need thee ask why i nordic ski race?

there is no beauty more sheer, more poetic, more intense, more painful, more rewarding than nordic ski racing…

a group of skiers that have fallen off the intense pace during the 2011 edition of the Tour de Ski…arguably the world’s highest, most difficult (over 3,000′ of climbing at over 10,000′) Nordic Marathon in which i finished 5th in my AG last month.

i was isolated – skiing solo in the wind – just ahead of this group during the 2-lap ‘pre-fatigue’ Valley Loop of 20ks before beginning the ego-numbing ascent to 13,000’…

i awoke happily enough.

santoshic, actually.

so santoshic was my demeanor during my Pre-Race Ritual which included EMR and a version of Wing’d Angel, that i was nearly late to catch a carpool with Noble Warrior Andrew Ferguson (who would finish 6th overall) and Miles Venzara (4th overall).   on the 20 minute ride up to the venue, we chatted effortlessly about things like wax of the day, recent ‘gossip’ among the local nordic world of Durango, and generally i bathed in the sacred waters of being friends with such High Mountain Yogis as Andrew and Miles.  deeper within, however, i wore a face of concern as does any New Daddy toeing a Start Line….let alone a Nordic Marathon reputed to be among the world’s toughest…

tds elliot

My chi-ldhood ski coach is on the left: 3x Olympian Mike Elliot giving last minute Course Instructions to a racer.  Coach Elliot’s son, Tad, just won the Senior Men’s 30k National Championship by a mere .01 second which i reported to you in previous Teachings.  Can’t tell you how oddly comfortable it is to have my childhood coach still barking out orders and instructions…

tds start tds

The Start Gun goes off; each of us knowing we’re gonna be suffering like a 3-legged dawg for the next 2.5-4 hours!  Miles (foreground) charges off the front.  ilg is in the second row, left, with Mala swinging and Knee Brace tightened for the torment ahead…

tds start

Why is toeing the Start Line important?

read HERE for more…


This is Dominic Shiavone looking all too comfortable approaching the killer climb at around 11,500’…Twilight Peaks winking at you in the background.  Borne and bred within a prestigious nordic family, i’m always just behind Dom…unable to match his exquisite glide and poling tempo.   maybe someday…Dom would go on to finish 7th Overall, nearly 25 minutes in front of me.

The technique that Dom is somehow gleefully expressing at nearly 2 hours into this marathon, is called V-1.  His left leg is the dominant ‘stepping leg’ in this photo in which the skier ‘steps’ onto the ski while syncing out a commensurate dominate pole placement before gliding onto the passive ski (right, in the photo above) for a very brief moment before the aggression begins again.  One of the things i love most about the Tour de Ski, is that it forces the skier into a balanced left/right ski ability.  When you are climbing over 3k?  There is no way you are going to rely on your dominant leg the whole time…the lactic acid burn would fry anyone to a crisp within the first thousand feet of high altitude climbing.


Check out this form!  This is Race Organizer and National MTB Champion Travis Brown…a local Durangatang of whom i’ve written often about in these Tribal Teachings.  Travis – sporting the killer old-school beard – finished second overall to National Biathlon Coach, Gary Colliander.

Note Sangha; the exceptional forward lean and thus glide demonstrated  by Travis in this fantastic pic.  see how he is committed fully over his glide ski…his arms at complete extension.  Travis actually skied on the CU Nordic Ski Team at a high level before turning Pro on the Mountain Bike.  This dude KNOWS how to suffer.  He is in his mid-thirties now and retired from pro level racing, yet as you can see…he is still at the Top Level.  if you doubt me?  Toe the Start Line next to him like i do.  You’ll be crushed so fast that your eyes will be crossed.  Like mine do, each time i attempt to match his pace.

tds ilg

Meanwhile,  like half an hour later…your feeble mountain yogi ilg passes near the same terrain.  Can you see how ugly, how imbalanced, how absolutely demolished i am compared to Travis?  However,  for a New Daddy at age 48?  Hec, i’m feeling Blessed just to be in the same race as such glorious and mighty lung’d warriors like Travis, Gary, Andrew, and Dom.

Remember my most treasured Sangha:

in WF , it’s pretty easy to beat a WF Warrior in ONE sport..however,  you start lining up the sports across the physiologic spectrum (endurance, ultra endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, suppleness, and stillness) and you’ll find us right at the TOP of the True Podium; the most versatile athlete is the genuine athlete.

The Blow by Blow was like this for me:

• i went out hard to stay with the Leaders

• at 3k, Miles and Gary got away

• from 3k to 5k i led the Chase Group

• at 5k, Andrew took over from my pull and put the hammer down…i got dropped from the Chase Group and skied solo in no-man’s land in the wind during the remaining lap and a half in the two Valley Loops before starting the climb

• i started the 3,000′ climb at 20k’s into the race in 10th place overall…i consciously made a decision in the Valley to pace myself to a lower heart because i THOUGHT i knew the race course ahead…and was planning to save my climbing for the steeps ahead. turns out, the Race Course went on a different route which i had never skied before…darn.

• by 30k, i was still V-2’ing which means i was using a very aggressive skiing motion because the terrain was less steep than i thought it would be…knowing however the general terrain and turn around point at nearly 13,000′,  i knew the Course would have to turn suddenly very steep…and it did.

• at 35k and over 11,000′ the Course turned into this monstrous beast of single sticking (basically where the slope is sooooo steep, you have to herringbone your way up the directness).  can i even tell you how many Mantra’s ilg put forth into the next 20 minutes of ‘skiing’ up a headwall as steep as your bedroom wall at elevation?  one guy pulled over who was in front of me and puked.  then, i targeted the first woman and her and i matched our stupid little stippedly steps etching, clawing, heaving our way up this monolithic mountain.  the uphill never seemed to end. when it did?  it was a tease…a slight downhill into 3 more rollers.

3 more rollers at nearly 13k?

after 3 hours of skiing?

through the time of mind i searched…futilely seeking something, anything from my vast quiver of internal meditation tools to help me reach the friggin’ summit of this beast of a climb!

Love came through;  i thought of you, hung on you, skied on you…

relied upon your Love and Support of me and felt you…

i summitted…and then:  it was Ilg Terrain, baby!

i passed two racers on the 3k descent (including the lady who is a world-class runner) and found my mojo on my skinny, scintillating descent from the mountaintops of which gave birth to WF!   i held the nordic, high speed equivalent to Chair Pose (utkatanasana) for over 8 minutes as i whizzed down the sexy slopes of Grayrock Mountain toward the Finish Line…

Along the Way?  Ilg left the gross and once again entered the Subtle

and found myself in the Light of which only the multi-disciplined Warriors know…

feel what i have said above and feel the astral bridge of acceptance of intensity which carries ilg to thee…

head bowed,

your feeble – yet willing – teacher

NOTE: Coach’s next race is the Langlauf coming this weekend!  Race Report for Members Only

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