finally horsehair brush.
- It is very important to get several coats of a soft paraffin wax into the ski leaving each coat cool before scraping and brushing.
- After several coats of soft wax, it is best to get a variety of hard and soft waxes into the ski base. Fantastic results can be achieved by alternating hard to soft wax. By doing this, you will actually begin to harden the base of the ski producing a more durable base with the hard wax, yet get excellent wax penetration with the soft wax.
- Finally, move on to your wax of the day. You are well on your way to enjoying the fastest skis possible!
Remember, waxing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. It is important to work with a wax system that you are comfortable with and simply match the snow conditions to your wax choice. Generally speaking, the more you wax your skis, the faster they will be. In many cases, just the stonegrind with a few coats of wax will dramatically increase the performance of your skis. Above all, don’t loose sight of the reason you love this sport, to enjoy skiing. Make sure to spend more time skiing than working on your skis and above all, THINK SNOW!!!
**Photo Credits to Zach Fink (stonegrinding pic) and Marty Wood (waxing pic).
Troy is excited about competing and training with CyclovaXC even though he has not competitively skied since high school. However, he does still linger the high school grounds as a three-season running and skiing coach. Troy still runs competitively and just set his all-time fastest marathon time at 2:42:34. He is hoping to crush this record when he runs the Boston Marathon in April 2010. Hopefully CyclovaXC will motivate him to get out and train through the winter. Besides running and skiing, Troy enjoys watching everything that the Bravo channel has to offer...although, he says it's because his girlfriend makes him watch it.
Troy's background is mainly long-distance running. He had to take a hiatus from training and racing in the spring of 1999 due to contracting a deadly form of meningitis called meningococcal sepsis. After waking up from an 8-day nap, also known as a coma, Troy took the rest of 1999 and the early part of 2000 to regain his strength and to teach himself how to use his legs again. In 2001-2002, Troy set 7 school track records at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. After graduation, Troy went on to place 8th in the Milwaukee Marathon (2006) and 2nd in the Whistlestop Marathon (2009). Troy has also run Grandma's and the Boston Marathon in 2007. He has dealt with injuries for the past 2 years due to compulsive over training and hopes that skiing will help him stay injury-free...but his competitive side may make him want to jump into a few races. Troy is excited about meeting other outdoor enthusiasts like himself.
The content was written and compiled by his amazing girlfriend, Amee (who runs the slowest mile time known to man but still has amazing form) and the Columbus Running Company in Ohio (Troy was the store manager in 2004-2005).
Subscribe to CyclovaXC by Email
On the latest FIS Olympic Winter Games team simulation list, only 7 US skiers currently qualify for the games. This is due to a relatively ambiguous change made to the qualifying rules, forcing skiers to compete and do well in both distance and sprint events. In the past, athletes were able to focus on one disciplan over the other, but now athletes need to do well in both distance and sprint length competitions.
In a recent press release, John Farra, USSA Nordic Director, a healthy number of athletes to take to the games would be in the range of 12-14. In recent history (the past 5 Olympics), the US has taken anywhere from 14 to 18 athletes with a maximum quota of 20, which is rarely reached due to Olympic or National Team qualifying rules/criteria.
For starters, our Olympic team in 2010 will likely be smaller than normal. Additionally, it places increased focus on early season Super Tour races this season at places like West Yellowstone, Bozeman, Methow Valley, and others. Expect to see some major fireworks at these races with all of the Olympic Team contenders battling it out for a place on the team.
My own personal thoughts lead me to believe that this will take the pressure off of a few US skiers like Kikkan Randall and Andy Newell who are both very strong distance and sprint race skiers. However, this may really put some folks in the hot seat such as Kris Freeman, Chris Cook, and Kristina Strandberg.
It doesn't sound like anyone really expected this coming until just recently as the latest advice for folks on the bubble is now to simply "ski fast" and focus more on the aspect of racing that is not your specialty leading up to the final team selection date of Jan 28.
The question also begs to be asked, why? Why make it difficult/impossible for the fastest skiers in a distance to make it to the Olympics? Don't we want the fastest racers in the world competing, even if they're specialists in a particular distance? I think so. It is great to be an all around racer, and I think we all strive to be. However, my opinion is that this is a bad idea that FIS came up with. Only time will tell.
In the end, regardless of the size of the team, the US does have some incredibly strong athletes going into this Olympic Year, with very realistic chances of winning Olympic hardware. Ski fast! We'll be rooting for you!
Subscribe to CyclovaXC by Email