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Athlete log, Peg Engasser

Editor's note: The following is a running training log kept by Timber competitor Peg Engasser.

July 17, 2004

Great Outdoor Games V is history, and I am proud to say that I brought home a silver medal in the Women's Endurance, and a Bronze in the Team Relay!

Madison, Wisconsin was a great place for the Games, and I felt relaxed before my events. In the quarterfinal round of the Endurance, I must have been nervous on the inside, because my performance was a bit shaky. Then in the second round, I got things together a bit better, but didn't keep the best form in the last segment of the event, the single buck.

In the finals, I was up against the fastest woman in the event. From what I've seen reviewing the race on ESPN this week, Sheree was just better at every event, and brought it all together in winning style. She is a true champion, and I was happy to see her win Great Outdoor Games gold once again. I'm also very happy that she set a new record in the event, because it means that the bar has been raised once again, and we will all get better for it.

That's the best part of sport, for me (well, besides the friendships) — pushing each other to better and better performances, past what we once thought was our best. The future of the sport for us all is bright, and I am grateful to be a part of its development.

So now its back to training, as the Lumberjack World Championships are right around the corner. I learned a lot from watching the other competitors at the Great Outdoor Games, and there are a few things that I know I can incorporate into my performances to make me faster. And I don't mean that I learned from only the Timber athletes. I have learned more about focus from the target shooters. More about patience from the anglers. And more about the joy and freedom of athletics from the awesome dogs!

The folks at ESPN are to be commended for staging a fantastic event. From the medical staff to the guy whose job it was to hold the camera cord, from the cheerful volunteers to the vendors to the businesses in Madison: Thank You! I hope you had as much fun as we did.

Thanks to my friends, near and far, for believing in me. Thanks to my parents, for their constant support. And thanks to you for reading this far.

See you next year at Great Outdoor Games VI!


July 1, 2004

One week from now, I'll be setting up my block in Madison, getting ready for the quarterfinals at Great Outdoor Games V!

I feel as if everything is coming together as far as training goes. Or, maybe I'm just telling myself that. But either way, I feel good, and ready to go next week.

I'll compete this Saturday, then have Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to just fine-tune things. I've had some good advice to take it easy and stay fresh, so I won't push anything too much after Saturday. A few weeks ago, I was trying to settle on a goal for this year's Games. I always perform better when I have a goal, but nothing was clear in my mind about what I wanted to accomplish this year.

I can't just say "win" or "do your best"; that's too vague.

Then this week, I went back to what my goal had been for the first four years I competed at the Great Outdoor Games: "Make it to the second round!"

So, that's the goal again this year, because looking beyond the quarterfinals would be pointless; you have to advance one step at a time, just like you can't start cutting the single sawing part of the event until the underhand is off cleanly. I'm really looking forward to the Great Outdoor Games, even the trip out should be fun with my friend and fellow competitor Dany Boulanger as a traveling companion.

No matter what happens, we will find plenty to laugh about in Madison.

June 21, 2004

Another traveling weekend... we attended the Midwestern Lumberjack Championships in Rochester, Minn., on Saturday and Sunday. It's one of the best contests in the country, and although it takes about 18 hours to drive out, it's worth every mile. Since it is a two-day contest, there is plenty of time for catching up with old friends, and for making new ones.

The wood on Saturday for the qualifying heats was very good. I managed to qualify first in the underhand, and I think 4th in the single buck, with my best sawing time ever. It's still nowhere near what the top sawyers are cutting (I need to knock off several seconds, and we're only talking about a 15-second race), but I was well satisfied with how the cut went. Sunday was a different story, however. In the underhand, the wood was very even for everyone, but it was firmer than on Saturday. I took a long time to cut my front, and probably even longer to cut the back, and I ended up third. In the single buck, I dropped the tip of the saw on one of the first strokes, and stopped it dead. That cost me a lot of time, and I fell to 7th in the placing. So it wasn't a banner weekend, but on the way home I thought about the cuts (must have been somewhere in Ohio), and I don't think I would change much of what I did. I'd just do it faster!

Less than three weeks to go until the Great Outdoor Games. My performance this past weekend will help me focus, since now I know where I stand in relation to some of the other competitors (and frankly, I want to be standing in a different place!). Basically, I will have to cut my very best times to advance. That's the way it should be, and I am getting excited about the challenge.

One last note on the Rochester contest. The first year I competed there, we had trouble finding enough women to make up two heats. This year, there were over 20 women underhand cutters, and even more in the single-handed sawing event. We've come a long way, baby!

Until next time,

June 13, 2004

Got back in this morning at about 4 a.m., after driving home from a contest in Minden, Ontario, yesterday. It was well worth the travel — I had just enough points to win the "Lumberjill of the Day". This year was their 11th annual, maybe 12th, and they have had women's events almost since they started. It was encouraging to see lots of younger women and men — many in their early twenties — competing.

The down side is that I have no desire to train today, I'm just too tired, and we have to be ready for a relatively big contest in Rochester, Minnesota, next weekend. We leave on Thursday afternoon, after work, so this week will be a short one for training. And the Great Outdoor Games are less than one month away! Some days I think I'm in pretty good shape, and I'm ready to go, other days it's harder to convince myself of that. Well, nothing for it but to set my sights on tomorrow, and get some rest tonight.

June 5, 2004

It's June already; the spring is really flying by.

Peg Engasser
Peg Engasser
We competed at the Southeastern World Championships last weekend, in Webster Springs, W.Va. It's about a 10-hour drive for us, even longer for many of the other competitors. The contest is run over 2 days, so we get a chance to relax and catch up with some of the other athletes we haven't seen since last summer.

Webster Springs always feels like the first "official" contest of the season, even though we've had a few other contests already.

My underhand chop in West Virginia was quite sloppy, but I managed to get the block apart just quick enough to win the event. I will really have to cut better at the Great Outdoor Games in July if I am going to advance.

Inaccurate, or "missed" hits, are never a good thing, but in an endurance event like the Great Outdoor Games, they can cost you twice. Not only will you be slower to get the block cut and move on to the next segment, but any extra hits just take more energy that I can't afford to waste.

The good news is that my single-buck technique is getting a little better. I still have a long way to go, but I have always been motivated by positive results, so my second place finish at Webster Springs will help me want to train that event a little bit harder.

On the mental side, I'm beginning to think too much about the results that I want, not about the path I need to take to just compete at my best. I am thinking about outcomes, not about running the race, so I need to work on that a bit.

I have some good books on mental training that I refer to when I start letting my head get the better of me, so I guess its time to crack those open again.

No contest this weekend, but next Friday we're off to Ontario, Canada, for the Minden Timbersport Championships. Hopefully, the black flies won't be too bad!

May 23, 2004

We didn't travel to any competitions this weekend, so there was time to train (and to do all that stuff around the house that we won't have time for in a few weeks... even had time to stop and smell the lilacs).

I cut a couple of underhand blocks on Saturday, and cut them with some pace. I'm still not spanning the axe as well as I should. This means that I'm not covering the wood in two hits, top and bottom. In 11-inch-diameter wood, which is pretty much the standard size for women's events these days, I shouldn't have to go to three hits in the middle of the block (top, middle and bottom). So, I'll keep working on that. Otherwise, the chopping went OK.

I trained on single-buck sawing today, using a different saw than what I will compete with at Great Outdoor Games V. Because our competition saws are very expensive — $1200 and up — we generally don't make many cuts with them, to save the teeth from getting dull. I've had a lot of advice about my sawing since last summer, and I'm trying to put it all together. As with any skill, in sawing you have to take all the advice you get, sift it through the filter of your own experience, and use what works for you.

Back to work tomorrow, but it's a short week, as we leave for the Webster Springs Woodchopping Festival in West Virginia on Thursday evening. We'll drive out to our friend Tim's house after work so he and my husband can practice their two-man sawing, then we'll leave for West Virginia on Friday morning. It's about a 10-hour drive, but a road trip with my husband and Tim is always fun.

May 3, 2004

Spring training has begun for the 2004 woodchopping season! Actually, it didn't really stop for very long … after a pretty good year in 2003, I took most of October and November off from training, then started up again in December.

I traveled to Sydney, Australia, in April as a member of the U.S. National Team, so I had to stay up with my chopping through the winter.

It was a cold winter here in upstate New York, and it was hard to motivate myself to go out to the barn to cut blocks when it was below 20 degrees.

But it was well worth it, as I had steady (although not really fast) cuts in our team races, and we won two out of three against the Aussies and Kiwis. Besides chopping a bit this winter, I also lifted weights at the Groton Fitness Center and swam at the local community college pool. Oh, and I played volleyball with a fun group of folks, mostly co-workers, so winter workouts were quite varied.

Now that the season has begun, I will mostly just practice my events, and throw in some running and bike riding for variety. We had a contest in Bracebridge, Ontario, this past weekend, and things went OK (if you ignore the facts that it was a six-hour drive, one-way, and it rained the entire day).

My underhand chop went well, although I was sloppy with my hits on the backside. Since the underhand is an event at every contest I go to, and since it is part of the Great Outdoor Games Endurance event, it's an event that I have to keep improving.

So I'll work on placing my hits this week when I train, and I'll focus more on accuracy than speed for a while. But in the end, the fastest cut still wins, so I can't leave out speed for too long. We have next weekend off (I do have a rugby game to play in on Saturday), so hopefully the weather will be good, and I'll get some good training work in.

Once the season gets going, the weekends are spent traveling and time to train becomes hard to find.