Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sensational

When I crossed the finish line of the sprint prologue in the Davos World cup on Sunday the stadium speaker announced that I had done a "sensational" prologue and had qualified for the heats. I went into 26th, and as a few later finishers came in I ended up 29th. I didn't think I had been skiing that well in the prologue but I nailed the second half quite well. The times were so tight and the smallest of gains could mean jumping up quite a few positions. From 29th to 39th there was 0.95 seconds separating us. Less than a tenth of a second per position.
As I was top 30 I qualified for the quarter finals... it's kind of like Scotland getting through the group stages at the Football world cup. I'd made it through the group stages. My quarter final went quite well. I went a bit too fast and wasted energy fighting for positions in the first lap. I would have been better off waiting for the second lap. But I had fun, learned a lot and got to ski in amongst some of the best skiers in the world. I've skied heats against good skiers in Norway before but never in a heat where all 5 of the others were realistically a potential for the podium in that race. All of the others in my heat had previously won world cups, 2 of them had been overall sprint world cup winners, and i'm pretty sure they have all been in a final together before. Just to beat even one of them would have been huge, and i showed that I can ski with them and I'm not out of place at the level of competition. The gap isn't huge, it's something that will be hard to close, but after having skied with them I thinks it is possible.
I really enjoyed the experience, and now I have 2 world cup points to my name.
After the race on sunday we drove to Livigno in Italy. I'm going to spend Christmas here altitude training before the Tour de Ski. The plan is only to do the first 4 stages of the tour. There I should get some good competition training before the Norwegian Nationals, U23 world champs and hopefully the Olympics. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Lillehammer WC

Having a world cup in Lillehammer is the closest I will ever get to having a home world cup. So when I was planning which races I wanted to do for the season, of course I decided to do Lillehammer.
The stadium there is completely new. The old stadium from the 1994 Olympics is now too long for modern competition. Back then they did loops of 10k, 15k, and even up to 16.3k, so to have 1k of flat in the stadium each lap wasn't really a problem. But now we use 5k loops. So the stadium had to be moved closer to the hills. Apart from the addition of a new bridge the tracks used for the world cup were old tracks from the '94 Olympics. All be it, going in different directions and adding bits of different loops together to make up this new and modern 5k loop.
The new track was quite special, in that there isn't really any other world cup venue like it. Or any other ski venue like it. The closest I could think of is Val di fiemme. But even then its not quite the same. The tracks in Lillehammer either went up or down. It was pretty much diagonal up the hill... tuck down the hill... and repeat. In my opinion it is not the best track ever. I think a good race track should challenge everything and every aspect of skiing. I don't think Lillehammer did. But it was fair. It was the same course for everyone, and everyone knew what to expect.
Before the race everyone was talking about the hills, how long they are, how hard it was. The general assumption was that heavy people where going to struggle. I bumped into Muzzy's private team manage Emil at the stadium the day before the race. He said to me, rather sarcastically "oh, see you've lost weight then"... whilst nodding towards the course, in a sort of manner that said "Mate, what you even doing here, your done for it tomorrow." He clearly thought it was amusing.
I'd like to point out that Norway knows 4 things... (in order) Skiing, taco (yes mexican food, every house, every friday night. I don't get it either), elk and oil. In Scotland we know 3 things. Deep fat frying, obesity and kilts. Now, you rarely see a scotsman going around telling a Norwegian how to wax a pair of skis. So I'd kindly ask them to refrain from talking about obesity to me.

We had Kåre and Åsmund helping us out with waxing a coaching. Both of them worked for Muzzy's previous private team that folded last year. So both of them weren't up to much and said they could help out. Åsmund was on waxing duty but came down with the flu the night before the race. He was really, really ill, but Kåre insisted it was only because he ate too much pudding. Åsmund managed to finish off some good skis before collapsing onto a bus back to the hotel... about 48hours ago now... so hopefully he has been able to get of bed by now.
Classic races are always hectic with ski testing and getting the grip at the level I want it to be. I had 2 pairs to test. Firstly I went for the pair I felt glided better and felt freer when I kicked forward. The grip wasn't quite good enough so we put some more grip wax on and got it up to scratch. But now the skis felt a bit slower. So we got the second pair out. Now they were easier and lighter to go on. But the kick wasn't quite right. So got some more kick wax on them, but not as much as the first pair. And then discussion time came... I'm hopeless at making the last minute call on skis. And this time we had two pairs working. One with better kick, one with better glide. Kåre and I both decided on the ones with better kick on the grounds that there was a lot of uphill, and also they had perhaps a bit too much kick wax on. The wax would only rub off after a few corners and the glide should get better.
After a hectic testing session like that there isn't much time left for warm up... and in this care there isn't any snow left. The race track closed 5min before the first start in the time trial format. And the warm up track was about 300m long on the flat. All the snow was man made with a few cm's a natural snow that had come on top.
The race went quite well. I was a bit frantic in the start but quickly settled down into the second lap and focussed on my technique. A few of the later starters came past me. They were going at this really irritating pace. They sort of eased up to me and cruised past but didn't really pull away from me. Then when they were about 10seconds in front I'd think "I could have hang on to that". I few came past where I considered getting in behind them and seeing how long I'd last at their pace. But I decided against it. In retrospect I probably should have done... but in all honestly I was too scared of the last part of the course on the last lap. It would have been possible to loose a lot of time there if I was too tired.
I finished 74th of 83 finishers and 85 starters. I was quite a way behind the winner, but the course is quite typical of one that spreads the field. I beat quite a few good people, such as Kris Freeman, and I wasn't far behind a good group of people. I skied well and my technique was good throughout the race which in classic skiing i have struggled with for the last season and a half. On a course that didn't suit me. So I can only be happy with how I did. It is promising for the rest of the season as well. I don't feel I'm in particularly amazing shape now, so hopefully when my shape is better, I have a better course for me, and I manage to ski as technically well as I did in Lillehammer, then I will jump up the results list.

We didn't do the relay yesterday for number of reasons. But mainly so we could have a travel day and get down to Switzerland. The next world cup is in Davos at quite high altitude so we need time to adapt  before we race. We got here late last night after an eventful journey. Firstly the bus crashed/slid into a tree in the car park of one of the team hotels in Lillehammer. So after waiting for an hour and getting pulled out by a tractor we set off. The window of the bus was broken but only the outer window. So the buss driver just got out a broom and knocked out all the smashed glass and drove on like it was nothing. He drove quite fast in a snow storm to get us to the airport on time. Then our flight to berlin was delayed an hour. It meat we should now miss our connection in Berlin. But we arrived a bit early so it gave us a chance. We sprinted through the airport and made it. Once in Zurich we had to wait for just over an hour for the norwegian women's team. Their flight from Oslo had been delayed an hour. Then we got a bus from the world cup organisers up to Davos.

I'm looking forward to getting a good week of training in here, before the spring on sunday. I'm not planning on doing the 30k on saturday.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Gålå

The 15k Classic in Gålå went quite well for me. It's been a long time since I've finished a classic race and immediately thought that it was good race and that I was able to push myself hard the entire race. My technique worked well and felt good the throughout the race. The weather threw a few surprises on sunday and there were big differences in the times. Because of the race being run on a 2.5k loop the start intervals were set at 45seconds instead of the usual 15 or 30. So there was over 2 hours from the first start to the last. The wind was strong and gusting all day, and it was snowing on and off. So it helped if you got a slightly calmer period of weather. The time gaps were huge. Although I ended up 27th I was 2.58 behind the winner. The weather, the shorter track and a number of other factors probably cause the gaps to be bigger than normal. 

Eirik, the coach in my club, got some good pictures of me racing over the weekend. I've posted some of them here. 


Sprint Prologue 

My sprint heat with Sindre Hammerlund to the left and Torin Koos to the right. 

I had a good finishing straight in my heat and finished 3rd

About halfway into the classic time trial



Skiing with Tord Asle Gjerdalen, who ended up second 45seconds behind the winner 


6 laps is a lot to count when you are tired. So I had to check with Eirik that I was on my last lap

The wind had blown loose snow into the tracks... so I skied almost the entire race out of the tracks 

Every second is important in time trial racing


Now I'm back training in Lillehammer before the world cup here on Saturday. Its going to be fun to see how I compare to the best guys in a classic race at world cup, as I haven't done one for years. Also going to be fun racing on my "home" snow, although I've never skied the tracks there as they are completely new... or a revamped version of the 1994 Olympic tracks. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Andrew Young Typical Days Training


I've been asked to do a blog in the style of a day in the life of... So here goes. I chose 11th of june because I've got a good film from that day, and it was quite a typical training day for a training camp. 

The day started at 7am with breakfast. As we were on a training camp in Sognefjell I ate quite a big breakfast with porridge, some bread, boiled eggs, coffee, fruit juice and some fruit. 
Just after 8am I headed out for my first training session of the day. A long skate session with some speed work. I wrote in my training diary "long skate session with speed, quite good speed session. Felt a bit strange in the start but towards the end of the session I had a few good sprints. Good session" The session was 2hours 15mins with 30min of that being speed work. 
After training I came in and hung out my training clothes to dry, before showering before lunch at 11am. Lunch was a cooked meal with potatoes, sausages, salad and water. 
After lunch I got a massage from Thomas before heading back to bed for a few hours. 
At 3pm I woke up again and got dressed for the next session. Then I head for second lunch. Bread, cheese, fruit juice, breakfast cereal and fruit make up the meal. At 4pm I headed out for my second session of the day
The plan for the afternoon is a long classic session with a lot of technique work. After the session I had a 10min jog cool down and 30min of basic core strength. I skied for 1hour 30min. I wrote in my training diary "easy classic with technique work on double pole and diagonal. Some double pole exercises, skiing no poles and with one pole. Afterwards a jog and a little bit of core work." 
After the session I came in and had my second shower of the day and headed for dinner at 7pm. As we are in Norway dinner is yet again potatoes! Potatoes and Salmon, with some over boiled vegetables. We got a treat with some ice cream for pudding! 
Straight after diner we had a team meeting and evaluated the day and went over the plan for the next day. Before I headed for bed I had an individual meeting with the coaches to go over the video from the training sessions during the day. We looked at what I had done well that day and what I needed to focus on for the next day or the rest of the camp. 
After that I had a few spare minutes to myself. I sat and watched TV in the lounge area with all the other athletes training there before heading to bed about 10pm. 

And there you have it... a pretty standard day on a British team training camp. Eat, train, eat, sleep, eat, train, eat, sleep. 
The video here is all the technique video from the day. It's quite long and it's just the raw footage with some music over the top, but it gives you an idea of what we get up to when we are training. You'll have to excuse the occasional sloppy "summer" technique and the remains of the off season that are still present...




An Apology

There is no hiding. Anyone who was in the stadium in Gålå yesterday would have realised the organisers here acted as if they had never held a ski race before. What happened was a shambles, and quite frankly a disgrace. It has left me in a situation that isn't right. I have effectively "cheated" my way to 16th place, when really I was 31st. 
In a sprint prologue the top 30 go through to the heats. I was originally announced as 11th, then 29th, then 30th. I have woken up this morning and checked the official results to find out I was 31st. However yesterday there were clear problems with the timing system. I knew something was wrong as my position kept changing but then I was officially announced as 30th. After that nobody knew anything, and anything we did know was changing every couple of minutes as a result list changed. Don't forget that a change in one position in result can move your quarterfinal time my 25mins. So finding out when you were starting was impossible. 
Now the new official result list has come out and I was 31st. Meaning I should never have gone in the 1/4 final. I should never have had the possibility of moving up from 31st, yet on the official results from the heats I'm 16th and I narrowly missed our on a semifinal spot as a lucky loser (4th lucky loser, 2 go through. For me it is rather embarrassing. Yes I want to be racing heats, and finals. But getting to them only because the organisers have messed up isn't fair. It's not fair on the athletes I took positions from, it's not fair on me, gifting me positions I didn't deserve. If I had known what was going on I would never have started the quarterfinal. 

The classic 15km starts in just over 3 hours for me. Lets hope the timing goes better and I can do better than 31st :)