Sunday, November 15, 2015

Coming Soon....first day on snow

The off season for cross country skiers is long.  With snow being a major requirement for our sport, the typical competition season is November-March or roughly 5 months.  I actually ski more on roller skis than I do on snow.  Thankfully, I enjoy roller skiing.  My first ski race of the year is 12 days away and my first day on snow of the year will be tomorrow!
Last day on snow April 26, 2015 Snowbird Glacier, Alaska
This season will be my 10th as a professional ski racer, but one thing that still remains the same is my excitement for that first day back on snow and for the first race of the year.  It is certainly possible to ski each month of the year thanks to glaciers, the southern hemisphere and saved snow projects.  However, this year Caitlin and I put a big focus on altitude training and therefore we haven't been on snow since April.  Each year I find that it gets easier to regain that feeling of being on snow.  I certainly am excited to confirm that tomorrow. 

Training in t-shirts on November 11th
The last two weeks in Minneapolis have been really nice.  Typically November is on the rainy and cold side.   I am not the biggest fan of the in between  Fall and Winter weather as it makes it challenging to train well.  Sometimes not enough snow to ski on, but enough to make the roads slippery, which means the roads are either slick or sandy.  This Fall the roads have been freshly swept, the skies blue and the temperatures warm.  I certainly do hope that the cold weather comes soon to Minnesota, but it has made training and Fall chores pleasant.

Headed West to ideal snow conditions in West Yellowstone, MT
I have additional motivation this year to ski fast and earn a start on the World Cup.  I dropped Caitlin off at the airport on Friday and if things go like we expect she will spend the full season in Europe.   My best chance of getting to see her is to be the Super Tour leader after the West Yellowstone and Sun Valley races.  This fits right in with my goals and is a nice extra incentive. She gave me this little bear to keep me company while I am on the road.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Race Season is nearly here

Wrapping up our altitude camp in Park City today.  Wow, I am not sure that I have ever had such nice weather for a fall training camp.  We capped off a great three weeks with a 4 hour double pole/run combo on yet another beautiful fall day.  This past week has been about as fun as you can get with 3 days of roller ski racing dubbed the Soldier Hollow Mini Tour, a recovery day, and 4 days of high volume.

10 km Classic Mass Start Race       Photo: Toko US
Soldier Hollow was the venue for the 2002 Olympic Cross Country races and has one of the few roller ski tracks in the country.   The paved trails follow a portion of the courses that were used in the Olympics and for multiple Super Tours and National Championships.  A huge benefit of a rollerski track is that the hills are as steep as what you would find on a cross country ski course.  I try to mimic a roller ski course on the streets of Minneapolis and while the terrain may come close, all of those courses are open to traffic, garbage trucks, school buses and other hazards.  The US Ski Team coaches and Club coaches organized a great event.  It is always a bit of a mystery of where your race fitness matches up to your competitors over the summer and it was fun to test each other.  Although different speed wheels and ski models add more variance than a typical on snow race it was good to go head to head with some of the top US racers.  I finished the tour in 3rd place overall. 
On days like this it felt like I could ski forever     Photo: Tom Jorgenson
Although tough weather conditions can be good for mental toughness, I must say that I have enjoyed the fantastic weather we have had this camp.  I do think that is more challenging to stay healthy in bad weather as it adds another load to the body.  Temperatures are cooling off and we have woken up to a dusting of snow at higher elevations.  

Me, Caitlin, and Tom  
A huge benefit of this camp has been having all three of us together.  Coach Tom came on to the Team in September and we have been training together in Minneapolis but it has been great to all be together in a camp environment.  We have been able to maximize each workout with video, lactates, and technique feedback.  It has been great to have the additional support.  As a testament of that we both had a fantastic mini tour, plus a great final 4 days of volume.  We are finishing the camp healthy and feeling strong.  We will still take advantage of several recovery days upon arriving home in Minneapolis but recovery days when you are feeling strong can be even better than recovery days when you are completely blown out. A huge thank you to our sponsors and donors who have allowed us to make this next step forward this year.  

Tom, riding alongside Caitlin as they work on V1 technique
Tom also takes fantastic photos!

Focusing on using the legs evenly on V1

We will be skiing on snow soon!

Who is excited for winter?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Community Time and Camp Time

As a professional ski racer I spend a lot of time racing, usually around 40 races each year. 
Sometimes it is nice to mix it up and volunteer at a race and support others.  I saw a post on Facebook that one of the big ski clubs in the cites Endurance United need some additional help for the Night Light Run.  The event is unique in that it starts at dusk and minutes in to the race it is dark.  Runners race with headlamps and glow sticks.  It is pretty fun to see their lights bobbing through the woods on the 5 km, 10 km, 3 x 5 km and half marathon course.  I only had a few hour shift for the race, but it is always a good reminder to see how much goes in to putting on a quality event.  A huge thank you to the many race volunteers out there.  I love racing and it would not be possible with out great race organizers and volunteers.

Endurance United 5 km Night Light Trail Run Start
Endurance United had a busy weekend with the race on Friday and a point to point 55 km community ski on Sunday.  The route followed bike paths from St. Paul to Elm Creek Park in the north west metro.  I have wanted to do this route for sometime and the chance to do it with over 70 other skiers was too good to pass up.  Endurance United hosted the event for free, with a donation for the bus transport.  They also set up aid stations along the course.

Over 70 rollerskiers at the start of the 55km ski
One of the things that I love about the Twin Cities is the number of people that roller ski.  We had skiers of all ages and abilities getting excited and fit for this coming winter.

A beautiful day on the bike paths

Hard to believe that temperatures reached over 80 in mid October
After a lower volume week at home in Minneapolis, I am now back in Park City, UT with the US Ski Team for my final training camp of the year.  We are again living at 8200 feet, but having come back and forth throughout the summer we have found that we have acclimatized quickly.  Although my oxygen saturation dipped to the high 80s upon arrival, I am already back up to 94 %.  More importantly than those numbers, I have been feeling good in workouts.

Climbing up the American Fork on a 3 hour distance ski with Olympians Erik Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton
Coach Tom is out here in Utah with us too.  This is our first camp with all of us together. It is fantastic to have a dedicated support person to find the highest quality in each workout.  Tom's technique cues have been a huge help.

Caitlin at the top of the pass

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Home Time

Late September is a wonderful time in Minnesota and it has been great to be home and enjoy it.  Our house really is a fantastic home base for training and recovery.  The cool nights certainly help to provide some great sleep too!  These last two weeks have been my first opportunity to work one on one with Coach Tom too.  It has been fantastic to have a fresh set of eyes analyzing my technique and facilitating the workouts.  One of the big takeaways from the US Ski Team's camp in Norway was on a progression for double pole.  Tom has been working with both Caitlin and I on the progression and we can feel the difference in our double pole.

Meeting up with the Endurance United (EU) Junior Team for some classic technique work and a distance ski
Alternating between high altitude training in Park City, UT and training at home in Minneapolis in blocks has allowed my regular training routes to be fresh routes every few weeks.  It has been fun to track my workouts and see the improvements over the course of the summer.  One of the new tools we have been using this year is a Polar V800 heart rate monitor watch.  The watch has all the bells and whistles making it easy to track distance and pace.  Being a bit of a data nerd I have enjoyed that additional information.  I have even had fun on my workouts setting different pace goals.  If nothing else this has taught me to drink on the downhills instead of stopping.

Lahti has been enjoying my habit of a daily recovery jog
Not only do I get faster in the Fall, but so does Lahti.  As a husky he doesn't do so well in the heat.  Often in the summer he can only run for 15-20 minutes.  When Fall comes he can show his true fitness.  He had no trouble doing 12 miles on Saturday
Loppet Adventure Group Paddle and Eclipse Viewing 
We have had a number of local community events in the neighborhood.  Including the Surly Trail Loppet half marathon.  The start is literally a 5 min down the trail from our house.  I love being able to do a race in my backyard.  My running intervals in Utah helped me in the race and I felt strong.  I finished 4th place with a personal best for the course in 1:22:03.  The course is a bit different each year so it is hard to compare.  I finished less than 30 seconds off of the win which I considered to be pretty good.  I still need to do a bit more fast running to have the legs for the final kick.  My regular training pace is about 10:00 min/mile so my race pace of 6:11 min/miles is a bit of a shock on my body.  The second event we had in the neighborhood was a Loppet Adventure Club paddle.  The evening couldn't have been nicer with warm temperatures and a clear sky.  We had a perfect view of the full moon and the eclipse.
Classic intervals with Liebsch
I have also had a number of interval sessions on my Tyrol 1km loop.  I really enjoy being able to compare my lap times and work on my pacing during my interval sessions.  A huge thank you to Matt Liebsch and Zak Ketterson for coming out and pushing me in intervals.  Matt is holding on to some strong fitness while still working 40+ hours each week.  Zak is a Senior in high school this year but has his first period of classes off and makes it up with an online course.  Zak is in great shape this year and I look forward to seeing his strong results at the Junior World Championships this year.  His goal is to be top 10, but I think he could go top 3.  I am looking forward to my 3rd 10 km skate time trial in tyrol on Tuesday.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Gearing up for Winter: Hoigaards Tent Sale

I woke up to a dusting of snow on the peaks on my last day of training out in Utah.  The colors have been turning and although Fall is just beginning, winter is not far behind.  I am a huge fan of the mornings where you start your workout all bundled up and then drop layers as sun and training warm your body.  

Climbing up Big Cottonwood Canyon with Joe and Duncan
Of course snow up in the mountains means rain at lower elevations.  After two weeks of perfect weather, it is hard to complain about a little rain but I think all the sunny days with highs of 70 and lows of 50 did make us a bit soft. We wanted to end the camp with some harder intensity back to back.  After a day of classic intervals we headed down to the running track in Salt Lake City.  Dave Knoop came out and coached us into improving upon or skier running form and with some 100's, 300's, 800's and 400's.  He gave us some great tips and although we weren't running anywhere near the times of my ITA teammate Matt Elliott or ITA alumni Ben True, we made some good improvements.  It is fun to follow the really competitive runners and some time on the track just makes me realize what impressive athletes they are.  Joe and I cooled down in a downpour, with wrecked legs but a smile on our face as we had completed our training camp on a high note.  Plus it will be easy to date a big of recovery time now as my legs and body need at least the weekend to recover and absorb the training.

Me, Coach Dave and Joe
Saturday morning couldn't have been a nicer day
The color of the leaves and the crisper mornings has everyone thinking about the upcoming winter.   Hoigaards, one of our big sponsors and one of the big ski shops in the Twin Cities hosts their annual tent sale this weekend.  The tent sale is huge, with great prices, selection and service. Caitlin and I were at the shop for the sale to help fit equipment, sign posters and get people excited for winter.  It is fun to be around people who can hardly wait for it to snow.  I have just as much fun helping the elite racer to the first timer or the former high school skier who is coming back to the sport after a decade or so.

What better way to get excited to try out your new skis, boots and poles than meeting a world championship medalist?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Training Partners

Training partners can play a huge role in an athletes training and I am thankful to have some awesome ones.  Over the last three years I have done a 10 km freestyle roller ski solo time trial every few months to gauge my fitness, strength and weaknesses so that I can plan my training for the next few months.  I sent a few texts out to see if any of my training partners wanted to join for a time trial last Tuesday with the catch that the race started at 7 am (Our race timer had to go be at work at 8am).  
7am Start = No Problem
Our friend Josh even came out to take photos
I set a personal record time by two seconds in the time trial and beat my late August time from last year by over a minute.  I think having the other guys out there on course made a big difference. Sometimes when you wake up the snooze button can be tempting but setting a start time with your training partners can hold you both accountable and on time.

Lahti, always game to train
I try to match Lahti's enthusiasm to get out the door.  I am not sure I will ever meet his consistency, even when he ran for 3 hours earlier in the day he wants to go for the afternoon run, even if he can barely walk.

Speed Work on the Track
Some of my regular training partners have retired from full time ski racing and have moved on to other jobs and goals.  That certainly doesn't mean they can't push me.  I joined Doug and Zach for some 400 meter repeats as part of their marathon training.  Still can't come close to Doug when he goes all out.  Not to mention both Zach and Doug are excellent pacers on the track, which was super helpful considering the lines hadn't been painted yet on the new track.  
Loppet Nordic Racing Practice
Of course I also train a fair amount with Caitlin and my LNR teammates.   We make the trek to Afton for some longer hill work and have fun all starting the intervals together.  I have been training more with Zak Ketterson one of the LNR juniors and one of the top juniors in the country.  He has goals of being top 10 at World Juniors this year and I can tell he is right on track and I felt lucky to be able to hang on to him double poling.

Joe on top of Mt. Timpanogos
I am currently out in Utah for my 3rd altitude block of the season.  My friend Joe, who races for St. Scholastica is out here with me pushing me each day.  We had fun climbing his first real mountain today with a hike up Mt. Timpanogos.  The weather was perfect.

A mountain goal relaxing on one of the cliffs
Thankful for my LL Bean windbreaker on the summit

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Man Camp

Post Intervals with the boys: Me, Andy Brown, Joe Dubay and Matt Liebsch
The last two weeks have been Man camp.  Caitlin has been training in Norway with the US Ski Team leaving Lahti and I calling the shots.  My first week at home I had a planned recovery week which worked out well as halfway through it I also caught a cold.   It is a bit odd to get sick after taking two days off, but I tend to load my recovery days up with a fair amount of non-training activities including travel.  
Team Red: Me and Lahti
One of the home projects that I had the chance to work on has been installing new cabinet doors and hardware to give our kitchen a new and updated look.  Our friend Paul built us some beautiful cabinet doors since our lower cabinets were missing theirs when we bought the house.  I should really say Paul installed them, but he did a great job teaching me the process and I did a fair amount of chiseling as we did our best to make everything square in a 90 year old house.

Our kitchen never looked so good
After taking another two days off from training my health returned and I headed up north to Cresthill Resort in Hayward, WI to join the a group of Canadian skiers from Thunder Bay.  The Thunder Bay crew based their camp out of Cabin A and B where I lived and training with the CXC team for 5 years.  The roller skiing from Cresthill is fantastic and it was great to see Scott and Kay while revisiting many of my favorite training routes.

Back at Cresthill Resort

We put in a solid week of training including my longest ever roller ski of 100 km which took 5 hours and 20 minutes
The rust spots on the car ready for bondo, primer and paint
Another project of man camp came in patching the rust holes in our Subarau.  Scott showed me how to use a rivet gun, bondo and prime,  We had a bit of a mix up at the auto parts store and I received the wrong color pain but I will be sure to post a photo of the finished job.  Scott and I also installed a new plastic spray pan after the original one got crunched last winter.

Lots of Marwe Rollerskis in the van
I really enjoyed training in a big group of strong guys although I didn't do a great job of taking photos.  I enjoyed the challenge of doing several workouts which were new to me and the team ran a professional operation.  Thank you again to Scott and Kay for hosting me yet again.  It is now time to make sure that I have the house picked up and the laundry done before I pick Caitlin up at the airport.  I am also looking forward to the Boys and Girls Club reopening this week with our regular after school hours.