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.