Wednesday Workout: How One Skier Keeps Marathon Race Fit in Portland, Ore.

FasterSkierMarch 27, 2019


This Wednesday Workout comes to us from Harrison Harb; Portland, Oregon denizen. 

HH grew up racing bicycles and xc skis in Hopkinton, NH. He graduated from Stratton Mountain School in 07, and UNH in 2011. H has lived in Portland, Ore. since 2014 where he coaches cyclists and skiers while racing for XC Oregon on skis and River City Bicycles/Bike Law on the bike. 


Portland, Oregon: home of craft beer, mycological diversity, and drizzly, snowless winters. Notice that “a thriving cross-country ski racing scene” is absent from the list. Since moving here from New Hampshire five years ago, and returning to ski racing with XC Oregon after a brief hiatus, I’ve settled into a training groove I find satisfactory in quality despite less than ideal external conditions, and one that I think many city-dweller-ski-racers can likely relate to.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. Although the drive (90 minutes each way) to snow tends to wear one down over an entire season, the snow here–or rather–there, on Mt. Hood, is surprisingly consistent. We usually have our first days skiing at or just before Thanksgiving week, and our last days often as late as May. We also spend much of December kicking on Rode Super Extra Blue, so, it’s good.

I train on average around nine hours per week during the winter months. Most elite skiers would probably say that that’s weekend warrior status, and most true weekend warriors would probably call me a full-time athlete. Nevertheless, as time goes on I find myself more focused on races between 80 and 150 minutes, i.e. marathons of varying lengths. More bang for the buck, perhaps. The thing is, I’m only on snow twice a week. The rest of my hours are split between a rushed combination of short intervals on roller skis, ski-erg (rarely), or bicycle (indoors, on rollers). Not exactly ideal marathon training. What I want to share are a few ideas for making the most of those one or two days on snow per week, and hopefully, ways to keep training fresh, varied, and fun (if training isn’t [our sick version of] fun, the quality probably isn’t super high). I should add: hard! I like to think of the mid-week sessions (rushed intervals priorly mentioned) as my “A” workouts, and these–the hard, on-snow days, as my “A+” workouts. Race simulation is another way of thinking about it. Ideally, I want to come away from sessions like these pretty knackered. So here you go:


  1. Warm up 30-45 minutes easy, building into a steady pace. Then ski for 45 minutes at marathon pace on rolling terrain (as similar to the course you’ll be racing as possible). Take a 5 minute break for water and maybe a little food. Find a long, steady section of trail if possible, and do 2 x 7 minutes of hard climbing. Cool down 45 minutes. (total workout time 2.5+ hrs)
  2. Warm up 30 minutes. Lay out a difficult 10-15 k course and do a time trial on it. Try to make it as similar to a race effort as possible. Take a 10-15 minute break. Warm up for a few minutes then find a steep climb. Do 6 x 1 min full-freaking-gas efforts up it with equal recovery time between them. Cool down for 30 minutes. (total workout time ~2 hrs)
  3. Warm up for 90 minutes building into a steady tempo pace for the last 30 minutes. Try and get right into 2 x 10 minutes full-gas (4 min recovery between efforts), followed by a 6 x 1 minute set (equal recovery), preferably on a climb. Cool down 30 minutes. (total workout time 2.5 hrs)
  4. Warm up/ski steady 60 minutes, continue into another 60 minutes of tempo, continue into another 60 minutes of as hard as you can manage to keep it rolling: in other words, ski it like it’s the last 20 k of a marathon. Cool down 15 minutes. (total workout time ~3 hrs)


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