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If you haven’t noticed, it is quite apparent that I am no longer updating this blog. The explanation for this is simplistic and boils down to some plain and simple neglect. This blog was created with the purpose to cover my experiences during my year abroad in Norway and remain in contact with friends and family. I was extremely fortunate to get asked by Fasterskier to join their blogging ranks of talented skiers. Following my year abroad, it wasn’t apparent what direction my writing should take. As it turned out, my training experiences with US biathlon were quite lackluster and caused a loss of interest in terms of the blog. Thus, the updating ceased.

Now, given the current state of the site I would like to say how much I have appreciated all of the support and interest in my life as a skier. I’ve decided—if you haven’t noticed—to discontinue this blog. Skiing (and biathlon) will always continue as an important lifelong sport and I look forward to giving back to the ski community in as many ways as possible!

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After a bit of a hiatus from this site, I’m back and ready to kick off the ’09-’10 season! I’m writing from West Yellowstone, MT where the snow continues to pile up after a major storm that rolled through earlier this week. Almost all of the Rendezvous trails are open now and the race skis are on the verge of jumping out of the ski bag. When I first arrived on Wednesday with my buddy Kevin Patzoldt, who will soon leave for IBU (biathlon) world cup, there was essentially no snow—the plateau had next to nothing. Now, needless to say, the ski season has started.

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Eliot Neal

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All right, too much time has passed since my last post and it’s all due to my pondering the future options for this blog. So, I’ve decided to transition from a focus on my experiences in Norway to looking closer at my current training experiences, both in collegiate racing and biathlon, and the perspectives that I gain. This is not to say that I will stop drawing on my experiences in Norway, but rather discuss them with a little less concentration. All of my post and photos from “En tid for skiskyting i norge” will remain accessible through various links, and I will also welcome any questions about my experiences.

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Ronny Hafsås–one of Norway’s fastest biahletes and skiers

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Once again I’m writing from Lake Placid where training continues to progress. However, every now and then a week of recovery is needed and that’s exactly what this past week gave me. A 50% drop in hours feels like a world of difference! Now that the batteries are recharged for a new training period, I look forward to jumping back into a full training schedule tomorrow.

The big story of this past week was a trip to the Mt. Washington area to visit some long lost friends from Williams College. We accomplished everything from jolly trip to Storyland, hiking up Mt. Washington, clay tennis matches, to even a bit of chainsawing. I want to send out a big thank you to the Kantack family for their great hospitality! Check out some of the photos (courtesy of Keith!)—more are found on the Williams blog.

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Robby Cuthbert, me, and Keith Kantack

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This post is for all those biathletes out there and anyone else interested in what we mysterious biathletes do in order to build our shooting skills. While shooting might not be something that the Norwegians are well known for, it is yet another part of my training that also took a drastic turn during my time abroad.

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Shooting in Torsby

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After a couple weeks of training in the Internet chasm of Jericho, Vermont, I’m now moved in at the training center in Lake Placid where I’ll be staying for the next month or so. The major event of late took place this past weekend in Jericho were about seventy biathletes from around the US and Canada took part in the North American Summer Biathlon Championships. This was a great turnout that provided some stiff competition. The races for me were a little less than satisfactory simply due to not feeling all that well physically, but my shooting was definitely reasonable.

Also, I received several comments on this blog while I was in Jericho. Thank you! Again, it’s a privilege to write here and if there is something I’m missing or should explain better let me know!

Based on a comment from the last post, intensitets trening, I’ve decided rearrange a bit and talk about “strength training” and what differences I noticed between college/high school skiing and my time in Norway. To do this I’m going to split up strength training into four categories:  general strength, ski specific strength, spensts or plyometrics, and max strength. Again, there are many different opinions out there—even in Norway—so I’m strictly going to stick with what I experienced this past year.

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I’m still enjoying some time at home in Minnesota. Training is going well, and I’m settling back into the American way of life—for better or worse! Somehow I seem to have brought a small portion of Norway back with me. That is, the unseasonably cool weather! Despite all the complaining I’ve heard when walking around town, the cooler temperatures are great for training.

So, on to what I experienced this past year in regard to intensity training:  intervals, time-trials, etc. And by far, this was the aspect of training where I noticed the most difference from my experiences in high school and college.

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A quick glance at my heart-rate monitor during bounding intervals…

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Another week has flown by (plus a few days) and I’m now writing from home sweet home Minnesota. The training camp in Lake Placid with the national team was great—good training, excellent company, and reasonable weather. Yesterday, I tested my triathlon ability in a local race, the Timberman Triathlon. I surprised a few people, including myself, and won the sprint course competition. There’s a photo of me below on the way into the bike-run transition. Anyway, on to the meat of this post—“General training philosophies” of the Norwegian training model.

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Again, I feel that discussing Norwegian training is best done in reference to the experiences I had before traveling to Norway, which included a detailed and structured training plan created by the coach for the training group I was participating with—both in college and in Minnesota. In each situation, training plans had morning and afternoon sessions that I followed dutifully with not too much thought as to how they were formulated.

This “show up and train” mentality, if I can call it that, was challenged as soon as I got to Norway. I still remember my first workout with Team Statkraft Lillehammer, a roller-ski and shooting workout, where I asked the coach, Tobias, “What do you want me to do today?” I received a blank star and he said something like, “um… don’t you have something to work on? We are having easy skiing and shooting today…” There was nothing specific about how long the workout should be or how much I should shoot—simple things I’m usually told. After a somewhat confusing and frustrating workout, I launched myself into the encyclopedia that is Norwegian training.

From that point on I realized that planning on my behalf needed to play a larger role. At least in regard to the structure of easy trainings—intensity trainings were planed along with other time-trials or tests. This caused a greater thought process in choosing workouts, as well as asks the question, “What works for me?”

With my team this past year, there were between three and four important team workouts planned per week, and athletes were responsible to fill in exercises they felt focused on important aspects for the time of year (volume, strength, specificity, intensity, shooting, etc.). The coach always gave some input as to how your training should be modified or how to approach weaknesses that need addressing. I also should mention that training camps took place each month for one week—common for Norway. In these situations training was planned in detail.

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Team training in Beitostølen

You might be asking, what are the ideas that make up the Norwegian training model? Isn’t that what I should be talking about? Valid point. However, just like here in the US, there are many different ideas/mentalities for training and I feel that considering the “Norwegian model” as a single frame of mind is close-minded and one-dimensional. There are many ways to turn a skier into a champion.

Stephen Sneider does a good job describing the basic ideas behind the Norwegian training methods in his article XC Endurance Training Theory – Norwegian Style. I agree with Stephen in that each week (on average) is structured around two interval sessions. That is, training outside of these interval sessions should enable a skier to execute the interval sessions with a high amount of focus (i.e. not tired from a strenuous workout the day before). Subsequent posts will discuss this more and other training topics.

So, the general Norwegian philosophies in my opinion are that athletes should remain fairly independent and free thinking—free to formulate his or her training into something they feel will provide success (a great reason to keep a detailed training log as well as dig up old training logs and look into what worked!). But with direction provided by a coach. The idea behind this is that each individual has a different recipe for improvement, and the best way to find that recipe is to allow athletes to think somewhat independently.

Secondly, I also want to mention that coaching in Norway is structured in a way where it really feels like the coach is working along with athletes. They seem to remain open to different ideas, but will make sure workouts are done in a professional way. Anything that looks out of place or needs improvement, they will not hesitate to discuss with you.

In my opinion, this independence is something to be strived for here in the U.S., but is unattainable for younger athletes simply because the knowledge base of ski training isn’t so readily available and it is difficult to observe top-level racers in training. Plus it’s hard to be independent especially if there are only a few competitive racers in the local community.

Finally, I’ll add that there is no excuse for hard work. To make it to the international level in Norway, a person needs to be among the best in the world. Therefore, Norwegians train like the want to make it to the top—a level that is readily observed. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, Petter Northug trained 920 hours last year!

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Whew! After a whirlwind of travel and reorganizing, I’m now at the Lake Placid training center with the rest of the US national team for a three-week training camp. I’m finally not thinking about travel, but rather about training.

Anyway, on to what I’ve planned to begin discussing (posts should be coming more frequent now!)—What makes the Norwegians so good at skiing/biathlon? I’m no training expert or coach, but I’d like to point out some the things I’ve noticed over this past year while in Norway. To start it out, I’d like to look at some of the major differences in the race community between the US and Norway in this post—“How the ski community is built up.”

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Holmenkollen under construction June 2009. 1,9 billion Kroner upgrade! (~$700 million)

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The end of my time in Norway is almost here. Only a few hours separate me from taking the plunge back into the U.S. of A.  I’m looking forward to catching up on events back home, but it’s challenging to leave this “skier’s paradise.” For this reason, now is a great time to look back on what I’ve learned, experienced, and been part of while here in Norway. Also ask the question:  What makes the Norwegians so fast? The plan is to do a series of posts comparing different aspects of skiing/biathlon here in Norway to that in the US.

Before looking closer at what topics to write about, I recently returned from a trip in western Norway that “helt fantastisk” (completely fantastic). The trip was kind of a spur of the moment seeing as my friend Arild and I simply loaded up the car with skis, food, and a camera and set out to explore the high mountains and deep fjords of western Norway. Check out the photos at the end of the post!

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