“So, when you’re transitioning from double-pole kick to a double-pole, remember to take the extra half a second to get fully forward—”
“Wait…..just….a second. Can’t….hear….you….” …over the roaring in my ears caused by my own ragged breath.
This was the exchange with Coach Cork following the second to last interval of a hard set we did this morning in 86% humidity and hot sun. I literally couldn’t hear his feedback while I was hanging onto my poles, trying to get my breathing back under control. We high-fived about it later (and he restated his technique advice when I was able to comprehend him).
Summer is when all the work really happens. I use the term “summer” here pretty loosely, because spring and fall all play into this as well. Once you’ve built up some fitness and can train really hard, the summer months become a rhythm of purposely getting yourself really tired. Then, the key part; resting, coming back stronger ready to attack the next wave of training, resting again, and so on until you’re at racing level fitness. It’s more complicated than that. But in the age of technology, while being able to measure and record every little bit of information and heartbeat, the game is still about working hard and recovering in order to come back stronger and faster and fitter than before.
I like to imagine every day of training as a brick I’m laying down on my wall. It will take me years and years to finally get the wall high enough to be formidable, but that’s the fun of it. XC skiing is a sport that takes extreme patience, a little dose of insanity and masochism, and many great teammates and coaches. The reason I don’t feel worried, nervous or just plain overwhelmed by the upcoming Olympic Games and the goals I’ve set for myself is because I don’t have to worry about those yet.
I just have to worry about laying down my brick for the day and making sure it’s a good strong one. All I focus on is the task at hand, which is, for example, coming to practice ready for 6×3 minute Level 4 intervals. How I do come ready? By having small daily goals like having Nuun in my drink belt so I get electrolytes and carbohydrates in between every interval. Having a mental goal of how I’m going to pace the intervals by imagining going out on a 5km classic race. Having technique goals like “slowing down my double-pole tempo so that I can crunch down fully on top of my poles. I’ll know if I’m doing it because I can look to see where I plant my poles and if they are behind my bindings or in front of them”. And having a recovery plan for after the workout, such as a full Nalgene of sports drink, a granola bar and dry clothes.
Then my wall will be ready by the time the Games roll around and test it out. Because the brick I lay down each and every training session will be a strong one.
I do want to make sure I give you the full impression of what training here in Stratton is like – those bricks don’t just lay themselves down, you know! There are so many people that help along the way; coaches, teammates, younger skiers we help coach who keep us feeling inspired. The past few weeks have all been focused on good group training sessions and recovery afterwards.
We still coach agility as our strength warmup 3x per week, and the SMS juniors jump in behind us on intervals a couple mornings a week too. These are whenever we can make the session on roads with little to no traffic or bounding on the mountain because we make a large group. We don’t want to make our neighbors hate us!
The senior team also made a really fun trip out to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and Paddy Caldwell’s parents Tim and Margaret generously hosted us for dinner the night before our long run! Fun fact: Margaret makes THE BEST cakes ever. And granola. And chicken. And…you know what? She’s just an amazing cook. We shall leave it at that.
After a sleepover style night which was very fun, we left for the Franconia Ridge run totally fueled up. We caught an amazing day with beautiful cool sunny weather and panoramic views of the mountains from every side! The ridge run was especially fun because once you hiked up for a while you could stay on top of the ridge and get views for a long time before descending again.
I’m looking forward to another few weeks of working hard, feeling inspired by seeing my teammates crushing it, and cooking up delicious fuel for these big training weeks!