Cross-country news - 10/4/6
Interview with Simon Heard

This interview was first published in the London Region Nordic Ski Club's magazine in 2005. For more information and to join the LRNSC, please visit their website,

Many thanks to the club's newsletter editor, Veronica Hempel, for permission to reprint the artilce on this website. Simon came 3rd in the 2006 British Championships 15k classic and 2nd in the British Championships 10k pursuit. He was fastest TA skier and biathlete at the 2006 TA Championships.


This edition’s interview is with British Skier Simon Heard…

By Veronica Hempel

Simon recently came second in the New Zealand Male Double Pursuit 5km classic in 00:14:18, and third in the 10km/15km Skate Race with a time of 30:58:68.

For the love of it!

What do you love about cross-country skiing?

SH: The smoothness and flow of it… particularly skating on hard dry snow. I also love Diagonal Stride classic in great scenery on gentle uphills. Just going for miles and miles with no one else around. Not having to queue or sit on lifts… just skiing in the beauty and silence of the woods or mountains. One of the best places I have skied was the Salzkammergut route, near Bad Ischl, with a view of the north side of Ramsau Glacier… high up in the tree line, flying down the trails with magnificent views into the valleys. Crust skiing is good too, especially for speed. Exhilarating.


How long have you been skiing? And how long competitively?

SH: Had my first foray whilst at [Exeter] uni. A week of training then week of competition in Jan 2000. Then same again 2001, but no training in between. I started a job, but quit because it wasn’t what I wanted. I decided to give cross-country and Biathlon a go from April 2002. I bought some rollerskis, went to New Zealand and the rest is history…have been competitive full time ever since.

Sport for choice

Is skiing a sport you have always done or did you do other sports that led into it?

SH: I have done the odd bit of downhill skiing, but would probably never do it again. The boots are too painful! And it just doesn’t compare. My main sport has been shooting… various different forms and calibres at all levels up to international. I also kept fit but did nothing special and wasn’t really part of any sport team. It made sense because of the shooting to take up Biathlon, but I really enjoy the straight cross-country racing and will be doing more and more. I just thought it would be fun to give it a go and get to the Olympics from nowhere in 4 years.


Did you grow up around the snow?

SH: No. Although we once had a good year in North West London…I have photos of me aged 5 in about a foot of snow. I have lived in England all my life… London, Surrey, Hampshire, S. Yorks, Somerset. None of them known for their ski reputation. Besides, I wasn’t interested in it then, other than of course for snowmen and fights.


How do you feel about global warming? Does it impact on your skiing?

SH: I don’t really know. It is difficult to read. I am not convinced there is a pattern yet. I have skied 3 seasons and they have been great, bad, good, and so far, poor this year… But we certainly don’t see snow like we used to (occasionally) when I was a kid in the UK. Is it warming up? Who knows? We are certainly destroying our planet, and one day we will destroy ourselves because of it. The nature of man unfortunately. Too heavy. Sorry! I once had a bad experience in Rovaniemi… on the Arctic Circle. I was there for 5 weeks from the beginning of November. No snow at all. Disaster. Generally, you can ski on tiny amounts of snow… and the top race courses are prepared well.


Was there anyone who was instrumental in your decision to ski competitively?

SH: I skied competitively from the very beginning really. But Jimmy Donaldson has acted as my mentor and advisor from the beginning. I wouldn’t be here without him. He, along with the US Team head coaches, taught me to ski.


How often do you train?

SH: 6 days a week, 3 days off in a row per month, or depending how I feel but never more than twice a day. Longest sessions are… Kayaking, 6hrs; Skiing, 3.5 hrs; running, 2.5 hrs; rollerskiing 2.5 hrs…I listen to my body, and eat as much as I like, but I eat well. Sleep 9hrs plus per night if possible plus a nap in the early pm if I need it.


Does your training programme mostly include rollerskiing or do you do a variety of other sports/activities?

SH: I spend most of my year on snow. I am lucky. I do not rate rollerskiing if you can be on snow. Especially for Brits. If you want to get fast, get on snow and make up for lost time. That said, if rollerskiing is all you have… it is excellent specific training and you should do as much as you can. Just get on snow for the best technique work. I would use any of: Rollerskiing, cycling, running (esp with poles), swimming, gym work with weights, core work, kayaking

but most of all… GET ON SNOW

High Intensity

Is rollerskiing the best training for cross-country skiing off snow?

SH: Yes, but do HIT (high intensity training) running with poles too.


How do you cope with the inevitable fatigue from training?

SH: Sleep, food, listen to your body. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Good friends if you can see them.


What attracts you the most to racing?

SH: Meeting new people and just the competition, enjoying the whole experience. Getting better.

Rollerski Racing

Are you a competitive roller ski racer as well?

SH: No. I am never in the country long enough, and I think I would be terrified of the downhills. Maybe I will give it a go…?

Every Second

What keeps you going in a race (particularly if it’s long!)? What sorts of things go through your mind?

SH: Where I am going to put my next ski, or pole plant… technique the whole time… how hard I need to ski and where… trying to ski as smoothly as possible and not crash. Trying to rest on the downhills and push over the top of the hills. What keeps me going? Energy drinks, the knowledge that the pain will end soon, trying to make every second count.


How could we attract more young people to the sport? Is the competitive edge the key?

SH: Start young and keep it varied. Rollerskiing, and on snow. But you have to have snow. We will never be on a par with the snow nations because our kids will start late, it is expensive, and our ‘selection pyramid’ is too small at the base. If we start with 1000, everyone else starts with 10000 or more. That said we can still be the best we can be, and you never know…You should look for intelligence, the ability to synthesise information quickly, dedication, enthusiasm, a sense of humour, some financial backing, and the ability to sacrifice much. We are playing catch-up with the rest of the world, and our progress must be fast.


What is your ultimate goal with racing?

SH: This year to represent my country at the Olympic Games. Beyond that, depends largely on money, but I hope to place top 30 in Vancouver at the head of a decent British Nordic Team.

My Life

Who are you when you are not racing?

SH: As I said, you sacrifice much. This is my life. I can deal with it as long as I continue to love the skiing. I think a lot. Perhaps I would describe myself as an idealistic realist? I know I will never be able to change the world for the better, but I am still going to try. I have a very supportive family, some great friends in the UK (when I am there!) and a wonderful sister. No girlfriend. Long distance is too hard. But always welcome offers.


Is there a social side to cross-country skiing?

SH: I have been to a few good parties after events, and have met some great people. They are starting to talk to me more now they realise I can actually ski (and I speak their languages), but generally, you say hello one week, and goodbye the next.

Changing the world…

If you could no longer ski what do you think you might end up doing?

SH: Hopefully looking after a lovely family. Teaching French and Spanish (and Russian). I am learning Spanish at the moment, and can speak French and Russian already. That whilst I change the world for the better, of course. And I will keep skiing. Oh, and if you ever need inspiration, buy and read: Pete Vordenberg’s book: Momentum: Chasing the Olympic Dream.

Thanks so much Simon…



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