August. New Zealand.
Still an hour or two out of Auckland and high over the pre-dawn South Pacific there is nothing but blue. Blue unpolluted by other color, and every tone and hue of it too. From the edge-of-space dark-blue in the high west, fading all the way down to the pale-blue horizon where it meets the deep-blue sea far, far below.
Thirteen hours cramped in this winged-tube of air-born aluminum hurling through all that blue, all to go for a ski in August.
We came here a year ago on a tip that this was the place to be, and we found for ourselves that it is.
This is the longest uninterrupted period of ski specific training we get all year, and some of the best skiing. There was much to do in NZ to become the best in the world at cross-country ski racing, and I was just as eager to go this past year as the first year, even more so, urgently so.
The focus in New Zealand is technique and volume. We also did two to three intensity sessions a week, including a few races. Twice a week we drove down to Wanaka (about half an hour from Snow Farm — www.snowfarmnz.com) to lift weights, run and play soccer. We also took a shine to the public golf course in Arrowtown whose links are rough, rocky and cramped and where a ball gone astray is a goner.
To avoid illness and fatigue upon return the most important thing is giving yourself time to recover (the case after any hard period of training). That means taking at least one week very easy and probably more. Last year a bunch of our skiers, psyched up from the trip, returned to training too soon at home and got sick or very tired. At this level balancing rest with work is still our major challenge, and failing to do this is what sunk our late season ship this past year but we’ll get there in due time.
August training example: None of these weeks should be copied out right, as they are designed for elite athletes and for our particular set of training/travel circumstances. This training week for instance falls while we have been in New Zealand for two weeks already. It would be counter productive to emulate this dryland training.
These examples should only serve to give you an idea of the type of training we believe is necessary to win at the international level. Junior racers must gradually train up to this level — which means that their training now must be good enough to enable them to train at this level when they are senior skiers or there is a slim chance they will race at a competitive level as seniors (please see athlete competencies at www.ussa.org under cross-country, coaches).
Mon: am — distance. Pm — distance with speed.
Tue: am – Level 3 intervals. Pm — core strength, some spenst and a run.
Wed: am — distance. Pm — distance.
Thurs: am — distance. Pm — distance with speed.
Fri: am — long distance. Pm — core strength.
Sat: am — Ski race. Pm — run.
Sun: am — long distance. Pm — distance.
While the distance training is kept at a low intensity it is all high quality in that it is focused on correct body position, motions and application of power. This focus is as important as the volume of training, and without focus the volume is worth little — Prepare with Purpose. The week also includes one intensity session, one race, one speed session and two strength sessions. The hours for this week are 28 — but the point is these are not empty hours done at the expense of quality. Do not train to train. Train to win.
September: athletes rest and train at home for half the month and then return to Park City for the fall. The rest period here is, as it is after any hard period, VITAL.
Two-week training example (Hard):
Tues: am – Double-pole intervals 2 sets of 10 reps of 30sec with 20 second rest and 5 min set break at level 3. The reason we do these short interval/short rest workouts is to move faster while staying in level 3. Pm — Max strength (note — all max strength workouts are infused with some core strength as a warm up, between max efforts, and as a warm down).
Wed: am — Rollerski skate distance with speed.
Thurs: Lab test (treadmill running) levels 1 – 5, plus distance. Pm — Core strength.
Fri: Distance Classical rollerski. (We have done mostly double pole with some double pole kick in these workouts, and will continue with that for the most part, but we may add some striding bursts even on gradual terrain to learn to move quickly through a larger range of motion. This is for experienced skiers who know what the proper kick feels like on skis. It may also be useful to other skiers, but striding on rollerskis can lead to a slow and late kick).
Sat: am — skiwalking intervals. Level 3, 3min, 4min, 5min, 4min, 3min. Pm — max strength.
Sun: Long distance (combi run/rollerski). Most of these OD workouts are done running at 7 to 9 thousand feet on mountain terrain. We may vary this a bit more this year, but the long run should remain a staple of cross-country ski training for all ages and abilities.
Tues: am – Soldier Hollow 5/10km running time trial (see below). Pm — max strength.
Wed: am – Distance Skate.
Thurs: am — Core strength and spenst. Pm — Distance.
Fri: am — distance classical rollerski.
Sat: am — rollerski classical intervals level 3, 3 x 8 min plus speed. Pm — max strength.
Sun: am — Long distance run.
These running time trials are extremely ski fitness specific as they are held on the Olympic trails. We hold three to four a year. They are puking hard race efforts.
Chris Cook and Andrew Newell training at White Pine Touring in Park City
We were not supposed to be back in Park City so we had all given up or rented out our places for the winter and had to rent a condo. Even in Park City we were on the road and guests in our own hometown.
Here are the results from the only race we had prior to the first World Cup and Super Tour race.
Park City, White Pine Touring Rolling-Pursuit Test Race. November, 8, 2003.
Name Time Classical Skate
1. Kris Freeman 44:05 22:31 (1) 21:34 (2)
2. Carl Swenson 45:00 23:34 (3) 21:26 (1)
3. Andrew Johnson 45:18 23:33 (2) 21:45 (3)
4. Justin Freeman 46:02 23:36 (4) 21:45 (4)
5. Leif Zimmerman 46:44 23:45 (6) 22:59 (5)
6. Chris Cook 47:00 23:40 (5) 23:20 (8)
7. Andy Newell 47:02 24:00 (7) 23:02 (6)
8. Torin Koos 47:45 24:05 (8) 23:40 (9)
9. Scott Loomis 48:16 25:05 (10) 23:11 (7)
10. Zach Simmons 49:13 24:50 (9) 24:23 (10)
11. Justin Easter 50:11 25:43 (11) 24:28 (11)
Directly after this race Trond, Chris Hall, and racers Kris and Carl took off for Europe. In Europe they meet up with our new waxer Roar Lillefjell and racer Lars Flora who was living in Lillehammer.
Stay Tuned For Part 3….
Pete Vordenberg is the assistant coach of the US Cross-Country Ski Team. He is a two-time Olympian and author of Momentum: Chasing the Olympic Dream (buy it at www.outyourbackdoor.com).
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.