The last few weeks have been full on with training, competing and more training. In the middle of August I raced at Toppidrettsveka, a 3 day, 4 races rollerski competition in Aure and Trondheim. After that I had a week of Lillehammer training before heading to Tignes for the first altitude camp of the year with the British team.
Toppidrettsveka is a pretty big rollerski competition with 3 of the 4 races shown live on tv and the final pursuit race through the streets of Trondheim attracting tens of thousands of fans to line the course. This was my second year racing it and although it is a big event I used it as a good intensity block and a sort of dry run through of a competition weekend before the winter and the real racing starts.
Learning from last year, the night before the race everyone on Team Telemark sat down and taped our helmets blue with some sort of blue masking tape. Pretty much everyone races in black shorts and a white helmet. It’s impossible to pick out your team mates in a big group of skiers and impossible for the coaches to pick us out for drink stations or to give us spare poles. The easy fix of taping the helmets blue makes this much easier.
The first event was skating 25k mass start. It was roughly 20k flat/undulating along a fjord and finished with about 5k up a steep hill. I wanted to take bonus seconds at the second intermediate sprint point, about 500m up the final climb. With the help of some team mates I finished 3rd at the sprint point getting my self 10 points and then took it easy up the rest of the climb to the finish line.
Later that same day the second event, a classic sprint, took place in Aure town centre. I made it to the quarter final. It was an ok result, but in a fast double pole race I don’t quite have the raw speed to match the best guys yet.
The day after was a flat skate sprint in the centre on Trondheim. The prolog was 500m. 250m out, 250m back. Completely flat. As a sprinter it feels weird to complain that something was too short. But in a 500m (55second) sprint I don’t have a chance. I didn’t ski particularly well, and at that length I was going to have to do everything perfectly to be at the front. I was knocked out in the prolog, and went home to the hotel rather disappointed.
The final day is the pursuit start through the streets of Trondheim. There is a points system used for the previous days and each point is worth half a second. For the pursuit you start at your time deficit worked out from the points. The first person across the line is the winner of the whole tour. The course through Trondheim is fairly epic and although only 3 years old, it’s fast becoming legendary. With the steep climb up “Bru Bakken” and the winding decent with some pretty hairy bends, there is guaranteed action. The crowd love it. They gather on the climb and crowd in like on a Tour De France mountain stage. The atmosphere is amazing and it is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable races on the year, even if I was hurting the whole way though.
Pretty much everyone who competes at Toppidrettsveka is left with a feeling of “wow, skiing is a BIG deal in Norway”. I think even some of the Norwegian skiers get a shock by just how many fans turn out to watch.
After a week in Lillehammer training, I then headed to Tignes in France for altitude training with the British ski team. Tignes is actually quite high at 2130m above sea level. Whilst you can stay at higher places in Europe, Tignes is one of the highest where you can train from the door and the drive down to lower elevations isn’t too long. Of course you can stay at Stelvio and take a cable car down and then drive down the pass to Bormio to rollerski. Or take a cable car up and down to ski on the glacier. But if you want to avoid the constant feeling of car sickness and still stay high enough to ensure a good altitude effect then Tignes is quite a good place. It’s also the highest I’ve ever stayed. I’ve never really been over the 2000m barrier. And I can see that you are thinking “130m difference? Surely that doesn’t change anything?”. Well trust me, it does. Walking up the stairs at this height is enough to feel your heart beat pound inside your head and make you want to sit down and take a breather. The only way to describe coming up this high and trying to be active, is that it makes you feel rotten. Everything is harder, your heart rate is higher, you have to breath more, nothing is easy anymore.
Training up here generally goes ok. I have to go slower, walk more than run, and have an eye on my heart rate all the time. But the thing that gets me is the recovery. Up here the recovery is much slower than back at sea level. I have to be on top of nutrition and hydration from the get go. A slip up on recovery can have an effect for a few days where as at home it would go unnoticed.
The first week here turned out to be a fairly easy week for me. The first few days were filled with quite long but really easy, slow sessions. After a few days we had our first intensity session. 6x8min uphill classic. We kept the pace steady at level 3 (threshold). The day after the intervalls I woke up not feeling so good. So I had 2 days with no training. But it luckily it didn’t develop into a proper illness and I was able to stay here and get back into training last Monday. This week I’ve started to feel better and better as the week has gone on. I’ve increased the volume and had a couple of quite long sessions. Yesterday we had a 4 hour session with 2 hours of skate and 2 hours of running. We roller skied from Bour st Maurice to Refuge Rosuel, a dead end road. Then we switched into our running shoes and ran back through the mountains to Tignes. On the intensity side I’ve kept it pretty easy. I’ve only had one skate level 3 session, where I did about 50min of threshold work.
As you can see, there has been a lot of running! I’ve ran almost 10 hours this week. We have done some other training too, Ive just not been as good at getting my camera out and taking pictures.
We have 1 week left in Tignes. The first half of the week is going to be pretty tough. But the last few days are quite easy as we ease the training back before heading home. I’m looking forward to the next week, especially as I’ve started to feel better up here, I’m hoping the trend continues for the next 7 days.
We are coming to the end of what has been a long and productive summer in terms of training. As I wrote in a previous blog, things are changing within the British xc skiing world. The juniors coming through are now really pushing forward. There aren’t just 1 or 2, but there is now a team of skiers from the UK. Like last year some of the younger athletes have been joining us on camps and they are training at quite a high level. Similarly the junior athletes joined us for some sessions in the summer and it was impressive to see the progress being made there. Not only is this happening, but there are more people taking part in skiing or roller skiing and throughout the summer I’ve been aware of more and more people following and supporting us elite skiers. Over the past few weeks I’ve been made aware of one lady in particular who might just be my biggest fan, Mara Hotung. So thanks, Mara, for being fan!
I’m off to try and find a molecule or two of oxygen and recover before intervals tomorrow.