Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Testing, Testing

As the summer has come to an end it's time to take a look at how my summer training has gone and make sure I'm headed in the right direction. This means testing. I test myself in various ways throughout the off season to see how my body is responding to training and to check I'm responding to training. This first week in September I'm using to take stock of where I'm at and I'm going to complete 3 tests. The first test is running, the second double poling and the third is skating.

I did the first test today. The last time I ran the test was on the 6th of June so today would give me a real indicator on how my run training has gone during the summer. I have a loop that is 2,2km long and takes roughly 9 to 10min to run at level 3 or a pace I could sustain for an hour. The loop is quite hilly but has some flats and downs as well. The finish is quite a bit higher than the start and I cut back down the hill during the breaks to get back to the start. In June I ran the loop 4 times with 2min breaks. I ran it in 9.54, 9.47, 9.29 and 9.27. Today I ran the loop 5 times with 2min breaks. I ran it in 9.02, 8.59, 8.56, 8.53 and 8.49. As you can see I've had a huge improvement, I'm running 30 to 40 seconds better than my best times from June and my worst time is over 50 seconds faster. My heart rates from each sessions are quite similar but I noted in June that I felt I was having a really good day which is why I pushed the pace on the last 2 intervals. Today didn't feel amazing but I was able to hold a steady and high pace throughout the session. I'm really pleased with the progress and it shows my running is going in the right direction.

I'll do my second test on Friday. It is a double pole test. I double pole for 45min round using a loop on the rollerski track. I have my lap times from the last time I conducted the test at the end of June so I'll be able to compare the results. As I'll be using the rollerski track the effort I'll use will vary quite a bit. On some of the uphills I'll be working quite hard, but then there are flats and downhills where I can catch a breath and gather some energy for the next uphill. The aim is to hold a speed that I can sustain for the entire test so it also works a bit on my pacing and control not to over do it on one hill and loose lots of time on a flat section.

The final test I'm going to do is next Monday. It's a skate rollerski test on the rollerski treadmill in the test lab. The test is expensive and has to be booked long in advanced, so I don't get to do it that often. The last time I did the test was in mid May and the results really weren't that impressive. So I'm hoping they've improved since then.

Other this training has been going quite well. I finished off a good volume week last week, and at the weekend I ran Spåtind opp, an uphill running race that's part of the Tour de Synnfjell. I didn't remember the race being that long, but as it turns out, it is actually just over 9km and has 500m of assent. I held a good pace towards the front of the race through the early part. When we reached the sign that said 6km to the top I felt like death. But I managed to keep an ok pace until the final 500m. I was out sprinted by 2 others in the fight for 4th place and ended up 6th. My time was a little slower that last year but not by much. However, last year it was only 7k. The exact same course had magically grown 2k this year as the organisers used gps to measure the course for the first time. I spoke with someone who has done the race several times and he had always suspected it was bit longer than 7k. It turns out that until this year the kilometer markings had always been guesstimated... leaving you with the magical last km that takes 15min to run.

I'm training a bit less this week. August was a busy month and I need to rest a little bit to make sure I'm fresh for the rest of the Autumn. Although it is only 10 weeks until the season starts there is a lot of important training still to be done. So an easier week now can be beneficial in long run. Next week is another normal week of training in Lillehammer before I head to on a Team Synnfjell training camp the week after. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Toppidrettsveka

I've spent the last week on a training camp with Team Synnfjell. We were training up in Aure, a few hours drive to the west of Trondheim, on the coast. After a few days of training we competed in Toppidrettsveka, a 3 day competition with 3 rollerski races and 1 up hill running race. The first day starts with an uphill running race before a town centre rollerski sprint. The second day is a 15k skiathlon on a rollerski track. The final day is a 15k hunting start through the city centre of Trondheim. The level of competition was pretty high. It was pretty much world cup level. Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, America, Russia, Japan and Great Britain were all represented. And for those countries that weren't there, they got replaced by norwegian club and pro team skiers. Norway only has a quota of 10 at world cup but probably has 30 athletes capable of top results on a good day. So the depth and quality of field was there. It also felt like a world cup with the races being shown on TV and huge crowds lining the courses. On the final day it was estimated that over 30,000 people lined the streets of Trondheim to watch the race.

We drove up to the Møre og Romsdal region on Tuesday morning. We were staying at Statoil Tjelbergodden a 30min drive from Aure in a little village called Kjørsvikbugen. Statoil sponsors Toppidrettsveka and as part of the deal they provide the accommodation for the athletes, organisers and coaches. Tjelbergodden is an oil refinery of some sort and has huge accommodation complex. Apparently the site has to be "calibrated" once a year and this requires a large number of people, but for the rest of the year the accommodation is unused. This meant we all got our own bedroom, shared a tv/living room and ate dinner at the sites canteen. The food at the canteen was pretty good. It's not that normal to be served sirloin stake on a training camp. The canteen was open all day for bread, fruit and cereal, but there were set times for lunch and dinner. It's safe to say nutrition was not a problem on this camp.

After the long 6 hour drive on Tuesday we stretched our legs with a quick run up "fonna opp". We ran the route for the uphill running race in Toppidrettsveka and jogged back down again. It woke us up a bit from having sat in the car all day, and meant we knew what to expect come Thursday morning. The route starts out on a gravel road heading quite steeply up. Eventually it swings onto a path that turns very rocky at the top. By the end you have to run jumping from rock to rock to reach the top. This session was the only session for the entire week that I even bothered to take a T-shirt with me. It just so happens that Toppidrettsveka coincided with a heat wave. The temperature was well up over 20 degrees each day with it reaching 30 at times. Whilst this did make things easier, we didn't need to worry about spare shirts, extra clothes or having enough clothes with us, it did cause other problems. Having enough water with us, having enough sun cream, keeping cool and finding shade turned out to be the biggest problems of the week.

The second day of the camp was fairly easy with a long skate rollerski in the morning and a shorter classic session with some speed work and cornering practice in the afternoon. We roller skied along the coast towards Aure. The roads around there were great for roller skiing, with rolling terrain, smooth roads and very little traffic. It was another hot day, and drinking enough was difficult. We all drank at least 2 water belts during the first session. It's great when the coaching team have a big sports drink dispenser with them in the car. We could stop and fill up when we needed. I did a few speeds and a couple of short efforts in the afternoon to try and get my body ready for competing the next day.

Last Thursday was quite possibly one of the toughest days I've had as a skier. It was long, hot and tiring. We were up and eating breakfast by 7.30, at 9 we were driven to the start of the uphill running race. I knew it was going to be a long day so decided for a short but intensive warm up. I warmed up for 30min and had a couple of fairly long race pace efforts. At 10 we raced the uphill running race. It was a 5k race with 700m of assent. I had a good solid pace throughout the race, but uphill running is far from my strong point so the result wasn't exactly anything to shout about. After coming out of the tree line there was no escaping the sun. The rocks acted like a frying pan and sweat like oil. I'm pretty sure I was making a sizzling sound by the time I reached the top. There was still no escaping the sun at the top. We had to run back down, another 30min in the sun. We were back at Tjelbergodden for a cold shower and lunch by 12. At 1 O'clock we set off for Aure and the town centre classic rollerski sprint. At 2pm we previewed the course before the women started at 2.30. The course was pretty tight with lots of turns. Mostly downhill in the start and uphill back to the finish. The start was done the opposite way round to a normal sprint with the best starting last for the prologue. I was starting at 15.55 ranked 14th in the event. I've gained most of my ranking points in skate sprints. The points system doesn't differentiate between skate and classic so I was starting in amongst some of the best sprinters in the world. In all honestly I was just hoping not to be caught for 10seconds by the person starting behind me. Last year 11 seconds behind the winner was good enough to qualify for the heats, so it was very possible that I would be caught. I had a good warm up and felt ok going into the qualifier, but I was skeptical to how good my form was. I had a good start, but took the middle section to easy thinking I'd need something in the tank for the finish. I don't think it would have made a difference, I was tired anyway and should have pushed on through the middle section of the race. I crossed the line in 21st but was eventually knocked down to 30th to take the final qualifier spot. I was helped by Calle Halfvarsson taking a wrong turn and loosing some time. Petter Northug caught Halfvarsson and got some slipstreaming off him. He went on to win the prologue and was 6.71 seconds ahead of me. So in the end I had nothing to worry about being caught.

As I said I was pretty lucky just to make it through the qualifier and to the quarter final. I knew I wasn't having an amazing day and I didn't think I had a chance at making top 2 in my heat to advance to the semi final. I thought I might be able to squeak a lucky looser spot if the heat was fast. The tempo in my heat was really slow at the start. The opposite of what I needed, as I knew I couldn't out sprint at least 4 of the others to the line. So I used the first corners to make my way to the front. Then I tried to increase the pace. Nobody else wanted a fast pace and I was left dangling at the front and effectively leading out the sprint for the others. I tired a lot at the end and finished 6th in my heat. I probably wasn't having a good enough day to go through to the semi anyway. But it was fun to try going out fast and seeing how long I could hold on. I thought I was also going to get the double barrel of getting the team name on the tv commentary. But NRK messed that one up but completely ignoring my break and when they did mention it they called me American. I am in no way what so ever American, nor was I on a training camp with them for the week before Toppidrettsveka. Apparently NRK has some sort of vendetta against Team Synnfjell. My team mates ¼ final wasn't even shown on tv, he wasn't mentioned in his semi final, he finished 4th in the skiathlon the following day and on Saturday he finished 5th all with no TV time and no mention of his name or the Team name. Both the positions directly in front and behind him did get mentioned and their team sponsors mentioned. I had to wait for my team mates semi final before I could get a lift back to Tjelbeegodden. So it wasn't before 7pm that I was getting home and eating dinner. It was a long day with several hours spent outside in the sun.

I took the evening easy and drank a lot of water and sports drink. The following morning we headed out for our final session at Tjelbergodden, an easy hour of running. I felt like a bus had driven over me and then reversed just to make sure my legs were mangled. After lunch we packed up and drove to Knyken for a 15km rollerski skiathlon race. 7.5km of classic and 7.5km of skate on a rollerski track. I had an ok race. It was pretty tight with 90 guys racing round a narrow rollerski track. My team mate Mikael broke a pole early in the race, I tried to help him out with pacing a little bit in the classic section. But he was in amazing shape and I couldn't keep up with his pace. I dropped off the back of the main group and he surged to the front. I wasn't great on the uphills, everybody was passing me. But the downs and flats felt good. There I was much better than usual in both skating and classic. I went on to finish 37th, only 1.30 off the winners. Mikael went on to finish 4th!
After the race we headed to the athlete hotel in Trondheim. Another hour in the car necking as much sports drink as is humanly possible. The race only took 30min. Its pretty rare to drink during a 30min race. But I took on two quick drinks during the race because of the heat and still felt like a sun dried tomato on the way to the hotel.

We started the final day of competition with an easy 30min recovery run. The final race was a 15km classic hunting start. Using a points system they calculate your time back the winner from the 3 previous events and set you off at your deficit off the winner. The race loop was a 3.7km loop winding through Trondheim city centre and taking in a hill so steep that it has a little elevator at the side for bikes and a downhill so technical they had to lay new tarmac over a curb and pad the walls of houses. It wasn't to be my day. I was starting at the front of the "wave", the group of people who had no points and no top 30's from the previous competitions. I had 1 point from the sprint, so started just in front. But the line I was starting from got held up for some reason. I had start number 55 and ended up starting with numbers 85 and 86. That meant I had to nail the first lap to try and make it over to the main group. One of the French guys set a pretty good pace for me to follow, but we never made the main group. I ended up in group fighting for places from 30th through to 40th. On the final time up the bike lift hill I got dropped. I was about 10 to 20m off the back at the top. I had been skiing the downhill and flats well so I decided to give it all I had on the downhill. I caught the group and used the slipstream to work my way to 2nd in the group of about 15 people. Suddenly my left rollerski started wobbling uncontrollably. I made it to the bottom of the hill and tried to keep going. At the next corner I just about fell as I could hardly get round the corner with my left ski going about all over the place. As it turns out the rubber had pulled away from the centre of the wheel. Meaning the rubber was free to move side to side. I finished the final km double poling on 1 ski. I ended up 51st.

It was a fun weeks training, even if the competitions didn't go that great. There are a few positives and a few negatives. I know what I have to work on for the rest of the summer and Autumn and I'm ready to do the hard work that's needed to perform better in the winter. The hot weather has now cooled off and as my training isn't controlled by TV times and a competitions schedule, I've been able to train pretty well the past few days. This week I have mostly just easy training on the plan with some speed and strength. Next weekend I'm going to run "Spåtind Opp", another uphill running race. Spåtind Opp is part of Tour De Synnfjell, a 3 day competition, but I'm only going to compete in the one uphill running race. Last year I ran pretty well, so hopefully I can get a good hard running session there. My next training camp isn't before the 15th of September. So I'm looking forward to getting a few solid weeks of training in Lillehammer. I haven't really been in one place for more than a week at a time since the start of June, and I'm starting to get bored of living out of a kit bag. So it's great to know I'm going to be in one place for 3 weeks and I can just focus on training.