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Legends of the Fall: Magnussen, Mieto, Jernberg, Svan and Dezolt
By:  Karl Saidla   (2002/09/01)


I guess that my luck lately is not going to inspire me to pop over to the Hull Casino in the hopes of turning the 20 dollars in my wallet into a couple of grand. On Thursday, I became the first XC Ottawa member to injure him/herself on a scooter. An unsighted pothole landed me first on my rear on some rather abrasive pavement, and then in the local emergency room. The next day, while driving around town trying to find a special sling, my normally trustworthy 88 Toyota decided to go off like a Howitzer in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Drive.

It's time, however, to put these troubles behind me and to start searching for a little extra speed for the ski season. Given that I am somewhat incapacitated, and cannot even wash dishes (at least that's what my parents think), the only way I could think of accomplishing this was to involve myself in some thorough research. In the library of Arno Turk, I located a very useful book in this regard, entitled "Training for Nordic Skiing" edited by Dave Prokop, and published in 1974. This work gives detailed insights into the subtleties of training from the likes of Juha Mieto (the famous Finnish Giant), Bill Koch and Thomas Magnussen - all big stars of the greatest (in my opinion) era of cross country ski racing.

The training plan provided by Mr. Magnussen seems particularly well thought out. Therefore, I have decided to follow it with religious zeal as soon as my shoulder heals. The book states that "Magnussen starts skiing in November - five to six hours daily at a steady pace (which is so fast that a normally trained athlete can stay with him for no more than a few kilometers). During the race season he cuts back a little on the distance but increases the pace. For the bulk of the winter, however, he skis up to 40 hours per week, most of it at a fast, steady pace" (Prokop,87).

This strategy is coupled with a healthy dose of discipline. In an interview, when asked how he relaxes, Magnussen replied "I almost never relax, no time for it. I train, work, eat and rest, and train again. The hours that are left over - if there are any, I devote to other sports, like watching soccer" (Prokop, 87).

Similarly, Juha Mieto began his ski training in November. "For two months he skis about 50 kilometres per day slowly and tranquilly. He completes his build up for the competitive season with two weeks hard quality training at the beginning of January. During this two week period, he skis 10km as fast as he can in the morning, and 4x2km as fast as he can in the afternoon (Prokop, 88).

For strength training, I am for the moment inclined turn to the methods of the legendary hard-man from Sweden, Sixten Jernberg, who attributes his phenomenal strength to endless summers of woodcutting. " I was often so tired that I wasn't able to straighten out my back when I was supposed to eat the sandwiches and coffee I had with me. I had to sit doubled up to eat the food " (Prokop 84). Anyone know of remote corner of Gatineau Park that the National Capital Commission wouldn't mind turning into firewood?

Racing itself obviously requires a particular attitude. What might Gunde Svan have to say about this? "You don't compete in ski racing to finish second or third. You compete to win. If I don't win, I feel lousy" (Greenspan 79). A little extreme perhaps. I have a feeling most of us would spend a good part of the winter feeling lousy with this perspective. Perhaps I will have to modify this one a bit. How about, " If I don't win, I will try to clean my room."

What about nutrition? Maurillio DeZolt had a couple of noteworthy thoughts on this. " People wondered how I'd lasted so long. Well, I trained hard and believed in special food and drink, - particularly pasta and a lot of good red wine. It's difficult to say how many glasses I'd drink - and if I told you I would probably get in trouble" (Greenspan 143-144).

Well, I guess I have my fall training plan all together then. Distance training, strength training, the right mental attitude, and good nutrition plan-all based on the advice of some of the Legends of the Fall. See you out there! Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the thinking of an experienced Nordic ski racing coach, but rather, the thoughts of a long-time ski racer daydreaming during a three hour seminar on Public Policy.

Works Cited

Greenspan, Bud. Frozen In Time: The Greatest Moments at the Winter Olympics. General Publishing Group, Santa Monica, 1997.

Nordic World Magazine: Training for Nordic Skiing, Dave Prokop, ed. World Publications, Mountain View, CA, 1976.

Interesting Reading. . .
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