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

Altitude

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.