Sunday, 16 February 2014

Olympics and stuff

I haven't updated in a while. A lot has happened so I will try to briefly update you with what has been happening.

After training in Misurina, we drove over to Val di Fiemme to take part in in the world juniors and U23 world champs. For me this was the biggest race of the season. That might sound weird to someone outside the sport who would clearly think that the olympics would be the biggest and most important. But for U23 athletes this is quite a big deal. For me I also had a realistic chance of making the final in the sprint. Which would have been a huge achievement for myself and for British skiing.
Nothing went to plan in Val di Fiemme. I had a tough training session 2 days before the sprint where nothing seemed to work like it should and I felt sluggish. Then, after 2 nights of bad sleep and feeling bad, I performed well bellow where I should have in the sprint. I had a realistic shot at a final, and on an ok day semi final. I had a bad prologue and finished 6th in my heat.
The next day was the 15k classic. I decided not to race. My shape or form simply was not good enough that I would do my self any justice by racing.
For the next 4 days I did pretty much nothing. I did no training sessions longer than 40min, I slept for 10 to 12 hours a day and ate as much as I could. I had been so tired and worked myself so hard that I needed those few days to recover.
The recovery seemed to work. As by the world cup in Toblach I was back on track. I raced ok into 44th, a bit behind my best but still showing signs of being able to go fast at the olympics. That night we drove to Munich, before flying to Moscow the next day. The day after we flew down to Sochi and drove up to our venue up in the mountains.

The venue is fantastic. We have a cabin or a chalet a 5min walk from the stadium. There are 9 of us staying here with 4 xc athletes, 2 biathletes, and 3 coaches up here. 2 waxers are staying 30min away down in the valley. After having been here last year I had concerns of the weather. Last year it snowed and snowed and snowed. But this year the concerns are for other reasons. The sun. Every day has been sunny, and the temperature has been slowly rising from -7 when we first got here to around +15 yesterday. The snow has been taking a beating, and all the snow around our cabin started to melt revealing our small garden... until the russians trucked in more snow to cover it up.... yes, they actually trucked snow in to cover up where it was melting. The tracks seem to have held up well. There was so much snow here in the first place that even if they loose a meter or two they still have plenty left.

Our first day training here was a disaster for me.  I fell down some stairs from the wax cabin. The second I did it I thought i had broken my hand. But after a few minuets the pain died down and started skiing. But after 20min of skiing I realised I had done some damage. I went for an x-ray. We found out that there probably was a small fracture in my hand, but not serious, it was more likely bruising that was causing the pain.  It was recommended to have my hand in cast for 4 to 5 days. I opted for removable strap rather than a cast.
For the first few days we had to design some sort of pole strap that didn't press on the bruising. Kv+ helped out and we got something sorted with a biathlon strap. Then I moved back to normal straps but having silicon gel over the area of my hand. By the time the first race came round I felt back to normal and all the bruising had settled down.

Training here before the races went up and down. Some fantastic sessions and some awful. But generally I felt good and ready to race. I heard there were a few teams staying on European time, so there afternoon races still felt like morning races. I didn't mean to stay on european time, but I've been sleeping so good here that I normally wake up around 10. Then we train in the morning before lunch around 2 and have the evenings and afternoons off or have a recovery session.  During our free time we have become experts at motorbike racing on the head to head motorbike simulators in the games room. I'd like to claim myself as champion of the british team at pretty much every game.... but I think we are all as useless as each other. Apart from ping pong... Thomas is by far the best at it.
Last night we even had time to check out the swimming pool and saunas... mostly filled with fat russian blokes complaining that 110 degrees is too cold, and telling jokes at the Finns expense. "this isn't a Finish sauna. We need it warmer". I haven't told Thomas about this yet... I don't want to start an international crisis.

Racing has been ok... possibly the most important thing about the Olympics is the competition. The skate sprint was my main event and the main event I was targeting. I have shown this year that I can be in the top 30 having done it twice at altitude in Davos and Lenzehiede. So it was a bit a knock to finish 42nd. I've looked back at it, and there were a lot of things I did wrong in the build up and there were a lot of things out of my control that weren't exactly helping my cause. I wasn't quite sure whether to be angry, upset, motivated or disappointed with my race. But one thing was clear... I was not in fantastic shape.

3 days later in the 15k classic I really wasn't expecting much. It is my least favoured event, I was ranked 70th of the 94 starters. Although not my favoured event I can occasionally pull out a half decent race. When a newspaper writes that is was a "surprise" that I was best brit, I'd like to point out to them that I have, in fact, been best brit on 3 of the 6 occasions we have raced this event so far this season. The thing that was surprising was how far up the results list I came. The start list was altered so the best skiers get the best conditions. I was ranked 70th so in with the 3rd and last group to go with the worst ranked skiers.  From my group on 2 people really put in big performances in the top half of the field. Me and Healg from Liechtenstein who finished 27th.
I'm not really sure what happened. I don't really know how I managed to ski fast. Occasionally I just find classic really easy. My technique works really well and it feels like all the energy I put in is being used to propel me forwards... like there is nothing being wasted. The 15k was one of these days. I was getting splits on the course that I was just outside the top 30. I had a monster sector from 5k to 8k where  I jumped up 10 places and put in the 22nd best sector time. All this however did come back to bite me. On the last lap I was shaking hands with Mr Demon. I had to call an unscheduled drinks station as I was suffering in the heat. On any other or any normal day I think I would have properly died on the last lap. But after going through a rough phase I felt ok again fro the last few k and ended up 37th.
Because I had such big expectations on the skate sprint it had naturally been my focus all year.... both for the skate sprint at U23's and the Olympics. I have adapted my training for this as well. Since the end of October I haven't done a single hard classic session. The only time I have done a hard classic has been in a race if the race comes after a skate sprint. The only hard skate stuff I have done has been a maximum of 3 and half min long. So how on earth I managed to ski for 41min in 15 degree heat through slush I have no idea.

After the race we had a well deserved rest day Yesterday. We are nearing the end of our Olympic program and everything has become a little more relaxed. Everybody is a little bit more chilled out and banter is at an all time high. Like everybody becomes experts on tennis during Wimbledon, we are now experts on Curling, slopestyle and just about any other olympic sport. Indeed Jacko has even suggested that we enter our own curling team with my dad on skip and the 4 male athletes there to make up the team. Jacko seems to think we would do alright... I am, however, not convinced.

Hopefully I wont leave it as long before my next blog so i don't have to crush everything in.