Monday, November 16, 2015

Technique Specific Strength

** asked me if I would be interested in doing one of the featured Wednesday Workouts a week or so back. After taking the time to write this one up it was a no brainer to post it on the blog. This is the original version.

Technique Specific Strength

        It may have been the start of the 2009, or maybe it was the 2010, training season when I first saw “TSS” written in a training plan sent to my inbox. Confused, I asked my coach for an explanation during a skype meeting. To the best of my memory it was described as “rollerskiing up a short and steep hill while focusing on the best form and longest glide possible.” Or something along those lines. If I have to describe it to another athlete, I tend to start with saying it's your most aggressive downhill technique, while skiing uphill. Truthfully, the first question usually refers to not knowing what TSS stands for. Since, this isn't the most popular training idea in US Biathlon history the answer may vary depending on who you ask. The common reply has been “Top Secret Strength” or just “Top Secret Stuff.” My personal favorite is “Totally Stupid Strength.”
         Another way of describing TSS would be to think of it as hill bounding on skis. If you had to combine a weight room strength session with a rollerski technique drill session the result would be TSS. It's on my training plan year round. All you need is a short steep climb you can ski up and down repeatably without being in the way. You're only going as far as you can in 20 poles plants so it doesn’t really need to be an alpine hill.
          The purpose, is to reinforce good ski technique and power with the exact muscle groups involved in that technique. The focus is to generate the best form and longest distance per cycle as you can. Any choice of skate technique will work. Sometimes this tends to feel like skiing in slow motion. Sometimes it feels strange to be forcing a slow tempo V2 alternate up a wall, but it also makes it feel that much natural on the flats and downhills. One of the advantages it has over hill bounding on foot is the use of double pole, adding an upper body component. In my experience, this is as effective doing core strength in a gym.

The Workout:
Technique Specific Strength

The Place:
Groomed trails or pavement. Steep 30ish meter long climb.

Warm up:
Easy distance skating 15 to 20 minutes.

The Important part:
5 x 20 Double Poles
2 x 20 Skating without poles.
2 x 20 V2 cycles
Repeat once or twice and add some extra V2 alternate and V1 sets if the energy is still there.
15 to 25 cycles or pole plants depending on the technique.
Total routine is about 25 too 45 minutes.

Cool down:
20 to 30 minutes easy skiing or running.

         When there is a bad habit in your technique that you can't seem to forget this is the workout to use to combat that habit with a correct one. TSS doesn’t require a lot of resources beyond decent trails and functional equipment. This is a strength training that contributes directly to the sport we're trying to compete it. I'm always trying to update the quality of training in my plan. That being said, the afternoon TSS sessions still find a place in my average week.  

Friday, November 6, 2015


         That abrupt lack of sunlight, the desertion of leaves from the trees, the seemingly always overcast skies? If any of this sounds familiar than you might be experiencing November. Imagine December without snow, or holidays and you'd have November. It's actually not all bad. If you're from the area you can probably appreciate the first day of deer season and with the colder temps the chance of snow is on everyone's mind. Thus far, I'm still waiting on both of those advantages to occur. In the meantime here's a summary of training and other news from the past few weeks.

         The MWSC athletes thwarted the age old Mars Hill climb. To the best of my recollection this would mark the 14th year since we first came up with the idea of suffering up the local alpine hill. Naturally, it was snowing with a head wind. That, and we had to alter the start of the race. I stopped caring about besting my time and went for best workout possible focus. Despite the less than favorable situation both were a success. I set a personal record time and the agony of running up a hill was intact to ensure it was an effective training session.
         After trials in October the energy level was feeling decent. I took this opportunity to get back into the three week training cycle. Before trials it had been an awkward mix of medium training weeks and high intensity periods. The last week had that genuine heavy leg death march feel to it. I managed to dodge the cold rain all but once. When I go for the detailed day to day plan at the start of each the site is my first consultant. The last three weeks have been primarily volume driven. With the colder weather biking has been less of an option. So there has been a lot of long roller ski and running sessions. The two harder effort sessions in each week were at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center. The functional range and well maintained roller loop make for the obvious choice of important sessions.

      The lead blasting front has been doing well. In other words, the shooting side is on a better trend. The goal lately, has been to repeat the rhythm of a good confident shot for every shot. Seems obvious, but it's easier said than done. The better the muscle memory of what a hit feels like the more able you are to do it consistently.  Usually, in dryfire I try to work on the basic skills of shooting, such as aiming, follow through, trigger control, bolting, arm tension and so on. Now, I'm just going through the best dryfire stage I can as if it was a race over and over again. A few dryfire sessions have been a hour long. Anything to keep the hits frequent and misses few.
         As always the average day is never dull. There is always something happening and never enough time to do it all. I haven't seen any deer with more than just ears. I've shot at a few birds, but haven't hit anything. My equipment has held up adequately. The leaking tire in my truck was fixed and I replaced my water logged phone. A couple of Rossignol race skis arrived at the doorstep, which is always nice. Sometimes checking the mail is the best part of the day. I haven't had much worthwhile mail in a while, but just the sheer chance of such on the walk out the mailbox is worth the time.
          The MWSC athletes will be at the North Haven roller ski race this weekend. It's actually known as "the lobster roll," but I'm not a fan of lobster and it's my blog, so let's just say I'm doing a 15km race this weekend off the coast of Maine. Next week it's back to the old OTC in LP. Hopefully there will be snow to work with. Forced or falling from the sky it would a befitting end to the rollerskis. Late November and early December is open. A trip to Canmore for the first NorAm is still in the realm of possibilities, but funding is still in the unknown stages, so it will have to wait. Either way, despite not making the first WC trimester I'm starting to feel better about the upcoming 2015/16 racing season.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cold and Rainy

       Over the years it's been made more than clear that this sports will kick you in the teeth more often then it doesn't. In others words, the good results are far and few in between the not so good results. No matter how many bad days I have in row I can never say I didn't try. That motivation has always been there. It's that motivation that helped me awkwardly cram the last round into a clip yesterday after the cold rain rendered my hands less than optimally functional. As cruel as the weather can be this time of year, that wasn't the hard part.

       The second round of trials did not go as well I had hoped. To be fair, the overall performance was actually a cut above where I was last year. Technique was more efficient, fitness was solid for October, and shooting had as much or more potential. While the potential was there, I was never able to utilize it. One of the key differences this time around was the increase in performance from the rest of the team. It was less of a competition for a fourth or fifth spot and more of a race against the whole A team. It's nice that the guys are doing well, but it also makes qualifying more difficult.
         The end result was not being invited to the Utah camp. The fall of 2005 was my first year training in Soldier Hollow. The goal was to see it to a full decade. With the Utah camp out, my shot at the December WC trimester is also out. In the meantime it's back to training in the north. While Utah may be done, a ten day camp in Lake Placid is in. Hopefully by mid November the snow making business will be up and running in the Adirondack region.

           Beyond that, the plan is to muster a way into trials at Mt Itaska, MN. The clutch this is absence of support. Aside from trying to find a room and a flight over the athletes from Maine won't even have a coach for the trip. The solution to this is in the works. As someone who hates logistics this has only added to the entertainment. Still, as long as I can make myself there with equipment on time all that's left is to have a few decent races. From there it's off the January IBU cup in Nove Mesto, CZ. If that weekend goes well it's back up to the WC. The advantage to this race schedule is the extra month to prepare for racing in Europe.

           This isn't ideal, but historically not having any Euro racing in December has panned out well for me. The last time this happened I landed a spot in the Olympic team and the time before that I had two top tens. So, in the name of optimism, I've got that one going for me. For now it's a game of trying to rearrange my training so that I don't end up training in the freezing rain. If you want to know what kind of conditions could be worse than 20 below try 38 above and raining.

Monday, September 28, 2015

LP Part Two

        For only have one week to work with, the amount of progress in Lake Placid was plenty sufficient. The goal with every training camp is utilized any opportunities that you might not have access to otherwise. In this case, it was mostly having that head to head style competition and an overabundance of coach feedback. An extra week would have been great. Nevertheless, after a few very hard sessions crammed into a seven day period the confidence is better than it was before I left.

        The idea was to push a lot of hard sessions into a short period of time. The reason having a lot to do with exercise phys. The exact kind of test we did were chosen because they are the same ones we did a year ago. Giving the coaches and athletes some results to work with. The last benefit is the fact that we would all be doing this at the same time.
          When it comes to shooting, this extremely beneficial. Dryfiring in you pajamas and doing a time trial in the cold rain may actually look very similar mechanically, but mentally it's much more different. Having a chance to shoot in a situation that creates the pressure and stress of an important race is always worth your time. For my week in LP this was a couple of afternoon shooting test and couple of morning time trials.
          Physically the time was just as demanding. With only 15 hours total it shouldn't be anything out of the question. Still, the week ended with an almost 40 minute continuous uphill race. This was after three time trials, a short race pace effort session, and three strength sessions. Not to mention the easy distance sandwiched between it all. I mentioned the first two time trials in my last update. The third one was XC roller ski race on the well known Bear Cub road. The conditions were a little better than our previous test on the road. As a result most of the team was about a minute faster. Still, I like to think we're just that much better now, but who knows.
       As for the last day, this was the so called "C2C" race. The Climb to the Castle put on by NYSEF has become a staple in the annual US ski and biathlon fall calendar. There is actually no obligation to show up. The only gain you have is the satisfaction of completing a very hard workout and knowing how good you are at long sustained uphill efforts. Long story short, the 2015 C2C was a success. It could have been a little better and lot worse. I learned that in the awkward V1 or V2 (similar to 1st gear or 2nd gear in standard vehicle) technique delima, V1 is the choice for me. Compared to the other athletes V1 felt like a recovery, but without losing any ground. I also learned that if you know know you're going to be racing in a cloud, the darkest set of lenses you own are not the optimum choice of accessories. While I'm at it, make sure you know the course well enough. I wished I had attacked a little bit earlier. On the other hand, with the way the last 100 meters panned out I'm not sure what effect that would have had. I was in the back of the lead group of five. After drafting for about 35 minutes I was fresh enough to go for it. Unfortunately I'm not much of a sprinter and should have made a move earlier. In this case, Tim lost a pole tip and was out of full sprinting capability. This opened up a window for me. I wasn't able to out sprint Patrick Caldwell to the line, but was able to secure a second place for a second year in a row.
        Good results or not the week was a success. I drove back with some new information to work with and solid week of training under my belt. This harder intensity block of training will give the top end gear the update it needs just in time for the next round of races in Jericho, VT. Shooting wise, standing was dependable as always. The prone grouping is equally as solid when the focus is spot on. The conclusion between the coaches and I was to just simply keep reinforcing a well focused shot again and again. I really do like the flow of living and training in Lake Placid, but it's also nice to be in the county this time of year. From here, it is still unknown what the the full fall plans are, but in the meantime all I can do is make the most out of every training session.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

LP Week Half Way Point

        The summer felt a little strange without any significant amount of time in Lake Placid. Now that the summer is gradually starting to transition into fall I can atleast say I had a week in Lake Placid.  It isn't  much, but some of the training we have been doing has made it feel similar to slow motion. Training wise this is just another high intensity week. With the lower amount of time spent training I don't have as many excuses to not update the blog. It's Thursday and our last critical session is on Sunday. So far the US team has done one shooting test, and two time trials.

         The first time trial was your average four stage rollerski biathlon race. Standing was solid, with 90% shooting and about 25 to 27 second range times. Prone was 60% with mostly low misses. Aside from the drive over I was coming off of a brief rest period. The recovery was intact, but the overall spring in my legs wasn't. Ski speed was decent, with some good transitions and improved technique. Overall the time trial wasn't that great, or all that bad. If anything it was closer to the great side.

        We did a precision test in the following afternoon. I'm pretty certain I set my PR. The 30x30 test has up to 600 possible points. It's 30 shots prone and 30 shots standing. Shooting better than 500 requires some skill. I scored 486. It's nice to beat your own record, but even still, I was in the middle compared to the rest of the team.  Precision shooting has never been my specialty. One ten ring after another would certainly feel nice, but the real limiting factor only needs five eight rings (three in standing) in row in under 34 seconds to affect the real goals.

        That was Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday morning brought us to the Whiteface Alpine hill for everyone's favorite session. This is the part of the week that makes it feel longer than just a week. It's amazing how much suffering you can cram into a sub 14 minute effort. The trick is to find a incline continuously steep and just start running. The real high, or low rather, point of the time trial for me wasn't posting a slower time than last year, but the fact that I took a wrong turn. Yeah, I know, it's not the first time I've pulled this move. For the record, I wasn't the only one who found that particular part of the trail questionable. There's no point in making excuses, but I would like to push for a marker cone or two next year. The result was slower than last year, but I'm not overly concerned about my third attempt at a running race in September. The effect and effort was evident with a solid max heart rate of 201; not bad for a 28 year old.

          We have another shooting test this afternoon. It's referred to as the "French test." Naturally we all call it french toast because it sounds more exciting. On Friday we have a mini biathlon TT followed shortly by a XC TT on the road. Saturday will have a much more relaxed two and a half hour hike. Sunday is the last and longest day of the camp. Not unlike last year at this time, it's the Climb to the Castle race. We're looking at about 40  minutes of rollerskiing uphill. The best part is when it's over and you don't have to do it anymore... Strangely enough, not doing the sufferfest when you know you could have is still the less desirable option.
        The goal for the seven day period is work in the upper race zones and log some head to head experience. These periods required the least amount of time, but the most amount of focus and quality. Taking the best advantage of this training opportunity may not directly reflect my results this winter, but will instead directly benefit them.

         Here are some pictures that have little to nothing to do with the update. If nothing else they are mildly entertaining.
Just new vehicle things. 
Oh look what happened. All this for one carrot.

It took a few hours for the bleeding to give up. Good! Now I have less thumb to carry.

And here we have the one week later shot. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Weekend In Jericho, VT

       August wouldn't feel the same without a few days at the Ethan Allen guard base in Jericho, Vt. At first glance it would seem that Jericho has a great roller loop and is within striking distance of Burlington, but nothing more. To be completely fair, to this day the best sandwich wrap I've ever had came from the Jericho center general store. So, it has at least three high points going for it.
         This year we were only around for a quick three day trial situation. It was the exact same formula as the previous year. That is, a sprint format on Saturday and a mass start style on Sunday. Gone are the days of moldy downhill corners and multi colored grades of pavement. The redone roller ski loop is much easier to work with. The mostly functional internet in the barracks was a break though that I never thought I would live to see.
        Not all has changed, however. The overbearing heat and humidity this place is know for lived up to it's reputation. To put it another way, (hypothetically) if there was a race to be held strictly in a sauna I would be better prepared for it after that weekend. Saturday's sprint was much warmer than anticipated. Some athletes can handle hot days pretty well. Others, not so much. I'm in the later category. I've raced tired and I've raced out of shape. This was neither. It's a strange feeling to be at max capacity in these sorts of conditions. Rather than just becoming overly dizzy and pass out I tend to ski just slower than I would on a cooler day. This was the case as ski speed was not what I expected in the sprint. It wasn't bad and as always it's fair to point out that it's August. Still, an extra 40 seconds faster would feel more accurate. On the plus side there was one miss to be had in prone and none in standing. 90% shooting was a nice advantage to what could have been a much worse day. In the end I concluded that it was a solid race and not worth worrying about.

       The mass start was slightly better in some ways and still off expectations in others, yet still better than it could have been. It was a few degrees cooler and as a result skiing felt a few seconds faster. The overall feeling was still below expectations. Some of my technique on the climbs wasn't as dynamic as I've been trying to force it into being. Excuses aside, the effort was there and I used whatever drafts I could.  Of the four shooting stages, one was brilliant and the other three were missed opportunities. There were two misses in each prone stage. All of which were pretty much "head case misses" as I described after. There was no wind, just some breeze in my head I guess. Cleaning the first standing stage was a nice confidence boost and put me with in striking distance of the podium. Since this sport has a way of kicking you in the teeth I unfortunately missed anther three in the last stage. Despite some lack luster ski speed and one too many poor stages I wasn't too far out.
      That's about as much as I know for now. The next weekend of trials is in October. It's a best three of four system, plus some other confusing parts in the mix. Naturally, the best move is to stay focused on the process and train well. That being said, the races were great from the experience side. That's the conclusion that's going further better results. I have a lot of feed back to work with in training now. There is a brief camp in Lake Placid on the schedule. The rest is in the county. So if you see a short little idiot flailing expensive equipment around it's probably just be me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer 2015

        There has not been much content in the blog lately. The reasoning is simple: nothing out of this world has been happening. This indicates that everything has been going smoothly. Summer is the heaviest training season of the year. If there really was something to update it about it would most likely mean training is not going well. As you can see from my update frequency training is going great.
        It's nice to not have the stress of travel and racing enveloping you most days. That's the advantage summer has over the racing season. Instead, it's the perpetual fatigue that accompanies you this time of year. The difference in the spring in your step when comparing July to January is staggering. But this nothing new. I've made it clear more than once that this is out normal.
       Here are few pictures of how summer has been wrapping up.
Music festival in New Sweden

A cloudy day at the office

Did I mention I'm officially the owner of a truck?

The powerbar that keeps on giving after the mix is used up.

The end is near for these over used shafts 

It took half a dozen eggs but it was worth the muffin mountain.

Derailleur bit the dust for the second time this summer. Taken down by one renegade stick.
       Aside from the four plus hour rides, Stockholm Mt repeats, and about four too five hundred rounds a week this could be the summer of baking and equipment shenanigans. The garden has been great, and the truck runs well, but I sure wish the mt bike would last more than a month at a time. The first round of trials in Jericho are this weekend. It won't be anything I haven't down before but it should warrant something worth writing about.