Editor's Note: We received a lot of great feedback on Pete Vordenberg's New Koch series that we ran last April. Now Pete has generously offered to do it all for us again. This is Part One in Pete Vordenberg's US Ski Team 2003-2004 Year In Review. Part One has a ton of great information about how the US Ski Team trains, particularly in the spring and summer months.
I have always wanted to be an insomniac, and this is my chance. I’m three days home from Europe and up at 3am with the most severe case of jet lag I have ever even heard about. To the truly sleepless I’m sure my notion of insomnia is a romantic one, but to me it seems very writerly to be clacking away at the keyboard while the world sleeps — the only light on in an otherwise dark world.
As reminders of the year I have in front of me a stack of receipts for hotels in countries all over Europe, 32 boarding pass stubs and I know I lost some, 12 train tickets, vouchers for 9 separate rental vans, a few random notes, a medical kit pillaged of all pain killers, some photos, one duffle containing very dirty laundry including socks so stiff you could open a beer bottle with them, also well worn ski boots, well used toothbrush, no toothpaste, an MP3 player with music I no longer enjoy and some earphones. There are some beat up books I hadn’t really the energy to read, and a bottle of Cholula hot sauce I forgot I had.
And so at 3am this tale of the US Cross Country Ski Team’s 2003-2004 season is born, the product of a cross-country romantic and a wannabe insomniac.
Like the piece I wrote on last year’s season titled New Koch this tale is written from my point of view only and does not necessarily represent the opinions or beliefs of anyone else. Though I am an employee of the US Ski Team this is not an official communiquÃ© of the US Ski Team and does not necessarily represent the point of view of the organization or anyone else connected to it.
The start of a running time trial. L-R:Torin Koos, Andrew Johnson, Justin Freeman, Kris Freeman, Carl Swenson, Trond Nystad
Feel, as in “I feel good,” and how the skiers look in the race is also a valid measure of how training is going. So far, lab testing has come down the list even from “feel” as a measure of improvement, but as we do more testing we may gain a better perspective on what the test is telling us.
At the same time the training zones we determine from the tests are not numbers carved in stone to be strictly enforced by a heart-rate monitor. The tests are a tool we use in determining zones, but not the only tool. There is the athlete’s experience to take into account. For instance, on one test Carl Swenson’s test results did not mesh at all with what 20 years of experience told him was right — and so we knew that test was flawed. We also use field lactate testing — testing athletes while they train. And the athletes use a considerable amount of feel to determine the right pace. Heart rate and lactate are ways to double-check an athlete’s sense or feel of pace. With younger athletes these checks are very important ways to learn the pace — the goal is not to restrain them, but to educate them.
This is not to say we train at whatever pace suits us on the day. We do follow the prescribed workout pace closely. That means that level 1 workouts are done in level 1. We just know how level 1 feels, and we double-check that feel often. In training the terrain does dictate the intensity to some degree — intensity does rise on up hills. Since level 2 “happens” in hilly terrain, sessions that must be very easy are held in more gradual terrain.
**(For a more in depth write-up on the training zones we use please see www.ussa.org and go under cross-country, then under coaches and look at our definitions of training and the athlete competencies — both documents should be helpful in training, coaching and in understanding the training I list below.)
There is another challenge with pacing while rollerskiing and skiing. In ski specific training (skiing, rollerskiing, ski walking, bounding) it is very important to learn to use proper technique which includes applying power quickly. You cannot ski in slow motion 80% of the time and expect to know how to ski fast the other 20% of the time. Our best athletes can ski using sharp motions and stay in level 1 even for long sessions. Younger (or less experienced, weaker, less fit) athletes may need to ski at a slightly higher pace to learn proper application of power. To accommodate a faster pace they have to ski for a shorter period of time. This takes focus.
Longer slow sessions should be done doing non-ski specific modes like running, cycling or combined run/rollerski sessions until they are strong enough. We use fast rollerskis (especially important at altitude) to keep the movement pattern quick and even we have not done any three hour rollerskis.
Skiers cannot simply fulfill the training — they must train with purpose.
Here is a training week example from May (note: these examples are taken from our plan for last year, not anyone’s actually training. Training is fulfilled by weight not volume, and some settling may occur):
This is a planned medium week — on an easy, medium, hard scale.
Tuesday: am – Spenst (bounding, plyometrics) and distance. Pm – General strength (focus on core and building up to max strength exercises).
Thursday: am – Distance with speed at 90% effort (focus on correct technique). Pm – General Strength.
Saturday: Level 3 intervals. Pm – General strength.
Sunday: Long distance.
June 2003. The athletes are training on their own at home. Since many of them live in Park City, we do train together some as well, but this is purposefully limited as we spend enough time together as it is.
Training week example:
(Again this is a medium week. Descriptions and explanation of the workouts can be found throughout. Also please visit: www.ussa.org – under: cross country, coaches)
Tues: am – Intervals running 2x12x200M at 5km race pace, w/30sec rest and 5min set break (pace for distance of the intervals should be level 3). The idea is maintaining a fast pace while keeping the intensity moderate. On the following week (a hard week) this workout was replaced with a 4 x 4 min level 4 running workout. Pm — Max strength.
Wed: am — distance.
Thurs: am — distance with speed at 90% effort. Pm — Max strength.
Fri: am — distance.
Sat: am – intervals rollerskiing 3x8min with 3 min rest, level 3. Pm — core strength.
Sun: Long distance (most of these sessions are: running 2.5 to 3 hours — seldom longer than 3.5hrs).
July. The athletes are at home for the first part of the month, then relocate to Park City.
Training week example
Tues: am — ski walking intervals 5 x 4min Level 4, plus bounding sprints. Pm — Max strength.
Wed: am – distance
Thurs: am – Dist with sprints at 95% effort. Pm — Max strength
Fri: am – Distance and spenst. Pm — Distance
Sat: am – 4 x 5min Level 4 rollerskiing. Pm — Core strength
Sun: long distance
Please keep your eyes pealed for info about Andrew Johnson’s Team Today project — your chance to join us on our voyage to Olympic Medals.