There is change in the air. Each morning is crisp and cold with a bite to the air, the sun’s rays now are warming but not hot. Jackets are starting to appear and the leaves are slowly starting to turn.
Autumn is clearly here and winter is close by, just waiting to be invited in. Each day we lose 5:40 minutes of sunlight. The sun is getting lower and lower in the horizon and the nights are cold.
With the changing of the weather comes a change in training and our focus. The volume and building phase is coming to a close and it’s time to sharpen and prepare for the racing season which is much closer at hand than you could imagine. This week has been easy, a recovery period to let the body absorb all the hard work and stress we have put it through. Last week however was quite the suffer fest. Monday and Tuesday were both hard speed days plus volume and gym. Speed work up here in Alaska basically consists of groups of 4-6 guys sprinting flat out for designated sections on a rollerski track anywhere between 10-40 seconds and varying terrain. It’s always a lot of fun and really tight but after 12-16 of those bad boys, I am pretty cooked.
However, for last week that was just a warm-up. Wednesday was an uphill running time trial, Thursday was a full sprint simulation, and Friday was classic race which basically was a double pole race with a 3km hill climb finish. And to top off the week, a distance run on Saturday. Quite the week.
Wednesday was the “Gas Line” time trial. The time trial has been done for years and years going back to the 80s, so there are a ton of results and great past athletes to compare yourself too. It’s been quite a while since I had done a time trial and pacing the 2.5km uphill run is key; go too hard too soon and you suffer the rest of the way up and just bleed time. I managed to run the race well, conservative at the start and hard by the end. I ran a solid time. I ended up being in middle of the group towards the front so I was pretty pleased with how I ran.
Thursday was a full sprint race. A qualifying time trial and then 3 sets of heats, the only difference was there was no elimination just shuffling around in each heat depending on where you finished up. I never saw times from qualifier but my heats were solid. It wasn’t an amazing day for me but again a really good step in the right direction.
Friday was the big day for me. It was a classic race, the first 3-4 kilometres were on rolling hills and flats and then the final 3 kilometres is straight uphill. The race started in pursuit style. So the fastest man from the previous two days combined went first and then the second fastest guy goes next. We had about 4 guys go off on their own before the rest of us went in a chase pack. The race basically turned into two groups. The three fastest leaders in front and the rest of us in a pack chasing behind. We caught the 4th place skier quickly, as a pack we all were working together and streaming off each other and as a result we were moving fast. After a kilometre or so I was feeling good and wanting to shake things up a bit so I moved to the front and turned it up. Pretty quickly I split up the group with just 3 guys behind me, hanging on. After a little while one of the other boys moved in front and the pace stayed high. I sat on the back and recovered a little and enjoyed the draft. The four of us had the fastest time of the day on the flat which was great to see. On the climb the four of us started together and by this stage we had caught sight of the three leaders so I decided to try and make a move again. I strode off the front of the group and found myself in no-man’s land. I couldn’t quite bridge the gap to the other three but I managed to put in a big gap on the other guys behind. I crossed the line in fourth, just off the other boys but up on the rest of the guys.
I was really pleased with how it all went. I was just so stoked to be able to push hard twice in one race and really be dynamic and active in a pack of racers and not just sitting or holding on. It’s also a great indicator that my training is going really well.
The next day I laced up my runners and headed off for an distance run with one of the APU boys. I was feeling the week’s efforts, my legs were tight and sore. About an hour into the run I jumped a creek and landed hard on the opposite bank. I got a sharp pain in my Achilles and found it became quite sore. Luckily this week was an recovery week after such a hard training block and I have been able rest my ankle a lot. It seems to be healing well and I think I will be right to train this week after giving it a lot of time off.
Train hard, rest easy, live for the moment.