Phase 2

Tomorrow ends “Doug’s Leadville Training Phase 1”. This phase was brought to you by the letter “B” for “building” or “base” or “base building”. We worked on building base fitness and building muscle strength. Now its time to get more serious.

I talked with Coach Drew on Wednesday about the next two months (we are working on two month blocks) in specific (which gets me to the Tour of the Battenkill) and the build-up to Willmington and then Leadville in general to get an idea how the next couple of months will flow.

Drew’s first question was: “When will your weather break so that you can get out onto the road?” The simple answer is I don’t know. The temps are warm enough to ride. It all depends on snow and ice on the roads. If the roads are clear I am biking outside as much as I can. I am looking forward to getting back onto the roads and trails on a regular basis.

Here is how the next two months will look to shake out:

Increased volume: In training terms Volume is Intensity times Duration. Over the winter we have focused on high intensity short duration efforts. Its a great way to build and keep base fitness levels. But, its time to get into longer rides. Willmington and Leadville are long rides and a test of endurance more than anything else. So its time to build into the longer efforts. Right now I am sure I could do a 100 mile road ride. Maybe not at my fastest pace, but I am sure I could do it. But that’s not good enough.

Less emphasis on weight training: Ideally you would like to make your training to be as event specific as you can. That would mean moving away from strength training and trading that time for bike time. But here is the thing. When you get to a certain point in your life, it pays to stick with weight training just a little bit to maintain muscle mass. Guess what? At the ripe old age of 43 I fall into that category. So the plan here is to back off on the intensity for the weight training but keep it in the routine. We are going to cut out the leg weights all together (save those muscles for riding) and concentrate on maintaining core and upper body strength. Core strength is really important in long events because it keeps you comfortable (i.e. decreases the likelihood of back pain). Upper body is important in mountain biking because it is more physical than road biking.

Continue running: If you have ever watched the videos on Leadville you have probably seen people pushing their bikes up hill. Its fair to say that Leadville has some significant “hike a bike” sections. Willmington also has that at the end when you go up Whiteface (i.e. the ski mountain).  Drew and I talked about keeping some running in there so that those muscles are not neglected and stay strong for those races. So the running stays.

The rest of the season shakes out into three blocks of two months. This next block runs up to the Tour of the Battenkill (April 13). Drew and I decided to approach Battenkill semi-seriously. That means we will do some tapering, more rest really, the week of the race so that I can go hard in the race. I have no expectations for that race at all. Its really about getting a good effort in and experiencing what is rumored to be a really fun event. The middle block goes from Battenkill to Willmington (June 15). We are going to train hard for that race and make it into a real dress rehearsal for Leadville. I have a definite goal in mind for that race. I want to cut 45 minutes off of my time from last year. That’s a pretty good chunk. Drew says there will be times its going to hurt.  And the Final block goes from Willmington to Leadville (August 10). Yes the goal there is to finish in under 12 hours and buckle. But I am shooting for a sub 11 finish time. I want to be at 10:20 for that race.

Its time to ramp it up. (Hopefully I can get my ride in outside on Saturday before our next snow storm :)).



I get tired of riding inside. So the typical cold climate dilemma pops up, frequently: ride inside or go out side. Its not so much the cold (OK when it is -22F it IS about the cold), but more the ice. I really have do desire to lay my bike down.

We have had some warm days where the ice on the dirt roads around my house has melted. THAT leaves a wonderful layer of goo that’s about 2″ thick to ride through. Its great for a workout but it really gums up a bike.

Worm really likes dirt (worms live in dirt you know) and so the trips outside on the melting dirt road have been right up Worm’s alley. The problem is that it is really hard to hose your bike off when it is 15F. Which means the dirt tends to accumulate. Worm and I got out on Thursday. I knew I was in trouble before I even got going. All that dirt from our last outside ride was still there.

We got about 40 minutes into our scheduled 1:30 ride and the drive train was pretty much done, so I limped home.

Today was a rest day so I thought it was time for Worm to have some TLC. The basement is still a mess after the flood and I figured I couldn’t make it any worse. I moved my workshop inside and started to clean.

Here is the before:


How ’bout a close-up of the drive train you ask? OK here you go…


Apart came the bike. Off came the chain. Rear derailleur cleaned.


(Did you catch all the dirt on the tarp? That’s a good fraction of the road in front of my house 😉) Back wheel off, cleaned and trued. Front wheel off, cleaned and trued:


I cleaned and lubed all of the cables. Tuned the drive train. Three hours later Worm was ready to rock and roll.


A day of rest for me, and some TLC for Worm. Ready to ride!

2013 Empire State Games

Somewhere during the World Cup Men’s race one of the Italian coaches learned that a number of the officials at the the start were also sliders.

“You slide?”

“Yes. Not as well as your guys but yes.”

“That’s good. You compete?”

“Yes. Tomorrow for Empire State Games. Its like a mini winter Olympics.”

“That’s good.” (with a twinkle in his eyes).

Saturday the professionals cleared out and the fans went home. No more Team Hamlin, Clukey or Mazdzer to cheer for us. The track was left to the people who slide, just for fun. The track was ours. We were all really excited. The track was specially manicured for the World Cup (i.e. they smoothed out the bumps). What would “World Cup” ice be like? It was time to practice for the Empire State Games. The race would be tomorrow.

On the way up to the start house we saw the NBC TV trucks being loaded with camera gear. “Wait, the real show is about to start. The guys today were boring. If you want excitement, watch now!”

I’ve been in a bit of a slump with my sliding. My times, even after getting my steels fixed, have been poor. I’ve been skidding. I’ve had bad form. I’ve made progress this year  but it feels like it has come in the form of not beating the crap out of myself, not in my times (which had been pretty slow). That’s progress, but it feels at times like a moral victory.

My first run during practice was a typical run I have been having. Hard skidding in the Labyrinth. Pulling myself together, muscling the sled down the track the rest of the way. Not fast. Then I looked up at the scoreboard: 45.383 sec. That was over 1.5 seconds faster than my previous personal best. WTF? I couldn’t see how the timing could be wrong. The times other people were getting were right where they should have been. My run was crappy, how could that be? But I was pumped. Back up to the top for my second run. Pretty much identical. And the time 45.456. Seriously? I was watching the next slider’s time as he was coming down. Ah, crap. The board was malfunctioning. The “5” in the “45” was missing a line and was really a “9”. My times were 49’s. Sigh. Time to get some sleep.

We had been watching the weather forecast for the race all week, and it was going to be brutal Sunday morning. They were calling for -11F Sunday morning. Hard ice. Not what the slump was needing. I got into the car to drive to the track and confirmed a -11F temp. Sigh. But on the drive I made a decision. Felix Loch, world champ slider, had crashed on this track this week. How much worse could I be? I knew what I needed to do. I needed to keep my shoulders back. I needed to be relaxed on my sled. I needed to worry about only what was right in front of me.

We were joined at the race by Frank Masley. Frank is a 3 time US Olympian in Luge. This was the first time he had been on a sled since 1996. His energy was great. Like a kid who rediscovered the funnest thing in life.

We got the to start house and started to prep.

ESG start4

We discovered that the track workers had “spritzed” the track. That was an unexpected bonus. Spritzing the track makes it fast, but it also adds a slightly softer layer of ice that gives better traction on really cold days. Kudo’s to the track workers. It had been a long couple of weeks, and they put in the extra effort for us.

My draw was towards the end of the heat. So I had 8 sliders in front of me. The times were good. Most of the club sliders I am competitive with were not at the race. Everyone else in the race was more experienced. So it was looking like I would get a DFL. Then one of the club sliders struggled and got a 50 second run. I had a chance to not finish last. I came out of the start house and got onto my sled. Focus. Remember to stay relaxed and back on the sled. Trust the sled. “The track is now clear…..” Green light. Off I go.

Down the start ramp cleanly. Into the Labyrinth cleanly. Out of the Labyrinth cleanly. Stay focused on what is in front of you Doug. Into the chicane, couple of corrections (not really needed, time lost). Into the heart. Into the last corner of the Heart right before the finish. Missed a steer. Came out of the corner and crossed the track hard, across the timing eye, hit hard into the far wall came and off my sled. But it was the perfect crash (if you must crash), I hit and came off after the timing eye. It was a clean run. What was my time? By the time I walked (my punishment for crashing) up to the finish dock my time had been erased from the board. No one knew what my time was.

Wait, wait, wait. The start order for the second heat comes out. I’m not sliding first (which means I wasn’t the slowest) I am sliding second. My first heat time: 48.155 sec. My best run in 2 months and my best competition time ever.

Run 2. The last place slider went and struggled with another 50 second run. “Not last place” was mine for the taking!

My second run was virtually identical to the first. Well, except that I managed to stay on my sled after I crossed the finish line when I hit the wall. My time: 48.124. Better than the first. Total time: 1:36:279, my fastest two run race time ever. Neither of those runs were personal bests. But they were welcome given how poorly I had been sliding. They were also within 0.03 seconds of each other which is very consistent. And consistent (when it is not “consistently crashing”) is good. I feel like a new PB before the season is within reach, and I believe that could be in the 46 second range.

One of the other sliders crashed on his second run and so I placed in front of him as well. I ended up 8th out of 10.

Frank, the Olympian, finished 5th out of 10. Each of his runs was faster than the previous. Another day of training and he would have been in medal contention. Add him to the list of National Team members and Olympians I have competed with, and lost too. My resume is growing. I expect we will be seeing more of Frank out at the track.

It was a great end to a really fun week of luge.

ESg flag

2013 World Cup Luge Day 2

Somewhere between Friday and Saturday the East Coast Blizzard left the Lake Placid area and things cleared out. The great view from the track had returned.


But while it was nice and clear, it was also cold.

Like I said yesterday our job as officials at the start was to make sure that the competition was fair and well run. Here is the start “control” area.


The athletes wear special booties that are aerodynamic and point the feet, they are also very slick. The carpet is to give them something to walk on. We had to keep the snow off of it. On the right of the picture is a whiteboard with temperatures: air, track ice, and a control steel. The control steel is on the little tripod in the middle of the picture. The athletes are allowed to have their runners be 5 C warmer than the control steel temperature. That prevents heated steels which would make the sleds go faster. On the left is a scale and a measurement table. We weight the athlete along with their sled to make sure they are below their limit (based on the athletes weight, gear allowance, and sled weight). Again its a gravity sport so weight is important and we are insuring that no one is adding extra weight to cheat. The little bus stop like structure is a heated holding area where the athletes can wait for their time to slide.

The start ramp looks like this:


We had the required advertising signage for the TV coverage. There is a timer that gives a 30 second countdown after the slider is cleared to go. You must be onto the track before that timer reaches zero or you are disqualified.

The men’s race was really quite interesting. The dominant man, Felix Loch, had scratched because of a crash during training. That meant the competition was wide open. The US’s best male slider is Chris Mazdzer. (Funny aside, Chris’s dad is one of Bailey’s doctors. It’s a small world.) Chris had a bad first run. He fumbled the start curve and ended up around 10th in the pecking order. His second run was spectacular. About 4 sliders went after him, each failed to catch him. Each time one of them finished a roar went up from the crowd. Chris ended up moving into 5th place (his best finish in a world cup race).

The final two sliders were an interesting look at the sport. The second to last slider was Armin Zoggeler from Italy. Armin is the old man of the sport. He is a two time Olympic champion and a 5 time Olympic medalist. The last slider was Dominik Fishnaller also from Italy. Dominik is 19 years old and is on his was up. He won the Junior World Championships (for under 20 sliders), absolutely crushing all the other sliders in that competition. Dominik was first after the first run. Zoggeler slide a tremendous second run and put the pressure on. Dominik, fumbled just a little bit and ended up in second. A great race. Especially if you are an Italian. They swept the men’s race. (What no Germans? Yes!).

The second competition of the day was the Team Relay. In this race they send the women’s slider. When she reaches the bottom she hits a pad and that releases the singles male slider. When he reaches the bottom and hits a pad the doubles team is released. Its a fun fast paced ride. The US team went 3rd and after their run found themselves in first place. They remained in first place until the last team ( the German’s) slide. The US crowd was whipped into a frenzy. As the German’s slide, we had a lead after the singles sleds finished their runs. Unfortunately the lead slipped away as the German doubles team had a great clean ride down the track and we finished second for a silver medal.


My job for that race was to catch the sliders on the outrun so that they could get out of the track before the next sled came to the finish. I was on NBC while doing that! (OK, apparently my legs were on NBC. My black ski pants were all you could see!).

My final thoughts on the competition?

1. Holy crow it was cold standing outside for two days. You have no idea how tiring that can be.

2. Weirdest thing I saw…The Austrian coach putting a tooth back into the mouth of the Italian coach while a run was happening.

3. My claim to fame….Being pushed out of the way by Armin Zoggler. Apparently he has a very precise ritual that did not include me standing in front of his sled to measure the steel temperatures. I did get that done though, so he was legal.

4. It was totally awesome to have fans at the track, and to have them cheering for our sliders. Very different from what we normally experience.

Tomorrow: The 2013 Empire State Games (Or what happens when the the crowds leave, and the old guys slide)

2013 World Cup Luge Day 1

Last week I said it was going to be a luge centered week, and it was. I was in Lake Placid for four days officiating, observing, and sliding.

Wednesday was a practice day for the World Cup athletes. They get a couple of days of training on the track before the competition to acclimate themselves to the track. That’s true for all races, but was particularly important here for this race. The last time that the World Cup tour went through Lake Placid was in 2009 so many of the athletes have only a limited amount of practice on this track. Since it is a tough technical track, knowing the track is important. I volunteered to be a start official for practice. Basically that meant that I was at the start house making sure that the sliding sessions flowed well. I also brought a couple of my students to film the practice session for USLA. The wanted to get video of the lines other teams were taking on our track.


This is Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, current World Cup women’s points leader, getting ready for a start.


And much like my fellow club sliders, even the pro’s had some issues and found the walls. The men’s World Cup points leader Felix Loch (also from Germany) crashed about half way through his first run, injured his wrist, and withdrew from the competition.

The race itself was on Friday and Saturday. Friday was doubles and women. My job as official both days was to be at the start checking to make sure that no one was cheating. You might remember that we had a little snow storm here in the Eastern US on Thursday/Friday. Friday’s races came in the midst of the storm and so the usual view from the track was a little obscured.


From that angle you can usually see the ski jump towers in Lake Placid and Whiteface in the distance. Not on Friday. The teams began to arrive and the start house and deck was filled with sounds of spoken German.


A race is organized chaos. The officials are there to make sure that the right person is sliding at the right time, that the sleds and sliders are legal, and that the proper procedures are followed. We are not supposed to be watching or listening to the race and we are definitely not supposed to be cheering. And that was tested on Friday. The US women came to slide. After the first heat we had 4 sliders in the top 10 with one 3rd and another 5th. Both striking distance for medals.

A luge race is composed of two runs. Lowest total time wins. The order of the first run is determined randomly, but the second in in reverse order of finish from run 1. That means that the fastest slider goes last.

One of the other special things about this race was the fact that we had spectators. Usually there are not a lot of people watching. When the club races we might get some parents and spouses. When the national team races we might get some extended family. For this race we had TV. In fact the timing of the race was dictated by the TV schedule. We were told what time each slider would get off the handles and onto the track.

We also had spectators. When they announced the first US slider of the second run, a roar went up from around the track. It was amazing. Emily Sweeny slide her run and was in second place. The next US slider was Kate Hansen and when she got to the bottom she found herself (at least temporarily) in first place. Emily and Kate were too far out to realistically chase for a medal, but their races were great. Then Erin Hamlin put down a fast run and found herself in first place and the track went wild. We were getting close to medal contention. Canadian Alex Gough followed Erin and finished 0.011 seconds ahead of Erin. Think about that for a minute. The total time for the two runs was about 90 seconds and they were separated by 0.011 seconds in total time.

Julia Clukey followed Alex and had a great run (she was 0.017 seconds ahead of Gough). The US was in first, and with two sliders to go Julia was going to get a medal. That left two German sliders. Right now the German’s dominate the sport. All the other countries are chasing them. But here is the thing. This track is tough and you have to slide well, you cannot relax, and small mistakes are a problem. The second place German slid her second run, tapped a wall, and dropped to 5th place. The American officials let out a little smiles of glee, and “yes'” under our breath. Our start leader reminded us not to cheer (with a little smile on his face). That left one slider, Natalie Geisenberger. And well, she didn’t choke. To give you a sense of how good she is, Geisenberger was 0.3 seconds ahead of Julia.

It was an awesome day for the US women who finished 2nd, 5th , 6th and 9th.



A little off the bike/luge topic today. But worry not, cause this week is a luge filled week. There is a World Cup race in Lake Placid on Friday and Saturday. That means the worlds best athletes are here racing. That is followed by me racing in the Empire State Games on Sunday. That means that anyone who is left to watch after the pros leave, will be treated to comic relief Sunday morning.

Last night I was, like many, watching the Super Bowl. My beloved Packers lost earlier and so I didn’t really have a horse in the race. Well except I was enjoying watching the 49’ers loose (they beat the Packers and so I don’t really like them right now). I thought the commercials were ok. There were a couple of good ones. But there was one that was spectacular in my mind. It was the Dodge “And So God Made a Farmer” add. The commercial is a poem read by Paul Harvey about Farmers. Here is the text of the poem:

“And on the eighthday, God looked down on his planned paradise and said I need a caretaker- So God made a Farmer

God said I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk the cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board-So God made a Farmer

I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild; somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to await lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon, and mean it-So God made a Farmer

God said I need somebody willing to sit up all night with and newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say maybe next year. I need somebody who can shape an axe handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe straps, who at planting time and harvest season will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, will put in another 72 hours- So God made a Farmer

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to gt the hay in ahead of the rain, and yet stop in midfield and race to help when he sees first smoke from a neighbor’s place-So God made a Farmer

God said I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to wean lambs and pigs and tend to pink combed pullets; who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, seed, breed, and rake and disk and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church. Somebody who would bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing; who would laugh and then sigh, and reply with smiling eyes when his son says he want to spend his life doing what dad does-So God made a Farmer”

What I was struck by here was how this poem so perfectly captured farmers. If you are from a farm family (like I am) this poem speaks to a truth that you know. If you are not from a farm family, read the poem again. That is the family farmer. Those are the people who help build and feed this country.

Farmers are amazing people. My uncles who farm get up at 4 am every day to work. They cows don’t care what day it is. It doesn’t matter if it is Sunday. It doesn’t matter if it is a holiday. It doesn’t matter if there is a wedding. It doesn’t matter if there is a funeral. It doesn’t matter if you feel good, or are sick as a dog. You do the work. I know this is true, because I have helped out on the farm on Sundays, on holidays, when everybody was sick, when we were getting ready to celebrate a wedding, and when we were getting ready for a funeral. Maybe its an overly romantic notion to view farmers this way, to tie farmers to a love of the land, to a “simple life”. Farming is a hard life. Farming is a dangerous life. But my family also found joy in that life. We found a sense of family, and community and a connection to the land. My uncles all have children who became farmers. And so there is some truth to that romantic notion.

Sometimes I think that what we are loosing in this country is that spirit. The do what needs to be done, do the hard honest work, dedicate yourself kind of spirit I saw with my family. The work hard and earn your place ethic. That ethic can so easily get lost in a Wall Street/Corporate, immediate gratification world.

Anyway. Here is Paul Harvey reading that poem. I love how Paul Harvey reads this. Totally worth a listen.