Again I find myself writing this in my room watching snow fall steadily outside. Calmly covering everything in a layer of white. Erasing everything that was underneath from sight and starting afresh. We are at the halfway point for World Championships and under the serenity of that layer of snow lies a tumultuous last week. The team and myself have certainly had its ups and downs.
There is light rain falling as I look out the window of my room. Back home we call mizzle it’s not mist and it’s not drizzle. In some ways it’s hardly noticeable but you get wet from it fairly quickly. It’s trying to snow but not quite. It’s a standard grey day here in Falun Sweden. The entire World Championship team is now together and living in our allotted athlete accommodation for the Championships. This year our team is huge, 11 athletes and 8 support staff. This is the largest overall group we have ever sent to a Championship event! It’s pretty exciting to be part of such a huge group. There is a lot of excitement and a few nerves floating about the team. We have four athletes competing in the 10km qualifying race on Wednesday. I’m lucky enough to be prequalified and able to skip that race. I think all of the athletes should qualify, they’re skiing well and looking good! They have to come in the top 10 to go through. This weekend I was up in Ostersund. Around 5 hours north of Falun racing on the World Cup. These were my first races on the World Cup this year and as always it’s extremely fierce racing!
So for the last week and a half I have been living in the “mountain” resort of Gronklitt in Sweden. I say mountain because I think we are only at 550m but it seems like they sell this area as a little Alps ski resort in Sweden. In honesty it’s actually flat here. Most of the trails are all around lakes and very few have any hills. That being said the training week has gone as well as I could have hoped for. I feel like the final preparations before heading to the World Cup in Ostersund and the World Championships in Falun have been really successful. We had great snow and trails here and I had a lot of good sessions. Tomorrow the World Cup team will drive up to Ostersund to race a classic sprint and a skate distance race. I hear that there is minimal snow and the only skiing is on the two race courses. I hope it’s not rained out and rough but we’ll see.
So I’m finally in Sweden and joined up with the Australian team as we prepare for World Championships! The pointy business end of the season! Where all the work we have done for the past year really counts! Last week in Craftsbury, Vermont I had yet again a mix bag of results, where my body felt solid and ready to charge yet not quite able to do so. I was hoping for some big results but again felt like I wasn’t able to capitalize properly on my races. The big positive to come out of the weekend was I qualified for the heats in the sprint race! This is the first time this season I have been able to do it so I was stoked to be in the mix, racing the big guns! I drew a very tough heat for the first round, the eventual winner and third place finishers were in my heat. The race went well and I was sitting in second for over half of the race but on one of the hills I was out kicked by two other racers coming either side of me. I finished up 4th in the heat out of 6. It was disappointing that I didn’t move on but I was glad to of made it and given it my all. Continue reading
When “Sweet home Chicago” was written for the Blues Brothers, they clearly hadn’t flown much. Or if they had, they clearly had just decided to make Chicago home, due to always having to spend a night at the airport waiting to catch a flight out… Chicago O’Hare Airport and I have a true hate-hate relationship. I think I’ve only flown through once without my flight getting cancelled. Still, I love that song.
Ok, so I’ll admit I’m writing this with less than ideal sleeping hours under my belt and probably one cup of coffee too many this early in the morning. So if this post seems a little shaky or I start rambling on I do apologise in advance!
Why didn’t I get enough hours of sleep? As an athlete shouldn’t I be totally onto this? We’ll you’re right and I did drop the ball a little, luckily today is an easier day of training for me and a nap is definitely in order later!
I’m still in Bozeman and at the moment I’m babysitting the family dog, a 13 year old husky with mild anxiety issues. Since I’m the only one at home, he decided to sleep in my room. If you don’t believe dogs snore, come hang out with me and Beans for a night! It’s like sleeping in the subway. I’m half thinking he does it on purpose so I have to get up early in the morning to take him for a walk. Either way it worked for him!
I once read that the lowest temperature in Australia ever recorded was -16C. Well for all of US nationals the temperature never got warmer than -16C. It constantly stayed around -18C.
I’ve been trying to write this blog for the last few days. It’s hard to work out what I want to write and how I want to convey it. US nationals were a disappointment for me. I simply failed to meet any of my goals. As an athlete it’s frustrating and a little shattering to put so much effort in over the last few months, to come away with little success. However as I improve, I continue to increase expectations upon myself, setting harder and harder goals. Weeks like this just remind me I’m human and that racing has its ups and downs. I fly home to Bozeman to refocus and again start preparing for some more racing in the US, but more importantly Europe. I’ll need to spend some time evaluating what I did well and what went wrong at the races and then put it all behind me. As athletes this is when we are tested the most and our resilience shown, to bounce back. Continue reading
It’s a wooly jumper kind of day! It’s a forced rest day today. The race organizers for US Nationals have postponed the classic sprint race for a day to let temperatures warm up here in Houghton, Michigan. The temperatures are in theory above the FIS race limit of -20C (temperatures are hovering around -17C) but there is a constant 50km wind blowing through which is making the temperature feel more like -27C. Tomorrow the temperatures are meant to rise a little but honestly I don’t see it happening, nor do I think they should have delayed the race a day. For the whole week it’s meant to be bitterly cold so I don’t think delaying the races has any benefit for us. It just postpones the inevitable a little longer.
So yesterday was the first race of US Nationals. A 15km skate on a 7.5km loop. I think that perhaps it’s the first 7.5km loop I’ve ever raced on for a 15km race and it definitely was a challenge getting my head around it. The loop style I think presents a few harder challenges. 1) It means that you have an extra 2.5km of course to remember and memories. 2) You ski the course less in your warm up and pre-race which mean you aren’t as familiar with the feel of the hills and corners and where you need to go hard or can rest. 3) Overall the course is skied in less, which means it’s slower and less packed.
It’s 9:00am as I step out of the car at Hillside and join the APU athletes milling at the trail head. It might as well be midnight, there isn’t a hint of sun as we stand under lights that are spaced roughly 20 meters apart down the trail. It’s the last intervals session for the team before heading down south to US nationals. The group is super relaxed, joking and swapping Christmas stories. Then, en mass they head out to warm up on the trails. A mass of blue and black colored athletes gliding through the shadows. It’s go time. Serious training business is to be done!
My time in Alaska has come to and end. I have spent the last two weeks having a great training block and a very social, fun time with a lot of great people. Christmas was a lot of fun. Lauren and I ended up being so busy with different social events we were attending that we had to write a two-day schedule for Wednesday and Thursday (definitely a first). From family skis, family dinners, house parties, we did it all for Christmas. We both seriously enjoyed the Friday after Christmas, settling back into the training routine again and a more relaxed but focused pace. Overall it was amazing to finally share Christmas with Lauren and not just be on Skype with her, with me in Europe and wishing I was here.
So back to this serious training business. Anchorage, as the name suggests, is at sea level. Something I’ve been struggling with a little. I know that sounds stupid with plenty of oxygen to breathe (not like my normal 2000m+ abode) but let me explain if I can. Sorry, it’s going to be car analogy. At the moment my body is used to training with limited oxygen and so has adapted to work hard with ‘bad fuel’. My muscles are strong but used to this fuel and work well with it. Not so at sea level using ‘super fuel’ it seems. Oxygen rich air. For the first few intervals I feel amazing or the first 7km of a 15km race (ie. last weekend). However because I’m using super fuel my engine runs more efficiently, so to get the same heart rate and go up to race pace I have to push even harder and work more. That means I expect more of my muscles. They are contracting and relaxing harder and faster than ever.
For a while that feels great.
With all that extra work they fatigue faster and fill with acid. Suddenly I’m lifting lead limbs and suffering like a dog. For example intervals 4 and 5 from today’s workout.
I hope with the intervals and speed sessions I’ve done here I will have started the adaptation process and I hope to be able to sustain the good feeling for longer come US nationals which are also at low altitude.
I fly down on the 31st to Minneapolis before driving north again from there for 8 hours to Houghton the next day with my personal coach August Teague. I’m really looking forward to the road trip and catching up with him.
So as I pack my bags again:
Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.
Well what a difference a week can make. In Bozeman things were looking grim, and then in the space of 36 hours, winter turned on the jets and we got covered in a blanket of snow. Going from barely any snow to great skiing is always a huge energy boost and makes me eager to head out the door each day to train!
After a week of awesome training I packed my bags and boarded a flight to Alaska to spend the holiday season with my girlfriend and her family. As an added bonus there was some races I could jump in, but I’ll get to that later.