The relationship between upper and lower body strength and double pole performance on flat and inclined terrains using allometric, standard ratio, and absolute scalings, Part 1

When my daughter is pushing her broccoli around, mulling over quitting the soccer team mid-season, I’ll be able to say, “It’s important to finish what you started,” and back it up. 

After chipping away at my sports science master’s degree since 2015, a winding path that has seen six unexpected career changes and required two — while, maybe three depending on how you look at it — moves across the country (in both directions), I finally arrived at the homestretch this summer. There’s more to that backstory — and I don’t blame you for not checking my blog to read everything. Heck, reaching the finish line is a lost art.

I guess that’s what this column is all about. 

After graduating with a music education degree in 2015, my student-teaching experience with 95 middle school flute players convinced me of one thing: maybe I need a backup plan. I applied for a master’s in exercise science from Adams State University that year, tailoring options towards my obvious lifelong obsession with sports. That spring, I spoke with Dr. Tracey Robinson, the head of the physiology department, for the first time upon my acceptance into the program. 

Our bi-annual conversations over the last 7 years inevitably revolve around my dramatic life changes and consequential degree-altering plans as much as my actual research topic: the relationship between strength/weight relationships and double-pole performance in Nordic skiing, a proposal I started fine-tuning in 2017. 

The risk: a lack of available elite cross-country skiers willing to donate time to research. I failed to find participants in the first year. COVID knocked out the next 18 months. Two more new jobs forced graduation date rescheduling. Finally, I scheduled testing with four-time Olympian Andy Newell’s elite team in Bozeman for this July.

The preamble to the finish line was long and winding. The homestretch would be brutal. 

My wife, Christie, 11-month old, Novi, and 2-year-old border collie/German Shepherd Ajee loaded into the sprinter van on a July Sunday morning at 4:00 a.m. I’d dragged my family through this whole marathon … they deserved to witness the end, right? 

After a day of testing, Christie and I envisioned returning through West Yellowstone, the site of our honeymoon in January 2015 (Nordic skier thing …) as a romantic and appropriate celebration. My marriage, after all, had been refined through the fire of this rollercoaster degree, which, now that I’m currently in my real dream job as a sports writer, holds less career-defining weight than ever. 

It’s about following through, though.

With Bozeman 100 miles away, I struck a deer with the van at 10:00 p.m. that night, destroying the radiator and rendering the vehicle useless. After calling state patrol and State Farm, we spent a hot and still night in someone’s field, restlessly turning over our sweaty sheets as the baby cried and we tried to problem solve. 

When your daily driver hits a deer, it’s like having that 100-year-old oak tree blow over in your front yard. It hurts. It’s a hassle. With a sprinter van, it’s more like that same tree blowing over onto your house. Both hurt and hassle are magnified, plus you lose access to your bedroom.  

After wasting hours listening to the automated voices of triple-A and State Farm, state patrollers and busy, impatient mechanics, we secured a tow to a nearby town, Columbus, population 1,800. We rented a car to get me to Bozeman for Tuesday’s testing, which — miraculously — went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about the return home.

On my Wednesday morning run, I stumbled upon two brown bear cubs two miles from my car. I dashed back, avoiding another catastrophe. We heard back from the repair shop — 6-8 days for parts and repair.

On Thursday, we secured a different repair in Billings at a bigger shop. On Friday, the only day a rental car was available to shuttle the Sederquist entourage to Denver, Triple-A was on cue to give us a few more hurdles. The tow could only hold two adults — no baby. I gave all tiers of Triple-A management my best reformed Baptist tirade, which lacked swear words and thus probably any effectiveness. 

Long story longer, we made it to Billings by 8:00 p.m. and spent another 90-degree night in the van with a baby who refused to sleep. This is what life — marriage, kids — is all about.

The next morning, my wife was denied the keys to our rental car because, as Dave Ramsey loyalists, we have never had a credit card. My wife, crying at the counter, with a baby doing the same, moved the helpless checkout desk worker who couldn’t understand the policy but also couldn’t help. Meanwhile, I sat with Ajee in a 95-degree parking lot, waiting. 

After four more hopeless hours of problem-solving, a gracious mom, recognizing our utter desperation and dogged exhaustion, came to the rescue. She accepted our cash for her card on the car, a supreme act of trust. We drove from Billings to DIA. A friend from Leadville pulled her own good Samaritan act and drove all the way to get our entourage from there to the Cloud City. At midnight that night, we arrived in our own bed for the first time in about a week.

The hilarious part is that my return marathon to retrieve the van was even more epic. It involved taking a greyhound buses from Denver to Billings, the final one with four shattered windows, arriving at 3:15 a.m., and then running, ex-convict style (two words which are insanely ironic, but I won’t explain why), 6.2 miles through pitch-black streets, in civilian clothes and with a backpack, to my waiting vehicle….which I then drove 11 hours back to Colorado in 95-degree heat.

My thesis draft due dates always coincided at the worst possible times. Last week, the final, final submission for the 225-page behemoth was on the first day of Birds of Prey coverage and less than a week after I was waking up at 2 a.m. to do World Cup broadcasts. Thanks to hunkering down at the Vail Daily offices and basically sitting in front of a screen all day, I got it done. Tomorrow, I’ll defend my thesis. It’s possible this will be the final academic thing I ever do. Then again, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process, it’s that you should never say never. 

In this race, there’s been few cheerleaders, attention or fun. There’s been a lot of pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and just doing what had to be done — dirt, sweat, frustrations and all. Maybe that’s why finishing is a lost art these days  — because patience and endurance in the face of adversity are, too.

When Novi gets a little older, I can tell her to finish her vegetables, finish her homework and finish the season. And, when she asks why it’s so important, I’ll have a reason or two… 

Or, at least I’ll have a good story. I guess the degree might be worth it in the end.

My Gut Reaction: Americans bounce back at Lillehammer world cup

There’s been a lot of skiing for me the last week. Well, watching skiing and writing about skiing and studying skiing. Not actual skiing.

Between covering the Birds of Prey World Cup (Alpine) and dotting the last few ‘i’s’ and crossing some final ‘t’s on my 225-page double-pole-related thesis, I didn’t get on snow as much as I would have liked to. I was able to watch the delayed broadcasts of the Lillehammer World Cup, and I’d have to say the most exciting part, by far, was watching some protestors try to light the iconic trail on fire.

Meanwhile, the Americans were lighting things on fire …and there’s a nice transition. We tried.

One thing I won’t try, however, is discussing the things which need to be discussed when it comes to those protestors. There’s a lot there, but, for now, I’ll just give some of my winners and losers from the past three days.

Winners:

Diggins – With an interval start win and two more quality showings, I like where Diggins is in terms of the overall globe pursuit. It’s better to be the one hunting at this point, as opposed to dealing with the constant “here’s your yellow bib leader, _____” at every event.

Klaebo – He’s won 22 of his last 24 sprints. The other two? Second-place finishes. Contrast that with our excitement for almost putting two Americans into the final! Hot take: Klaebo’s sprint record is more dominant than Johaug’s distance grip ever was…and it’s a category that’s much, much, much harder to be dominant in. This guy might be the most dominant athlete alive in any sport. (Usain Bolt’s three-peat repeat in the 100, 200, and 4×100 is objectively the standard, in case you were wondering. And I’m not a sprinter, so giving him that mantle is saying a lot).

American staff – If I’m in the media tent, I’d love to inquire of those wearing the rad Kappa jackets what they felt was the key reason for such improved performances in Lillehammer compared to Finland last week. It seemed like we nailed the skis here — so maybe that is just that important? That feels like a sad reality to our sport if it’s true, but, hey whatever…. I also heard there were some illnesses floating around the team – maybe that was the reason for Ruka’s irrelevancy? I don’t know, but kudos to everyone…it certainly made it more exciting to watch.

Kern – I’m starting to like Julia Kern quite a bit, and it isn’t just because I saw the latest Insta reel of her ballin’ on the side of the U.S. wax truck, though, that certainly wins brownie points in the Seder-Skier camp. If she wants to come on our podcast to discuss how basketball translates to xc skiing, that would probably seal the deal. In all seriousness, though, I thought she raced tactically sound in her sprints and is appearing to be more confident in the 10k range, too. Let’s not forget: she’s young! I wonder if she has the potential to be our Tiril Weng. Speaking of Weng: I’m kind of amazed at her form. She is still the overall leader…..did you have that in your fantasy skiing picks? I don’t think so.

The young guns and the old farts – Interesting to see Iver Tildheim Andersen (22) win in his second World Cup race. Also neat to see Didrik Toenseth continue his resurgence with a second-place finish, just 2.8 seconds back. Andersen was 24th in Oslo last year, which means he has a 50% win rate on the World Cup through two races. If I can bring our golden boy back into the picture for a moment, Klaebo also has a 50% win rate…in 104 starts, he’s won 52 times, so there’s that.

Losers:

Andrew Musgrave – Look, I’m the double-pole guy, but Musgrave’s decision to go kick-wax-less might be one — in a World Cup where the distance globe is up for the taking — he really, really, regrets in a month or two. It seems like sometimes he just tries to be different for the sake of being different. Wow, when I word it like that, I feel a special kinship. Never mind …that was totally epic and I have to admit, I do love the guts. I just hope we aren’t coming into Holmenkollen next March with Musgrave like 20 points out of the distance globe wandering what could have been…

Johannes Klaebo – Yeah, he’s a loser this week, too. My question: how sick are you if you can win the sprint at a World Cup? I don’t know, but something’s up here. With all of the news around Klaebo’s decision to altitude train (which, in my opinion, is the right call, but I was never afraid of being too much of a lone wolf on any team I was on… in other words, I’d take my team-chemistry-related actions with a grain of salt) plus his injury drama and the utter dominance every time he’s shown up, I can imagine the vibes in the Norwegian men’s wax room are less than chummy. Did he sit out for some political reason we’ll never know about? Makes me wonder.

The actual reason he’s in my ‘loser’ column, however, has more to do with the missed opportunity by not racing the 20k. In Sunday’s pedestrian mass start, Klaebo could have dictated the race completely. He’s a threat to win — even under the weather – for that reason alone: he controls everything and no one has the guts to try and dethrone him. Further, is it possible that Klaebo at 55% still gets on the podium? I’ll just leave that there.

Jouve: Is this guy alive? What is wrong with the French sprinters right now? 10th in the sprint final is unacceptable.

Well, that’s all for now. I need to try and think of a good email to Letsrun.com so I can try and get mentioned on their podcast for a record-setting third time. I’m basically the Klaebo of Letsrun.com emails.