As my visit comes to a close I look back on the past 10 days as the most valuable 10 days of my training year. Regretfully they came about 2 months too late. Today I jumped in a 13.5km pursuit time trial with Kristian Tettli Rennema from Frode's Team Trondelag. Last season Kristian was 4th at Norwegian Nationals in the 30km pursuit and won a Scandinavian Cup race before Christmas. Knowing this I was hoping to be able to hold on as long as I could but didn't expect to be near him at the finish. The original plan was for a 17 km pursuit but Kristian decided to call it a day on the first lap of the skate leg resulting in a 13.5 km TT. The great part for me was that I was right behind him when he turned to let me know we would be doing just 2 more km.
The plan was for a conservative TT pace but after blazing the first 5km (on slow skis) Kristian I think put himself in a bit of hurt. I on the other hand panicked on the first lap that, if this was conservative I was going to be in trouble. However, I was pleasantly surprised on the second lap to realize that not only had I hung on but I was actually holding back a bit (I had faster skis). Today confirmed for me again that I did the right training this year and that I am in fact fit. Step 1.
Step 2 is being able to efficiently move down the trail because poor technique can easily negate good fitness. On the classic portion I worked on extending my pole plant on the double pole out in front of my boots and dropping my upper body in one strong fluid motion beginning with my core and working out to the periphery. Hinge at the waist (core), then through with the shoulders, elbows, and finally my wrists. The focus was on a constant pressure all the way through and a release of the motion at the end. Similarly on the striding sections I worked on a early kick compression where I kept an even pressure down through the kick for as long as possible (much shorter on the steep parts). It was amazing how consistent my grip was and how much more glide I was getting. As well I focused on keeping my femur in as close to a vertical position as possible while striding.
Once we switched over to skate I blew up my legs early as I forgot to close my binding on one ski and it shot off coming out of the transition so as Kristian waited up the trail for me a bit I skied like mad while trying to get my poles on which taxed my legs to the max. However, the new one-skate (V2) technique I have been working on saved the day as I was able to get back in rhythm with Kristian as my legs cleared out. To do this I worked on being tall on my skis and essentially falling down the trail. Again with my femur as vertical as possible with my hips falling forward and down (instead of my usual down and back), I was able to relax my quads in the glide phased and clear away the burn. I worked on getting tall to bring my poles through to plant up by the front of my bindings. What a difference. No wonder I was going nowhere this ski season! I had been working against my fitness with my technique but both worked effectively today.
Step 3...Timing. If only I could have figured all this out in December! Oh well. C'est la vie. I will make the most of it next week in Austria. Can't believe I am actually looking forward to the 25 km mass start skate as much as the street sprint.
Below are a couple pics from the living room window in the farmhouse. The cold temps have been making for beautiful landscapes. I think I have been in every place this year that has been in their cold spell.