What is the official name of this ski team? SMS T2 Team (aka SMS or Stratton)
Where is it located? Stratton, Vermont
Who’s on the coaching staff? Perry Thomas is the head coach. Maria Stuber joins the team this year as Program Director. Jason Cork continues his longstanding coaching work with Jessie Diggins.
Who’s on the roster this season? Jessie Diggins, Ben Ogden, Julia Kern, Will Koch, Alayna Sonnesyn, Adam Witkowski, Lauren Jortberg, Fin Bailey, Sydney Palmer-Leger, Lina Sutro, Ava Thurston, and Jack Lange. Diggins, Ogden, and Kern are on the U.S. Ski Team A-Team; Palmer-Leger is on the B-Team; Koch is on the D-Team.
What’s different from last year? No one has left the team. Here’s head coach Perry Thomas on some of the team’s new strengths:
“New additions this year: Adam Witkowski, Fin Bailey, Ava Thurston, and Jack Lange. Adam is a full-time member of the team having recently graduated from Michigan Tech this past spring. Fin is taking a [post-graduate] year with us after graduating from SMS this past spring — he’s slotted to join University of Vermont next fall. Ava and Jack join the team as college athletes (both ski for Dartmouth). Ava is actually taking the Fall semester off at Dartmouth to spend some more time with us! Jack spent all summer with us and will resume school at Dartmouth this week.”
In addition to the four new athletes, Maria Stuber joins the team as program director. Here’s Thomas once more: “Maria is also new to the program. She comes to us with a lot of knowledge and experience, and has been immensely helpful for me as well as the program as a whole.”
What were some results highlights of last season? Oof, this section takes longer to write for SMS every year. Good problem to have, amirite. Strap in for my most concise treatment possible of a lot of highlights.
Jessie Diggins… had a pretty good season. Coming into a year in which she had not a single thing left to prove — she was already in possession of a full set of Olympic medals and an overall crystal globe, among dozens of other accomplishments — all she did was stand up to the pressure and go ahead and win a historic American world championships gold medal in an individual event, the 10km interval-start skate.
Two days earlier, Diggins had partnered with Julia Kern to take bronze in the skate team sprint in Planica. Kern was 25 years old at the time, and Diggins 31; the two had already trained together at Stratton for most of the last decade. It is impossible to avoid reading the teammates’ joint medal as signs of Diggins helping to set the stage for the next generation, the 2023 version of “Kikkan begat Jessie” in their world champs team sprint gold a decade (!) before.
There’s more. Diggins was second in the overall World Cup standings, for the second year in a row, marking her fourth top-two overall finish there in the past six seasons. She was also second in the Distance Cup, her third top-three finish there in the past six years. She was first, second, and third in three World Cup 10km skate races over the course of the season (in addition to the, you know, World Champs gold in this event). She stood on seven individual World Cup podiums for the season, two in sprints and five in distance races. She all but called her shot when she said before the season that she found it “total crap” that women never got to race the “iconic distance” of 50 kilometers, then showed up and finished third in the inaugural World Cup women’s 50km at Holmenkollen four months later.
“Imagine, we didn’t need to be carted off in an ambulance,” a deeply sarcastic Diggins told one Nat Herz for the New York Times after the race.
On any other team, meanwhile, Ben Ogden would be the headliner. The now-23-year-old Vermont kid turned heads and reached new heights all season, while flashing newfound strength in distance races alongside his already established prowess in the sprints. The results are deeply impressive; they include the green bib for the top U23 World Cup athlete (first American to ever do this), eighth in the World Cup overall standings (highest finish here for an American man since Bill Koch in the early 1980s), sixth in a World Cup distance race (best by an American man since Kris Freeman), and 13th in the Tour de Ski (best by an American man ever).
But, and turning to process goals, likely Ogden’s single most memorable race was one in which he finished “only” ninth, the classic sprint in Val di Fiemme where he went out in L7 in attempts to shake up a discipline in which Klæbo has for years been virtually unbeatable.
Any excuse to run this post-race quote from Ogden: “They were kind of slow in the beginning and I was just like, ‘Alright, I’m just going to do it, I’m going to try’… and I tried. And I went as hard as I could, got to the top of the hill and looked back and it was just me and the king, and I was like, ‘maybe this can work.’”
It did not, in fact, work, in the sense of winning the heat or placing top-four to advance to the final, but there were some delicious moments where it looked like it just might, and the American drew praise from across the ski world for his cojones.
On any other team, etc., Julia Kern’s season would get top billing. In what is somehow already her seventh season on the World Cup (fifth of full-time World Cup racing) for someone who didn’t turn 26 until last week, Kern notched a seventh place in the Sprint Cup standings to show for it. Relatedly, she made the heats in every single World Cup sprint last season, a feat previously accomplished for the Americans by Andy Newell, and I would suspect no one else. She took home her first career world champs medal, the team sprint bronze with Diggins. She notched seven individual top-10 World Cup finishes, most in sprint but one in a distance race, too, showing broadening range as she gains experience.
Alayna Sonnesyn completed every single World Cup race from the start of the season through the Toblach relay in early February, one of few athletes from any country and I believe the only American to do so. She qualified for her first World Champs as an alternate, made her first two career World Cup sprint heats, and had four top-30 finishes on the World Cup. Back home, she took her fourth win at the American Birkebeiner, a race that the product of suburban Minneapolis has never lost. Other domestic highlights included a win in the Spring Series skate sprint for her first national championship.
Sydney Palmer-Leger finished 20th in the skiathlon at world champs in Planica, in, hilariously, the first-ever skiathlon of her life at any level. She took her first career national championship in the 40km classic at Spring Series. She had three top-four finishes in Houghton, and had six podiums in seven SuperTour/NorAm races in Period 1. She was eighth and ninth at World Juniors in Whistler, and was fifth at NCAAs. Palmer-Leger did not turn 21 until midway through the season, and is going into her senior year at Utah; the future is bright.
Lauren Jortberg made her first career World Cup sprint heats, finishing 29th in Livigno. Her 39th in the 20km skate in Davos was her best World Cup distance race to date. She ultimately made a healthy 15 World Cup starts last season. Domestically, she won her first career SuperTour, and was a podium threat in every domestic sprint.
Will Koch made his World Cup debut, starting five races in Period 3 after a strong showing at U.S. Nationals. He was the second American in the national championship classic sprint in Houghton. Lina Sutro was eighth in one SuperTour sprint, 13th in another, and 15th in the Birkie.
What does the coach have to say? Here’s Perry Thomas, unedited except that I spelled out some acronyms for school names to aid readers who aren’t massive ski dorks like me:
“Really great spring and summer of training! We kicked off the year with our annual trip to Bend, Oregon, to get on some late-season snow. I really like this camp as it’s a great way to rip through the first few weeks of the new training year when some of us might be a little hesitant to hop on the rollerskis, and while others are maybe chomping at the bit to get back into a routine again. This camp sets the tone for the rest of the summer, and gives us a nice starting block of on-snow time before we start grinding roll workouts. Shortly before this trip we hired Maria Stuber as our new Program Director. We’re all fired up to be working with Maria, and she’s made a hugely positive impact already!
“We had a large training group in Stratton for June and July. In addition to the 12 athletes on the team, we also had four others join us for the summer: Kendall Kramer (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Weronika Kaleta (Colorado), Logan Moore (Middlebury), and Skylar Patten (Michigan Tech). These four fit into the group really well physically, mentally, emotionally — I’m super excited to see their progress this fall and winter.
“The weather here in the East this summer was wild! We had catastrophic floods all over the state. Fortunately, the flooding spared most of our training routes, and domiciles, but there’s been lots of clean up in the surrounding area. Mix in some wildfire smoke before and after flood events, and you’ve got a nice recipe for some modified training. But through it all, we truly had some productive workouts. We really didn’t have to change much of what we normally do, and our team is much stronger because of it. We’ve been working on our resiliency this year ;)!
“Our team really loves to connect with the local community, and we had some incredible events and open workouts for the locals to partake in. The West River BKL kids got to go head to head against the team on snow in June at Magic Mountain, and again at our uphill running race at Stratton Mountain in early August. Mixed in between those two events we were able to open a few workouts for the local community to participate in and cheer us on.
“Most of us just returned back to the states from on-snow camps in Sweden, Germany, and New Zealand. These camps were extremely productive. Ben and Will traveled to Sweden with the U.S. Ski Team and had a good seven days on snow in the Torsby ski tunnel. Towards the second half of their camp they also jumped into some rollerski races, which was super productive in terms of seeing how they stack up against some of the best Europeans on rollerskis at this time of year. It was also great to practice simulating race starts, put on a bib, and see what needs to be worked on for the next few months.
“Jessie, Julia, and Sydney traveled to New Zealand for a three-week on-snow camp. Though logistics seemed somewhat difficult, the time on snow was really productive, and the scenery looked beautiful. As it’s actually winter down there, there was lots of kilometers skied, and all three were able to hop into the Merino Muster ski race with Jessie and Julia finishing 1st and 2nd in the 33km, and Sydney finishing 1st in the 21km race.
“The rest of us traveled to Oberhof, Germany, to spend two weeks in their skihalle and on the adjacent rollerski tracks. I can speak more to this camp as I was actually there, but we designed it to include a lot of back and forth from the skihalle to the rollerski track. I felt like this was super beneficial in translating skiing on snow onto rollerskis, and vice versa. The last two summers that I’ve been to Oberhof in August have been incredible — nearly sunny every day, the town and surrounding area is beautiful, the skihalle has windows (!), there’s approximately 15 kilometers of dedicated rollerski loops right next to the skihalle, and there’s running trails for days.
“From here, the college folks head back to school while the rest of us regroup in Stratton. Fall training seems to go by very quick! Most of us will be heading out to Park City in early October, and then from there, there’s really only a few weeks before the World Cup crew heads over to Europe, and the rest of us start hunting for early snow and racing.
“I’m super fired up for what winter will bring for our team. We’ve got a really experienced group heading over for Period 1 World Cup — Jessie, Julia, Alayna, Lauren, and Ben. They all had some huge positives from last winter on the World Cup, and this year they’ve really picked apart some of the things they need to work on and focus on to continue to improve on the world stage. Domestically, we’ll have a solid contingent racing on the Supertour — Lina, Adam, and Fin. These three have also had a really productive summer, and their eyes are set on strong performances in December and January to set them up for potential bids to Canmore and Minneapolis World Cups.
“Keep an eye out for our college athletes: Will (Colorado), Sydney (Utah), Ava (Dartmouth), and Jack (Dartmouth)! I think we’re going to see some really cool things from them this winter. We’ve all been training hard and putting in some good hours, but I’ve more so been impressed with how smart everyone has been training. It’s not just more, faster, harder. They’ve all been quite keen on applying the right pressure at the right time, and in the right ways. It takes a mature athlete to know when to press the gas pedal, and when to apply the brake, and they are all crushing it in that regard.”
— Gavin Kentch
Speaking at a press conference this February in advance of 2023 World Championships in Planica, longtime APU and U.S. Ski Team athlete Rosie Brennan observed, in discussing the logistics involved in high-level American ski training, “Our team is for the most part split between Alaska and Vermont, which couldn’t be farther apart in our country.”
While national-team athletes do not live or train exclusively in those two states — Zak Ketterson (Team Birkie) trains domestically in the Midwest, Sophia Laukli (Team Aker Dæhlie) is based in Norway, and Walker Hall hails from the Methow and trains with Utah, for example — there is also a fairly stark bicoastal distribution going on these days for athletes on the A-, B-, and D-Teams.
By my math, of the 23 athletes nominated to the national team for the 2023/2024 season, nine of them are currently based in Alaska (all with APU), and eight in New England (five with SMS, two at Dartmouth, one at UVM). That leaves only six athletes for the entire rest of the country, and/or Norway.
All of which is to say that three more U.S. Ski Team athletes, Novie McCabe, JC Schoonmaker, and Gus Schumacher, have recently joined Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, more broadly known as APU, along with top domestic skier Renae Anderson.
McCabe recently graduated from and skied for the University of Utah; Schoonmaker skied collegiately for the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and had long trained with his hometown club of Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy; Schumacher attends classes at UAA and had long been affiliated with local club Alaska Winter Stars; Anderson had previously skied for Team Birkie for a year after skiing at Bowdoin. All are now wearing APU navy blue, at least when not wearing the azure–pink ombré of this winter’s World Cup suit.
Finally, before I talk about APU skiers for an entire article, a brief but necessary disclosure: I am currently in my tenth season of training with APU Masters; this program is a large part of my personal and athletic life, and I have raced extensively in an APU club suit, both domestically and internationally, over the past decade. So on the one hand, I am hardly a neutral observer here. But on the other hand, I do think that these moves are newsworthy, and that not reporting them doesn’t feel like a great solution, either. Finally, do keep in mind that APU Masters really has nothing to do with the APU Elite Team on a daily basis; I like these athletes, and they’re nice to me when I see them on our local trails, but I am hardly out there training with them.
Bottom line, please believe me that I am, truly, simply trying to report news here, rather than to engage in pro-Alaska propaganda or factional tribalism. As APU Nordic Ski Center commented on Schumacher’s official announcement post, “Welcome to the squad! At the end of the day we’re all on the same team though 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸.”
Here’s that post, from Anchorage kid turned 23-year-old pro skier Gus Schumacher. The post largely speaks for itself, as Schumacher underscores that the decision hardly marks a permanent goodbye from the program that has been a part of his life for well over half his life now. (Seriously though, click through to the final three photos in the above post for some #wholesome historic content; two of them feature Alaska Winter Stars doyen Jan Buron, who remains the coach there.)
Schumacher sounded similar notes when asked for any additional thoughts on the move.
“I would definitely like to reiterate that this was a hard decision because I do really appreciate AWS,” or Alaska Winter Stars, Schumacher wrote in a recent email to Nordic Insights, “and everything Jan has done for/with me. However, I’m growing up, and feel like having fast people around me is becoming more important as I try to find ways to make the next step in my skiing, and APU is obviously a super good option for anyone looking for that. I’m actually looking forward to being more involved with APU because they are a big part of Anchorage skiing, but will also never not have Winter Stars as a part of who I am.”
Novie McCabe, 21, is at a slightly earlier stage of her life and ski career; she grew up skiing in the Methow, then spent the last several years racing for the University of Utah (also on the World Cup, at World Juniors and U23 Championships, at the 2022 Winter Olympics, and so on). Here are her thoughts, via email to Nordic Insights, on what drew her north to APU as her time in Park City came to a close:
“I was able to spend part of the past two summers training in Anchorage, and I think that helped a lot when it came to making a decision about where to go this year because I was pretty confident that the team would be a good fit. The team atmosphere and coaching at APU are both super great, and I had experienced that coming in which was reassuring.
“It really felt like I was going somewhere where I would be happy and improve my skiing which seemed like a win–win. I also just thought Anchorage was a cool place and wanted to check it out! I love the mountains here and it seems that there are lots of fun things to do outside. And I don’t feel too far from home in Washington which is quite nice.”
I didn’t separately ask JC Schoonmaker, 23, for comment, since the two posts embedded above really say it all, and I am
lazyrespectful of athletes’ time. But in all seriousness, that’s about what you need to know: Heartfelt appreciation on both sides, as coach Will Sweetser (Sugar Bowl) begets coach Trond Flagstad (UAA) begets coach Erik Flora (APU). No one gets where they are in skiing without a strong team behind them; those coaches are all part of Schoonmaker’s.
“While we will miss him here in Tahoe,” Sweetser wrote in his post, “we are so excited to see what he can do in the blue of [APUNSC]. This is the right move at the right time for a true class act in the Nordic world. … Go get em Schoon!”
Finally, Renae Anderson, who turned 25 last week, is the relatively rare Midwestern athlete to travel west to APU. Anderson, who is on the far right in the above picture (Toko gloves, Madshus boots), skied for Team Birkie in the 2022/2023 season, and for Bowdoin College for several years before that. Here’s her welcome post (yes the snow has a lot of debris on it, but also it was May at sea level):
Anderson expanded on her first five months with the team in a recent email to Nordic Insights.
“I was drawn to APU because I knew it would offer a new training stimulus and push my comfort zone to be in the mountains after growing up in Minnesota,” she wrote, “and because of how highly the current athletes spoke about Erik Flora and the program as a whole. APU has certainly lived up to the hype and I feel so fortunate to be a part of this group every day.”
A longer preview of all athletes on the APU team is coming later this fall. Full team previews start up tomorrow with SMS, allowing me to valorize athletes’ accomplishments without the caveat that I wear the same domestic race suit as them; stay tuned.
— Gavin Kentch
Sophia Laukli wins. Again. Racing against a full international field plus some of this country’s fastest trail runners, the 23-year-old nordic skier took yet another victory in this year’s Golden Trail World Series, winning the 2023 Pikes Peak Ascent earlier Saturday in 2:35:54. She was nearly four minutes ahead of the second-place woman, Judith Wyder of Switzerland.
In the men’s race, Rémi Bonnet, also of Switzerland, took down one of the most hallowed marks in American trail running, clocking a 2:00:20 to finally better Matt Carpenter’s longstanding course record of 2:01:06. Carpenter’s record for the half-marathon ascent had stood since 1993 (and he set it en route to his still-standing CR for the full marathon, which, mind blown). Bonnet was born in 1995, and Laukli in 2000. It’s been a while.
I don’t have intermediate splits for live timing, there are no athlete quotes up yet online, Laukli is currently busy eating cereal and recovering per her Instagram stories, and I learned only this morning that a lack of connectivity and infrastructure meant that there was no live streaming for the race. So I’m going to leave it at that: Laukli crushed, and looked, as the kids say [probably “said,” since this reference is literally now twenty years old ouch], le tired at the finish.
“n good night,” Laukli wrote on Instagram of her demeanor soon after crossing the line.
Third place in the women’s race went to Anna Gibson of Wyoming, who finished in 2:43:59. Gibson has some range: earlier this year she made the finals for the much shorter, and flatter, 1,500 meters at USATF Outdoor Championships, where she finished tenth in 4:09.58. Prior to running collegiately, for Washington, she was a standout IMD skier in high school, capturing six Wyoming state titles and nine All American finishes at JNs. I am therefore counting Gibson as the second nordic skier in the top three.
Jessica Yeaton was the next recognizable nordic skier name out there; she crossed the line in 3:02:18 to place 19th in the women’s field. Her longtime partner, David Norris, was 29th in the men’s field in 2:28:28. Sam Hendry, who skied collegiately for Utah but is now a Salomon-sponsored trail runner, was the top nordic skier for the men, finishing 12th in a time of 2:16:43.
The pro running field races again at the Mammoth Trail Fest on Friday morning, where the Mammoth 26km will be the final regular-season Golden Trail World Series event.
This article has been updated to include Anna Gibson as a nordic skier. Many thanks to reader @dan_in_wyoming for pointing this out to me.
— Gavin Kentch
Sophia Laukli has proven on multiple occasions this summer that she can run uphill and downhill quickly. There was the win in the Marathon du Mont Blanc in Chamonix in June; the second in the DoloMyths Run in the Italian Dolomites in July; and the win at Sierre–Zinal, in the Swiss Alps, in August. All three races featured both large climbs and substantial drops, in some cases vertiginous ones.
So can Laukli go just uphill with comparable speed? Tune in tomorrow morning to find out! (Yes I know that Laukli has literally claimed a World Cup podium on the uphill-only Alpe Cermis climb when it comes to skiing. I’m setting the stage here.)
The Pikes Peak Ascent starts at 7 a.m. Saturday morning Mountain Time in downtown Manitou Springs, Colorado.
The course is, in a word, steep. The race starts at 6,300 feet above sea level. The Ascent ends at 14,115 feet, for a total vertical gain of 7,815 feet. The course for the uphill-only Ascent is just slightly over traditional half-marathon length at 13.32 miles (21.4km).
The average grade is 11 percent, per the course info page on the race website. Strava lists the segment as an HC (hors catégorie) climb, with an average grade of 11.3 percent. Joe Gray, Kílian Jornet, Sage Canaday, and Rémi Bonnet are among the recognizable men’s names in the segment top-10.
The Ascent, which “only” goes uphill, is held on Saturday, and is stage five in this year’s Golden Trail World Series. The full marathon, which will be held on Sunday, goes first uphill and then down.
This race has some history. The Ascent was first held on a one-off basis in 1936 (!). The full marathon has been held annually since 1956. It now describes itself as “the oldest continually held marathon in the United States.” This claim initially caused me to arch a skeptical eyebrow, but considering that the two older American marathons on this list, Boston and Yonkers, canceled their 2020 in-person runnings, this in fact checks out. Trust but verify. The race’s history means that there are a staggering 94,000 entries in the cumulative results database, which makes my dorky results-stalking self very happy.
Notably, women were allowed in the full marathon starting in its first year, 1956; the first female entrant arrived in 1958, and the first female finisher came in 1959. A few years later the Equinox Marathon, in Fairbanks, Alaska, was founded in 1963, and similarly welcomed women from its inaugural year.
Neither race is a typical road marathon. Neither race is easy. Without fully restating my strident feminism from the preview of the inaugural women’s 50km at Holmenkollen this March, suffice to say that women are, in fact, capable of doing hard things in running, and have been doing them since long before Jock Semple tried to bodycheck K. Switzer off the course of the 1967 Boston Marathon.
Anyway. Races at Pikes Peak, both the Ascent and the Marathon, have been held for a long time. So it is notable that the course record for the full marathon is currently thirty years old (Matt Carpenter, 1993, 3:16:39). And also that the record for the Ascent dates to the same year (Matt Carpenter, 2:01:06, en route to the overall win, which is just bonkers).
The women’s course record for the Ascent has stood for a healthy decade-plus: Kim Dobson, 2012, 2:24:58. The women’s course record for the marathon is of more recent vintage, Maude Mathys’s 4:02:41 from 2019.
Here is a fine recent article from Outside Online about Carpenter’s “Impossible Record,” and the history behind it. It notes that Carpenter’s marks are notably older than, say, Hicham El Guerrouj’s [notorious] mile world record from 1999.
You can watch tomorrow’s race live here, starting slightly before the gun goes off.
So how fast is Laukli going to run, and how does she stack up against this year’s field? Laukli was third in last year’s Ascent, in 2:34:30, roughly seven minutes back of winner Nienke Frederiek Brinkman of the Netherlands and six minutes back of Maude Mathys of Switzerland in second. Neither woman is entered this year, making Laukli, on paper, the fastest returning contender. But much of the Golden Trail World Series field has made the trip over from Europe. And they are joined by Grayson Murphy, who took bronze in, sort of, this event (7.1km long, 3,365 feet of climbing) at 2023 World Mountain Running Championships in Austria.
I don’t see a substantive preview of the race up on iRunFar. For what it’s worth, Laukli leads Outside’s preview article, linked above.
In the men’s race, notable nordic skiing–adjacent names include Sam Hendry and David Norris. Norris was 19th in the Ascent in last year’s men’s race, roughly five minutes ahead of Laukli.
And finally, back to the overall Golden Trail World Series ranks for a moment. After four of six races in this year’s series Laukli is currently ranked first in the women’s standings, with a healthy, though hardly mathematically unsurmountable, lead over Miao Yao of China in second and Theres Leboeuf of Switzerland in third. The next highest-ranked American, male or female, is Eli Hemming, 13th in the men’s standings.
Racing continues next Friday morning at the Mammoth Trail Fest, where the Mammoth 26km will be a Golden Trail World Series event. The series finale will then be in October in Italy. Laukli will presumptively qualify.
— Gavin Kentch
Swedish skier Jenny Larsson is likely not a household name for even fairly well-informed American cross-country ski fans; the 27-year-old has a single World Cup start to her name, from last season’s 20-kilometer skate in Davos. But Larsson has focused on and shown more prowess on the marathon circuit, finishing sixth overall in last season’s Ski Classics standings and coming in seventh in the Vasaloppet.
You might conclude from a seventh-place finish in the 90-kilometer doublepole-fest that is the Vasaloppet that Larsson is good at doublepoling. You would be correct.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that Larsson is also quite skilled at the dryland version of this technique, the SkiErg. Indeed, while conducting an internal time trial with her club team, Team Ragde Charge, in Norway earlier this month, Larsson set a new world record for 5,000 meters on the SkiErg.
Larsson’s time was 18:32.5. NRK reports that this beat the prior record by “around 10 seconds.”
I can’t independently suss out what the women’s world record for this distance was before Larsson’s feat, but it’s clear that times have been consistently dropping in the decade-plus since Concept2 brought the SkiErg to market in 2009 as the technology became more broadly adopted. According to this press release from summer 2011, at the time the men’s record for 5,000 meters was 17:24, while the women’s mark was 21:06.
Twelve years later, a 21:06 (for women) now gets you onto the Concept2 ranking table only in the 60–64 age group, while a 17:24 (for men) would be an age-group record in the 15–16 or 55–59 age groups, but nothing in between. Links to full age-group records are at the bottom of this article if you’re curious.
Anyway, enough nerding out about stats; let’s talk about skiers vs. CrossFitters.
That 2011 press release from Concept2 alludes to a potential tension here, observing simply, “Some of these times come from competitive Nordic skiers; others come from the fitness/cross-training community.”
Other sources have since been less decorous: Ned Dowling, a licensed physical therapist who has worked extensively with the U.S. Ski Team nordic athletes, last year wrote, “As much as high intensity double poling is a full body effort (not just the arms), in skiing it is more about movement across the hips and ankles vs the knees. In CrossFit gyms, this is not necessarily the case. They are after maximum generation of force, not skiing efficiently. Please don’t do this.”
Dowling then links to this video, which, ouch. You might also (not) enjoy watching whatever it is the athletes are doing starting at the 1:18:54 mark of this video cued up to start with the SkiErg component of the biathlon competition at the 2019 Rogue Invitational, a CrossFit competition that hilariously, though quite ably, features one Chad Salmela as color commentator.
Full disclosure, I am sure that I do not have the world’s best technique on the SkiErg. But I am also sure that it is better than these guys’. My back hurts just looking at this.
(Okay, one more: this video, in which this creatine golem brings to bear roughly the SkiErg form that you would expect from a man presenting like this appearing in a video with “Redbull Challenge” in the name.)
Martin Løwstrøm Nyenget, a Norwegian skier who won Holmenkollen in 2022 and has six other individual World Cup distance podiums to his name, has thoughts on SkiErg marks set by those athletes who do this sport for a living versus SkiErg marks set by those athletes who brute-force their way to speedy times.
“It sounds fast,” said Nyenget of Larsson’s mark, according to an auto-translation of this article from NRK. “I’ve never tested it myself, but it’s good that skiers set those records, not people who do CrossFit or something.”
— Gavin Kentch
Weekend Results Recap: Diggins Wins Again in New Zealand, Jortberg Races at Martin Fourcade Festival in Annecy
It is now September, but there is more ski racing occurring these days, in various formats, than you may realize. Here’s a brief roundup of two notable American results from across the globe last weekend.
Diggins wins Merino Muster once more
The pandemic put a pause on Jessie Diggins’s traditional trip to New Zealand for August snow time, but this year Diggins has picked up right where she left off. Racing in the Merino Muster for the first time since 2019, she pulled away from SMS teammate Julia Kern late to take the victory.
The race, which occurred Saturday morning New Zealand time, was officially a 42-kilometer mass start skate race. But Diggins’s winning time was 1:18:11, and even though she is a really good skier, and popular marathons typically do not take place over homologated courses, I am politely dubious that they were able to hold it over the full 42km course. Indeed, that would make for a speedy 1:51/km average pace overall, and Diggins’s splits through halfway left her on “just” a 2:14/km average pace.
Other sources on Instagram variously referred to the course as 32km or 34km, so let’s call it 30-something kilometers. (Relatedly, a belated happy birthday to Diggins, who turned 32 on race morning, thereby rendering her a 30-something athlete in a 30-something-kilometer race.)
However long the course was, Diggins’s winning time was, as noted, 1:18:11. Kern crossed the line five seconds later as the day’s second woman. Diggins skied in a pack with the first two male skiers, Fabian Stocék of the Czech Republic (formerly of: Dartmouth College ski team) and Christian Winker of Germany, through at least 21km, the last intermediate checkpoint for which I have timing data. I assume that Kern was with them as well, but her intermediate splits are lacunose.
Stocék ultimately finished slightly over a minute ahead of Diggins to take the overall win in 1:17:08. Winker was seven seconds back for second. Diggins was third overall, and Kern fourth, roughly a minute later.
Fifth overall, and third man, was Quinn Wilson of the U.S., who skis collegiately for Williams, around nine minutes later. Linnéa Magnusson of Sweden was the third-place woman, finishing roughly 20 minutes after Kern.
My former colleague at FasterSkier, and currently very nice guy, Gerry Furseth of Canada, was 24th overall, and first in his age group (M55–59), in a healthy 1:46.
Saturday morning marked Diggins’s fifth victory in the Merino Muster, New Zealand’s entry in the Worldloppet series, in as many tries, a positively Sonnesyn-esque track record.
Diggins and Kern spent August of 2022 at Falls Creek, getting on-snow time high in the Victorian Alps in the southeastern region of mainland Australia while Falls Creek was not an option due to Covid precautions. Diggins won the 2022 Kangaroo Hoppet there, again over Kern in second.
Between Worldloppet racing and Australia/New Zealand Cup racing at the Snow Farm, Diggins last failed to win a race in the southern hemisphere in a classic sprint in tricky conditions in September 2017, six years ago this week. Diggins won three other races at the Snow Farm that week, then went on to win her next nine races in New Zealand, and counting, over the next several years, as well as the 2022 Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek. Diggins, like, frequently wins races against full midwinter World Cup fields, so maybe I shouldn’t overstate the significance of her antipodean exploits, but I still find this stat impressive.
Lauren Jortberg samples crit rollerski racing in France
In the northern hemisphere, the weekend brought rollerski racing in the fourth annual Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival in Annecy, France. Lauren Jortberg, also of the globetrotting SMS team, was the sole American, man or woman, to race there.
Jortberg competed in the cross-country skiing rollerski race on Saturday afternoon. The contest was a six-lap elimination race: the slowest athlete was dropped from the field at the close of laps one through five, then all remaining athletes sprinted it out for the win on lap six.
Jortberg did not win; the win in the women’s race went to French biathlete Lou Jeanmonnot, who thrilled the home crowd with what I think it is fair to call an unexpected victory. Second and third went to Teresa Stadlober of Austria and Victoria Carl of Germany, respectively. The rest of the podium has Olympic medals in cross-country skiing, while Jeanmonnot has a medal from “only” the Youth Olympic Games, in biathlon, which is why I call her victory in Saturday’s nordic ski race somewhat unexpected.
You can see the finish of the race in the above clip. Jortberg appears to have been eliminated before this lap, and so was not among the final ten athletes on course.
The American’s absence notwithstanding, racing in an urban festival environment with scads of spectators looks, and I am going to use a technical term here so bear with me, really friggin’ cool.
For her part, Jortberg concurred, writing on Strava of the event, “COOLEST THING OF MY LIFE 🇫🇷.”
[I could never find overall results, sorry, and so none are linked here. Here is a broadcast screenshot showing the top ten from the final round, is about the best I can do.]
— Gavin Kentch
There were only a few dozen pro skiers in this country last fall when I surveyed the six main American domestic ski clubs for last year’s season preview. Now at least seven of those skiers have moved on to other things. This post is about them.
It is September, and the first large fall storm of the season is raking Anchorage as I write this. Soon the leaves will turn, and then fall, and athletes with big goals for the coming race season will amp up the intensity and start to lessen the volume. They will try not to get sick, and also not to read too much into their splits from every interval workout.
They will not be joined, this year, by this handful of recently retired American pro skiers. Before we move into fall, and my journalistic focus moves on to previewing active athletes who will be racing in the 2023/2024 season, I want to highlight some athletes who will be doing other things.
You need not shed a tear for them, in most cases; being a professional endurance athlete is hard, actually, and many new retirees have welcomed the chance to define themselves by something other than their race results, as well as to use their mind more after so many years of prioritizing their body. Read, say, Finn O’Connell’s final blog post as a member of the BSF Pro Team, from May of this year, and you will find someone who is grateful for the opportunities he has had while simultaneously being truly excited for the future.
Here is what I think is a complete roundup of those American athletes who were full-time skiers last season for one of the “main” six ski clubs, but who have since moved on to other things. Happy trails to all. Athletes are organized by club affiliation from west to east, as is my wont.
Hailey Swirbul retired from pro skiing following World Cup Finals in Lahti in March 2023. You can read a USST press release on her here, and Ben Theyerl’s fine piece on her career here. I still aspire to catch up with Hailey at some point this fall to talk with her in more detail about what comes next; stay tuned.
Hunter Wonders also retired from World Cup racing this spring. You can read a USST retirement press release here. Wonders is working on obtaining his pilot’s license.
Katie Feldman might be retired? She doesn’t currently have an active FIS license, and raced primarily on the European marathon circuit last season. She is still listed on the SVSEF website for the 2022/2023 season, but that roster also lists Kevin Bolger, who now skis for Team Birkie, so, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Feldman did not respond to a friend’s comment on her most recent Instagram post asking about her potential retirement.
BSF Pro Team
Finn O’Connell retired from pro skiing following Spring Series in Craftsbury. In his final blog post for BSF, “A new adventure awaits,” he writes with palpable excitement about his plans to attend United Airlines Aviate Academy in Prescott, Arizona, starting this fall to become a pilot.
Tony Mathie raced most of the domestic circuit last season before retiring. He posted in June that he has moved to Boise, where he now works as the Head Comp Coach for Bogus Basin Nordic Team.
Xavier Mansfield’s Insta bio now reads, in its entirety, “Cat Dad. I used to ski, now I’m free 🕊.” He currently has an inactive FIS license, and has not contested a FIS race since 2023 U.S. Nationals. He did, however, race the Noquemanon Ski Marathon with his buddies in late January. I tentatively conclude from all of this evidence that Mansfield is now retired.
Craftsbury Green Racing Project
Annika Landis has retired from pro skiing after, most recently, two years with Craftsbury. In her retirement post she wrote, in part, “I don’t entirely know what’s next, and that’s daunting, but I know the nordic skiing community will always be a huge part of who I am, of who I want to be, and I will never be too far away.” But she also said, “I am forever grateful for the opportunities that ski racing opened up to me, the immense joy it brought to my life and the hard lessons I learned about being true to myself through the adversity of high level sport.” And, really, the whole post is insightful and gracious imho, and you should read it.
[There are no retirements to note here, per my research; everyone who was on the team last season is back for more, and the folks in Stratton have added several new athletes as well.]
— Gavin Kentch
Last weekend saw a series of three rollerski races at Trollhättan Action Week, in and around Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden. There was a skate sprint on Friday, a 48-kilometer mass start classic race on Saturday, and an interval-start 15km classic race to wrap things up on Sunday.
Thirteen American athletes competed, including two women and roughly half the men currently on the U.S. Ski Team. The big winner for the Americans on the weekend was Rosie Brennan, who was first and third in the final two races. Other notable finishes included Ben Ogden, Luke Jager, and Gus Schumacher, who all advanced to the semifinals in the skate sprint, and Jager’s ninth in the 15km classic.
I know that these races happened several days ago by now; sorry. This reporter was traveling over the weekend to contest a trail run in a monsoon, then was traveling again earlier this week to find a remnant patch of late-August snow in order to perpetuate a multi-year streak of skiing on real snow every month on nordic skis. This reporter is clearly very cool, at least so long as you didn’t see footage of him slipping back and forth on dirty ice-snow long enough to rack up the requisite one kilometer worth of August skiing.
Better late than never, please enjoy this roundup of roughly half the U.S. Ski Team throwing down in Trollhättan last weekend.
Skate sprint: Ben Ogden wins qualifier, finishes 7th overall on the day; Rosie Brennan leads American women in 10th
Friday afternoon brought a 1.3-kilometer skate sprint through the streets of Trollhättan. The course, situated on the banks of Trollhätte Canal in the center of town, saw more elevation change than many urban rollerski courses, notably what I unofficially calculate as a 40-meter A-climb over the final 400 meters.
One Ben Ogden of the U.S. Ski Team flashed his speed to set the pace in the qualifying round. Ogden not only had the day’s fastest time in the qual, he was a full 1.20 seconds ahead of second, Emil Danielsson of Sweden. For perspective, Danielsson was less than seven seconds ahead of the 30th and final place in qualifying.
A total of eleven American men raced on Friday; nearly half of them made the heats. Ogden was joined in the rounds by Gus Schumacher, who qualified in 7th; Zak Ketterson, who was 14th; JC Schoonmaker, who was 18th; and Luke Jager, who was 20th.
Left outside of the heats looking in were Zanden McMullen (32nd in qualifying), Brian Bushey (37th), John Steel Hagenbuch (39th), Will Koch (53rd), Logan Diekmann (58th), and Walker Hall (60th).
Ogden and Schumacher also fared the best in the heats. Ogden was second in his quarterfinal, and Schumacher third in his but in a fast time, to, ultimately, both advance to the first semifinal. Both men’s day ended there, as Ogden was third in that heat and Schumacher fourth. The winning time in semifinal no. 1, a tactical affair, was the slowest on the day, and over five seconds behind the mark set in semifinal no. 2; both lucky losers came out of the second semifinal, and neither man advanced out of the first.
Ogden ultimately finished seventh on the day, and Schumacher eighth. Also making the semifinals was Luke Jager, who finished sixth in that first semifinal to end the day in twelfth overall. (Jager was all of 0.40 seconds back of Ogden, and a single hundredth of a second back of placing tenth overall on the day; the margins were tight out there.)
Ketterson and Schoonmaker both came in fourth in their quarterfinals and did not advance. They finished 17th and 19th overall, respectively.
Ahead of them, Richard Jouve of France, Sprint Globe winner for the 2021/2022 World Cup season, squeaked into the heats in just 27th, but won everything after that en route to the overall victory. He won his quarterfinal, won the first semifinal over the three Americans, and then won the final as well. Anton Grahn of Sweden, a rising talent who won the classic sprint at this year’s World Juniors in Whistler, took second. Lucas Chanavat of France, who was second and third in the sprint standings in the last two World Cup seasons, was third.
There are only nine women currently on the U.S. Ski Team, as against 14 men, and three of those nine (Jessie Diggins, Julia Kern, and Sydney Palmer-Leger) are currently down in New Zealand on snow at the Snow Farm. Two of the other six, Rosie Brennan and Novie McCabe, were in Trollhättan for the weekend’s races.
Brennan had herself a weekend. She was 10th in the qual on Friday, 10.30 seconds behind Moa Hansson of Sweden after likely skiing at less than full strength in a 33-athlete field where only three women did not advance. Brennan was second in the day’s first quarterfinal, behind only Hansson and over a half-second up on third, to advance to the first semifinal. Brennan finished fifth in that heat to end her day in 10th overall. It would be her lowest finish of the weekend by far.
McCabe was close behind in qualifying, finishing 14th there. She would place third in her quarterfinal. Her final placing on the day was 13th, as high as possible without making the semis.
Although Hansson set the pace in the qual, the rest of the day was all Emma Ribom. The local hero was third in qualifying, then made the gutsy choice of the fifth and last quarterfinal (i.e., the heat that provides the least rest before the semifinal round). She won that by more than a second over Victoria Carl of Germany, then led the way in her semifinal as well, taking that heat by 0.31 seconds over Carl once more. That was her last real challenge on the day, as Ribom placed first in the final by a healthy 1.3 seconds over Hansson, which is like 1.3 minutes in a non-sprint context. Ella Olsson, who made her first two World Cup starts this spring, was third to round out the all-Sweden podium.
Classic mass start: Rosie Brennan hits the podium in third; Luke Jager leads American men in 45th
Saturday afternoon brought a 48-kilometer mass start classic race over three laps of a 16km course. The inclusion of a thousand-plus citizen racers in an earlier start makes the Alliansloppet traditionally the world’s largest rollerski race.
There were also 202 male and 49 female finishers in the elite race, which are not small numbers. Elite athletes all raced on matched Swenor rollerskis with no. 3 wheels.
It was raining. “Swenor 3,” Czech skier Kateřina Janatová wrote on Strava of the wheel speed of the officially provided rollerskis. “But with all the water I thought it was [the slower speed of] 4 🥲.”
The front of the race saw Norwegian marathon maestro Astrid Øyre Slind, for not the first time in the past few seasons, break away from a chase pack well before the finish line and solo in for the win. This time she did so shortly into the second lap; Slind was not threatened over the remaining 30km, taking the win, and 50,000 Swedish kronor (about $4,600 dollars), in 2:12:11.
Roughly three minutes behind her, Rosie Brennan approached the finish in a five-women pack vying for the final two podium spots. Brennan would lose out on second to Anikken Gjerde Alnæs of Norway by 0.6 seconds, but took third, over Johanna Hagström of Sweden, by 0.3 seconds. Brennan earned 10,000 SEK, around $900 dollars, for her efforts.
Even judging from the dry results sheet alone the men’s race seems to have been chaos; I see the top 15 men all finishing within less than 10 seconds after nearly two hours of racing, and the top 23 all within a minute out. That’s a lot of close-quarters racing on wet pavement with squirrelly wheels.
Here’s the inimitable John Steel Hagenbuch’s take on the day, per his public Strava account:
Zak Ketterson also had thoughts on the experience:
And JC Schoonmaker sounded briefer, more elegiac tones, writing simply, “RIP to the ski classics dream after getting stomped @trollhattanactionweek this weekend.”
Turning to actual results, Luke Jager was the fastest among the eight American men who finished the race, crossing the line in 1:57:17 for 45th overall (4:03 back of winner Thomas Joly of France). He was closely followed by Schoonmaker in 48th (+4:31) and Hagenbuch in 53rd (+5:48).
Other Americans in the race were Zak Ketterson (68th, +7:46), Gus Schumacher (80th, +9:43), Brian Bushey (83rd, +9:59), Zanden McMullen (101st, +12:07) and Will Koch (105th, +13:41).
At the front of the race, Thomas Joly took the victory in 1:53:14.6. He gained a last-minute separation over Petter Stakston in second (+2.7) and Mathias Rolid in third (+3.0), both of Norway.
As an English-language nordic ski journalist I am required to note that Petter Northug was in the race. He finished 23rd, 55 seconds out. Northug is currently 37 years old.
Interval-start classic: Rosie Brennan moves up to first to take the win, Jager once more top American male in ninth
Finally, Sunday afternoon brought a 15-kilometer interval-start classic race to close out the weekend. The race covered two laps of a 7.5-kilometer course, each with 213 meters of total climb. This is 28.4 meters of climb per kilometer, which is still below the standard range for a homologated course on snow (32 to 40 m/km), but is also not nothing. For those readers who have raced in Houghton, either at this year’s U.S. Nationals or at some point before that, the 5km FIS course there has 29.4 meters of climb per kilometer.
After two laps around the course, the fastest time of 49 female starters belonged to… Rosie Brennan. She was the penultimate starter on the day, giving her the benefit of splits relative to her competitors as she went around the course. 4.2km into the race she was in second, roughly eight seconds back of Katharina Hennig of Germany; she was still in second by the halfway mark, 7.5km in, though by this point the gap back to Hennig was down to 1.3 seconds.
By midway through lap two, at the 11.7km mark, Brennan was now 4.3 seconds up on the German. And she ably closed out the course from there, putting 10 more seconds on Hennig over the final three kilometers.
Brennan’s winning time was 38:48.0. Hennig ultimately finished 14.8 seconds back for second, with Johanna Hagström of Sweden placing third (+33.3).
The other American woman in the race, Novie McCabe, was the day’s final starter. She finished 32nd (+4:07.8), after hovering around 33rd or 34th at most intermediate splits.
Brennan took home another 10,000 Swedish kronor for the victory.
The story of the day in the men’s race was Alvar Myhlback, the 17-year-old Swedish wunderkind who placed eighth in this year’s Vasaloppet. My go-to winter ski hat is older than him.
Myhlback won the men’s 15-kilometer interval-start classic race on Sunday. His winning time was 33:43.2. Second place went to Håvard Solås Taugbøl of Norway (+15.1), a man with a bronze world championships medal and five individual World Cup podiums, albeit all in sprinting. Third was Andrew Musgrave of Great Britain (+16.2), who has three World Cup podiums to his name.
Other names behind Myhlback on the results sheet included accomplished veterans Calle Halfvarsson and Max Novák. With the notable caveats that (a) this is rollerski racing (b) in August and (c) the results sort of just read like a proxy for doublepole prowess, this Alvar Myhlback seems like a good skier or something.
Luke Jager — speaking of strong doublepolers — again led the way for the American men, picking up the weekend’s top American male distance result in ninth (+1:00.1). Next up for the U.S. Ski Team were Zak Ketterson in 31st (+1:45.9) and Gus Schumacher in 33rd (+1:50.1). They were followed by John Steel Hagenbuch (47th, +2:05.7), Zanden McMullen (59th, +2:35.7), JC Schoonmaker (61st, +2:38.8), Will Koch (70th, +2:59.7), and Brian Bushey (79th, +3:18.7). Walker Hall and Ben Ogden did not start.
Following the weekend’s races, most of the Americans returned stateside to wrap up summer training, and/or to begin the school year for those athletes skiing for NCAA programs. Zak Ketterson continued his summer-long sojourn in Norway, where he is living and training with his fiancée, Julie Synnøve Ensrud. World Cup racing begins slightly less than three months from now in Ruka.
— Gavin Kentch
I just finished up a camp with the US Ski Team in Sweden. I went a week early to Trondheim, Norway to get my feet under me training a bit with my teammate Zak Ketterson.
It was nice to have a few days of lying low to adjust to the time change, and then also come into the first part of camp in Torsby, Sweden with a small travel day. I really wanted to take advantage of the time in Torsby because a big chunk of that training was in a ski tunnel! It’s exactly what it sounds like: a refrigerated tunnel with snow that they groom for cross country skiing. We also did a few rollerski races during our time together.
It’s a big endeavor for all of us to travel to Europe, so adding a trip in the middle of our training season might seem silly when we all have great places to train at home. The camps we do in the U.S. are super high-quality too, but the difference for this one is the timing to hit on-snow time and high-level specific races in the middle of summer, basically the farthest from snow and racing we get throughout the year. Southern Sweden had just what we needed for that, with the snow tunnel only 3 hours bus ride from the location of an elite-level rollerski race series in Trollhattan. We spent 9 days in the tunnel doing one session a day on skis, and another session dryland. We really emphasized good technique work in the fridge, and then opted to do some intensity in the tunnel and some rollerskiing.
The first race we did was 40km away in a town called Sunne. A skate sprint at about 5pm through the middle of town. It was pretty flat, but had tons of fun corners that really made it feel spicy! The boys did well there, going 1-3-4-6 in the final, with everyone qualifying. (Also our Swedish guest Emma Ribbon won the women’s race!) That field was weaker than in Trollhattan, but still had the German national team and some other big names like Calle Halfvarsson!
The next races were a bigger production: a skate sprint, 48km classic mass start, and 15km classic individual start. We had another good day in the sprint, with Ben winning the qualifier, 3 guys in a semi, Rosie 3rd, and Emma winning again! The next day was tougher for a lot of the guys, with a bunch of broken pole parts, and lots of grinding alone, but Rosie held it together for us in 3rd. We were all pretty beat up the third day, but Luke pulled together a sick 9th place, and Rosie winning.
Now we’re tired and ready to go home. Parting ways for a bit until our October camp in Park City. But now we have a little more insight on what we need to work on before winter hits in a few short months! Excited to recover a bit then get back to working on getting better. But I think we’re in a good place to crush it when the snow falls.
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