Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Team Synnfjell

No sooner had I written my last blog than had the weather changed. Last week was my first training camp with Team Synnfjell, the private team I am on this season. The camp was at Gamlestølen, a mountain hotel in the Synnfjell region. I sort of vaguely knew where Gamlestølen is but I wasn't 100% sure and neither google maps or my gps seemed to be able to find the address. As I drove there last Sunday night I began to get a little more concerned. The road became smaller, bumpier and it was clearly getting more and more remote and further away from anything. Eventually the tarmac just stopped and small gravel road lead off into the woods. Pretty much 100% sure I'd drived the wrong way I stopped and called Frank the coach for the team. From my description he reckoned I was going the right way. So I headed off down this gravel track that looked like more like something Colin Mcrae would have driven down than something me in my old Saab should be tackling. Creeping along this gravel road at about 30kph, slaloming around all the pot holes, I started to get even more concerned. 10k had passed and I had seen no signs of Gamlestølen. I was just about to stop and call Frank again when the gravel turned into tarmac and Gamlestølen was there on my right.
The first day of the camp was a miserable day with the first signs of Autumn. It was chucking it down with rain or should I say it was chucking it along with rain, as the rain came nearer horizontal than vertical. Staying on top of the mountain didn't help things much either. It was baltic. All sorts of clothing, that had been hidden away deep in cupboards or draws since last winter, was being pulled out. Rain jackets, waterproof trousers, buffs, hats, headbands, gloves, tights. We looked like we were braving the worst of winter storms as we headed out for our first rollerski session.
I had been told that the downhill from Gamlestølen down to the valley was quite "intense" by one of the skiers on the team but all the others had said it was no problem and was completely fine. The first section of the downhill was ok. It was fast with a few bends but nothing that you had to brake for. It also wasn't so steep so it didn't feel like you picked up so much speed it was dangerous. The wet roads made the corners a bit interesting but we all safely made it down. There was a flat section for a few k's before the final downhill to the valley floor. I'd been told it was steeper but safe.
I've skied with some of the guys on the team before. Runnar is quite a machine at going downhill on rollerskis. He's one of the fastest guys at going downhill that I've trained with. So when we got to the "steep" downhill which I had been told was "safe" I got quite a shock when Runnar in front of me slams on the "snow plough" and brakes. I did my best to brake and it was a good job I did... this supposedly "safe" downhill had a hairpin bend at the bottom. Thankfully we all survived.
After negotiating the downhill we actually had a pretty good session, although cold and wet.
Thankfully it dried out after the first day and we had a few pretty good training days up in the mountains. We had 2 point to point sessions. One where we drove to the other side of the mountain we where living beside and the ran over the mountains back to the cabins. It was good fun although it was a slightly disrupted session. There had been perhaps too much coffee consumed by just about everyone before the session. I had to have a toilet break quite a numerous amount of times, and I wasn't even the worst...
For our other point to point session we drove back across the gravel track and down to the valley floor on the other side of the mountain. The we double poled up a side round to the end of the road, changed into our running shoes and ran across the mountain back to the cabin. It was meant to be a 4 hour session but it became 5 hours as Klemoen, who is from the area proposed a "short cut". His short cut was not very short and we ended up running through bushes before whacking our way through a forrest. All in all to pop out about 2k further down the path.
Because of the way the terrain is there and living at the highest point of all our rollerski sessions, there was a lot of downhill roller skiing. Normally I'm not very good at downhill stuff. I kind of lost my way with it a few years ago both on snow and rollerskis. But on this camp I was starting to pick my confidence up again. On an easy skate session myself, Runnar and Eirik were pushing it on a the first downhill from Gamlestølen. We were slipstreaming each other and passing as close as we could to keep in the slipstream. I had a max speed on my GPS watch of 70km per hour. The final bend of the downhill is the steepest as it descends to a small bridge before the road goes up a small hill at the other side. As we rounded the bend and into the fastest section we saw that the bridge at the bottom was completely covered by a heard of 60 or so sheep.
We didn't really know what to do and tried to brake as best we could, but there is now way we could stop in time. I started dragging my pole tips across the tar to make a screeching noise. I was hoping it was scare the sheep off as I knew I could definitely not stop. The sheep jumped up and began to run. Sheep ran in every direction but the bridge was still blocked. Just in the nick of time the sheep all moved over onto the left hand side of the bridge, leaving a small gap for us to get through on the right. I have to admit, I was pretty shaky afterwards. Hopefully I won't encounter any more wildlife at high speeds.
We had another run in with the local farm life... which appear to just roam the hill side. This time cows. They were standing on the road and heard us coming so decided to run off down the road. It was actually quite comical. Some of the cows had such full udders that as the ran the udders swung side to side. As the udders swung up and hit the cow the sprayed out milk onto the road. It sprayed out in a sort of garden sprinkler fashion... it was rather amusing for us skiing along behind the cows. Eventually the cows ran off to the side and we could continue with our session.

We didn't have any really hard sessions together on the camp. The first part of the camp we trained volume, most days had over 5 hours of training. The last part of the camp, over the weekend that has just gone, we took part in the Tour De Synnfjell. A 3 day competition with a 5k skate rollerski the first day, a 9k uphill running race the second and a 30k uphill triathlon the 3rd. The triathlon had 8k uphill classic rollerski, roughly 15k uphill mountain biking, and roughly 6k undulating road run to finish it off.
The first day we drove half way to the race the rollerskied the rest. We got down to Bruflat the town hosting the race a bit early and the start was delayed. It was raining so I kept skiing to keep warm. I had skied for almost 2 hours before I started the race. We did the race and then we skied back up to the cars. It was a 3 hour session and we had already done a 2 hours session in the morning. It was a pretty tough day and everybody was feeling it by the end. The race went ok for my part. I had a really good start and I was winning by 10 seconds at the half way point, but then I really struggled for the second half and ended up 3rd, 20 seconds behind.
The second day was the uphill running race. My running has progressed a lot recently and I'm really pleased with my running shape this year. The rules for the race were that we had to race with a 2.5kg rucksack, with spare clothes, food and drink for the way down off the mountain. I ran pretty well, I felt good on the gravel road a long the bottom of the mountain. On the first really steep section I got dropped by the front 3. I slowly worked my way back to 3rd place as we climbed up into the fog and rain. I was sitting in 4th with 3rd place runner right in front of me. Nils Magnus from the team caught up to us with about a k to go. At the sign that said "500m to the top" I made a move and tried to sprint for the finish. But the last 500m's are probably the hardest of the whole race. Its rocky and really steep at the top. My sprint reduced to a run, then to a jog.... 3rd place came past me and sprinted off to the finish... then I was reduced to a walk and Nils Magnus came past me. He beat me by 10 seconds... all of which he gained in the last 50m. I was completely wrecked.
The last day was a tough day. The logistical issues of doing a point to point triathlon are quite something. Getting your start number, bike, running shoes and rollerskis in the right place is one thing. Getting all of that in the right place and you to the start and making sure you have enough spaces cars to get home is another thing. By some miracle we pulled it off, and I managed a quick 20min warm up before the start. The pace for the classic section was quite high and I dropped off from the leaders on the first steep uphill. I came into the transition in 3rd on my own. I quickly caught up to 2nd place but I was losing time to the winner all the way during the bike section. Just before the end of the bike section Klemoen caught me and we rode together as we came off the gravel and onto the road for the final few k's. We started the run together, before I pulled away on a small uphill. Klemoen tried to come back across on the final uphill but I held off to finish second, several minutes behind the leader and 20 seconds ahead of Klemoen.
For coming second I won my first ever "big check". I won 2000kr, but sadly I don't get to walk into the bank with the comically big check, they just transfer the money online. I'm only slightly disappointed about this, one of my childhood dreams has been destroyed.
I was pretty tired after the camp. Much more tired than I had expected or planned for. The last two days have mostly been spent asleep or doing nothing. Today I started to feel a bit more normal. I headed out for an easy skate rollerski. The first hour was pretty horrific and I was about to go home early when I started to feel better. By the end I felt even better and almost what I could call normal. So hopefully with a good rest tonight I will be completely back to normal for training tomorrow.
I've also had quite a few comments about the Team Synnfjell colour way. I can't say I chose it or I would chose it myself... but you definitely can't say we are not visible! As Frank put it when he was wearing the new team jacket for the first time "I feel so colourful". And I can confirm, it certainly puts some brightness back into my everyday.

The next camp with Team Synnfjell isn't for a few weeks. So I've got a while at home to train on my own and with the other guys in Lillehammer. I've got a few aims for the training block and hopefully when we get to the next camp we'll see that I'm improving.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Back in Norway

I don't want to sound like that 70 year old man who is always complaining. But I'm starting to get fed up of the heat of summer. I'm secretly looking forward to the Autumn, frosty mornings, wearing tights again and not loosing 5 litres of sweat just when I stand up to walk to the kitchen. Of course Autumn brings added benefits. Like making fun of people for wearing gloves when they are rollerskiing, even though my own fingers are turning blue. And then there are wooly jumpers. Who doesn't like wearing wooly jumpers? And a hat? Sneaking out for a cheeky run with a hat on, or the first morning where you have to use a buff. Autumn is brilliant... no doubt in 6 weeks times I'll be sitting here writing a blog about how crap Autumn is and it is miserable and cold...

Anyway since I got back to Norway it has been really quite warm. Fortunately I escaped the insanely warm period in Norway. I've spoken with a few other skiers and nearly all of them have complained that it got too hot to train in the summer. But it has been really humid the past week. When it is raining but still over 20 degrees it starts to get annoying and simple tasks like drying your clothes takes 3 times as long as normal. Each training session it feels like I loose about 50% of my body weight in sweat. The only break from it is the 5mins of bliss in a cold shower after training. Fortunately the humidity subsided and now it's just warm. A little more bearable.
This summer has also see an unusual amount of thunder storms in Norway. With huge down pours and massive amounts of water. I've done quite a bit of running this past week and nearly all my running routes have been washed out over the summer. It's amazing to see how much power the water has and how much the landscape has changed from a few heavy downpours. From my house I normally run up beside a small stream into the forests. There is a bridge that crosses the stream, or I should say was. The bridge is now on it's side as the small stream turned into a raging torrent and washed away the banks. The stream bed is now as wide as a small river bed but with just a small trickle of water running down the middle. There is a work crew working on the river and fixing the banks as it had began to wash away peoples gardens.
Upp in the forest there is quite a few gravel roads and paths that have been washed out. And a few bridges that are no longer where they should be. But most of the paths are passable and it makes running a little more entertaining.

When I got back to Norway I spent a few days volunteering for my club at the Norway Cup in Oslo, a football tournament which my club hosts. It fit in quite nicely to have an easy week training and do something a bit different. And it was definitely good fun. Hopefully if it fits in next year I'll be able to do something there again. I got a chance to train a little bit and Joakim showed me some of the rollerski routes to the south of Oslo out towards Ski. We had to have a 3 hours rollerski on my first day there for the sole reason that I need 3 more hours to make the 100hour mark for July. I did my best to keep up with Joakim, and I'm pretty sure he was the one setting the pace and making it really quite fast. When we got home he didn't feel so great and had to have a few easy days afterwards because we wasn't feeling so good. I'm pretty sure it was his doing, but I feel a bit guilty that I was with him on the session and made him do 3 hours just so I could get 100 hours!

After a few days in Oslo I came back up to Lillehammer. I've been here for the week and getting back into the swing of training. The first few days after such a light week are really tough. My body gets used to resting and forgets what it's like to train lots. But I quickly got back into it and I've had a few good sessions this week. I went over to Geilo for a day to have a session with Geir Endre. I have a few technical things I want get sorted out before the winter, so we did an interval session focussing on those. Hopefully now I've got the input I needed to go away and work on it to get my technique back to where it should be. Geir is also "in charge" of my skis. This is now our 5th year of working together and he has a huge experience of working with skis. So we had a session going through my skis. Deciding which ones stay and which ones go, which ones I need to test again and what type of new skis I should be looking for this year. All in all I have 18 pairs of race skis at the moment. Most of which have been raced on in the last 2 years. The pairs that haven't got cut, and there a few pairs we weren't 100% happy with so we need to find replacements. I think it's really fun to work with skis and in away it is free speed. A little bit of time and effort now in the summer and I might have much better skis in the winter. It's also an area where I know really very little. I need to have better control over my own skis and I need to learn how different types of skis react to certain types of snow. That way on race days I can make better choices as to which pair I go on. So it was an important thing to do.

On Monday my first camp with Team Synnefjell starts. It should be a good camp and everything is looking for it. Even the weather forecast is a little bit cooler! At the end of the week we have the Tour De Synnfjell 3 day competition. The first day is a 4k skate rollerski race, the second day an 8k uphill running race with a 2.5kg rucksack and the last day is a triathlon with classic rollerskiing, mountain biking and running. I'm dreading the triathlon... my biking so far this year consists of a trip with my mum and the ming midsummer madness... both road biking. My mountain bike has a broken spoke and im pretty sure half the gears don't work. I'll just have to make up for it on the classic and the running.

I read an article online about the predicted longterm weather forecast for Norway. It said it will be warm until november. Which in some ways is perfect... as long as it cools down a little bit so I don't constantly sweat everywhere. The article also said this winter could be extremely cold ;)