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Season of David - Part X
By:  David Zylberberg   (2003/07/01)


The followingis the first in a series of weekly articles by the "infamous" David Zylberberg, one of the original members of XC Ottawa. He is the writer of numerous amusing and sometimes controversial articles which have been the subject of much discussion within the Canadian cross-country racing community over the last 8 months. While David does not possess an advanced degree in physiology or sports science, hopefully the articles will be the source of much entertainment while you are putting off work, school, or chores. David's articles will be candid and will not be censored by the editors of XC Ottawa. (At least not usually) Please address your comments and questions directly to David.

This year I decided to spend the months of May-August with my parents in Sudbury because of work and a desire for some variety. As a result, my articles during this time reflect events and people in the City of Greater Sudbury and surrounding areas. In mid-May my brother Joel made some remarks to some friends of his that the two of us would beat them in a local canoe race at the end of June. When he told me about these remarks, I decided that I would do the race with him since it sounded interesting. We are both in good shape and decent paddlers so I thought we would be competitive in the race. Joel kept suggesting that we try to borrow a faster boat. We have a good all-purpose canoe but not one specially designed for racing on lakes, but I thought this would be fine since racing shells are not permitted in the Canoe Marathon. I also made some remarks about how if our boat was slower we would just have to paddle that much faster in order to win.

Earlier this week, I heard it suggested that the sleek 17' boats are 15% faster and allow for more efficient paddling. The race was on Sunday June 29 and we did not do great. We tried hard but were not able to keep up with the lead boats. We ended up finishing about 15% slower than the winners, despite paddling an extra kilometer because the lap lane of the 2 lap race was not properly marked. This makes me think that we were able to paddle as well or slightly better than the leaders but did not have the equipment to compete, and my boasts of just paddling 16% faster did not work because Kerry "Iron Stud" Abols and his partner are strong competitors (I believe they won). This reminded me that sometimes (as much as I don't like the idea) equipment affects race results.

I am a ski racer so I have learned to make sure I am not at these kinds of disadvantage in the winter. I am also lucky that Karhu Volcans are a very good ski and are always either comparable to the best skiis in a race, or themselves the fastest pair, so that I don't lose because of equipment. Also, I am comfortable with my skiis, knowing wax pockets and being cautious that I do not apply grip wax thicker than my pocket is off the ground (if you ever make this mistake the wax (often klister) will drag on the snow as you attempt to glide).

The importance of fast skiis in racing is interesting. Having faster skiis than others will give small time advantages that can become important in final results. They can also be over emphasised and used as an excuse that hides the real weaknesses. Furthermore, the can become a source of stress and obsession on race morning that causes people to forget more important factors, lose races do to anxiety or try to be too perfect and end up ruining good ski preperations. Here is another instance in ski racing where there is a balance that is ideal. In order to race fast, skiis must be competitive and efforts should be made to get the most out of skiis but they cannot compensate for other errors or win races on their own. Races are not won by the person with the fastest skiis but by the person who skiis the fastest. It can be difficult to compete when the difference in skiis is as big as the one I experienced in boats but most of the time skiis and wax do not decide the race. It is important to be prudent and make good decisions about equipment while not becoming obsessive and ignoring other aspects of preparation (like food and sleep).

One final piece of advice. If you are racing and notice that your skiis are slightly slower than others, do not panic and believe your day is done since this is more harmful than the difference in skiis. I hope you all have an enjoyable Canada Day.

Interesting Reading. . .
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