Sunday, 21 December 2014

From 58th to 20th.

A quick reminder that my blog has been nominated for an award. You can go here and vote for my blog under the snowsports category.

The past week has been spent doing pretty much nothing. Like I said in my previous blog, I was quite tired and a bit run down from all the training I'd done before the season started. My form was up and down and unreliable. So the last week I took the decision, after consulting with a number of coaches, to cut my training right back to the bare essentials. I trained roughly and hour each day. A jog and strength on Monday, a short ski and speed on Tuesday, a longer ski with 3x10 threshold on Wednesday and a 45min ski on both Thursday and Friday. Compared to how I normally train this is pretty much as close as I'll ever get to taking a week off. I felt good during the week. I had some really good quality training sessions and felt I got a lot out of them, even though they were short.

On Saturday I raced the 15k skate in the Davos world cup. My focus is on sprint races and I wouldn't normally do a 15k race the day before a sprint. But there were a few reasons back the decision to race the distance race. Firstly 15k skate is a world champs event this year: So getting a few good races in that event under my belt before world champs is a bonus. I can occasionally put in a really good distance race, like at the olympics last year, and the 15k is after the sprint at world champs so it is worth it to do the event. Secondly the course in Davos is extremely flat. That doesn't mean it is easy, but it means that heavier skiers have a chance. Everyone who made the podium was 80kg or over. I don't think that has ever happened before and there is only a handful of guys over 80kg that can win a distance race. And thirdly there was a little bit of me thinking that last week I had skied so badly that if I was going to go slow, I may as well go slow in more races and try and enjoy skiing and what I was doing.
The 15k was ok. But not amazing. The course was extremely icy. There was absolutely no loose or soft snow on top. It was just ice. I've never seen conditions like it before. It was really hard to balance and really hard to find any stable skis. Muzzy started off 30 seconds behind me. I was expecting him to catch me around half way and then I would try and keep up with him to the finish. Muzzy passed me at exactly half way and I kept up for a bit but got dropped on a downhill. Because of the ice I took the safe approach on the only downhill on the course. The corners were so icy that the only way to get round them was to go right to the inside, turn your skis into a hockey stop and slide to the outside of the corner. Once you had one ski off the race course and on the soft snow outside your could make your may around the corner. A lot of people fell. I probably lost a bit too much time on the downhills but at least I didn't fall. I ended up quite near the back with a not so amazing result. Unfortunately on Saturday my form still didn't really show any signs of improvement.
The lever on world cup has really increased in the past few years. When I first did world cup back in the 08/09 season I was 6min behind in 15k. I wasn't last but I was near the back. On Saturday I was only 2.30 behind but I was still quite near the back.

On Saturday night I was staring down the barrel of the gun that was my worst ever pre Christmas season. I have been all over the place. Erratic results and my form feeling so different from day to day. By Saturday night I really had very little positive to take with me for the rest of the season. My goal for the 5 weeks of racing before Christmas was just to get up and running. To feel good and post a few good results to build on. Ideally I wanted to get better and better each week. But this had gone out the window by week 3. Week 4 was a disaster and week 5 didn't look to be that much better.

I first started racing world cup in 08/09 and even before that I shared a room with Andrew on training camps and at other races. So for over 6 years I've shared a room, sometimes even a bed, occasionally even the same duvet with Andrew. Rarely have I complained. Rarely have I needed to. Until last night. The beds at our hotel are useless. They are fold out beds that are really short so our feet dangle off the end. They also have a gap at the back of them that the pillows fall down. So we took the mattresses off and slept on the floor. This had been fine all week. But last night Andrew was the most annoying room mate in the world. He went to the toilet about 10 times, and he uses his watch back light to guide him to the toilet. Im pretty much convinced he shines the light in my eyes on purpose and that it has an extra high strength setting that lights up the entire room up. There was rocking and rolling over and loud sighing from his side of the room. It was pretty much impossible to sleep.

At breakfast I was pretty much convinced that I had slept so bad that it was going to be nigh on impossible for me to ski fast at all. But by the time I got to the stadium and headed out ski testing I felt pretty good. The snow was much more stable today. It was still really hard, but there was much more grip and it was easier to ski technically well. I found some good skis pretty quickly and headed off to warm up. My warm up went well and I felt as if I was skiing well.

Because the sprint course he in Davos is a 2 lapper they use a batch start for the prologue time trial. I was off second in my batch 10 seconds behind the home town favourite and olympic champion Dario Cologna. In a time trial start you can start 3 seconds before and 3 seconds after your time. The time at the finish is still accurate as you set off a timing wand when you go out. Of course this brings in a tactic roll in sprint time trials. Do you go off at 3 seconds before making it look like you are close to the guy in front? Or do you wait and go at 0? Last week I set off at 3 before, giving me a 7 second gap to the guy in front. But today I went on 0 or maybe ever 1 second behind giving me a bigger gap to Cologna. The crowd went insane for Cologna, as you would expect.
My first lap was quite controlled. I made sure I nailed all my lines on all the corners and that I skied technically well. As I came onto the long straight through onto the second lap I really started to up my speed. I could see I was up on Cologna, and he was no close enough that he never went out of sight for the rest of the race.
I crossed the line in 22nd. Two people that started behind me came in front of me and I ended the prologue in 24th.
My quarter final was really tight and hectic. I don't think I've even been in a heat with so much contact. Skis, poles, arms, elbows, everywhere. On the long straight as we came onto the second lap I tried to make a move but I didn't have the turn of speed I needed. Through some tight manoeuvring, people falling and some near falls, I ended up 4th in my heat and 20th overall. Of course it would have been amazing to make the semifinal. But I'm happy with 20th, and happy that I was in the mix in my quarter final. Most of all I'm happy that things are going the right way again.
To end the pre Christmas season on a positive note is great. I now have something to build on. I've noticed things that I need to adjust and it now feels like it is possible to go forward and improve. The results from the last few weeks have been so far behind my expectations that I didn't even know where to begin or how to get myself back to where I wanted to be. At least now I know that the work I put in the summer has payed off, and the results are improving.

I'll take it easy for the next few days before getting back into some quality training over Christmas. I'm spending Christmas in Livigno, Italy. There I can ski everyday on what seems like the only snow in Europe? I'm going to race the Tour de ski, which starts in 2 weeks. Until then I'll just be training.

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