Mining Mettle


A Company Vision Statement provides direction for a business. My business motto is “Make Work Fun”. If work is fun, then pay is a bonus. I always enjoyed environmental engineering & hydrology, but running my own business really brought out the fun side. No commutes in traffic, no alarm clocks; just work on fun jobs with fun people. Outdoor breaks are part of the job. I can bike to construction inspections, ski to gather hydrology data, even ocean kayak on a recent project. Ski training fits right in to this schedule.

Another eternal vision statement I ponder is…”what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul”. This signifies that total concentration on profit in business may be illusory. A person’s soul or spirit is more important than the most successful business in the world.

Mettle is a synonym for spirit. Skiing brings out the mettle in an individual. The recent winter Olympics displayed the mettle of the athletes. Lindsey Vonn used to ski at the same Minnesota hills I learned on. My favorite local resort was Afton Alps, where Jessie Diggins hails from. Skiing in Alaska means sharing trails with Kikkan Randall & others.

My first ski racing was Alpine. I raced giant slalom (GS) & slalom for the Air Force in Colorado. The exhilaration of high-speed gates was addicting. I was fortunate to race in the Air Force Invitational Ski Meet in Utah a couple times. Training for Alpine skiing included heavy squats in the gym. My dad Bill was a former Mr. Minnesota competitor & dead-lift champ, so this fit right in with my upbringing. Bill was also a downhill skier; I strapped on his skis for my first downhill runs.

My great-grandparents came over from Sweden & Norway, arriving with just resourcefulness & incredible work ethic. They were builders, craftsmen, farmers, gardeners, teachers, & musicians. My grandparents beamed as I recited a prayer in Norwegian, while working on their farm. My Aunt Donna travelled to Färila, Sweden a few years back to research our family name. Eng is a Viking name; the Vikings named England, meaning “meadow-land”. This area has a long history of ski racing. The Vasaloppet is touted as the world’s oldest, longest and biggest cross-country ski race. Long-time Tour of Anchorage racer Jon Lyon tried to talk me into skiing the Vasaloppet with him a few years back. The 90 km race was a daunting prospect.

My love for skiing likely has something to do with my inherited genetic makeup. To be successful in the Tour of Anchorage requires training & honing the individual mettle. I have found my greatest challenge is keeping my weight down. During a race I feel every extra pound decelerating me, especially on the hills. My great-grandparents & grandparents did not have to worry about being overweight. They could eat huge meals with lefse, krumkake, fattigman, & many sweet cookies; their physically active lives kept them trim.


I inherited a love of eating, but found that my waistline pays a heavy toll. But be of good cheer, Nordic skiing is here. I found skiing to be the counterbalance to the weight gain. At the end of my recent Silver medal run my weight was the same as when I was a college lifeguard. Here are my rules for keeping weight off:

I start each day at the Alaska Club lifting weights. Maximizing muscle size burns more calories. My workout resembles more that of Alpine skiing, with heavy squats. This may slow my speed in Nordic skiing, but I like the strength that it gives me for packing a moose out when hunting.

Breakfast is usually my big meal of the day; eaten after my morning workout. A 3 or 4 egg omelette loaded with onions, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms. This is topped with cheddar & Swiss cheese. During the summer I walk out to my garden for fresh spinach, broccoli, or other greens. Working in the garden is similar to yoga- a lot of stretching while picking weeds & late-season slugs. I also find gardening very spiritual, good for honing mettle.

Foods to avoid include beer- the “beer belly” is aptly named. I have found my weight goes up as much as 5 pounds after enjoying two beers. My friend Bruce brews fantastic beer, so I sometimes break this rule & have a glass. I found that red wine does not add weight gain. My favorite snack is red wine & cheese.

White flour & sugar are on the avoidance list. I have found that counting carbs is much more beneficial than counting calories. Complex carbs like my garden-grown Yukon Gold potatoes can be eaten in moderation. My freezer is full of moose, caribou, deer, & salmon- I generally eat this for my final meal of the day, around late afternoon.

I try to do at least one cardio workout every day. If the ski trails are in good shape I take an afternoon ski break to coincide with the sunny time of the dark winter. In the summer I will take my road bike up a mountain road or hike a mountain. Elevation gain is great for a calorie burn. If the weather is bad I go to the Alaska Club for a swim.


Vacation planning includes hiking & swimming destinations. Hawaii means swimming a mile a day + hikes. A week-long hike in the Grand Canyon with full backpack guarantees a 10- pound weight loss, while having a great time. Trips to Europe include hiking the Alps.

I have discovered these disciplines increase my mettle & with a bit of luck I may win a medal.

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