Training for the Great Ski Race

Well, it’s on. I have 17 days until the Great Ski Race, and I need to train big time. I’ve put in more than a handful of days on the Nordic slopes this season, but certainly not enough to handle all 30 kilometers and 1,600 vertical feet. Some say, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” Others warn of the course profile: 11 kilometers of steep uphill to start, then down, down, down, and a final uphill push to top it off. I’m a little nervous, considering racing isn’t exactly my style. As a child, I used to hate being chased so much that when my brother would run after me, I’d drop to the ground and cry. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen on March 6.

Anywho, here are some tips I’m gonna follow for my belated training; they’re paraphrased from a Winter 2009-10 Tahoe Quarterly article written by Brad Rassler, who interviewed experts like Ben Grasseschi, then the head coach of the Far West Nordic Ski Team, and Kevin Murnane, general manager of Tahoe Cross Country, where the race kicks off.

Grasseschi recommended a 5-out-of-7-day weekly training regime. This new coat of powder isn’t exactly helping me start, but I suppose it gives me a day to map out my plan of action. I’ll plan to start tomorrow, Thursday, unless it’s still dumping snow.

Days 1 and 3: Long and Slow. I’ll be adding an hour to my anticipated race time, and keeping my workout at a conversation pace.

Day 2: Very Short, Very Hard. After a 15-minute warm-up, I’ll work on sprinting at a “race pace” for 10 minutes at a time, for no longer than 30 minutes of sprinting.

Days 4 and 6: Kinda Long, Kinda Hard. On this day, I’ll plan to skate for 90 minutes with a few bursts of high-intensity skating thrown in.

Day 5: Power Yoga. Now this I can handle!

Day 7: Rest. Ahhh… except that the next day, I’ll start it all again for Week 2.

And let’s say it doesn’t stop snowing, and my training plan is foiled? Here are a few race-day tips from the pros: 1) To start, find your rhythm and don’t worry about passing. Wait until the Fiberboard Freeway to kick it in. 2) Apply the right wax; Tahoe XC has a wax clinic before the race so be on the lookout for it and attend it. 3) Downhill technique is important, too! We’re all so focused on the up that we forget we can make up time on the down.

See you at the Great Ski Race! Do you have any Great Ski Race training tips we missed? I need all the help I can get!



I'm Tahoe Mountain Sports' web editor and a 6-year Tahoe resident. Yep, I live the life, with a lake view from my desk, lunch breaks on the beach with my dog, and morning powder runs when the snow's good. I ski, snowboard, skate ski, and cross-country ski in winter, and hike, mountain bike, backpack, and lay around on Tahoe's beaches in summer.


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