Last weekend I was able to get in on a skate rollerski threshold interval session with US Ski Team member Andrew Johnson. AJ had been training at home in Greensboro, Vermont for several weeks and was about to head off to Park City to meet up with the rest of the Team–the plan being to spend about a week training at elevation in Utah in order to be ready for their annual on-snow camp in New Zealand. Here is a brief summary of what it was like to try and keep up with a National Champion, and a couple things that I learned.
The first task of the day was to navigate the ever-confusing and counter-intuitively-organized back roads of rural Northern Vermont, which sometimes conspire to turn a 30 minute trip into a 1 hour trip or worse. As I neared Greensboro I was blown away by the excellent rollerskiing available. Greensboro is quite possibly the closest thing to rollerski paradise I have ever seen, with dozens of miles of well-paved, low-traffic roads over continually rolling terrain with farm fields on either side and gorgeous views of the Green Mountains.
The Humidity Even Affected the Camera Lens, Resulting In These Blurry Pictures. Coming Up The First V1 Climb.
The workout on AJ's plan called for a skate rollerski with 3 x 15 minute level 3 intervals (skiing at threshold or 30km /50km pace.) He has been doing most of his intensity at level 3 this summer, partly due to a foot still on its way to healing, and as preparation for harder intensity from August onward.
We headed out down the long flat / gradual grade we would be coming up for each interval, and I got a reminder of what one World Cup skier's level 1 pace was like–easy! It was a sign that I probably need to go easier when I train over distance alone.
After going down some slightly steeper hills we reached the turn-around point and began the first interval. I was doing this mainly for the educational experience of skiing behind someone with excellent technique and pacing ability. I was not suffering from the illusion that these intervals would be quite as level 3 for me as they were for AJ.
For the first 5 minutes his pace seemed quite do-able. I had to really keep on top of my technique and quickness to stay up there. I tried to ski in sync with his tempo as much as possible, which made it clear that he was using a quicker cadence than I tended to. Over the next 5 minutes I could feel myself having to work harder and harder to maintain what I knew was the same consistent pace, and by the last few minutes I was definitely into level 4, but was able to stay within a few seconds of him through the end.
AJ Puts The Mountains In Their Place At US Nationals, Soldier Hollow, Utah Jan. 2005.