Sunday, October 26, 2003 - Perspective Update: Falling Into the Fall

- By: Erik Carleton

Fall is my favourite season. I am sure you are asking: “What about winter?” After all, a skier should prefer winter, if only because it is the snowiest. Winter, too, is a great season and it goes without saying that I like it (snow is fabulous), but let me present a case for fall. If you are in school, no longer the case for me, you may be biased one way or the other. It also likely depends on the climate in your area; the dry, sunny, temperate weather in Southern Alberta is one of the big reasons that I like the autumn. In Canmore, we have the bonus of the traffic reducing noticeably as we enter the shoulder season of tourism. The fall is a great time for training, which is what I enjoy doing. The time to go hard draws near.

In this neck of the woods, the fall often includes some on snow training, not just dryland. In fact, it is usually when skiing is at its best on the Haig Glacier. There tends to be a lot of fresh snow, as opposed to transformed, slow snow. Surprisingly, the CODA Camp has been closed since late August due to lack of snow. Sounds strange that a glacier would have such problems, but the ice is simply too hard and uneven to be skiable. Without the snow on top, the Bombi is unable to do any grooming. I certainly cannot complain, having been on two camps this summer, the latest just before Kananaskis Country was closed due to an extreme fire hazard. Skiing in September is great, if the opportunity exists.

Instead of a glacier camp, my Team Jaques compatriots and I participated in a dryland camp based out of Canmore. We had some great workouts, including a three hour plus mountain bike ride from Canmore to Barrier Lake, followed by two hours of skate roller ski along Highway 40. It was a great week of training with lots of variety, and although it was nice to stay at home, distractions seemed unavoidable. School (not for me) and work, though not physically fatiguing, tend to detract from recovery. One method to improve recovery that I have found is to plan time for it, just like you would your training. For example, you could set aside half an hour between workouts for stretching or reading (but avoid work or school related material). The idea is to give your mind and body a rest. For me this means getting away from the computer, often to go for a walk. When you are training five or more hours a day, remember that setting aside an extra hour can make a huge difference in your ability to train well in the following few days. As we all know, putting in big days is a common theme at this time of year.

Autumn is also the time most cross country skiers increase the specificity of their training, which, lacking glaciers, usually means a lot of roller skiing. I try to concentrate on technique; I have found this makes it easier to make the transition to snow. If you are putting in the hours on rollers, you want to be forming good habits, so keep your focus on doing it right every kick and every pole. One issue that is often discussed is whether it is practical to diagonal stride on roller skis, as the perfect grip from the ratchet can lead to lazy weight transfer and kick. Personally, I do not avoid diagonal, but find the biggest benefits to come from double poling as much as the terrain, your equipment and desired intensity level allow.

Roller skiing is not always fun, nor the safest activity to pursue. A few days ago, I was roller skiing up Three Sisters Drive towards the Nordic Centre in a spot where the road is not wide, but there is room for a skate roller skier with a car beside. As there was no oncoming traffic, the first car that passed me offered the whole right side of the road to me. That is always appreciated, as are all cars that obey the speed limit. The next car actually moved in as it went by me, and I wondered if the driver had purposely crowded me, to send a message, or put me in my place. The community here is very supportive of roller skiers, but an article appeared in the local paper in which a motorist suggested that drivers “do what they have to do to get [roller skiers] onto the shoulder [of the 1A highway].” I am used to inconsiderate or ignorant motorists, and hold nothing against them, but I am less forgiving of deliberate actions to compromise my safety. If everybody does their part, we can all use the roads to reach our goals or destinations.

We are fortunate in the Bow Valley to have lots of terrain, albeit sometimes on rough or rock-covered pavement, and for the most part do not need to worry about any enforcement. Where I grew up, the great City of Calgary, poles are not allowed on the pathways, and I am certain the bylaws could be interpreted in such a way that it is illegal to roller ski on both the roadways and the sidewalk. Regardless of the zealous bylaw creation, with a well-planned route I was able to do long roller skis, taking advantage of the endless system of pavement. The boys in blue never stopped me; nevertheless I was always courteous to automobiles. I believe the onus is on roller skiers to anticipate and avoid conflicts; we are the means of transport that lack brakes. It has been pointed out before, but cars will not be banned from the roads. I appreciate when motorists alleviate some of the pressure, while I am dodging gravel, cracks and manhole covers. Despite the hindrances, the hills of Canmore are a great place to roller ski.

So, get out there and roll! Keep your wheels tightened and tips sharpened. I’ll see you out in the sunshine. Fall is great, it means winter is next!



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