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2010 Tour De France Champion Contador in Drug Trouble

Image Courtesy of: 

Once again we have some devastating news for anybody who has ever at any point in their life had any respect for professional cycling.  Apparently according to this article, Alberto Contador's urine from July 21st has tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned steroid.

My question is, why the heck does it take 2 months to get a result?

In Contador's favor is the fact that the amount that they found was tiny.  But this is where it gets weird.  According to the wording of the article referenced above, the amount of clenbuterol found was "400 time(s) less than what the antidoping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect."

What the heck does that MEAN?  Does it mean that the amount was 400 times less than the necessary amount to call it a positive sample?  Also, how many of these World Anti Drug Agency accredited labs are there in the world?  Do they ALL get a sample of the same urine test to do experiments on?

The way I'm reading this is the following:

There are many different labs that meet the minimum standards for WADA certification.

The lab that tested this Contador sample found an amount that was 400 times smaller than what is required for the certification of that lab (they did a super-extra test apparently).

That, to me, seems like kind of a shaky result to call positive.  However the UCI has "formally and provisionally" suspended Contador.

So what I want to know is what's the wording of the rule?  How much of the drug has to be found in his system for it to be considered a positive test?  I mean...think about it...if all you need is a MOLECULE of some controlled substance floating around in your urine to get busted, then it's pretty reasonable that such a thing could get there and you might not know where the heck it came from.  With such a minuscule amount, I'm inclined to think that this is more likely a case of lab contamination (they're testing for these substances after all...it's not unreasonable to think they might have some samples of them floating around in the lab).

Well, the way to verify would be to check some of the other samples that were sent off to other labs.  If other labs know what quantity of clenbuterol they're looking for...it should be easy enough to find.  Presuming, of course, that the clenbuterol positive lab didn't have the only sample.  If they DID have the only sample...then this whole anti-drug testing agency is a sham.

Look, if people are guilty it shouldn't be that hard to prove it if you're allowed to periodically take samples of their blood and urine.  Also, I think before you break the case to the media and start handing out suspensions, you should have a positive result that's better than 400 times less than the required detectable levels.

I still contend that the agencies in charge of doping controls are more corrupt than the cyclists.  This is really irritating.

Lessons From Bad Snow Years Of The Past

A Rollerski workout on a dark December evening can be mentally challenging.

The past several winters in the Midwest have been generally fantastic for XC Skiers. The last three winters in particular have been extraordinary in terms of skiable days per winter. All indications point toward this winter being stellar for Nordic skier in the Midwest.

However, over the years we endured some bad winters with very little snow. I recall a couple of "Brown Christmases" in the region. Just like so many other things in life, when life serves up lemons, make some lemonade!

In the event of a low snow year, you can take comfort in the fact that your fellow competitors are likely not getting in the quality training that they normally would. I recall during the bad snow winters motivating myself by knowing that when I would do a tough ski specific workout, my competition likely wasn't. One workout at a time, I diligently worked myself toward improved race results.

In a bad snow year, when the snow finally did fall, as per usual, it is reason to celebrate! Even if there is only a little bit of snow.

I recall one such "celebration" on Christmas Day with my dad and brother at Timberland Hills several years ago. You see, we were carefully gathering the bit of snow with shovels that had fallen overnight and packing it into a thin ribbon of snow down the middle of the trail. We spent literally the entire day doing this and the fruit of our labor was a 1 kilometer stretch of skiable snow - likely the only skiable snow within a 60 mile radius. The other result of this was realizing that we were so exhausted from shoveling all day that we needed to eat before going out skiing.

We arrived back at our ribbon of snow to enjoy a couple hours of going back and forth on this little piece of snowy utopia, celebrating the fact that we weren't on rollerskis!

This fall, when the daylight dwindles and we're waiting for snow, force yourself out the door for a workout - you'll be glad you did. Each workout puts you closer to your goals this ski season, what ever they may be. Additionally, we're Nordic skiers, people of the snow - celebrate the snow and get out in it when it falls this year!

Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival Video by Steve Tilford

The "Fat Tire" is the King of Midwest XC Mountain Bike racing and has been covered extensively on CyclovaXC.com over the past year or so (such as HERE, HERE, AND HERE). Many of us have participated in this great event, with some of us even placing high, but few have conquered the event.

Having won this event in 2000, 2001, and 2002 (not to mention hundreds of other races over his lengthy career), Steve Tilford is known throughout the elite race community as "The Godfather" of mountain biking.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to contest the Fat Tire and be duking it out in the lead group? Well, wonder no more. Steve Tilford has made the below video available to the public to view. He humbly comments that "I did a pitiful job of editing it, but figured it’s better to post it badly than not post it at all". Thanks Steve for posting this video, it's a whole lot of fun to check out!

111 Inches of Snow in Southern MN?

No, this is not Southern MN over the past few days, rather it was reportedly taken near Quincy City, MI.

On Wednesday and Thursday last week, much of the Midwest got record amounts of precipitation.

In fact, the southern Minnesota town of
Winnebago saw a two day storm total of 11.06" of rain! Other towns in the region also saw huge storm totals such as Amboy, Truman, and Windom all with more than 9". For more on this amazing precipitation event, check out the great but kind of dorky (I'm sure they won't mind my saying that) Minnesota Climatology Work Group website.

So, with it being late September and snow being on my mind, I go to thinking about how much snow we would have received, had the temperatures during this precipitation event been about 30 degrees colder... The old rule of thumb is that on average, for every 10 inches of snow that fall, this is equivalent to 1 inch of rain - a 10:1 ratio. Do some simple math and we come up with a likely 111" of snow that would have fallen on Wednesday and Thursday in Winnebago, MN.

Can you imagine that?
111" of snow in the corn field covered landscape of Winnebago, MN. I imagine that looking like the picture at the top of this post, with the roads looking more like tunnels through snow than anything else.

Hold on to your hats, Old Man Winter is on the way!

The Importance of Rocky

Yup...THAT Rocky!

You know, there are days when you don't want to train, or you feel tired, or whatever.  Days where you hit your 4:00 AM alarm, groan, and roll over and go back to sleep.  On THOSE days, just before you drift back off into slumber, you need to use your last little bit of strength and hit "play" on your Rocky DVD that should be always cued up to one of the multiple training montages.

That's right!  ROCKY got up and ate six raw eggs and then ran until he puked (which takes about two steps after eating six raw eggs).

At some point, I'm going to have to make Sylvester Stallone, Rocky and Rambo all honorable CyclovaXC members (they will join Tiger Woods...and I think I made somebody else an honorable CyclovaXC member, but I can't remember who).

Still, can't you just see old Sly hammering away at the Birkie some year.  He'd probably be wearing white shorts with a red stripe and boxing gloves.  That might be a good idea for the next CyclovaXC ski suit.

Anyway, the thing to remember is that on the days that you just think you can't do it, fire up a little Rocky music and that will get you back on track.

Oh, and check out this awesome tribute to Sylvester Stallone by Skullqwake:

Good Training Food

Yep, that's right, when I'm out there hitting the roller ski trails, I eat nothing but the Sasquatch Big Stick!  It's JUICY, it's HAIRY, it's full of PROTEIN!

I don't know man...we live in a weird world.  I mean, I was walking through the grocery store and I saw this display for the Sasquatch Big Stick and I just had to stop and take a picture.  I mean it was ABSURD that this huge cardboard cut-out would be allowed to stand there and scare children and old ladies and whatnot.  However, somehow I was the only one who seemed to have any kind of issue.  Everybody else just walked calmly past this thing without giving it so much as a second look.  HOW COULD YOU NOT GIVE THAT A SECOND LOOK!

I mean...what...do I have some unique perception of the world?  Am I seriously the only one who can look upon the above image of the Saquatch and say to myself "this is not right?"  (Did you notice the little thing at the bottom with the two images for "angry" and "happy?"  Too bad I cut that off in the picture, I'm sure it would have been uber-revealing).

Still, I did stop and clear out this display, and now I have six tons of Sasquatch big sticks in my roller skiing pouch to work through on my training excursions...so I guess it was an effective advertisement...CURSE YOU SASQUATCH!!!!!

Telemark Lodge Hopes for a Friendly Forclosure on Oct 1

Beautiful Telemark Lodge on a sunny winter day. Photo Credit: Travel Wisconsin

Telemark Lodge has graced the pages of CyclovaXC.com several times over the past year, with most appearances reporting on the demise of the legendary destination resort for xc skiers and cyclists.

To recap, the resort closed back on May 5 after a loan fell through for a group called Telemark Partners LLC to buy the property. Telemark Partners LLC had plans to renovate the property and build an Olympic Training Center there. Since then, Telemark Partners LLC has failed to secure a loan, but according to Ric Ahren (a principal in the partnership), they are still holding out hope to have cash in hand by the foreclosure date of October 1. All of this has left ski and bike event organizers scrambling, either heroically improvising or canceling their events.

Sadly, this we may be approaching the end of the final chapter of the Telemark Interval Owners Association involvement with the lodge. In a meeting on September 11th, the Association overwhelmingly voted to surrender Telemark's Lodge buildings and more than 1000 acres of land to the investor from Missouri who holds the mortgage.

The Telemark Interval Owners Association is hoping for a friendly foreclosure of sorts, which would relieve them of the more than $1.35 in debt and $350,000+ in annual operating expenses.

Where does this leave us xc skiers and cyclists whom frequently have come to call Telemark home during the most memorable times of the year? Well, no one really knows. It seems that everyone has their fingers crossed and is hoping for this all to work out.

According to an interview that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did with Ric Ahren, "the transfer of assets to the mortgage holder may simplify the efforts to buy the resort." We can only hope that Ric still has a few tricks up his sleeve and that his loan comes through.

EVENT REPORT: Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival

Brian Matter winning his 2nd consecutive Chequamegon 40 on Saturday

Mud was the theme of the the day at the 28th running of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival this past Saturday! A very wet summer, with a relatively wet fall, and recent rains restulted in the wettest and rockiest Chequamegon in 10+ years.

In general, the leaders times were 5 to 10 minutes slower than their past times, indicative of the slow conditions. Additionally, all of last year's event champions repeated their victories in both the 40 and Short & Fat, with Brian Matter & Jenna Rinehart winning the 40 and Jake Richards & Anna Gangu winning the shorter event.

In the men's 40 race, it was a group affair until the Martel's Pothole, just shy of half way into the race, at which point the lead group was trimmed from 15 to 4 contenders. Brian Matter reported seeing several time Chequamegon Champion Doug Swanson endoing over his bars in the middle of the mud pit at which time chaos erupted in the group. Coming out of Martel's, Mike Anderson attacked hard on the climb and only 4 were able to respond. By the time they reached Lake Helane, they had over a 1 minute lead. The infamous Firetower climb was the next decisive moment for the lead mens group at which time the group was cut in half to 2 contenders. In the end, it was Matter who launched the the attack of the day, countering Schouten's attack in the final mile. Matter ended up 13 seconds up on Schouten.

In the women's race, the story of the day was 2 racers: Jenna Rinehart and Sara Kylander-Johnson. With Kylander-Johnson about 1 minute ahead at the "OO" road crossing (16 miles into the race), Rinehart simply "rode every hill as hard as she could". Rinehart eventually caught and passed a cramping Kylander-Johnson, putting about 2 1/2 minutes into Kylander-Johnson by the finish.

While we don't have details on the Short and Fat, we do know that both Richards and Gangu rode to dominating wins in that event.
Have a story to tell or photos to share? We'd love to hear it and publish it. Just drop me a line at cyclovaxcfrank@gmail.com

24 Hours of Telemark CANCELED!

The headline of the 24 Hours of Telemark website as seen above says it all: Event Canceled.

I recall the last time I did the 24 Hours of Telemark XC Ski race. To date, it is still the only 24 hour event I've ever actually participated in.

I recall being amazed at how the bodies of myself and my team mates could just keep on going, through the night, without sleep. I recall skiing the last night time leg and the sun rising toward the end of that leg. After skiing for much of the night, that was likely one of the most anticipated sun rises of my life. What an amazing race! Unfortunately, the 24 Hours of Telemark event will only live on in our memories, at least for the time being.

Sadly, due to the unfortunate closure of Telemark Lodge, this coming winter's 24 Hours of Telemark Race has officially been canceled. While the ski trails will still likely be available to ski on and hold events on, the lodge is closed.

Holding a 24 hour race in the middle of winter definitely requires some real shelter, more than tents can offer.

In a recent Press Release, race organizer Harry Spehar offered the following to friends of the event, "Hopefully in the future, we can hold this unique event again and we want to thank all those who have participated over the past 10 years; it’s been a lot of fun."

It's a sad day when a well established (and unique) Nordic event like this is wiped off of the calendar. Hopefully Telemark Lodge will figure out a way to make things work out and be sustainable in the long term. It's available for a steal of a deal according to the listing that can be found HERE.

Early Morning Rollerski Sessions

I don't know about the rest of you, but as age continues to creep up on me, I'm starting to be able to understand the benefit of the early morning workout.  In the past (when I was in my 20s) the light you see reflecting on those houses used to be the setting sun.  Now that I'm in my 30s the major difference (other than about 40 lbs around my belly) is that now that is the light of DAWN!

There is seriously no better way to start off the day than to get your workout in bright and early.  Although I know that intellectually, sometimes it's still hard to let go of that pillow and make for the cold morning.  Still, if you can get over that initial step and hurtle yourself through the door in a groggy daze with fingers clasping the air desperately in the search of coffee, you'll be thankful for it later on.

In part, it's just the knowledge that you've gotten your workout done and that's just one less thing you have to worry about on your schedule.  But more importantly, it's just so invigorating to get an hour or so in early on.  My wife comments on how I trot back to the house just ready for everything else that's going to happen in the day.

Well, in olden times, I found myself pushing workouts off and off and off until I had to sprint to squeeze them in before total darkness consumed me.  But back then I had energy all day.  These days when the clock hits 12:30...forget it (ok, it's not that bad...well kind of)...

Although...I'm still not quite old and wise enough to know to check the forecast before I go out skiing.  Which lead to me getting buried beneath a torrential rainstorm last Wednesday (and was presumably the reason for the absence of Greg and Kathy, although this hasn't been confirmed yet).

Here's hoping all the rest of you have some psycho skiers out there to get you motivated to get your workouts done in the morning!

The "Dress Like a Super-Hero" 5k

I was in the Acoustic Cafe in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (probably the best little cafe/coffee shop between Niagara Falls and the Rockey mountains) when I noticed this flyer for a run to be held on Sept. 25th.  Apparently you're encouraged to do this 5k while dressed as a super hero.  I'm planning to go as "Viagra man" hope to see you all there!

For more information, click here!

Chequamegon Fat Tire Results

The above image is from the Fat Tire web page. No, I didn't make it up to the event this weekend (I'm still awaiting your emails/photos with your adventures...chop chop people!).  However, I did manage to figure out how to navigate the Fat Tire web page and bring you the results easily (you can get to them on their page, but you have to click like three things and actually read...who wants to do that?).

So here you go:

Chequamegon 40

Short and Fat

Congratulations to all finishers!  And if you're a CyclovaXC member who finished...you better send me some PHOTOS!

Fat Tire FEVER!--Cyclops 2.18

So I'm sure many of you are out there doing the Fat Tire on Saturday. Today, as I went to pick up my wife from work I saw many a car with mountain bikes strapped to the roofs. I fumbled with my cell phone to try and get a decent picture, but of course they all came out a blurry mass (it's hard to take a picture of something coming at you at 70 mph, when you're simultaneously headed towards it at 70 mph...I think the camera is the only one who recognizes that you have bigger concerns in that scenario than image quality).

As all of you know, the Chequamegon Fat Tire is one of the four corners of the year for fresh air athletes like ourselves. The other three would be Grandma's marathon, the Firehouse Fifty and the Birkie (if you have any suggestions for bigger events to stick in here, please send them along...but that group of four is a pretty good sample). Ridiculous as it is, I've never done the Fat Tire, so I'm dying to hear everyone's "war stories" as you finish the event. Please don't hesitate to send me an email with a couple comments about your Fat Tire experience (cyclovaxc@gmail.com), and if you or a friend can snap a photo (ANY kind of photo) that would be even better.

I had been considering heading up to be a photographer/spectator, but then I found out that Oktoberfest is this weekend in Chippewa Falls (apparently the residents of Chippewa Falls couldn't figure out that Oktober is German for October...the month Oktoberfest is supposed to take place...oh well). Since I'm not actually doing the Fat Tire...the beer is calling!

So for all of you Fat Tire warriors, have a blast! Don't forget to send me your tales! And enjoy these articles from the previous couple weeks (there's a lot of cyclocross stuff in there)!

BIKE TECH: Mountain Bike Tire Pressure

The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival's combination of high speed and sharp rocks can wreak havoc on mountain bike tires.

Just as mountain bikes have evolved, so too have mountain bike tires and the air pressure put into them.

Let's step back 20 years in time, when mountain bikes were more like road bikes. It was thought at the time that relatively high amounts of air pressure in a mountain bike tire would allow the bike to roll faster down the trail (as it generally does on the road). Well, since then, mountain bike trails have evolved from gravel roads and 3-wheeler trails to single track, often with rocks, features, and other technical elements. It is in part this change in our trails that has driven the evolution of the mountain bike as well as mountain bike tires.

Even lightweight xc mountain bike tires today are designed with these extreme terrain elements in mind and are more resistant to punctures, sidewall tears, and even pinch flats. Today's mountain bike tires are also designed such that there is much more air volume within the tire - often taller and wider than tires in the past. This allows riders to use less air pressure in a tire without risking a pinch flat. (A pinch flat is when a wheel runs over an abrupt bump and the tube gets pinched between the rim and the bump, creating a hole in the tube - thus a flat tire.)

Now, why would you want to run low pressure in your tires? Well, there are a few very good reasons:
  1. Less pressure means that the tire will absorb many small bumps and vibrations, smoothing the ride of the bike.
  2. Less pressure means the tire will be "softer" and conform more to the surface you're riding on. This means better grip and traction.
  3. Less pressure means that the tire will "roll through" bumps in the trail, rather than bouncing over then. This is faster and more comfortable.
The key with running relatively low pressure is to find that sweet spot between not enough and too much. This number can change significantly based on the specific tire you're using, your weight, your riding style, if you're riding a 26" or 29" mountain bike, or even the trail you're riding.

Tires do have pressure recommendation ranges printed on their sidewalls, but following are some very general recommendations for 2" wide cross country mountain bike tires (such as the WTB Nano Raptor, Hutchinson Python, and many others) that we've found works out optimally for Midwest riding:

Front Wheel on a 26" MTB: 30psi
Rear Wheel on a 26" MTB: 33psi

Front Wheel on a 29" MTB: 28psi
Rear Wheel on a 29" MTB: 30psi

Now go check your tire pressure (as changing a flat is rarely a good time) and ride!

The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival without Telemark Lodge

Telemark Lodge's facilities will not be used for this weekend's events. Photo Credit: Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival

2010 marks the first time in decades that participants, fans, and community members will not be able to enjoy using the facilities of Telemark Lodge during the trek through the woods on bikes, known as the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival.

Telemark Lodge simply has a place in the hearts of every Fat Tire racer and Birkie skier. It is the place where in the past you've went to pick up your race packet, check out the latest gear from vendors at the expo, have dinner, answer nature's call, or grab a beer from the bar. Sadly, not in 2010 due the rash of misfortune Telemark has endured in recent years.

The other thing that has many Fat Tire Festival attendees concerned is lodging. Without the 200+ rooms at Telemark Lodge being available, more and more hotel rooms will be filled up, further and further away from the event. There will likely many people staying in outlying towns like Spooner, Duluth, Ironwood, etc - a solid hour drive from the Hayward area.

Thankfully, Gary Crandall and the army of volunteers that make the event possible are pulling out all of the stops this year. A literal circus tent will be erected which many of the event's festivities will take place in. There will also be many other smaller tents around the Telemark grounds for food service, changing areas, etc, etc.

I'm sure the Birkie board members will be there taking notes as they'll be facing similar challenges this coming February, except with winter weather conditions.

As they say, the show must go on. The mighty Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival is no exception.

Long Range 2011 Winter Forecast for Upper Midwest

A sight for sore eyes, this long range forecast map gives Midwestern XC Skiers reason to celebrate! (Photo Credit to Accuweather.com)

Tis the season when us hardcore ski dorks and snow lovers begin to spend countless hours with The Weather Channel on in the background, checking long range forecasts, and checking snow cams on line in a quest to figure out where early snow is falling. If this describes you, congratulations, you're a ski dork!

Well, in my never ending quest for snow, I stumbled across the first reputable long range forecast (aside from Farmers Almanac) that I've seen for the coming winter, and I'll admit I really like what I see!

AccuWeather.com Chief Long-Range Meteorologist Joe Bastardi is calling for "Winter's Worst" covering a wide swath from the Pacific Northwest through roughly Green Bay, WI. Specifically, he says that "Fargo and Minneapolis to Green Bay will also receive above-normal winter snowfall." Other Midwest cities that he predicts will see above average snowfall include Chicago and Detroit.

In terms of temperatures, Bastardi is calling for average Midwestern temperatures to be "a degree or so cooler than average".

For snow lovers, this is an optimal recipe: Cold temperatures with above average moisture! Here in the Midwest, in an "average" winter, we receive plenty of snow and have a good long ski season. If this forecast is at all accurate, we should be set for a solid winter packed full of great ski days!

Now, as much as I wish it were guaranteed that we get above average snow fall with below average temperatures this winter, I acknowledge that all long range forecasts are a true "crap shoot". With that said, yet this month, I will be releasing the official Cyclova XC Midwest Winter forecast for the coming season. Last year's '09 - '10 Cyclova XC Midwest Winter Forecast was right on the mark in some ways and off in others - just as good as any other long range forecast I guess!

As CyclovaXC.com readers, it's now your daily responsibility to begin your snow dancing for the season!

Cross Country Water Skis?

Ok...this one came up on a google alert and I can only assume it was a slow news day because this is absolutely ridiculous.  The "skis" that the guy has invented obviously don't work at all except for as a very crude kind of boat that only barely floats.  He's not doing anything that looks like a diagonal stride, and even as a double poling exercise it's kind of questionable.

Now, I don't mean to rip on this dude, because he seems to be a pretty passionate old guy who is sincere about trying to develop a cross-country ski that works on water.  However, if a 12 year old kid who was just messing around on his summer vacation had made the same device tha t Nikolai Vasiliev has produced here...I doubt any news agency would be picking it up and perpetuating the video.

Who knows, maybe I'll eat my words and Vasiliev will continue to perfect his Cross Country Water Skis (need a better name), but I doubt it.  You see, if you wan to Cross-Country Ski in the summer, there's already a perfectly good invention that's a lot more ski-specific: Roller-skis!


Ok, so this doesn't have a lot to do with running, biking, or skiing (except for the fact that I'm sure lightsaber training would make for some good workouts)...but just what the heck is going on in this video?  Oh, in case you didn't click on it, it's not just Luke and Darth Vader fighting...it's Luke and Darth Vader fighting and it's been dubbed over in Polish or something.  Not only has it been dubbed, it's been dubbed over extremely poorly (you know something's up when Luke hits Vader and Vader screams...horrible...horrible).

Seriously, does anybody understand what they're saying?

I don't know, I just found this video oddly fascinating...any help would be greatly appreciated!

Contents of My Ski Box (skis, hand-grenade...)

I just had to laugh as I opened up my ski box the other day to grab my roller skiing poles, because there, sitting in the midst of all my other superfluous, irrelevant equipment was a hefty hand-grenade.  The item is presumably there for the days my skis are slow...or rather, it's included in the ski box as a sort of physical threat to my skis NOT to be slow, or they know what fate awaits them.

The hand grenade is an interesting story.  My grandpa participated in world war II and he brought back that and a bunch of other interesting items (tracer bullets that he used to shoot over lake Hayward for example).  Nobody knows for sure if the thing is live or a dud...but one of these days I might just pull the pin and give the item a little chuck and see if it still works.  Until then, I'll just leave it to rattle around in my ski box (you can hear it thumping to the front ever time I slam at the breaks at a stop sign...it goes BANG! into the front of the box and in the back of my mind I always think it's going to go off, hehehe).

You might notice that I also have a pair of Rossignol skis from about 1989 (they were the peak of technology in their day) and a broom (to sweep the trail after the last competitor has gone by).

What's in YOUR ski box?

What is Best in Life?

When you're heading out the door to do the Birkie or whatever...it's good to remember what Conan says is best in life. "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women" (I always thought lamentation was a pretty big word for old Conan, but that's just Oliver Stone showing off [he wrote the screenplay to "Conan the Barbarian" believe it or not]).

I tell you, watching that clip brings a tear to my eye.  You see, "Conan the Barbarian" was a Christmas classic at my household.  Every year we'd light up the tree, have some eggnog, rip a leg or two off the turkey, and settle in for a nice Christmas eve viewing of "Conan the Barbarian."  The Christmas message of that film gets more and more beautiful every year.

...and let me tell you one more thing.  NO film is FUNNIER than "Conan the Barbarian" on Christmas eve...NOTHING!  The rest of the year it's not funny, but when I watch it through on Christmas eve I'm just ROLLING (perhaps it's because I'm imagining that I must be the only guy on the face of the Earth watching it...in fact, if somebody else DOES watch Conan every Christmas, please get in touch with me...you must be awesome!).

Nutrition Products for Endurance Athletes, Part 1

Nutritional products can come in many shapes and sizes with a huge range of price tags.

Walk into any drug store, GNC, or bike shop for that matter and you're likely to find yourself drowning in a sea of nutritional products. This is good for consumers as there is a ton of competition in the category, but it can certainly make things confusing. Where to even start?

Well, like many other things (
ski waxing for one), you could obsess over nutrition products or develop a simple system that works for you and stick with it - yielding no surprises.

I like to encourage athletes to break nutrition products down into four basic categories for simplicity sake: vitamins, fuel for use during activity, supplements, and recovery drinks. Note that there are infinitely more products out there than this, but for now, I'm not concerned about them personally, nor should most recreational endurance athletes be. Also note that I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, this advice is simply practical advise I've learned through decades of training, racing, and working in the endurance industry.

may seem relatively self explanatory, yet there are more to them than meets the eye. and they're not all created equal. Of course, we'd all be best off simply eating top quality food with the nutrients our bodies need, but vitamins help to fill in the gaps that we all have in our diets.

Did you know that a good portion of vitamins sold in the US aren't even absorbed by our bodies?
That's right, when the poor person at the city sewer is filtering out all of the "stuff" that we flush down, they're pulling out thousands of little vitamin pills that people took with the best of intentions.

One very simple unscientific test that I have known people to do that want to test if vitamins will be absorbed is to simply drop a vitamin tablet into a glass of vinegar for 20 minutes. If the tablet is dissolved, your body will probably absorb it. It turns out that vinegar has a similar PH to the acids in our stomachs.

When it comes right down to it, athletes are best off keeping their vitamin routine simple and consistent. A good multi-vitamin (sometimes male or female specific due to varying iron content) is all nearly everyone needs. One specific vitamin that many successful racers I know have done very well with is the First Endurance Multi Vitamin. This is a simple product, packed with what athletes need, and easily absorbed by our digestive systems.

Fuel for use during activity, is simply what most people refer to as energy bars/gels/blocks/drink. These products are simply put, fuel that enables your body to continue exerting, hopefully at a high level.

This is likely the most packed category in terms of options for the athlete. There are many great products here that I won't make any specific recommendations. The bottom line is that athletes need fuel in regular increments, particularly during longer workouts and races.

As you are ingesting this stuff, you will do so most willingly if you like the taste of the product and it is convenient.
So, in my opinion, experiment, and try some different products out there. Figure out what tastes good to you, what you can take while working out at a high intensity without feeling sick, what is easy to use, etc. Don't forget to consider different forms of fuel for different purposes; for example, some people prefer bars for slow training sessions, blocks for intensity workouts, and gels or drinks for races.

As I mentioned earlier, I won't make any suggestions other than to say that everyone should have a case of
Salted Nut Rolls in their cupboard!

Stay tuned to CyclovaXC.com for Part 2 of this series on Nutrition Products for Endurance Athletes!

2010 American Birkiebeiner Video

The good folks at CXC have once again created a world class video of the American Birkiebeiner! They did a fantastic job at putting together a professional level video last year, and this year's is even better, with what I consider more full coverage and even better commentary.

Now that September is here, I'm sure I'm not the only one waking up on the chilly mornings with heavy dew covering the trees and grass - so heavy and thick that you'd swear its frost or even a dusting of snow. Sadly, when you touch it you realize it's just water... Tis the time of rollerskiing, trail runs, dreaming of snow, and yes, watching the Birkie Video.

Note: they make you watch a 1 minute advertisement at the beginning.

Note that this great video may be purchased on DVD by going to www.birkievideo.com.