I am a retired mediocre scientist (Ph.D. Solid State Physics), former competitive road cyclist, mountain biker, Nordic skier, and tennis player. As of this writing I am well into my 64th year. About eight years ago I rekindled my love of training and began a program to re-establish a training base with the intention of working towards a structured, focused training regimen and possibly some racing. After 30 years of no more than about 300 hours of training a year, I have now returned to the 700+ hour volume. It feels great to be able to do this again and I look forward to continuing this level of training as long as my body holds out.

As an avid competitive Nordic skier, and living in one the best places in the world1 to participate in this sport (Sun Valley, ID), my off-season training has centered around Nordic skiing-specific activities such as roller skiing, trail running, hill-bounding, specific strength, and some mountain biking. In the process of increasing my training volume, I derive significant enjoyment from mountain running, which is in part due, again, to where I live2. Mountain running is now my off-season base activity and has led me to longer runs with substantial vertical. As a category 1 road cyclist and expert/professional mountain biker I was a climbing specialist and this ability maps quite well to mountain running, particularly to long runs with long climbs. Having produced a substantial training base, I am now training for and competing in mountain trail and ultra marathon mountain trail running races and find the challenge to be quite enjoyable.

This blog is intended to be a depository for thoughts about training for endurance excellence and competition in the sports of mountain trail running and Nordic skiing.

As a scientist I tend toward the utilization of data and analysis, when appropriate, to formulate positions on specific subjects. It is likely that such analysis will appear in this blog from time to time for discussion and at other times for no other reason than as a place to collect such. Some analyses will be embryonic and in need of refinement that will occur over time. The overarching intention is to provide a data-based perspective on a given issue. Such perspectives may conflict with conventional thought. However, resolution of the stasis between the two (or many-multiple, as the case may be) will lead to a greater understanding of the issue and therefore to an enhanced thought platform for further ruminations.

About the title of this blog: It’s all about the vertical; it is my experience in mountain endurance races (that therefore involve the natural corrugations of the earth’s surface), that the climbing portions of such races often form the complexion of the race (i.e. produce a lead pack or lone leader) and that the downhills can often determine the winner (in some cases the opposite prevails: the downhills form the complexion and the climbing determines the winner). Given this premise, it seems clear that in training for such events the vertical aspects are critical, therefore: It’s all about the vertical”.

  1. Sun Valley, ID is a preeminent center for Nordic skiing with over 200 km of ski trails groomed daily and a continuous ski season from late November to mid-April. Many US Ski Team members and current and former Nordic Olympians live in the area and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) produces a fair share of the top junior and elite Nordic athletes. The ever-dominant Norwegian Olympic Nordic team chose Sun Valley as their pre-Olympic training centers for the 2002 (Salt Lake) and 2010 (Vancouver) Olympics.
  2. Sun Valley, ID sits at the base of numerous mountain ranges (the Pioneers, the Boulders, the White Clouds, the Smokeys, and the Sawtooths) and offers virtually limitless high quality single-track mountain running directly from your door.

5 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi, I’ve been enjoying your blog for awhile and have a question for you about Xsking. I am an ultra runner who is interested in skiing this winter as a form of cross training. Ideally, I would like to be able to travel on actual trails. What form of skiing should I learn? Classical, skate, or is there another form? When I try to do research on line, there seems to be people who claim that skate skiing is what people who want a real workout do, as if classical Xcountry skiing is looked down up. I trust your opinion as you seemed to have come to running from skiing. What do you recommend? How do I begin? (I have never skied before). Thank you.

    • Hi Michael,

      Classic technique cross country skiing as an off season activity for an ultra runner is about as good an option as you can choose. The sport uses the same leg muscles in a very similar way, naturally develops a very strong core (something all ultra runners can benefit from), and is very low impact. If you race, the races are shorter in duration (30 min to 3 hours max) but you will spend the whole time in L4 and L5- a good change of pace from the L2 and L3 ultra pacing.

      In order to develop good technique so that you can both enjoy the sport and challenge yourself athletically, you will need groomed trails. Not sure where you are located but hopefully there is a nordic ski area nearby.

      As far as classic vs. skate, I prefer classic as it is more aligned with the running motion. It is also esthetic as it is the “original” technique developed hundreds of years ago and it is a more quiet experience, both audibly and physically. Skating come in existence in the 1980s and is more aligned with the muscles used in MTB or road cycling. In my experience skating is what alot of runners do as cross training in the winter and many do it poorly. The technique is just as involved and important as it is for classic. Skating has been trendy, particularly among the more aerobic alpine types, but I see a real resurgence in classic (we teach here and see many more people asking for classic lessons these days). I suggest classic, but you should find an instructor and do a lot of it to get the technique down (the same goes for skating as well). I enjoy skating as you can attain higher speeds but there is just something about the combination of technique and grip waxing that I find appealing intellectually.

      The other skiing activity that you should consider is alpine touring/ski mountaineering. This is where you use special purpose alpine-like equipment to climb up steep slopes and ski down. A number of top ultra runners do this all winter (Jornet, for example). You do not have to do the gnar stuff though as Krar has demonstrated- he just skins up the Snowbowl in Flag and skis down the groomed slopes during hours when the lifts are not running. The uphill part of this sport is very much like running in the mountains and uses exactly the same climbing muscles that you will use as a runner. I do a fair amount of this in the winter and find it helps my climbing enormously. To get started you will need to get some suitable light weight alpine touring equipment. Used stuff is a good route as people are updating perfectly good equipment all the time. Take a couple of lessons at your local alpine area for downhill skill development and then start skinning your way up the slopes when the lifts are not running and have a blast skiing down. It is a great workout!

      So I will suggest two ski options for off season training for ultra runners- cross country skiing (classic preferred) and alpine touring/ski mountaineering.

      Good luck!

      • Hi Robert:
        This is Rudy from Taiwan.
        I have registered MDS of 2016. I do need your expert advises regarding what shoe should I use for it.
        1. Salomon: the agent of Salomon does not carry S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra due to limited size of market. However, the agent does carry X-Series. So, should I use X-Series? Or try to get Sense 4 Ultra from oversea?
        2. Hoka: no agent in Taiwan.
        3. Inov: any model of this brand would you recommend?

        Thanks and Have a good day
        Rudy Lin

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