Monday, December 31, 2012

Ski Rodeo: First Time For Everything

Waiting to start. Photo Steve Mitchell,
I find racing and racing communities deeply satisfying. There's something fun about going as hard as you can in a pursuit with the presence of others, knowing that everyone out there is finding new limits. Running races have become particularly fun, since I often manage to do well; no matter how unattached I try to be with results, the ole' ego loves a good performance. Last Saturday marked MVSTA's annual Ski Rodeo, which I often see as I'm plugging away on the road, maintaining running fitness. Since I committed to skiing this year instead of running (not such a novel idea living in the Methow, but old habits die hard); I advocate people jumping into running races "for the fun of it"; and didn't have other plans for the day; I thought I should put myself out there and try the race. I knew I would be slow, but I was excited to get out of my comfort zone.

Don't let the jacket fool you. I was totally 
out of my element. Photo Steve Mitchell,
Race day dawned, and I was amazed at how my body prepared as if I'd been ski racing my whole life; I guess the brain doesn't distinguish much between sports. The familiar nerves, followed by calm while I did my warm up and waited for the start was exactly what my body was trained for, despite not being proficient in the actual sport of skiing.

Sam and I skied the new 10k course several days before, and I was pretty excited about the new hill. Since my heart and lungs are in good shape, I figured they could make up for what my technique lacked and propel me up. Starting the race I took Scott Johnston's advice of refraining from making large movements and hence, breaking poles. I made it unscathed; the large pack spread out immediately and I tried to keep an even effort as I made my way out to the meadow. Soon enough, I approached the hill and started my V1. Again, I thought about skiing within my ability. I knew it would be a while before I'd get a break, and my main goal was to not stop. My arms burned, but I managed to make it to the top without stopping and even passed a couple of people. Have I mentioned that running does not make for a strong upper body?

I recovered on the downhill and even got a tiny break when I fell making the turn at the bottom of the hill. Argh! I got up as quickly as possible, envisioning my hard work on the hill vanishing as people could make up time on the turn. I fumbled my way back to vertical and went as fast as I could to try to make up some time. The next part of the trail winds through the forest and is my favorite of the course. I felt pretty good at that point and remember thinking "this is fun!" Another little climb, followed by a fun descent and it was time to cross the road. Thanks to the friendly volunteers, there was a great snow pack and I didn't have to slow down to get across (if slowing down was possible).

It was around here that I started to feel like I was working exceptionally hard and not getting very far. I got a little frustrated at my lack of skill and then realized I wasn't gliding, no matter how well I shifted my weight from side to side. Ah, the complexities of wax and skiing. The lower section of the community trail passed pretty quickly and soon it was time for the final climb before the gradual downhill to the finish. My arms (still) burned and I felt like I was moving in slow motion, but I finally made it across Goat Creek Road and knew I was almost done. Sam was long-done with his race/workout and he came out to cheer me in. The Junior Nordic Team girls and Laura next cheered me on, while doing their cooldown, which was another boost and incentive to remember my technique cues. My biggest concern at this point was sticking a pole between my skis or doing something silly that would cause a fall right at the end. I finally was able to channel Sam near the finish and felt fast as I crossed the line: then I nearly collapsed of exhaustion.

Next time I hope to look more
like the skier on the medal.
I had so much fun and I'm excited to do it next year to see how much better I can do. Thanks to MVSTA and their volunteers for the stellar first-timer atmosphere, complete with silly costumes and hats. I urge anyone who is interested in skiing to give the rodeo a try. Congrats to everyone who raced: it was hard! Sam had to get going to Utah for National Championships, but we stayed just long enough for the awards. He blew everyone away and skied the 12k (due to the modified course) in 31:40! After he got his medal and we were getting our stuff together I was shocked to hear my name called for third in my age group. My time was much slower than first and second; but regardless, I was psyched! I spent the rest of the day lounging and eating. Not surprisingly, the satisfied post-race feeling is the same for skiing as it is for running. With my first one is out of the way, I have nowhere to go but up and look forward to the Pursuit. Until then, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Core Strength

As winter really picks up steam and gets her frosty legs under her, all your various little inefficiencies are probably starting to rear their fatigued, glycogen-deprived heads and cry out for assistance. Though most of my winter is spent on the racing circuit I do get the opportunity to teach a few private lessons and there are some very common issues I see which can be categorized under the general heading: core strength.

Go for strength over showy
Let's start this discussion with a disclaimer: core strength is NOT six-pack abs. Not necessarily, at least. While the fit skier or runner will likely have a nice washboard stomach, it comes as much from leanness and body fat composition as it does sheer strength. Core strength encompasses far more than the rectus abdominus (the six-pack muscle): there are also the external and internal oblique muscles and the transverse abdominus. These muscles comprise the deeper layers to the rectus; they are also the ones that help stabilize and support your structure during both dynamic movement and when still. Additionally, we add (perhaps controversially) the lesser gluteal muscles into the mix - the minimus and medius, both on the lateral side of your hip. These muscles are also heavily involved in stability, especially for the pelvis.

In thinking particularly about Nordic skiing, the core is hugely important. Without adequate core strength, you will often see people skiing with their hips behind them, gliding with their weight predominantly on their heels instead of more appropriately, on the ball of the foot. Furthermore, a lack of core strength will manifest itself in the form of a cranky lower back after your first few skis of the season. Because skiing is such a dynamic sport, demanding that you be in a forward-leaning position and alternating between tensed and relaxed, you need a sturdy core to take the load off your lower back.

We prefer a max strength approach to core training, as opposed to the "1000 crunches every day" routine. Yes, you will get a ripped tummy with that many exercises (provided you're not snuggling up with Mr. Goodbar thrice a day), but will it make you stronger? We go for few reps and a high load to get maximal engagement of the core, complete with (and this part's crucial) correctly-fired muscles. Put another way, you want to engage your deeper core muscles INSTEAD of your superficial rectus abdominus. The easiest way to do this is, when doing a sit-up, focus on pulling up your pelvic floor; pretend your trying to hold in a pee. You'll notice your stomach contract and tension in your pelvic region, distal to your navel.

For a more visual reference, picture this: when you're using mainly your rectus abdominus in a sit-up, it will bulge from your stomach, mimicking a "bread loaf". Our good friend Dr. Colleen Ryan, DPT, coined that term and we think it fits very well. In contrast to the bread loaf look, an engaged deep core will display a flat stomach:
The incorrect engagement - note the "bread loaf" abs. Notice also how curved the cervical spine is; a true, challenging sit-up involves a straight back, relying more on the deep core muscles instead of "rolling" along the spine and using the rectus.
A flat, sexy stomach in a sit-up is a sign of a strong core. See as well how the spine isn't as curved; when conducting the sit-up be sure to have the neck at a natural angle, as it would be if you were standing upright and looking straight ahead.
A strong core is beneficial in every single sport. Our core is what is supposed to hold us upright and stable so that our more superficial muscles are left free to do the more specific, powerful movements. Beefcake McGoo may have a slammin' six-pack but without strong deep core muscles, he ain't gonna be out double-poling you in a 50km ski marathon any time soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Something Different This Winter

Heading up Cub Creek in the Rendezvous
This winter I'm trying something new: a little sport called Nordic skiing. Since I've now lived in cross country heaven with over 100 miles of perfectly groomed, connecting ski trails for almost five years, I figured it was time to take the plunge and put running on the back burner for a few months and start the long process of learning to Nordic ski. Two things come to mind as I write this: why did I wait so long; and running does not require upper limb strength.

So far I'm having so much fun, and while I don't like being bad at something, the silver lining of starting with virtually no technique is that I can only improve in terms of my efficiency and strength.
Nikki waiting for me...again.

MVSTA does an amazing job grooming, with  many ski trails having been open with a great tracks for a couple of weeks.  Luckily for Nikki, dogs are allowed on those particular trails, so she's already had several nice, long, skis. 

Sam and his mom, during our dusk outing.
We got our first big dump of snow over the weekend which opened up the trails right by our place and made current conditions perfect. During the storm we went classic skiing, which I really love, as it is much more like running, albeit more difficult. The Mazama Store had their annual open house, so it was perfect timing for us to ski, then head inside to sample their tasty treats and socialize a bit.

Looking toward Goat Peak, with Goat Wall in the foreground.

Today we awoke to crystal clear, cold skies. The snow was slower, but it offered a good opportunity to hone in on my skating technique, with the help of my model skier of a husband. Due to work, we couldn't go until the afternoon, so we ended up skiing quite a bit in the shade, but had some lovely views of sun. Skating doesn't come quite as naturally to me, but each time I go, a couple of things click. Hopefully, by the Women's Ski and Yoga Retreat I'll be able to hold my own. And by the end of the year-look out! Even before then, however, I feel it my duty as both a coach and an event organizer who encourages others to try races for the fun of it, to take my own advice and jump into a race. So, I plan to pull up the rear at this year's Ski Rodeo and the MV Pursuit, then have my trusty Husky pull us to victory at the Nordic Club's Doggie Dash.

Because Nikki isn't allowed on the trails in Mazama and I like to get off the beaten path sometimes, I added some backcountry touring skis to my quiver. They have metal edges, but have fish scales so I can go pretty much where my heart desires. I tested them out on Saturday behind the Freestone Inn. It was before we had a lot of snow, so it was a little tricky under the trees, and quite painful when I fell on a rock. Nevertheless, it was fun to get out. Once we have a bit more of a base, they will be awesome for getting in some long adventures.

To be sure, I still have my running shoes next to the door, and once there is grooming from the Sno-Parks I'll run on the Forest Service roads, but it feels really good both mentally and physically to mix things up a bit.  There's another storm warning for tonight and now that I'm into this skiing thing, I couldn't be happier. Let it snow!

A certain dog gets pretty excited

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winterizing Running Shoes

Winter seems to be here for good now (thank goodness!). It's heavily snowing outside, which means it's time to ski more than run, but I can't help but keep running through the winter. I love the simplicity of it: grab shoes, gloves, hat, and go. While the roads are sometimes icy, I've found that for the most part, they stay in pretty good shape. Scott Running makes an awesome shoe designed especially with us Northerners in mind, the IceRunner. It has great grip and an overlay on the upper to keep snow from getting clumped up in the laces, and provides another layer between the cold air and your toesies.

This is pretty much actual size.
If you still have life in your current shoes, though, don't despair. With a minor modification of your running shoes, you can stay upright and confident in whatever weather conditions Mother Nature throws your way. There are several traction products on the market, but my favorite is the humble sheet metal screw. Available at any hardware store, you can get more than enough for just a couple of dollars. The most important thing is to get the smallest length screw you can find. I get 3/8" and never feel a poke through the midsole. The hex head of these screws turns your running shoe, and hence, you, into a winter rockstar.

As far as placing the screws, I like to put a few near the heel, and then distribute others along the sides where I know I land when I run. The beauty of this method (if you can even call it that) is that if you go running and wish you had more traction in a certain place, you can almost instantly change where they go. I don't like having a lot of screws on each shoe, but that's personal preference. One thing to think about when placing the screws is the thickness of the tread. If you screw them into the tread directly, you'll get more grip and will be less likely to go through the midsole (especially if you have a more minimal or a road shoe). I've done it both ways, and honestly, I'm not sure what worked better. Sometimes I think the screws, and traction, for that matter, is mainly a psychological comfort, but that's a different blog altogether.

Placebo or not, I haven't broken a leg yet, so I'll continue what has become for me, an enjoyable winter ritual. Then when spring comes, if there is anything left in the shoe, you can simply take the screws out and run free! The screws last several seasons if you can remember where you put them from the last year.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fall Recap

Now that winter is here and running is winding down, I thought I'd share some pictures from our events this fall.

Heading out Jack's Trail
The last weekend of September brought perfect weather and a full moon for our Women's Running and Yoga Retreat. Over the course of the weekend, we ran all over the Mazama area, then ate delicious food. Once our tummies were happily fed and digested, my friend and exceptional yoga instructor, Kaarin Kelly, led us through some yoga in the North Cascades Heli Barn. It was a perfect setting, with huge doors we opened to move through asanas with fresh air and expansive valley views.
The group of women who came were absolutely wonderful. I love how easily friendships form and at the end of the retreat always feel inspired and giddy with excitement for the next one. I currently have one in the works for May. Space in the retreat is limited, so if you'd like to be put on our email list, please contact me.

The quaint Heli Barn. Photo by Julie Seinko

A couple weeks later, Sam and I were back at the Heli Barn for our Fall Training Clinic. We had a fun group of people and packed a full day with talking about training principles, then doing technique drills, strength exercises, and even some running. Sam and I love training, so it was really exciting for us to share our passion with others.

The weather was a bit more brisk, giving us a glimpse of the season to come and made our midday chili taste that much better. We still managed to have blue sky for the majority of the day, with sprinkles falling just as we concluded.

The clinic gave us a great opportunity to hone some of our coaching methods and have the chance to see some light bulbs go on for several people, which, as any coach knows, is one of the best feelings in the world. Coaching continues to surprise me. I love seeing clients have things "click" in such a way that their body makes the connection of how to move with less effort and more fluidity. I'm inspired by everyone I've worked with. 
view from the top (minus the clouds)

Finally, the following day, we had the annual Driveway Butte Hill Climb, just west of Mazama. 
Rain was in the forecast, so we were hoping to still have a good turn out. I stayed up late making crepes the night before, and when morning came, we awoke to overcast skies and looming clouds. This year we did the approximate 2.5 mile hill climb as a fundraiser for our friends Jim and Jan Erickson, which made for a good vibe at the start. We had a good turnout, with people of all abilities and goals. The weather held just long enough for everyone to get back down the mountain, eat some crepes, share war stories over hot chocolate, and participate in the awards and raffle. Thanks to Winthrop Mountain Sports and Helly Hansen, we had bountiful prizes and most people walked away with something. Just as we wrapped everything up, the skies opened, making for a nice cozy fall day inside. 

Now we're working on our events for next year, which includes bringing back the Rattler Trail Run. I loved this race when MVSTA put it on, and am excited to resurrect it. It's a half marathon in April on the beautiful trails in Pipestone Canyon but we're adding a four and nine mile option. So, even if you're hanging up your running shoes for the winter, there will be something for you. We're also doing the Mazama 5k and 10k over Memorial Day weekend, and a couple other fun events. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Technique Sessions

As the snow starts to accumulate in the Methow and surrounding areas, it's not surprising that folks are getting excited about Nordic skiing and spending their winter days cruising through beautiful forests.

Methow Endurance coach Sam Naney will again be available during the winter holidays to provide private technique sessions for aspiring skiers to hone their abilities. Whether you are an accomplished skier looking to fine-tune your form, or a never-ever beginner who just wants to have the capability to move on snow without completely thrashing yourself to exhaustion, a private lesson is the perfect way to condense Sam's extensive skiing knowledge into a beneficial dose of learning for you. Choose either an hour or two-hour session in classic or skate technique, or take on both! Either way, Sam's coaching experience is sure to get you moving down the trail with greater ease and more enjoyment.

One private session is $55, or bring a friend or two for a semi-private session for $25 per person. Contact Sam at 509-996-3222 or samuel.naney(at) to arrange your session. Make the most of your winter!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winter Funning

I got back late last night from West Yellowstone, Montana, for Sam's opening races and the now family tradition of spending the Thanksgiving holiday in a little place outside of the town. This year was a contrast to last, in that there was hardly enough snow to host the race. "The Plateau," a bit higher than town, had just enough for a 9k distance race and a 1.5k prologue. Knowing that there wasn't much snow, I didn't even bring skis, but instead did a lot of relaxing and book reading.

While winter isn't my favorite season, it was hard to get into the holiday and ski racing spirit without a good cover of the white stuff. I was excited to see snow blanketing everything when I finally reached Mazama, then more excited when I awoke to perfectly clear skies: time for some fun in the snow. 

Aptly named Early Winters Creek
After all the driving yesterday, I just went up the highway to the trail that heads up to Cedar Creek, with the plan of heading up toward Mud Hole Lake. I love the trail when there isn't snow on the ground, as you get up high pretty quickly, and there are beautiful vistas along the way. For some reason I didn't think there would be enough snow to necessitate snowshoes: how silly. I didn't want to go back, though, and since I don't have any races planned until spring, it was a perfect workout: good muscular effort (especially for my hip flexors), sun, fluffy snow, and, of course, a very happy winterphilic dog. It sure feels like winter is here, and this year feels different for me. Once the trails are groomed, I just may turn into a skier...
Nikki's been waiting since April for the return of her favorite substance
Looking back toward Mazama and Goat Peak
She loves it when I make her pose with me
Looking West (Delancey Ridge I think?)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Yoga Journal Article

While reading my current issue of Yoga Journal that just arrived, I was reminded of a great article they wrote a couple of years ago about the Women's Ski and Yoga Retreat and thought I'd share. You can read the article here. While it's still a few months off (March 1-3), I'm really looking forward to a few days of skiing and yoga with a fun group of women. Each time I host a camp, I feel so lucky to get to know inspiring women while doing my favorite things.

It's snowing in the Methow, getting everything ready to go! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Another day, another run

 We have been having amazing fall weather. Although the peak of the changing colors passed, there is a crispness to the air that only an autumn day can bring. I love the area off of Twisp River Road, but living in Mazama makes for a long drive to get to an area that, as the crow flies, is quite close. I decided to explore some maps and realized I could get over there from Bridge creek, where the PCT goes south from Hwy 20. I've only ever done an out and back on that section and haven't been terribly impressed with as I am with the section heading north.

I was glad I took a map, as I still managed to go up a wrong trail for about a mile before realizing it wasn't doing what it was supposed to do. It was fun to explore a totally new part of the mountains. I'd been to Copper Pass once before and remembered liking it, but yesterday's run proved to be one of the best loops I've done since being here. I accidentally took a climbing trail back, which plopped me at the highway a mile sooner than I wanted; that explained the less maintained trail I followed, but also meant I had the pleasure of ending a 21 mile run with a mile of road running. I did see several people I knew driving back to Mazama, though, so that was fun.

I simply loved this run. The pictures, despite my photography skills, will have to convey what my words cannot.
Lots of green on the way up to Twisp Pass
Out of the trees, after a couple of hours of lovely forest running
I wasn't expecting those peaks. From here on out I had to remind myself to keep going, and that one picture every several miles is ok: I don't need 400 pictures of one run.
Heading up the steep trail up to Copper Pass from Twisp River
Almost to the pass
Several mountain goats. I would have liked to get closer, but have heard too many stories of gored dogs or dogs being chased off of cliffs. No thank you.
Heading back to the PCT
Looking across the valley

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Maple Pass

Maple pass is one of my all time favorite places. Nestled in the North Cascades right at Rainy pass, it's easy to get to, you get up to the alpine really quickly, and the views are amazing. Going clockwise around the loop you ascend quite steeply, then enjoy a lovely downhill through beautiful open ledges and cedar forest. Sam wanted to go counterclockwise, which I had never done, making the loop a completely new run. It made for a longer uphill but the views were astounding in a slightly different way.

Before we know it the snow will start falling, and we can come here to ski before the highway closes. Until then, the mountains are in their prime. Get out there!

Family picture!

Looking north, toward Cutthroat

Rainy lake, way down there

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Women's Ski and Yoga Retreat

Another bluebird day on the trail (Photo by Sun Mountain Lodge)
We are excited to announce that we are hosting the 11th annual Women's Ski and Yoga Retreat at Sun Mountain Lodge! Join us March 1-3 for a fun-filled, relaxing time in the Methow's own winter wonderland. Whether you are brand new to the sport or are an experienced skier, there is something for everyone: our expert coaching team will help you become more proficient in both skate and classic skiing in a friendly, supportive environment. 

Each day we'll start with yoga practice, fuel for the day with a delicious breakfast, then have morning and afternoon ski sessions (with a break for more delicious food, of course) on portions of the 65 kilometers of beautifully groomed ski trails Sun Mountain has to offer. Top it off with a post-ski stretch, and relax with new friends.

During your free time, sit with a good book at the fire; take in the beautiful mountain views with a soothing soak in the hot tub; or get a reviving massage for your tired muscles. With ski and yoga instruction for every level, everyone can treat themselves to this wonderful weekend.

The retreat cost is $325 and includes: ski instruction, trail passes, yoga sessions, breakfasts and lunches, and Friday night wine and hors d'oeuvres. Rooms and other activities are additional. Sun Mountain Lodge offers a special room rate for retreat participants of $110 + tax per night, single or double occupancy. Additional persons are $10 per person, per night (four person maximum per room). Call Sun Mountain Lodge directly to make room reservations at: 800-572-0493.

Home for the weekend. Photo by Sun Mountain Lodge
To register: email or mail this form with your check or credit card number to:

Methow Endurance, PO Box 196, 
Winthrop, WA, 98862        

alison.naney (at)

Registration deadline is Friday, February 1, 2013. Please note, no refunds will be given after this date.

Check our Facebook page for carpooling options and other updates. Let it snow!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall Mountain Festival

Don't miss next Saturday's Fall Mountain Festival at our very own Goat's Beard! Mark Allen will have a slideshow of his recent expedition on the Lacuna Glacier in Alaska. It will be sure to get you excited for the upcoming season. Food, music, mountains...what more could you ask for? See you there!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall Running and Training Clinic

In order to accommodate more people for our upcoming clinic in October, we changed the fall camp a bit. Rather than having a multi day format, we are now offering a one day running and training clinic on Saturday, October 13, and doing a hill climb on Sunday, October 14th.

Saturday will be a fun and information packed day complete with technique work, strength, intensity workouts and a big lunch to keep us fueled. It will be a mix of both talking through concepts and how to incorporate them into your schedule; and doing a shortened version of the workouts so you really learn how to perform them correctly and effectively.

Here are some of the aspects we'll plan to hit on Saturday's clinic:
  • Nutrition for athletes and an active lifestyle
  • Strength training that fits your schedule
  • Running technique
  • Key workouts for your regimen
We think this one-day format will provide a great, concentrated opportunity to pick up a lot of knowledge and skills which you can transfer into your fitness regime. What better way to spend a beautiful fall day in the Methow?

Got friends? Get a $5 discount for every friend you bring along! Email for more info.

Registration is available under the "Events" link on this website. Direct link is here.