The Road to Minneapolis (maybe)

 

Ordinarily a US skier might be quite thrilled to have the Masters World Cross Country Ski Championships (MWC) in their home country. The convenience, familiarity, and general ease associated with attending all add up to a positive consideration when deciding whether or not to compete. So when it was announced that the World Masters would be in the US in 2018, Team Bumble Bee was excited… that was until it was further announced that the MWC competition would take place in a major metropolitan area- right within the city limits of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Having spent a lot of time in Minneapolis from 1999-2009 in extensive consulting with a major firm based there, BumbleĀ  got to know the city and it’s environs. While not a place that he (or Bee) would choose to live, many who do live there extol the long list of great attributes that the city has to offer. Unfortunately, these attributes do not include consistent snow. In fact good snow years have been the exception for at least the last two decades. Cancelled or moved races have been commonplace in the Minneapolis area and when there is sufficient snow it is often of marginal quality and coverage. The organizers have committed to a significant upgrade to their snow-making capabilities to ensure at least 10 km of tracked trail in the event of low or no snow (provided the temps are low enough to make snow). However, man made snow is not something that we look forward to racing on, particularly when there will be excellent snow conditions at numerous other US races in the same time frame.

View of downtown Minneapolis from Thomas Wirth Park, site of the 2018 Masters World Cross Country Ski Championship January 19-26, 2018. Photo credit: Richard Sennott/Star Tribune.

Additionally, having a Masters World Championship in a city is of questionable value given all of the inconveniences that a city environment places on a cross country skier. In Minneapolis, among these inconveniences are: horrendous traffic, poor public transportation (although the organizers are supposedly offering frequent shuttles to the race site from Downtown hotels), dicey neighborhoods, expensive food (and IMO hard to find “good” food independent of price), potentially super cold temps (ca. -20F), dirty snow, and flat competition courses. What are the positives for a competitive skier? I can’t think of any.

View of the start/finish area at the 2017 Masters World Cross Country Skiing Championship in Klosters, Switzerland. There will be no mountains, or particularly challenging courses, in Minneapolis.

Arguments for awarding the MWC to Minneapolis have been centered on the “uniqueness” of having a MWC in an urban area, the ease of travel, plenty of accommodations, “City”-type extracurricular activities (local cultural attractions and events), the fact that Minneapolis has the highest concentration of cross country skiers in the US, and a committed local organizing committee. I could provide a point-by-point argument against each of these reasons (with the exception of the last point- the cross country ski community in Minneapolis is likely the strongest in the nation), but such would not necessarily be constructive. I will, however, just point out the most critical factor for a successful MWC- reliable and good snow conditions on challenging courses. There are so many nearly ideal venues in the US where the MWC could have been held it is disappointing that none were up to the task of hosting the competitions. Well, that’s just the way it goes in cross country skiing in the US.

Although Team Bumble Bee has begun a structured 7 month training period with MWC Minneapolis as an “A” event in late January, we are seriously considering not going to the competition. We may just fly in for 3-5 days and do two or three individual races and skip the relay. There are a lot of other very well run races on exceptional courses during the WMC period and any one of these will be preferable to hassling with trying to race in a major metro area that has inconsistent to very marginal snow. We will keep options open until the last minute but as of this writing it is very much up in the air as to whether we will be attending.

But as Bee frequently points out: a race is a race, everyone has the same course, and we are not likely to find such high quality age-graded competition anywhere else in 2018. So it might be best to just grapple with the downsides of an urban championships and start developing “coping strategies”.

training

Independent of these operational challenges during the MWC, intensive, structured, training continues. With just a few tweaks we will be following the same training progression as documented in detail in the 10-part series posted last season in the run-up to the Klosters MWC of March 2017. The training structure worked well for both Bee and Bumble and this is summarized in the wrap-up post. Bumble has work to do on downhill skill development and this is well underway and will be the subject of a future post. We have also added a few new elements to strength training as well- specifically, plyometrics. This will also be the subject of a future post. Suffice it to say that we are finding plyos to be a critical element in the development of explosive power and coordination, particularly for us “old people”. We have developed a matrix of plyos that are targeted for old people who have somewhat compromised connective tissue. Although not as challenging as “standard” (young person) plyos, these exercises are very effective in maximizing available explosive power from typical “geezer” physiology. Stay tuned for details.

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