S- Hello everyone. Here today we have Carly Wynn, Carly what’s your athlete elevator pitch?
C- I’m a semi-pro Nordic skier and a semi-nomadic adventurer.
S- What does being a semi nomadic adventurer entail?
C- I have a couple different home bases, New York where I’m originally from, the Upper Valley where I when to school, and now a third base on the west coast, in Oregon.
S- Tell us what being a semi-professional skier involves.
C- The “semi” part of that is I have some sponsorship, that helps cover some of the costs of ski racing, but I also self-fund myself through my work.
S- How long have you been cross country ski racing for?
C- I started when I was 9 years old and have been racing for 17 years. I raced for Dartmouth College which was how I came to fall in love with in love with the Upper Valley.
S- When did you decide to heavily focus on cross country ski racing?
C- The urge to pursue high level ski racing started in middle school. For me, as with so many young athletes, it started out as the classic Olympic dream, and for a while it was easy to focus on nothing but that. Years later while racing in college I came to question that goal. My whole world just expanded while I was at school, and I discovered all these new things I wanted to have in my life. I needed to come to terms with this: was skiing really something I wanted to commit 100 percent of my life to? When I graduated from college, I had a little bit of an identity crisis and took an entire year away from skiing. I hopped on a plane out to Utah and worked at an alpine resort (Alta). I took a completely different path. Said simply, that was a tough year. But one of the upshots was that my time away from ski racing reminded me how much I love it. So the following year I started racing again.
S- What are the different racing levels for cross country skiing?
C- It starts out with junior programs, then high school racing, then collegiate racing (NCAA), then after college there are options for pro teams, but not a lot of them. There are a lot of races available for casual athletes and “weekend warrior” types, but for someone who wants to keep training seriously and continuing to progress there’s a big gap. The next step up for U.S. athletes beyond NCAA racing is a national racing circuit called the Super Tours, which is the highest level of domestic racing in the U.S. Last year was my first year on this circuit. After my senior year of college which was taken out by illness, my “gap year” at Alta, and a year of racing a local circuit (Eastern Cups in New England) I had to start paving my own path if I wanted to race nationally. It’s not super common, but I’m not the only one who’s done it this way; there are a handful of athletes who gathered their own support system rather than joining an existing team, who have made successful international race careers for themselves. (The next step beyond Super Tours would be World Cups or World Championship teams.)
S- What do you do for work right now besides skiing?
C- I built myself a couple of businesses, one of which is an online coaching business, which I really love. I work with runners and skiers primarily, and other endurance athletes to a lesser extent. You can find me on my website www.enduranceefficacy.com and Instagram @carly3ski. If you're in the Upper Valley Running Club you might also see my responses to the "Ask the Coaches" column in the monthly newsletter.
S- So if I was a runner and called you up what would you say?
C- One of the first things I would ask is tell me a little bit about yourself as a runner. How do you see yourself as an athlete, where are you coming from, where are your going, what’s your “why”? What is the burning question, what are your trying to do with running? How can I support whatever it is you are trying to accomplish? Goals in sports are so variable. Everyone person who comes to the table has different goals, and that’s extremely important to understand as a coach.
S- I don’t run, but maybe talking to you would open that window of opportunity for me.
C- If you’re trying to get into running I would definitely talk to someone who runs. Running is shockingly hard to get into physically. From the outside it seems easy: all you need is sneakers and boom you can run. But it’s easy to get injured because it’s a high impact sport. It’s important to set up the right systems to get you into running, for the longevity of your body.
S- Are there any other sports that you do currently?
C- Outside the world of endurance sports I am really into rock climbing.
S- How often do your train throughout the year?
C- I train most days of the year, the amount of volume and intensity fluctuates depending on the season. Winter is high intensity: a lot of racing, and mid-week intervals. The way to balance training is to drop volume off as intensity increases. Volume and intensity are inversely proportionate as a general rule of thumb. Some weeks of the winter I’m racing 4 out of 8 days. Hours a week can range from 6-7 to as high as 14 – 15 hours in the winter. In May I train 7-10 hours a week, recovering. Highest volume is in the summer, which can be upwards of 20 – 23 hours in peak weeks.
S- So in the summer during your 20-23 hours a week, what are doing for exercise?
C- Well first of all, that’s not every week. Those are the biggest weeks, for me personally. It does vary, even within the sport. About two thirds of my training is roller skiing, then the rest consists of strength training, running, hiking, cycling, and mountain biking. Anything aerobic is good cross training, and anyone who has ever rollerskied understands the importance of not spending every training hour out there on the roller skis...
S- How would you recommend people to get into cross country skiing?
C- It depends on what you want to do. For some people, moving slowly through the woods is the goal, and in that case I’d recommend you get a short pair of wide fish scales, which you don’t have to wax. If you want to spend a lot of that time off the trail, getting ones with metal edges is a good idea as well. If you want to learn to skate ski, it’s important to get the right size skis and boots. On your first skiing adventure go out with someone who knows what they are doing. Skate skiing can be intuitive to people who ice skate or downhill ski, but it can also be amazingly frustrating. The technique is hard to master, and until you have a grasp on it, it can be more work than fun. Patience! I tell people to give it 2 years while you learn. Expect the first year to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. But the second year you will start to feel good on the skis and start to master it. Classic skiing on waxed skis is a whole other animal. I recommend starting out with skating, and talking to someone who knows what they’re doing about getting classic skis, how to wax them, and how to make them kick. It’s a lot harder than skiing on fish-scales (waxless skis).
S- I come from an alpine background and I like skate skiing, but I am terrible at classic skiing. Do you mind telling us some skis you have in your arsenal?
C- I ski on Madshus. I have a lot of skis, primarily because different ski constructions ski better in different snow conditions. Most athletes at an elite level have a dozen or more skis to choose from in their own bag, and often more options at races from their team or supplier.
S- So if I wanted to buy a set, how much do you think I’d be looking at for boots, skis, and poles for mid-level gear?
C- If you were going for skate skis, I’d recommend to most people a race ski construction. Lower level skis are just not as fun to ski on, and when you finally do upgrade to race skis you’ll wish you’d just started there. Save money by getting something used, in the $100-$300 range, as opposed to brand new race skis, which can go for $600-$1000. Poles are one thing you can skimp on, just get yourself something with a grip, a basket, and something that connects them! (Most used Nordic poles will work fine for starting out). But I wouldn’t skimp on boots. I would get a new pair from a store, where you can try them on, which will cost you $150 – $300. In the Upper Valley there’s a fair amount of gear exchange happening on the email listservs, or you can check out the Nordic Skater on Route 5, or Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington.
S- What’s your “why” behind cross-country skiing?
C- Your “why” is critically important! I got a lot of attention as a junior, the word “potential” was thrown around a lot. It kind of diluted my “why” from a really young age, and I feel like that’s a common story among athletes. It’s important to have a “why” that goes beyond reasons like, “I’m good at it,” and, “Coaches say I could go to the Olympics.” It’s important to have an actual heartfelt motivation behind it. As I’ve come to know myself better, I identified an insatiable craving to push myself as far as I can. Not just in skiing, but what can I produce in results and performance in many aspects of life. Skiing is just one part of it.
S- Are there any books that have influenced you athletically?
C- Yes, but they’re both running books! Build Your Running Body, by Pete Magill, is a physiology manual and an awesome book. I have used the principles in this book to help build my ski training plan. The novel Once a Runner, by John L. Parker Jr, really gets into the psychology of what makes people hooked on the sport of running. It speaks to you emotionally.
S- How has a failure set you up for latter success?
C- That’s the story of most athletes: failing to reach goals, facing psychological and physiological challenges, questioning commitment, questioning motivation. Those challenges directed my focus to the question of “why,” and that’s one of the greatest things athletics has given me. It has served me well in the past couple of years as I’ve returned to ski racing, and it’s serving me now as I face another serious physiologic setback. Everything I learn through this sport is an insight into myself as a whole, and everything I learn about myself as a whole helps me handle myself as a skier. You've got to love the process; it’s not just the end result.
S- What’s an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love?
C- I love eating unsweetened baker’s chocolate!
S- What advice would you give to the everyday athlete of New England?
C- Figure out your “why”! Get clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing. Maybe that’s a set of goals for training, maybe it’s performance, or health, or mental health. Get clear on your motivation, and know that there are so many ways to pursue and achieve your goal.
S- What are some bad recommendations to hear in your sport?
C- Not so much that I hear, but one very common unspoken mistake is the tendency to train too hard. Ask yourself if you could talk while you’re working out. A majority of workouts should be at conversational pace. Training doesn’t have to be hard enough to hurt. Training should be comfortable, unless you’re doing intervals.
S- What supplements do you recommend?
C- It varies depending on what your body needs. A lot of endurance athletes, especially women, need an iron supplement. But it’s not something you can know for sure without having blood work done. I love Vitamin D for supporting immune health, especially in the winter time.
S- If you could send a text message out to every winter athlete what would it be?
C- FUN is your top priority when it comes to your sport.
S- Do you have a personal mission statement?
C- It’s all about the process, how today contributes to the bigger picture. I’m in this for the long run.
S- Is there anything else you want to leave us with!?
C- You can read more about my philosophy on life and skiing, or find out more about my coaching program at www.enduranceefficacy.com and Instagram @Carly3ski