Raw Rib Report #5: A Skier’s Lyric, Plus Some Press-Citizen OPINION Page Love

A Cross-Country Skier’s Lyric

My ribs took a beating at Ashton last night,

And now they really ain’t right

So, give me buckets of ice and beer: ah, true delight.

My back is broken and bruised, but don’t worry about me,

Lookie here, I have some white pills you see.

Some for you, some for me,  just don’t tell the IOC!

Olympic Action:

Forget ski cross and snowboard cross. The nordic sprints ARE the original CROSS!

My Recovery:

I did not take part in the Iowa City Ski Race Series Tuesday night, but I did ski on the same near-Olympic quality course. Four painful laps on perfectly groomed snow. Each lap more painful than the previous. 48 minutes of wincing pain. Well, wincing pain is not really that bad on the painometer.

Speaking of pain. Check out Petra Majdic, who, like me, bruised her back during a fall in the classic sprints on Wednesday and had to fight through the pain.

Petra Goes Way Off Piste

Of course there are some differences between her fall and mine. First, I fell while walking to my car. Second, I fell on my computer. Third, my pain was my own pain, not hers. But there key similarities: we were both going to work. I was about to get into my car and drive to Kirkwood Community College, and Petra was going to work on her skis–which is her job.

Tonight I will try for 5 laps. This should be a serious test. I hope to ski a consistent 4 minuter per km. pace. Fat chance!

I’M FAMOUS!…. in a small town sort of way.

Why? I got an opinion piece on skiing printed in the local paper, the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

Watch our Krugman, Friedman, Krauthammer, Dowd, et. al.

On the cultural front:

My sister lives in Brooklyn and sends me information on the world of kick-assedness. She turned me on to a Brooklyn artist called Santigold. She is marvelous. She rocks, She raps, she definitely deserves to be called a “Street Theorist”:

Santigold's Newest Release

Santigold is so good, so unavoidably cool, that I am almost willing to give you, my readers, a money back guarantee. Almost.

Later Skater,


Back Recover Report #4: Olympics, Yourlympics, and Mylympics

Sidebar #1:

My friend and teammate on GRC–Goosetown Racing Club–has asked me to commit to racing a bike race series in March. That’s crazy:  I have only been on my bike once in 2010 (in the garage on my Elite Fluid Trainer…I know it sounds like a joke, but I actually did ride such a thing). But I don’t know if I can get out of racing considering that my team is organizing the series. I do like the idea of it: it’s going to be a road + gravel race. I seem a bit anti-bike right now because the snow makes me think of skiing and skiing makes me think of my back (more on that later).

My Elitism

Sidebar #2:

The writer Richard Ford keeps all his notes and manuscripts in the freezer, so that if the house burns down, he might not lose all his work. He also said: “Writing is the only thing I’ve ever done with persistence, except for being married.” I like this. If I were to re-write this sentence, I would add that, in addition to writing and being married with persistence, I persistently enjoy obscure endurance sports.

R. Ford

Olympic Ski News:

My hometown newspaper The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that later today NBC will show the “Men’s 15 km. biathlon speed skating event.” I would like to see speed skaters racing around a 300 meter ice rink while blasting away at targets: FUN!

While I am happy for Spillane for taking the silver in the Nordic Combined, I encourage him to work on his sprint. Watch the clip here: He must have been completely blown, for he did not exactly kick it into high gear down the home stretch. I think he actually went from V2 to V2 alternate in the last few hundred meters. Okay, folks, I admit that he could still stomp my gizzard.

And the final of the men’s 15 km. Skate: I love P.P. Cottrer! I think the Italian team has really timed their “peak” just right this season. And they have kick-ass hats with a tiny ball on top! Such style. Yes, I know that he didn’t win. Readers of this blog should know by now that underdogs and second-place finishers rule.

P.P. Cottrer

Norway: I heard, waxed their skis with a combination of ear wax, bees wax, and candle wax.

And the women’s final: Charlotte Kalla is fast. But click here to  watch how slow and controlled she is out of the gate. If you can’t watch this because of your cable connection, I apologize.

“Back” At It:

And lastly. My own condition is just a mish-mash of complaints. First, although my newish One-Way poles are nice and light, the straps are too confusing and not really comfy. My back hurts. My boots are getting stretched out. My side hurts. My gloves ride “down” after 20 minutes of skiing. My rib hurts. The area around my rib hurts. My rib muscle hurts. My rib tendon hurts. And my rib ligaments hurt. My new glasses ($9) are thumpin’ and my hat situ is nailed down tight. My skis are slow, but that is only because they are connected to my legs.

It is official. I am now racing the Korte. Sorry Birkie Freaks. Next year.

My goal for the Korte is to finish in the top half of my age category (40-44). So, in order to come around 25th out of 50 (last year’s number), I need to beat 5 minutes per kilometer. Sounds easy considering I did the Raw Race last month, and did those flat 12 km in 39:56 (which is 3:20 /km). Sounds easy! Ha. I’ve said that before!

Chow for now,




I have decided to downgrade my attempt this year to the Korte (25 km). The rib is better, but not better enough to take my sweet revenge upon the whole chimichanga.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t whip up a fury of ski-skizzle on the Korte’s wuu-whizzle. Some fans have inquired about the exact position of my rib “event”. So, in case there are any physicians in the house, here is a technical drawing that I made of an imaginary X-Ray of me skate skiing with my glasses and my hat on.

I'm not smiling here. Skeleton's don't have lips!

Okay readers, here’s the dealio: if I come in the top 50% of my age category for this year’s Korteloppet, this is the trophy that you must buy for me:

This trophy is both impressive and frightening, no?

And how ’bout those Olympics! The opening ceremonies? Who won that contest? Clearly the fiddlers!


Below is the image of the 2010 Olympic fiddlers.

I'll bet Lady Gaga is jealous of this act!

Can you get any tougher than this guy?

"One fiddle, slung waaay down low... a one way ticket...only one way to go."

I use-ta play the viola, but I never thought it was cool to play with horse hair oozing all around me. Fashion, just like artistic taste and the sporting life, is not a mystery easily solved.

OLYMPIC MOMENT: We must face it. NBC will not show more nordic skiing events unless the skiers wear transparent racing suits. I guess the lycra is not revealing enough. But all that said, let’s try to see which media outlet can help us the most. I rather like this minute-by-minute site called: More Than The Games. It reminds me of the live play-by-play at cyclingnews.com.

TRAINING UPDATE:  Yesterday I did three laps at Ashton, felt okay, but not great. I think I went a bit too fast (4 min per km.) at that rate I doubt I would win my trophy. But I ain’t ready to quit.

More Tomorrow,


WAIT…..THIS JUST IN. My friend Finn just finished the Mora Vassaloppet. Here’s his brief report: “Skiing is a contact sport. Two crashes, nailed the wax, cooked at 30 k, was 49th.”

Way to go Finn!

Birkie/Back Update

TRUE, MY BACK IS NOT BROKEN, and I won’t die from the pain. But, and this is an important but, it is MY PAIN. And sometimes owning your pain means that you have to complain.

It has been 19 days since my fall.

My fall looked very different from this image below, but if you squint, and if you imagine that I am not doing a yoga pose, and if you imagine that I am not a woman and not that thin, and if you imagine that she is on the snow, then this imagine is purdy close:

This is not me, but still, I landed just like this.

And I landed on one of these babies:

My MacBook Inserted Itself Betwixt My Ribs

And here is my broken MacBook screen…

…A demonstration of my pain and frustration.

Since the fall, I re-injured it….twice. First, I sneezed on the fourth day of recovery and almost blacked out. Start over.

Second, I went for a long ski at Lake MacBride Nature Trail near North Liberty, Iowa, and I went a bit too hard. Start over.

I got smart and went to a chiro. That started me on the path to recovery. When Jason B (my doc) asked me to describe how my ribs felt, I gave him this picture:

I Am My Rib

This pic is of a William Morris glass sculpture titled: “Massai Woman” (2001). Morris is, by the way, the best glass artist in the world. He makes Dale Chihuly look like a second grader making “stained glass” using plastic beads.

My back feels better and now I plan to go for my third ski in a row. But only 3 easy laps at Ashton (9 km). Sadly, this meant that I missed Thursday night’s race at Ashton-at which my training partner Finn squished ’em like bugs.

Finn and Grant Col' Lampin'

I have decided to give up my 50 km Birkie dreams and shift to the more reasonable 25 km Korteloppet in Hayward, Wisconsin. Yes, I will go and blog and swear and ski and brag and whine.

But whatever!  I smirk at the Birk! I have less than two weeks, and so, and so I will keep you all posted on my progress. And thanks for the vote of confidence Jeff B. Keep those comments a comin’. Now I will focus on Friday’s Citizen Sprints in Hayward: sure my back hurts, but I can rip it for 200 meters–no breathing necessary.

Speaking of progress, I have been working on my form, especially V2, now that I have to go slow and not push it. Maybe I can turn my lemons into lemon meringue.

Later Skater!



News Flash:

I fell on the ice exactly two weeks ago and I have been to shame-ridden to admit it.  I didn’t just kinda fall. I really fell. I did a Charlie Chaplin fall. Walking to my car and right where the driveway is at its steepest, a fresh layer of snow hid the ice. Both feet went up to just about where my head usually is. I was, like, horizontal.

And you know… and you know, it wouldn’t have been so bad except that my computer bag was underneath me. And landing on a bag is not always the worst. What is the worst is landing on the point of the computer, breaking the freakin’ new macBook , and breaking MY FREAKIN’ BACK.

But luckily, I did not break my back. After a hospital visit, it was announced (a useful use of the passive here) that I have a deep tissue bruise and also/possibly a deep muscle bruise. Simply put, I have a bruised rib, even though as any fool with an MD knows, you can’t really bruise the bone, but you can bruise all the crap around the bone.

For the past 15 days, I have wondered if I can do the Birkie this year. I was on track to pulverize last year’s time. But now. Maybe I will have to sell my spot.

More later.

Don’t weep for me…yet.


I do not recommend cross-country skiing.

I do not recommend cross-country skiing.

Classical Style Cross-Country Skiing
Skate or Freestyle Skiing

But, if you are already a nordic-junky freak, then you are past saving. And in that case, dear reader, read on!

If you have only learned to use the classic skiing technique (see above), then I suggest that you stick with this worldview. If, on the other hand, you want to learn skate skiing, or you want to improve your skate skiing, then I suggest that you give up all other snow and ice sports. Skate skiing is a religion and will brook no other gods or goddesses.

What is the difference between classic style and skate style? Simple: as you can see from the images above, you must wear tight-fitting lycra when skate skiing!

[Aside: I fancy that I know a thing or two about another sport in which you must wear tight-fitting, lycra togs: biking. And I have to say that in my not-so-humble opinion, biking, especially road racing, is not as technically difficult as skate skiing.]

Once you have equipped yourself with the absolute minimal gear (Atomic skis, One-Way poles, Swix hat, Sugoi gloves, Sporthill wind briefs, Louis Garneau tights, Rottefella bindings, Hartjes boots, Casco visor, Smartwool undergarments, Sunnto heart rate monitor,  Toko race suit, and Subaru Outback–yes, it is always about the gear), you might consider these 10 essential tips as you progress along this trajectory of 11 stages of expertise:

1. clod

2. toad

3. dork

4. beginner

5. super dork

6. hack

7. intermediate

8. ultra dork

9. freak

10. doper

11. elite

Tip #1. Leave your $300 One Way, Swix, or Excel poles at home for the first ten training sessions. Why? Because you can’t sharpen a pencil if you don’t know where the eraser is!

Tip #2. Try skiing on one ski at the beginning of each training session. This will, among other things, allow me to steal one of your skis. And also, it helps you to balance.

Tip #3. Take up speed skating or hockey: the skating motion is similar (not identical, but it helps). Oh, but I forgot to tell you that you need to take up speed skating or hockey 6 years AGO. Otherwise forget it. For crying out loud, don’t take up hockey right now you idiot!

Tip #4. Quit now.

Tip #5. Start each training session slower than you ever thought possible. Do you have pent up energy? Then try parkour:

Tip #6. When you technique falls to pieces, stop for the day because in one more minute, you are going to crash and break your shoulder. Hey, even good skiers fall:

It’s just like they say about downhill skiing, the last run of the day is the most dangerous. Oh, not because you are tired though. Because you are racing to get into the hot tub.

Tip #7. Brush your thighs with your hands when poling. Keep ‘em close to your body or you will twist your torso. But, of course, you must leave your poles at home for the first season, so ignore #7 until season two.

Tip #8. Don’t forget to breathe. If you focus on technique too hard, you might end up holding your breath. Work on breathing patterns matched to terrain and technique.

Tip #9.

If you feel yourself hunching over, then you are a crab.

If you feel yourself standing straight up, then you are an emu.

If you sit back on your skis, then you are a monkey.

Each of these represents a viable style in skate skiing. In fact, these are the only three positions available. Even the World Cuppers fall into these three categories.

Tip #10. When launching off of a mogul, keep your head turning in the desired directions. This helps with sticking a freakside 720: Lookie:

Pax and Ski Wax


That Is One Long, Steep Hill. Let’s Skate Ski Up It As Fast As Humanly Possible!

What would it be like to ski uphill for, oh, say about 4-7 km?

I think that this video is wonderful, not merely because of the language–which is mesmerizing, especially since I don’t understand it. Check out the extreme pitch of the mountain during the 2008-09 Tour de Ski. At one point it is 28%.  There is nothing like that around Iowa City (dramatic understatement: litotes). And the fact that these are World Cup skiers using a skate ski style that is neither V1 nor V2 humbles me. What is it called when you plant a single pole for each leg stride?

Oh, and in case you missed it, Virpi rules.

As I get ready for the Iowa Winter Games and the Birkie, I need to think about grabbing me some hill training. Any ideas?

I posted the second fastest time in the annual Raw Race 12 km TT. This is an unofficial, unsanctioned, and unfair time trial that fell into place just yesterday.

Ski in peace.


Jason McCartney: Pro Bike Racer and Maybe Pro Skier (Someday)


Jason with Serious Hair Jell


My neighbor Jason McCartney is now riding for THE SHACK. That is the pro cycling team sponsored by Radioshack for those not in the pro cycling loop. Perhaps his nickname will change from JMac to Shack-Mac. Or, Mac-Shacker. Anyway, Jason is not really my neighbor, but he does live about ten minutes away in Iowa City, Iowa. Last year he rode for Saxo Bank and I briefly, recently blogged about him here.

But will he become a professional nordic skier? Well, that may be his new direction as soon as he delivers Lance to the podium in the 2010 Tour DAY France. Why do I say this? Because he can’t stop talking about skiing in this article from cyclingnews.com. 


Jason McCartney is anticipating his ride with Team RadioShack next season.

American veteran looking forward to possible 2010 Tour ride

After two seasons at CSC/Saxo Bank, Jason McCartney signed with Team Radio Shack for 2010, reuniting him with the personnel from the former Discovery Channel team which gave him his first European pro ride. His tenure at CSC/Saxo Bank was highlighted by King of the Mountains jerseys at both the Tour of California and Tour of Georgia.

McCartney, known affectionately as ‘JMac’, explained the reason for the changing focus within the Saxo Bank and his subsequent move to RadioShack. “They [Saxo Bank] had a US sponsor at first, now they have a mainly Danish sponsor. They have a lot of great young Danish talents coming up; Matty Breschel, Chris [Anker] Sorenson so their focus has shifted to their homeland.”

When asked about which cog he will be within the Radio Shack machine, it’s clear McCartney’s comfortable with his role is a team player. “They know me, I know them. They know where I fit in and what I am good at,” he said “If I get an opportunity in a stage race, I can take it. But, mainly I am here to kick some ass and help Levi or Lance or whomever in the big stage races.

“I am good at climbing. I can ride on the front all day. I can time trial. I think I am an ‘all arounder’ who is going to fit in perfectly. That’s kind of where I was on Discovery.”

Despite having ridden the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, McCartney has yet to ride the Tour de France. One of his goals is to ride the Tour in 2010. ” I’ve been on all these big teams. Discovery Channel was arguably one of the best teams in the world and Saxo Bank was one of the best teams in the world so it it always tough to make the Tour team. I think now I have a lot more experience and I am just a lot more confident in myself. For me, that’s a goal,” said McCartney.

What does ‘JMac’ need to do to get a ticket to the Tour? “I need to show consistency. That I am strong. That I am motivated. I think I fit in… With Tour teams or any team it is all about fitting in the right guys with the right spots. Hopefully, I can be one of those guys who fits in and can help out and they see that,” he explained.

Johan Bruyneel is a big reason McCartney returned to his first European pro team. “You can be on the bus and it can be raining out and everyone is like ‘this sucks’ and then he [Bruyneel] comes on and he’s a motivator. He is able to change things around. Every race I ever did where he was the director, it was amazing. Mayeb you weren’t riding so well or whatever – he’ll just say one little thing to you or to the group and it just changes the whole group,” said McCartney.

Off-season training is critical, especially for a ProTour team which needs to be ready in late January for the Tour Down Under. McCartney does a little bit of running, but cross country skiing is his real passion. “I will be skiing every day because I am addicted. I ski two, three, four hours, just what I can do. We have two great places the University [of Iowa] grooms. There is about 15km in town and 20-25km in the country. You can just do loops there all day. It is up and down. Perfect training,” he explained.

Apparently McCartney used cross country ski training to take a podium place in the 2007 Tour of California, so what’s the draw? “It’s just so great for your mind. You are doing something different. It is the same muscles as riding so you aren’t really missing anything,” he said. “It kind of changed me as a rider doing it instead of drinking beers in the winter. Now I am addicted. I go skiing. It’s my new thing. Hopefully it can pay off again this year. I know it will give me a great base.”

At 36, JMac still has a few good years left, but he’s also frank about what lies ahead. “You realise that it is not going to last forever. For me, I would probably like to do this season and two more in Europe and then maybe call it quits or come back and do something in the US.”


Here he is riding next to Lance:

Who Would Win in a Nordic Ski Race? Hmmmn?

Now, I don’t want to make waves with his new team. I certainly don’t want to ruin his winter training regime by inviting him to the Iowa City Ski Race Smackdown (which were slated to start today and were so sadly cancelled due to poor snow conditions). But if he shows up, I certainly won’t be upset. 

Finally, I want to posit a hypothesis. I wonder if he might have been the man in yellow last year in my Birkie adventure. You decide:

I See a Fine Skate technique Here.


I See Jason's Pedal Technique Here. Don't You?


I will leave you all with this nugget of Street Theory: 

“Science derives from a variety of cultural events (such as cross country skiing) and it generally does not necessarily impel or predict such events (such as me winning a cross country ski race). But although scientific theory is necessarily underdetermined, it is as good as we can get (except for Street Theory, which we now know to be superior to scientific theory). It (Street Theory) provides us with the structural conditions of the world’s being and of how we know them (especially how we know ski races and also bike races)” (pp. 156-7).

– from Gerald M. Edelman’s Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge (Yale UP, 2006). This quotation is from an uncorrected proof that I helped edit. The precision of this quote, especially the parenthetical asides, cannot be verified. Ps. This book is a worthwhile present for those on your Christmas list.

Is this One of Those of Energy Saving Light Bulbs, Dr. Edelman? I Don't Think So! Get Hep!


Pax and Ski Wax,


Sold My Hockey Gear; Or, What New Sport Should I Take Up?

Today I went to Play It Again Sports in Iowa City and sold my hockey gear, except for my skates (CCM) which still fit. I haven’t played for about 6 years. Usta play lots. Played since I was 11. Played in Sapporo, Japan. Played in grad school.

But I couldn’t play two dangerous sports at the same time, said someone very close to me–and someone smarter than me.

So, I sold $500 worth of gear and got $30. Not bad. Does anybody have a similar story?

Did I tell you the time I played hockey in Sapporo, Japan? Bottom of the barrel Jofa skates set me back $900. Ah, that is a story for another day.

The point is. I started the sport of nordic skiing too late! And I have to make up for lost time. And one way to do so is by clearing out the garage and getting ready for more gear. That will make me faster in itself.

Later Chiefs.

Part IV: Tour of Missouri Pics

What is it like to be a Pro Tour Bike racer?

First, you need to be slender and skinny and actually quite thin.  Check out this guy:

Finn with Heinrich Haussler

The guy on the left is not that slender, but the classics rider on the right… he looks too delicate. I mean, not that I could beat him in a race. I’m just saying.

Next, you need to be fast. As in this guy:

Thor Husshovd basking in the glow of my camera

Also, you need to be mean. Like this guy:

Jens staring at Finn

That’s right. I said mean. Wait. You think that Jens Voigt is nice? No, he isn’t. He is so mean that he beat up three grandmothers just after I snapped this picture. Jens may have a reputation as a misty-eyed poet-cyclist, but he is a ruthless killer, a two-wheeled speed freak that spits and swears. I know that he looks nice and calm in this picture, but he has been coached. Finn is my photogé–it’s like a photo-protegé–and he muscled his way through the crowds. Note that even through the scrum, Jens locks eyes on Finn–who is wearing the blue Campy hat and sporting the Glama-glasses. You may not be able to tell, but Jens is yelling at Finn, saying: “WHAT THE HELL YOU LOOKIN’ AT FLATLANDER?” I can’t repeat [even in a blog] some of the other things he said.

We wanted to get a pic of another Saxo Bank rider, Jason McCartney, but he was running late and sprinted out of the bus, onto his bike, and was gone–but not before he gave us an Iowa City Wussup nod. Yeah, we know big-time cyclists!

We almost got a pic of George Hincapie, but he was too fast. Still, this pic does tell a story, of sorts:

Where's George?

Well, there is more to tell. But I have to run and save the planet. Be back soon…

sooner than my last break.


Peace and Pro Tour Bike Chain Grease,