Thursday, 26 September 2013

September training

I love the smell of intervals in the morning.
This morning I had a pretty hard interval session on the rollerski track in Lillehammer. I got beat. Not just a slight dusting up... I got the old one, two sucker punch that leaves you lying in the ditch, gasping at air, trying to hold back your breakfast, and wondering if there is, in fact any air here.
This was like a little personal welcome to Autumn for me, and hopefully NOT a sign of what is to come. September and October tend to be a bit up and down for me, with one day feeling superhuman, and the next feeling like 70 year old 50 a day smoker.

Autumn is quite possibly the most depressing period of the year as a cross country skier, or for anyone. It is cold. It is dark. It is wet. It is cold. What is more, tarmac hardens up when the temperature is colder, so our rollerski tips don't grip into the tar. The tar is wet and covered in fallen leafs, and so our roller skis slip. The coolish temperatures are exaggerated by the high humidity, and after every session my kit is soaked, even if it isn't raining. It is all pretty depressing... and there is only winter to look forward too, the only good thing about winter is snow.

The last period of training has been typical of September for me. Quite a few hard sessions but not over the top yet. There has been a few long sessions as well with varying lengths from 2 hours to over 3. My shape or form has been going up and down in waves. Probably due a little to the altitude camp and then also that at this time of year i tend to see this happen.
After tha altitude camp i had a few training sessions with NTG Geilo as they were in Lillehammer on a training camp. I'm not going to lie. The best thing about being with them was not the training but an afternoon playing paintball. Playing inside, on the upper floor of what appeared to a barn converted to have some offices, we had a pretty fun afternoon. Safe to say, good job i'm not in the army. Got hit a few times. Also good job i don't do biathlon... don't think i got anyone. But somehow I did manage to choose the winning team, as we went on to win the round robin competition. There wasn't a prize...
Last weekend I headed to Trysil, near the Swedish boarder for a training camp with my club. I have moved clubs this year to Bækelaget Sports Klubb. My house mate is in the same club, and it's better to be in a club which is a bit more active, has waxing at races in Norway and the possibility of a relay team at nationals. The camp was really relaxed. Me and fredrik were the two eldest athletes and fredrik's elder brother was one of the coaches. The clubs head coach is only a few years older than me and still training himself. The youngest kids were pretty scared of him and told me on my first evening to be careful of Eirik as he runs a "nazi" plan. Perhaps at aged 15 they did not quite know what they were saying. But what they meant was that Eirik makes sure everything starts on time, and if it says 2 hours on the plan then they do 2 hours.
I remember reading Australian skier, Andrew Mocks blog once. He described having the younger team members with him on a camp. He liked it saying he no longer needed to waste time doing tasks such as polishing his ski boots or carrying skis, as he just got the younger ones to do this. It happened to me as a younger skier and i complained about it, but nothing happened. And now I am reaping the rewards of being an older skier as much as i can. I can't say i went as far as getting them to polish my ski boots. In fact i didn't really have to do anything as Eirik had them on a pretty tight schedule. We didn't have final cleaning in the cabin we had rented... but that wasn't a problem... we had 8 15 to 16 year olds to sort it out.
There were 15 of us in total. Myself and fredrik the only seniors and then 4 junior guys and then all the young ones. We had some good training sessions, i was surprised at how good the junior guys were at running. I took the definitive decision that i would win the Elghufs interval session, but it took a bit more energy that i had expected.
There was also a football match, the young guys had challenged the older lot to a football match as a warm up to strength. We were all useless at football apart from one guy who played for a team. The young guys could actually play but they were to busy arguing amongst them selves over who's fault it was when we scored our first goal. They didn't seem to notice before we had scored 14 or 15 goals. After strength we split the teams into slightly more even groups so we can play another, slightly more even game.

Since the camp i've been training on my own in Lillehammer again. Next week i'm heading over to geilo for some more training with NTG Geilo. Also get in a 3 hard sessions, including a roller ski test. It will be good to compare my results from the test to 2 years ago the last time i did it.

Sunday, 8 September 2013


"Did the French not go on speak school when they was young". This is a quote by our Finish coach who really can't comprehend the French language and so Tignes becomes Tig-Nes. To be fair he speaks Finnish, Swedish and English as well as basic words such as Oui in French or spassiba in Russian, so we will let him off.
This week has quite possibly been the funnest week i've had as a british skier. The entertainment starts at 8.50am every morning. We start or leave for training at 9 most mornings. I say 9 a little loosely as we have taken it to mean that you can be as late as you want... as long as you are not last. In addition, to make it more exciting, there is an un-written rule that you can't start getting ready until 10min before. So at 8.50 all hell breaks loose. Bedrooms get turned upsides down looking for those lost shorts or heart rate monitor strap, tactics come into to play with people locking them selves in the bathroom where other people have kit drying. Anything to make sure you are not last. On one occasion Posy took this to the next level. I was the last one in the house, but had an opportunity to over take and not be last. Instead Posy locked me in the house. With the door closed i was left fumbling about in a dark corridor looking for a light switch and then a key. Safe to say i lost that day. Most days one of the boys loose.
The last two days training have been a little harder and all the previous training has caught up with me. I've been having a lie down after lunch. Today I walked into the bedroom to find Alex in there lying on his bed with the curtains drawn and his bedside lamp on, reading his book. I asked him why he didn't open the curtains and read using the day light. I quickly learned that reading not under the light of a bed side lamp doesn't create the same "feel", and it "just doesn't feel right",  I feel a lot more educated after this. Perhaps this where I am going wrong in life. The last time I read a book was a little over a year ago... it must be all the daylight that is stopping me.
We also had a discussion this week as to which countries food is the best. It all started after talking about our next camp in Val Senales and how some of the Norwegian U23 team complained about the food after 2 weeks. "not pasta again". And so the jokes about norwegian food started... potatoes and meat were the butt of the jokes. I tried to argue that actually Salmon and potatoes might make a nice change to pasta and risotto. Thomas was joining in, fighting for his scandinavian roots - meat, potatoes, fish. But we eventually all came to agreement when the question of 3 weeks of Sognefjell food, or 3 weeks of Val Senales food.  Val Senales won hands down, and suddenly I'm all the more excited for our next training camp, even though this one hasn't finished.
Before I move onto boring topics like training I thought I'd leave you a few tips for life
- Always have a fire on... no matter what. If you have a wood fire, have it on. Even if it is so hot the doors and windows are open, have it on. After all the open doors and windows will only help with the through draft and starting the fire.
- Sean Banan. (pronounced "shan") Sean Banan is to music what Johan Muhlegg is to cross country skiing... so awful, yet so entertaining... I'm hooked.
- "En kaffe" is universal in every language... say it anywhere and you will get coffee, you just don't know what type of coffee.
- If you ever see one of those electro abb pulse thingies... buy it... they are awesome and bound to turn you into a faster skier.
- French milk is rubbish... don't even bother. My theory is that all the decent milk gets used for making cheese... plausible?
- If you go shopping with 6 people and without a pen to score things off on a shopping list you can end up with 6 chorizo sausages for a meal which requires one.
(Fi says "we had a pen it just ran out")

We have trained a fair bit, but the quantity isn't really what is getting at us, it is more the combination of a medium hard intensity week and a medium hard volume week. A fair bit of training... fairly hard. I've been enjoying it and I feel as if I have achieved a lot from some sessions and others have felt horrible. Most sessions we see some film or a short clip of us skiing so we can see how our technique was looking. Yesterday we had a hard speed session i was really pleased with and earlier in the week we had a classic 7.5km up hill time trial with 490m of height gain. The boys started 5min behind the girls with the aim of giving us a challenge to catch them and giving them a challenge to stay away. We skied as a 3, my self, Callum and Alex. Me and Callum shared most of the work kick double poling our way up the hill. Alex took a turn at about half way and then i was back on the front. I didn't think the pace was so high but after we took a sharp tun Alex dropped off. Callum came through to do his turn and i was paying the price for my efforts. I held the first attack but with about 100m to the finish i couldn't keep on and Callum beat me by 5 second. We had a good training session and i got a few technique things to work on.
Today was brutal. By far my hardest session so far this year. 5x5min intervals skating up hill. We were being lactate tested and i pulled out an 11.6. For me that is high. Normally 6 or 7 is my max on hard sessions. Alex got a 22.6 and posy got one in the 20's. In Norwegian it would have been called a syrafest, that translates as an acid party. It is perhaps not the best to go around saying you were at an acid party, but you get the idea. There was lactate, it hurt. After the intervals i was wrecked. In the cool down I stumbled/skied my way back to the van. Callum gave us a beasting today as well. It is safe to say he is in good shape. Ragnar best watch out.
We have managed to get a few good strength sessions in, but both the gym in Tignes and Val d'isere are now closed as the summer season is finished and the winter season hasn't started. We have trained body strength out on the football pitches. They always end with Thomas's brutal "army jumps", starting lying on the floor, doing a press up, standing up and then jumping. Even at sea level 12 of these is quite tough. But at 2000m they feel like death himself has grabbed your lungs and ripped them from your chest. Other than that, I've been adapting to altitude well. Ready for one more week.

In something un related. These two quotes come from our justgiving  page. "looking forward to Sochi, on the cards for the best ever British cross country skiing results, well done to all concerned."
"The team are an inspiration to all. Keep up the good work."

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Getting High

I'm now one week into my first altitude camp of the season with the British team, in Tignes.  The plan this year is to have 4 altitude camps of roughly 3 weeks each. One now, one in october, one around Christmas time and then one more right before the world U23's in January.
Altitude training is a bit strange and the first week of the camp has been used as adaptation. So we haven't really trained that much yet. Coming from 100m up to 2000m is quite a shock to the system and even short easy training session takes quite a bit of recovery time.
As we are not training so much we have been focusing a lot on rest and recovery. Resting can be tricky for us as we want to train and get a bit restless when we know we can't. But we are surviving. To avoid the cabin fever/restlessness we have done a few fun things... such as taking a trip to the golf driving range up in Tignes. I am rubbish at golf, and on the driving range i was horrific. We have also watched a few films selected carefully from Alex's library of chick flicks. Everybody hated me for telling them that the film "chalet girl" sucked. Apparently it is a classic... i didn't think so.
We have rented a chalet here and are self catering (no chalet girl for us). Callum is the chef amongst us and has cooked dinner most nights with help from others... last night i gave him a break and cooked pasta bake, i like to think that is my cooking duty done for the camp. But i did mutter something about being able to cook mexican... hopefully nobody heard me and i can get away with it.
France is generally pretty good for food. Good cheese, good food and alright bread. But we had to stock up yesterday and decided to do it at a little village we were passing when we were training.  We bought all the bread in the shop and couldn't find half the stuff we were looking for and our attempts at avoiding the drive to the bottom of the valley to do a food shop were meaningless.
We also had a kayak session with a local kayak instructor. Nobody fell in, despite my attempts at rocking the others boats and running into them... such a disappointment.
The actual training we have done has been good. Yesterday we were finally let of the leash and had a good level 3 interval from 1000m up to over 2000m and the French - Italian boarder. With the sunny weather and thin air my sun tan is coming on leaps and bounds. Yesterday afternoon we had an easy walk/run for 2 hours from 2200m up to 2800m and the bottom of a glacier. It was good to take in the view of a glacier, even if it meant a little extra walk in... after all it probably won't be there in 10 years.
Today we had a 4 hour combi session, first we double polled for an hour from 1300m up to 1800m. We had set our selves the goal of double poling up the first bit but when we got there and realised how steep the road actually was, we quickly realised it was going to be a hard task. With the last section an average gradient of 9%, the level 1 session became a little bit of level 2 and we managed to double pole all the way back to the chalet. We had been wearing reflective's to go through tunnels on the main road, so we stopped and took them off and had something to eat before heading the last 40min up 6k and 500m of ascent. The road was now really narrow with lots of hairpins and twist and turns. We got to the top and met Thomas at the van. We changed into running gear and had some more food and drink. Then we walked up in the mountains up to 3000m. The aim was to get to a 3800m peak but the path became more than a simple walking path after a while so we turned round. Despite know everyone on the team for over 10 years now i still learned something new... like Callum is really scared of heights! Don't think he enjoyed walking along the ridge with 1000m drops bellow him.  We finished with a 50min loop around a few lakes back to the van to give us our 4 hours. All in all a pretty good session.
The plan for the next few days is pretty hard, including a classic uphill time trial. Towards the end of next week get a rest day, by that time i think i will be needing it!
I'm sharing a room with Alex during the camp. Callum was the first person in the chalet and shotgunned the only single room for the boys. Sharing with Alex isn't too bad. We don't share often so it is nice to share with someone different for a change. Somehow the girls managed to each get a single room with massive double beds!
For the weekend, James from the junior team has been joining us. He lives in France and was in the area so it worked out quite well.  It's fun to have someone else along and good to see how the juniors are doing compared to us.

I'm writing my blog in the living room and the girls got angry that i hadn't mentioned them much. So Posy is here, and Fi too. Posy got sunburnt during the intervals yesterday. Fi is her usual... mother of the group keeping us all in line. Seeing as almost everyone has got a mention, i best say that Thomas has been coaching us this week and kelly has been here as a physio. Thomas is normally confined to the wax room, and now is like a springer spaniel, let off the leash. Far too much energy! Sometimes when you are tired, someone with lots of energy bouncing around is the last thing you want!

Think you are all updated! and everybody got a mention...
I'm off to try and find some oxygen.