Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Italian Job

For the second year in a row I've spent Christmas in Livigno, Italy. With this year being such a bad snow year for central Europe, I was lucky enough that Livigno was one of the few places with snow. In fact there is quite a bit of snow here. Enough that all the cross country trails are open, and new this year is an extra 10k trial at the top of the valley. Livigno hosted the first leg of the longdistance race circuit, The Ski Classics and the new loop was added to the trial network for the event. There is now about 35km of ski trails.

It's been a breath of fresh air to ski on longer and easier trails instead of just doing laps of race courses. It's pretty much there first time this year I've skied on any loops longer than about 5k. The conditions have been pretty good for training with it being cold most of the time, but sunny and not too windy. I've taken the opportunity to train a bit more volume. Last week I trained a whole 16 hours! Of course this is not very much compared to the 30 hour weeks I trained in the summer but compared to the previous few weeks of 10 hours it feels like a lot! It took me a few days to get used to going out for longer sessions. I had some good ski sessions over 2 hours and a skate session that was 3 hours long. It was a bit of shock to the system, but I quickly got over it. By the end of last week I was starting to enjoy my long sessions, and I wasn't feeling so tired after them. Then it was time to stop. I'm racing again next weekend so the hours have to be eased back and the focus is back on getting the speed up and getting ready to race.

I've had a couple of hard sessions as well. Normally I'd drive over to Valdidentro to train hard at a lower altitude, but there hasn't been much snow there yet this year. I went over to look but due to holiday traffic it took an hour each way instead of 30min. There was an 800m loop of snow, but there were a lot of kids out skiing and it was fairly flat. So I came back to Livigno and did my hard sessions here. It's worked quite well and I haven't noticed the altitude effecting the sessions that much. But I have also been quite high for over 3 weeks now, so I would have thought I'd be adapted by now.

Christmas has been a bit unorthodox for my family this year. Due to both my mum and my sister having to work at various times during the holidays it was impossible for us all to be in the same place and the same time. My parents came out to visit me on the 26th, and we celebrated Christmas a day late. The Europeans celebrate Christmas a day early, so I don't see any harm in being a day late. My parents have been here in Livigno having a little ski holiday, my mum is coming over to the start of the Tour de Ski to watch the first stage before she heads home in the new year.

Seeing as there has been a weekend off racing, things have been a little bit less hectic and more relaxed. However now things are getting back to "normal". The Tour de Ski kicks off on Saturday in Oberstdorf, Germany. It will be my 3rd TDS start and I'm looking forward to it. Mostly because we don't have to fo to Oberhof this year. Like the previous 2 years I'm only going to do the first 3 stages. The first 3 stages suit me quite well and hopefully I can get some good results. After the first 3 stages the Tour moves on to Italy. The stages planned for Italy don't suit me so well and I'm better off doing something else. I've never completed the tour and never done anything like as hard as it. So I'm not sure how I would respond or how my form would be after having done something so hard. But this year I will get a little taste. Straight after stage 3 I'm flying up to Sweden to do the Scandinavian Cup in Falun. The races there are on the same trails as the World Champs in February. So it will be exciting to check them out. The plan at the moment is to do only the second 2 days of the Scandinavian Cup, the classic sprint and the 30k skiathlon.

After Falun the plan was originally to head back to Europe to get some more altitude. But due to the severe lack of snow this year I'm not yet sure if that's going to be possible. So I might yet end up heading back to Norway and putting in a good training block there. But as you can see, the next few weeks are quite busy with a lot going on. Hopefully the races go well. I feel as if training has been going well so now it's just to race fast.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

From 58th to 20th.

A quick reminder that my blog has been nominated for an award. You can go here http://www.trespass.com/row/blog-awards-voting and vote for my blog under the snowsports category.

The past week has been spent doing pretty much nothing. Like I said in my previous blog, I was quite tired and a bit run down from all the training I'd done before the season started. My form was up and down and unreliable. So the last week I took the decision, after consulting with a number of coaches, to cut my training right back to the bare essentials. I trained roughly and hour each day. A jog and strength on Monday, a short ski and speed on Tuesday, a longer ski with 3x10 threshold on Wednesday and a 45min ski on both Thursday and Friday. Compared to how I normally train this is pretty much as close as I'll ever get to taking a week off. I felt good during the week. I had some really good quality training sessions and felt I got a lot out of them, even though they were short.

On Saturday I raced the 15k skate in the Davos world cup. My focus is on sprint races and I wouldn't normally do a 15k race the day before a sprint. But there were a few reasons back the decision to race the distance race. Firstly 15k skate is a world champs event this year: So getting a few good races in that event under my belt before world champs is a bonus. I can occasionally put in a really good distance race, like at the olympics last year, and the 15k is after the sprint at world champs so it is worth it to do the event. Secondly the course in Davos is extremely flat. That doesn't mean it is easy, but it means that heavier skiers have a chance. Everyone who made the podium was 80kg or over. I don't think that has ever happened before and there is only a handful of guys over 80kg that can win a distance race. And thirdly there was a little bit of me thinking that last week I had skied so badly that if I was going to go slow, I may as well go slow in more races and try and enjoy skiing and what I was doing.
The 15k was ok. But not amazing. The course was extremely icy. There was absolutely no loose or soft snow on top. It was just ice. I've never seen conditions like it before. It was really hard to balance and really hard to find any stable skis. Muzzy started off 30 seconds behind me. I was expecting him to catch me around half way and then I would try and keep up with him to the finish. Muzzy passed me at exactly half way and I kept up for a bit but got dropped on a downhill. Because of the ice I took the safe approach on the only downhill on the course. The corners were so icy that the only way to get round them was to go right to the inside, turn your skis into a hockey stop and slide to the outside of the corner. Once you had one ski off the race course and on the soft snow outside your could make your may around the corner. A lot of people fell. I probably lost a bit too much time on the downhills but at least I didn't fall. I ended up quite near the back with a not so amazing result. Unfortunately on Saturday my form still didn't really show any signs of improvement.
The lever on world cup has really increased in the past few years. When I first did world cup back in the 08/09 season I was 6min behind in 15k. I wasn't last but I was near the back. On Saturday I was only 2.30 behind but I was still quite near the back.

On Saturday night I was staring down the barrel of the gun that was my worst ever pre Christmas season. I have been all over the place. Erratic results and my form feeling so different from day to day. By Saturday night I really had very little positive to take with me for the rest of the season. My goal for the 5 weeks of racing before Christmas was just to get up and running. To feel good and post a few good results to build on. Ideally I wanted to get better and better each week. But this had gone out the window by week 3. Week 4 was a disaster and week 5 didn't look to be that much better.

I first started racing world cup in 08/09 and even before that I shared a room with Andrew on training camps and at other races. So for over 6 years I've shared a room, sometimes even a bed, occasionally even the same duvet with Andrew. Rarely have I complained. Rarely have I needed to. Until last night. The beds at our hotel are useless. They are fold out beds that are really short so our feet dangle off the end. They also have a gap at the back of them that the pillows fall down. So we took the mattresses off and slept on the floor. This had been fine all week. But last night Andrew was the most annoying room mate in the world. He went to the toilet about 10 times, and he uses his watch back light to guide him to the toilet. Im pretty much convinced he shines the light in my eyes on purpose and that it has an extra high strength setting that lights up the entire room up. There was rocking and rolling over and loud sighing from his side of the room. It was pretty much impossible to sleep.

At breakfast I was pretty much convinced that I had slept so bad that it was going to be nigh on impossible for me to ski fast at all. But by the time I got to the stadium and headed out ski testing I felt pretty good. The snow was much more stable today. It was still really hard, but there was much more grip and it was easier to ski technically well. I found some good skis pretty quickly and headed off to warm up. My warm up went well and I felt as if I was skiing well.

Because the sprint course he in Davos is a 2 lapper they use a batch start for the prologue time trial. I was off second in my batch 10 seconds behind the home town favourite and olympic champion Dario Cologna. In a time trial start you can start 3 seconds before and 3 seconds after your time. The time at the finish is still accurate as you set off a timing wand when you go out. Of course this brings in a tactic roll in sprint time trials. Do you go off at 3 seconds before making it look like you are close to the guy in front? Or do you wait and go at 0? Last week I set off at 3 before, giving me a 7 second gap to the guy in front. But today I went on 0 or maybe ever 1 second behind giving me a bigger gap to Cologna. The crowd went insane for Cologna, as you would expect.
My first lap was quite controlled. I made sure I nailed all my lines on all the corners and that I skied technically well. As I came onto the long straight through onto the second lap I really started to up my speed. I could see I was up on Cologna, and he was no close enough that he never went out of sight for the rest of the race.
I crossed the line in 22nd. Two people that started behind me came in front of me and I ended the prologue in 24th.
My quarter final was really tight and hectic. I don't think I've even been in a heat with so much contact. Skis, poles, arms, elbows, everywhere. On the long straight as we came onto the second lap I tried to make a move but I didn't have the turn of speed I needed. Through some tight manoeuvring, people falling and some near falls, I ended up 4th in my heat and 20th overall. Of course it would have been amazing to make the semifinal. But I'm happy with 20th, and happy that I was in the mix in my quarter final. Most of all I'm happy that things are going the right way again.
To end the pre Christmas season on a positive note is great. I now have something to build on. I've noticed things that I need to adjust and it now feels like it is possible to go forward and improve. The results from the last few weeks have been so far behind my expectations that I didn't even know where to begin or how to get myself back to where I wanted to be. At least now I know that the work I put in the summer has payed off, and the results are improving.

I'll take it easy for the next few days before getting back into some quality training over Christmas. I'm spending Christmas in Livigno, Italy. There I can ski everyday on what seems like the only snow in Europe? I'm going to race the Tour de ski, which starts in 2 weeks. Until then I'll just be training.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Davos Disappointment

I raced the world cup sprint in Davos yesterday. Last year I came 29th in the same event, this year I came 58th. When I looked through the race calendar at the start of the season in May, Davos was one of the events that I picked out as a race I could do really well in and I decided to give it a little bit of extra attention. The course suits me well, being fairly flat, with lots of skate 2/double dance and the medium altitude of 1600m suits me well, as I have been to altitude for training camps. 
However when it came to racing I was completely out of shape. I was tired and lethargic all day and never felt comfortable skiing during my warm up or during the race. My technique was all over the place and I never managed to push my self up into my top gear that is needed to go really fast in sprint races. 
It's starting to really annoy me now. I've raced 8 races this year so far. 1 was good, another was acceptable and 6 have been well bellow standard. I can accept not being good at skiing, for example if I had an amazing day and felt awesome but ended up 58th, then it is easy to accept there are 57 people who are better than me. But that's not the case. My form is swinging dramatically from one end to the other. I have some really good training sessions where I ski well and get a lot out of the session. Then the following day I can feel really tired and have no energy and ski really badly. Or as with yesterday, race really badly. 
For me it is a pretty unusual place to be in. Previously I've always started the season off with average results before I slowly build myself into the season. My results are almost always stable, I can't remember the last time I varied as much as I have done over the past few weeks. 
I spent this morning talking to coaches and getting opinions on why this might be happening and how I deal with it. It was pointed out to me that actually yesterdays result wasn't that bad. "If it was a bad day and you were only in 58th then think what you could do on a good day." The general consensus was that I've trained so much during the summer and the autumn that I just need time to recover and let myself get into good shape. I have already reduced my training hours quite a bit for the last few weeks. But it may be that I need a few more weeks with little training before I begin to notice the effects of being well rested. Of course the biggest races of the year aren't until January and February. So at a first glance I may actually be in quite a good situation. The only problem is that it is unknown and I've never really been here before. So who knows what will happen. But for now I'll stick to the plan. 
The start of this season has been quite hectic with lots of races back to back. I thought I was going to be really tired after Lillehammer and with the travel down to Switzerland. But I was pleasantly surprised to find I felt good all of last week. It was the first time so far this season where I've felt like I've fully recovered after a race weekend. I had some really good training sessions despite the limited snow. There was only a 1.3km track of snow at the start of the week. I used the track once and had a good technique and speed session. Otherwise I went to the gym and had some easy running sessions. By Friday they had made a 5km track for the races over the weekend. I had a good hard session going though the sprint track to be used for the race on Sunday. I worked on technique and also tried out some different ways of attacking the hills and corners on the course. Working out where it was important to go all out and where it was important to hold back. All in all it was pretty good training week with a lot of positives. Until Sunday. 
We stayed in an apartment and self catered last week which was pretty good. We had our own space and living room with a small kitchen. We made some pretty good meals. Posy did some baking... although only made healthy things like carrot cake and banana bread... both of which count as 1 of your 5 a day? 
For some reason a few weeks ago I had looked up the rules for the card game Gin Rummy. This lead me to a website where you could play lots of different card games and Yahtzee. I became addicted to some of the card games, and last week I decided to play Yahtzee for the first time. Andrew saw I was playing Yahtzee online over my shoulder and laughed at me and said I had a sad life. Then he decided to check it out and see what it was all about. About 5min later he too was addicted to online Yahtzee, saying "I'll just play one more game", before he proceeded to spend the next hour glued to his phone. Posy found some die in the cupboard at the apartment and we played "non virtual" yahtzee. We had some pretty close games and it is too close to call who is the official team yahtzee champion. 
The world cup should have moved on to France for next weekends races. But due the lack of snow everywhere in Europe it is staying in Davos for an extra week. I have changed my plans and instead of heading to the Alpen Cup in St Ulrich I'm going to have another week here in Davos. Next week the races are a 15k skate and a skate sprint. I'm planning on doing both of them. I'm quite happy I get a second chance at the sprint and hopefully I can put together some better results than I did this week. 
We had to move out of the apartment as it was booked out this week. So we've moved into official team accomadation in a hotel. So far it seems pretty good. Hotels are normally not great as we don't get much living space and live pretty cramped and close to each other. Here the rooms are just standard rooms, but the hotel seems pretty keen to please us. They've already asked us we'd like to eat for our meals and the food seems pretty good. The added bonus is that there is a Ping - Pong table. So the British Nordic ping pong championships will continue. With the absence of Thomas I see my chances of at least a podium spot being quite good. With Andrews terrible thumb injury forcing him to play with his less favoured right hand I may even have an outside chance at winning.

My blog has also been nominated for a "Trespass Blog Award" in the snow sports category. The blog which gets the most votes wins the award. The voting should have gone live today, and is open to the 5th of January. This is the link to the voting page http://www.trespass.com/blog-awards-voting However it doesn't seem to have gone live just yet. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lillehammer - Davos

I raced the world cup in Lillehammer last weekend. The race program was a mini tour with 3 stages all adding up to a total time. I had always planned to skip the last day of the tour and only race on the Friday and Saturday. So for me the plan was a skate sprint and a skate 10k time trial. 

Last year I had started to ski quite well in skate sprints and had two top 30's on world cup. The sprint course in Lillehammer is really hard. It's quite long and there is a lot of climb. I'm also not an out and out sprinter, I can occasionally do ok in distance races. So I thought the long sprint with a lot of climb would fit me quite well and I might even have an edge over the sprinters. However this was not the case. I skied really, really, really badly and ended up way down. So far down I don't even really want to get into it. I haven't really got any idea as to why it went so badly. I didn't have the best of skis. I chose a very fine structure for my race skis which worked well during testing. However it snowed a little bit and compacted down giving the tracks a wet glaze. This might have caused the problem with the skis, but I don't think that is 100% responsible for me skiing badly. 

The following day for the 10k skate was quite different. I was quite sure my form was awful, so tactically I was really careful. The course in Lillehammer is one of the hardest in the world with a long climb about 800m long at the end of the 5k lap. They used the climb last year at Norwegian nationals. I timed the best men in the 30k skiathlon. They took over 3min on the climb, which is a long time. The conditions on Saturday were a little bit different and faster. There was less skate 1/paddling and more skate 2/double dance. So I took it really controlled to make sure I had something  left in the tank for the last time up the climb. I went perhaps too slow at the start and had too much left for the last few k's but not enough distance to make up enough places. I ended up only 1.36 behind the leaders but I lost less than 20 second in the last 2.5k. So almost all my time was lost at the start of the race. It was in fact my best distance race ever. 

Quite as to why my form is swinging so rapidly from my worst day in ages to my best race ever, I don't quite know. I've spoken to my coaches about it and they reckon it is quite normal for the start of the season. I was training a lot right up until the season started and I haven't quite got that out of the system yet. I think by the third week of the season I should be up and running in stable form. Hopefully my form will level out this week and I'll be able to ski fast in Davos and St Ulrich before Christmas. 

I used Sunday to pack and have a long easy ski at Nordseter just outside Lillehammer. After the racing was finished on Sunday all of the British team headed to the Airport and flew to Zurich. We got to Davos in the early hours on Monday morning. On Monday I just had an easy jog around the town. Today I skied for 90min. But there isn't much snow here in Davos or even in central Europe. There is only 1k at the moment but they hope to have 5k open by Friday. They are working pretty hard driving in trucks of snow from snow depots where they have snow cannons working round the clock. Obviously 1k of track isn't enough for an entire world cup circus. So lots of team have headed to Livigno to get some snow time. We decided to stay here as none of us are going to ski that much this week. Tomorrow I'm in the gym, I'm having a rest day on Thursday and I'm skiing again on Friday when the track is up to 5k. 

Here's a few videos from the 10k in Lillehammer last weekend. Both of them are from the long climb at the end of the 5k loop. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Autumn Classics.

My race season started 2 weekends ago at Beitostølen. The first weekend back racing always feels a bit unusual. It had been a long time since my last race the season before. On top of all the usual uncertainties that come with the first competition of the season this year I was competing for Team Synnfjell for the first time. It always takes a few races to get into the rhythm of working with new waxers and support guys. 
I decided to skip the first race on the Friday and focus on the 15k skate on the Saturday and the classic sprint on the Sunday. The race schedule before Christmas this year is pretty full on and I have to cut back and miss some races. Wether missing the first race of the season was a good idea or not, I don't really know. I'm pretty sure I was more nervous watching on TV than the rest of the team were racing. 
I raced the Saturday as planned. I was pretty nervous before I started. I find when I get extremely nervous it is easy to make mistakes and change from my normal pre race routine. But this year I pretty much managed to stick on track and get my self to start without any problems. I started my race and what I thought was an ok pace. And I skied technically well throughout the race. But I didn't ski that fast. In fact I was quite slow. I was a lot further down the results sheet than I had expected, and a lot further behind that I had expected. 
The day after was the classic sprint. As a team we took the decision to double pole. It obviously worked as we ended up with 3 in the heats. I didn't make the heats. I felt sluggish and tired all through the prologue and ended up a good chunk down on qualifying. 
The team however had an amazing day. With 3 guys in the heats it was pretty much only the Norwegian national teams that were ahead of us. We showed we can compete right up there with the best guys. And we had by far the best results per krone in team budget. 
Although the team had a good weekend, I can't exactly sugar coat my results, I was pretty bad and my results at best were average. It's always a shock to the system to get beat by so much and the few days after Beito were quite important. I had always planned to use Beito and Gålå to get into better shape for later in the year. But I was quite a bit further back than I had expected. Together with my coaches we decided to just stick to the plan and see how Gålå went before making any changes. I was dubious, the first 3 days after Beito I felt really tired. I had no energy and every training session felt like a big task. On the 4th day, also the day before Gålå, I started to feel better. I tested skis at Gålå and had 4x2min at race pace on the sprint track. I felt almost normal again. 
The day after was the skate sprint at Gålå. I wanted to make the heats but I thought it would be a tough ask for me with the form I had coming into the race. The level in Norway is insanely high at the moment. You had to be within 5 seconds of the winner to be top 30 and qualify for the heats. There were 170 people on the start list so just to make the top 30 you are really up there in the upper bracket of the competition. Olympic medalist from Sochi, Ilya Chernusov, didn't even make the heats, nor did he even make the top 30 in the distance race the day after. There were other quality skiers who didn't make the heats and almost everyone who made the semi finals had some world cup racing experience. 
I qualified in 19th. I was happy to make it into the top 30, but I made a few mistakes in my prologue, I missed a few technique changes and was out of balance a couple of times. If I'd nailed it perfectly I think I could have gained a second. My quarter final was pretty exciting. In the end I executed my plan perfectly. I took it easy out of the start and got my place at the back. After the first 400m on the flat I decided to move up on the first climb. At the top of the first climb there is a 90 degrees right hand bend. This is when things first got interesting. I had moved up to 4th and was on the inside. Snorri Einarsson was on the outside and decided he suddenly wanted to fight me for the inside line. Snorri weighs about 50kg, I weigh about 85kg. So when a comparable feather decides to land on my shoulder it pretty quickly finds its self deposited on the ground. I think Snorri needs to learn to old saying of "don't start a fight your aren't going to win." I moved into 4th for the first of 2 difficult downhils. I wanted to be on the outside of a big 180 degree bend at the bottom so I could cut in a get a better line into the second uphill. 5th place came past me on the inside, but I new I had a better line on the bend so I didn't stress. Then from nowhere came this black clad speeding bullet on the inside of the bend. Everybody was breaking to get a good line on the bend. But not Snorri. He straight lined into the apex of the bend, then out the other side. I'm pretty sure he'd have kept on going into the bushes on the other side. But Gjøran Tefre was in his way. They collided/snorri rugby tackled Gjøran, and took each other out of the race. I ended up with a dead good line into the second and final uphill. I ended up in 2nd for the final downhill. On the long finish straight I sprinted round the leader and won the heat. 
My semi final was unfortunately for me the fastest heat of the day. The pace was so high straight from the start. I got my self comfortable at the back. But I couldn't move around anywhere as the pace was so kept so high. In the finish straight I won the sprint for 5th place. The annoying thing is I would have won the other semifinal with the time I had, and the time was much faster than my prologue earlier in the day when I was fresh. However it does mean I got a really good training session and a good run through at really high speed. I also got 2 good heats with training at close quarter and tactical skiing. So ultimately it should help me towards skiing faster later in the season. 
It was also the first time I've ever made the semi final as senior athlete. At any level, Norwegian cup, Scandinavian Cup, World cup I'd only ever made the quarter finals before last friday. 
The day after was a 10k skate time trial. I felt pretty tired at the start but picked it up throughout the race and finished off quite fast. I ended up 34th. An ok result, but hopefully I'll be making top 30's in Norwegian cup shortly.
The final day of competition was a 15k classic hunting start. Unfortunately I didn't do that much hunting, and got hunted by quite a few people. I felt really tired and after 5k I went into survival mode and just tried to make it to the finish.

After Gålå I headed back to Lillehammer. The world cup is here in a few days. Starting on Friday with a skate sprint, a 10k skate on Saturday and a classic 15k hunting start on Sunday. The same schedule as at Gålå. I'm looking forward to it. It is in away my "home" world cup. So it should be exciting to race. The weather is meant to be good so I think there will be a lot of people out watching and probably a good few people that I know. Hopefully my shape will continue to improve and results will too. The next few days are filled with pretty easy training. Yesterday was an hours ski, today is only 45min of strength work, tomorrow and Thursday I'll only ski for an hour each day. The focus is more on recovery and keeping my self fresh than training lots. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

5 More Days!!

November in Scandinavia gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “fifty shades of grey”. There is actually at least 50 different shades of grey. And even things that I know must be coloured are grey. Take a pine tree for example. Everybody knows they are green. But in November in Scandinavia they are grey. In fact the only thing that is remotely colourful is the Slovenian team ski suit. Even that looks duller and greyer than normal.

After training with Team Synnfjell in Beitostølen I got a bit ill for a few days. I took 2 days off training and had two easy training days before I got back into it. This year the snow has been pretty late in coming. I know there has been skiing on natural snow as early as the 1st of October at Sjusjøen.  But here we are this year on the 17th of November and there is only skiing on a 3,3km loop of dirty manmade snow at Natrudstilen. The first day I skied at the track it wasn’t great conditions. Since then they worked quite hard to get the track in a better shape. They put out a bit more snow and they had people go round and pick up stones and take out the dirtiest snow. It has also snowed a few cm’s, which has helped.

At the weekend Natrudstilen was hosting the Norwegian Biathlon opening weekend. They had a sprint on the Saturday and a mass start on the Sunday. This meant the track was out of commission for most of the weekend. I had to change my training round a bit but I managed to ski on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night after the races and official training. For my morning sessions I ran and did strength work.

It was great to have winter sports back on the TV. This was the first weekend this season that I’ve watched NRK’s winter sports production. I pretty much watched continuous sport for 4 hours. Alpine, biathlon and speed skating were all being shown. Of course next week cross country skiing will be added to the list as the Norwegian opening weekend races in Beitostølen kick off. 

I’m planning on racing at Beitostølen, and so now I have less than a week until my season starts. The off season seems to have gone by so fast, but I think I have done everything I needed to. At least I hope I have as it is too late now. Today was my last of “volume “ training day. After Beitostølen I have 5 back-to-back race weekends. So it’s going to be a long time before I can put in a training period like I’ve just finished. When there is such a short gap between races there isn’t time to train as much as recovery is more important. Instead of going out for long session, I’ll do short easy sessions where I focus on having high quality. So now I might do a 2hour ski with 45min of technique work with a coach. But between races I might only do an hour, but still have the same technique work.

The period of training I’ve just finished has been pretty good. After I got over the slight hiccough of being a little bit ill, everything has gone to plan. I’ve had two really good hard sessions and a really good speed session. I’d like to think I’m in good shape and ready for the season. But I I’ve been in this position before. Having done some amazing hard sessions the week before the first races and then gone really slowly in the races.  In all honesty, no matter what anyone says or what any test results say, nobody has a bloody clue what is going to happen on Friday. It’s racing and results sheets that count. A fact I’m fully aware of and so I’m not thinking too much about what training I’ve done and how training has been going. Because ultimately that doesn’t mean anything. Due to the lack of snow and the fact there is only a 3.3k competition look available, I’ve done a lot more running that usual for this time of year. I’m not really sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It is probably good that I don’t try and do all my easy sessions on such a hard loop, and I’ve kept the variation in my training up for longer than normal.  But on the flip side I’ve had fewer ski sessions than normal. It will be interesting to see how or if it affects the first few races of the season. At least everyone is in the same boat. There isn’t really much snow anywhere.

The British team has rented a cabin for the last week or so up at Sjusjøen. I’ve taken the opportunity to live with them, and it saves me having to drive 30min to ski everyday. It’s only Posy and me here and my dad is here coaching. On Wednesday they are heading over to Bruksvallarna for the Swedish opening. On Thursday I’m headed to Beitostølen.

Because of the way the season calendar is set up I’ve had to make some decisions about which races to go to and which events to target. If I just went for it and did every race in the 5 weeks before Christmas It would be 15 races in 31! Almost a race every second day! That is a bit much and getting enough recovery would be nearly impossible. So I’ve had to cut some races out. I’ve tried to cut out races evenly so I still get a good balance of distances and techniques. So at Beitostølen I’m only racing on Saturday and Sunday, the 15k skate and the classic sprint.  I’m not sure what to expect in the races but that’s normal for the first weekend. Hopefully it go ok, and I’ll get a good run through before some more important races later in the year.

Today I picked up my new Team Synnfjell clothing for the winter. So watch out for the orange a white race suits. I didn’t choose the colour way, but it definitely stands out!.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Ham and Mustard

I spent last week on a training camp with Team Synnfjell in Beitostølen. There hasn't been that much early snow in Norway but Beitostølen was one of the few places with prepared ski trails. They had a 3k track that slowly grew to 4k by the end of the week. Up in the mountains there was a 5k track, but the weather was so miserable up there that it was pretty much unusable. I'm not going to lie. I've had better weeks skiing. In fact this week probably ranks up there amongst my ultimate worst weeks skiing. They had the snow cannons on all week trying to prepare more snow to make the loop longer and trying to get the stadium ready for the first competition of the year. It was about -1 or 2 the entire week and it was really humid with freezing fog/rain. It must have only just been cold and dry enough to make snow. So imagine it is a cold frosty morning. You go outside and you turn the garden hose on, plug it into the sprinkler and dance about under the sprinkler for 2hours. Repeat that twice daily and you'll start to feel how I felt all last week. On top of that about 5 million people turned up on Friday to ski on the snow. Skiing in a continuous line while having fake rain sprayed over you isn't exactly my idea of fun. Apart from this it was actually pretty good. We had some pretty good high quality sessions and got some good technique work done.
My technique work is going pretty well and I'm getting used to skiing on snow again. Especially in classic. I feel I'm back to where I was at my best (technically) last year and then some. Skating has taken a little bit of extra work and I'm not quite there yet. But a few more weeks and I'm sure it will begin to come together. In previous years I've really struggled with my classic technique and skating has gone pretty well. I'm now probably suffering from having over neglected my skating and focussed on classic a bit too much in the past. However I looked up some videos from when I was at my best last year and compared them to how I was last week, I don't think I'm too far behind that it's going to be impossible to get back there.
We had 3 good hard sessions on snow during the camp. The first was a test race. The conditions were extremely slow. It took 45min for a 15k! I've done 15k's in under 33min before! So it was a pretty hard session, but I think it was useful and worth it to get a good, continuous hard effort in before the season. I ended up second but quite a long way back. Hard to tell if that's good or bad as everyone was on different skis and the conditions were so extreme. But I'd rather be 2nd a bit back that last and hours behind.
The second hard session was a "sprintervall" with Team Oslofjord. We skied 3 loops but split the loop up into sections with roughly a 3min working part and 2min break. There were 2 efforts and 2 breaks on each loop. We raced the efforts as hard as we could sustain. I was really good for the first 4 efforts. But the last 2 I was knackered and skied horrifically slowly. The last hard session was a bit new for me. We did 3x10min threshold (sustainable pace), and the 10min with 30sec on and 30sec off. The last 10min was pretty tough, but good for technique work going at high speed and as hard as we good.
We stayed in some apartments and self catered which was pretty good. Whilst trying to get inventive with my lunch I found we had some mustard and rediscovered ham and mustard sandwiches. After that I pretty much only ate ham and mustard for breakfast, after training lunch and pre training lunch. It seemed to take off as we went through a whole squeezy bottle of mustard.
Other than the usual problems of having 9 boys live together for a week, everything with the team seems to be going quite well. Even Frank managed to train over 10 hours last week, in his bid to take the Tour de Ski title up Alp Germis. Although now he seems to be getting ahead of himself and going for the Tour de Ski and world champs double.
The British Biathlon team were also in Beito for a training camp before their selection races next week. I went round for a cup of coffee with them and had a good catch up. They seem to be doing well, hopefully they'll go fast in the winter.
The camp ended yesterday, but unfortunately I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and had to come home without training yesterday. I slept most of yesterday, and today I seem to be feeling better. Fingers crossed I've escaped without getting proper ill and I can train again tomorrow.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Val Senales and Back to Norway

The second half of my altitude camp went pretty well. Most morning we skied up on the Grawand glacier at the top of the Val Senales valley. In the afternoons we drove down to Naturno to rollerski or ran down in the valley at the Hotel in Maso Corto.
For the first few days the snow on the glacier was pretty awful. Bizarrely it was both the worst and the best summer/off season snow skiing I've ever had. Because there was so little snow, fewer alpine ski runs were open so there was more space on the glacier for xc skiing. The total length of the lap was almost 9k with some good varied terrain. So it was pretty good. On the other hand, it was only sheet ice. It was black glacier ice with a thin layer of what I would call crushed ice on top. It made classic skiing nearly impossible as any wax you did have on your skis was gone after a few km's. Skate skiing was ok, but it was quite challenging to ski technically well on the ice.
After a few days of this it snowed. And when it snows in Val Senales it really snows. The mountain was closed for a few days and we resorted to rollerskiing down in the valley. Weirdly, although snowing up the mountain it was dry down in the valley much to my delight. I hate rollerskiing in the rain when it's cold. Fortunately this year I seem to have avoided the almost annual rollerski at 0 degrees and sleeting horizontally in your face session.
After the snow storm the conditions on the glacier were perfect. The snow on the glacier is always extremely dry. Even if it was a sunny day and only 1 or 2 degrees bellow freezing we were waxing with green (cold) waxes. It is one of the few times early in the season when I know I will be guaranteed  cold conditions. So I took the opportunity to test some cold skis. In skate this was easy. I got a new set of cold skis from Fischer in the autumn, it took me about 30 seconds of skiing on them to realise they were better than my old ones. For classic it took a little more testing. I have some quite good pairs of cold skis and I was unable to choose one over the other, so hopefully we'll get some cold weather before Christmas this year and get some more testing done.
Apart from ski testing the glacier sessions were used for technique work. Rollerski technique almost directly translates to ski technique, but not quite. So the sessions were focused on getting used to skiing on snow again and working on the technique stuff I have been working on all summer. But now translating that over to being on skis and snow, not rollerskis and tarmac. We had Kåre with us to help out with technique. It's always good fun to have Kåre along and he certainly got his moneys worth from the hotel by eating his body weight in cake each evening. I don't understand where he puts it. Each night he would get a plate of cake from the buffet, it would be stacked full with a large slice of every cake.
I had quite a few good hard sessions as well. The glacier is at 3200m, far to high to train hard, so all my hard sessions were on rollerskis or running down the valley where there is actually the odd molecule of oxygen. Last year we did a test race up the road towards the hotel, I repeated the test again this year and had a slightly better time. So things are looking good for the season.
The first week at Val Senales was quite a tough training week. With getting to cable car up to the glacier each morning and driving down the valley in the evening, I didn't really have any spare time. On top of that we had a physio, Kelly, with us for a few days. I was either sleeping, eating, on route to or from  training, training or being beaten up by Kelly. It was pretty full on and after a week of hard training I needed a good rest day. There isn't really all that much to do in Maso Corto, so me and Posy played a bit of cards. We played slam. Posy is quite good at slam, but only because she cheats. I even have video evidence of her cheating (It's not on this computer so can't put it up on the blog). She clearly throws a card wildly into the air and "slams" a "pile" before the thrown card has even left her hand. On top of that the thrown card didn't even land on the pile it was meant to. She maintained that this was legal and that she had won the hand, refusing to replay the point, despite the video evidence. I spent the first few hands being destroyed and loosing epically. I decided the only way I could win would be if I also lowered my self to "Oyne house rules". I appreciate that I may have ruined my integrity by doing this, and I should have stuck to usual high standards of card playing rules. But after I had accepted the new (wrong) rules things quickly began to change and I won a few hands, thus providing proof that Posy was indeed cheating.
Towards the end of the camp I started to ease back the training so that when I got back to Norway I'd be ready to train hard, and get in some good hard sessions on snow. I flew back to Norway on Saturday with a rather eventful journey due to fog at Frankfurt airport. I delay from Innsbruck, a missed connection, further delays and missing a train all lead me to have to take the night train. But the train wasn't running so it was "bus for train". I ended up getting home at 1am on sunday, far from ideal, when I should have been home at 4pm the previous day.
The weather here has obviously been pretty bad. I woke up yesterday to say it tanking down with rain and the thermometer showing only 4 degrees. I fortunately had a recovery day. Thomas one of the guys I live with woke up and I asked him what he was going to train. He looked out the window and said that it looked drier outside that it had done the previous few days so he'd take the opportunity to rollerski. I thought it looked like a full on storm outside.
This afternoon I'm going to Beitostølen with Team Synnfjell. This autumn has been pretty mild in Norway so there isn't much snow around. Rumour has it that Beito has a 3k track at the ski stadium and a 4.5k track up in the mountains above the town. Hopefully we'll be able to make good use of the snow, because if we have to go back to rollerskiing I'm going to be a pretty miserable person to be around. It's not raining today. But I would still give it a "little to no" chance of seeing the sun. I feel like someone who has heliophobia. It's meant to snow a bit more during the week so hopefully the conditions will get better and better.
Now I have to go and pack.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Livigno Week 2

I've just finished my second week of training in Livigno. This morning we drove over to Val Senales, where we will be for the next 2 weeks. 
Last weeks training has gone pretty well. On Monday I was joined by Posy and my Dad came back out to coach. It's been nice to have a few more people to share the cooking and washing up duties with. I had quite a few hard sessions this week and it's been good to have my dad along to film and give some feedback during the sessions. Although filming with an iPad is quite good as we can get instant feedback on the screen, he does look just like any other muppet holding up an iPad into the air. He has however managed to avoid filming himself instead of us skiing. I had drive and pick them up from the train station lower down in the valley. I was meant to do a rollerski session before I left to pick them up. But it was absolutely chucking it down with rain and it was about 3 degrees. So I went out running with poles instead as I couldn't bring my self to face 2 hours of rollerskiing through puddles. As I drove to pick up the others I saw another ski team who had been out roller skiing. They were rollerskiing "indoors". There is a 9k long section of road that is covered by avalanche protection in a sort of semi tunnel with one side open or with windows if you like. They had been rollerskiing back and forth in there keeping dry.
My first hard session was a "level 6" double pole session. It's something I've started doing this year to work on my double poling and work on my speed as well as my speed endurance. I've found in the past that often when I do speed work I never actually get up and going into a good rhythm and my technique doesn't really seem to benefit from it. The session was 10x45seconds. I did it 2 blocks of 5 with 30min easy in between and in between each individual "sprint" I have around 3minutes break so I'm fully recovered. This was one of the best double sessions I've done this year and I was really pleased with my technique and how I skied during the session. I'd promised myself to take lots of photos and video last week for the blog. But that never happened. I kept the promise for one session and took some film from the double poling. You can see it in the blog post bellow. 
The second hard session was a disaster. It was meant to be a really hard classic session. Just about everything that could go wrong did. I managed to fall over on the second interval, making quite possibly one of the most embarrassing mistakes I've ever made on roller skis. I was stepping round a corner at fairly low speed when I mange to lift my outside rollerski up and step it on top of my inside rollerski. Rollerskis are only 65cm long so I have no idea how I managed to end up on the floor with me feet crossed. The session continued in such a fashion. Getting to long downhills with 30 seconds left of the interval and the final straw was when a tractor stopped in front of me and I had to stop mid interval. Yes a tractor stopped in the middle of a roller ski track. 
I managed to see the funny side of it, but after such a session I knew my final hard session of the week had to be a good one. Yesterday I did an almost identical session to the classic session but skating. Everything went as planned... no tractors and no falling over. 
For my first week in Livigno I'd just done my strength training outside using body weight and a "trx" or "redcord" as the local public gym has closed down. I'd never noticed the hotel opposite our apartment with the sign that says "bodybuilding gym" on it. It wasn't until I noticed a Swedish ski team van parked outside the hotel that we worked out there was a pretty good gym 20m from our front door. I had a session in the bodybuilding gym, which at this time of year only had skiers in it. It was a pretty good gym and I managed to have a better session than I would have if I had beed messing about outside stinging trx's up round fence posts. 
We got to Val Senales in time for lunch and a short training session this afternoon. Tomorrow will be our first day on snow on the glacier. The conditions have been far from ideal here. The webcam showed mostly black glacier ice with a few white strips just a few days ago. It has snowed since then so hopefully the conditions will be good tomorrow, and there is snow forecast in a few days time. In terms of training this will be my hardest week of the camp. Having been at altitude for a while now I should be beginning to adapt to the thiner air now and able to tolerate harder training. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Livigno, Week 1.

So I've been in Livigno a week now and training's going pretty well. Livigno is good for altitude training, especially at the start of an altitude block. It's not so high that is it uncomfortable and there is quite a lot of flat terrain on offer compared to other altitude training places. Often when you head to the alps you end up running and rollerskiing up massive mountain passes, and in the first few days when you aren't adapted it turns into basically walking. But here there is a 12k cycle and walking trail through the valley which is perfect for rollerskiing. No, it's not long and yes, it does get boring. But I can rollerski from the apartment, the trail is fairly flat and easy. So it's perfect for the first week at altitude. There is also quite a lot of running on offer here and I've managed to avoid running up massive mountains and then having to run back down - "running downhill - easy hours in the book and sore legs". It's easy to find undulating off road terrain that is forgiving on your legs.
Everywhere has their problems however. The gym that we used last year in Livigno has since shut down. It closed permanently in the spring. So I had to be a little creative for my strength training but I managed.
We are self catering whilst we are here, which is great. We decide when and what we eat and alter it around our training. It works well when we are such a small group... indeed I was alone for much of the week. However food shopping in Livigno is not so great. There is no one supermarket in Livigno, but rather about 20 small grocery shops. In most places this would be fine. But Livigno is duty/tax free. Livigno has been tax free under the current agreement since 1840. It was made tax free because the area is or was so inaccessible during the winter. The then Austrian Empire made it tax free to encourage people to live here year round and they could in return claim the area. The kingdom of Italy then continued with the agreement in 1910. Anyway... this means that each little shop gives about 90 percent of its floorspace over to alcohol to get in on the duty free market. There is also an aisle dedicated to chocolate. So in a 3 aisle shop, 1 is for alcohol, 1 for chocolate, 1 for proper food. The shops do however sell good local bread and milk... if you get up early and buy it before it sells out. The other day I had to go to 3 different shops just to get dinner.
All negative things do seem to come in 3's. The gym being shut, trying to by dinner... and falling over. On my first classic rollerski session of the camp my rollerski wheel bearings decided to pretty much explode. I don't think it would have cause any major problem if it wasn't for the fact it happened on the only downhill on the cycle path. There is only one hill in 12k, it's about 100m long and has a corner at the bottom. But I managed to fall on it anyway. I sort of half made it onto the grass, but not enough to avoid a nice bit of road rash up my left shin... in exactly the same place from my fall in Sognefjell. I have some super slow wheels I took with me to use for some double pole strength work, but now I have to use them permanently. There's only 3 weeks (fingers crossed) of the rollerski season left, so I'm sure I'll survive.
Ive had a couple of hard sessions in the second half of the week. I've driven over to Valdidentro to use the rollerski track there. After having been there last year I'd easily of called it the "most insane rolerski track in the world". This year however it seems a lot better. Last year it was really greasy and slippery, both times I've been this week its been raining but I've had a lot better grip than last year. It makes the track much more skiable and I was quite comfortable using almost all the track in my intervals this morning. I tried to time my breaks in with the double switch back bends. It has now been downgraded from the "most insane rollerski track in the world" to "moderately difficult".
Both my interval sessions were ok. I've only gone up to threshold/steady state this week. Next week I'll have a few harder intervals once I'm more adapted to altitude. Although the rollerski track is lower down I come back up here to Livigno to recover. And recovery takes longer up here, so I have to be a bit careful with that.
The next week is shaping up to be a good medium/hard week of training. I'll start having more days with 2 sessions, in fact next week there is only 1 day with a single training session. Tomorrow I have two rollerski sessions planned. I'm looking forward to it and looking forward to having some harder sessions too.

Sunday, 5 October 2014


After my last training camp with Team Synnfjell I had 2 weeks at home in Lillehammer before going to Italy. I'm in Italy for a month training at altitude and for the second half getting some early season snow skiing on the glacier at Val Senales. Having 2 weeks between training camps was quite an awkward length of time in terms of training. After the last camp I had to have a few easy days and before this camp in Italy I had to have a few easy days. I managed to squeeze in a good hard block of training from last Friday until last Wednesday. The focus was mainly on volume training and I had two back to back 5 hour training days. I had two hard sessions. The first was a classic rollerski interval. You can see the map and the heart rate and speed graph from the session here. We warmed up through the town and started out towards the university. We did 6x6minutes up to the ski stadium and did the last interval on the rollerski track. I felt pretty bad during the session and struggled to keep up with the others in the start, but by the time we got up to the rollerski track I felt better and managed to keep up. The second hard session was on skate rollerskis and was new for me. We had 6 intervals alternating between 4 and 3minutes and we had 3minutes off in between. The idea is that the pace for the 4min intervals is a little bit slower and little bit more controlled, then the 3min intervals are a bit faster before you have to switch to being a bit more controlled again. The pace goes up and down in races, particularly in mass start races, so the idea is to train at doing that. We did the session on the rollerski track to get high speeds and varied terrain with climbs, flats, bends and incorporate everything into the intervals. You can see the session here. My heart rate was really low for the session, but I think we went quite fast and I certainly couldn't have pushed it much faster by the end. That evening I had a recovery run and I definitely knew I'd been pushing myself in the morning.
Other than the those two hard session most of my training was easy but I did have a few good speed sessions and good strength sessions. This year I've added in a few new speed sessions to my programme and started doing something that might be classified as "long speed" work. Normally for speed work we only do short sprints of 10 to 20 seconds. Sometimes even shorter. But now I've had roughly one session a week with 45 second sprints. I mostly do them double poling and hopefully they will give me an edge I've been missing in double poling in the past. We've also changed things slightly for strength training this year. The programme is centred around a few key exercises instead of chopping and changing the exercises every few weeks. That way it is easier to see improvements and it's better when there is a lot of travel or short training blocks like the last 2 weeks. I don't have to learn a whole new set of exercises for 2 sessions. I feel like I've improved a lot in the gym over the last little while, it is yet to be seen if this is a good thing for my skiing, but hopefully by the time the winter comes around I'll see the benefits.
The weather in Lillehammer had begun to turn from the rather pleasant warmth of the early Autumn to the typic

al Norwegian Autumn weather. The other day we had the first "scrape ice off the car" morning and if any roller ski sessions included long downhills it was quite nice to have a hat and buff on under my helmet. So I was quite glad to escape to the south. Here it is meant to be a bit warmer, but if it isn't there is always the option to head down the valley and train lower down where it is still rather summer like.
We got to Livigno late last night and were met by lucky the dog. The owners of the apartment we tend to rent have a really old grumpy dog called Lucky. She really doesn't like me... or anyone for that matter, and refuses to let anyone touch her. She just sits outside our apartment door like a guard dog all day.
I had my first session here this morning. Just an easy run and sore core work afterwards. It's important not to push it on the first few days at altitude, so my harder days will wait until the end of the camp. I'm looking forward to getting on with some training and also eating some italian food. It's been a while since I last ate so much pasta I was actually bored of it.

No blog would be complete without some "flight banter".... here's some pictures I took from the plane on the way into land at Innsbruck last night.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Jørstadmoen Camp

There has been quite a bit of excitement in the past few weeks. The Scottish referendum began to light a few sparks last week and even the Norwegian press was picking up on it. It seemed it was as much in the news here as it was back home. Lots of Norwegians asked me my opinion on the vote and seemed to weigh in with their own thoughts. Fortunately we have managed to hold a referendum without a civil war breaking out, which is always a positive. 

I spent last week on a training camp with Team Synnfjell. The week before my parents came over for a few days to visit me and have a holiday. The weather was pretty good for this time of year. It was pretty much summer. So we made the most of it and had a good long weekend. I was however quite disappointed to be beaten by my dad in a round of crazy golf. 
After a pretty easy weekend with my parents I headed to Jørstadmoen for the camp with Synnfjell. My dad was joining us for the first few days of the camp to watch a learn from Frank, the Synnfjell coach. Jørstadmoen is the location of a Norwegian Army base and is just outside Lillehammer. Through some connection or other we had got a deal on accommodation at the base. We stayed in some pretty nice student like rooms off the base but ate meals on the base. We each got our own bedroom which is pretty luxurious for a training camp. The Norwegian army run a pretty tight schedule and one that is perhaps a little unusual to most british people. Lunch is at 11am. And dinner/evening meal is at 3.30pm. This meant our training had to be on a pretty tight schedule. We had to be at the front gate of the army base at 10:55 in order to get in for lunch. So if we wanted to train for 3 hours in the morning we had to start at 7.30. If the training started a 20min drive away we had to leave at 7.10. So most mornings we were up before 7. However, I was back in bed by 11.30 most days and slept an extra few hours before dinner. We ate dinner before training and trained our evening sessions at 5.30. It caused a problem for one session at the start of the camp as we were out quite late and it was getting dark and pretty cold. But the rest of the camp had quite short evening sessions so we escaped without issue. 
The camp plan was pretty standard. Lots of training, and 3 hard sessions. The first hard session was a track running session. The plan was 1x3000m, 2x1500m, 2x1000m and 2x800m. The week before I ran 6x1km. But I hadn't ran so much on the track before that. I was struggling a little bit to recover from that session so we took the decision that I would just do the 3000m and then some other intervals on rollerskis. The 3000m went quite well, I ran a PB of 9.14. We ran the first 1k sub 3min then the second 1k was a bit slower at 3.05. After 2k the best guys picked up the pace and I got dropped. The best 3 all ran sub 9min so ran well under 3min for the last 1km. It is said that a good senior skier should run sub 9min from ski training alone. Without doing too much extra track work and focussing on running. I can see that I'm getting there, I ran 9.40 in the spring, so at least I'm going forward. I think with another year of good training and (hopefully) running injury free I should be able to make it under 9. One of the guys even suggested I could go under 9 next month. Whilst I appreciate his optimism I doubt it would be possible, and anyway I'm not running it next month. 
The second hard session was a skate sprint session on rollerskis. We simulated a sprint race with a prologue and then 4 heats. There were 13 of us doing the session so split each heat into 2 groups with the 2 best from the 2nd heat going up to the first and the 2 worst going down to 2nd group. I had a pretty bad session and ended up in the 2nd group. No idea why... I just went really slowly. 
The last hard session was a double pole session. The idea was to have some really fast double poling in the middle of a long session. So we warmed up for an hour before doing 6x4min double poling in a group. We took turns leading the group so at some points we were sprint all we could and other points we were in the slipstream getting a little break. The hardest part is actually at the back of the group. When we change over from going a bit easier  down to the back of the group we have to accelerate to get back in the slipstream of the guys going forward. I ended up in a group of 4 and we worked quite well together and had a good hard session. 
In-between the hard sessions there was lots of easy training, technique work and of course the obligatory training camp football match. For once I was actually on the winning side for the football match... it is questionable that, had there been a referee, if I should have been allowed to play to end. There were perhaps too many dubious challenges, and even the most lenient of referees would probably have given me a red card.... in fact there probably wouldn't have been anyone left on the pitch if there was a referee. 
Frank has played football on training camps with both Andrew Musgrave and Callum Smith, as have a few of the others on the team. And so Frank was not expecting much from me. However, after the match it was agreed that I was the best British skier at football. A fact of which I am very proud. 
We finished the camp with a long running session early yesterday morning and I'm having a rest day today. The weather had slowly changed on the camp. From warm sunny days at the start to cooler, windier and overcast by the end. Autumn is now well underway. It is now only 60 days until the season starts. 
I'll have a few easy days now before I get back into normal training. I'm heading to altitude in northern Italy in just under 2 weeks. So I have to be a bit careful not to do too much training right before I go, so the transition to altitude is a little easier. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Last of The Summer

Summer is now over and we move one step closer to the ski season which is less than 3 months away. Having survived summer without any major problems, I'm left with a sort of "phew" feeling. By the end of August training had started to get pretty tough. The volume of the summers training was starting to catch up on me and I felt exhausted. I knew I had to make it to sunday and then it would all get easier. Thankfully coffee and peanut butter and honey sandwiches exist, otherwise I'm 99% sure I would still be lying in a ditch somewhere along a training route from about Tuesday last week. Luckily I survived and made it through to a rest day on Monday.
When I planned out my season I had always planned to have a huge volume period of training over the summer. Before easing back in the Autumn and upping the intensity of my training. Both July and August were planned to be 95 hour months and both ended up at 100. In fact August was 101. According to Legkov's instagram he trained 101 in August as well. So naturally I will go just as fast as him in the winter? This month I've only planned 90 and I'm planning on being a little stricter on my session times and only doing 2.30 when it says 2.30 and not 2.45. Hopefully these extra 10 hours will give me a little extra energy I didn't have during the summer. From now on it is important that my training is carried out a really high quality and hopefully having a little bit of extra energy will allow me to do that.

Last week I pretty much spent my time either in bed, training or walking around like a zombie groping at the fridge and eating just about everything. But I had quite a good training week. I did quite a few sessions with the other guys on Team Synnfjell. And for the first time ever I did the Mjøsa runden. Slightly embarrassingly, having lived in Lillehammer for over 2 years, I'd never done it before. It's a 60km loop around the big lake which Lillehammer is beside. I'd set off to do it with a group two years ago but we did the first 25km and decided to do another loop in the other direction. Other than that I'd always used other routes for my long sessions. Just over half way round I managed to break my rollerski tip on my pole. Then I managed to snap the bottom of my pole off when I tried to change my tip. So I ended up doing the last section alone and with 2 poles of different lengths. I rang up Exel and got a new pole delivered immediately and they also sent me some gloves for the season. You can see the route we went here.
My hands are definitely going to be colourful this season. 
I also had a good 5 hour session with Svein. We skied for 2.30 before running for 2.30. We ran from his house so I learned a few new running routes. It's always nice to learn some more paths and routes so I can add them into where I run and get a bit more variation.  Alongside the easy sessions I had 2 quite tough sessions. The first was a sprint session, where we simulated a sprint race with a prologue and heats. It wasn't my finest session ever and I was quite a way behind where I want to be. But it is 3 months until the season starts and 6 months until the really big races so there is more than enough time to get better. The other hard session was un uphill bounding session.You can see the session with the altitude graph and everything here. We ran 7x5min but used the first interval as a warm up. We ran up the alpine ski slope at Hafjell, which luckily is open in the summer for downhill mountain biking. This meant we could blag our way onto the Gondola for the way down, which is much nicer than running down with tired legs. I felt good during the session and used the first few intervals to get going. For the last 4 I ran at the front of the group but at the end of the last interval one of the others was able to run away from me. I didn't quite have the extra punch legs to keep up. Unfortunately I won't be able to run intervals up Hafjell this week. Lillehammer is hosting the mountain bike world champs. So the hill is being used for the downhill and parts of the cross country competition. They probably wouldn't  appreciate me bounding my way up the hill as they were trying to race down. 
By the time Monday came around I was really pleased it was a rest day. Yesterday I had a bit of different day as well, with a lot of driving. I picked up my new skis for the season from just outside Oslo. Then I had to drive them to the other side of Oslo to get them ground and then I had to drive home again. It's not often I drive for 6 hours in a day so this morning Im trying to unravel my self from the car seat position I seem to have adopted. 
The rest of this week is quite straight forward. Fairly easy training and two hard sessions. Tomorrow I'm going to have a hard skate rollerski session. And at the weekend I'm going to have a hard running session on the running track. Next week I build up to a medium hard training week before having an easy few days. And the week after that is my next training camp with Team Synnfjell. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Team Synnfjell

No sooner had I written my last blog than had the weather changed. Last week was my first training camp with Team Synnfjell, the private team I am on this season. The camp was at Gamlestølen, a mountain hotel in the Synnfjell region. I sort of vaguely knew where Gamlestølen is but I wasn't 100% sure and neither google maps or my gps seemed to be able to find the address. As I drove there last Sunday night I began to get a little more concerned. The road became smaller, bumpier and it was clearly getting more and more remote and further away from anything. Eventually the tarmac just stopped and small gravel road lead off into the woods. Pretty much 100% sure I'd drived the wrong way I stopped and called Frank the coach for the team. From my description he reckoned I was going the right way. So I headed off down this gravel track that looked like more like something Colin Mcrae would have driven down than something me in my old Saab should be tackling. Creeping along this gravel road at about 30kph, slaloming around all the pot holes, I started to get even more concerned. 10k had passed and I had seen no signs of Gamlestølen. I was just about to stop and call Frank again when the gravel turned into tarmac and Gamlestølen was there on my right.
The first day of the camp was a miserable day with the first signs of Autumn. It was chucking it down with rain or should I say it was chucking it along with rain, as the rain came nearer horizontal than vertical. Staying on top of the mountain didn't help things much either. It was baltic. All sorts of clothing, that had been hidden away deep in cupboards or draws since last winter, was being pulled out. Rain jackets, waterproof trousers, buffs, hats, headbands, gloves, tights. We looked like we were braving the worst of winter storms as we headed out for our first rollerski session.
I had been told that the downhill from Gamlestølen down to the valley was quite "intense" by one of the skiers on the team but all the others had said it was no problem and was completely fine. The first section of the downhill was ok. It was fast with a few bends but nothing that you had to brake for. It also wasn't so steep so it didn't feel like you picked up so much speed it was dangerous. The wet roads made the corners a bit interesting but we all safely made it down. There was a flat section for a few k's before the final downhill to the valley floor. I'd been told it was steeper but safe.
I've skied with some of the guys on the team before. Runnar is quite a machine at going downhill on rollerskis. He's one of the fastest guys at going downhill that I've trained with. So when we got to the "steep" downhill which I had been told was "safe" I got quite a shock when Runnar in front of me slams on the "snow plough" and brakes. I did my best to brake and it was a good job I did... this supposedly "safe" downhill had a hairpin bend at the bottom. Thankfully we all survived.
After negotiating the downhill we actually had a pretty good session, although cold and wet.
Thankfully it dried out after the first day and we had a few pretty good training days up in the mountains. We had 2 point to point sessions. One where we drove to the other side of the mountain we where living beside and the ran over the mountains back to the cabins. It was good fun although it was a slightly disrupted session. There had been perhaps too much coffee consumed by just about everyone before the session. I had to have a toilet break quite a numerous amount of times, and I wasn't even the worst...
For our other point to point session we drove back across the gravel track and down to the valley floor on the other side of the mountain. The we double poled up a side round to the end of the road, changed into our running shoes and ran across the mountain back to the cabin. It was meant to be a 4 hour session but it became 5 hours as Klemoen, who is from the area proposed a "short cut". His short cut was not very short and we ended up running through bushes before whacking our way through a forrest. All in all to pop out about 2k further down the path.
Because of the way the terrain is there and living at the highest point of all our rollerski sessions, there was a lot of downhill roller skiing. Normally I'm not very good at downhill stuff. I kind of lost my way with it a few years ago both on snow and rollerskis. But on this camp I was starting to pick my confidence up again. On an easy skate session myself, Runnar and Eirik were pushing it on a the first downhill from Gamlestølen. We were slipstreaming each other and passing as close as we could to keep in the slipstream. I had a max speed on my GPS watch of 70km per hour. The final bend of the downhill is the steepest as it descends to a small bridge before the road goes up a small hill at the other side. As we rounded the bend and into the fastest section we saw that the bridge at the bottom was completely covered by a heard of 60 or so sheep.
We didn't really know what to do and tried to brake as best we could, but there is now way we could stop in time. I started dragging my pole tips across the tar to make a screeching noise. I was hoping it was scare the sheep off as I knew I could definitely not stop. The sheep jumped up and began to run. Sheep ran in every direction but the bridge was still blocked. Just in the nick of time the sheep all moved over onto the left hand side of the bridge, leaving a small gap for us to get through on the right. I have to admit, I was pretty shaky afterwards. Hopefully I won't encounter any more wildlife at high speeds.
We had another run in with the local farm life... which appear to just roam the hill side. This time cows. They were standing on the road and heard us coming so decided to run off down the road. It was actually quite comical. Some of the cows had such full udders that as the ran the udders swung side to side. As the udders swung up and hit the cow the sprayed out milk onto the road. It sprayed out in a sort of garden sprinkler fashion... it was rather amusing for us skiing along behind the cows. Eventually the cows ran off to the side and we could continue with our session.

We didn't have any really hard sessions together on the camp. The first part of the camp we trained volume, most days had over 5 hours of training. The last part of the camp, over the weekend that has just gone, we took part in the Tour De Synnfjell. A 3 day competition with a 5k skate rollerski the first day, a 9k uphill running race the second and a 30k uphill triathlon the 3rd. The triathlon had 8k uphill classic rollerski, roughly 15k uphill mountain biking, and roughly 6k undulating road run to finish it off.
The first day we drove half way to the race the rollerskied the rest. We got down to Bruflat the town hosting the race a bit early and the start was delayed. It was raining so I kept skiing to keep warm. I had skied for almost 2 hours before I started the race. We did the race and then we skied back up to the cars. It was a 3 hour session and we had already done a 2 hours session in the morning. It was a pretty tough day and everybody was feeling it by the end. The race went ok for my part. I had a really good start and I was winning by 10 seconds at the half way point, but then I really struggled for the second half and ended up 3rd, 20 seconds behind.
The second day was the uphill running race. My running has progressed a lot recently and I'm really pleased with my running shape this year. The rules for the race were that we had to race with a 2.5kg rucksack, with spare clothes, food and drink for the way down off the mountain. I ran pretty well, I felt good on the gravel road a long the bottom of the mountain. On the first really steep section I got dropped by the front 3. I slowly worked my way back to 3rd place as we climbed up into the fog and rain. I was sitting in 4th with 3rd place runner right in front of me. Nils Magnus from the team caught up to us with about a k to go. At the sign that said "500m to the top" I made a move and tried to sprint for the finish. But the last 500m's are probably the hardest of the whole race. Its rocky and really steep at the top. My sprint reduced to a run, then to a jog.... 3rd place came past me and sprinted off to the finish... then I was reduced to a walk and Nils Magnus came past me. He beat me by 10 seconds... all of which he gained in the last 50m. I was completely wrecked.
The last day was a tough day. The logistical issues of doing a point to point triathlon are quite something. Getting your start number, bike, running shoes and rollerskis in the right place is one thing. Getting all of that in the right place and you to the start and making sure you have enough spaces cars to get home is another thing. By some miracle we pulled it off, and I managed a quick 20min warm up before the start. The pace for the classic section was quite high and I dropped off from the leaders on the first steep uphill. I came into the transition in 3rd on my own. I quickly caught up to 2nd place but I was losing time to the winner all the way during the bike section. Just before the end of the bike section Klemoen caught me and we rode together as we came off the gravel and onto the road for the final few k's. We started the run together, before I pulled away on a small uphill. Klemoen tried to come back across on the final uphill but I held off to finish second, several minutes behind the leader and 20 seconds ahead of Klemoen.
For coming second I won my first ever "big check". I won 2000kr, but sadly I don't get to walk into the bank with the comically big check, they just transfer the money online. I'm only slightly disappointed about this, one of my childhood dreams has been destroyed.
I was pretty tired after the camp. Much more tired than I had expected or planned for. The last two days have mostly been spent asleep or doing nothing. Today I started to feel a bit more normal. I headed out for an easy skate rollerski. The first hour was pretty horrific and I was about to go home early when I started to feel better. By the end I felt even better and almost what I could call normal. So hopefully with a good rest tonight I will be completely back to normal for training tomorrow.
I've also had quite a few comments about the Team Synnfjell colour way. I can't say I chose it or I would chose it myself... but you definitely can't say we are not visible! As Frank put it when he was wearing the new team jacket for the first time "I feel so colourful". And I can confirm, it certainly puts some brightness back into my everyday.

The next camp with Team Synnfjell isn't for a few weeks. So I've got a while at home to train on my own and with the other guys in Lillehammer. I've got a few aims for the training block and hopefully when we get to the next camp we'll see that I'm improving.