Monday, 3 December 2012

Gålå

So this weekend past was BUL-sprinten at Gålå in Norway. The plan was a skate sprint on saturday, and a 30k skiathlon (15k classic and 15k skate) on sunday. I was meant to be going with NTG who i have trained and raced with the past two years. But for them coming from Geilo and with the temperatures forecast right on the limit of what's allowed for racing, they decided not to risk the long trip and the races being cancelled.  So i was a left on my own.  Fortunately team veidekke, the private team that Andrew Musgrave skis for, jumped to the rescue and waxed my skis.
The temperatures on Friday weren't too bad, testing skis and an easy ski went well.  I liked the new stadium and the new course up there. The sprint course had some more twists and turns and more short sharp uphills than before. It was also really wide and should be really fair for skiing in the heats.
The distance courses are similar to before but going in different directions and and in a slightly different order.
At the team captains meeting on friday they explained the cold limits and what they would do if the temperature dropped bellow them. Bellow -15 and windy and the 30k was shortened to 20k, bellow -18 and the 30k was shorted to 20k. Bellow -20 and it was cancelled.
I walked up to the stadium from the hotel an hour before my race start on saturday.  It took me a while to find my start number, being registered as both a nation (GBR) and a club (geilo il) and so my number goes to either the area Buskerud or to GBR, but seeing as i'm the only one from gbr and the buskerud team wasnt there, i was surprised to find it wasnt at the race office.  Eventually i found it, and headed out to start warming up.
My feet got really cold warming up but it started to go over and i didnt notice it.  I collected my race skis and headed to the start.  The start of the race was really shaky and i struggle on the first few corners, before the second half where i skied really well and nailed it all the way to the finnish.  I crossed the line into what i thought was 20th (tjuende and syvende sound alike in norwegian), but actually it was 7th. I ended up in 12th only 2 tenths of a second behind Andrew Musgrave in 11th.  It was a great prologue and i was ready for the heats.
Unfortunately the heat went bad and i finished 6th and 27th overall.
At the team captains meeting that evening things kicked off. Some people want the 30k changed to 20 because of the cold forecast, others wanted the decision to be made on sunday morning. Then it turned into people calling people names, and teams claiming their athletes weren't going to race under certain temperatures and so forth.
On sunday morning the race start was delayed and then cancelled. The coldest temperature i saw was -18,6. But apparently it was as cold as -23 in the race course.
I drove home and had a gym session. Today i had an easy ski up at sjusjøen. It was -21. And officially bloody baltic.  Hopefully the cold snap will pass over soon and things will get back to normal.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

World Cup

Last weekend i did the first world cup of the season in Gaellivari, Sweden.  Gaellivari is a long way north.  So far north i really dont understand how anybody could live there.  They all talk about "the land of the midnight sun". Mostly as a tourist promotion.  But they don't talk about "the land of the midday darkness".  It is dark most of the time, and when it's not dark it's grey.
Luckily this year it wasn't so cold this year.  A period of high humidity and warm weather around freezing or "zero minus", as Kåre like to say, greeted us.
We had a pretty big team with us.  My self and Andrew Musgrave, British head coach Roy Young and Andrews coach from team viedekke, Kåre.  The waxer from team viedekke, who also happens to be Sjur Røthes dad, was waxing for us.
The day before the race i was tired.  I skied for an hour, tested some skis, checked out the course for the next day and then went home and slept.  I hadnt meant to sleep, but i was so tired i couldnt help it.  I was more than a little bit sceptical about the race, seeing as i had been so tired the day before and i had been like that the whole week after Beito.
The World Cup trail in Gaellivari is weird.  There aren't really any big hills.  Nothing that steep, a few longer hills, but nothing out of this world.  The problem is, it means there aren't any long downhills, so you are always working.  And on the few downhills there are, there are really icy sharp bends.  Kåre gave us the advice of "dont get still legs, you WILL fall".  I thought it was a pretty good track, not too hard and quite fun to ski.  Some people agreed with me, others thought it was really hard because it was just up and down all the time.
As we started to test skis on the race day it started snowing, but fortunately there was enough traffic on the course to stop in mounting up and snow slowing down. I started my race in bib number 56, due to the new start system then lesser ranked skiers start between the best ranked skiers.  So i was starting behind Di Genta from Italy and in front of Belov from Russia.  As i came out the start Toni Livers from switzerland was starting his 2nd lap of 3.  I got in behind him and the pace wasn't to fast. In fact it was quite pedestrian.  I stayed behind him even though i felt like i could go past, and sure enough later on i started to feel it, and the pace felt good.  I skied for 1 and half laps behind him, then he pulled off and made me lead for his last half lap.  I skier from sweden on their 1st lap caught me and i skied behind them for the next half lap until Sjur Røthe, who had started 1min 30sec behind me, caught me up.  I jumped in behind him and tried to hold my self there.  He pulled away a little of the half lap, but i ended up crossing the line about 15 seconds behind him, and so 1.45 down in total time.  I knew Sjur was a top 10 candidate if not a podium candidate, so i knew i had done a good race.
I ended up 66th from 96th finishers, 2.17 of the winner.  The race was really tight.  Only 1min would have taken me up to the points (top 30), and a handful of seconds would have moved me up into the top 50's.
I was reasonable happy with my race, but it was far from a perfect race where you cross the line feeling like you couldnt give anymore.  So im pleased i still have something more to go on, and the bodes well for the rest of the season.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Season Start

It's been a few years since i've started the season this early.  Last year there wasn't any snow, the year before that i had a broken hand, and so we have to go back 3 years to when i last started racing in November.
This year i felt i had prepared pretty well to start racing early.  After our altitude camp in Italy I came home for a few days before driving over the 3 mountain passes to Geilo. There is snow here in Lillehammer, but the ski tracks are 30min away as there isn't yet enough snow for the tracks in the town.  In Geilo the tracks are there and i could ski twice a day without having to spend 2 hours sat in car. The idea of going to Geilo was to work on technique get some snow time and some good interval sessions where a coach could watch me and check on technique.
The "camp" in Geilo went pretty well.  I had 3 hard sessions.  An interval with the ski gymnas and getting technique tips from Steinar Mundahl, the norwegian technique guru.  After that i had an interval with Geir Endre, my coach. Although he stopped competing some years ago he is still extremely fit and always keeps up in test races and intervals.  He had no chance in these intervals.  I dropped him on the first one, and he resorted to taking short cuts.  I got a few good things to work on for my technique but sorted them pretty quickly.
The last hard session was a 7.5k classic + 7.5k skate, mass start, skiathlon with the ski gymnas.  I kept up with the leaders in the classic but i wasn't feeling too good.  Then we changed to skate and i slowly pulled away to win by 15 seconds.  An ok test race.

After a week in Geilo i drove back over the last mountain pass to Beitostølen. Here i met up with my dad.  Our "small" apartment we had for the weekend was very small!  What i would call a large single bed, a bathroom and a small kitchenette.  You had to eat whilst sitting in bed.  And we were sharing the bed.  After getting over the living arrangements i had a good easy ski on Thursday morning to check the track out for the next 3 days.
The next day i had a late start so took it easy all morning, before walking down to the stadium an hour before my start.  I tested skis and warmed up for 45min.  Geir Endre waxed for us this weekend, he is originally from Beitostølen, and knows the snow there pretty well and did a job on the skis.
I headed to the start and got asked if i wanted an interview.  I said not really but with 1min left before my start the tv cameras fixed on me and a microphone shoved in my face.  I spurted out a few words in norwegian... but it wasn't the funnest experience with only a few seconds left before i was meant to start.
Being a time trial, the worst skiers should start first, and i was placed right in the middle of the field.  I set off to a steady first lap.  The plan was two steady laps of 5k and a hard last lap as people tired and i could make a lot of time. The feed back of the crowd and coaches was good.  It's nice to race in Norway where i know a lot of people, when people cheer you by name and every coach gives you splits.  It's always cool to get a split from Roar Hjelmeset, the Norwegian womens sprint team coach.  He loves to practice his english, and runs along the side saying "come oan androoo, you make a gooood race. top 15 now". He is possibly the most enthusiastic, the others stand still and call out my position or time off the leader.
I came to the bottom of "the big hill" on the last lap feeling pretty fresh and ready to give it beans to the finish as i had planned.  The i started going up the hill.  I was a lot more tired than i had thought.  In fact i was wrecked.  I stumbled around to the finish.  I ended up 47th, 2mins 30 seconds from the winner.  The position was ok and i beat quite a few good skiers, but i think i was quite a long way back off the winner.
Saturdays classic sprint was an ok race for me.  I failed to qualify, mainly because i went on traditional classic skis with kick wax, but i should have gone on skate skis and double poled.  Of those that went on kick wax i was quite high up.  But we learned a lesson for next time.
Sundays 15k classic was just another classic race for me.  We had 4 pairs of skis to test. We decided to drop the "hairy" skis because it had stopped snowing.  Then i had one soft pair with just stick wax, one with a little klister (glue wax) and mostly stick wax and one that was mostly klister with a little stick.
Everything was working and working well.  But i went on the middle pair.  It was a bit of a mistake.  The skis were really stiff to give good clearance for when they are waxed with klister.  But we didnt have much klister on the skis.  So when i got tired or careless with my technique i slipped and had no kick.  However i still had a reasonable result.  65th, 2min 50 from the winner and only 30 seconds up to the top 20! It was a close race and only a few seconds made a big difference.  That's how it is in ski racing now.  There isn't space for any mistakes.
My drought of good classic races continues.  I think my last really good classic race was Lygna last new year. So there is stuff to work on there and hopefully i will get back into it soon. It's not that i even go the slowly in classic... it's just it doesnt feel right and doesnt feel like everything is clicking together.

Now i have a few easy days and one hard session before i fly up to the north of sweden from the first world cup of the season a 15k skate time trial.  I'm looking forward to it and hope i can improve on fridays race.  It's going to be dark... but fun.


Friday, 26 October 2012

100 blogs in 1


My computer is back, and fixed so i am getting round to writing a blog, which will actually be about 50 blogs with in a blog.  

A couple of weeks ago now i had a hard week of training, really high hours and lots of intensity sessions.  This also coincided with my computer breaking and our internet and tv being cut off.  I pretty much ate slept and training or walked about the place like a zombie.  By the end of the week it didn't matter that the tv was broken, i found my self switching it on and staring at the blank screen for 5mins before i realised there was nothing happening.  It is fair to say i was tired.  I also found myself sitting on the loo, in a sort of half asleep half awake daze, before asking myself what i was doing there. 
And so we have established i was rather tired by the end of the week, so lets have a look why…  Firstly it was the week after the team lillehammer training camp i'd been on.  I had decided to just continue with hard training for the rest of the following week so it was actually an 11 day hard block instead of the usual 7.  The day after the camp i headed out for an interval session, 5x7 skate level 3 with some level 4 at the end.  It was a miserable morning, foggy, rainy and generally scottish.  I skied up towards Lismarka, and after the first interval i escaped the fogg and popped out into a sunny autumn morning.  The intervals went reasonably well, but that was besides the point.  I remember thinking, this autumn has been amazing, in weather terms.  Last year i was out rollerskiing in minus temperatures, in rain, in wind, in snow, in sleep and with cars obliviously  rushing past me.  This year had been cool and autumn like, but mostly sunny.  I can count the number of days i would have rather stayed inside on one hand.  
The following day had a couple of long easy sessions, and i logged over 6 hours of training.  The day after i was back at it though. A sprint session with "team lillehammer".  Only one member of team lillehammer could make it.  The others were both away hunting.  I had assembled a motley crew a few days before, sending text messages like fury, and replying at record speed. (yes with in 10mins is record speed for me).  My texting in a foreign language has progressed to a level it probably exceeds my texting in english. Anyway i group of 5 guys came a long.  Timo Bakken, from team lillehammer, Markus Westgård from the sprint team, team Jobzone.  Sindre Palm, Svein halvor Dahl and myself.
The order of the day was to run 2 prologues, and then 3 heats.  The first prologue was close with everyone with in a few seconds.  The second prologue i lost the tip on my ski pole and continued to use it before managing to break it and finished with one pole.  I sprinted 3k to the other side of the roller ski track where i had parked my car in the free parking (i am scottish you know), and the sprinted back with a spare pole to get ready for the first heat.  I made it just as they were lining up for the start.  
The heat went on the most part really badly.  I ended up last out the start and last all the way round until the final up hill. Where a gap kindly opened and i took it and ended up winning the heat.  So having only skied the last 30 seconds of the thing with any meaning i had ended up in a rather good position.  
This was also one the days i could count on one hand that i would rather stay at home.  It just so happened that the way the trail and wind and rain worked, being last out the start was really advantages and only the last hill into the stadium had any meaning.  
The coach running the session changed the start, as i had one the first heat i started further back.  And so i was last out the start every time, and so came last into the final hill, could pick a gap and so won every heat.  
The next few days saw some more long hours and a tough strength session…. I sat and watched the Austrian Luge team training in the gym, it was tough enough just to watch them.  
On the Saturday i was going out to have some bounding intervals, with my house mate Thomas, Markus and Time who had been at the sprint session. The plan was 6x5min.  We arrived at Haffjell carpark to see lots of other cars there at 9 on a saturday morning. We thought it a bit strange.  Got out the car to realised everybody else was a cross country skier.  There where 4 or 5 groups of various numbers of people who without planning had all randomly turned up together to do the same thing.  The session was changed to 7x6 so all were in agreement, with 2min breaks.  It total there was about a group of 40 people ranging from 16 year old school kids to Norwegian national team members, or ex team members, such as Sjur Røthe and Roger Djupvik. 
The session went ok, but it killed me off.  I was finished after that.  42 is of course the answer to life the universe and everything… but i pretty much convinced it is not the answer to interval training.
The following week was really easy, and then i cam here, to Italy.  To Val Senales or Maso Corto to be exact.  I'm here with the British team, although there is only 3 of us, for 3 weeks.  The hotel, at 2050m, provides a view down the the valley and up the cliff face to the glacier where Otzi the ice man was discovered.  It is also this glacier where we go skiing most mornings.  
Having arrived in a snow storm and having got out and pushed the car, with summer tyres, up the last 100m to the hotel (no british training camp is complete without pushing a van/car) the glacier provided next to perfect skiing conditions.  Blue extra, in October! However this was really of no importance to me as the first few days i seemed to use all my energy chasing around the one molecule of Oxygen everybody else was chasing as well.  Luckily i survived, finding just enough Oxygen to get up to the 3500m ski track, do a session/waddle on skis and back down to the hotel.  Even at the hotel things like walking up the stairs hurt.  I take the lift every time… probably why i don't win ski races.  
There have been a bundle of other teams here, coming and going.  Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Russians, Germans, Swiss and of course the I-talians (said in a seam kelly voice).  The Norwegian "recruit" or under 23 team is here.  They have been kind enough to let us have a lift down the valley for roller skiing with them and i joined them for an easy classic session where games such has "predict your heart rate when we pass that car" were played.  They are far better at it than me, and constantly came within 1 bmp, when i was about 10 away.  Then we reached the lake. Now flat, they decided to double pole, fast.  My lungs felt as if they were hanging outside my body as gasped to keep up.  Then some more hill came, and remarkably i was more relieved about the uphill where there went slow and i could keep up without feeling like a 70 year old 50 a day smoker.  
The cable car up to the track is pretty much stuff every morning, stuffed to the extent that i have twice seen Marit Bjørgen turn around with her ruck sack on and walk backwards into the gondola pushing her way in.  It's fine for her, but for us mere mortals at the far end who get crushed with our nostrils up some sweaty old mans armpit, it's not so nice.  The gondola also swings as it goes over its single support tower.  In youthful terms… I brick it… every single time.  I know its coming, i close my eyes, i grip my skis for grim death and i still brick it.  
Having been here for over 10 days i have adjusted, ish, to the height. And so we have begun to use the snow to our advantage.  Working on technique, doing some speed work, and generally make good use of being on snow.  With temps around 0 on the glacier but such low humidity waxing has been straight forward.  The sun gets on the track late in the session and subsequently most people and sunburned… i must have some good genes because i am just brown.  By the time we get down we can hang our clothes up on the balcony in the sun and sit out in shorts enjoying the sunshine. 
Until today.  The weather has changed… rainy and foggy all day.  Again terribly scottish. Tomorrow it should tern to snow… but with the temps set to drop i fear my sunbathing days are over until spring.  
I fear i have most likely written far too much, with some awful spelling and grammar mistakes, and you are most terribly bored. And so now i shall depart for my double bed awaits with the lovely snoring silhouette of alex waiting for me.  I joyously look forward to another nights sleep of being kicked in the ribs and forced off my side of the bed… in our room it really is "the little on said…"

Monday, 1 October 2012

Team Lillehammer open camp

The last 4 days i have been away on an "open" training camp with Team Lillehammer.  The camp was in Skeikampen, at the top of Gausdalen, not too long from lillehammer.
There was a good mix of people on the camp, and surprisingly, there was more girls than guys.  Which, if someone looked at a results list from any ski race last winter, they would realise it was impressive.  There were a lot of new things to me on the camp.  The first session was a 10x4min interval session.  I had never done anything like it and didnt know what to expect.  It turned out to be a really hard session! We started down on the valley floor at a place called Øyer and skied up the side of the valley back towards skeikampen.  The first 7 intervals where all up a really long steep rise.  Then we had a flat  interval before heading up the final stretch of climb for the last two.  I had a good session and kept up with the rest of the group including leading the all important 8th interval on the flat.
The next day we had a 3 hour run in the morning.  We climbed up on the top of the hills and ended up running for 2 hours in snow.  It had been cold early last week and snowed a few cm's on the mountains.  It made for a good fun running trip and with a good feeling knowing winter was just around the corner.  The afternoon session was an easy classic roller ski and also something new for me.  We had an upper body strength section during the session.  It basically consisted of going up a really steep hill using only our right arms then only our left and then both together.  It is safe to say i was rubbish at this!  It wasnt so much that my arms hurt it was more the fact i just couldnt do it.
Saturday came along, and it was time for the second hard session of the camp 6x6 min running with poles up to the top of the Alpine hill.  Everything was going ok until the 6th interval... where i well and truly died.  It was a great session everybody worked well and the focus was on having a good session instead of destroying each other. After the intervals everybody went to the spa at the hotel.  It was pretty good to have different types of saunas and an ice bath!
The first session on sunday was a plyo bounding session. This was again something new to me... and something extremely hard.  It pretty much involved "jumping" up hill on one leg... then the other leg and then both legs.  I say "jumping" but after the third time round nobody could jump it was more of a stumble, shuffle, crawl up the hill.  The were where more pain faces being pulled than Tommy Voeckler  has in his entire career. On sunday afternoon we drove down to lillehammer and had an easy rollerski here before ending the camp.
It was a good camp, and i learned some new stuff which is always good.  What is more important is my car made it up the hill to skeikampen and back down again without any problem!


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Torsby

Torsby, a small town in Sweden, near the border of Norway. Home of Sven Goran Erikson, and a tunnel. But not just any ordinary tunnel. This tunne,l built winding its way up and down a hill side, is full of snow and the temperature is regulated to -2 C. Its a giant freezer. And here, in this small town, congregate hundreds of skiers each year to ski around in circles. The tunnel at 1.3k in length, two skate and two classic tracks, is a summer ski resort. There is no snow outside, the temperatures are in the high teens, but yet you can ski in circles of 1.3k in length.
This is why, along with many other skiers and teams, the British team decided to have a camp there last week. To ski on snow. With many members on the team now at uni or having other commitments meaning they can't get on snow early in the season, we now have to look at geting the snow time else where in the year. For me it was an opportunity to work on technique and get some snow time without the pressure of a race or competition coming up. Normally by the time the snow comes it is only a few weeks to the first competition and then the racing is full on with only a few small breaks until the end of the season. So to train a week with 25hours of snow skiing is pretty rare. During the season, rest, recovery and quality training sessions become more important than skiing for hours on end.
The camp went pretty smoothly. We bumped into the British Biathlon team, who some of us thought were there and some of us had thought they would have just left. It was good fun to meet up with those guys again, they always have good banter and funny stories offering a new insight to life. The offered to let us join them on a shooting session, but it was the one afternoon it rained, so we decided to skip it and just head to the gym instead. One of the best things about Torsby is you can avoid the bad weather because you are skiing in a tunnel. Looking out through tiny windows and pouring rain and howling gale. But this is also one of the worst things. Last week was quite possibly the best week of the Autumn so far. Warm, calm, blue skies.... and we were inside. Fortunately i doubled a lot of my sessions, i would ski for two hours, and then run for an hour afterwards.
Somehow running in Torsby is like running through a maze. I have never completed any length of run in the forest there without getting lost to some extent. It is impossible. The maps look nothing like the trails. I'm not the only one either. Four years ago, teammate, Simon Platt was lost in there for over 3 hours, and ended up running 40min in zone 3 to get back after seeing signs saying "Torsby 30k". (he ran the opposite way to signs).
Towards the end of the camp the SNS (Salomon, Atomic, One Way) companies turned up to do some testing in the tunnel and show of their new products to... mostly old people. These "old people" are known as Birkies in the trade. The train for an event like the Birkiebeiner. All of them ski with a the same distinctive technique... head down, huge arm reach, massive leg extension, they wear rucksacks and they go really really hard... ALL THE TIME! None of witch is particularly wrong. They have quite a good technique, they wear rucksacks because they race with them and they go hard because they think its good training. But when i'm out for an easy session and 60 year old comes steaming past it is a little depressing. Especially when they are going just fast enough to be infront, but not fast enough to pull away. By the last day the tunnel was quite well populated, with people mostly of this nature, with new One Way, luminous boots. It was great to see so many people skiing, when it's not the ski season and skiing isnt really to the forefront on peoples minds. But the boots! Maybe it was just the dully lit tunnel that made these luminous, yellowy, greeny boots stand out as being disgustingly coloured. Regardless, i think One Way need to rethink its colouring scheme!
We had a good few interval sessions, most notably a Sprint roller ski session on the last day. Between the 1/4 and the semi final a snake appeared on the rollerski track. This was funny. As our absent teammate Andrew Musgrave is petrified of snakes. Jokes made, pictures taken, emails and sms's sent... the snake was eventually flicked off the track.
On saturday night we traveled to Oslo, i couldn't get a train up to Lillehammer, so i stayed the night with the others at an airport hotel. The fire alarm went off at 6.20am. My train wasn't until 10.05. So i was having a nice relaxing sleep, thinking i could get up late and so on. The wham.... "whoooouuuhhhhhwhhhoouuuhhhh A FIRE HAS BEEN DETECTED IN THE BUILDING whooooouhhhwhooooouhhhhwhooouhhh A FIRE HAS BEEN DETECTED IN THE BUILDING". Down the stairs we went, out the door we went. Standing next to a Glaswegian women who was bitterly disappointed... " they cant be taken it that f**k*n seriously if the staffs in their eaten their breakfast". Sure enough there was someone sitting over by the breakfast buffet eating. After a while the alarm went off staff came out and told us it was safe. Most people filled into the breakfast buffet. Me included. After we had a drink and headed back off up to bed a fire engine turned up outside. With 4 sleepy looking lads sat in the back. It was a good job there was no fire.
Now back in Lillehammer, and back to normal training.

Friday, 31 August 2012

London to Lillehammer

Due to a prolonged period without internet i haven't updated for a while. But the short story is, the london olympics where amazing. I think they re-kindled the nations passion for sport. As i sat on my uncles' boat, moored in St Katherine's dock in central london, watching Mo Farrah run the 5000m i realized the olmypics had changed sport in our country. With my head stuck through a sky light watching a small tv, upsides down as several people crowded around the tv. With comments being passed to those above deck who had missed out on the front row seats. At 1200m to go people had started to lose intrest declaring Mo couldn't win, but by the time it got to 300m left the boat was starting to sway as people shouted at the tv. Not only this small sail boat, but the boat moored two spaces down, the flat looking over the dock, the cafe, the pub and the hotel. Everywhere had a noise of excitement. As Mo strode away and won, beating the "might of Africa" and claiming his second gold medal the entire area erupted into cheers. 5min later Team GB won a gold in boxing, and yet more cheers could be heard.
This 20min time span summed up the Olympics. Everybody was watching, willing and wanting success. And i think it changed the way sport is looked upon in our country.

Shortly after the olympics i traveled out to norway. I have moved in to a small house in Lillehammer where i stay with two other skiers. It's a nice little house, except for the first 12 days we had no internet. But now successfully installed with both internet and tv things seem to be running a lot more smoothly. It is hard to believe we even coped without internet.
Training has been going well, a lot of hours recently and a few hard sessions. This week i had a running with poles interval session up the alpine resort Hafjell. They are having a world cup downhill mountain bike race in a few weeks and we ended up running down the world cup trail at the end of the session, which was pretty cool.
I have also been to see my first Norwegian film without english subtitles. Kon-tiki is a film about the norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, as he sailed across the pacific ocean from south america to the Polynesian Islands on a raft constructed of balsa logs in 1947. Anyway i survived and just about understood everything.
Next week im going to be going on a training camp with the british team in Torsby at the ski tunnel. Apart from that, not much is on the cards. All for now.


Saturday, 11 August 2012

On a Train

The road to London, ok so it more like the track to London, as I’m on the train.

The last week has flown by. Luckily the summer camp fell perfectly the week before I am going to London to watch the Olympics and so I could get a really hard weeks training followed by an easy week and a bit of a holiday.

The camp was pretty good. As is standard for the west of Scotland, it rained almost every day with 2 of the 7 days where it didn’t rain at all. This lead to the continual drying of wet boots and clothes. Like last year we were staying in the Badaguish Cabins (in Gaelic you don’t pronounce the g, so I’m told, and so it is said Bada eww ish). With the “lads” taking the upper floor of the 10 person cabin. The stair banister and railing along the upstairs landing became the agreed upon place to dry clothes, with boot driers on full on the landing. The smell was unreal, it hit you like a wall as got about half way up the stairs. Fortunately this was kept out of both the living room and our bedrooms. Downstairs did have a drying room, but the girls opted to dry stuff in the rooms anyway. Clearly their stuff doesn’t smell regardless of what training they have done. The girls also had a washing machine in their bathroom. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t wash your clothes, but on a weeklong training camp, really? Surely you can fit enough training tops, two pairs of shorts and maybe two race suits in your bag? No? Apparently it has no become fashionable to wash your clothes daily on a training camp. Maybe one or two washes, but every day?

Parent helpers provided the food, all 3 of who came from parents of the development skiers. Of course the food was amazing, and they weren’t completely left on their own, we all took our turns to help with washing up.

The first day and a half of training was pretty easy, with a speed session and a few long distance sessions, including a long run. The run was full of “ladish” banter. It ultimately ended in a mud fight a few km’s away from the cabin. Unfortunately I was wearing a white thermal. After the mud fight we made out way to “the rings”. “The Rings”, a set of 6 rings dangling from a wire as it stretches across a pond/bog. The idea being to swing from ring to ring and making it safely to the other side. “The Rings” are famously remembered after the 2011 summer camp, where Fi had been egged on to do the rings whilst fully clothed. Starting on the first ring she swung out and reach for second at the high point of her swing. As she let go of the first ring, her hand slipped on the second, and still in an upward trajectory she quickly realised she was visiting the mouldy pond water. Dressed in short jeans and a summery top. Hilarity ensued for onlookers, however when Fi emerged from the pond the laughter quickly stopped.

“The Rings” where successfully conquered by all, and it gave a good end to a fun running session.

Monday and Tuesday gave us some hard days, with a 3x20 session and a hard 4x4 session, thrown in amongst a gym session and 3 hour ski. We had some lactate testing on intervals and strength coaching from the Scottish institute of sport, which is always helpful and good fun.

Wednesday was our alternative day, with a 4hour mountain bike and an hour and a half in kayaks in the afternoon. The bike gave Alex a mat reading/geography lesson, with quotes such as “nah, nah. The Bothy is definitely over there behind us somewhere.” He was only 180 degrees out so we cant blame him! We where lost, but we quickly got found again, and it wasn’t just Alex’s fault, there where 3 people with a map. (I wasn’t one of them).

The bike overran a little bit due to a rental bike, which repeatedly decided to malfunction, and a puncture. A quick lunch followed, and then we headed out on Kayaks on Loch Morlich.

Fun to do something different for a change, but I have to admit doing something different doesn’t feel like proper training!

Thursday was another long day with a gym session and a long ski. It also saw the departure of Roger the bnds head coach. This meant my dad, who coaches us on the national squad was going to coach the development lot for the last day. We got Steve Boyd to come along and help us out on the last day. The last time he coached he ended up driving half way across Europe and back in a search for snow and after races where cancelled. In fact it maybe have been the whole way across Europe. It certainly felt like it.

We had an elghufs session up the alpine ski area on cairngorm, with lactate testing at the top. This happened to be THE sunny day. It was awesome. Normally, while on the cairngorms, you can see approximately 10m in front of you. But with clear blue skis and views all the way to the coast, it was spectacular. It was more the shock that it was actually sunny that got to us more than anything. The afternoon was a long 3 hour session, with some technique filming.

On the last day we the older athletes took a few on the younger guys, gave them some coaching and advice before having the silliest relays known to be held on roller skis. All in all a good end to the camp.

Over the last few days I trained a lot, and now I’m on the train to London. In fact only and hour from London. Olympic fever is setting in. And the train full of people talking about the games.

I hope you have been enjoying them.

All for now.

My internet stopped working on the train so this is actually a few days late… but anyway, a blog post is a blog post.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Hard week, and easy week, a medium week.

Yes that's a lot of weeks. It's also less than a week until the two week long london Olympics.

Training has been going pretty well recently. Two weeks ago i logged a 28hour week, and last week an easy week with 17hours. Now im on a medium week, which should be around 22 hours by sunday. July and August are going to be longest months in terms of training this year, so it sounds like a lot of training, but im really enjoying it. I get into a rhythm, and just keep going. Wake up, eat, train, eat, sleep, eat, train, eat, sleep. Its been going pretty well and i have been feeling good, but my form is far from good! I had a running interval session with callum last week. He officially gave me a lesson on running with poles, as he thrashed me up Bennachie.
We have also been giving it bore in the gym. 4 sets of 5 reps, and gym sessions quickly become 2 hours long. These i havnt enjoyed so much, they just hurt.
On my easy week i also managed to squeeze in a few driving lessons and pass my driving test, only 3 years after i was old enough to drive, but hey, better late than never.

On Saturday the national teams summer camp starts over in Badaguish, near Aviemore. The plan looks pretty good, but the weather forecast doesnt. The continued bad weather seems set to continue even longer. Today and yesterday have been sunny, and its just as well, as i was beginning to grow tired over 14 degrees, rain and grey all summer. The eternal drying of boots, running shoes and wet training kit has started to get a bit borring now.
Anyway, as the camp is coming up, our American/British team member, ingrid, is staying here a few days before the camp to get used to the time difference. Of course this leads to "banter", otherwise known as slagging American politics, healthcare system, use of finite resources, gun laws (ok perhaps the gun laws is a little bit distasteful in light of recent events). Simon has also been up in Aberdeen doing some kind of placement for uni work, with "retired" british skier Brendan Gabriel. Yesterday evening he drove to callums house and me and alex drove over the meet them. We trained an easy skate session together, of what i thought was an hour and half to two hours, but Callum either thought i was joking or had just ignored me, and not until we were out for 1.40 and realised we were miles away from his house that this was going to be a long session. I had no food with me, and only water in my bottle belt, and only a banana in my bag back at the car. We were out for 2.35, fortunately i managed just not to die of starvation.

Looking forward to the camp now and getting some more sessions done with the guys. There is only the 4 of us going from the senior team and 2 of the girls. So we are pretty small numbers, but it should be good fun.
4 years ago, at our summer camp, i remember rushing back from training to switch on the tv to watch Chris Hoy and rest of the team GB win gold after gold after gold. I also remember have to make the difficult decision as the wether i could run inside from the car and watch the end on tv, or wether i should wait and listen to the finish of events on the radio. Hopefully this time round will be equally exciting, and what's a bonus is that i have tickets to events in the second week of the games. Cant wait!

Monday, 2 July 2012

recent adventures.

Wow, ive been busy.  I have managed to get a bad cough which is currently stopping me from training but allowing me to catch up on things.  Most notably this blog.  Last week i climbed ben nevis for charity.  I did it in shuttles, going up to the top, back down to the where the family had gotten to, then back up to the top and so on.  So i ended up getting to the top 3 times and half way up and down once. I was out for 10 hours, the last 5 in a downpour of rain.  The next day i woke up ill.  My dad had been ill just before and now my sister is ill too, so we can blame my dad for it.
A few weeks ago now i was away on a training camp with the national team at sognefjell in Norway.  I should be at a testing camp with them now in Stirling but obviously this cough is keeping me from that.
Anyway i had a guest blogger who wrote something about the camp.  Mainly because there was so much blog worthy stuff happening and couldnt be arsed to recall it all and would have ended up writing a blog that only covered half the exciting stuff and dipped and dived into the camp.  However, Sarah wanted a shot at writing a blog, and seeing as she has done and excellent job i will leave it to her to tell you about the week.


The Sognefjell camp was worthwhile for the scenery alone. In terms of the rather clichéd breath-taking scale, I’d have to say I stopped breathing roughly the minute I spotted the first island off the cost of Bergen from the plane window. As for jaw-dropping, my chin is still raw from being dragged along the ground for the entirety of the 6 hour, 300km road trip, which culminated in a 1403m ascent in the last 30km. One good thing about the near permanent daylight in Norway, despite an ETA of 0100, there was plenty of light to appreciate the succession of equally stunning vistas. On the other hand, the constant brightness is marginally disorientating, with 5pm feeling like midday, the cunning creation of make-shift blackouts in the thin-curtained bedrooms is a pre-requisite of sleep.

This was our second trip to Sognefjell for summer training on what, I believe, to be a permanent snowbed as opposed to a glacier. Fun fact from my dissertation research (be warned, there may be a few more of these); snowbeds occur in areas where snow accumulation exceeds five meters in depth. They protect plants from sever winter conditions, maintain a soil temperature of around 0oC and are an important source of water and nutrients late into the growing season. The main difference between the snowbeds I encountered in Scotland and Sognefjell is that Sognefjell is large enough to support at least 8km of ski trails.

A quick note on the sorts of people who go skiing on permanent snowbeds in the middle of June, most of them are quite good. Most are of a world class standard. Also hardly any of them appear to wear many clothes. On the whole, this is quite an agreeable situation, Sognefjell should be known for its tasteful display of toned and tanned bodies, but there were some exceptions. You know who you are, Mr. Day Two. This particular gentleman appeared to be sporting less and less clothing with every subsequent lap, unfortunately he also appeared to be sporting a physique which was rather more generously proportioned than the average. He was however very tanned.

I personally tackled the clothing issue as a balance between my desire for a glorious suntan and the risk of shreading all my skin with ice burn. Falling on the salted snow of the Sognefjell track is very similar to falling on tarmac. High speed falls leave shallow stinging grazes, akin to road rash that (apparently) hurt far worse that the look and sting like a TCP bath. Being a bit of a woose (OK, a huge woose) by nature, I only had to hear others bemoaning earlier crashes to have me tucking the shorts in the bottom of the bag. Then there was the girl with the large white bandage on her leg, which was somehow far more daunting than the actual wound it concealed. The final straw in my decision to spend the week swaddled from head-to-toe was the memory from three years ago of Fiona’s rather nasty disagreement with the track. Twice. Then the misguided attempt to clean and cool the grazes with the chemically polluted snow off the track.

Pleased to report that I didn’t have any tumbles, although I maintain that the risk was still high as every single downhill was coupled with a sharp corner where the snow quickly turned into a sugary-soup of ski snagging potential. Luckily there were no casualties among the rest of the team either, despite far less cautious dressing. Fi scraped her knee at low speed the first day, Alex had to pull out of the relay due to a small fall despite a valiant effort and Callum embarrassingly scraped his chin in front of a pretty girl.

Apart from the afore-mentioned corners, the snow conditions were pretty good, as was the weather, the exception being the two sessions in the clouds, which limited visibility to within a couple of meters. I didn’t mind too much, as by that point I had learnt the track pretty well by this time. Not that knowing the track was always a good thing as it was apt to change as patches became too soggy or rocks became visible. On the last day I managed to pluck up enough courage to actually attack one of the downhills only to find that the corner had an extra 60o than was there previously. Still, the fog wasn’t too bad, it meant I could snow plough down all the hills without feeling like a pansy as everyone else was too.

Then there was the afternoon it tanked it down with rain while we did circuits on the balcony. There were four stations, three of which fitted under the eaves, the fourth didn’t. The poor pair on that station got drenched while balancing one legged on little jelly wobble cushions (affectionately termed “hedgehogs”) whilst wielding sledgehammers, in the absence of weights, and looking all the world like drunk Vikings.

We stayed track-side at the Sognefjellshytta for the first four days, which although a little pricey did have certain benefits. Firstly, there is no travel for sessions, which substantially increases rest time and reduces the risk of getting intolerably cold/ hungry and therefore increasing overall mood. The second is Sognefjellshytta is full board and they are used to catering for athletes. This means there aren’t just three meals provided a day, but five. We then moved down to a campsite in Skjolden, the town at the end of the fjord, where we stayed in a very nice bunkhouse, which compensated for the half an hour drive to training by having a massive waterfall, towering, only a bit oppressively above it. The owner was exceedingly helpful, although caught unawares by the extent of our appetites and obligingly took a shot at cooking porridge despite a previous 25 year hiatus from the breakfast speciality.

Taking stock of the week’s mementos now that we are home; I am marginally less pasty than if I had decided to spend last weekend at Rockness after all. I have a memory card full of momentously awful photographs of rather magnificent scenery. I also am able to cherish the memory of what a rotten egg tastes like… so will the rest of the team as I perhaps a little melodramatically spat the offending mouthful out and then dashed across the room to refill my glass. However these potentially weren’t the highlights of the week. Skiing in the sun; kayaking in the fjord; afternoon naps and the strawberry sorbet and the taco on the last night!


I hope you enjoyed reading.  If you want to write a guest blog about something xcskiing or sport relevant  then you are welcome to, just get in touch.  


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Spring

The season ended with Skarverennet...  The race, which carries little, but lots of importance, didnt go all that great.  In some ways its the end of the season and nobody cares about the results but ont he flip side its always great to finish the year off well and beat people you dont normally or get higher up and ski with some of the top international guys.
After Skarven i needed i 2 day break. 
After a little break training resumed.  Or not really training, but just having fun.  The conditions have been awesome here. In fact better than the entire winter.  I have been out skiing up to 4 hours in one session.  After skarven only a 25k loop was being prepared but a crust had developed on the snow and we could ski out over everything.  Skiing had been so much fun and the conditions just lead to wanting to be out in the mountains for a long time. So until today i have trained over 2hours skiing every day for the last 2 weeks.  So much for a break from skiing in the spring.  
The weather has been great too, with sub zero temps at night and up to 10 degrees during the day. So as you can imagine the sun tan is immense. Stripy forehead from my hat and hands from my pole straps. 
Today we had a disaster.  Winter had returned this weekend, with temps as low as -7 and lots of new snow.  However Øyvind was convinced there would still be crust skiing up in the mountains.  We drove up, it was -6 and lots of new snow. maybe as much as 15 to 20cm sitting on top of the crust beneath.  We skied for 15min, decided it sucked so ran 30min.  I had down a 2 hour ski for today. When i got home there was still lots of new snow on the roads so i couldnt rollerski, and the tracks have stopped being prepared since the norwegian bank holiday on the 1st of May.  I waited until this even so the sun had taken the biggest effect and the wind had blown away some of the snow so i could roller ski. 
This was the first roller ski of the year.  All i can say is urghh, its the most disgusting feeling ever to change back.  everything feels wrong, timing is out and the sensation of tarmac under foot compared to snow is horrible.  i forced myself out for 1 hour and 15min.  Came home completely shattered.  Muscles that i hadnt used in a long time where rediscovered today.  Its going to be a long summer if this is how rollerskiing feels.  
It didnt help that it was -2 and about -500 with the cold wind.  Somehow rollerskiing in mallorca seems much more appealing.  








Wednesday, 18 April 2012

what's been happening...

At the end of March the norges cup concluded with the national championships sprint and the skiathlon final, in northern norway, in Fauske. Wont go into to much detail about it... i had both my worst sprint and worst distance race of the season. The waxing was a nightmare. On the sprint day i have never seen anything like it. I wish i had filmed it actually. It was complete chaos. Others on the national team have described the scene before the 15k classic at the world championships in Liberec in 2009. I wasnt there, but it sounds like a similar situation. The wax rooms were divided by just wire fences, the type you would see a building site. So people could sort of see into the neighboring wax room and what other teams were up to. Fitting all the wax rooms in the tent, with the accurate amount of space that each team had paid for, aslo created a maze like structure to navigate to find your room/space. As it was difficult someone would come up with a solution, then via half overheard and half seen, the solution would spread through the tent like a wave and suddenly everybody would go out and test the same thing. It was a stressful day for everybody. At one point i witnessed skis being thrown over the top of the fences to get to central wax rooms that would have taken a while to navigate to. 50 something year old, slightly over weight wax men were running like hell in and out of the tent and to the tes area.
All this was going on, with athletes trying to remain calm. Normally we test skis with an hour to go before start. This is pretty much protocol in every team. But athletes were turning up and being told to go away, skis werent ready, and others were just told they were not getting to test. Other people tested really close to the start of the race. The waxers would run with the skis to the start. This is risky buisnes in my opinion... all it takes is for one or two mistakes and and an eye not well enough kept on the clock and you end up with no skis at the start.
It was certainly an insight into a difficult wax day.
After Fauske i travelled to Finland to attend the anual easter cup races in Lappland. The goal was FIS point hunting. Get some fis points now, so i dont have to worry about them at the begging of next season.
I had 2 great skate races. And one pretty bad classic race. It's important to remember that in a 10k, it's not who is first at 2.5k that counts.
It was fun to get in a little more racing at the end of the season, and have a little bit of a better feeling after a bad weekend in Fauske. We had some of the younger guys from the development squad with us. They were a pretty fun group with their own dynamics and "in" jokes. So it took a little while to get used to them. I think they were all a bit shocked by the standard of the races, and perhaps disappointed with how they skied. It is a big difference from wizzing round roller ski tracks in scotland to racing agains some of the best skiers your age in the world. But the important thing, was the learning experience, and with 3 races in one weekend it was funny to see how people actually learned in the relatively short time of 3 days.
On the way back my bags were lost, and i had a problem with getting a train from oslo to geilo. It was the tuesday after Easter, and easter being a big holiday in norway there was no space. I have no idea why Christmas and Easter as so big in Norway. I have been here for 2 years now, and i only know one religious person. And even he is not that serious about it! But they are a BIG deal here. I stayed the night at Eriks. Its pretty handy having friends here, there and everywhere. Erik had managed to brake his ankle/leg earlier in the winter, so had just started walking again.
I eventually made it back up to Geilo, where winter has taked a second grip. After the abnormally warm March there was pretty much no snow. It was looking pretty bad, and i was dubious that i would be doing much skiing now. But the snow is back. It has been snowing on and off for the past week and been minus degrees most of the time. As i look out the window now it is tanking it down with snow, and the lawn is once again returning to white having gone from white, to brown, to yellow, to green.
The conditions have been awesome, in fact, better than most of the winter. Blue extra (-5, new snow), blue skies and nice conditions. I have had quite a few trips up into the mountains, but after the march thaw, the tracks in the town have been given up on. So it means a cycle to either the bottom of the alpine slope and a ski up the alpine slope, or a long cycle up into the mountains. However i am tall enough to jump up and catch onto empty T bars, so a few times i have got myself a free ride to the top.
We have also had the traditional Vårcuppen (the spring cup), here at geilo. Pretty much a competition between the cross country and the biathlon guys. It involves 3 races. I hill climb, up the alpine slope, a mass start 10k skate race and skarverennet, the famous marathon race on saturday. The hill climb went awfully for me, but yesterday in the 10k i had an ok day. Normally around the lake, and with a back up venue to the south side of the town in the mountains, it was weird to be doing it around the competition trails at the stadium. Round the lake and the south side of the town have not enough snow, so 3 loops of the 3k man made snow loop were being used. The conditions were awesome. Hard packed, with a little soft layer on top. Out of the stadium and into the first hill i was doing ok, then Geir Endre decided to be an idiot and trip me up. He had been taking the race seriously, so as master could give students one final lesson (geir endre is my coach). He had even slept in his own bedroom the night before so as to avoid being disturb by his newborn. Pretty convinced he had race prepared his skis as well (he also waxes for the norwegian national team ). Just to get one last advantage he tripped me up. The rest of the first lap was a fight to get back to the front, zigg zagging in and out of folk and making my way slowly to the front. I caught Geir endre and asked what he was playing at, he responded with a friendly push, but luckily this time i didnt fall. Just before the stadium i got back with the leaders and into second place. The second lap had a higher temp at the front and we knocked it down to a group of 3. The last lap went insane on the big climb, 2 of us went together to almost the top then i got dropped. I made my way back to the stadium pretty slowly, the time gaps were big enough that Gjøran who won took a victory parade around the empty stadium and i could do a 180 over the line. It was a fun race, and pretty much reflected how we have been skiing all winter, but i still maintain i would have one if i hadnt fallen on the first lap.
On saturday the famous, or maybe the infamous, Skarverennet takes places. Going from the Highest train station in Norway, Finse at 1,220m to ustaoset. The town or village 10k up the valley from here. The race is 38k. Last year there was pretty much no snow. And what there was, was think and sloppy. It ended up into a double pole the flats and walk the up hills race. The final decent into the town through all the cabins was pretty much just gravel with a dusting of snow. This year the snow shouldnt be a problem, although maybe a problem at the other side of the spectrum! Its meant to be bucketing it down with snow all day. Hopefully it wont be too cloudy or windy and we cant at least see where we are going.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Norwegian Junior Nationals

The relay on the biggest climb, im in about 7th on the left
The chaos as the lead group enters the stadium (im back right)
Holmenkollen, sporting the new minimalistic snow fashion
struggling on deep in the second half on the 20k
Me in 3rd place during the relay

The norwegian junior nationals this year where being held in Holmenkollen in Oslo. The home of cross country skiing. Its like inviting teenagers to play rugby at Murrayfield or twickenham, tennis at Wimbledon, football at Wembley or cricket at Lords. Of course this was set up to be a fantastic championships. Apart from the fact it was several degrees above freezing and there was minimal snow.
In the days before the competition the tracks had been closed and unprepared to try and preserve what little snow was left. On the final day before racing began a small 3 hour window was opened when we could use the track. The conditions where awful... deep deep sugary snow, incredibly lose stuff the slides and slops about as you ski. I tested my skis, and did a lap of the 5k loop to be used over the weekend.
We stayed at the Holmenkollen Park Hotel. Its a pretty fancy hotel right beside the tracks. It cut travel time and was pretty handy to just walk 5min and be at the stadium. I judge hotels on a few basic criteria: internet, food, room size, ability to sleep well in the room and how friendly the staff are. This hotel was pretty much nearly an epic fail. The only hotel that has been worse was for the Otepa world cup last year, where we basically didnt eat for a week.
They had internet here, the food was eatable (just), room size normal, ability to sleep was poor as we were above the service entrance, and the staff where the most horrible people i have ever met.
It all started with us arriving before our rooms were ready. We went up and asked every 15mins if our rooms were ready. They weren't and the reception staff got pretty annoyed with us. Then the first meal. A waiter refused to take our plates away because we hadn't finished all the food on them. Fair enough... if the food was edible. It happened to be fruit salad. Except it was stiff frozen. I explained to the waiter that it was still frozen and thats why we hadnt eaten it, but he was having none of it and told be i was wrong.
The next meal wasn't much better. They had no control over the dining room and installed a retarded queueing system, requiring people to criss cross through the queue in order to collect essential items such as a drink. They also hadn't really realized that there were well over 100 skier staying here and all of us were going to eat at the same time. So after waiting for what seemed like eternity to get any food there wasn't actually anywhere for you to sit. They blocked of half the dining area for other groups and got angry with people for trying to go there. It led to many funny situations. Firstly someone sat on the floor, other went and sat out in reception and then there was the awkwardness as a single 50 something year old wax tech was ushered to sit at a spare seat with 15 or 16 year old girls, and the vice versa. This was all because of one idiotic waiter who refused to let us sit in another half of the dining room.
For skiers in Norway it is tradition to eat 4 meals a day, breakfast, lunch, early dinner and the "kveldsmat" (evening food) which is pretty much the same stuff as breakfast. So one evening i came down to eat my Kveldsmat. I tried to sit at the table next to all the others. It had reserved on it, just like the one the others had. The waiter rushed over and said i couldnt sit here. I explained i was with the group. He said they had booked the table and so could sit here but i couldnt. All the other tables had reserved on them or had people sitting at them. I tried another table and he came rushing over again and turned me away. So i tried a third table... again i was told to go away. Eventually after standing in a half empty dining room for 5min with a bowl of cereal in one had and a glass of juice in the other, some people stood up and i got on their table along with some of the others who had also been waiting for while now.
So enough with how bad Holmenkollen Park hotels staff are and onto the racing....
20k classic, individual start. I had been looking forward to this race all season, i like the course, and i had done a good 15k test race on it earlier this month. The conditions where dreadful. The morning fog had just lifted as i started my race, and the course now baked in warm sunshine with the temp way above 0 degrees. My first 10k went well and i sat in 4th place according to my splits i was getting on the track. My last 10k was awful. There wasnt any classic track in any of the uphills, just thick slop. The skis were slowing as they picked up dirt and i was struggling. The main problem was that i have pretty much never trained herringbone run, the technique used when a hill gets too steep or there aren't any classic tracks up hill. With back to back hill of herringbone and wadding through thick slop my legs, race plan and power all went down the drain. I had a pretty good first 10k so i held on for a 7th place. Anything inside the top 10 is good in norway. So i was happy i held on for a top 10. And had it been any normal norges cup weekend i would have been thrilled. But this was the national championships... i wanted something better, or at least to beat my best result so far this year (6th).
I thought about the next day. Andrew Musgrave had, 2 years previously, been 7th over the 20k classic distance and then went on to win the 10k skate the following day. So statistically for british skiers at Junior NM i was guaranteed a win?? right?
I thought the 20k was hard, but the skate race was even harder. We were the last age group out, and the tracks were insanely soft. I skied ok and felt good, but every up hill i just sank into the soft sludge and ground my was slowly to the top. I finished 14th. This is, so far, my worst distance result this season. It says something to be disappointed when you finish outside the top 10. Many people came up to me and congratulated me... i didnt really understand why... i wanted to be in the top 10, but with a slightly bad day and conditions against me i had no chance. Last year 14th was my best result, i was amazingly happy with that... its weird how things change in a year.
That evening was the prize giving and live entertainment in the Oslo Town hall. With all the big wigs present and the mayor of oslo. It confirmed to me that Norwegians do not understand when and how to use english swear words. Apparently it is ok for for someone to sing something including "f*** you all, motherf***ers" in front of the mayor of Oslo. I cant imagine Boris being too impressed with that.... or on the other hand he might challenge them to a round of whiff whaff, or maybe a madison in the veledrome or bendy bus driving.
After quite possibly the best prize giving evening i have been too i awoke today for the relay. 4 x 5km. As i race in Norway for Geilo IL, which lies in the Buskerud area i would be going for the Buskerud area team. I was doing the first leg for the first team. All legs had been changed to skate instead of 2 classic and 2 skate, as there wasnt really enough snow left for a classic track. I arrived to the stadium to hear the wonderful sound of skis scraping across ice. It had frozen overnight and the tracks where (directly translated) stone hard. Finally my perfect conditions. Hard ice where i could use my power and long leavers. The start was insanely fast and i settled in near the front. The foot never lifted of the gas and everybody fought to stay with the leaders who took it in turn to attack. We quickly completed the first 2.5k and i made a move up to 3rd with a bit of luck and some clear snow. On the last hill i ended up a bit blocked in a back to 10th. In the stadium i made it up to 6th. But with the first 20 teams coming in within 10 seconds position was irrelevant, i was less than a second behind the leaders. I handed over to our second leg guy after i picked him out of the sunlit mist. We skied to our rank and finished 8th. My leg was insanely fast, with a 9min 47 second 5k time. On a hard 5k, that is normally at around 13min this was crazy. It was sprinting all on as hard as i could, just holding the tails of the guy in front. It was fun, and i felt good, so i know the form is at least on the way up, or doing pretty well. So im looking forward to a good end to the season.
Im now back in Geilo, where there is a little bit more snow, but not much.


Friday, 2 March 2012

The last month of my life

After italy we made the travel to Turkey with an overnight stay in Munich on route. Unfortunately i had become ill just before traveled, as had the other Andrew. So we were in our own hotel room, a different buss and sat away from the others on the plane.
We got to Turkey quite late. The language barrier quickly became apparent, as good food was a nightmare. I couldnt be arsed waiting around trying to order food through a translator, so i just went to bed.
I was ill for a few more days, but things stated to sort them selves out. Meals became buffets, and we had been into town to stock up on snacks and bottled water as the tap water was undrinkable.
Eventually the day before the sprint i got out of the hotel at 2500m down to the stadium at 1800m. Skiing felt pretty horrific. I only did about an hours session and i was wrecked afterwards.
The next day i felt a bit better, so decided to start the sprint. We got on our bus at 8am to take us on the hour long journey to the stadium. After the first or second set of traffic lights the bus started making some pretty strange sounds and going pretty slowly. We creaked up over some hills and eventually conked out. Stuck beside the road at -25C waiting for a new bus. This was not the funnest half hour of my life. Fortunately the bus schedule was allowing for disappointment and the bus had really left over an hour too early. We got to the stadium in a new bus, and spent the next hour trying to warm back up to normal. But even by the time i raced i wasnt fully warmed up from waiting at a road side.
The race went ok considering the illness. 25th on the prologue and 29th overall, i went out in the quarterfinal.
On the way home, thankfully, we got a warm buss that didnt break down. Smog lingered in the valley, the mind doesnt realise how high you are as the mountains reach even higher, giving the impression you are down in a deep valley. The valley was pretty wide and extensive. There was nothing. The odd farm, villages made up of shakey brick buildings and elaborate mosques, with nothing but a snow covered dirt track leading to them. Occasionally a junction on the highway, a petrol station and a few abandoned broken down cars. But really it was a whole load of nothingness. As we approach the outskirts of Erzrum you start to feel civilization again, army barracks, heavily guarded with machine gun outposts, some small shops advertising kebabs and the traffic flow increases from occasional lorry to quite a few cars and buses. I asked our attache/translator why Erzrum was here. There was no industry as far as i could tell. But it mainly started as a place people would stay as they traveled from Asia to Europe.
We drive through the center of the town. Its like any other normal city. Rich parts and poor parts. Although there were quite a few buildings with parts of their second or third floor missing. Most of the city seemed to be made up of blocks of flats. There were mosques, with high towers, calling people to prayer. We drove out of the city again, up a steep road towards the Alpine ski center. Here there are a handful of hotels all the teams where staying in. Most of them pretty posh, apparently most of the customers are rich Russians on holiday. As we get out of the bus we can look back down onto the city and see a black, grey cloud hanging over the valley and the snow tarnished brown. Up here the air was thin and dry, but clean.
The next day was a training day. The buses ran on time and didnt break down. In the afternoon one of the attaches taught us to play 3 ball billiards in the hotel basement. I ate a lot. The food was nice. We had been worried about the food as we had heard stories from last year when the world uni games were held here. Many people had become ill and blamed the food. We on the other hand had great food. Chicken and rice nearly every day for lunch and dinner, but it tasted good.
The 10k classic the following day went awfully. I learned a lot from that day. Mostly that racing at altitude hurts. After the first lap i felt good and pretty strong, as i entered my second lap a wave of lactate acid hit me, my lungs burned and i struggled my way round to complete the race.
I was disappointed. Now i just wanted to get the last race done and out of the way. Try and do better than i had in the 10k. Unfortunately i had to wait another day. This was a day of nearly no training, only a 30min light ski. And 2 hours sitting a bus to be able to do this.
The final day of competition. The 20k skiathlon mass start. 10k classic followed by 10k skate with a ski change in the middle. I started well and found a nice pace behind two swedes on the classic leg. I came into the change in around 30th position. People where dying fast. The altitude hit people and the slowed to walking pace. I picked it up, got better and better, felt stronger and stronger. On the last lap i lay just off the back of a group fighting for positions between 19th and 27th. I just wasnt close enough to the front. On the last final big climb everything went to pieces. I kicked in to close the gap, the front kicked in to kill of the others. The front of the group was gone and i ended up behind a Swedish guy for the second time in the race. I ended up out sprinting him for 25th place. On ok result. The 10k was awful and it felt great to be on the way back up so quickly after that.
The U23s had a final day of competition after us. So myself, callum and katy had a day Alpine skiing. Our Accreditation got us a free lift pass and rental for the day being only £10 it seemed a waste not to go. It was a pretty fun day and there was some nice skiing. It was only my second time on Alpine skis since i was 5. But it was still fun to give it a blast.
That evening we flew to Istanbul. To an airport on the Asian plate. Then we drove in a minibuss full of ski bags and all the wax kit and our bags at insane speeds, over taking, undertaking, slaloming our way to the European plate and our hotel. We got a quick meal at the bar before a good nights sleep.
Andrew and i had a late flight the next day, so we just chilled at the hotel before going to the airport. At the check in there was a little confusion as they started to try and charge us for our skis and excess weight. We assured them we had payed and they were going on for free. I have no idea if we had or hadnt. But Andrew was pretty adamant they were going on this plane and it was nto going to cost us anything more. They called their manager and kindly accepted.
I made it to Oslo later that evening, flying via Riga. I took a train to the center of Oslo where Erik met me. I stayed the night with Erik and his flat mate Øyvind. It was fun to catch up, i hadnt seen Erik since before Christmas.
The next day via a complicated process involving trains, cars and lots of planning i got to Holmenkollen for the start of a training camp with NTG. In two weeks the Norwegian Nationals are going to be held here. So we were training here for a bit to check out the trails. It was warm. Really warm. Foggy, really foggy. We had an easy skate ski and headed down to our accommodation at Bogstad camping. We stayed in some pretty basic cabins.
I was feeling pretty good, so although i didnt have it in the plan, i joined in a 15k classic time trial with the other the next day. It went pretty well. I felt good and certainly skied a lot better than i had there the previous year.
The final day in Oslo was really warm and sunny. With temps up at plus 14C and the sun shining it should have been a good ski trip. But i managed to fall and break my pole. It was now 10cm shorter than it should be, and then the wax started to go. We realised we were a long way away from the bus with not very long to get back on time. So i ended up going 20k with one and a half poles at pretty much max speed just to get back.
After that we came back to Geilo. It was great to come back, to clean clothes and my own place. Its been warm here to, with the snow going fast. Mostly just ice on the tracks now and huge bald patches appearing. The conditions are much more like what you would expect at the end of April not the end of February. But skiing in the sun is always a nice change from the darkness of winter.

I will add some photos later.
all for now

Monday, 13 February 2012

italy

sorry i havent updated in a while, but here comes a quick update. Im paying for internet in a hotel so cant write too much.
Im now in italy with the national team after racing in trondheim. In trondheim i had a good skate race and an ok classic, nothing amazing but good confirmation i am on track for the world juniors that start a week today.
Im in Livigno, training at altitude because the world juniors are insanely high. that tracks arent too high, but apparently where we are going to live is 2500m, the tracks at 1800m.
So all i have been doing is skiing easy, i had some intervals planned yesterday but the day before i felt a bit ill with a sore throat so had to take a rest day and an easy day yesterday and today.
There are quite a few teams here, Canadians, Aussies, Pollish team, some intalian teams, and a swedish skier. We went out for dinner with the aussies for pizza. And today we went ice quad biking with them. Pretty cool to drive round on a frozen lake and drift the quadbikes. But one of the aussies crashed into Alex and broke his quad, so had to pay a 100 euro fine. Damn convicts, thats all i can say.
The skiing here is pretty weird, the snow is really really really really really really really slow. it is the slowest snow i have ever skied on. It is cold in the mornings when we start, around -25 and then it warms us to around -4 and some days it has been above 0 in the middle of the day. But the snow stays really cold.
The sun is strong and i have got a nice brown face now. There is now better feeling that skiing with the sun shining strong. Once you get your head around the slow snow and adapt to it, everything is pretty good. There isnt that much terrain to ski, but what is available is perfect for long easy sessions, with a few harder hills for those that are doing intervals.
Hopefully tomorrow, if i continue to feel better, i will do an interval session. It will be fun to go full speed again after an easy week.

I will hopefully write an update before i start racing.