Monday, 14 July 2014

3 stories

I haven't updated for a while and there has been a lot happening. So this is going to be a big post... It will probably take you several hours to read and decipher. You've been warned.

The Story of The Shaven Legs.
Many of you may have noticed, and some of you have already commented on it. I've started shaving my legs. This must seem like quite a strange thing for those that know me and know how anti men shaving legs I have been in the past. Cyclists, swimmers, triathletes, runners even some rugby players... there are many sportsmen that shave their legs. The arguments ranging from aerodynamics to hairs being pulled out whilst getting massages. I've even heard of a rugby player claiming it made his legs slippery and easier to escape out of tackles. Then there are arguments about how it helps reduce the chance of infection after crashing off a bike. Very few say they shave their legs for the reason that it looks good... In the past I've been pretty sure this was the only reason they did it and have taken to making fun of sportsmen who shave their legs. I now take it all back.
I mentioned in my last blog that I cut my leg pretty bad after a fall at sognefjell. The decision to shave my legs came about a week after the crash when I pulled my trousers down to go to the loo. Inadvertently I managed to knock a large section of the scab off from where my leg had been cut... this caused me to yelp, but I noticed it wasn't actually the scab coming off that was sore. My leg hair had become matted and tangled in with the scab and as the scab came off it took with it the hair. I decided there has to be an easier way, and seeing as I am fairly prone to falling over it is highly likely that I could end up in a similar situation in the future. And that was it. I shaved my legs the next day.

The Story of Being Home in Scotland.
I'm home in Scotland at the moment. It's fantastic. Scotland in July is brilliant. There are fresh strawberries in the garden, the raspberries are ripening early this year, the weather is generally pretty warm even if there are one or two wet days. For training it is perfect. The weather isn't so warm that I have to alter all my training around it, but it's warm enough to train in shorts and t-shirt and be outside for most of the day. Staying at home is great as well. There's always food, the freezer and fridge are fully stocked and I get to eat stuff you can't get in Norway. Proper cheese, home made chutney and pickled onions!
Even things like showering is better at home. In Norway you can get this "sports" shower gel called dobel dusch. It is cheap, and comes with the scent of "mens changing rooms". It's pretty much all any sportsman my age buys in Norway. You see it at the gym, and indeed our shower in Lillehammer has 3 bottles of it neatly lined up on the shelf. At home however, the shower has a relative buffet of soaps, shampoos and conditioners to choose from. Lavender one day, and fruits of the forrest the next... or maybe even coconut if I'm feeling adventurous. It's wild. The soaps here have more edible things in them than my fridge. Anyone who doesn't admit it is lying... even though we only ever buy cheap dobel dusch, we secretly want to be going around smelling like fresh lavender.

The Story of When I Trained a Lot
At risk of this blog turning rather feminine I've decided I better add an update from last week. Last weeks training couldn't have been any more laddish if I'd tried.
Once again Muzzy had invited some of his friends from Norway to come over and train for a week. Callum had invited a couple of his friends from the year he spent in Hovden to come over as well. I knew all the guys from training over in Norway and 4 of them are also on my private team, Team Synnfjell. Muzzy invited me to come a long and join in the training for the week. All together we were 11 people.
We trained a lot. I trained just over 30 hours for the week, which is actually only my 3rd week ever over 30 hours. And all of the training was done at "lads" tempo, fast. There was quite a lot of level 2, and quite a lot of it I was just trying to keep up with the person in front for as long as I could. There was also a few occasions that I got dropped. But most of us had a few off sessions where we didn't keep up the whole way.
In Norway I can average up to 20km/h rollerskiing on big roads that are generally fast and flat. Here we had the same average speeds on small country roads with rough road surfaces and with lots of small hills and twists and turns. Rarely long straight sections. So we were going fast.
As well as rollerskiing we had a couple of good running sessions on Bennachie. Yesterday we had an endurance session to finish the camp off. 4 hours double poling followed by 2 hours running. My heart rate monitor reckons I burned 6500 calories during the session, and the recommended daily allowance is 2500 calories... But the 6500 is the total for 6 hours of the day so I would give a rough estimate at somewhere between 8000 and 9000 for the number of calories I burned yesterday. Or roughly 35 mars bars. When we are burning so much we have to eat just as much. I ate lunch at Andrew's and dinner there a couple of nights. His mum is a fantastic cook and I have to thank her for letting me eat there and providing great food! Perhaps the reason we went so fast all week was that we were fuelled by Hillary's  home made chutney!
We watched the world cup final last night, although I was pretty angry they didn't manage to get it finished in 90mins... it forced me to stay up an extra 30min when all I wanted to do was go to bed. Today I'm having a well deserved rest day. Sleeping a lot and of course updating the blog.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Sognefjell 2014


Summer is well and truly here. The longest day is now behind us and the nights are fair drawing in. Summer for me means a lot of training. This year I’ve made a few adjustments to my training in order to accommodate for more and hopefully better training. My hard weeks are going to be harder and my easier weeks easier. Hopefully I will get more recovery and be able to push myself harder in the hard weeks and train at a higher standard.
I’ve just finished my first big block of training for the year and today I’m enjoying a rest day from the comfort of my sofa with the world cup on the TV later.  I spent 10 days training on the west coast of Norway. First of all I was on a camp with my Norwegian club, Bækkelagets SK, for 5 days. Then I joined up with the British team for a 5 day camp.
With Bækkelagets we rented out a sports hall in the small coastal town of Skjolden. We slept in the sports hall and ate in the café upstairs in the sports center. They made us 4 meals a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner and “evening food”. I must admit I was skeptical about sharing a sports hall with 12 other people and everyone actually being able to sleep. But it worked out pretty well. All the others had brought airbeds that rival the quality of my bed at home. In fact some of them were bigger and probably more comfortable than my bed. I don’t have an airbed so I got Fredrik to bring me a camping mattress but found a strength or yoga mat in the cupboard of the games hall that was better.  The only problem with the games hall was when Anti – doping turned for me up at 6.30 in the morning and put all the lights on waking everybody up. I felt a bit bad having everybody woken up, and at breakfast I thought everybody was going to shout at me. But turns out people were more interested and intrigued that angry at me. And some of the juniors hadn’t even noticed the lights had been turned on.
The plan for the camp looked pretty good. A lot of training, with one session a day dry land training down in Skjolden and one session skiing on the trails on Sognefjell on the semi permanent snow field. (I think that is its proper geographical name; it’s not a glacier at least).  We had a couple of 6 hour training days and couple of hard sessions. The camp has been running for quite a few years, but this was my first time there with them. It is only my second year in the club and last year I was away at the time of the camp. The hard sessions have become traditions, with record times and distances. The first hard session was meant to be a triathlon with a 60m swim, 3,5k run and 11k classic rollerski, mostly double poling. However on the day it was deemed too cold to swim and then run about outside, so it became a duathlon. 
The run was mostly flat up a gravel track beside a river going inland from the fjord, so slightly up on the way out and slightly down on the way back. I lost about 30 seconds to Sigurd and Jakob on the run. The classic was similar to the run. Up a small road on the other side of the river then back the same way. I caught Jakob early on but never got up to Sigurd. He beat me by a few minutes. Seeing as the swim was cancelled there was no records to be beaten, but there was a more important competition going on. Fredrik and his brother Joakim are about the most competitive brothers you can get. From who can win at ping pong to who can eat the most at dinner, everything becomes a competition. Joakim is the coach for the 15 to 16 year old group in Bækkelagets. He joined in for the duathlon and managed to beat Fredrik. He didn’t say anything about it, or rub it in too much. He just had the look of satisfaction on his face for the rest of the day.
The second hard session was a 5x8min interval with 2min breaks on skate rollerskis. We started at the bottom of the Sognefjell mountain pass, at Fortun, at a height of 45m. The pass, northern Europe’s highest, goes all the way to 1,400m. The first part of the climb is between 8 and 10% and is a pretty relentless switchback road snaking up the side of a cliff. After warming up we set off on the first interval. I got into a good rhythm with Sigurd and Jakob. Fredrik and Joakim are focusing a little more on long distance races such as the birkiebeiner. The long distance races almost all go in classic, so they were classicing the session. They pulled away from us and we could see them up the road a head of us. My goal for the session was the double dance or skate 2 the whole way. It is sort of like over gearing on a bike. Staying in the big ring all the way up a climb. By doing that I have to focus on changing my tempo to adapt to the changes in the road, as I can’t change technique or gear.
The first section in the trees passed quite quickly, and the last part of the session felt like I was being fried by the sun with pretty much no shade on offer. On the 4th interval Jakob pulled away from Sigurd and I. I tried to get back across to him at the end of the interval but quickly realized I wasn’t going to make it. I kept up with Sigurd on the last interval and we got about 50m further up the road than he did last year, so we were keeping an ok pace. In the end Jakob had actually put about 30 to 45 seconds into us, and set a new record for furthest up the hill. We stopped at about 700m, a height gain of roughly 650m in 40min. Once again Joakim had won the Vister brother interval battle. Whilst Fredrik looked disgusted with himself in the bus on the way down, Joakim sat there grinning, life was clearly quite good for him.
In between the hard sessions we had long easy ski sessions on the mountain. The weather for the first 2 days was quite bad, with rain and wind. But after that the weather perked up and we could ski in just our shorts and work on our suntans as we skied. I got a bit of useful technique work done, and some pretty cool pictures from Eirik, the club coach.  Peter Northug was also training on the mountain, which lead to everyone fancying themselves as a comedian and giving their best drunk driving and lost drivers license jokes. Christopher also skied a lap behind Northug, of which he was extremely proud… he had managed to keep up even if it meant it made him so tired he had to quit the session early.
We also had our very own world cup final. Eirik had a broken toe and Christopher had a bad hip. Somehow they both ended up on the same team. My team. The other teamblog june beat us something like 30 – 17 and I ended up having to run around a lot as everyone on my team couldn’t run.
Everyone from the club was heading home after 5 days. The British team was having its annual Sognefjell camp the 5 days after, so I extended my camp to 10 days to be with them. We had also invited Gjøran Tefre to join us for the camp to get a bit more matching during training and entertainment out of training.
Between organizing the camp and it taking place I got things sorted to join Team Synnefjell, a private ski team in Norway. There 9 athletes on the team and a new coach for this season, Frank Heggebø. Frank has coached Andrew Musgrave and is well known to the British system, so it made sense to join Team Synnefjell and start working with them. They also had a camp at Sognefjell the same time as the British camp, so we ran a lot of sessions together.
With the British team we live at Sognefjellshytta, at the top of the mountain pass. That way the skiing is on the doorstep and we can ski 2 sessions a day without the stress of driving up and down a mountain pass to get to training. The cabin at the top is remote and a little cut off. It is expensive; there are only communal toilets and showers, only one tv, and internet that is so temperamental that by the time you have loaded the live cricket scores Sri-lanka have lost another 2 wickets. Far from luxury living. But the food is normally ok. 5 meals a day, breakfast at 7.30, cooked lunch at 11.30, seconds lunch at 3, dinner at 6.30 and evening food at 9.30. None of this matters however. At Sognefjell you are there to do a job, you are there to train and train a lot. The last 2 years my week at Sognefjell has been my biggest training week of the year. Hours, hours, hours, technique, technique, technique and more technique work. This year I trained 53 hours in 2 weeks or 42 hours in the 10 days I was there. (2 of those days were half days so we can call in 42 hours in 9 days).
It is rarely in the year that we get time on snow without pressure. Without the next race, or the fact we only want to ski for an hour looming over us. At sognefjell there is nothing to worry about. Not even small things… you can’t go and stream the next episode of game of thrones so you may as well ski for another hour. You can do technique drills. You can do them again, and again. Then you can work on what you have been doing wrong for the last year. Work on just that. Nothing else. Keep doing the right technique to get it ingrained, again and again. There is no reason to stop early, you aren’t resting up for a race and there is no pressure to get everything perfect straight away. A lot of what I did a Sognefjell was working out what isn’t quite clicking at the moment, so I can take it away and work on it over the summer.
We did a lot of film work to help with this. I reviewed the film with our coaches and with Gjøran so we could help each other and see what each other does well and if there is something new we can incorporate to our training.
We had two hard sessions. A 6x10min skate and a 3x10min classic session. My form is starting to feel a lot better now. I’m keeping up on the hard sessions, which is always a good sign. We had a couple of speed sessions as well. Both of which I managed to fall over in. My first fall was in an uphill at low speed. My second was in a high speed corned after a tangle with Runar. Whoever is to blame for it, the result is the same… I fell over. Falling in shorts on rough summer snow is not fun. The snow acts like sandpaper and rips at your skin as your slide across it. I had a couple of sleepless nights after, but the “ice rash” is settling down now.
This week I’m taking it a bit easier after such a hard training period. Today was a rest day, but from tomorrow I’ll be back into some easy training. I’m spending the week in Lillehammer. There aren’t many people here as most of the skiers are away on camps or at home for the summer. I’m going to be back in Scotland for July. Andrew Musgrave has invited some friends over to Scotland to train again this year. I’m going to train with them for a week and there is also a national team camp at then end of the month. So it will be a busy period with even more training. I’m looking forward to it.
My next Team Synnefjell camp isn’t before August. So I’ve got a bit of spare time to train on my own as well.