The Canadian National Ski Team’s tour of North American continues this weekend, as the squad arrives in Utah for a three-week altitude camp.
The Canadians are invading Park City, home base of the U.S. Ski Team, and they’ll have ample opportunity for cross-pollination. Kikkan Randall will be
living and training with the Canadians for the entirety of their stateside stint, and Morgan Smyth, Katie Ronsse, Liz Stephen, Morgan Arritola, James Southam and Noah Hoffman will also take part in some of the sessions.
“I’m basically going to be adopted by their team for three week,” Randall said. “It’s kind of cool to see this cooperation—not just with the national teams, but with a lot of skiers that see it as a good opportunity to get together in a really good training group.”
In an interview Thursday, Randall said she sees the benefits of her attendance at the camp as twofold. First, she’ll get to go head-to-head with sprint star Chandra Crawford and the rest of the Canadian women.
“Now is the time of year, as we get closer to the season, when it’s good to be around people of that World Cup level,” Randall said. “The opportunity to be able to train with Chandra and with Liz and with some of those guys right now is going to be really important.”
In addition to some quality training partners, Randall will also get the blood-boosting effects of training at altitude. According to Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) Head Coach Justin Wadsworth, the athletes at the camp will be living at Upper Deer Valley, roughly 9,000 feet above sea-level.
The idea, Wadsworth said, is to build up the oxygen-carrying capacity of his athletes’ blood, then maintain it through the first part of the World Cup
season. That’s accomplished, he said, by “living high and doing the intensity low.”
For Randall, there’s also the issue of simply getting used to the feeling of training and racing while breathing the oxygen-poor air at higher elevations.
“To dial in the feel of doing intensity at altitude is just so important,” she said. “Every year I feel like I get it figured out a little bit more. How it feels when you start getting into the middle of the race and it starts getting really hard—how do you monitor the pace, how do you push through it, all that kind of stuff—which I think will be really important building over the next four years into Sochi.”
Wadsworth’s also thinking about Sochi, where the cross-country races will be held at nearly 5,000 feet—much higher than the elevation of Whistler Olympic Park, which was just shy of 3,000 feet. The Canadians, Wadsworth said, are in the first season of a four-year altitude plan that leads into the 2014 Games.
The Canadians will hold two time trials at the camp, including one that’s prologue-distance: 3.75 kilometers for the men and 2.5 kilometers for the women. With a number of prologues on the World Cup schedule for the 2011 season, both the Canadians and Americans have been making an effort to get used to the format.
For the Canadians, the Park City camp will be their last before departing for Sweden on November 6th, for the start of the racing season. Wadsworth said his team was looking strong, noting in particular that Chandra Crawford’s training had been remarkably consistent after battling injuries through the last two summers.
“Every session has been really good quality. She’s super-fit,” Wadsworth said.
Randall will head back to Alaska for two more weeks of training following the conclusion of the Park City camp, and from there, she’ll also head to Europe for two full months of competitions.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.