Buddhists call it nirvana. Jesus tells of peace. Digging down to respond to attacks in the French Pyranees Lance Armstrong finds a way to take the focus off the miles of twisting uphill grades remaining. Hundred degree heat. How every muscle is wound so tight with fatigue and stress and lactic acid, every peddle stroke is a moral victory in itself. Armstrong talks about replacing these concerning feels by going within; to a quiet place within himself. A coach might call this an athlete's game face or getting the eye of the tiger. When an athlete's thoughts are all out there in the action field one cannot perform to potential. Psychologists know this as centering, of being in the zone. It is here, somehow, Armstrong taps into a special gritty toughness and resolve that seperates himself from the Abraham Olano's, the Santiago Botero's, talented multidimensional riders who can't seem to put it all together, especially on the big stage days where yellow jerseys are earned.
Coming home for Christmas for two weeks, with U.S. Nationals just around the corner, I wasn't looking into perfecting a peaking schedule. Peaking is a way of periodiing training so as one finds better racing shape by cutting back on training hours while increasing workout intensity. Done simultaneously the athlete becomes fresher and stronger and quicker than before. Instead I decided to keep training at the expense of being more rested leading into Nationals. From US Nationals in Southern Maine I hop a plane headed to Milano, Italy. Sharper, better race form from peaking can be sought on that side of the pond.
Back in Washington two-a-day training days resumed. A second breakfast, hour nap, lunch, then night run-light strength workout combo followed the hour-and-half to two-hour morning ski every day. Like I said I wasn't looking for an immediate pay-back from all this training. I was in search of feeling good on my skis, finding a comfort of gliding on snow. Mostly though I wanted to make sure I will have the reservoir physically and emotionally to make it through the dozens of race courses and new hotel rooms that await. My American return comes on March 24th!
With the thirty kilometer classic on January 3rd my championships began encouragingly. Against the best American, Canadian and foreign collegiate imports I put my first top ten nationals distance race. Instead of starting together with the first one across the line crowned victor like the local farmer's market 5K road run, skiers race against the clock, one skier heading out onto the trail every thirty seconds with the quickest racer around the course gaining the victory laurel. I had the unevitable position of starting first. For one hour twenty minutes and fifty three seconds I never heard how I was doing. Worse, the weather changed from snow to sleet ten minutes before my start. I would be plowing through powder while my competitors' tracks would harden up, decreasing ski to snow friction, making for faster skiing. But good days are good days for a reason. I was tough. Throughout the whole course I never had one bad section where I didn't keep my temp up or rhythm rolling. I was smart, switching from my preferred, big kicking classic techniqe for a shuffling ski style to match my poor kicking skis. Crossing the finishline instantly I knew it was the year's best race, so far. I could have hardly been happier. The Marcialonga marathon kicks off my European race season. I look forward to some big days over there.
2004 Torin Koos All Rights Reserved