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Archives for October 2009

Thirty-Seven

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I turned 37 this month. On my birthday, my coach told me that since passing my prime years I had done a decent job of maintaining my fitness. Then he told me that I had entered a new phase where I would no longer be able to maintain my physical conditioning and that I would literally wake up every morning just a little bit worse off than I was the day before. The positive news was that I had a huge fitness base to watch erode away and that I can remain at an elite level for a few more years. If that sounds incredibly mean and insensitive you should never work with my coach. I like the (tongue in cheek) straight story and that it why I have worked with him for most of my career.

One of the surest signs of age has been the decrease in my resting and maximal heart rate. The software I use to monitor my recovery while I sleep can't record my actual HR which is regularly below 30 and dips as low as 25 beats per minute. My maximal HR has gone from 205 when I was 21 years old to 180. However actually achieving my maximum HR is much more difficult than it was when I was younger.

In my early 20's getting my HR over 200 was as easy as running up a hill as hard as I could. Now I have to coax my body into letting my heart work that hard with the proper warm-up and gradual build in pace. Two weeks ago I did 6 x 5 minutes bounding up some nasty terrain. I thought getting my HR into the high 170's would be a no brainer. I ran for 40 minutes with ten minutes at lactate threshold. Then I started my first interval and easily hit 168 at the top of my course. I picked up the pace for the 2nd, and hit 170 beats. Unfortunately my legs were already loaded with lactate and I was hurting. The pain I was in felt disproportionate to the HR I had just put up, but I started my third rep. I was faster but my HR peaked at 168. Number four was the same pace and HR and then I started going backwards. The harder I pushed, the more my legs loaded and the slower I felt like I was going. My pace slipped and I only hit 164 beats despite being doubled-over at the top. I dug even deeper for rep 6 and got up to 166 HR and didn't lose any more time. However I had enough lactate in my legs that it felt like it was creeping into my stomach and I had a strong urge to vomit which I managed to avoid.

I had clearly not paced this intensity session very well. Had this been a race day the result would have been poor as my best races all have produced high maximal HRs. My coach and I surmised that I had loaded my muscles too much early in the session and that in order to get the most out of my body I needed to start with lighter and poppier motions that would allow me to use my circulatory system more readily. Then I could add more power as the workout progressed.

Today I repeated the bounding interval session with an emphasis on quick light motions that preserved my major muscles for later in the workout. The pacing strategy was successful with maximal HRs in the high 160s low 170s for the first three intervals and the mid to high 170's for intervals 4-6. My peak HR (178) actually came in interval 4 but I was able to complete the final two intervals five seconds faster with HRs running 1-2 beats lower.

Getting older is tricky and relearning the same tasks could be frustrating but fortunately I have a coach that understands the aging progression. He isn't going to hold my hand through the process, but fortunately I much prefer brutal honesty and enlightened counsel to sweet nothings.

Great Interviews

Noah Hoffman recently interviewed the CEO of USSA, Tiger Shaw, and the Vice President of Athletics, Luke Bodensteiner. Noah asked revealing questions that both Tiger and Luke answered with surprising openness. I have many disagreements with USSA strategies but I always have respect for direct communication. In my opinion Luke and Tiger were extremely forthright in these interviews which is a welcome change from the opaque answers that their subordinates often use to camouflage controversial policies.

Both interviews are about 50 minutes long but nearly all of the questions are pointed and the answers are informative. For better or for worse, listening to these interviews gave me a clearer understanding of where XC skiing fits into USSA’s priorities. I highly recommend listening.

Luke Interview

Tiger Interview

Tough or Stupid

At its most basic, training is stressing the body in a specific way to make the body adapt and become stronger. Stressing the body is often not a pleasant experience. Maximal interval sessions are painful by nature, over distance workouts are intended to deplete the body beyond what is normal, and weather and outside forces always have the potential to make workouts more difficult.

I have been training between 700-1000 hours annually for the last 18 years. The consistency of my training relies on my willingness to get the work done despite fatigue, minor injury, and inhospitable weather. Pushing through minor obstacles is proof of dedication and toughness. However there is a line between tough and stupid that I have always had a tendency to cross. This line could also be described as a barrier of diminishing or even negative returns. Even when my body or the climate has been telling me not to continuee, it has generally been mentally easier for me to push through and finish my task. The consequences often lead to injury or long term fatigue. The question of “tough or stupid” often comes down to the individual. What one athlete views as tolerable and worthwhile may seem absurd and foolish to another.

What made me think of this was the Mt Moosilaukee running timetial that I competed in yesterday. About five minutes into the race I was stung on the ankle by a yellow jacket. In general I am not severely allergic to stings but I do react with swelling and nausea. The sting hurt but I was so focused on the task at hand that I just kept running. I should have stopped. At the top of the mountain I had run three minutes slower than expected, my ankle was stiff and swollen and I was disoriented. I am sure that I gained absolutely nothing from the effort and I risked severe consequences by ignoring the allergic reaction. I was stupid and lucky that everything turned out ok

Yesterday made me think of other times that I have ignored pain while racing. My focus is so intense during an event that I seem to be able to block out just about anything. At the 2007 Sapporo World Championships I was skiing in a lead pack of twenty skiers in the 30k skiathlon. With 4k to go, on the fastest downhill, Johann Olsson fell right in front of me and I had to bail at roughly 40 mph. I took the entire impact of the fall on my right shoulder. I skidded to a stop and bounced back to my feet. I was able to catch back up to the pack but was too blown from the effort to put up any fight in the final kilometer. I ended up 19th at the line where I suddenly felt excruciating pain in my right shoulder. I could not lift my arm and any movement hurt. That night I was treated by our physical therapist. He tested my arm by having me perform various strength and range of movement exercises. Every task was intensely painful but I also had full functional use of my arm. I was cleared to race the 50k classic a few days later. My shoulder still hurt like a hell when I started the marathon but I was able to pole with reasonable effectiveness. Turning to the side to grab feeds made me want to cry out in pain though. I had my best 50k performance of my career taking 12th place. Two months later while I was training in Bend another physical therapist was skiing behind me and noticed that my scapula was moving in an odd pattern while I poled. He scheduled an MRI for me and it turned out that I had fractured the ball of my humerous in the crash. The doctor said he had never seen a break in a shoulder without any soft tissue damage before but that somehow I had managed to do just that. That was why I had retained motor function of my shoulder despite massive pain. The strange movement in my shoulder blade was a subconscious rerouting in my arm swing to avoid pain signals from the break and subsequent tendonitis. It took me 18 months of regular physical therapy exercises to retrain the pathways in my arm to move normally again. My verdict on this episode is 50% tough and 50% stupid. I was able to record my best 50k finish ever but I also gave myself a chronic shoulder injury that I had to work for nearly two years to heal.

Perspective plays a role in determining wether pushing through adversity is worthwhile. Sometimes pushing through negative conditions can traain the mind to ignore poor circumstances. Based on my history I don’t think this is something I need to practice. One year at the annual Lake Placid training camp a sprint time trial was scheduled and several club, high school and college teams came to participate. The weather was miserable with 30 degree temps, pouring rain and unrelenting wind. After the qualifier Everyone was soaked through and freezing. Waiting around for an hour before starting rounds seemed foolish to me and I though that it would be in everyone’s best interest to bail. Pete Vordenberg was running the session though and he was determined to see the race through. I wasn’t going to be the only athlete to stop so I suffered through the competition. I was so cold that my heart rate would not elevate out of what was my normal level 3, but I must have been better off than the other skiers since I won every round including the final. Many of the younger competitors were so cold that they eschewed cooling down and warming up to huddle in the van between rounds. I went back to the Olympic Training Center resenting the work out and completely exhausted. The whole exercise had seemed to be a waste of time to me. That evening I over heard Pete talking about what a success the day had been and how tough the US ski community was. Tough or stupid is sometimes just a matter of perspective.

At the 2011 Oslo World Championships I was in the worst form of my entire season. I had finished in the top 10 three times earlier that year and had taken points in a dozen races already. I was recovering from a nasty cold though, and my racing sensations were going in the opposite direction that I wanted. The only race left was the 50k free which I feared would set me back even further. I still had two world cup weekends left including the Finals in Falun. I felt that there was little chance of a good result in the 50k so I relinquished my start right to rest for the remaining races. The recovery was good for me and I closed out the season with world cup points in all four distance races including a top 20. I finished the World Cup season in 27th and somewhere in the teens on the distance list. It seemed obvious to me that I had made a good decision to skip the 50k. A few years later I learned that the brass at the US Ski Team had been shocked that I gave up the 50k start and considered it a sign of weakness. The viewpoint surprised me as I had always considered that decision to be difficult but intelligent. Should I have been tougher and raced or would that have been stupid?

After 18 years of skiing and training full time I would think that I would be better at making the determination between tough or stupid. Yesterday’s allergic reaction showed me that making those calls will always be difficult for me. Even now as I write this with a swollen leg and a Benadryl hangover, I am asking myself if I should be out training. In my core I know that training would be stupid and counterproductive but there will always be that voice telling me to be tough. I love that voice but I wish he came with an on and off switch.

Stelvio II

Training has continued to go very well on the Stelvio glacier. The MWSC, Noah, and I are staying at the Livrio Hotel at the foot of the glacier which allows us to ski out the door each day. Though isolated it is easy to take the tram down to our van and drive down to lower altitudes and civilization. Here are some pictures of me running through Bormio.

href=”http://blogs.fasterskier.com/krisfreeman/files/2013/09/Run.jpg”>Run

Bormio Run II

The food is better than one would expect at 10,000 feet but only three meals a day is a little light for xc skiers putting in up to five hours of training a day. Will Sweetser has been making frequent trips to the grocery store so that we can have five meals. I’m pretty sure that Noah has been eating about half of the food that Will buys for the six athletes he is supporting. I witnessed him eating an entire bucket of jam with wassa crackers two days ago. His appetite is staggering. Speaking of Noah, his documentation of our trip puts mine to shame and you should check his blog out at www.noahhoffman.com

The weather and snow conditions have been fantastic and very “un-glacier” like. Hard tracks makes for fast skiing and the bright sun has necessitated some serious sunscreen. I have taken to putting on copious amounts of zinc based protection twice a day.

Sunscreen

To get up to the training loop we have to ski up a “gradual” alpine hill for 15 minutes. It is quite the “warm-up”

Uphill

Uphill II

Overall I have been very happy with how the camp has gone. We have the most comfortable lodging I have ever had on a glacier (the coffee bar is key.) The snow conditions have been fantastic and Will has done a great job of ski prep so that we can focus on recovery in between sessions. I have been adapting well to the relatively extreme altitude. My oxygen saturation numbers have increased from 92% to 95% over the last week and my heart rates return to normal with planned rest. I have four more days of volume training here before I fly home and and begin sharpening for the start of the season with a return to an intensity focus.

On November 5th I travel to Muonio Finland to start the competitive season. Its always freezing there so I am excited to try out Oakley’s Pro Rider clothing. Last year it was a long walk to the dining hall in nothing but a thin puffy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5Ep1x2y-JQ

Stelvio

I am currently training on a glacier in Stelvio Italy. The training loop is about 5k long with the high point at an elevation of 10,900 feet. The air is thin up here but the skiing has been good so far. I was on multigrade hardwax for both of my classic sessions and my skate skis were gliding fast on the Fischer P1-1 grind. The visibility has been hit or miss but the sky is supposed to clear soon.

I have never trained this high for an extended period and I was curious about how the high altitude would affect my insulin sensitivity. My altitude experience has been limited to traveling from sea level to as high as 7000 feet. When I have transitioned to these altitudes in the past I have always had to up my insulin doses by at least 20%. I speculate that my body treats the change as a minor stress/annoyance and reacts by upping my cortisol production. Cortisol is a stress hormone that desensitizes the body to insulin. By going up to 11,000 feet I thought that I might have to up my insulin use by as much as 50%. However I have had to make virtually no adjustment to the doses I was using before my ascent. I can only guess at the reason, but I surmise that my body is working so hard to regulate itself up here that it is treating the extreme altitude as a training response. The more I train the more sensitive I become to insulin and therefore the less I need to inject. Yesterday I ran a basal insulin of .7 units per hour and used a total of just over 25 units.

I took the opportunity to get in a unique workout on the way up to the Stelvio glacier. Here is a picture Hoff took of me roller-skiing up the pass.

Stelvio Pass

Since my last post about the Ride Aroostook fundraiser I continued to train big volume for an additional two weeks. Over the fourteen days I had four notable over-distance workouts including a 100k double pole, a 104k skate, and two five hour and fifteen minute runs on the Franconia Falls/Ridge loop. I ran it once in each direction. This is my favorite running loop and starts at the Franconia Falls parking lot off of the Kancamagus highway in NH. From there I run the Franconia Falls trail for 11 miles where it connects to the Franconia Ridge trail that I follow over Mt Garfield, Mt Lafayette, Mt Lincoln, Mt Haytack, Mt Liberty, and Mt Flume. From the last peak, I descend back to Franconia Falls trail and parking lot.

After I finished the month long volume block which came in at just under 100 hours, I switched focus to intensity for a few weeks. My energy came up rapidly and I had some great sessions. There have been many good indicators of fitness including my pulsox reading. The picture below was taken while I was lying in bed. The top number indicates that my oxygen saturation is at 97% and my heart rate was at 30 bpm.

Pulsox

During all the training I still found some time to have some fun with Amber. On one of my off days we headed to the state fair where we bought unlimited ride passes. I had a much higher tolerance for thrill rides when I was a kid. Here are some before and after pictures.

Before
After

Ride Aroostook

This Weekend I drove back up to Presque Isle Maine to take part in the Ride Aroostook bike tour which benefits the children’s diabetes program “Camp Adventure.” I have worked with this camp on two occasions, going for a downriver canoe and participating in a run and shoot biathlon relay race. I was impressed with the organization and ambition of the camp.

Ride Aroostook is a two day bike tour that is advertised as being 150 miles total (by my measurement it was 62 miles the first day and 70 the second). I decided that it would be fitting for me as an Olympic skier and type 1 diabetic to roller-ski the event in order to drum up more donations and draw more attention to Camp Adventure.

I skated the first day and really enjoyed the well marked course that hugged river beds and meandered through rolling potato fields. The weather was nearly perfect at 68 degrees and blue sky. However a strong wind made some of the open sections a little slower than I would have preferred. There were three aid stations spread out evenly which meant I could ski with just a water-bottle belt and restock at each stop. Using Swenor skate skis with “2” wheels it took me five hours and four minutes to complete the 62 miles. That evening the event organizers provided an Italian buffet for the riders. I was the keynote speaker and gave a short speech at the dinner.

Day two saw even better weather. A full sun and 70 degrees was complimented by a light breeze. The course consisted of two loops. The first was 33 miles long and the second was 37 around. I double poled the first loop on Swenor classic skis with “3” wheels in 2:45 and realized that I would be out for six hours if I completed the whole course on my slow skis. So I switched to my Swenor “2’s” and continued onto the last loop which I double poled in 2:50 for a total time of 5:36.

Thanks to some generous donations I was able to raise nearly $1800 and I got two well supported over distance workouts in the process. I would say I had a successful weekend. Now I am going to take a nap.

Top Notch Triathlon

I raced the Top Notch Triathlon in Franconia NH this morning. The unique race starts with a six mile uphill Mt Bike. This is followed with a half mile swim across Echo lake to the base of Cannon Mt. The last leg is a run/scramble up the alpine trails to the summit.

I set the course record for this race with a 1:06:05 in 2006. That year the course was dry as a bone and the Mt bike was ripping fast. This summer has seen more rainfall than I can ever remember in New England. For good measure there was a long thunder shower last night that completely saturated the trail. Setting a new record in the muddy conditions was going to be a tall order.

Fortunately another very talented competitor, Ryan Kelly, raced today and we pushed each other hard. Ryan is a more practiced and technically better rider than me. I was killing myself to stay with Ryan’s strong accelerations and smooth lines on the more technical sections of trail. I looked forward to the hard sustained climbs where technical proficiency wasn’t as important as overall engine size.

I made one stupid mistake that resulted in a crash. When I previewed the course I noted that the two most technical sections were in rapid succession and that my preferred line went from left to right. What I failed to take into account was that there was a wooden bridge in between the two lines where I needed to cross the trail. Wet wood and rubber is not a good combo. I came down on my hip hard, lost about 20 seconds to Ryan and had to cash some chips to catch back up. On a 1-10 stupidity scale I give myself a 5 on this one.

Ryan and I went through the swim exchange at exactly the same time and I followed his slip stream all the way across the lake. I have been swimming a lot this summer to gain shoulder flexibility but I have not received any formal technical instruction since I was 12 years old. Amy Caldwell offered to coach me a bit this summer but it never happened. I was able to stop choking on water cease thrashing about half way through the water, when I started timing my stroke with a mental chant “should have” (left arm) “learned to swim” (right arm). Anyway, with the advantage of the slipstream I came out of the water only five seconds down.

Then I made my second mistake. I have done this race multiple times and always set up my running exchange 100 meters further up the mountain than anyone else. This year a dozen people had placed their things near mine and I got confused and ran right by my shoes before having to turn around. Ryan ended up with a 20 second lead. I have to give myself a 10 out of 10 on the stupid index here.

Every time I have raced the Top Notch I have had the fastest run time so I was confident that I could still make up the gap and win. Ryan was hauling ass though and I had to dig to catch him by the halfway point of the mountain. We climbed together until what I figured was about two minutes to the top. Then I made my move. Hiking on ridiculously steep grass and mud we had a ski walking battle. My advantage here is obvious and I was able to put 16 seconds on him by the finish.

The back and forth in the race resulted in a couple of fast times. Despite the sloppy conditions I posted a new course record of 1:05:30 and Ryan bested my old record finishing in 1:05:46. He gave me a great race.

On the diabetes side of things, racing a point to point triathlon without a support crew is not ideal. It is an especially big pain when there is no clothing transport from start to finish. I had to pack two med kits with extra OmniPod insulin pumps, glucose monitors, and Humalog insulin. The OmniPod is programmed by a separate remote that is not waterproof and bigger than I would want to carry in a race. Each Pod is synced to one remote at a time in order to avoid cross talk between OmniPod users. I needed to have my remote at the start of the race in order to make last minute adjustments to my programming. So I left a second remote as well as new insulin pods and a glucose monitor as close to the finish line as I could. This way I could attach a new pump synced to the second remote after the race. The closest I could get this med bag to the finish was the base of Cannon Mt. So I had to finish the race and jump on the Tram to the bottom of the Mt as quickly as I could. It took twenty-two minutes to get from the finish to the bag.

I have been running a very basic basal insulin rate of .5 units per hour 24/7 due to my high training load. For the race I turned my basal up to .7 two hours prior to race start. The extra insulin is to keep my glucose from rising too high from anaerobic effort. Five minutes before the start my glucose was 163 and according to my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, rising slightly. I took a micro-bolus of .15 units to curb the rise and started.

When I arrived at my bag one hour and twenty-seven minutes later, my glucose was 127 which indicated very good glucose control on the day. I did not need to make any adjustments so I left the Pod I was wearing on. Next I walked around the lake that I had swum across earlier, found my bike in the exchange rack, and had a great time ripping down the soaked trail I just raced up. Once back at my car, I grabbed my synched remote, made some small adjustments and headed out for another forty minutes of wet trail riding.

Busy July

In late June I wrapped up my first training camp in Maine with a 5k running race. I broke 16:00 for the first time since the year 2004 with a 15:53. Not blazing fast but still a good indication that things are going well.

Finish Line

Since then my summer has gotten very busy. Over the past eight years I have been visiting summer camps for kids with diabetes all around the country. I share the story of my diagnosis and career with them in the hopes that they will not let the disease deter them from their dreams and goals in life. I find the advocacy work very rewarding so I planned to visit 10 camps over course of five weeks. I planned the disruption into my training in the Spring so I have only scheduled 75 training hours for July.

I am not allowed to post pictures of the campers so the two pictures below are of me at Camp Jack in Road Island and playing dodgeball in New Mexico.

Camp Jack

DodgeBall

It has been very hot and humid in New Hampshire but I love training here. The beauty of the landscape here never gets old. My last three days of training have been as follows.

2 hour run/2 hour double pole
1.5 hour no pole skate/2.5 run on Welch and Dickey Mountains
6 hour road bike for 120 miles

The over distance road bike will be my second to last ride of this length. I am transitioning to more specific training. Below is a picture of Wyatt taking advantage of a stream on the Welch and Dickey trail.

Its Hot Out

Great Camp in Maine

My first camp of the year in Maine is nearly over. It has been very well supported and I have gotten some good quality sessions in. I did some L3 kayak intervals with Will Sweetser on the Aroostook river.

There is no smooth way to enter a downriver kayak

There is no smooth way to enter a downriver kayak

photo-16

I also did a 100 mile road bike zig zagging my way from Presque Isle to Fort Kent. It was really nice to have a support van for the entire ride. This morning I went for a two hour double pole with Welly, Sam Tarling, and two junior team members.

photo-17

I will take advantage of the pool at the University of Maine Presque Isle and put in some laps for today’s second session.

On Track

Training in New Hampshire has gone very well so far this Spring. I have hit all of my goals for the first six weeks of training. Admittedly training goals are the easiest to hit at this time of year but none the less. Sunday I head up to Presque Isle for my first training camp away from my condo in NH. It will mark a change in focus towards more specificity.

I will be thirty-three years old in October, but my body still responds very fast to training and I have been recovering quickly from a fairly high load. I have been looking over my last several years of racing and my last two seasons have been subpar. However in 2011/2012 I scored the most world cup points of my career. Being only two years removed from what could arguably be called my best season, I believe that my best races are ahead of me and I plan to race at least through the 2015 WC in Falun Sweden. I have great support from my industry sponsors (Fischer, Swix, Alpina) and I still love ski racing.

No retirement for me… just a recovery day
photo-14

I have been asked several times what my insulin dosing was for the 50k in Tahoe this Spring. For most races I run the same amount of insulin from the start to finish of a race but the 50k is a different beast. Because of the long duration of the event I completely deplete my glycogen stores. Thus I need less insulin in my blood as the race progresses. I started the race with a high (for me) basal rate 0f 0.8 units per hour in order to keep my topped off glycogen stores from raising my blood sugar. For the second hour of the race I had my OmniPod insulin pump programmed to lower my basal rate to 0.6 units. At two hours my Pod lowered the basal rate once more to 0.4 units which is the dose I finished on. Throughout the race I took 13 planned four ounce feeds. I started the race with a blood-sugar of 170 and finished at 140.

Mad Triathlon

I started training again on May 1st. I have started conservatively with 20 non-specific hours the first week. If you follow me on twitter you would have seen a few of the activities that I have been doing. If you want to follow me on twitter I am @TeamFreebirdXC

Here are some pictures

XC skiing does not help maintain leg speed. Justin enjoyed hurting me during some speed work last week.

This a picture of Amber and I skinning on Mt Sunapee


I was able to skin at Waterville Valley till May 1st. Here is a picture of me holding my Fischer Watea Tele skis. Fischer, Alpina, and Swix have all pledged their continued support for me through next season. I have great sponsors.

I was skiing on the 1st and swimming on the 3rd. I don’t know why but every year that I have swum at least two hours a week in the off season I have skied fast. Its anecdotal but good enough for me.

I raced and won the Mad Triathlon in SugarBush Vermont yesterday which includes a six mile downriver kayak. The “Triathlon” actually has four events. It starts with a 7.2 mile downhill run followed by the kayak, a ten mile road bike hill climb and finishes with a 5k trail run. It is a cool event that used to be know as the SugarBush Triathlon. They renamed it two years ago when they lengthened the initial run and swapped out their traditional 5k ski for a 5k trail run. I have wanted to compete in the race for about 15 years but it had not fit in my schedule till this year.

bummer

Today I went for my first ski since I got home from Tahoe. I skinned up the alpine slope in ideal corn snow with perfect sunny skies overhead. I felt lousy though. I have barely slept the last few days as I have been trying to reconcile with a new situation. I will no longer be a member of the US Ski Team. I was told that even though I am extremely likely to be representing the US at the Olympics in February, I was not nominated for NGB support because there was little probability of my medaling next year. Despite this assumption the Maine Winter Sports Center and my longtime coach still believe in my potential. We will continue to prepare for Sochi on our own.

Rested and Ready

My time at home was very productive and I am feeling like myself again. I traveled to Davos Switzerland last night and just got back from an easy classic ski in fresh powder. I have eight days to prepare for the 15k freestyle world cup being held here. Five days later I will compete in the 30k at the World Championships

I had good sensations competing in the Craftsbury Marathon last Saturday. This picture was taken a few hundred meters from the finish

My Dad won the M7 age division and the unofficial beardcicle contest.

Putting a Bib on

Even when rebuilding I find it important to stay in the practice of putting a bib on and racing. Last weekend I raced a 30k classic in Jackson NH. It was cold out and Swix VR30 was kicking like a mule. The tracks were firm and well prepared. Racing on “real” ski trails was a nice change from the “interstate highways” that are now raced on the World Cup. I had a good time and my feeling is getting better and better.

A little R and R

It took a full week for my body to recover enough from the Tour de Ski to benefit from training. Recovering from the seven races in nine days would have been difficult on its own but I had blood glucose management problems as well. After the 36km Cortina to Toblach race my blood sugar did something it had never done before after a marathon style race. It rose and it kept rising. In fact it went higher than I have ever monitored it. As a panic reaction I dosed a very large amount of insulin to counteract the high. I dosed too much and my glucose dropped to 30 (a non-diabetic would never see a number below 70). This low left me shaking and sweating so I ate carbs to bring my glucose back up, and it shot into the high range again.

The next day I had to race the 5k classic and I felt like a truck had hit me. I called my doctor afterwards and he explained that the high blood sugars would have prevented any recovery from the previous day’s race by drastically raising my muscle enzymes. The low sugar caused my stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, to spike. The combination of the high and low sugar in rapid succession was in his words, “the equivalent of being shot in the chest.” I was told that if he had been there with me he would have prevented me from racing in the 5k. Recovery would take about two weeks.

That night I looked into getting a plane ticket home. I could not find an affordable option with means of transport to the airport for a week. That meant that I would have to continue to follow the Tour. I called my doctor again and asked wether continuing to race would hinder my recovery. He thought that there would be no danger of setbacks as long as I was able to keep my glucose in a normal range. He cautioned that I would most likely race poorly though. Because I was stuck in europe anyway, the fact that I hate dropping out of anything, and that the last two races of the tour were good for me historically, led me to decide to keep racing. My doctor was right. I had nothing.

Knowing that a momentary lapse in blood sugar management can have consequences that affect my performance for weeks is very stressful. That stress added to the travel, elevation change, and different foods that I was confronted with every day, through me off the tracks.

It is hard to be home in the middle of the season, but a training block at home was the best way for me to stabilize and rebuild. My body is in a good stable place again and it is responding to training well. I have always loved skiing at my home ski area Waterville Valley and I am getting three solid weeks to do nothing but ski there. Waterville always reminds me that skiing is really fun. I will return to europe to compete in the pre-worlds 15k skate in Davos.

Not the Tour I was looking for

The Tour turned out to be a very long and frustrating week for me. I started out by injuring my shoulder in the second race and ended with glucose issues that wreaked havoc on my hormonal system. I made the decision to return home to NH and get my feet back under me. I have five weeks before the World Championships which should be plenty of time to regain my form.

I told FS that I would never compete in the Tour again. That is probably not true. I will definitely not participate in it next season as I do not want to take any chances with my health in the lead up to Sochi. However I would like to race it again in 2015. In the next few weeks I will write more about my experience in the Tour this year. For right now though I am going to drink another cup of coffee and play with my dog.

Tour Prep

I have had a busy few weeks. After a disappointing race series in Kuusamo, I flew to Aspen to train with the Hoff for a week before Canmore. My training there centered around two intensity workouts. There was no snow in Aspen so we drove to Vail to do a 45 minute L3 skate on the cat tracks at the base of the alpine area. We were at 8500 ft so I mostly followed, and suffered as Hoff skied in his natural habitat. The next hard session was a planned 6 x 3 minute bounding session. We changed the workout to uphill classic intervals after it snowed a foot overnight. The purpose of the workout was to go hard enough that I would reach failure. I felt good for the first two efforts but then it became clear that I was not recovering in the thin air. After the 4th interval I felt completely blown but started the fifth anyway. I reached failure, mission accomplished.

On Monday, I flew to Canmore with the Hoff to get ready for the 15k classic being held on Thursday. The lead up to the race was uneventful. The race itself turned out to be one of attrition. A big pack stayed together for the first two of four laps. Then skiers started falling off the pace in big numbers. By 13k, I was in 10th place with 3 skiers close behind me. I was loaded with lactate though, and had to switch from a racing mentality to one of survival. I slipped to 14th place by the finish. It was not a great race but not bad either.

The next event for me was the 30k pursuit. The pace was predictably slower, and I skied in the top 20 keeping close watch on the leaders to make sure there were no breakaways. I skied comfortably for the entire classic portion of the race and had a smooth transition to skating. The first lap of four in the skate was quite slow but the second lap sped up and I started to hurt. When I got to the preem on the third lap I was in 12th, and I looked over at the guys around me. They looked worse than I felt. I hadn’t planned on going for preems, but I put in a few hard pushes and crossed the line in 9th to pick up a few points. On the next lap I put in a harder effort and took fifth on the preem. Meanwhile, Hoff was jamming at the front of the pack a few seconds in front of me. On the final lap the pace picked up considerably and the lead pack of 20 splintered. By the final hill the pack was down to 12. I attacked the hill well but my legs were so loaded afterwards that I skied the following downhill corner poorly and got passed by Filbrich. The last few hundred meters were an all out sprint and I not sure exactly what happened except that I out-lunged Decenta for 10th. I was five seconds off the winning time and two seconds off Hoff who had just posted a career best 8th place. It was the first time in my career that two US men had finished in the top ten in a distance race. To make the day even sweeter, Tad posted his first top 30 of the day.

There wasn’t too much time to celebrate, as I had to pack up that night to catch an early shuttle to the airport. I flew to Munich, picked up a passenger van that the team will use for the Tour de Ski and drove myself to Davos. For the past five days I have been staying at the excellent Hotel Kulm and skiing twice a day on perfect snow. There is at least three feet of powder here and I haven’t had to wax warmer than VR45. I head to Oberhof for the Tour on the 27th.

Sweden

The team and I had an easy travel from Mounio to Sweden. Since then I have been skiing twice a day on the world cup courses. The 5k loop which will be used for the men’s 15k and women’s 10k has some minor terrain changes. Four tunnels and a replacement bridge have been added resulting in several short steep hills that will slightly alter the momentum of the course. A new 2.5km loop has been groomed as well that will be used for the men’s and women’s relay. The men’s relay has been shortened to 4×7.5km. It will be interesting to see if the shorter length has any effect on how the race is paced and the overall outcome.

My energy has been increasing each day and I am feeling much better skating than I did leading into last week’s race in Finland. It seems that sometimes I just need a few more days on the snow to make things happen. Speaking of snow I saw some positive signs for a good winter in the East. My favorite ski area, Waterville valley, opened their alpine mountain over week ago. And the Maine Winter Sports Center Junior and Development teams have also found some snow in Canada. I wish them luck with their season as I begin my own on the world cup.

MOUNIO

I have finished my first weekend of racing in Mounio Finland. I started all three races this weekend beginning with the classic sprint. I skied technically well in the sprint but lacked the snap I needed and missed qualifying by just over two seconds. The second race was a 10k classic which I skied very well. I was in the hunt for top three the whole race but finished 4th. Given the strength of the field it was a great effort. Sunday’s race was a 15k skate. I felt off from the start and never got comfortable on my skis. My struggle to get comfortable cost me on the last lap as I faded from 8th to 14th. It was a frustrating day, but one that I would rather have in warm-up races than on the world cup.

STRIDING

TOP SIX

SKATING

This last picture is of my parents dog, Wyatt, who I rescued from the pound 9 years ago. He is finishing up a sixteen mile run which was one of my last workouts before flying to Scandanavia. Wyatt is awesome.

WYATT

Autumn in Presque Isle

I recently spent a week in Presque Isle training. The weather was ideal and I took advantage of it for some long skis on rolling farm roads. I also did some near max bounding intervals at the Nordic Heritage Center and a 3 x 5k interval session with Welley Ramsey. Welley is in good shape and used his fast roller skis to really push me on the workout.

I also found time to do a short technique session with Aroostock county’s growing development group.

I am now in Park City training with the national team. I have testing on Monday and Wednesday before traveling onto Canmore for some on snow training.