Longtime fans of my meandering prose and my own personal ski-world obsessions — like my mother, say, and maybe Rachel Bachman Perkins and Greta Anderson, and probably that’s about it honestly — will know that what skiers eat for breakfast has long been a subject of personal fascination.
This admittedly random interest was first expressed in this piece for FasterSkier (title: “What Elite Skiers Eat for Breakfast (Hint: More Than You Do)”), still perhaps my most favorite thing I ever wrote for that site.
It later came through in a brief, yet glorious, halcyon period of journalism in which I convinced the site’s then-editor to make questions about breakfast a standard part of our pre-event athlete questionnaires. Did you enjoy learning that, at 2018 World Juniors/U23s in Goms, Switzerland, Molly Gellert’s favorite part of breakfast was the bread, while for Lydia Blanchet it was croissants with jam and brie, and for the ever-impish Luke Jager it was, “Orange mango juice. Mom if you’re reading this please buy some thank you love you.”
I know I sure did. Important journalism right there imho.
It is therefore with sincere enthusiasm that I present the latest installment of this sporadic series. I’d like to think that I previously said interesting things about the Strava personae of first Federico Pellegrino and later Michaela Keller-Miller, but neither of those pieces existed quite so perfectly at the intersection of (a) stalking pro skiers’ Strava accounts and (b) breakfast. Thank you, Pål Golberg, for this content.
Anyway, on to Strava.Embed from Getty Images
Pål Golberg, a longtime all-around Norwegian skier, likely needs no introduction. He is shown above winning the 50km mass start classic race at this year’s World Championships in Planica. He took three other medals there as well, gold in the relay and team sprint and silver in the individual sprint, while settling for “only” fourth in the skiathlon. He saw ten individual podiums in the 2022/2023 World Cup season, including three wins. He took second in the World Cup overall (and wins by a landslide in any universe in which Klæbo does not exist, at least so long as Russia is still out), and claimed the distance globe by over 100 points ahead of Klæbo.
And all this after he turned 32. If Even Northug’s career arc shows that success in sprinting can take time, Golberg’s shows that success in men’s World Cup distance skiing can take even more time.
It also takes proper fueling. Starting on Monday of this week, Golberg undertook to publicly set forth what he had eaten for breakfast, along with other details about the day’s workout. In Monday’s skate rollerski session, for example, Golberg did roughly 5km easy as warmup, then three successive sets of long intervals, covering 9km in roughly 21 minutes in each of them. He took in four gummy candies after the second long interval, and six gummies after the third. At this point he also put on a dry shirt before a cooldown lap. 12oz of sports drink followed. Sadly, I cannot report what he had for lunch back at home later.
The full workout is above (translation here), in case you’re curious about, like, what one of the best skiers in the world did for training on Monday, and what his (notably low) max heart rate was during the session. (It was 178, by the way, notched in the middle of covering 9km on a hilly rollerski track at an average pace of 2:20/km.)
But turning to the crux of the matter: What did Golberg have for breakfast first to fuel these efforts? “Two slices of bread with Philadelphia [cream] cheese and ham, three cups of coffee, and half a banana,” he wrote, according to an auto-translation (all quotes from Strava in this article come via Google Translate). He then later had about 12oz of sports drink in the car on the way to training.
But what kind of ham? “Is incredibly serrano,” Golberg advises in response to questions in the comments. “But I normally swear by cooked ham.” Make of that what you will.
I want to talk about the comments on this post for a bit. The first comment on Golberg’s food-centric post comes from Simen Østensen, a former teammate and World Cup skier. Østensen inquires, “Is there a desire from the fans for more participant session descriptions?,” showing that, world champs medalist or not, being hassled by your mates on Strava is a universal experience.
“No, Simen Østensen,” writes back Golberg. “A blind shot in the hope of creating something. Were you motivated to exercise?”
“Yes, now I was inspired Pål,” ripostes Østensen, a man with five World Cup podiums to his name and a third-place overall finish in the Tour de Ski. “This is going to help me over the threshold.”
World Cup winners — they’re just like us!
Elsewhere in the comments, Øystein Pettersen (career CV: Olympic gold medal, nine World Cup podiums) inquires, “Nothing about weather, clothing and equipment?” Golberg’s answer: “weather, Strava stands for, so I don’t bother with that. I will take clothing and equipment with me further, thank you.”
And Petter Soleng Skinstad speaks for us all when he asks the tough questions: What color Seigmenn, the Norwegian gummy candy, did Golberg eat?
“A bit of everything,” Golberg advises, “but I’d probably prefer the red ones if I had to choose.” This is, as they say, fine content.
Tuesday brings a long run, 3+ hours through the forests just outside of Oslo. (3:13 moving time, 25km, making for a 7:37 pace per kilometer, in case you need any license to take things easy on your next foot OD. This is one of the fastest endurance athletes in the world, and he was running at a 12:16 per mile pace out there. And the run gained slightly under 2,000 feet total, so there was certainly some climbing involved but it was also not straight up and down a mountain, either.)
One athlete whom Golberg ran with titled his Strava post “Morning myr?” (morning marsh), while another went with simply “Aquajogg.” For his sake, Golberg at one point in the text notes, “Recommended means of transport for large parts of the trip: boat. Chosen means of appearance: sneakers.”
I don’t know if you know this, but sometimes middling recreational skiers also contrive self-effacing Strava titles to attempt to evoke how wet it was out there without quite per se bragging about it; this seems to be much the same dynamic. And so we can see that stars are, once more, just like us.
The damp workout starts at 8:02 a.m., but Golberg was up three hours before that, the previous night’s recreational pursuits notwithstanding. “Alarm clock at 05:00 today,” he writes. “A little early after a little too many 1-minutes on Chess.com last night.”
I sadly cannot report at precisely what time Golberg eats breakfast on Tuesday, but this is what he takes in when he does: “Three slices of bread with blue castello [cheese] and paprika, three cups of coffee and a glass of juice.” This is later followed by three-fourths of a banana — not a whole banana, but three-fourths of one — and 13.5 ounces of sports drink “just before the start of the session.”
Golberg had roughly nine gummy candies still with him following Monday’s skate intervals. He eats them mid-workout, but this is not enough: “Still went on a little nutritional spree somewhere between Venåsseter and Brunkollen. Fortunately, there was self-service dining there. There were two double Mars. Phew.”
Big picture, though, Golberg is pleased, occasional reminders of his 1990 birthdate while training with the youths notwithstanding: “Otherwise very nice trip, nice company. Felt old at times. Especially when the word ‘father week’ [fadderuke, basically orientation week or welcome week] came up.”
I have difficulty finding words to express the true depths of the gap between my performance on the race course and Pål Golberg’s; the fact that I currently have 353.01 USSS distance points while Golberg has 0.05 FIS distance points should give you some idea of the extent of this chiasmus. But apparently something we have in common is the sinking feeling of realizing that your training partners are still in university while you are focusing on the start of the school year for your own children.
(And back, briefly, to those children. Simen Østensen once again, in the comments, asks what we are all thinking: “Is there an ulterior motive in eating only 3/4 of a banana?” Here’s Golberg to clear things up: “It is because one of my descendants caught sight of this banana and expressed a strong desire to get the rest.”)
On to Wednesday morning: a long, easy-distance classic rollerski session. By the numbers it was 47km, 2:49 moving time, 2:57 elapsed time, since even World Cup skiers have to stop for snacks or water en route.
That’s a lot of moving. What did Golberg eat first to fuel for it?
Here’s Golberg again: “Start the day with a PREMIUM breakfast consisting of three slices of bread with roast beef, pickles, and mayonnaise. Hit an egg to avoid another nutrient blast.”
And what happened after that?
Here’s Golberg: “Then it was off on a long trip through many hidden gems in the rollerskiing area. When refilling drinks at an unnamed petrol station approx. halfway through the trip I learned that two bottles of my preferred unnamed energy drink now cost me NOK 96 [roughly $9 USD]. Expensive in my opinion. Today I smoked a whole small bag of [gummy candies], 160 grams. Must be allowed to enjoy yourself a little too. Became terribly tender towards the end.”
If you read Norwegian, you can perhaps decide for yourself whether it is Golberg or his beloved Seigmenn jelly men that became tender near the end of the three-hour ski; I frankly cannot tell.
This morning brings a two-hour skate rollerski, beginning slightly after 9 a.m. local time. “Skøyting,” writes Golberg (skating) in the post title, and nothing more in either title or caption. I imagine Pål Golberg eating his gummy candies in peace as he rollerskis around the northern Oslo suburbs. I hope he got a good breakfast first. I hope he is happy. I hope he logs back on again at some point to tell us how many Seigmenn he consumed.
— Gavin Kentch