Sunday, December 30, 2012

US Nationals Prep

I love ski racing and pretty much race as much as possible.  This year is unique in that I have had three weeks to prepare for the US National Championships.   I spent a large portion of last winter skiing short loops on man made snow.  We were treated to a big storm in the Methow Valley and all 200km of ski trail were opened.  The trails are groomed nightly so the skiing was fantastic. 

Caitlin checking out 'a little bit' of snow outside

We parked the car at the end of the driveway so we could make it out in the morning.   Although the trails were groomed and ready it took a while for us to get to the trail head.  I had planned to do intervals on a particular long uphill, but we we went to turn on to the county road to the trail head it had not been plowed.  Crazy to go from too little snow to too much snow.
Prepping skis in the wax room at Soldier Hollow.
The day after Christmas Caitlin and I flew down to Salt lake City.  Both of us are huge fans of Soldier Hollow the venue of the 2002 Olympics.  The Olympic 5 km course which is scheduled to be used for the distance races next week is really hard.  We both really like hard courses with big climbs.

In addition to about 8 inches of natural snow, Soldier Hollow has 11 snow guns and there are some huge piles of snow.  As I finished up with my work at the venue this afternoon the groomer began to spread out the piles.  I am excited to see if the entire course will be groomed and open tomorrow.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Normal (2)

Most mornings when I wake up I conduct a little heart rate test to monitor my recovery and my response to training.  Many athlete take their morning heart rates and this is something I had done off and on for a while.  The idea is that it can give you a heads up about when you might be overdoing the training or beginning to catch a cold.  I perform an orthostatic test that is run through my Polar heart rate monitor.  I lay down for 3 minutes and then stand up for 3 minutes.  The test uses five data points including heart rate variability.  Heart rate variability is a measure of the variance in a single heart beat.  Heart rate is just the number of beats per minute.  My heart rate monitor uses the information gathered in the test and compares it to the baseline I have established through multiple tests and displays a score of 1 through 9.  This is the first year that I have used such a test but throughout the summer and fall I have found it to be extremely useful and accurate.

It doesn't take a fancy test for me to realize that something was a little off with me.  My resting, standing, and recovery while standing heart rates were all high.  My test results were consistently an 8 indicating 'sympathetic over training'.  I think part of the high numbers were a result of being at a higher altitude but they continued even when I returned combined with my race results I figured it was time to take some extended time off.

I recovered and rested for 3 full days.  This might not seem like much, but it was one of the largest breaks I have ever taken during the winter.  Resting and taking time off, especially when I feel healthy is challenging for me.  My reward has been finally seeing normal heart rate values and a test result of 2 (Normal)

Sam grabbing the skis for our ski.
Great to be on trails with complete coverage  Winter still exists
Although it is only 45 minutes away I skied at the South Summit trails on Loup Loup pass for the first time ever.  Over 50km of trails to explore up there and I am excited to come back and explore more.

Training is back on track and my mood has improved greatly.  Caitlin and I are training in Washington with Sam and Scott and getting ready for US Nationals.  My first race will be the 15km Freestyle on January 4th.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Rough Start

For most of the season my training has been focused on the Canadian World Cups this December.  Training has been great and I traveled to Montana feeling the best I have ever felt.  Everything was going great and then I got a scratch in the back of my throat.  I bought a humidifier and went in to isolation to rest and get healthy.  After a few days of solid rest I started to feel better and went for my first ski on Tuesday.  I skied with the Master's Team and worked on technique with the group.  I felt better and raced on Friday.  I felt good racing and finished a respectable 6th place.  This is a decent result but it fell below my expectations and not what I would need to qualify for the Canadian World Cups. 
Happy to be back on snow
 The next set of races were moved to Bozeman, MT for a total of three races in four days.  Since getting sick my morning heart rate has been high, although I have felt fine.  I felt great in the skate sprint and finished 17th in the qualifier and 3rd in my quarterfinal.  This was a good race for me.  

Then the classic races came and things started to go downhill.  I went on skate skis, similar to most of the top men in the classic sprint but I didn't even qualify in the top 30.  I am amazed how fast the top guys are in the classic sprint. I went all out and still finished 20 seconds out.  I enjoyed watching the heats of the races and cheering on my friends and teammates.  The really good guys look so relaxed and that is something I still need to work out.

The view from our bedroom on the road.  We have a few skis with us. T
he snow coverage has been thin which makes it hard to test skis.
My focus for the weekend in Bozeman all along was the classic distance race.  Thankfully the race organizers worked hard and the warm weather cooperated for the races to happen (barely, Bozeman set a new record high on Sunday of 58 degrees).  The course was moved to a 3.8km loop but really was a great course.  I started at the front of the mass start pack.  I started fast and quickly found myself at the front of the pack.  About a hundred meters in I lost my pole basket.  I stopped about 500m up the trail for a new pole and the race went downhill from there.  My skis were ridiculously fast out of the start, but I went without enough grip to kick up the climbs.  When the group started climbing I could tell I was relying a lot on my arms.  On the third or four laps I increased the pace to try and make up some of the time I had lost.  I went a bit too hard and went under.   The last lap I fell apart and finished the furthest back in a domestic distance race in the last 3 years.  It takes a few bad races to appreciate the good ones.   This last weekend will help make the good races this season sweeter.

Instead of heading to the Canadian World Cups I am heading to WA to train and prepare for the next big set of races US Nationals.  I know that my preparations from this summer have gone well and I look forward to coming back from this setback.  If my morning heart rates recover to normal in the next few days I will race up at Silver Star, BC at the Nor Am races.

Green fields on Winter Wheat 

2 Feet of fresh snow today in Washington

Scott and Max were up early grooming.  Super tough grooming conditions today.  So much snow that the snowmobile and track setter kept getting stuck.