Just 8 weeks until the Sonot Kkaazoot

With just two months until the start of the Sonot Kkaazoot, it is definitely time to start increasing both the intensity and duration of your ski workouts. This can be a challenging time of the year because the Birch Hill venue will be busy with Besh Cups, high school regional races, Town Races, and Junior Nationals between now and the start gun of the Sonot Kkaazoot. It may take a little more creativity and flexibility to squeeze in those longer and more intense workouts when the weather doesn’t cooperative. However, just because it is -37 deg F at Birch Hill on Sunday when you normally do your long overdistance workout doesn’t mean you have to resort to the couch like one of our AWOL SCUM:

IMG_0539

Layers of clothing may render a skier less fashionable than lycra speedsuits, but who is going to recognize you on the trail under these conditions?

-37 deg F Dermot-37deg F SCUMWe have ample snow so get out and enjoy it. No excuses. On Sunday, these skiers had the Birch Hill trails virtually to themselves (only Bad Bob Baker lapped them twice). One of the skiers above has had 11 orthopedic surgeries and was still out there. Another of the frosty guys above had major back surgery last winter. Another skier owns a bar where late weekend nights are the norm–hardly, the occupation that would be conducive to getting up on Sunday mornings to ski several hours–yet he does. Why? Because all these skiers feel so much better skiing than not. Besides, the Sonot is only 8 weeks away.These are no young pups as all but one of the skiers in the bottom photograph is over 60 years old.

See you on the trails.

Photo from lower 48 courtesy of Carl (aka Thumper) Hemming, Birch Hill photos by Bill (Poles) Husby.

Advice for the first time Sonot Kkaazoot participant

by Robert Hannon

Photo by Margo Klass

A lot goes through your head waiting to start your first 50 K ski race. “How did I get here? What am I doing? Am I insane?” Those and many other questions prowled the darker recesses of my psyche as I stood under a light snowfall on the frozen Chena River last March at the Sonot Kkaazoot.

Take it from a man who loathed skiing two years ago. There are ways of avoiding this fate.  I offer you a few pointers as a public service for those contemplating entering their first long distance race.

Beware Strangers

I would never have found myself on the river last year if I hadn’t met a sequence of people.

The Kindly Enthusiast:

Every year my wife Julie and I are invited to a large caroling party. While Julie has a lovely voice mine is like a badly trained terrier, likely to wander off, heedless of commands.  My strategy is to stand next to the strongest singer and mime the words. But two years ago I decided it might be better to just sample the Christmas punch and rest my eyes lying down on a distant couch. When I reached the couch though I found someone else had reached it first.

Judging by outward appearances, Bill Husby seems harmless.  He certainly welcomed me cheerily, shifting to make room, and once I settled in we engaged in some polite small talk. It turned out he helped groom the ski trails at Birch Hill. Moreover, it seemed he would then go for a ski after the grooming.

“What, you mean after every grooming?”  I was stupefied.

With a deferential nod he agreed he did.

I was sure I was sitting with one of those crazed, if harmless, people who stand on street corners with placards announcing the Mayan Apocalypse. Yet, there was something infectious about Bill’s enthusiasm for skiing, so I stayed and chatted with him until our wives collected us.

It took several days before I realized Bill wasn’t so benign. Beneath his genial façade lurked the Nordic skiing equivalent of Typhoid Mary. I began slowly to entertain the bizarre thought there might be something to this cross-country skiing. Maybe taking a class in it was worth the money.

The Kindly Instructor:

That was how I found myself a month later in a ski class. It only took the instructor a few classes to spot my problems and show me what to work on.  It took a few more classes for me to fall in love with skiing. It was a revelation. I was St. Paul on the road to Damascus in some Scandinavian Bible.  Instead of tumbling from a horse though, I stayed upright on skis. More than upright, I was kicking and gliding towards Damascus and a voice was saying to me in a Norwegian accent, “Why did you persecute me?”

The Kindly Ski Group

It was a different man who greeted Bill Husby at the next Christmas caroling party.  With soda water in hand I planted myself on the sofa regaling him with my new-found passion.   When I had finally finished Bill innocently asked whether I heard of the SCUM.  He explained the name stood for Susan’s Class of Uncoachable Men. He said they met, more or less casually, on Sunday mornings at Birch Hill to ski and pick up pointers.

Well, I thought, he wasn’t wrong about skiing. It must be a safe group to join.

I was new to Birch Hill when I joined the SCUM the next Sunday. After a jovial introduction to those assembled in the hut, Bill casually announced, “We’re going to do the Blacks, the Blue and the Outhouse today.”

The names should have alerted me.  I spent the next couple of hours screaming as I plummeted down abysses or panting as I slowly herringboned my way back. Luckily the SCUM, like the Army, leaves no one behind.  I finally returned to the ski hut, dazed and exhausted. Bill handed me a cup of coffee.  “See, that wasn’t so bad!”

Oddly, he was right.  While I sat clutching the coffee mug and muttering to myself “Black Hole, Black Hole,” another part of me felt an odd glow of accomplishment. Maybe it was something the SCUM put in their coffee, but I found myself looking forward to the next week. Unlike my earlier expeditions with Julie, I had some technique to fall back on as I hurtled whimpering down a hill.

The Kindly Coach

Also, there is Susan Sugai, affectionately known as Mother SCUM. In the coming weeks she offered pointers on wax, on technique, on training, always pushing me a little past my comfort zone, always willing to answer a question. She explained part of SCUM etiquette included entering races and supporting trail maintenance.

The Moral of the Tale

It turns out the Sonot Kkaazoot wasn’t that bad.  Skiing folks are kindly. For the first 10 km, intentionally or not, Susan acted as a sort of wingman shepherding me along the Chena and into the hills, setting up an easy rhythm for the ski. Once we reached White Bear, she dipped her wings in farewell and engaged her after burners. I never saw her again, but by that time I was fine. Six hours after starting the race I crossed the finish line. Remarkably, I could still move my major muscle groups; I knew my name, where I lived and I could drive myself home. I may have even whistled a tune or two as I thought about the next year’s race.

Happy Birthday to Audun and Donna!

Tomorrow, January 19, 2013 marks the 60th birthday of two former Sonot Kkaazoot champions, Audun Endestad and Donna Hawkins. In the 25 year history of the Sonot Kkaazoot, Audun and Donna are two of only three skiers to win three consecutive Sonot Kkaazoot 50 km events. Perhaps more importantly, both Audun and Donna have shared their love of nordic skiing through years of ski instruction at UAF (for Audun) and years of coaching at Lathrop High School and with much younger skiers through the Junior Nordics and FXC programs (for Donna).

We wish Audun and Donna a very happy birthday and hope they will continue to help skiers in Fairbanks enjoy nordic skiing as much as they do.

Audun, Jonas, & JuraiDonnaPhotos by Sam Lamont.

Training ideas for novice Sonot Kkaazoot participants

For the first time Sonot Kkaazoot participant in Fairbanks, there are classes and training groups to assist you. Kristen Bartecchi Rozell instructs a Sonot preparation class as part of the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks spring series of adult lessons (admin@nscfairbanks.com). Chris Broda (broda@acsalaska.net) meets twice weekly with the Ladies of Leisure (LOL) group, and Susan’s Class of Uncoachable Men (SCUM) meets on Sunday mornings (rhannon54@yahoo.com).

If the weather is too cold, too snowy, too warm, or whatever, there are alternative means of training that will assist your Sonot Kkaazoot performances (and how you feel the day after). Susan Faulkner (shf@alaska.net) is instructing Pilates courses at North Star Ballet, and Denise Jerome teaches core strength as part of the UAF Student Recreation Center group fitness classes (http://www.uaf.edu/draw/src/fitness-classes/) that will strengthen your critical core muscles. Several SCUM (slamont@alaska.net) have become devoted advocates of the Elite Urban Bootcamp sessions (http://www.eliteurbanfitness.com/about-us) for cross training when skiers are time-limited but need to keep up their strength and endurance efforts. Erica Caroll teaches yoga for cross training and stretching out all those tight muscles from skiing at Infinite Yoga of Alaska (http://www.infiniteyogaofak.com/wordpress/).

About the Sonot organizers

For the past 17 years, the SCUM (Susan’s class of uncoachable men) have treated the Sonot Kkaazoot as their “final exam” and reason to ski (regardless of temperature) on Sundays from October to April. When the group first formed, as means for Susan to teach her physical therapist at the time enough about skate skiing so he could rehabilitate her injured shoulder, most of the SCUM were in 40 and over age category. Now the largest cohort are in the 60 and over age category.

After last year’s 25th annual Sonot Kkaazoot, Bad Bob Baker turned over the event organizing to the SCUM. It takes a whole lot of SCUM to replace the Baker family and the Bakers are still very much involved in the event. We thank them for everything they do.

About Sonot Kkaazootphoto by Daniel Baker Photography

——————————————————————————————————————-

Photos of SCUM enjoying the sunshine and fast snow in the 2011 Sonot Kkaazoot (left to right from top to bottom)

Bill (Poles) Husby, groomer and doublepoler extraordinare; Professor Emeritus Frank Soos (also a classic specialist); Bob Moloney (watch out for him on the downhills and flat areas); Dan Johnson (transforms himself to a medic in a moment), NSCF Prez Pat Reinhard (SCUM on snow but even faster on wheels), Bernardo Hernandez (skier-triathlete), and Tobben Spurkland (Nordic dynasty builder and statewide race volunteer) 

IMG_3862IMG_4011

IMG_3958IMG_3996IMG_3905IMG_3694IMG_3571(Photos by Karl Kowalski)