Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Last of The Summer

Summer is now over and we move one step closer to the ski season which is less than 3 months away. Having survived summer without any major problems, I'm left with a sort of "phew" feeling. By the end of August training had started to get pretty tough. The volume of the summers training was starting to catch up on me and I felt exhausted. I knew I had to make it to sunday and then it would all get easier. Thankfully coffee and peanut butter and honey sandwiches exist, otherwise I'm 99% sure I would still be lying in a ditch somewhere along a training route from about Tuesday last week. Luckily I survived and made it through to a rest day on Monday.
When I planned out my season I had always planned to have a huge volume period of training over the summer. Before easing back in the Autumn and upping the intensity of my training. Both July and August were planned to be 95 hour months and both ended up at 100. In fact August was 101. According to Legkov's instagram he trained 101 in August as well. So naturally I will go just as fast as him in the winter? This month I've only planned 90 and I'm planning on being a little stricter on my session times and only doing 2.30 when it says 2.30 and not 2.45. Hopefully these extra 10 hours will give me a little extra energy I didn't have during the summer. From now on it is important that my training is carried out a really high quality and hopefully having a little bit of extra energy will allow me to do that.

Last week I pretty much spent my time either in bed, training or walking around like a zombie groping at the fridge and eating just about everything. But I had quite a good training week. I did quite a few sessions with the other guys on Team Synnfjell. And for the first time ever I did the Mjøsa runden. Slightly embarrassingly, having lived in Lillehammer for over 2 years, I'd never done it before. It's a 60km loop around the big lake which Lillehammer is beside. I'd set off to do it with a group two years ago but we did the first 25km and decided to do another loop in the other direction. Other than that I'd always used other routes for my long sessions. Just over half way round I managed to break my rollerski tip on my pole. Then I managed to snap the bottom of my pole off when I tried to change my tip. So I ended up doing the last section alone and with 2 poles of different lengths. I rang up Exel and got a new pole delivered immediately and they also sent me some gloves for the season. You can see the route we went here.
My hands are definitely going to be colourful this season. 
I also had a good 5 hour session with Svein. We skied for 2.30 before running for 2.30. We ran from his house so I learned a few new running routes. It's always nice to learn some more paths and routes so I can add them into where I run and get a bit more variation.  Alongside the easy sessions I had 2 quite tough sessions. The first was a sprint session, where we simulated a sprint race with a prologue and heats. It wasn't my finest session ever and I was quite a way behind where I want to be. But it is 3 months until the season starts and 6 months until the really big races so there is more than enough time to get better. The other hard session was un uphill bounding session.You can see the session with the altitude graph and everything here. We ran 7x5min but used the first interval as a warm up. We ran up the alpine ski slope at Hafjell, which luckily is open in the summer for downhill mountain biking. This meant we could blag our way onto the Gondola for the way down, which is much nicer than running down with tired legs. I felt good during the session and used the first few intervals to get going. For the last 4 I ran at the front of the group but at the end of the last interval one of the others was able to run away from me. I didn't quite have the extra punch legs to keep up. Unfortunately I won't be able to run intervals up Hafjell this week. Lillehammer is hosting the mountain bike world champs. So the hill is being used for the downhill and parts of the cross country competition. They probably wouldn't  appreciate me bounding my way up the hill as they were trying to race down. 
By the time Monday came around I was really pleased it was a rest day. Yesterday I had a bit of different day as well, with a lot of driving. I picked up my new skis for the season from just outside Oslo. Then I had to drive them to the other side of Oslo to get them ground and then I had to drive home again. It's not often I drive for 6 hours in a day so this morning Im trying to unravel my self from the car seat position I seem to have adopted. 
The rest of this week is quite straight forward. Fairly easy training and two hard sessions. Tomorrow I'm going to have a hard skate rollerski session. And at the weekend I'm going to have a hard running session on the running track. Next week I build up to a medium hard training week before having an easy few days. And the week after that is my next training camp with Team Synnfjell. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Team Synnfjell

No sooner had I written my last blog than had the weather changed. Last week was my first training camp with Team Synnfjell, the private team I am on this season. The camp was at Gamlestølen, a mountain hotel in the Synnfjell region. I sort of vaguely knew where Gamlestølen is but I wasn't 100% sure and neither google maps or my gps seemed to be able to find the address. As I drove there last Sunday night I began to get a little more concerned. The road became smaller, bumpier and it was clearly getting more and more remote and further away from anything. Eventually the tarmac just stopped and small gravel road lead off into the woods. Pretty much 100% sure I'd drived the wrong way I stopped and called Frank the coach for the team. From my description he reckoned I was going the right way. So I headed off down this gravel track that looked like more like something Colin Mcrae would have driven down than something me in my old Saab should be tackling. Creeping along this gravel road at about 30kph, slaloming around all the pot holes, I started to get even more concerned. 10k had passed and I had seen no signs of Gamlestølen. I was just about to stop and call Frank again when the gravel turned into tarmac and Gamlestølen was there on my right.
The first day of the camp was a miserable day with the first signs of Autumn. It was chucking it down with rain or should I say it was chucking it along with rain, as the rain came nearer horizontal than vertical. Staying on top of the mountain didn't help things much either. It was baltic. All sorts of clothing, that had been hidden away deep in cupboards or draws since last winter, was being pulled out. Rain jackets, waterproof trousers, buffs, hats, headbands, gloves, tights. We looked like we were braving the worst of winter storms as we headed out for our first rollerski session.
I had been told that the downhill from Gamlestølen down to the valley was quite "intense" by one of the skiers on the team but all the others had said it was no problem and was completely fine. The first section of the downhill was ok. It was fast with a few bends but nothing that you had to brake for. It also wasn't so steep so it didn't feel like you picked up so much speed it was dangerous. The wet roads made the corners a bit interesting but we all safely made it down. There was a flat section for a few k's before the final downhill to the valley floor. I'd been told it was steeper but safe.
I've skied with some of the guys on the team before. Runnar is quite a machine at going downhill on rollerskis. He's one of the fastest guys at going downhill that I've trained with. So when we got to the "steep" downhill which I had been told was "safe" I got quite a shock when Runnar in front of me slams on the "snow plough" and brakes. I did my best to brake and it was a good job I did... this supposedly "safe" downhill had a hairpin bend at the bottom. Thankfully we all survived.
After negotiating the downhill we actually had a pretty good session, although cold and wet.
Thankfully it dried out after the first day and we had a few pretty good training days up in the mountains. We had 2 point to point sessions. One where we drove to the other side of the mountain we where living beside and the ran over the mountains back to the cabins. It was good fun although it was a slightly disrupted session. There had been perhaps too much coffee consumed by just about everyone before the session. I had to have a toilet break quite a numerous amount of times, and I wasn't even the worst...
For our other point to point session we drove back across the gravel track and down to the valley floor on the other side of the mountain. The we double poled up a side round to the end of the road, changed into our running shoes and ran across the mountain back to the cabin. It was meant to be a 4 hour session but it became 5 hours as Klemoen, who is from the area proposed a "short cut". His short cut was not very short and we ended up running through bushes before whacking our way through a forrest. All in all to pop out about 2k further down the path.
Because of the way the terrain is there and living at the highest point of all our rollerski sessions, there was a lot of downhill roller skiing. Normally I'm not very good at downhill stuff. I kind of lost my way with it a few years ago both on snow and rollerskis. But on this camp I was starting to pick my confidence up again. On an easy skate session myself, Runnar and Eirik were pushing it on a the first downhill from Gamlestølen. We were slipstreaming each other and passing as close as we could to keep in the slipstream. I had a max speed on my GPS watch of 70km per hour. The final bend of the downhill is the steepest as it descends to a small bridge before the road goes up a small hill at the other side. As we rounded the bend and into the fastest section we saw that the bridge at the bottom was completely covered by a heard of 60 or so sheep.
We didn't really know what to do and tried to brake as best we could, but there is now way we could stop in time. I started dragging my pole tips across the tar to make a screeching noise. I was hoping it was scare the sheep off as I knew I could definitely not stop. The sheep jumped up and began to run. Sheep ran in every direction but the bridge was still blocked. Just in the nick of time the sheep all moved over onto the left hand side of the bridge, leaving a small gap for us to get through on the right. I have to admit, I was pretty shaky afterwards. Hopefully I won't encounter any more wildlife at high speeds.
We had another run in with the local farm life... which appear to just roam the hill side. This time cows. They were standing on the road and heard us coming so decided to run off down the road. It was actually quite comical. Some of the cows had such full udders that as the ran the udders swung side to side. As the udders swung up and hit the cow the sprayed out milk onto the road. It sprayed out in a sort of garden sprinkler fashion... it was rather amusing for us skiing along behind the cows. Eventually the cows ran off to the side and we could continue with our session.

We didn't have any really hard sessions together on the camp. The first part of the camp we trained volume, most days had over 5 hours of training. The last part of the camp, over the weekend that has just gone, we took part in the Tour De Synnfjell. A 3 day competition with a 5k skate rollerski the first day, a 9k uphill running race the second and a 30k uphill triathlon the 3rd. The triathlon had 8k uphill classic rollerski, roughly 15k uphill mountain biking, and roughly 6k undulating road run to finish it off.
The first day we drove half way to the race the rollerskied the rest. We got down to Bruflat the town hosting the race a bit early and the start was delayed. It was raining so I kept skiing to keep warm. I had skied for almost 2 hours before I started the race. We did the race and then we skied back up to the cars. It was a 3 hour session and we had already done a 2 hours session in the morning. It was a pretty tough day and everybody was feeling it by the end. The race went ok for my part. I had a really good start and I was winning by 10 seconds at the half way point, but then I really struggled for the second half and ended up 3rd, 20 seconds behind.
The second day was the uphill running race. My running has progressed a lot recently and I'm really pleased with my running shape this year. The rules for the race were that we had to race with a 2.5kg rucksack, with spare clothes, food and drink for the way down off the mountain. I ran pretty well, I felt good on the gravel road a long the bottom of the mountain. On the first really steep section I got dropped by the front 3. I slowly worked my way back to 3rd place as we climbed up into the fog and rain. I was sitting in 4th with 3rd place runner right in front of me. Nils Magnus from the team caught up to us with about a k to go. At the sign that said "500m to the top" I made a move and tried to sprint for the finish. But the last 500m's are probably the hardest of the whole race. Its rocky and really steep at the top. My sprint reduced to a run, then to a jog.... 3rd place came past me and sprinted off to the finish... then I was reduced to a walk and Nils Magnus came past me. He beat me by 10 seconds... all of which he gained in the last 50m. I was completely wrecked.
The last day was a tough day. The logistical issues of doing a point to point triathlon are quite something. Getting your start number, bike, running shoes and rollerskis in the right place is one thing. Getting all of that in the right place and you to the start and making sure you have enough spaces cars to get home is another thing. By some miracle we pulled it off, and I managed a quick 20min warm up before the start. The pace for the classic section was quite high and I dropped off from the leaders on the first steep uphill. I came into the transition in 3rd on my own. I quickly caught up to 2nd place but I was losing time to the winner all the way during the bike section. Just before the end of the bike section Klemoen caught me and we rode together as we came off the gravel and onto the road for the final few k's. We started the run together, before I pulled away on a small uphill. Klemoen tried to come back across on the final uphill but I held off to finish second, several minutes behind the leader and 20 seconds ahead of Klemoen.
For coming second I won my first ever "big check". I won 2000kr, but sadly I don't get to walk into the bank with the comically big check, they just transfer the money online. I'm only slightly disappointed about this, one of my childhood dreams has been destroyed.
I was pretty tired after the camp. Much more tired than I had expected or planned for. The last two days have mostly been spent asleep or doing nothing. Today I started to feel a bit more normal. I headed out for an easy skate rollerski. The first hour was pretty horrific and I was about to go home early when I started to feel better. By the end I felt even better and almost what I could call normal. So hopefully with a good rest tonight I will be completely back to normal for training tomorrow.
I've also had quite a few comments about the Team Synnfjell colour way. I can't say I chose it or I would chose it myself... but you definitely can't say we are not visible! As Frank put it when he was wearing the new team jacket for the first time "I feel so colourful". And I can confirm, it certainly puts some brightness back into my everyday.

The next camp with Team Synnfjell isn't for a few weeks. So I've got a while at home to train on my own and with the other guys in Lillehammer. I've got a few aims for the training block and hopefully when we get to the next camp we'll see that I'm improving.