Monday, 6 July 2015

A Little Bit of Blod, A Lot of Sweat But No Tears.

I've been home in Scotland for a little over a week now. Just as I came home the warm weather kicked in and it finally started to feel like summer. With it being warmer and a little more humid than normal, training has been a rather sweaty affair. It hasn't been so warm that I've had to adjust my training, but it has been warm enough to notice that I'm drinking a lot more during training and that a feel it on my longest sessions.

My first few days at home were fairly easy, before I went into quite a hard week that I just completed yesterday. I had a two hard sessions and a speed session otherwise my training was fairly easy, but long. It has been fun to get out and train on some of the old routes I trained on when I was younger, although I've also found that things have changed quite a bit. Being in the middle of summer the vegetation has really grown up and a lot of my old training routes are now covered by long grass, gorse bushes and trees. I had a long running session where I ran for over 3 hours. I started out by running over the Clashmac hill before I ran off into the forrest on the back side. Unfortunately the trails I used to run on are no longer really there, as I found out the hard way. This is partly due to the wind farm construction work, and partly due to them being overgrown. I decided to venture off down a path, but found out about halfway along that the path wasn't really there anymore. Of course I continued anyway. By the time I got home my legs were all cut up by gorse bushes, and as a terrible hay fever sufferer, just about my entire body had come up in a rash.

I had one hard running session where I ran a loop in the forrest and I hard session roller skiing. I'd managed to choose quite a good good loop for the running. It started off with a gentle climb before flattening out, then it dropped down a small hill before a final steep climb to the end. To complete the loop i jogged down a steep hill in the break, back to the start. Unfortunately I didn't feel so good running so I had to cut the loop shorter and shorter each time to still make the target of running hard for 5mins. I'm going to run the same intervalls again later this week to check on how I'm getting on. I was a little bit disappointed to have a bad running session as my running had been going pretty well by the end of May and through June. So hopefully when I re run the intervalls things feel better and I get a good hard session.
I did my rollerski intervalls on the only rainy day last week. Although it was cold and I had to fight the wind and rain for the entirety of the session, I managed to log a good 60min level 3 session.

Yesterday I finished the week off with a 6 hour over distance session. During the summer I tend to do an over distance session once every 2 weeks or so. It's a good way to keep my volume up and it's good training for later in the Autumn. Having done a few 6 hour sessions in the summer doing 2 to 3 hour quality sessions in the Autumn should be a breeze. Yesterday I started off with 4 hours of classic roller skiing. I did quite a hilly and long loop, being 68km with 800m of climbing, although all the climbing was int he first half, before I had flatter roads towards the end. When I got home after 4 hours I had a quick break for something to eat and drink before I changed over to my running shoes. I ran for 2 hours at an easy pace. It is a common misconception that a 6 hour session has a big knock on effect to other training session and takes a long time to recover from. But if you do the session properly and keep the pace easy, drink enough and eat enough then I find the recovery quite quick and training properly the next day is no problem.

Although training at home in the summer is good, the best thing about being home this time of year is the food. More specifically, the strawberries. The strawberries have just started ripening this week and nothing beats freshly picked strawberries.
Hopefully the good warm weather continues. It's much easier to have to deal with being a bit warm, that having to try and keep warm and dry. This weeks training is a bit easier again before the British teams summer camp starts on Sunday. We are having a 10 day training camp with half of it here in Huntly and half in Glenmore near Aviemore. 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Blue Extra in June

After the May training camp with team Synnfjell I had a fairly easy training week. I only had one week before I was back on a two week training camp with the British Team. So I needed to make sure I was rested enough to get the most out of the next camp. I kept my training easy and varied and threw in one hard session to keep on top of my harder training. My hard session was 4x10min running with 2min breaks. I ran them with Runar, one of the guys from Team Synnfjell. We ran them on a loop he'd used before, mostly uphill with a  few flats and downs. We cut back down the hill during the breaks. It was a great session, considering it was cold and tanking it down with rain, we both ran pretty well.

An easy week was just what I needed to get ready for the next camp. On the Monday, now two weeks ago, I drove over to Vik on the west coast of Norway. I gave a lift to Sam Cairns, a British biathlete and cross country skier who is also training in Lillehammer. He has been "invited to train" with the British xc team this summer and so was headed to his first camp with the senior team. Apart from a road closure, some confusion with the bluetooth phone system that made us both jump when someone rang me and a slight mishap with the gps, the drive went really quite well. We were the first of the team to get to Vik and so were tasked with buying food for the first lot breakfast, finding the cabin we were staying in and generally getting us sorted. The owner of the cabin had to meet us in town and drive us to the cabin as there is no address for the cabin.
Having no address provided me with a little bit of a problem. I am on ADAMS, an anti doping whereabouts system where I have to give up the address of where I'm staying, where I'm going to be training, my travel plans etc. So I had to update it with directions from the center of town, thankfully it was quite straight forward... "After exactly 7kms from the center of town you will pass a bus stop. 100m beyond the bus stop take a right and at the bottom of the gravel road is the cabin". Nobody turned up to test me, so my direction writing skills didn't get put to the test.
The rest of the team were driving from Oslo airport. They decided/their gps decided to take the most complicated route possible, involving 2 ferry crossings. They made it to the cabin by midnight, long after Sam and I had gone to bed. They had to rely on my directions, and they got there, so they must have been alright.

The cabin was quite luxurious. Approximately 2 meters from Sognefjord, with huge glass windows giving a views up and down the fjord. The deck went right up to the waters edge. Unfortunately the cabin wasn't quite big enough so the coaches had to sleep in the living room. There was also only 1 bathroom, making the whole thing a little cramped. But we managed to make it work well enough for 6 days to have a good training camp.

This year has been a huge year for summer skiing in Norway. So far the spring and early summer have been some of the coldest and wettest on record. Apparently some places in the mountains have more snow now in June than they had at easter in April. At Vik the snow line was around 600m, and we skied at around 100m. The skiing is at the top of a mountain pass where huge snow drifts line the road. The snow depth was estimated at 12m this spring. I don't think there was that much by the time we got there, but there where a few cabins around the ski track which only had their roofs poking out of the snow.

Vik is about quality. The local ski club, who prepare the tracks in the summer, really want teams to come there and train, and train with high quality facilities. They sorted pretty much everything for us, and the guy who pistes the tracks on the mountain rang me every morning to give me an update on the conditions. Unfortunately we only got in 4 ski sessions in the 6 days. 1 day the weather was too bad to go up and another day we planned a strength session instead of skiing as there was a good quality gym in Vik. The afternoons were used for dry land training, as driving up to the mountain twice a day was a bit too much. The snow in the afternoon is also not so good. We had a good rollerski intervall from Vik up the vikafjell mountain pass towards the ski tracks. We had 5x7min skating. I skied the session with Callum, taking it in turns to do the work an push the pace. We kept the pace quite even and quite high throughout the session and I was pleased with the session. I managed to do the entire session in skate 2 or double dance. In a way that acts as over gearing, working a gear that is really too big for the hill. I like doing skate intervals like that where I can get both a hard session and a strength "gearing" session in one.
We also used the rollerski track in Vik to work on double poling. Double poling in the rollerski track is good to work on the small changes and accelerations needed when double poling in a race. Normally we train in the summer a long the road or bike path. These change gradient far to slowly and don't have enough corners and places where we have to acerbate and adjust our technique.

The final hard session in Vik was one of that hardest sessions I've done in a long time. We joined Team Synnfjell, who were also on a training camp in Vik, for a brutal 8x5min "hufsing" or ski bounding session up a gravel road. I've done 6x6 hufsing before but never as much as 8x5. It was a pretty brutal session. Naturally the group split up into several smaller groups during the intervals. I found myself pretty stable in the "front" group. I say front because we were at the front, but we were not the fastest. Rune Malo was going pretty fast, so in the breaks he ran further down the mountain and set him self the goal of catching us back up. Most of the time he caught us up. I suffered a bit on the last 2 intervals and had to let Callum, Mikael and Rune Malo go. I couldn't keep pace with them, but i held of the group behind. Running uphill is by no means my strongest point, so I was pleased with the session, and that I completed another good hard session that I should get some benefit from.

After a gym session on Sunday morning we took the ferry across Songefjorden and drove up to Sognefjellet. We got there early enough to ski in the afternoon. At Sognefjellet we stay up at Sognefjellhytta at 1400m right beside the ski tracks. This is our 4th year in a row of coming here and my 5th sognefjell camp. That afternoon the conditions were really difficult. They hadn't prepared the tracks since the night before, and lots of cold dry snow had blown on top of the track which was wet old snow. It was 0 degrees and pretty much impossible to get good grip. I gave up skiing after an hour and half because there was pretty much no track left and no grip.

The cold weather theme continued and the next day it didn't even get above freezing. Skating in morning was fine, but yet again the track setters at Sognefjell decided to take a break and didn't bother to prep the tracks for the afternoon session. It was prepared at 10pm the night before so by 4pm the classic tracks where full of fresh cold snow or just not there anymore. Even skating in the afternoon wouldn't have been fun with fresh snow drifting across the track. We waxed with som klister covered with Vr45. Ok so it wasn't quite blue extra conditions, but when you are using vr 45 (violet) kick wax in June then you no something is not quite right. We had surprisingly good skis, but I didn't bother skiing for more than 2 hours when the conditions where so poor. Interestingly, even when they don't bother to piste the tracks and don't salt them, you still have to pay as if they had. Seems like a good money making scheme to me.

That night it was forecast to get down to minus 11. The rest of the British team took advantage and did some skate intervals in the morning. I decided to drive down to Fortun and do some intervals with my club, B√¶kkelagets Sk. We did 6x8min with 2min breaks, skate rollerksiing from Fortun up towards Sognefjellet. We got as far up the pass as Turtagr√ł. The club do this intervall session each year as a sort of test to compare from year to year. Last year I got destroyed by 2 juniors, and really didn't ski that fast. This year went a lot better. We came much further up than last year. It was a little bit difficult to tell because of a section of road works we had to be driven across in a break, and because we skied down the mountain in the breaks to try and avoid the road works. But I estimate we were roughly 4min ahead of last year. More importantly no juniors beat me. At the start of the session I didn't feel so great so Sigurd kept the pace up. After the first 2 intervals I felt better and started to help with the pace setting. On the last intervall I managed to drop Sigurd as we came onto a flatter section. It was another good hard session, and it's good to see the progression from last year and that I am going forward, even though it doesn't always feel like it.

Yet again the conditions on the mountain disappointed. That tracks hadn't been prepared for the afternoon session, but this time it wasn't the new cold snow blowing in causing the problem. The sun had finally come out to play and had really softened up the tracks. It was just about bearable to ski, although by the end of the session the tracks were just mush with no classic track left.

Finally by Wednesday the tracks where back to normal, although the salting for the afternoon session was sub par and sub what you expect for Sognefjell, the tracks where actually skiable and able to work properly on technique. I had a good volume day with a 3 hour ski in the morning and a ski and strength session in the afternoon. The following two days the tracks got a bit better and we had 2 hard sessions to finish off the train camp. On the Thursday we had a 10x4min level 3 interval and on the Friday we did 2 times 1 lap of the track. Once at level 3 and once at race pace. Both where pretty good sessions where I could work on my technique at speed and focus on what I had to do.

We were quite a big group for the British Team. We had 4 guys with Callum, Sam, Duncan and me, 2 girls with Anika and Fi and 2 coaches, my dad and Thomas as a coach/waxer. Both Sam and Duncan were at their first Senior team camp. They had a lot to learn and picked up on things pretty fast. I think having them along is good for us "older" athletes too. Although they can't necessarily match us and push us on skis they can challenge us and teach us things in other areas. As us older athletes have been together as a team for so long we have probably become "stale". We probably do things that we don't actually know the reason for, just because we have "always" done them. So to get in some new blood and new ideas into the team is welcoming and refreshing. Although Anika has trained with us in the past she hasn't been with us much before either. She comes from a completely different set up having skied at the American College circuit for a number of years. It is interesting to see all these slightly different approaches to training and recovery and day to day life. I think it is good for the team and there is a lot we can learn from each other. The environment in the team is a bit different to what it has been in the past, but it's exciting and a good/productive environment that stil has me looking forward to the next camp.

On Saturday we had our last ski session of the camp before heading for home. I challenged myself to ski a 50k as fast as possible but still keep level 1/easy skiing. It is a harder session that just going for an easy ski but also good at making me think. The whole time for 3hours I was hunting the fastest way to ski, the best lines to take on the down hills, where I could get the most speed for least effort. It also meant I skied at pretty much the top of my level 1 for 3 hours so I could really focus on my technique and work on the things I'd found out during the week. I ended up skiing 3 hours at 18km per hour average, 54km with 1200m of assent. Which is quite a bit when you think about it.
That afternoon we drove back to Lillehammer and ate dinner together where Sam stays. I then came back to my apartment, my two flat mates had moved out whilst I was away and there was quite literally nothing left in the house. I've now moved apartment down to the basement of the same building. So the last few days have been spent slowly moving my stuff down.

Yesterday I finished off the hard week with a 3hour run. I'd ran so little during the last two weeks as we'd been skiing most days. It was nice to be back out running, but 3 hours was probably a bit much. I was pretty wrecked by the time I got home. When I got home I managed to knock my key from its hiding place down behind a plank that was nailed to outside wall. I had to rip the plank off to get my key back, exposing some insulation. So today was spent buying wood, cutting it, sanding it and painting it. Whilst at the hardware store I bought lots of useful stuff for the new apartment, a spatula, a garlic press, a vegetable knife, a chopping board, a door bell. Tomorrows task is to nail up the new plank of wood over the insulation. After a rest from training today I'm also going to do a gym session tomorrow.

At the end of the week I'm heading back home to Scotland. It's been a while and now I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be good to get a break from being away training, come home and train on some of my old training routes. Every time I come home I surprise my self when loops I used to train on suddenly don't take as long as they did when I was 18. In Norwegian the have a saying "borte bra, men hjemme best". Directly translated it means "away is good, but home is best". I couldn't agree more.