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Northwest Vermont Endurance

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Marathon Advice

Damian Bolduc

There are several first timers signed up for Craftsbury this year.  If you are feeling nerves or are wondering what to do read the following and do not hesitate to email or ask for any assistance (including wax room use) in preparing for the race.

Before the race:

Get a good meal and a good night’s rest before the race.  Have a plan for the morning eliminating things to remember and think about.  You want to be focused on the race.  Have your clothing, equipment, and food ready to go. Prep your skis and since these are long races iron in a wax binder.  The wax tips at Toko, Swix or www.nwve.org will tell you what to use.  We will have kick wax, wax testers and wax stations and will tell you what to do and may even wax for you if needed.  Whatever it takes for you to have a good time.  Eat breakfast.  Eat what works for you.  Have a snack to make sure you are topped off for the start.  An energy bar will do the trick. If you are nervous of have any questions ask a club member for help.  We are here to support each other.  Lastly, do not panic.

Race time: 

Carry some fluid and food with you.  Sports drinks and sports gel work well.  A water bottle belt may not be stylish, but will be there when you need it.  Safety pinning gels to the belt is also a good way to carry them in an easily accessible way.  Just rip them off on the go as you need.  One tip is to carry your water bottle upside down so the nozzle does not freeze.  Otherwise you may find drinking frustrating and will finish with a useless piece of ice strapped to your waste.  There will be feeds on the course, but having your own is an advantage.  You can feed more often, when you need, and can bypass a congested feed station with your own food on board. There will not be a feed zone on a long downhill, but man it is a great place to have a two course race meal.  A note on feeding:  Let your poles dangle down (I almost skewered a volunteer the first time I took a feed during a ski race. Also thank them for being out there even if they dump a water down the front of your race suit.  (They are there to help and they are colder and more soaked then you are.) Together we can leave them with the impression of being the friendly club!) The start will be chaos.  Pick an experienced skier your results are close to, to guide you through the initial kilometer of the race.  Once settled in, races within the race will unfold.  You will find plenty of company on course and trust that all are feeling just about the same as you are.  It is fun to be in a pace line, or to hang on to another racer, or to race your guts out against some opponent that will not give up.  The respect you will have and earn will last long after the event, and you will always be able to say “hey remember that time…” this is what the citizen’s series is all about.  Remember to drink and eat.  Maybe you will lose time on the guy skipping the feeds at the start, but when they bonk you will make it up and gain some. A couple ounces of fluids every 15 minutes and a gel every 30-40 is a good rule of thumb. Plan on the race to be just another ski for the duration of time you think it will take you to finish. If you are going to go longer than 3 hours take a solid like an energy bar along. Eat it before you get that empty pit in your stomach feeling usually at 2:00-2:30 hours into the race (be wary of Nature Valley on course; it is flaky and when you are sucking wind, a dry piece of oatmeal down the wrong tube can be very unpleasant.) Your first marathon should not be competitive until you know you are in the end zone, so from 5 or 10k out  of finish if you are feeling,  indestructible, do not discourage yourself from letting it go. Just remember sometimes the last 2km feels like the longest half of the race. You will finish, it might be painful but you will learn, build and know what to expect.  From this baseline you can devise a plan for future races, maybe warm up for the first half of a race then turn the rockets on…  If you notice that you are up where you have never been before, you could be having the race of your life, but more likely you are in for a world of hurt.  Not to worry if things go wrong the contingent plan is to tour the rest of the way in, taking advantage of the gourmet food stops and campfires along the way.  No shame in that.  It happens to the best of us.  Finishing is the goal.  And since you are a member of a team your bad luck is not futile, you can help the team out by splitting packs in the advantage of the team or just encourage those that go by while you carry on to the finish.

After the race:

Eat, rest and reflect.  Now is the time to think about what worked well for you and what you would do differently.  Keep track of it and grow. 

 

Ski Readiness

Damian Bolduc

12/5/13

The recent lean snow years have had many effects on Nordic skiing in the northeast.  Many have been pleasant unexpected surprises, others not so good for the sport.  One of the challenges that many people face regardless of snow conditions is making time for skiing.  It is something even gifted lovers of the sport struggle with.  Lean snow compounds this, but there are easy ways to free up time and to be prepared for training.

In the younger years skiing is a team/club activity and is very structured.  Skiers tend to have set practice times, a coach and someone to hold them accountable for training.  As we grow we graduate from these programs and components of things we never thought about appear and become our own responsibility.  This is a difficult transition that comes with maturation, and perhaps the magnitude of the technical and structured elements of Nordic skiing come as a shock.

Not to worry, there are simple solutions.  The purpose of this article is to help people make the transition by things easier to do on their own and to encourage joining a local team or club.  Skiing can be as complicated as you like and the emphasis is often on doing just that, but if skiing is what you love it is just as fun to dial it back.

Many people make skiing an event.  Event meaning that it requires much preparation, planning, tickets, tuning, meals, snacks, a lodge and hot chocolate. It can be, and this is encouraged by places that want you to have a spiritual experience at their “destination.”  Much of Nordic skiing is a business and the activity will not survive without this component.  Going on an event ski is a great experience, but not every ski needs to be an event.  It takes a lot of time and effort to plan an event.  One will quickly burn out if this is the approach they take towards skiing.

Skiing needs to be more spontaneous.  There is no guarantee that the conditions will be right no matter how much planning you put into your event ski.  To take advantage of spontaneous skiing you need to be prepared for spontaneity.  To do this, have a Ready to Go Ski Kit.  This is a basic ski kit that is simply ready to go anytime, anywhere, no matter what.  This is your go to kit for training and recreational skiing.  The kit consists of a pair of skis, boots and poles.  It is also good to keep some extra clothing as well, most importantly a hat.  Depending on your experience and desire the kit can be adjusted, but the principle remains the same.  This is equipment of the “rock skis” variety.  It can be assembled cheaply from equipment you no longer use or from the cheapest stuff at the ski swap.  Do not use new equipment unless you have no other alternative.

The Kit Mentality is one of efficiency.  You do not care about or for this equipment.  You care about skiing.  The kit should be maintained once a season.  In the fall before the first snow flies you wax your skis.  Use a mid wide-range wax such as Swix CH7, Toko System 3 Red, or Rex Blue.  The skis will always work and you do not have to wax them every time you ski.  If you classic ski only or if you have a pair of classic skis in your kit use Start Grip Tape as your kick wax.  It works good enough in all conditions.  Properly applied you can get two seasons out of one application.  Your maintenance is done for the season and your skis are ready for any condition.  Remember these are basically junk skis, but often they become more than that to the owners.

Have the kit handy.  Keep it in your car or if you have a roof box leave it in there.  The peace of mind of always having this kit handy is incredible.  It can act as spares when you forget a piece of your race stock.  You can even use it as a platform for jacking up your car on a soggy road side after you flat on a monster pothole.  You do not have to do your mental checklist every time you set out.  As you gain more experience with it, you build more trust and build it to what you need.

The importance of having it handy is that you can ski when and where the opportunity presents itself.  On the way home from work, you literally can pull to the side of the road and go for a ski.  Want to know who laid tracks at the rest stop on the highway?  Someone with a ski kit possibly wearing a 3 piece suit.  The truth is, you do not know where or when the snow is going to be, but with the kit ready your are that much closer to be being there and many steps ahead of everyone else, so even if you go to a destination, you can be skiing first tracks while others are still scrambling, scraping and testing wax.

Where to ski is the next hurdle to cross.  There are different ways to approach this dilemma.  If you are dedicated to a certain ski center, buy a seasons pass there.  In Vermont there is a reciprocal program, so a season pass at one center gets you a one day pass to most others.  This is a great program to take advantage of to explore or get a change of scenery.  Not to mention someone else may have great conditions when your favorite area does not.  The advent of snow making at certain areas is also a consideration and could make for less of a gamble when purchasing a season pass.

Joining a club or team also helps with getting on snow.  Many clubs have a spot for some exclusive training, or set training times at area centers as well as a discount. The club word of mouth is valuable to getting accurate reports of conditions and more.  Take advantage of a club membership for everything from pointers on technique, carpooling, conditions, shared wax and more.  Clubs also bring in the element of accountability that is often missing when skiers graduate to being on their own.  The structured environment lives on in the club, the difference is that no one will give you a pep talk for being late for practice, or having the wrong clothes…

Carpooling does so much for skiing.  First it makes you stick to your plan.  It saves time and money and you share the experience multiplying its value by the number of people in the car.  So much success can be attributed to carpooling.  While it is not something you do for every ski, if there is one thing to plan it should be to carpool.  If you are a member of a club simply send out a message that you have however many seats available.  You will not always get takers, but when you do the experience is enhanced.

It still takes commitment to ski.  There are different types and levels of commitment and some are more important than others.  The simplest and most important is to commit to ski.  This is the essence of what you want to do.  There does not need to be anything fancy or commercialism nor an event or place.  Skiing can be done regardless of what you think or people tell you.  If it is important to you then you will find a way.  Hopefully you have learned a little different perspective from this article and that with its guidance you realize you are closer to skiing than you thought.

Accept that with the ski kit you will not have the fastest or fanciest skis, that is ok because you still get a great workout and whether you are training or touring, you can spend more time skiing than preparing and organizing.  When everyone else is removing their fancy stuff to cross some questionable terrain you can ski through without worry.  Being ready for any skiing will also allow you to commit to taking advantage of smaller periods of ski time.  You can go out the door if the opportunity presents.  No need to get to special trails, prep expensive equipment, or organize things that are all over the house.  Commit to being ready and go.

A person once asked if I was “embarrassed about doing a race in a chicken suit” at a local fundraiser.  I replied “a little, but not as embarrassed as the guy decked out in the latest performance wear that lost to me wearing a chicken suit.”  You do not need to be perfect to be awesome.  There is no shame in skiing in less than perfect circumstances, there is when you get out of shape by missing what you love because you are waiting for perfection in an imperfect sport.

 

Shopping the Ski Swap

Damian Bolduc

10/1/2013

Shopping at the local Ski Swap presents the consumer with many challenges.The whole experience can be very overwhelming to the unsuspecting shopper.It is a combination of Black Friday Door Busting at the local Box Store, carny cant from people hocking the latest fitness gimmick, used car sales pricing and lines to wait in lines, and another line to get out.That is not to say that these events should be avoided (they should be celebrated), but as with any adventure, good preparation is required to have a pleasant experience.

What you need to know before you go:

Going to one of these bazaars with a shopping list is not very good planning.You will know what you want, but there is no guarantee of what will be for sale.Get the idea of scoring pristine condition late model new or barely used equipment out of your mind.There are too many outlets for unloading this type stuff in other ways.Some new stock will end up at the swap as a few teasers, but the likelihood of getting your hands on nearly perfect gear for you is slim.To make your experience more productive, go with a complete list of what you have, including sizes, styles, and models as well as a clear spiel on what you want to do.Then when you are shopping and you get your hands on something that is eye catching you can determine if it fills a gap in your inventory, is compatible with what you use or maybe you really do not need those shiny new skis flexed for somebody that weighs 150 pounds more than you even if the price is a steal!

Knowing what you have and a quick synopsis of what you want to do will help in another way as well.The people working the sale will find this information very helpful.The expert’s heads will be spinning and if you have this type of data they will quickly be able to zero in on exactly what you need.They will also have knowledge of that pair of boots at the bottom of the heap in an unmarked box that would be perfect for you.Go in with “I think I am a size 9, and liked the conditions that weekend in February” and they will direct you to a section better suited for the compost pile and move on to someone ready to buy (unless you are really hot).Taking a knowledgeable friend is a gamble.They may find it difficult to stay on task in all the excitement of the sale, they may make selfish decisions (getting you into something you may not be ready for) they may ditch you for other friends at the sale.If you bring one, plan on keeping them on the task of being a trusted advisor for optimal outcomes.

What will be for sale:

The swap will have everything.All equipment should be in good working order, but keep an eye out for patching and painting as these events are manned by volunteers and subpar items will slip through.There will be a tiny percentage of new stuff (mostly odd sizes that are impossible to sell).There will be a lot of dusty stuff that has been sitting in an un-ideal environment for a long time, and there will be mostly usable stuff that people have upgraded out of.There will also be rental fleets at closeout prices.If you are the type that is upgrading or has already upgraded to the top of the line, do not waste your time at a swap looking for the next thing.If you are at that level go to your local shop and buy retail.You will not be satisfied with the inventory at the ski swap.If you want to down grade then by all means this is the place for you.The swap is really good for people who want to give something new a try, have some experience wanting to do more, or someone looking for their second tier gear.It is also good for those looking for the rush of the sale and seeing old friends, but please do not distract those with trusted advisor duties.

Who will be at the sale:

Everyone will be at the sale.They will line up early and crash the gates like those trying to get the $49.99 gadget at 4AM on Black Friday.The only difference is that this crowd will be a little more fit and competitive due to the nature of the product.There will be hoarders, crying children, experienced and inexperienced shoppers/athletes, and more.The sales staff will be volunteers that have varying knowledge of the products and under tremendous stress.There will be cashiers and security as well.The cashiers will be quite good, but they are not there for questions or any BS, unless they decide to have a 20 minute chat with Joyce about Rickie’s knee injury while you wait next in line.

Sale layout:

Most sales are held in gymnasiums, cafeterias or parking lots.They are wide open, seem to be poorly lit and are noisy.Equipment is generally grouped together and organized by size.Like in a consignment store the good side by side with the bad and the ugly.Things will also be misplaced but for the most part people try to keep things where they belong. Another thing to be aware of is while items are grouped together, it is under a general classification, and not necessarily narrowed down into specific techniques brands or compatibility.Nordic Boots will be with Nordic boots.Skate, Classic, Combi, 3-pin, NNN, NNN2, SNS Profil, Pilot… will all be together.Some effort will be made to delineate, but where that line is drawn depends on the time the volunteers have to set up the event.So the main showroom will generally have this giant yard sale feel.

There may also be some boutique areas where people set up little store fronts selling boot/shoe inserts, health supplements, Physical Therapy appointments, ski grinds and more.Some of the larger sales will have rooms dedicated to skate to different sports such as hockey, Nordic skiing, and a room for miscellaneous things that do not fit into the main theme of the sale such as cycling or weight training equipment.

Once through the sale floor you cannot leave the way you came in.You will be filed into the cashier zone.This entails a wait, no turning back and proper payment.All sales are final and cash is king.Most take credit and debit now, but having cash is the simplest.Be prepared to pay the highest marked price on the item. Prices are hand marked and if that 7 looks like it could be a 9, but you are pretty sure it is a 7, it will be a 9 at check out.There are no price checks and these are fundraisers, the highest marked price is what will be charged.The responsibility of the cashier is with making top dollar and therefore to not risk any misunderstandings the decision will favor the most income.After checkout, be prepared to have your items checked with the receipt by security before you exit.You will leave and only be allowed back in through the entrance.Make sure you drop off your purchases in your car before you re-enter lest you be charged for it again.There will be people watching for this, but keep it in mind.Receipts do not necessarily prove you have already paid for what you have.

Price format:

Sale pricing is dynamic.So many variables are used when pricing used condition items.Unfortunately relatively little history is given with the item.There is no back story so you have to decide what you are willing to pay and the amount of risk you are willing to take on sale items.Many sales are two days with the second offering a significant discount.Some sellers will ask a high price with the hope that demand for the item is such that people will pay more.If it seems like the first day price is high, but the contingent price is right it is your call as to whether the item will be there on day 2.Others simply do not want to play games and want to get rid of their stuff.

Another complexity of the swap is a sort of grey market of ski swap items.These are lots of items handled by a manager, usually ski fleets and unclaimed merchandise leftover from previous swaps.These are easy to spot as they will usually have their own price stickering, and are not subject to the day two discount.Depending on the manager, these items are in for the long haul of the ski swap season.At the last sale of the season you will see the journey these items have been on with prices marked down with each sale.These items are just as legit as everything else at the sale, but know the motivation behind the seller is a little different and it is your call on how much you want to pay.

What to buy at the sale:

Buy whatever you want or need.The most important thing is to buy what you will use.Look for diamonds in the rough.Some of the best scores are 20 year old top end race skis that have been well loved.These make excellent training skis and you may even be lucky enough to snatch a pair with speed left in them.Sometimes things that you buy that are supposed to be in the rock rotation find their way into the race rotation.It is especially cool when you school someone on your $25 ski swap find.“Man I remember when I had a pair of those 20 years ago.Those were great skis!”It never gets old. Look through the rental fleets.They are usually priced low, and can have items that spent most of its time on a shelf waiting to be used. Avoid that which you cannot, or will not use.Most anything has a purpose, but be careful to buy things that are a close fit.Keep in mind that a cheap ski that needs a binding changeover will end up costing significantly more.

Some tricks to remember.Poles that are too long can be cut.Sometimes the bindings on a $10 ski are worth $50.Extra pole handles, straps and baskets are handy to have.If you do not want to blemish your good stuff the swap is oozing with equipment you will not mind trashing.It is a great place to find a “ski ready” package to keep in your car so you are always prepared to ski.A swap is a good place to find spares as well.Having functional gear that you do not invest too much in also saves time as it will not need as much maintenance and you do not have to find perfectly manicured snow.You could even leave it on at road crossings!

Another trick is to never give up.See someone holding what you want?If they are still shopping keep an eye on them.Chances are it is not quite what they want and will soon switch it for something else. Be prepared to scoop it up if this happens.The indecisive shopper is your friend at the swap.Use the hold technique for yourself as well.If you see something close to what you want, grab it and hang on while you browse for something even better.Only relinquish it when you are certain you want something else.

Selling at the sale:

Sell items that are in safe, usable condition.Sell your overstock.Sell things that you have not used in years. If you plan to upgrade equipment sell off the gear that gets cycled out the other end when you get new stuff.You never know who will be at the ski sale or how excited they will be when they pick up your skis, even if they are only junkers to you.

Price your items realistically.People are not going to the ski sale to help you make the gap between your budget and your dream ski package. They are looking for a great deal, or at least a fair deal.If it seems like a risk, they will probably settle on a safer bet.The sale organizers will have support when pricing your drop off your items.Listen to them because they will be the same people telling the buyers about the price on your item.If you are not on the same page about value, chances are they will not represent your side of the story if they field questions about your item on sale day.Do not ask for more than what you would honestly pay.

Be honest about the use and condition of your items.Do not hide defects or problems.Honesty is the best policy.What are you going to say when your buddy shows off the almost new skis they scored and they happen to be the pair with burned bases you slid in under the radar?Some deception is to be expected, but a total screw job will have a way of coming back to bite you, especially in the relatively small skiing community.If the bases are burned, say so and price accordingly.Chances are someone will still buy them.

Be aware of the price format for the sale.Some will deduct up to 50% on the second day of the swap.If you cannot bare the second day price do not put your item in the sale.It will be competing with everything else.Price the item such that you are confident it will sell the first day.Accept that if it goes beyond day one, it was just the way it was meant to be.

There are also different types of swaps.Mainly charity swaps and shop swaps.To buyers there is no major difference but to the seller the type of sale matters.Make note of the reimbursement terms and conditions.Most sales take around 20% of sale price.However shop swaps will give you an option of accepting 80% cash or 100% store credit for your sold item.Store credit is a big bonus if you have no problem laying down some serious coin at the host shop.

All swaps take no responsibility for what happens to your price or item during the sale.You should also be fully aware of the unsold item pick-up policy.Swap organizers cannot hold unsold items in storage.After the sale you will be notified if your item has sold.The method of this varies from sale to sale.Sometimes a phone call, or more recently a sale results page online.If your item does not sell you must pick it up within the specified time.Otherwise you lose your claim to it and it will be donated, disposed, destroyed, repurposed or find its way into the ski swap grey market and you can buy it back at the next sale.

Have fun:

Ski Swaps are exciting for everyone.They ring in the new season, make space and fill your closets with new to you gear!Enjoy the sale and keep in mind it is all for fun!With all this new knowledge you should be more prepared for the scene and even if you do not find what you are looking for you there will be plenty of exciting people watching.Just picture the trusted advisors high fiving and the hoarders clambering about with more than they can carry!