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Mixed Signals

Kris Freeman

Mon, Sep  24, 2007 - By Zach Caldwell

Today is the Mt Moosilauke run that Kris is doing with Brayton Osgood. This one will be a meaningful test, even though Kris doesn’t have a previous time on the course. Many accomplished athletes have tested themselves on this course over time. Marc Gilbertson owns the record. As of a couple days ago, Kris sounded pretty confident that he could set a new best time. I’m not as confident, and not because I think Kris is out of shape. I think Gilb’s time is pretty legit.

The past week has been interesting - encouraging for sure, but with enough signs of stress to rate some ongoing caution. Kris has felt better than he did in the lead-up to his Sunapee test on the 16th. His mother seems to have added a confirmation to our hypothesis of a low-grade viral infection last week. At about the same time that Kris started feeling bad and sleeping 12 to 13 hours per night, his mother also ran out of steam. Nothing easily identifiable as illness, but really low energy under any kind of physical demand. Kris spent a couple of days with his parent prior to all of this, so the coincidence is somewhat reassuring.

Kris has had two good intensity sessions since that last Sunapee test. He did another sustained skate intensity session - the same format as the one that felt so good immediately prior to the downturn about ten days ago. The more recent session didn’t feel quite as good, and heart rates ran a bit lower, but he went two minutes further down the road (over 50 minutes) on the same skis at the same temperature. So maybe he’s not super fresh, but capacities seem to be responding positively.

The second session was the first set of intervals of the season. Three repetitions of a ten minute uphill classic effort. The format was eight minutes of 15K race-pace effort, followed by two minutes pretty much all-out. The session was very good, with one somewhat worrying element. Kris’s heart rate response appears to continue to be quite suppressed. His maximum heart rate during these efforts was 172 bpm, and it took so long for the heart rate to elevate at the start of the effort that he averages were running at about 159. Kris is not a slacker - if he’s putting out a 15K race pace effort you can bet that he’s going pretty hard. It would have been very interesting to have lactate sampling during this session, but we don’t have that information.

Because we know from experience that heart rate suppression accompanies high training loads under a volume regime we have to acknowledge the possibility that Kris is feeling the stress of a high training load. By the same token, he’s three-weeks removed from the very high training load that he wrote up as 92 hours in 20 days. The volume since then has been very low by his standards. And while inensity has been the focus, the load has not been high enough to merit an expectation of real overload. And while all of this is going on, capacities seem to be responding positively.

In acknowledgement of the situation we have backed the pace on the “filler” sessions down significantly. Kris has generally operated on the principal that, if his heart rate drops below 100 bpm then he should be going faster. However, at this point that makes the “easy” sessions really fast. And even though the heart rate is running so low, Kris feels the workload. These sessions do NOT feel easy. Pete noticed this last year when the went to Europe. Kris was taking his easy training days at a training pace that was really extremely fast, and Pete felt that this was unnecessary and probably harmful to the race efforts. So, as of the recent change of focus, Kris is no longer attempting to maintain a minimum heart rate during his easy sessions. In one three hour skate session this past week he averaged about 105 bpm, and was still going plenty fast. So be it.

For the time being Kris will carry on as planned, with another week of intensity focused training before a short break and the (late) start of the USST Lake Placid camp. It’s hard to imagine that Kris can put up a good World Cup race effort with heart rates averaging 159 over the first ten minutes, and we’re definitely looking for a faster heart rate response over the coming weeks. This will come from reduced training loads, and as Kris adapts to the intensity stimulus, from improved high-end response. He’ll have a good opportunity to test himself against the sprinters at Lake Placid. Today’s Moosilauke run will provide an indication of how things are going, and he’s got another couple of shots at Sunapee before it’s time to head to Europe.

Kris has very apparently trained close to the limit of what he can sustain and absorb this season. He’s managed it well, and has shown an ability to recover from and benefit from short-term overload. I think there’s good reason for optimism. By the same token, I think it will be very good for Kris to spend a couple of weeks in Lake Placid with the rest of the team. Pete knows him very well, and has been the most consistent coaching presence during race season in recent seasons. As racing season gets closer Kris, Pete and I all understand that Pete will take an increasingly central role in monitoring and supporting Kris’s training.

Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman

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