Monday, December 19, 2005

2006 Winter Olympics

53 days to go, ladies and gentlemen! Aren't you all so very, very excited? I know, I know - this is the WINTER Olympics, no cycling. But hey, there will be plenty of other interesting events to watch. One event that means a lot to me, is cross country skiing. As all genuine Norwegians, I was born with a pair of cross country skis on my feet, ready to hit the trails. So why am I so nuts about cross country skiing? Well, it is very much the winter equivalent of cycling, both in terms of training, tactics and the actual racing events (mass-starts, time-trials etc). Chances are, if you enjoy watching cycling, you will enjoy watching cross country skiing as well. Hey, maybe you'll even turn into a cross country skiing nut like me? You see, the things that make cycling great to me, are the same things that make cross country skiing an interesting sport to watch. The individual that succeed in this event has very much in common with the individual that succeed in cycling. Yet, I admire and, in many ways, envy the purity and simplicity of this winter sport. Norway has consistently produced some of the very best cross country skiers in the world. Despite this enormous success, the sport and the athlete has not changed a whole lot. Still, the successful Norwegian cross country skier tend to come from rural, extremely sparsely populated, areas and he is usually an individual that grew up having a very close relationship with the outdoors. In other words, he is a bit of a loner, a hermit. Instead of going out with his friends for a cold one, or maybe even two, he hits the trails. Regardless of weather. He excels in a sport that does not nearly compensate his training and achievements as much as comparable results in say, cycling. A top cross country skier may only make $15,000-$30,000 a year on his racing. That's it. He could be working at the local McDonald's and make more. And many do, have part-time jobs that is. Yet, he trains as much or more then most of us, year in and year out. His training methods involve less technology and are more "pure" compared to the sport of cycling. We cyclists so easily become "computer slaves". We are all about numbers. I think many riders, especially the "up and coming" ones can learn a thing or two from cross country skiing. We need to stop worrying so much about what the cycling computer says and just get out there and let the natural terrain mandate intensities, candance and heart-rates. We need to find back to the simple, basic idea of endurance training. It's so easy to over-complicate things such as training methods, diet and most importantly - supplements and pharmaceutical products. What we need is simple; training, sleep and a healthy, simple diet. There is no need for all these additional pharmaceuticals, legal or not. The use of these products is extremely limited at home, there is simply no culture for it. Coming from a small country, the Olympics means a great deal to me. The Olympics is an event that brings the country together, unifies the people and creates a healthy nationalistic feeling. We are proud of our Olympians, our pure performers, especially when they triumph over athletes from larger, more prominent nations. It's the classical "under-dog" scenario. Naturally, I hope we do well in Italy next year. Time will tell, but I think it looks promising. And after 2006, comes Beijing 2008.

5 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

I whole heartedly agree with the "just go out and ride" philosophy! Unfortunately, I don;t have the extra cash around to invest in power training apparatus (PowerTap/SRM), and last year, I sold my Polar 520i with cadence module and purchased a SigmaSport 1800 for $20! ;)

I just started riding my bike, tracking the hours and miles, and listening to my body. I'm 35 and have no intentions of turning pro or even becoming a Cat1 at any point in my life, so I'll be good with my bike and the road, much like the XC skiers.

20:43  
Blogger mags said...

Patrick,

Thanks for the comments. I do have all the "whistles and bells" and I also fall victim to my power meter, HR monitor, cycle computer etc. Of course, I have to admit that there needs to be a structure to the training program - but there is a balance between being a "HR monitor slave" and just riding along. One thing is for sure, that $3000 PowerTap device does not make you any faster. The best way to improve performance is to do what you are doing - ride, ride, ride.

Mags

21:30  
Blogger Skibby said...

Magsie,
I talked to my brother in Oslo today and his 3 year old son just got his first pair of ski's. Cool...
My favorite winter olympic event is the speedskating. Eric Heiden and Johann Olav Koss "The Boss" were my favorites...
Skibby

23:38  
Blogger Patrick said...

Mags, admittedly, you are shooting for a much, much loftier goal than am I, so you will certainly benefit from the gear...for me, there is always something to be said for just riding the bike...once I get that down, then I'll start picking up the gear...the Spiro-Tiger and PowerCranks are on the list before the SRM, however.

A local guy posted a message today freaking about missing a training session..."What should I do?!?!?" The guy is a Cat5 and races twice/yr! I think we all need to be honest with ourselves at some point! ;)

00:38  
Blogger mags said...

Skibby,

Yes, we do start them young in Norway. :) If you can walk, you can ski. Your brother is very fortunate, I'm sure he takes his son to "Nordmarka", which is a beautiful area just outside Oslo. Great place to ski. I enjoy speed-skating as well. Johan Olav Koss was a great athlete and a superb spokes-person for the sport. Norway does have a few promising skaters, so watch out in Italy.
Patrick - yes, missing 1 training session will not hurt many athletes. In fact, it can be just the right thing.

Mags

15:50  

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