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Hired Gun: I hire a personal coach
April 30, 2002 - By Mike Muha

"Torbjorn Karlsen has decided to increase the number of skiers he is coaching by offering his services to (a few) additional skiers..." (

Those were the magic words. I've been looking for coaching for years, but there has just never been a coaching program near by. I had hoped to get something going with J.D. Downing from XC Oregon - based on the great experience I had at his Spring Camp last year - but he was not in a position to provide long distance coaching. And my experience with a coach during my inline speed skating days clearly showed the value of coaching.

I this article, I'll go over what led to my decision to use a coach. In the next article, I go over costs, caveats, and how the coaching is supposed to work.

Why use a coach?

Why use a coach? To get faster. Here's the long explanation:

Last year, I trained or raced 306 hours over the period of 52 weeks from March 30, 2001 through March 29, 2002. That averages out to 5.9 hours per week (it ranged from 1 hour to a maximum of 9.5 hours in any particular week). I trained as specifically as possible - lots of rollerskiing (54% of my training volume) and running with poles (18% of training volume).

Let's see how I performed during race season. This will lead us to my goals for the new year:


Overall Place Race Performance
Chestnut Valley Freestyle 25 13.9%
Boyne Nordican Classic 14 13.0%
White Pine Stampede Freestyle 55 17.9%
Grand Travers' Classic 24 15.6%
Michigan Cup Marathon Freestyle 20 13.4%
Hanson Hills Classic 17 16.9%

Season Race Performance


Overall, I was 15.1% slower than the average time of the top three finishers in each race. You can see that my races cluster around "good races" and "bad races" - I felt great for the Chestnut Valley, Boyne Nordican, and Michigan Cup Marathon, but not the Grand Travers' (missed the wax and had to doublepole the course), Hanson Hills Classic (had nothing left from the Michigan Cup Marathon the day before), and the White Pine Stampede (I was sick).

Note that you can't determine how well I did by how I placed overall - I placed 14th in one of my best races and 17th in one of my worse. Calculating percentages evens out differences in snow conditions, length of race, type of race (classic or freestyle), and number of racers finishing the race.

(Digression: Use the Race Performance Calculator to determine the race performance percentages for the races you did. End Digression.)

Goal for the new season: Decrease my season race performance average by half, to 7.5%.

So get to the point: Why use a coach?

I figure I'm going to train about the same amount of time this year. To get faster, I won't be increasing my volume much, so I have to train SMARTER. To train smarter, get information from all the best sources. Even better, have one of those sources monitor your training and give you personalized help.

A coach.

Next week: An introduction to Torbjorn Karlsen, why I decide to use him, and what he brings to the table.