I didn’t win a darn thing in the Noquemanon 50K Classic Ski Race.
No Moen cowbell for 9th place in my age group, or 76th overall.
In humbling fact, Santiago Ocariz beat me by an hour and might have lapped me if it weren’t for the point-to-point lay out from Ishpeming to Marquette.
It was, though, a victory for my recent Wild Workouts.
The high-intensity sessions in Amber Antonia Budahn’s studio on Kinnickinnic Ave. improved my core strength and balance, and built up the all-important deltoids, triceps and latissimus dorsi.
The double-pole, the power stroke of classic cross-country skiing has long been my weakness. I’ve given away time and places on the flats as readily as the Packers defense gave up touchdowns.In the Noque, I double-poled away from several pursuers on the stretch to the finish, including a guy half my age. The clock ticked 3:32:25 when I crossed the line, well under my four-hour goal and a match to my time in 2006, when I was younger and in better aerobic fitness.
Budahn was an All-American runner at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and competed in the Olympic trials in race walking. She majored in biology and chemistry and takes a scientific approach to fitness and performance.
I found from the first drop of sweat that the Wild Workouts would be valuable for my winter pursuit.
Doing dumbbell rows from a plank position, step ups to a military press and multiple variations of lunges work the muscles that propel me down the ski track.
Pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups while balanced in different positions activate and work the stabilizing muscles in the core and hips.
Budahn mixes resistance training to develop bone density and lean muscle, with metabolic training. We move in circuits from one exercise to the next, taking short rests after 30 to 45 seconds of effort. One memorable session had us rotating lifts and lunges for 25 minutes.
“We are teaching the body to react faster,” Budahn said. “For the athlete, this translates to speed and reflexes; allowing the athlete to generate power faster and in different planes of motion.
“Our metabolic workouts simulate the high intensity intervals, getting peoples’ hearts pumping and working anaerobically.”
My hourly sessions, once a week, have been invaluable through a winter that has lacked snow and training on skis.
Going into the 50K Noque, my longest outing for the season had been about 25K. I was very aware that I would be in uncharted territory when the race extended beyond 90 minutes of effort.
A conservative pace early was key, and I found myself gaining physical and mental momentum well after the half-way point.
Strong enough to double-pole efficiently through the tight turns, and flat stretches, I picked off skiers in succession over the last 10K, then worked to hold onto my gains.
I focused on tempo, fighting the familiar urge to slow the cadence, or switch to a less-demanding, but slower, kick and glide.
No-snow training: With less than four weeks to the Birkebeiner, I’m among the hundreds of skiers fretting about the lack of training on real snow. Strength workouts can offset the limited time on skis.
Bill Pierece, who coaches the Hayward Hurricane ski team, offers more suggestions on low-snow training.