Saturday, 31 March 2012

Spring Cleaning

With the last Alberta Cup of the season taking place tomorrow in Canmore, the season is officially over and it is time to think about spring cleaning. Follow a few easy steps to ensure that your skis are ready and fast come next winter. Below you will find directions for recreational skis and racing skis. 

If your skis have seen a lot of fluoros in the form of powders this winter, follow the racing directions. Otherwise, the recreational directions will do just fine.

Spring skiing means klister and your skis probably look something like this.
... or worse, like this!

Recreational Skis

1. Clean the kick zones. Use a wax remover to ensure that all wax, dirt, hair, leaves, and other material (see above) is removed.

2. Brush the glide zones well with a medium steel or bronze brush (more info on brushes can be found here - Brush)

3. Apply a soft glide wax such as Swix CH 10, Holmenkol Alphamix yellow, Ski*Go yellow, etc. Scape while the wax is still molten and then allow to cool. 

4. Scrape any residual wax from #3 above and then brush with a medium steel or bronze brush. 

5. Apply a slightly harder glide wax such as Swix CH 8, Solda Techno Red, or Ski*Go red, etc. to the glide zones only. Leave the wax on and do not scrape. Do not wax the kick zones of classic skis

6. Cover the kick zones of classic skis with green painter's tape. 

7. Store your skis in a cool location and ensure that your ski ties are snug, but not tight. You do not want your skis to spend the entire summer under load.

Race Skis

1. Clean the kick zones. Use a wax remover to ensure that all wax, dirt, hair, leaves, and other material (see above) is removed.

2. Brush the glide zones well with a medium steel or bronze brush (more info on brushes can be found here - Brush)

3. Apply a soft glide wax such as Swix CH 10, Holmenkol Alphamix yellow, Ski*Go yellow, etc. Scape while the wax is still molten and then allow to cool. 

4. Scrape any residual wax from #3 above and then brush with a medium steel or bronze brush. 

5. Apply a glide wax cleaner (e.g. Swix Glide Wax Cleaner). Note that this is NOT the same as regular wax remover (e.g. Swix Base Cleaner). The glide cleaner will remove the flourocarbons that clog up your skis while leaving the saturating wax intact - this is a good thing and will make your skis absorb wax better and run faster. Regular wax remover WILL dry out your skis - this is a bad thing and will make your skis slowe. If you are not sure which product you have, stop by the shop and we'll be glad to point you in the right direction. 

5a. To apply the glide cleaner:  wipe generously onto the base (glide zones only) with shop towel or fiberlene, scrub back and forth with a nylon brush while still wet, wipe the bases clean and allow to try (~10 minutes), bush the residue away with a fine steel brush.

6. Apply a slightly harder glide wax such as Swix CH 8, Solda Techno Red, or Ski*Go red, etc. to the glide zones only. Leave the wax on and do not scrape. Do not wax the kick zones of classic skis

7. Cover the kick zones of classic skis with green painter's tape. 

8. Store your skis in a cool location and ensure that your ski ties are snug, but not tight. You do not want your skis to spend the entire summer under load.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Fast Trax 2012 Run Team

Fast Trax is pleased to introduce it's Team Program for 2012.

Sponsored Athlete Team
Be inspired by our sponsored athletes and get motivated!
  • Chris Stone - Boston Marathon
  • Stefan Schreiber
  • Brian Torrance - Vancouver Marathon
  • Jonathon Withey
  • Niall McGrath
  • Mark Armstrong
  • Greg Meiklejohn - Facebook draw winner
  • Chantell Widney
  • Annett Kamenz
  • Petra Graen 
  • Shannon Maisano - 10miler & Police Half
  • Angie Kim - Facebook draw winner
Brian and Jack doing battle!

AthleticsNorth Team
AthleticsNorth is designed to provide runners of all abilities a proven training schedule, based on varied interval training, allowing variation in training types and full recovery between workouts. The program helps runners of all abilities make smart training decisions, use better and more efficient workouts, establish good training routines, peak for big events and get the most from their training.
Brian, Warren and Greg ready to do battle!

Junior Athlete Program
Inspired by the dedication and drive of Northern Alberta's Junior Athletes Fast Trax felt the need to offer a program specific to the needs of Junior Athletes. To that end Fast Trax is excited to launch its Junior Athlete Program giving all Northern Alberta Junior Athletes that register on-line for the program a 20% discount year round and access to the shop's extensive shoe selection services. 

Once athletes have registered online with their Athletics Alberta racing licence number the shop will be in touch via email outlining the program and the shop's shoe selection services to help them decide which shoes they need to update based on growth and changing requirements in terms of goal races. Athletes will not be required to run on one brand of shoes they will simply be fit in the equipment that best suite their needs. 
It is going to be an exciting summer of running!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Running technique

In the following article, it's my goal to give you some ideas to help you improve your running form. The bulk of this article comes from information gained from my readings and working on my own technique over the past few years.

Running is a skill that can and should be worked on, on a daily basis. 

How to run
Foot contact should occur on the outside edge of the foot and depending on speed either at the mid-foot or forefoot. The initial contact on the outside of the foot is generally not felt and instead for practical reasons should be thought of as a simple mid/whole foot landing. By hitting forefoot or mid-foot the braking action is minimized. Additionally, the landing should occur in a neutral position(90 degrees to the ground) at the ankle, as that sets up the calf and Achilles for optimal use of elastic energy. (This also protects the Achilles from being strained) Once landing has occurred, it is important to allow the foot to load up. Loading up the foot means allowing it to move through the cycle of initial contact to fully supporting the body. Since initial contact is on the outside of the foot, the support will move inwardly. With forefoot strikers, the heel has to settle back and touch the ground to allow for proper loading. Holding the heel off the ground and staying on the forefoot will not allow for the stretch-reflex on the Achilles-calf complex to occur. 

After the initial loading phase, propulsion starts to occur and the foot begins to come off the ground. The center of pressure should move towards with the big toe before the foot leaves the ground and once the hip is extended, leave the foot alone whereby insuring that the foot acts as one entire unit, allowing for greater forward propulsion coming from the hip, the foot coming along for the ride.

While foot contact is occurring the extension of the hip is where the power comes from, not from pushing with your toes. The hip should be thought to work in a piston like fashion. This speed and degree of hip extension is what will partially control the speed. A stronger hip extension results in more force application and greater speed. Once the hip is extended, the foot will come off the ground and the recovery cycle will begin.

The lower leg will lift off the ground and fold so that it comes close to your buttocks (how close depends on the speed you are running) then pass under your hips with the knee leading. Once the knee has led through, the lower leg will unfold and it is then the runner’s job to put it down underneath them. Ideal landing is close to the center of your body and directly underneath the knee.

Once the knee has cycled through, the lower leg should drop to the ground so that it hits close to under your center of gravity. When foot contact is made, it should be made where the lower leg is 90 degrees to the ground. This puts the foot in an optimal position for force production. The leg does not extend outwards and there is no reaching for the ground. Reaching out so to paw back with the lower leg results in over striding and creates a braking action and simply engages the hamstrings and other muscles to a greater degree than necessary, thus wasting energy. The leg should simply unfold and drop underneath the runner.

The lower and upper body are linked together as one unit. First, you should run with an upright body posture with a very slight lean forward from having a relaxed flexible ankle, and not from the waist. The arms and legs should work in a coordinated fashion. 

The arm swing occurs from the shoulders, so that the shoulders do not turn or sway. It is a simple pendulum like forward and backward motion without shoulder sway or the crossing of the arms in front of your body. 

Summary of Running Form:
1. Body Position - upright, slight lean from ground
2. Feet - as soon as knee comes through, put the foot down underneath you

  • land mid or forefoot underneath knee, close to center of the body
3. Arm stroke - controls rhythm
  • forward and backwards from the shoulder without side to side rotation
4. Hip extension - extend the hip and then leave it alone
5. Rhythm - Control rhythm and speed through arm stroke and hip extension

Changing mechanics:
Running drills have not been that useful for improving my mechanics because they do not replicate the running form, instead running form should be worked on when actually running which is why every run I do I am thinking about my technique, looking for that sweet spot.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nordic Ski Selection

As the ski season winds down each year the various companies present their line ups for the coming season and we place our orders based on what we see and what we think meets with the shops goals and philosophy and this year was no different with one exception.  This season we were given the opportunity to test of each of the products on snow with Salomon presenting their line up in Canmore and Fischer unveiling their line up in Rupholding in conjunction with the Biathlon World Championships.

Our goal as a shop is to fit you with a ski based on your current ski ability but also provide you with the tools and options so that you have the option to choose a ski you can grow into as opposed to purchasing a ski you will become frustrated with shortly after purchase as your technique and Nordic fitness improves.

Having gone through the testing process of skiing with the various models of skis and boots that are in the Salomon and Fischer line up we had one goal in mind, find the best line up for our shop based on our place in the market and the conditions that present us in terms of climate and snow type. From the outset it was an interesting experiment in that each level is designed to meet the specific requirements of a certain skier, in that each model is suited to their technique and Nordic fitness level.

Starting with the Elite 5 / Sportglass in the Fitness category, these models have the feeling of balance and control while skiing with a shorter relaxed stride with only marginal glide, but as you progress as a skier and develop better technique mastering balance and weight shift you will find the skis in this category to glide poorly and are actually harder to ski once you learn to kick and glide.

It should be noted that as a skier just starting out you tend to have poor balance and with poor balance you tend to have a short stride as well with poor balance a beginner skier tends to need a soft flexing ski as their full body weight is not on the ski when kicking.  As a skier becomes more comfortable with technique their balance and weight shift improves allowing them to have a greater percentage of their weight over one ski and as this percentage increases a skier will need a ski with more camber to maintain a ski that glides efficiently.  The quality that makes Nordic skiing so enjoyable is that feeling of gliding effortlessly on a freshly groomed trail and then with a subtle shift in weight one can kick the ski with ease making the camber choice one of the most important characteristics.

Based on this progression in technique, so do the characteristics of each of the different models of skis and boots. As you work your way through the various models the skis change in terms of width, camber qualities and ski construction. An entry level ski is designed with a low soft camber making it easy to kick without complete weight shift, where as a sport model is designed for the skier with better weight shift so to maximize the glide characteristics and then a performance ski gains in torsional stiffness as well as lightness and base quality. With a high end ski, based on stride length and weight shift alone, with full stride you need a ski and boot that is torsionally stiff so that the ski can tolerate higher speeds and the demands of a skier with more aggressive technique.

So while different skis are offered in various price levels based on construction it is not so much that a ski or boot is better just because it is sold at a higher price it is more to do with matching the ski to the skiers needs in terms of current technique and future training and possible racing goals.

Also of note, just because a ski is offered at a higher price it still needs to fit the skier in terms of height, weight and technique. A skier can still have a bad experience on a performance ski if it does not fit properly.

Ski boots follow the same lines, if the boot does not match the skiers needs it can be uncomfortable or unable to provide enough support or warmth. A performance boot while great for an aggressive skier can be too stiff for a less aggressive skier providing a boot that is too stiff with not enough warmth. An entry-level boot is made to be flexible and warm as it is designed to ski with a very relaxed technique with a short stride and a soft kick. A performance boot on the other hand has less insulation, as a skier’s output is much higher.

Going through the line ups provided by Salomon and Fischer and progressing from the Fitness category to the Sport category one can find a ski boot combo that is matched to their needs from the Equipe 5 / SCS models through to the Equipe 10 / RCS models each with different performance characteristics matching stride length, ability to weight shift and strength of the athletes kick.

Another consideration when picking a ski is style, do you have a short powerful kick or do you ski with a longer more stretched out relaxed stride, needing a ski with a softer kick characteristic. This is why the higher end skis come with different flex characteristics giving skier’s soft medium and hard camber options to help fine-tune the selection process even further. As well, when factoring this into the selection process one can look to the manufacturers and how they develop their skis as each of the major ski manufactures provides a different skiing experience. For this we look to an article by Patrick posted earlier this year.

From the testing that I did I found that while there are various levels of skis in the entry level category, when one advances with their technique they are better to move up to the sport category with a Equipe 6 or CRS for instance instead of progressing from the Elite 5 to say an Elite 8 or Superlite skis as the Equipe 6 or CRS models still provide a easy kick and good control but with much nicer gliding characteristics than the higher priced Elite 8 or Superlite models.

Now with time as a skiers technique improves with a greater percentage of weight shift and a more dynamic kick a skier will slowly want to try a ski that provides more camber such as the Equipe 9 or RCR Vasa models. These skis have been designed with glide in mind with materials as such as to keep the pocket off the snow while gliding on one foot while remaining soft enough to kick giving the skier an even more enjoyable skiing experience.

0nce a skier develops their technique and Nordic fitness one can look to the next level of ski such as the Equipe 10 or RCS models matching the ski to the skier’s performance needs.

Based on this philosophy we have set out to give customers the following categories of skis for the coming 2012 / 2013 ski season to choose from.

  • ·      Salomon Elite 5
  • ·      Fischer Sportglass

These two skis are industry leaders and are built for skiers just getting started in the sport of Nordic skiing that have a relaxed stride and ski at the pace reflecting a walk.

  • ·      Salomon Equipe 5, 6, 7 and 8
  • ·      Fischer SC, CRS
  • ·      Madshus Ultrasonic
  • ·      Rossigonal Delta

These models are designed for those progressing in the sport of Nordic skiing and have a slightly longer stride with a more aggressive kick and ski at a pace similar to going for a run with a higher cadence.

  • ·      Equipe 9, 10
  • ·      RCR Vasa, RCS, Carbonlite
  • ·      Madshus Terrasonic, Hypersonic and Nanosonic
  • ·      Rossignol Xium

These models are designed for the skier who has developed their technique to a high level and are starting to incorporate faster paced skiing and train to compete or simply like the feel of a performance ski and the glide characteristics it provides.

There are certainly many more category’s and models on the market but based on our testing these models simplify the selection process and provide our customers the best value for their purchase with a product that suits their skiing style as well as a ski that suits our climate and ski conditions.

At the performance end we are looking into purchasing a new camber testing machine from Europe, the same one used by the Fischer Race Services team to select skis for their athletes and to mark wax pockets even more accurately than we currently do.

In conclusion, we here at the shop are constantly striving to serve our customers better, providing better more efficient service and the best products on the market in their respective categories and we look forward to another great winter.