Monday, January 31, 2011

Best of Winter

The best part of winter is upon us! Weather-wise it's usually mid-February on, but January closed out quite pleasant with highs in the teens for the last few days--at least up on the hills.

The Besh Cup 3 and 4 trip was a success:

But the follow-up health report for the four kids we brought down was not good. One case of mono/strep throat; 2 colds (hopefully that's all); and one stomach bug. All four sat out on the final Town Series Race on Saturday. If I'd have known that I might have actually jumped in. No matter, hope to have a little fire burning for the 10K skate race next Sunday.

I did enter the Besh 4 10K skate race last Sunday. It was a scramble to get from the J2 race, add a quick layer of LF 3, and to the start line. I only brought my warm weather skis (usually 20s type snow), and won't make that mistake again. It was about 15 at race time and the snow was just kind of slow. Still a solid effort (30:40, and 3rd for M4 and M5 categories combined) and much better than the previous week's 10K classic.

This past week was a surprise volume week. I had been feeling ragged after the January Jaunt 20K the other week, and not recovered until a week ago Saturday/Sunday in Soldotna. Anyway, 12 hr, plus some upper body work will hopefully pay off for March Marathon Madness, planning on Tour of Anchorage 50K, Oosik Classic 42 or 40-something K, and Sonot 50K.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Return of Mr. Hyde

There are race days you'd like to forget and for me yesterday was one of them. I felt tired and flat most of the week (very tired on Monday, skied pretty solid 90 min or so on Tuesday, but then like a Swedish pancake for the rest of the week). I did have a nagging sense of, why am I doing this from Wednesday on, but figured because it's there and the only Town Series race that I'm ever interested in racing (this was my first Town Race since 2009 and only second one in three+ years).

Compare to last week, when I was an average of 7.9% behind the top three skiers in the 20K. Same three guys raced this week (3rd, 10th and 11th this time with a deeper field), but I was 17.3% back. Ouch, and ouch again!

I could list off a bunch of excuses (from head to toe, and beneath), but that would be boring. Anyway, looking forward to more classic training, but skate racing for now.

Here's the techie stuff:

Glide I had LF Moly and LF4 as a base layer and topped that with Star HF8 (cold), and for kick just VR30, about the same as last week. Could have done fine with one less layer. HR, looks like it was mostly a threshold workout, averaging 154, which was less than last week for twice as long!

Monday, January 10, 2011

20K classic race report: hey it worked out

The 20K "January Jaunt" Classic race went very well. 2 loop course (10.2K, with 1030' elevation gain/loop). High 34s (avg HR 156) for first lap and high 35s for 2nd (HR 155), for 1:10:41, 4th overall, and 1st in age group. Woot! Best classic race in several years.

Photo by Nick Nugent

Techie stuff: I skied on the new Atomic World Cups, freshly ground (cold grind) due to some base issues from the factory, and re-waxed 10X in the past two weeks. Used Swix LF4 mixed with HF6 for glide; snow was dirty underneath which is why I used the high flouro. For kick very easy--4 layers of Swix VR30, their coldest wax but it was sticking so I went with it. Wax was good until the final hill on Moilainen's, with about 2K to go. Ouch. Not much was left after that plus I was running out of energy.

A bit of paralysis by analysis. This course has been good to me, whereas, the other standard Birch Hill courses like the "Three Hills" (Blue Loop, Tower Direct, and White Bear), and the one they used for Nationals a few years ago (South Tower, Tower Direct, White Bear) have usually been cruel. I'd be afraid to even try classic for the course they used for the 50K Nationals race for two consecutive years (South Tower, Tower Direct, White Bear, and Black Funk)--although I have had a couple of decent skate races at Besh Cups on the same course.

Anyway, the hills on the 20K course aren't terrible--the worst is biathlon range and 90% of the time I have to hop out of the tracks about 2/3 of the way up or sooner. HR shot up to 181 at that hill on the first loop, but other than that it was lower. You have 5 hills each lap to think about (East Ramp, Tower, Biathlon, out of Moilainen's, and White Bear, which is another butt kicker). But there is enough rest between these that you can recover.

The other standard race courses for classic at Birch Hill are usually just downright sadistic.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Classical Conundrum

What was once my strength is now my weakness. True that.

Local ski knowledgeables might be surprised to know that 20 years ago (and give or take 3 or 4) I was a better at classic skiing than skating. Now it's the opposite and if this year's races are any indicator, the relative difference (compared to other ranked racers) is close to 8 or 10 percent.

What gives?

I think it comes down to V02 max, heart rate, and muscle strength. Maybe skis.

V02 max, the amount of oxygen you can process at an all out effort (usually measured at 12 to 15 minutes) drops about 12% per decade in men. Based on 5K times, from the different eras (1989 to 2009) I've actually done pretty well: 67 down to 58, a drop of 13% in two decades. A decline for sure, but I'll take it.

I think the big drag is heart rate (HR), and the maximum I can handle. Back in the day, I didn't use a HR monitor (and just picked one up last year), but I could find a long (400 to 800 m) fairly steep (6 to 10%) climb and hammer intervals, where I could get that HR over 200, hold it for several minutes, and repeat four or five times. On race days I can remember just digging in and grinding up big hills.

Now as a M5 (50-54) age grouper, that is simply impossible. What I'm best at anymore is getting into the high 150s and low 160s and holding for a long time. Relatively speaking I'm now a much better ski marathoner, but 5K and 10K type distances are torture. I can hold a HR of 170s for a few minutes before going under, and if I push into the 180s for more than 30 seconds at time (or low 190s as in the 5K night race last week), boom it's over. I shut down and rig up.

Which brings us to muscle strength. Upper body wise, I'm as strong as I've been, and have been consistent with weight training for the first time ever for more than a year now. However, back in the early 1990s my strength to weight ratio was no doubt better. Now I'm heavier--about 12 to 15 pounds so, some of it muscle, some not. Back then I had 5% body fat, now probably 10%. So now I can power up a hill skating (using my upper body) while keeping my percent V02 max at a reasonable effort. But with classic striding, which has higher oxygen demands, it's easy to go into overload and tilt!

I need to change race strategy to accomodate these limitations and excesses. Working on it.

Now about skis. In 1987, when classic skiing was hanging on by an FIS induced thread, I picked up a pair of brand new Fischer RCS (Air Carbon Klister) skis, 210 cm, soft klister flex for $50 in Boulder. Yes $50. Those were fast skis and they carried me well for 10 years. Ever since then I haven't found quite the right fit, and I've gone through 5 pairs since 2004. My newest pair (Atomic World Cups, 201 cm medium flex) seem promising, but I had to stone grind the bases already because the factory p-tex was uneven.

January Jaunt on Saturday. Won that in a freakish sprint over the last km at -20 F in 2006. Not looking for a repeat, but if it's -10 or warmer I'll give it a go and hopefully vie for an age group W. Helps that Edic is in Hawaii but there will be other challengers.