Welcome to my blog! This is a site where you can keep up to date on my life as a full-time athlete in the sport of cross country skiing. You can expect regular updates throughout the year as I report on training, racing, life in general and maybe even some school. Sponsors, family, friends and fans: Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

One Fit Man

The Kadenwood skate TT. Couldn't quite 1-skate to the top this time. Photo cred: Lee

I have never been this fit before. Definitely not at this time of the year, perhaps ever. And there are a few key points in my preparation and in my sensations to date that lead to such a bold statement. Being fit at this time of year is a double edged sword. I shouldn't be fit right now. I shouldn't be sharp and feeling anything awesome in key hard efforts.

It's important to assess and ask yourself questions why something like this comes about. In some instances there are underlying flaws in the programme. It's important to evaluate and justify the body's adaptations.

It's all about how I got to this point. I have done zero speed this year. I have done one interval session, 4 x 1 km repeats on the track with Corey earlier in the spring time. I get fast by identifying weaknesses and homing in on the body's systems that are the reasons for these hindrances, attempting to constantly raise the level. Not by hammering and "getting myself in shape" with "no pain, no gain" - a common approach.

The Kenyans say you haven't trained until you have sweat.

I will outline two instances of incredible high-end fitness sensations experienced to date this year. But first a little background information.

Up to now I have put a big focus on flexibility. Last year, with the help of a mentor, I identified that my ankle and hip flexibility were major limitations to my range of motion, significantly affecting nearly all motions that include legs, haha. 3 specific stretches performed at least once daily have notably improved this issue. Big gains have resulted, most noticeably running. I can now toe-off. As well as extend and have an efficient power phase in my stride. Running essentials.

To build up running technique and speed, I did no hard runninig whatsoever (besides the 1km repeats with Corey that one day that he dragged me out). I found a 1.41km loop near my house in Yellowknife that had 2 steep hills on it (that would allow me to gain altitude quickly without having to climb forever), both followed by long, meandering downhills that would allow me to open up stride length while maintaining high cadence and mid-foot foot-strike. Practicing on the downhills on this loop a few times a week is the core workout that has taught me how to run again and how to really enjoy it.

I am now running faster than ever. Today was the Spud Run down in Pemberton. Laid back, pretty chill (like everything Pemberton!), and a good time all around. The 8.5km race seemed like a perfect hard effort to gauge training effect (train easy pace almost always, isolate the fundamentals of the aspects of "fitness", and then test your work in a hard effort from time to time where you put all the fundamentals together to observe weaknesses).

The 8.5km race was pretty interesting. Classic, beautiful Pemberton views. At the 5.5 km mark I figured I could bang out a decent 3km so I made my move, pulling ahead of Lee who had paced me up to this point. I had it pinned for a while as I gapped the field, running at around 17.5kph till I got near 8.5km, unfortunately with no finish line in sight. Great. The scorching sun was searing me on the hot pavement. And I had used up much of the reserves I had left making that push. I struggled in to the line, speed dropping down below 15kph, overheating and pasty-mouthed. Ended up being a 10km run. Was also my fastest 10km ever, haha. 38 minutes on the dot. On a course that was about 3 km sand and soft, mushy gravel, another 3km on gravel paths, the other 4km being on the road. And bonking at the end. Very promising observation of fitness. With no fast running anywhere near that speed, just those runs on that loop with the long downhills.

Apres Spud Run chill sesh. Just layin' on a sandbar in the scorching heat post glacial stream dip...

Moment of remarkable fitness #2: Kadenwood 2km uphill double pole TT. Hard uphill with one rest at 1.5km before the final steep pitch. Pinned it off the start up the first hard section and was nearly sure I had blown the remainder of the TT. Somehow sustained it on "pinned" gear the whole way. This alone is nothing special. But being able to do it with a proper crunch, especially keeping the abs contracting efficiently and powerfully throughout the entirety of the TT, while at the same time coordinating this motion with diaphragm contraction. Somehow this is something I am only just learning. It would appear it is fairly fundamental to double pole and that I would have learned it before only just last year??

The focus of this abdominal crunch has had me in the gym many a time thus far. I've had some great sessions with Corey (haha, get it? CORE-y? ya?) back in YK, he's a great motivator and great at stressing a point. Francis' (Bodyworks) ab crunching machine was money (Corey disagrees, but I stand by it) along with the kneeling crunch down on the flies. The building of a Power Gut. But with the Power Gut, don't forget to keep a balance with back strength and the rest of your core. A great article linked from XCottawa drove home this point. Working abdominals exclusively is a recipe for disaster and back injury. A well-rounded core routine is essential. It's easy to pick out the gym rats with the ripped 8-pack and the scrawny-looking back. A few showed up at Lost Lake beach today.

I guess you could say the Power Gut was the foundation that hauled my butt up Kadenwood the other day. Something that is only just amassing its strength and should be a force to be reckoned with come winter. It will be interesting to see if I can beat my "invincible"-sensation-TT next time I challenge the looming Kadenwood climb.

Near the top of Comfortably Numb trail in Whistler. "Whistler's officially epic trail". It is epic. Was a 25km pt. to pt. in a frigid rain. A top training session of the year so far.

The past 2 weeks training in Whistler have been dialed. Completely dialed. Every session, day in, day out. 17-ish hour weeks, nailing every aspect of ski training. I'm taking this seriously, haha. And it's been a great environment. Whistler alone is "where the magic happens". Lee has been a great motivator and I have got some great work done with him so far. CVTC is running smoother than I have ever seen it and it looks like a great program is being rebuilt from the ground up.

I guess mr. Alex Hopkins from YK, now Edmonton, inspired me to write something that would hopefully help developing skiers like him. He's 16 years old and eager to learn and work hard. Hopefully he and others who are interested can get something useful out of my musings and experiences. But remember that, that it's just "my musings and experiences". Everyone is different and there is no one cookbook to guide everyone. It's your journey. Alex is supposed to send me some questions on nutrition that I will entertain on this blog. So that should be an interesting topic... everyone seems to have quite a unique take on it.

Thanks for reading (if you actually managed to fight through that epic).