Saturday, 25 January 2014

January


After the Tour de Ski I picked up a cold and was ill for 5 days. I was also at home in Scotland for a bit, so I didn’t train for a while. After my cold was over and I started to feel better, I began with some easy training. After a few days I still had a blocked nose and started to get worried I hadn’t been able to kick off the end of my cold. So I took another rest day to see if that helped, but no… still all blocked up and speaking like and pilot on the intercom on planes. After 6 days of being like this I rang up the doctor at the Scottish institute of sport. He prepared me for the worst, and said I might need to go on antibiotics for a short time. However I wasn’t going to see him for another 5 days so I headed to my GP incase I did need medication I could start with it right away. My GP examined me… turns out I’m allergic to something. They didn’t have time or bother doing tests to find out what, but I have to take some hay fever medication that I normally take in the summer. Since I started taking it, my nose cleared right up and I could train normally.

I raced the Norwegian nationals in “Molde”… the race had been moved to Lillehammer due to lack of snow in Molde but all the start numbers and results and stuff were printed with Molde. The races went ok for me… I had a night mare in the 15k classic. But the sprint went ok finishing in 16th. I was a little disappointed not to make the semi final but I had a good run through before some important races coming up later this month. I did the first leg of the relay for my club team. It was a really fun and hectic race with over 130 teams at the start. I had a bad start position with a bib number of 71 I was far back on the 11th row. I  lost a lot of positions in the first kilometer of the race as I was scared to get out the tracks and not be able to get back in, so waited to get a space in the classic track. At the bottom of the first big hill Fredrik was in front of me. He was doing the first leg for the clubs second team, with start number 89 he had started a few rows behind me.  I skied with in myself for the first 2.5k, trying to position myself in the group so I didn’t break any poles. At 2.5k we got the second big climb on the course and the field opened up. I absolutely tanked it from 2.5k to 7.5k I was right on the limit. The field had spread out and there was space to get past so in the 5k I moved from 70th up to the mid 20’s. The course in Lillehammer is brutal. The 5k loop is mainly comprised of 2 big climbs, the longest of which was taking over 4mins in the slow conditions. The 10k leg of the relay took about 30min, I handed over to Sigurd in 20th position 48 seconds the leader.
Sigurd skied a good leg, handing over to Remi in 32nd position. Remi, who was on the Norwegian recruit team in the 90’s, had returned from retirement to ski the last leg of the relay. At his best he had been top 10 on world cup. He got us up to 28th, a respectable finish.

After the relay I headed to Manchester for the BOA kitting out, before Sochi. Because of the system of kitting out I had to get up really early and train before we left so as not to miss two days training. Kitting out the day after was a fun although rushed experience. We were pushing it to get everything done and back to the airport to get our flight out to Italy for out altitude camp. The only way to describe it is to say it ‘s like walking into John Lewis, someone meets you at the door and walks round the shop with you. You try everything on and the write down the size you want. Once you are finished you wait about in the coffee shop whilst someone else packs your bags and pays for you. Then they come out and give you the bags.
We were in a rush so me and muzzy got a bit competitive trying stuff on… in the end I didn’t even bother and just 44/46 for everything… hopefully it all fits. My race suits didn’t fit me. But luckily a seamstress was on hand to alter them. I must have lost a lot of wait because the race suit looked more like something snoop dog would wear than a skier…. It was far from ski tight. As we had to rush for out flight it wasn’t finished in time. I’ll get it in Russia. Callum had his altered and it worked well so I’m confident mine will fit.
After the kitting out we had to go into a press room and do interviews with the BBC, Sky Sports and various other members of the press. It was a quite fun. I did a long interview with the written press. Which was more like banter than an interview, and I really enjoyed doing it. They did however write an article about me living “hand in mouth” and how Norway was an expensive place to live. Which it is… and yes I do live off the equivalent of Tesco Value products…. But so does almost everybody my age.  It’s not a luxurious life style, but it works. I would say the paper made it sound much worse than it actually is.

After the kitting out we flew out to Munich then drove to Italy for an altitude camp. We are now in Misurina, up in the mountains above Toblach where the final world cup before the Olympics will be held. It is also only a 2 hours drive from Val di Fiemme where the world U23’s are next week.  I’ve had a good few days training here. I haven’t felt amazing training but I never tend to for the first few days at altitude. I’m happy with how things are going and I think I should be able to race well at the U23’s.

We have a big group here. There are 16 of us here in total with the junior athletes, coaches, waxers, physio and physiologist. It’s fun to have such a big group and it really shows the progression of the British skiing. 4 Years ago we were a big group if there was 8 of us. It also means the banter is top notch. Although Muzzy’s obsession with bodily functions becomes a little tiresome at the dinner table, I think I can tolerate it better than most of the girls.
I’m sharing a room with Callum… Alex has been sharing with him since Livigno at Christmas time and I think he is happy to get rid of him… so I have been left with the burden for the foreseeable future. Both Alex and me refer to callum as the “weirdest boy I know”. For me this came after he tied his heart rate monitor round his head like a ninja and for Alex it came after he did a headstand on his bed… in his boxers… with his duvet over him. As I write muzzy has just moved into our room… something to do with his bed being rubbish and our sofa bed is better… so now we are 3.

The hotel here is pretty rubbish in all honesty. The internet is about as good as tying two yogurt cups together with a piece of string. Breakfast is pretty bad, so we have bought our own muesli and every time we go to reception with a problem they don’t seem to be able to sort it. It reminds us more of being in Eastern Europe than being in Italy. Luckily we have big Kev from the Scottish Institute of Sport with us to sort them out.

On Monday the U23’s and Juniors are leaving for Val di Fiemme and the world Championships. I’m looking forward to it. As much for the races as I am for making fun of the older guys who can’t go. There are endless hours of entertainment to be had by reminding Posy she is almost 30, and Muzzy, Alex and Fi they are ancient as they can’t got to U23’s.
It’s great having the juniors along.  They are so discombobulated and unorganized I no longer feel like I have the lowest IQ in the group. It also means it is impossible to be last to a training session or meeting. You can take as a long as you want… there will always be a junior behind you.

Muzzy skied quite well in Lillehammer and won the sprint race… The Norwegian commentary team has got onto the “battle of Britain” and I got interviewed before the race about my chances of beating muzzy. Nothing to do with the race… just if I could beat Andrew… I think they might have read too much into my ranking system or actually believed my ranking system.
After the race in Lillehammer I am struggling to come up with a system that is more in my favor. I’ve been working on it, but can’t seem to come up with anything, so I might have to set my best statisticians on it and see what they can come up with.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Just to keep up.

A lot has happened since the Davos world cup. Some of it I'm not even going to bother to attempt to write about... as for the rest I will try my best to get you up to date.

After Davos I went to Livigno to train and spend Christmas with some of the others from the British team. Training was ok. But I had a few hard sessions where I didn't feel so good. And I perhaps didn't take care of resting enough between sessions. Christmas was fairly good, we'd all bought each other presents ranging from 1kg of herbal cough sweets to a tin of peaches and a pot of yoghurt.
On the 26th I left Livigno headed for Oberhof. After a pretty stressful journey we eventually got there to typical Oberhof weather. Fog, no snow, rain, fog, wet, rain, fog, mud, wind, no snow. The usual Oberhof. During the journey we heard the second stage of the tour de ski had been changed to a skate sprint so the first 3 stages where skate prologue, skate sprint, skate sprint. Perfect for me.
When we got to Oberhof we couldn't train on the track as the snow was so bad. So we trained in the ski tunnel. In the evening we had a team presentation. I spoke to one of the FIS media guys at the presentation. He described the snow as "parking lot" snow. To put the race on they had literally gone to car parks where the snow had been ploughed into a mound at the end of the car park, scooped up the pile of snow and put it out on the track. The snow was horrible, comprised more of fecal matter than frozen water. In certain places the snow was dead... It's the only word I can think of to describe it. Skiing onto it was skiing into a wall. There was NO glide, it was like trying to ski over a waterlogged football pitch.
I'm sorry to any Germans that might read this, or anyone from Oberhof, or to anyone who likes the place. But Oberhof is a dump. Never ever go there. It rains a lot, it is always foggy, everything is muddy, its always windy, there is never any snow, it's raining and all in all miserable. I don't blame Justyna kowalyzcyk for boycotting the tour at all.
Oberhof was a write off as far as my results were concerned. There are a lot of things that happened that lead to skiing poorly... none of them on their own should have affected me that badly but when they all came together they showed in my results. I felt like i was skiing ok in Oberhof, but my form was just bellow where it should be. I couldn't quite place my finger on what was wrong, as I felt as if i should be skiing well.
After Oberhof we drove to Lenzerheide. The next day we woke up to clear skies, fresh snow, a nice new stadium, good food and nice Alpine views. We had a rest day on the tour so we used the day to go for a short ski and test out skis for the following days sprint race.
I arrived at the stadium for the sprint race and I was immediately impressed by the crowd. The race hadn't even started yet, and the heats didn't start for hours. But the stadium area was packed. The small stand was packed and out on the track fans lined the uphill. I headed to test skis with Thomas. My skis sucked, so I asked Thomas if they were just training waxed or race waxed. If they were race waxed I would not have been impressed. Thomas said they were training waxed. After testing my skis Thomas head back out to test more products and found something better, something he calls gangster wax. I later found out that when I had been testing my skis were completely finished and ready to race. But Thomas was shocked about how bad they were so went out to find a better topping.
By the time I came to race my skis were great. I raced a good prologue and ended up 27th. Muzzy was 14th and Posy 33rd. We nailed it. As a team, we've never done anything like this before. This was a huge day for British skiing. Two guys in the points and Posy just outside. This brings me to the title of the blog. Just to keep up. The standard on the British team now is high. On training camps everyone is pushing it. Everyone is improving and everyone is going faster. As a team we are achieving stuff nobody thought we could or would ever achieve. To some extent, even our selves. We now have 4 people who have met the Olympic qualification standard, which is a much harder standard than 4 years ago. Who would have have believed that by now there would be 2 brits taking world cup points if they had been told that 4 years ago? No one. Not even me. Just to keep up in training is a challenge. If you turn up to a session or camp and your not ready your going to get beat... I don't think British skiing has ever been in this situation before. This isn't just one or two could skiers... now we are a team of good skiers.
Unfortunately or perhaps even fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Muzzy and I were drawn in the same heat for the quarter final. At least we both couldn't end up 6th in our heat.
I surprised myself with a good start in the heat and settled into a nice rhythm. Muzzy took the lead ad started tanking it through the second half of the race. I was in 6th and dropped off the back. On the final decent I started to catch back up and as we rounded the last corner I rejoined the group for the sprint to the line. I had a good sprint to the line but got stuck behind a fading Chinese skier. I ended up 5th in the heat and muzzy 6th.
That night was New Years Eve... Unfortunately I was too tired to celebrate and collapsed into bed just after 10.
The next day was a 15k classic mass start. I had a pretty bad start position start near the back. On the second lap of 4 it started to open up and I could ski freely and pick a choose who I wanted to follow. It was also on the biggest hill on the second lap that the group in front of me started to split. Like Moses parting the sea... Musgrave was parting the pack as he slid slowly down the rankings. Half the pack went to the left the other half to the right. I got up to Andrew at the top of the hill and went past. Petr Sedov, the russian, was going fast at the front of our group so I tried to keep onto the back of the group but it quickly splintered into several smaller groups. I ended up a group or 2 in front of Andrew. At the next coaching point I asked if should go back or wait for his group and help limit any time Andrew would lose. To try and keep him higher in the overall tour. By the next coaching point a team conference had taken place over the radios and I was told I could carry on. On the last lap and a half I just focussed on skiing with good technique and trying to pick off the guys in front of me. One group at a time. I'd try and get onto the back of new group at the top of every uphill and use the group for a good slipstream on the downhills. Then I would feel fresh enough to ski fast on the next uphill. I progressed up to 59th out sprinting Karel, an Estonian skier, to the finish.
After I took world cup points in Davos and Andrew didn't I had been joking with him that he wasn't the best brit anymore as I had more points. After Oberhof he had overtaken the lead again, despite me beating him in the sprint in Lenzerheide. However I've now started looking at a new system. Who has won more head to heads. This season he is leading 6 to 5. But then only have to look at skate sprints... after all that is what is important. Im leading 3 to 2. And if we ignore skate distance but allow classic distance into the rankings then I'm leading 5:4.  I think this a fair ranking system and from now on should be referred to until I'm no longer best at which point a new ranking system will be devised. :p
I expect there will be some sort of retaliation...

After the classic race in Lenzerheide I headed for the airport and home to Lillehammer. It was never planned that I would ski more than 4 stages of the tour. I need time to recover and train before the Norwegian Nationals which have no been moved to Lillehammer and before the word U23's. It is fun to joke that I quit the tour in protest as Justyna Kowalyzcyk did in protest of not enough classic races. I quite in protest of no more skate sprints. I'm just glad that FIS treats everyone equally and didn't change the program for Justyna or for me.
The weather in Norway is miserable. The nationals were moved to Lillehammer as there is no snow in Molde... shame FIS hadn't thought to move the race from Oberhof as there was no snow.
Although it is raining down here in Lillehammmer I skied up at Sjusj√łen yesterday in great conditions.
I woke up this morning feeling under the weather... so I'm probably going to have to take a few days off training, but I don't think it is anything to worry about at this stage.