Monday, 15 December 2014

Davos Disappointment

I raced the world cup sprint in Davos yesterday. Last year I came 29th in the same event, this year I came 58th. When I looked through the race calendar at the start of the season in May, Davos was one of the events that I picked out as a race I could do really well in and I decided to give it a little bit of extra attention. The course suits me well, being fairly flat, with lots of skate 2/double dance and the medium altitude of 1600m suits me well, as I have been to altitude for training camps. 
However when it came to racing I was completely out of shape. I was tired and lethargic all day and never felt comfortable skiing during my warm up or during the race. My technique was all over the place and I never managed to push my self up into my top gear that is needed to go really fast in sprint races. 
It's starting to really annoy me now. I've raced 8 races this year so far. 1 was good, another was acceptable and 6 have been well bellow standard. I can accept not being good at skiing, for example if I had an amazing day and felt awesome but ended up 58th, then it is easy to accept there are 57 people who are better than me. But that's not the case. My form is swinging dramatically from one end to the other. I have some really good training sessions where I ski well and get a lot out of the session. Then the following day I can feel really tired and have no energy and ski really badly. Or as with yesterday, race really badly. 
For me it is a pretty unusual place to be in. Previously I've always started the season off with average results before I slowly build myself into the season. My results are almost always stable, I can't remember the last time I varied as much as I have done over the past few weeks. 
I spent this morning talking to coaches and getting opinions on why this might be happening and how I deal with it. It was pointed out to me that actually yesterdays result wasn't that bad. "If it was a bad day and you were only in 58th then think what you could do on a good day." The general consensus was that I've trained so much during the summer and the autumn that I just need time to recover and let myself get into good shape. I have already reduced my training hours quite a bit for the last few weeks. But it may be that I need a few more weeks with little training before I begin to notice the effects of being well rested. Of course the biggest races of the year aren't until January and February. So at a first glance I may actually be in quite a good situation. The only problem is that it is unknown and I've never really been here before. So who knows what will happen. But for now I'll stick to the plan. 
The start of this season has been quite hectic with lots of races back to back. I thought I was going to be really tired after Lillehammer and with the travel down to Switzerland. But I was pleasantly surprised to find I felt good all of last week. It was the first time so far this season where I've felt like I've fully recovered after a race weekend. I had some really good training sessions despite the limited snow. There was only a 1.3km track of snow at the start of the week. I used the track once and had a good technique and speed session. Otherwise I went to the gym and had some easy running sessions. By Friday they had made a 5km track for the races over the weekend. I had a good hard session going though the sprint track to be used for the race on Sunday. I worked on technique and also tried out some different ways of attacking the hills and corners on the course. Working out where it was important to go all out and where it was important to hold back. All in all it was pretty good training week with a lot of positives. Until Sunday. 
We stayed in an apartment and self catered last week which was pretty good. We had our own space and living room with a small kitchen. We made some pretty good meals. Posy did some baking... although only made healthy things like carrot cake and banana bread... both of which count as 1 of your 5 a day? 
For some reason a few weeks ago I had looked up the rules for the card game Gin Rummy. This lead me to a website where you could play lots of different card games and Yahtzee. I became addicted to some of the card games, and last week I decided to play Yahtzee for the first time. Andrew saw I was playing Yahtzee online over my shoulder and laughed at me and said I had a sad life. Then he decided to check it out and see what it was all about. About 5min later he too was addicted to online Yahtzee, saying "I'll just play one more game", before he proceeded to spend the next hour glued to his phone. Posy found some die in the cupboard at the apartment and we played "non virtual" yahtzee. We had some pretty close games and it is too close to call who is the official team yahtzee champion. 
The world cup should have moved on to France for next weekends races. But due the lack of snow everywhere in Europe it is staying in Davos for an extra week. I have changed my plans and instead of heading to the Alpen Cup in St Ulrich I'm going to have another week here in Davos. Next week the races are a 15k skate and a skate sprint. I'm planning on doing both of them. I'm quite happy I get a second chance at the sprint and hopefully I can put together some better results than I did this week. 
We had to move out of the apartment as it was booked out this week. So we've moved into official team accomadation in a hotel. So far it seems pretty good. Hotels are normally not great as we don't get much living space and live pretty cramped and close to each other. Here the rooms are just standard rooms, but the hotel seems pretty keen to please us. They've already asked us we'd like to eat for our meals and the food seems pretty good. The added bonus is that there is a Ping - Pong table. So the British Nordic ping pong championships will continue. With the absence of Thomas I see my chances of at least a podium spot being quite good. With Andrews terrible thumb injury forcing him to play with his less favoured right hand I may even have an outside chance at winning.

My blog has also been nominated for a "Trespass Blog Award" in the snow sports category. The blog which gets the most votes wins the award. The voting should have gone live today, and is open to the 5th of January. This is the link to the voting page However it doesn't seem to have gone live just yet. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lillehammer - Davos

I raced the world cup in Lillehammer last weekend. The race program was a mini tour with 3 stages all adding up to a total time. I had always planned to skip the last day of the tour and only race on the Friday and Saturday. So for me the plan was a skate sprint and a skate 10k time trial. 

Last year I had started to ski quite well in skate sprints and had two top 30's on world cup. The sprint course in Lillehammer is really hard. It's quite long and there is a lot of climb. I'm also not an out and out sprinter, I can occasionally do ok in distance races. So I thought the long sprint with a lot of climb would fit me quite well and I might even have an edge over the sprinters. However this was not the case. I skied really, really, really badly and ended up way down. So far down I don't even really want to get into it. I haven't really got any idea as to why it went so badly. I didn't have the best of skis. I chose a very fine structure for my race skis which worked well during testing. However it snowed a little bit and compacted down giving the tracks a wet glaze. This might have caused the problem with the skis, but I don't think that is 100% responsible for me skiing badly. 

The following day for the 10k skate was quite different. I was quite sure my form was awful, so tactically I was really careful. The course in Lillehammer is one of the hardest in the world with a long climb about 800m long at the end of the 5k lap. They used the climb last year at Norwegian nationals. I timed the best men in the 30k skiathlon. They took over 3min on the climb, which is a long time. The conditions on Saturday were a little bit different and faster. There was less skate 1/paddling and more skate 2/double dance. So I took it really controlled to make sure I had something  left in the tank for the last time up the climb. I went perhaps too slow at the start and had too much left for the last few k's but not enough distance to make up enough places. I ended up only 1.36 behind the leaders but I lost less than 20 second in the last 2.5k. So almost all my time was lost at the start of the race. It was in fact my best distance race ever. 

Quite as to why my form is swinging so rapidly from my worst day in ages to my best race ever, I don't quite know. I've spoken to my coaches about it and they reckon it is quite normal for the start of the season. I was training a lot right up until the season started and I haven't quite got that out of the system yet. I think by the third week of the season I should be up and running in stable form. Hopefully my form will level out this week and I'll be able to ski fast in Davos and St Ulrich before Christmas. 

I used Sunday to pack and have a long easy ski at Nordseter just outside Lillehammer. After the racing was finished on Sunday all of the British team headed to the Airport and flew to Zurich. We got to Davos in the early hours on Monday morning. On Monday I just had an easy jog around the town. Today I skied for 90min. But there isn't much snow here in Davos or even in central Europe. There is only 1k at the moment but they hope to have 5k open by Friday. They are working pretty hard driving in trucks of snow from snow depots where they have snow cannons working round the clock. Obviously 1k of track isn't enough for an entire world cup circus. So lots of team have headed to Livigno to get some snow time. We decided to stay here as none of us are going to ski that much this week. Tomorrow I'm in the gym, I'm having a rest day on Thursday and I'm skiing again on Friday when the track is up to 5k. 

Here's a few videos from the 10k in Lillehammer last weekend. Both of them are from the long climb at the end of the 5k loop.