In late February, Bend's Sarah Max, a 39-year-old working mother of twins, braved single digit temperatures, massive crowds and 50 kilometers of Nordic ski trails to finish 10th among all the women at the American Birkebeiner, the country's largest Nordic ski race. For context, more than 10,000 others competed in this storied event, which for the 41st year finished in the small Midwestern town of Hayward, Wis.
"I was happy with the race," Max said, nonchalantly. "It was a goal of mine to finish within the top 10." (Another Bend skier, 26-year-old Matt Briggs, finished 25th overall and was the 11th American across the finish line).
Max's accomplishment is undeniably impressive, especially when you consider ski racing—and besting women 15 years her junior—is not her job. Far from: Max is a freelancer and editor-at-large for Oregon magazine, 1859. She also coaches Nordic skiing and her two 11-year-old twins are among her pupils. Max's name may be familiar: She's won the Pole Pedal Paddle an impressive three times, and is likely the fastest female skier in Central Oregon.
So how does she do it? Her training secrets should come as no surprise to those who are closer to 50 than 20—mostly Max trains smarter, but not necessarily harder.
"No junk miles," said Max, who's still undecided as to whether she'll take on the PPP again this year. "I try to have a goal in mind every time I ski." Max quit keeping a training log years ago, though she reckons she still fits in about 10 hours of activity per week. She's added strength training to her weekly regiment and lets the seasons (weather) dictate her recreation. Meaning, when it's warm out, she runs or rides her bike. Come fall she races cyclocross. When it snows, she skis.
"I don't train (specifically) year round for skiing," said Max. "I probably roller skied twice last year. I do whatever sounds fun given the season. It takes the pressure off."
Max is not alone. In fact, she's one of a number of inspirational Central Oregon athletes who let their athletic drive—not their age—dictate their activity level. Below are a few of those locals who inspire. They are not professional athletes, but they are dedicated to keeping mind and body fit and happy. Most importantly, they are all having a damn good time doing so.
Mitch Thompson, 44: hyperbaric technician, paramedic; adventure-crazed endurance freak.
Thompson, tall and lean with a permanent grin plastered across his weathered face, has more energy (and fitness) than most people half his age. He skis more runs in one day than most people will ski all season. An avid cyclist and long-distance runner, Thompson once held the record for running all three Sisters, and Bachelor and Broken Top, in a single day. Last summer the tireless Thomson rode all 79 miles of the North Umpqua River Trail in a single day.
Karen Kenlan, 53: Graphic Designer/Wenzel Coaching cycling coach; cycling fiend.
The frosty single-digit temps during December's Deschutes Brewery Cup, a Bend cyclocross race, did not deter Kenlan. The Bend cyclist excelled on the frozen, slippery course and notched her first win of the 'cross season in the Masters Women 45-plus age group—a sweet victory after a smattering of second- and third-place finishes during the 2013 'cross and mountain bike season.
Bob Woodward, 74: writer, former Bend mayor, mountain bike hall of fame inductee; religious swimmer, mountain biking maniac, member of the "5.8 Climbing Club."
Last summer and fall Woodward and a mountain biking friend covered more than 800 miles of the rarely ridden Skyline Forest trails west of Bend. Last week I met with Woodward over espresso, between his morning swim and his afternoon ride on the Maston trails, which he helped develop and maintain.
Sabine Keagy, 54: yoga instructor, yoga practitioner, nicest person you'll ever meet.
Keagy, one of Central Oregon's most beloved yoga instructors, was introduced to yoga relatively late in life and she didn't begin teaching until 2005. Today, she leads a variety of classes at both Back Bend Yoga and Juniper Swim & Fitness Center. Despite her busy teaching schedule, Keagy's practice has kept her energy up, her body fit and her mind calm—evident by her Zen-like patience with floundering beginners like myself.
Roger Worthington, 53: owner of Worthy Brewing Co., attorney; road cycling fanatic.
"For me, riding has just been therapy," Worthington said. "When I'm feeling jammed or stuck I get on a bike and suddenly I've got clarity." Originally a runner, an injury forced Worthington onto the bike and taught him to adapt. In the decades since he's hardly slowed—at 50, the brewery owner finished second in his age group at the USA Cycling Masters National Championship race in Bend. Recently, and proving it's never too late to teach an old dog a new trick, Worthington has taken up yoga.
Tina Brubaker, 40-something: mom, full-time administrator; full time crusher at 'cross. Brubaker is a lesson in tenacity and perseverance. She participated in Oregon's first cyclocross races in the mid 90s and has been a northwest bike-racing staple for more than two decades. Even though Brubaker works fulltime, the Vanilla Bicycles rider remains one of the fastest female 'cross racers in the region.
Eric Martin, 48: dad, ski coach; arguably fittest father in Bend
Around Bend, Martin, a cyclist and Nordic skier, is as well known for his ego-less attitude as he is for his blistering sprint and terrifyingly large triceps. After finishing second to 26-year-old Matt Briggs at the recent Cascade Crest 30-kilometer Nordic ski race at Mt. Bachelor, Martin proved he's still got it.
Watch out, youngsters!
Great Nordeen Nordic Ski Race (17k and 30k), 7:30 am Saturday, March 15 at Mt. Bachelor. If you've been waiting to jump into a cross-country ski race, this is the one. It's (mostly) all downhill! Participants start at Mt. Bachelor's West Village and finish at Wanoga Sno-Park. Sure, there are some climbs involved, but mostly you'll be clicking off the kilometers as you glide downhill. For more information or to register, visit mbsef.org.
Maston Trails. Take advantage of the warm and wet conditions and ride your mountain bike outside the small community of Tumalo, just miles from downtown Bend. It's an ideal winter riding spot and recent trail work has only made the sandy trails better. Check cotamtb.com for a link to a very useful trail map. Trailhead directions: From Tumalo follow Cline Falls Highway for 4.4 miles, turn right on Newcomb Road, parking lot is one half-mile down on the left.