Wednesday Workout: Making a Mountain King with Felicia Gesior

Gabby NaranjaOctober 18, 2017
NMU alumnae Felicia Gesior (far left) and Caitlin Gregg (far right, blue shoes) during a fall training session with the Northern Michigan University (NMU) women’s ski team in 2016. (Courtesy photo)

This week’s Wednesday Workout comes from Central Cross Country (CXC) Team member Felicia Gesior. In her second year with CXC, Gesior, 24, is currently working on coordinating the Bergkönig Trail Run, an annual event that began six years ago to raise money for post-collegiate CXC skiers. Race registration and information can be found here.


Bergkönig. In German, it translates to “mountain king”. In 2011, it translated to the perfect name for the trail run Northern Michigan University (NMU) alums Maria Stuber and Bryan Cook were launching in an effort to fund their ski racing with Central Cross Country (CXC).

Both Stuber and Cook had been brainstorming a name to make the event, with 5- and 10-kilometer races, stand out from others in the mid-eastern Wisconsin area. Intending to email her brother for an outsider’s opinion, Stuber explained she accidentally sent a message to a “random guy” by the name of Thomas Stuber hailing from Germany. Thomas immediately informed Maria that she had the incorrect Stuber, but not before suggesting the trail run be called Bergkönig. In lieu of the erroneous email, the Bergkönig bank account and Bergkönig Trail Run began.

“Our goal was to give back to the local community, raise money for our winters, and create some awareness for the sport,” Stuber explained in an email to FasterSkier. “After a few years it became a big race and we felt fortunate to be able to rely on it for financial support every year.  It was one of the factors that allowed up to keep ski racing as long as we did … something we are really proud of. We didn’t want to see it go away after we were done racing so we kept doing it for a couple years and put the money in a bank account to help future skiers with similar aspirations that needed funding.”

Felicia Geisor (CXC Team) at 2017 U.S. nationals in Soldier Hollow in January. (Courtesy photo)

One of those future skiers included CXC’s Felicia Gesior. Five years after the inaugural Bergkönig, Gesior, originally from Waukesha, Wisconsin, qualified for the 2016 U23 World Skiing Championships in Rasnov, Romania, and the Bergkönig extended its connections beyond Germany and the continental U.S. That year, it granted Gesior a round-trip plane ticket to get her to Romania.

“It was SO COOL for us to be able to send Felicia that check!” Stuber wrote.

This year, Gesior, a 2016 NMU graduate now in her second season with CXC, will be in charge of coordinating the very race that helped her get to U23 Worlds. Proceeds from this race will help cover her travel and ski expenses as well as go toward that “Bergkönig Scholarship Fund that will assist future generations of Wisconsin Skiers pursuing Olympic dreams after college,” the event’s website states.  

Stuber, head nordic coach at the College of St. Scholastica, and Cook have stepped back this fall, though they both plan to drive down from Duluth, Minnesota, for the event. The race is scheduled for Nov. 11 in Delafield, Wisconsin, on the hilly trails of Lapham State Park, a course Gesior, Stuber and Cook all trained on as Peak Nordic skiers in high school.

“Many of the [Peak Nordic] coaches are the same today as they were when I was in high school and they went way above and beyond to support me throughout my entire career,” Stuber noted. “We are all so proud of this place that we would go to great lengths to see Felicia represent us at the highest level of U.S. skiing.”

Felicia Geisor on graduation day at Northern Michigan University in the spring of 2017. (Courtesy photo)

Gesior has been training in Marquette, Michigan, this summer and fall under the guidance of the CXC Team’s new head coach Eliška Hájek Albrigtsen. Most of Gesior’s goals revolve around U.S. SuperTour races and U.S. nationals in January. She views being an American woman on the domestic race circuit as “an exciting time” with “everyone pushing to new levels.”

“Every time I have the opportunity, like at U.S. nationals, to race against those elite girls that’s just excellent because they’re pushing the whole field,” Gesior said on the phone last month.

When she isn’t training, Gesior substitute teaches at local schools in Marquette. The work not only serves as a supplemental income, but also as way for her to stay connected to her post-skiing career — she has a degree in education from NMU. She also plans to help with CXC’s ‘Nordic Rocks’ for Schools program, an initiative that aims to get more youth involved with nordic skiing.

“That’s one of CXC’s major goals is to get Nordic Rocks in more of the schools. My relationship is getting it into Marquette this year,” Gesior explained, adding that the program has donated up to 30 pairs of nordic skis to more than 200 elementary schools.

“Kids can put them on with their snow boots and then they can walk literally from the gym outside to the door … You can imagine all these little kids, it’s hilarious,” she said. “So that’s just another side thing where I can connect my two passions together.”

Beyond training and teaching, the Bergkönig will be the most forthcoming of Gesior’s fall focus, along with the Level 4 ski-walking intervals she recommends as race prep for the Bergkönig trail’s hills. May the best Mountain King win.

The Workout: “Marquette Mountain Repeats”

Type: Level 4 Ski Walking Intervals

The workout should be hard to complete with a focus on an elevated heart rate and mental fortitude. Gesior usually incorporates this workout into her plan towards the end of her summer training cycle and and continues doing it once a week through the fall.

She suggested doing this workout without ski poles to prevent building up too much lactate while climbing.

“The best part about this workout is that you do not get as much lactate build up as you might on a bounding workout because you don’t have poles in your arms,” Gesior wrote in an email. “Instead, you can push your heart without building up too much lactate. This is a good workout during a week that you don’t want to necessarily build lactate but still want to get in a hard effort.”

Terrain: Small alpine hill (should take 4-5 minutes to ascend; Geisor recommends no more than 6 minutes)

Warmup: 20-25 minutes jogging with a couple minutes of Level 3 toward the end of the warmup followed by strides

The set: 5-8 x 4-minute ascents; off time is amount of time it takes to descend the hill

The first 4-minute set should be done at the high end of a Level 3 pace. Each consecutive set should be done slightly faster.

“This workout is an interval ski walking workout so you ski walk up the hill swinging your arms as if you are classic skiing and you should be going at Level 3-plus into Level 4,” Gesior explained.

Cool down: 20-30 minutes easy jogging

Total time: 1.5  to 2 hours

Gesior’s Golden Rules: 

  1. Record; don’t get wrecked. Since each ascent should be faster than the previous one, Gesior indicated that recording times should not be overlooked, nor should going to hard from the start. “It is important to keep track of your times on each interval because you want to have your last ones be faster than your first ones,” she wrote. “You want to do the first one starting in L-3 and then you go for a faster time on each consecutive interval. The majority of the intervals are done in Level 4 and you should strive to push the pass towards the end of each interval as well as the last few intervals in your set.”
  2. Make mental note. Don’t be afraid to use the intervals as practice for pushing past negative thoughts that might pay visit during competitions. “You should be focusing on your mental toughness that you tap into during races,” she wrote. “You should remember to use good ski walking technique in your legs as well as using your arms as if you were striding.”

Gabby Naranja

Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.

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