BULKEN, NORWAY – Kristen Skjeldal was second at the Norwegian national championships uphill trail running this season, and was the top Norwegian (5th overall), during Skåla Opp, another uphill race last week.
“I think I’m floating on previous efforts, the volume and training I’ve put in over the all those years,” Skjeldal says to www.langrenn.com when asked about the secret behind his strong legs and impressive engine.
He doesn’t deny that he makes sure to break a good sweat when he does work out, between his new responsibilities as a dad and a school teacher and the rat race of everyday life. “Now I train four or five days a week, but I make sure at least one or two of those workouts are intensity or intervals. The rest of the workouts often fall into the somewhat hard category,” he explains, before concluding that training at a high level for years is still helping.
Behind his PR
However, there might be some signs of aging in the man who is the master of log keeping and on top of the stats.
“It’s true that I was fifth at the Skåla Opp and the top Norwegian, but I was behind my own PR from 2006, so I recognize that my running fitness for 1.15K distance is a little behind that peak season, which was the last season I was focusing all my energy on cross-country ski racing,” Skjeldal says.
Endurance, strong legs and a huge engine
Skis are now exchanged for running shoes. It’s all about high heart rates and lactic acid in steep terrain during the summer months. “The last real skier” knows what it takes to get to the top faster than anyone else. Skjeldal sums it up: “First of all, you need endurance. Then you need a big engine and strong legs,” he says. Then he almost apologizes for having those: “I’ve lived on the west coast of Norway all my life, so in a way, I’ve gotten all of this by default.”
“At the same time, when I raced, cross-country was a different sport. The long races were not about strategy, tactics and sprint finishes. That was what I trained for,” he notes. “These days, skiers have stronger upper bodies, which comes at the expense of running skills. If you are going to run fast, you have to run quite a bit. But these days, ski racing is determined to a large extent by upper body strength, and who are good at sprint finishes. But there are still racers today who have huge aerobic capacity, such as Lukas Bauer, but in the finish of a mass start, that alone might not be enough,” Skjeldal says.
Accordingly, the charming guy from Bulken on the west coast don’t think racers with international ambitions and their eyes on the podium at the 2011 World Championships should be embarrassed by being beaten by an old retired racer in an uphill trail running event.
“They’re focusing on cross-country ski racing, and uphill running events are great, hard workouts for them,” Skjeldal says.
In other words, Kristen Skjeldal has had a lot of good hard workouts this season, so he doesn’t rule out the possibility that he might just wax up his boards when the Norwegian cross-country nationals heads to his hometown of Voss in 2012.
“I’m tempted by Thomas Alsgaard’s challenge,” Skjeldal reveals. “I am definitely interested.” All young guns should consider themselves warned.
From Langrenn.com, August 22, 2010. By Ivar Haugen, translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.