Monday, 21 September 2015

Hemsedal

Autumn has arrived. The weather has slowly but surely started to turn. The birch tree leaves are turning to a golden amber colour and starting to look bare. My shorts and t-shirts are slowly making their way to the back of my closet being replaced by thermals, jackets and woolly jumpers at the front. Gloves, buffs, hats and woolly socks are finding their way out of summer hiding spots and the drying rack is a continuous exchange of wet kit replacing dry. The nights are longer, the mornings a colder, the sun is lower and now I have to check online when the sun sets before I head out on long afternoon sessions. All in all, we are headed into winter. The first races of the season are now under 2 months away.

I spent the last week in Hemsedal on a training camp with Team Synnfjell. It was my final training camp with the team this season. We ended up getting a pretty luxurious 32 bed cabin, with 6 en suite bedrooms and 6 bunk rooms. This meant we each got are own bedroom. The cabin had a huge kitchen and dining area as well as 2 living rooms, a sauna and a drying room. Eirik's sister is on the national ski team and has a sponsorship deal with the owner of the cabin and so through that connection we ended up with this pretty awesome cabin. It was perfect for a training and meant we could focus on training and recovering.

The first half of the camp was tainted by "Petra", the storm. The first session was a run and strength session. We did the strength first so as not to come in soaking wet and have to do strength. When we headed out running every path had turned into a stream and every stream had turned into a river. There were huge amounts of water pouring down off the mountains, it was pretty extreme. We were meant to run for and hour and a half. I ran with Eirik who claimed he knew a loop that would take about that. As we ran higher and higher into the mountains he kept saying "we're almost at the top of the alpine area, just round the corner". As the mist came in, the rain increased and it began to get dark I started to think Eirik had absolutely no idea where we were. After 90min of running he did eventually admit he had no idea. Using the "back to start" function on my GPS watch we followed a valley down off the tops of the mountains. There was no path and we were running through completely saturated ground with shin highs bushes. At the bottom of the valley we found it was a "dead end". With a sheer cliff down to Hemsedal valley or a climb back up over a mountain to the ski area. The gps said we were only 3k from the cabin so we made our way back up into the mountains. We managed to pick out some ski tows through the fog at the top and made our way down the ski area back to the cabin. Eirik then said he "sort of knew where we were, just the wrong side of the wrong mountain."

The storm continued into the second day of the camp. In the morning we ran the 3000m test and did double pole intervals before an easy skate session in the afternoon. I ran 9.14 and equaled my pb from last year. Although this time I ran it in 8 degrees, on a wet track and set the pace alone for 2900m. Last year I ran it in 20 degrees and with people setting the pace. So it is quite promising and confirms that I'm running pretty well.

The third day of the camp was quite frankly miserable. Many people look at athletes and think that we lead a life of relative ease and luxury. But days like this are the days that separate the normal from the good. Being an athlete means you have to take the good with the bad. Yes you get to go skiing in Davos in the sun and perfect tracks, but you also have to do 6 hour sessions in Hemsedal when its barely over 5 degrees and chucking it down with rain. We did only 1 session but it was long, with 2 hours skating, 2 hours running and 2 hours classic. The temperature crept up to about 8 degrees at the warmest during the day and the rain poured down in big drops that splashed up as they hit the ground.
The first 2 hours were the worst. I was frozen, I didn't want to stop and drink or eat as I got cold, by the end I don't think I was even skiing properly. When we changed to running I put on all of my spare clothes... all of them. Windproof boxers, thick running tights, waterproof trousers, a thermal, a thermal t - shirt, a jacket, a buff a hat and winter gloves. Finally I was warm! But I could barely move. I waddled my way around the 3 hour run. When we changed to the classic I din't have any spare clothes left. My jacket had become saturated and no longer waterproof but my trousers seemed to be holding out. I made it back to the cabin and headed straight to the sauna to warm up. It was one of the most miserable sessions I've ever done. I spent most of the session thinking I could just get in the car. Sessions like this are important to do with a group because by the end the only thing keeping me out of the car was that I would be bullied endlessly by the guys for getting in the car. The problem with doing the session was that I became too cold to eat and drink properly. This probably didn't help my recovery for the rest of the camp.

The final 3 days of the camp went much smoother. The weather was better and it was much easier to train. We had two interval sessions, one skating and one running and bounding with poles. Yesterday we headed out on a long run through the mountains. The run had 4 river crossings and long sections through the mountain bogs. As the weather had cleared up the night temperatures had dropped and the bogs greater us with a frosty layer on top. The rivers hadn't frozen but still water had a thin layer of ice sitting on top. Another sure sign the winter is just around the corner.

Apart from laying down some solid training hours we had some fun. We had a recovery football session, when we came down tot he football pitch in Hemsedal we were asked if we wanted to play a match against some youngsters from Eritrea. And so a quick 5 a side football session turned into 11 a side, full pitch, international match. By the looks of the Eritreans I thought we where going to get a thrashing. They all had football boots and shin gards. We all had our running shoes and swix over trousers. However our typical skier tactics of "kick the ball up the pitch and run after it" were too much for the Africans. We won 7 - 2 with them scoring only through a penalty and keeper mistake. I played quite well until late in the second half. When your teammates ask you to go and play in defence it's a sure sign that you've made too many mistakes to be allowed to play further up the field any more.

We also had a pizza making competition. We split into pairs and made home made pizzas, with everyone getting a slice of each pizza. The we voted for the best Pizza at the end. We went for a chicken, bacon combination which was good enough for 3rd place. Svein and Mads ended up winning. But Kentaro and Mattis actually made the best Pizza, to be fair Kentaro made the pizza and Mattis grated the cheese. Everybody tried to vote tactically but ended up voting too tactically and so the best pizza didn't win. It still provided a good entertaining evening.

Now I need to rest and recover. I'm tired from training and I think towards the end of the camp I was starting to loose a bit of quality from my training. I'm going to rest today and tomorrow to try and recharge my batteries before returning to full training again. On Thursday I'm going to do a rollerski test race with Team Synnfjell. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Testing, Testing

As the summer has come to an end it's time to take a look at how my summer training has gone and make sure I'm headed in the right direction. This means testing. I test myself in various ways throughout the off season to see how my body is responding to training and to check I'm responding to training. This first week in September I'm using to take stock of where I'm at and I'm going to complete 3 tests. The first test is running, the second double poling and the third is skating.

I did the first test today. The last time I ran the test was on the 6th of June so today would give me a real indicator on how my run training has gone during the summer. I have a loop that is 2,2km long and takes roughly 9 to 10min to run at level 3 or a pace I could sustain for an hour. The loop is quite hilly but has some flats and downs as well. The finish is quite a bit higher than the start and I cut back down the hill during the breaks to get back to the start. In June I ran the loop 4 times with 2min breaks. I ran it in 9.54, 9.47, 9.29 and 9.27. Today I ran the loop 5 times with 2min breaks. I ran it in 9.02, 8.59, 8.56, 8.53 and 8.49. As you can see I've had a huge improvement, I'm running 30 to 40 seconds better than my best times from June and my worst time is over 50 seconds faster. My heart rates from each sessions are quite similar but I noted in June that I felt I was having a really good day which is why I pushed the pace on the last 2 intervals. Today didn't feel amazing but I was able to hold a steady and high pace throughout the session. I'm really pleased with the progress and it shows my running is going in the right direction.

I'll do my second test on Friday. It is a double pole test. I double pole for 45min round using a loop on the rollerski track. I have my lap times from the last time I conducted the test at the end of June so I'll be able to compare the results. As I'll be using the rollerski track the effort I'll use will vary quite a bit. On some of the uphills I'll be working quite hard, but then there are flats and downhills where I can catch a breath and gather some energy for the next uphill. The aim is to hold a speed that I can sustain for the entire test so it also works a bit on my pacing and control not to over do it on one hill and loose lots of time on a flat section.

The final test I'm going to do is next Monday. It's a skate rollerski test on the rollerski treadmill in the test lab. The test is expensive and has to be booked long in advanced, so I don't get to do it that often. The last time I did the test was in mid May and the results really weren't that impressive. So I'm hoping they've improved since then.

Other this training has been going quite well. I finished off a good volume week last week, and at the weekend I ran Sp├ątind opp, an uphill running race that's part of the Tour de Synnfjell. I didn't remember the race being that long, but as it turns out, it is actually just over 9km and has 500m of assent. I held a good pace towards the front of the race through the early part. When we reached the sign that said 6km to the top I felt like death. But I managed to keep an ok pace until the final 500m. I was out sprinted by 2 others in the fight for 4th place and ended up 6th. My time was a little slower that last year but not by much. However, last year it was only 7k. The exact same course had magically grown 2k this year as the organisers used gps to measure the course for the first time. I spoke with someone who has done the race several times and he had always suspected it was bit longer than 7k. It turns out that until this year the kilometer markings had always been guesstimated... leaving you with the magical last km that takes 15min to run.

I'm training a bit less this week. August was a busy month and I need to rest a little bit to make sure I'm fresh for the rest of the Autumn. Although it is only 10 weeks until the season starts there is a lot of important training still to be done. So an easier week now can be beneficial in long run. Next week is another normal week of training in Lillehammer before I head to on a Team Synnfjell training camp the week after.