Friday, August 28, 2009

Train in August, Win in January?

I gave myself the months of June, July and August as a mental break. I stayed active, mostly rock climbing, but never structured a workout. As of August 14th training is back.

I was making plans to go climbing with my friend Sue. I mentioned that I'd rather do some alpine climbing rather than sport cragging as it would be better training for randonee racing. She asked a lot of questions about racing and seemed really interested. Then she said maybe we ought to do a workout together and explained that she essentially lives for nordic racing. Turns out that she is a world class competitor at the masters level. She trains six days a week- often multiple times a day. We both realized on the phone that there was going to be a partnership formed here.

We blew off climbing and decided to go roller skiing. I was pretty sure I was going to be awesome at it in no time. I was the opposite of awesome. I looked like a new-born giraffe learning to walk. I fell when there was no reason to fall. I'm surprised Sue was willing to roller ski with me a second time. Teaching me to roller ski is a task requiring so much patience that it should be reserved for people with no employment, no friends or personal commitments and mastery of advanced meditative practices. I'll write more about our roller skiing workouts, nay- adventures soon.

I've been doing some light intensity trail runs to ease myself back into cardio workouts. I like them long and slow. And scenic. Without me telling Sue this she said to me, "You'll never get fast trail running." Hmm. That's disappointing because that's what I like. That's what I did last summer and fall to train for racing. That's what I planned to do this year as well. Trying to win some points for my program I told Sue about my big, long days spent running and scrambling up peaks. She informed me that those workouts lasted so far over what my races take that most of those long days were detrimental to my race performances.

So today I realized I'll probably be doing a lot of shorter, higher intensity workouts and I'm not really psyched about it. All modern sports science supports what Sue says so I'll be following her advice, but I don't plan on liking it. What I do plan is a lot of long trail runs on days where Sue's schedule doesn't line up with mine.

Today Sue showed me some ski walking techniques. She showed me a trail that she likes to use for ski walking workouts as it has a nice moderate pitch to work against. I thought I would be better at ski walking than roller skiing because last year I spent a lot of time power hiking and trail running with nordic poles. I was wrong. I suck at ski walking too. Here's Sue doing it correctly.

To better understand what I'm doing wrong I took some video and still shots of Sue ski walking and asked her to take video and stills of me. It's an awesome tool. I haven't even sat down with Sue to have her point things out and already I see a lot of things I can correct. Here's me ski walking like a goober.
We have a time set tomorrow for her to kick my ass on a ski walking "time trial." Sue said it takes her between 34 and 43 minutes. Hopefully I'll keep it under an hour.


  1. So I stumbled about this cool rando race website and stumble across numerous references to Sue with regard to training -- at first quite a surprise, but then again, it certainly makes sense!
    Have you been doing all hill bounding? The xc club in Boston often does that (with ski poles), and seems like it would be good for rando race training too.

  2. Sue hasn't yet taught me any bounding. As I've said Sue destroys me when we do anything involving technique. Do you have any bounding workouts you could describe for us? Or any websites that show it? Thanks Jonathan!

  3. Sue was nice enough when I had dinner with her this past spring and talked about avy stuff, but yes, I'd be scared to skate ski with her. (Fortunately if she comes out here in January for the nordic masters then by that time I hope to have the excuse of a newborn infant so as to bail on her or at least go slowly.)
    Hill bounding is different from the fast walking you seem to be doing in those pictures, but it’s also different than the hill sprints I used to do with my alpine race team in college.
    It’s almost kind of like a slightly exagerated pop up on each stride, more so than you might do just for efficiency’s sake, but it simulates xc racing more closely that way.
    Look at the girl toward the left of this picture:
    The club in Boston uses a hill of lower-intermediate pitch, maybe 200' vert max? Poles a bit shorter than normal classic length. And usually just old beater poles, not good ones.
    I’ll see if they can chime in with any more accurate descriptions.

  4. It's not so easy to describle hill bounding. Think skiing and don't forget to use your arms. If you aren't bounding then you won't be able to fully engage your arms and pole effectively. You need an exagerated stride. If you are running you are doing it incorrectly. I posted a video of some of our juniors hill bounding this summer (1 min. intervals) on the CSU blog at: 3 of the first 4 kids do it well. You will see the difference.

  5. Awesome, thanks Jamie. We need that kind of community in rando racing.