Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tour de Ski

In a little more than five days I will board a flight to Munich on my way to the Tour de Ski. I will be joining four other service staff to make race skis for the US Ski Team. My role in the team will be wax and structure testing. Interestingly, the USST has indicated that the plan for the Tour de Ski is to use it as a test run for the major Championships (Val di Fiemme and Sochi) of the next two seasons. My plan is to work had and see what doors open up down the road! 
This will be the fifth edition of Tour de Ski and the event runs December 29 until January 8. The numbers are pretty astonishing:
  • 9 races
  • in 11 days
  • at 5 venues
  • in 2 countries
Click here for the full post - Tour de Ski

Monday, 12 December 2011

Sinister 7 & CDR Training

So what will it take to complete Sinister 7 or the Death Race solo, excellent question! First and foremost it will be good to have completed a few 1/2 marathons, full marathons and then a couple of the shorter 50km and 50mile Ultra Marathons before stepping up and attempting either of these races solo. A good approach would be to do the following in progression;
  1. 1/2 marathon
  2. Marathon
  3. Trail 50km
  4. Trail 50mile
  5. S7 or Death as a two or three person relay
  6. Attempt S7 or Death solo
There are many factors that will go into your decision to do either of these races solo, training, nutrition, equipment, support ext. and I will try to cover each of these items for you. So lets get started, you have signed up and the first thing is to take a deep breath and relax, it really is not that hard, you can make it hard but if you stick to the basics and keep things simple you will come out a champion!

I should rephrase that, the race itself, is very hard, and at times it will bring you down, but the training is not complicated, in fact it is very simple to prepare for if you follow a few basic rules.
Agility and light on your feet.
Training ~ Race or Training Session: 10 + hours
The training that I suggest is aerobic best speed based training with intervals three times per week over hilly terrain with 60min to 90min of aerobic running between your aerobic best efforts. The intervals should vary in length and intensity and should have short recoveries. Every forth Saturday you should replace your normal Saturday interval workout with something in the nature of EPIC!

When I say EPIC, I would suggest packing up the mini van and heading to the mountains or Blackfoot recreational area and completing a 3 to 10hr run / hike though the mountains up and down as much terrain changes as you can possibly find. As in all things, I would suggest some progression, starting this EPIC at 2hrs and add 1 hour every 4weeks, the sooner you get started with EPIC, the better as you want to build up to 10 hours of EPIC three weeks before the start of the event!
Foot placement under centre of gravity.
Within these EPIC run / hikes try to run as much of the downhill's as possible to strengthen your legs for the pounding you will receive in the event itself, with each consecutive hill you run down your legs will grow stronger and your downhill technique will improve. You do not want to gain time on the downhill's but you do not want to lose time on the down hill's.

If you can complete EPIC on Saturday it will give you Friday to travel, Saturday to kill yourself in the mountains and Sunday to recover, completing your normal recovery workout, as well, all ultras are on Saturdays so it is a good habit to start.

Basic Program
  • M ~ 60min to 90min Recovery workout
  • T ~ 75min to 90min Aerobic Best Interval workout
  • W ~ 60min to 90min Recovery workout
  • T ~ 75min to 90min Aerobic Best Interval workout
  • F ~ 60min to 90min Recovery workout
  • S ~ 75min to 90min Aerobic Best Interval workout
    • "EPIC" every forth week
  • S ~ 120min Recovery Workout
Using this technique in steep uphills sections, "secret to success"
Additional Training
Other than the above main training you should aim to complete 5min to 15mins of core strength on Monday, Wednesday & Friday, all the hill training you do will take care of all the leg strength you need. 

If you feel you need additional leg strength see my post on Squat Program and Squat Technique.

As well you should aim to do as much supplemental aerobic running you can fit into your schedule with 20min to 60min of easy aerobic running each morning.

Nutrition ~ Race or Training Session: 10 + hours
For nutrition for training and racing lasting longer than 10+ hours, keep it simple. The goal of this training session / race is to maximize performance over an ultra-long duration. Critical preparation includes making sure electrolytes and glycogen stores are maximized before the session begins. All athletes will require electrolyte, carbohydrate and amino acid supplementation in order to maximize performance and recovery. Most athletes will prefer some additional solid foods. Nutritional practices for sessions this long need to be replicated consistently in training, not just on race day. Exercise sessions greater than 10 hours require caloric density greater than typical energy drinks (7% solutions). In heat and latter portions of long duration exercise, electrolytes, drink osmolality and solution concentration are critical to absorption. Athletes will vary greatly in the ability to absorb calories above 300Kcal per hour, therefore it is critical that practicing high caloric intake becomes a staple in all long training sessions in order to develop an individualized caloric demand schedule. Athletes should use these recommendations as the foundation for fueling ultra long workouts, but will need additional calories which can come from gels, bars or other solid foods. A Multi Vitamin should be used daily for improved training, health and recovery.
Running downhills hard in training a "secret to success"
Pre Training / Racing
For 30 to 60 minutes pre-exercise, consume up to one serving of caffeine and one serving(350ml) of carb based sports drink.

During Training / Racing:
Consume 1 serving(350ml) of carb based sports drink for every 30 minutes, sipping the solution every ten minutes. Consume an additional carb / protein based bar(250 calories) once every 1-2 hours as needed. Consume 1 serving(350ml) Protein based recovery drink at the half way point of this long session, and for added kick consume some form of caffeine as well. Consume additional, gels, bars, snacks or solid foods as necessary and based on preference and your individualized caloric demand. Additional electrolyte pills may be necessary depending on your weight, heat and sports drink of choice.

Post Training / Racing:
Consume 1-2 serving(350ml) of protein based recovery drink. The recovery drink you use should not exceed 2 servings, so if a serving is consumed in the latter half of the exercise session, only one additional serving is required afterwards. If no recovery drink is used during the exercise session, then an athlete can consume up to 2 servings post-exercise as needed. Consume an carb / protein based bar 30 minutes after consuming post-exercise recovery drink.
Run calm and in control!
What do you need, everyone is different, but what I can say is, keep it simple and keep it light, the more you carry, the more you carry. You of course need your mandatory equipment as suggested by the race organizers and after that you need your carb based sports drink, gels and bars, any real food you eat should be done in transition, only carry the essentials! I would suggest one of two options;
  1. Bladder pack plus two hand held's or
  2. Waist belt with two water bottles and two hand held's
  • The bladder will hold roughly three water bottles and then two water bottles in your hands for a total of five hours of running. From there decide which legs will require this much nutrition, for instance if you predict the leg will take 3 hours only take the bladder pack and leave the hand held's for the next leg that might take four hours to finish. If the leg is going to take you longer than the five hours of supplies you have, utilize the feed stations on course to supplement your nutrition.
  • Note, if you wish to make this transition a thing of beauty, have two bladder packs and extra hand held water bottles and then all you do is slow to a walk exchange packs, hand held's, grab some solid food and continue to walk out of transition while nibbling on your solid food, again avoid all temptation to sit down and relax, getting back up is not pretty.
Run softly and carry a large logo!
In a effort to keep things simple I would also suggest using one pair of shoes and one pair of socks for the entire event, if you sit down to change your shoes and socks you may not get up again:-) Definitely have extra socks, shoes and clothing in your transition bag for the "just in case" but do not make it part of your race plan, the more things you have to think about the worse you will make it on yourself.

With this plan, I do not suggest using poles, using poles can lead to poor eating habits, ie by having poles in your hands you have a tendency to forget to drink and eat as your hands are always occupied and you would do better to train on hilly terrain pre event to increase leg strength and you will end up running the hills in a better position putting less impact on your body.

If you are going to attempt either of these races solo I would strongly suggest finding yourself a support person who will meet you in each transition to refill your water bottles, bladders, gels and bars. The support staff can make or break your day.

Next week I will aim to post some more specifics on winter base training.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Sponsored Athlete Update

This past weekend we saw our sponsored athlete team travel to Canmore for the first Alberta Cup of the season in Canmore. Our team of Matt, Ember, Kes, Emma and Luke had some good success but more importantly had a great time skiing in such a picturesque setting! Below are a few pictures the team sent us as they hurriedly pack for this weekend's NorAm Cup in Silver Star.

Kes Carson
Matt Saurette
Kes Carson sprinting to the win!

Good luck to the team this weekend in Silver Star and we will add more photos to this post as they come in from the various athletes.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Base Building Variety

During the base building phase of a training program, i.e. your offseason, it is better to use a range of paces measured either by pace, heart rate or by feel then to always run the same pace. As with the phases of the program that include regular speed work that provide variety so should your aerobic base building phase as your aerobic base also needs a variety of training stimuli to improve.
This variety can be achieved by using longer intervals run at 10km to 20km race pace with short recoveries and out and back workouts testing the effectiveness of correct pacing.

HOW TO RUN AN OUT-AND-BACK SESSION: This is a time-based workout, so simply divide the time appointed by two, run out to a turnaround point, record your split and run back and take your time again at the finish. For this to work well the course should be of similar difficulty both ways. The goal is to run both halves of the route as evenly as possible developing an efficient rhythm for the entire distance.

Using the out-and-back run on a weekly basis you'll run farther within the same duration of running time as fitness improves.

  • Don't check your pace during the run; use your watch only to know when to turn around and to compare time for each half of the run.
  • If you're unable to maintain your pace you're starting out too fast. Even pacing is efficient and ideal for distance events.
The Out-and-Back is not a time trial to see how fast you can run but rather a very good discipline to control the even but strong effort throughout the workout.  

Monday, 5 December 2011

Early Results

Earlier this year, Fast Trax undertook fleet management projects with Matt Saurette and Ember Large, two of our sponsored athletes. Matt and Ember are both Madshus athletes and each of them have a significant fleet of skis. However, the challenges they were encountering were distinct and worth discussing.

Matt became a Madshus athlete in the 2010-2011 season and his ski bag was full of a lot of good materials. Most of his skis came from Reece at Madshus and were skis that had been passed on from other athletes. A few of the pairs came directly from Beckie and were skis that she had raced on prior to her retirement in 2006. The issue was that while his skis were excellent, Matt's fleet was put together with no overall plan and had some significant holes.

After spending some time with Matt in the spring, we determined that there was room for improvement with respect to both warm and cold skate skis, as well as with respect to hardwax classic skis. Matt's best pair of cold skate skis was a 116 mold from 2010 that we had selected from regular inventory. This skis had worked quite well and Matt was very happy with them, however we suspected there was room for improvement. Matt's only other pair of skate skis was an old 166 mold that had never seen much success (see the discussion on Madshus models here - ski service).

With this in mind, we were able to select some new materials in Norway to help Matt round out his fleet. The addition of a 119 universal warm ski and a 118 universal cold ski means that Matt is well positioned for skating. The addition of a nice 102 universal hardwax classic ski means that Matt now has good options for both hardwax and klister (from his existing fleet).
Testing the new 119 skis in Norway.

Matt's new materials.

Ember, on the other hand, is new to Madshus and inherited a large fleet of skis from Kate Brennan who switched to Fischer for this season. In addition, Ember received a few pairs of new skis that were selected by Reece. As a result, Ember's fleet was nicely put together - she just didn't know what she had or when to use specific skis.

We strongly believe that having a well managed fleet of skis is a crucial asset for any aspiring athlete. There needs to be enough choice in the materials to be able to get the appropriate pair of skis on the snow on the appropriate day. However, the "well managed" part is key. A large, unorganized fleet of skis creates unnecessary stress for both the athlete and the technical staff and makes it virtually impossible to find success. Having a choice in skis should reduce stress rather than create stress!

As there is no snow in Edmonton, the assessment of Ember's fleet was done by hand - literally. We reviewed each pair of skis and identified specific characteristics that indicate under which conditions the skis will be useful. We consider the shape of the running surface, tip/tail pressure, flex, and bridge characteristics as part of the equation.

In the end, we were able to produce a nice summary document for Ember that provides the information she needs to make educated decisions. You can take a look at that document here - Ember Large fleet. We also created some stickers that provided a summary of the same information right on the skis:

Useful information, terrible picture quality.
Now, none of this really means anything until the skis get out on the snow. In his early testing in Lake Louise, Matt's new 119 skis were killing his old warm pair - an excellent sign. More interestingly, however, are the results of competition from the first Alberta Cup in Canmore. Matt handily won both the sprint and distance races using his new 118 and 102 skis. Ember finished first and third in the sprint and distance races respectively. Excellent results!

It should be noted that Ulf, Les, Reid, and Dan put in a ton of work testing wax solutions for the weekend and, by all accounts, the ENSC athletes had amazing skis. Those guys deserve big congratulations - Canmore is usually a pretty easy venue for waxing overall, but a pretty hard venue to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Nicely done!