Saturday, 15 August 2015


I've just spent 5 days in Torsby, Sweden, training with my club Bækkelagets SK. Torsby has a ski tunnel, a 1.2km tunnel, refrigerated and kept at a chilly minus 3, with snow half a meter thick on the floor. It follows the profile of a hill beside the ski stadium with a few twists and turns before it loops back to where it started creating a horseshoe type loop. For quite a number of years now this has been where thousands of skiers log some snow time during the summer. Its been a few years since I was last in Torsby, but it was good to go back and get some technique work done on snow. It also provides a little break from roller skiing and running, a reminder of what real skiing actually is and the motivation needed to keep working through the rest of the summer and the autumn.

This summer has been quite a cold and wet one, it seems I've been in the eternal state of trying to get kit dry for my next training session. I gave up trying to keep my ski boots dry back in May. I'd get them dry just in time to get soaked through again on my next session. However summer has finally arrived. Last Monday the temperature was well up over 20 degrees and it pretty much stayed there the entire time I was in Torsby. A great week to be spending indoors then. Although we trained a lot in the tunnel we did also have some outdoor sessions, roller skiing and doing some strength work. The first session was a level 3 rollerski session with 6 x 3,5km on the plan. We had lactate testing after the 3rd and 4th interval to check we weren't going too hard. On my 4th intervall one of the younger skiers caught up to me and skied behind me. On the only long downhill on the track he managed to get something wrong and ended up falling. I heard him fall and start screaming behind me. I kept going for a little bit thinking he'd just get up and get on with it. After I'd gone 100m he was still screaming so I thought I'd better check and see if he was ok. I went back to where he was lying on the ground. He wasn't ok. He hadn't just broken his thumb, he had mangled it into a pulp. His thumb bone was sticking up from his hand with flesh and the top part of his thumb hanging limp and dangling from the piece of bone sticking through. It wasn't a pleasant sight, I fully understand why he was screaming. We got him sorted and off to hospital for some morphine and an operation. He'll now have a nice month in a cast and probably never regain full mobility in his left thumb.

Most of the sessions in the tunnel where just easy sessions with technique and speed work. We filmed technique and reviewed them in the evening. We also finished off each session with a 15min jogg to keep our legs feeling fresh and circulate the tunnel air out of our systems. The air in the tunnel has had many critics over the years, but seems to be a bit better now. We all used cold masks, effectively a polystyrene cup held over your mouth and nose with an air filter on the end. They help with warming the air up a little bit so the cold air of the tunnel isn't so harsh on your face, mouth and lungs. We also chewed gum after every session to keep our throats and and airways lubricated. These precautions seemed to work as nobody got ill. The snow in the tunnel was much better than I've experienced previously. They actually only prepared the tracks once whilst we were there. I was quite surprised at how fresh the tracks stayed and that they didn't really fall apart even after 4 days.

We had one hard session in the tunnel. A 5x10min classic level 3 session. I had an ok session and worked on some good technical areas. But the video in the evening was a little bit depressing, there is still a lot of work to be done before the winter. I skipped the last hard session with the others , a skate sprint session, as I'm headed off to Toppidretsveka in Trondheim next week. Instead I had a skate speed session in the tunnel.

Our second last day was an over distance day. A 4hour rollerski session in the morning and football and strength in evening. The ski session was great. It's been a while since I've been roller skiing as the tarmac melts and I spent the entire second half dreaming of a cold shower. This summer most sessions have been spent dreaming of a sauna or hot tub when I get back. We started off with 2 hours classic before we stopped and changed over to skate skis for the last 2 hours. We were well supplied with cinnamon buns, chocolate bars, bananas and energy drink at the change over, before we headed back to the youth hostel. The football in the evening was great fun, but playing football as a warm up is always depressing as we have to stop after 30min and actually do some proper training. We did an hour and half of strength work using both "red cords" and medicine balls. After that we had a quick re match at football before dinner. Training in the heat has been so easy. It's easy to pack for and sort your self out for. All you need is shorts and t shirt. No rain jackets, no spare shirts, so spare socks, no over trousers, no hat, no gloves, no buff and none of the last minute fear of "have I forgotten something".

Having been in Torsby I feel ready for the rest of the Autumn. The winter isn't that far away and getting in some on snow time now could help with the transition to snow in a few months.
In fact, according to the rumours, Natrudstilen at Sjusjøen ar guaranteeing snow skiing outside by the 19th of september. They have apparently bought a new snow cannon that can make snow at up to plus 30 degrees. Their Facebook page says they made snow yesterday at plus 20!
I highly doubt I will use the snow much before October and maybe not even at all. It will probably be expensive to use as these new machines apparently require huge amounts of power to run. Instead I will rely on dry land training until I go to altitude in October. But it is an interesting development to follow. It could change the ski season completely with a season running from mid September until mid June or the end of May. Perhaps in years to come we will see this reflected in the race calendar with a longer race season or an earlier season. It could also make the sport ridiculously expensive if suddenly everywhere is demanding we pay to use the tracks as they use huge amounts of money to make the snow. Whatever happens it's an interesting project. I just hope they don't go the same way as they did a few years ago when they opened a 2k track of snow, closing the rollers track. The snow then melted leaving patches of ice and now snow to ski and no rollerski track.

This summer has been a busy one for me but it's almost done. I've not spent more than 4 nights at a time in Lillehammer since early June. On Tuesday I start a short training camps with team synnfjell before toppidrettsveka. I get back next Sunday and then I'll finally get a few weeks of my own training in Lillehammer. 

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