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What went Right: Part II

Tue, May  1, 2007 - By Mike Muha

In the last article, I described how I was pleasantly surprised by how well I raced this past winter, given the unsettled nature of my life, job-wise, last summer. Reflecting back, I think there were several factors that helped me:

A good fitness base

During the spring and early summer, I did much more bicycling that I've normally done the past decade. This was due in part to helping teammate Ryan Robinson prepare for his one-man Ironman Triathlon ("The Ryanman"), partly because a group of us met consistently to ride, and partly to make sure I could put the hurt to my brother-in-law when we went riding together over 4th of July week.

As you can see in the table below, I really picked up the training between May 27 and June 23. Much of the 42 hours was spent on long easy bike rides on the weekends. I had a great base by mid-summer; I just needed to maintain it for the fall.

Training Hours in 4 week periods, starting April 1, 2006

I didn't train TOO hard

"The reason you always get sick is because your train too hard!" Steve Kuhl yelled at me the previous year when I seemed to get sick frequently. "You need to recover more!" I'd been doing intensity blocks that, on hindsight, were too intense. Seven hard interval sessions in nine days was just too much for me.

This season, I continued doing intensity blocks, but they were shorter blocks, and I'd do no more than two days on, followed by two days off before another hard session. I also backed off on the number of VO2 max intervals sessions after reading Zach Caldwell's article, " The Interval Epidemic". I replace some of my 4 x 4:00 intervals sessions at 90%+ of my max heart rate with longer intervals (8-12 minutes) at a lower intensity (85-90% of max heart rate). The more sustained intensity effort improved my tolerance for and utilization of lactate - and they were more race-like.

Better Technique

Cross country ski race - the Michigan Cup Relays
The photographer (me!) getting photographed at the Michigan Cup Relays
Thank you Sten Fjeldheim and Jenny Ryan! Clearly, my skating technique was better this season than at any other time. It's still not perfect, but I felt a little more competitive in freestyle races. I very much look forward to additional technique work with Sten and Jen this summer!

Intervals during racing season

Torbjorn Karlsen always recommended doing intervals between races and on non-race weekends. During the several years I was under his coaching program, I tended either to not follow his recommendation or to go too hard. This past season, I was very good at doing mid-week intervals. Instead of going all out, I backed off with easier but longer intervals of 9-12 minutes at 85% of my max heart or a bit higher. Then I might do a minute at a very fast pace just to get my leg speed up. I never did intervals to exhaustion during race weeks - I always felt like I could do another interval when I finished.

On non-race weekends, I tried to get out for one intervals session and one long distance session.

Together, I think the in-season interval sessions helped maintain my fitness through the season.

Find the snow!

December and January were ugly: not much snow, at least not in southeast Michigan. I always find that it takes quite a bit of skiing to get my diagonal stride back in shape, and I made sure at least half my skiing was classic. I had a couple road trips up north to find snow (any snow!) and had some excellent ungroomed golf course skiing that got me used to my skis for the first race of the season.


There are some people who don't take feeds during training. I'm not one of them. I always pack something for during and after training. I'm a big fan of Hammer Nutrition products. For long rollerskis or bike rides, I usually wear my Camelback and stick flasks of Hammer Gel, Sustained Energy, and/or Perpetuem in my packets. For shorter sessions, especially intervals, I'd fill a bike water bottle with HEED. After any hard or long session, I'd always finish with Recoverite.

Hammer Nutrition products - Hammer Gel, HEED, Recoverite

The "Hammer Shelf" in my kitchen...

I did a number of fall and winter running interval sessions on a treadmill in the morning before work. I would not have breakfast - running intervals on a full stomach is not my idea of a good time! But I would pack a water bottle with HEED and consume it during the session. I'd both hydrate and get some calories.

I'd also religiously consumed Recoverite after all races - even if lunch were being served.

I take longer to recover these days. I think having feeds during and after training helped promote recovery.

Lessons Learned

The main lesson I learned is that cross country skiing is all about learning new lessons! Every year I pick up information that helps my technique, my training, my recovery, my racing.



2006-2007 Training Diaries