On May 1st Kris did his first sustained intensity session of the training season. He just did his 16th (including time trials) and last of the training season. Now it’s race season. Back in May the sustained intensity was 45 minutes of threshold running, with an emphasis on accelerating rather than slowing down toward the end. Over time the target intensity of those sessions was pushed up from 3-5mMol/L to 4-6mMol/L to 5-7mMol/L and beyond, Always with an emphasis on accelerating at the end. In July the session became rollerskiing rather than running. In August Kris started throwing in some gear-changing accelerations during the session. In September the sessions were almost like controlled and scripted race efforts, although the baseline effort was still a little below race pace. Today Kris did what amounted to a full-on practice 15K skate race.
The idea behind all of this has been to provide continuity and reinforcement of the kind of race pattern that we want Kris to develop. Last year he could ski in the top-ten in a 15K world cup through ten K. Then, when the race got hard, the guys who ended up on the podium would accelerate - sometimes from a pace right where Kris was skiing to 45 seconds or a minute ahead over the last 5K. So this training season Kris has practiced accelerating toward the end of the races.
Today’s session was kind of a test of Kris’s ability to put his racing tools to use. He’s spent a long training season assembling all the necessary tools, and he hasn’t had many opportunities to put them all into play. Call it a dress-rehearsal. It was a good one. Like last week, there was ass-hauling going on, for sure. Average HR was a little lower than expected, but not because of any serious suppression so much as because of rapid recovery. Kris was hitting the uphills hard - pretty much as hard as he could hit them at anything short of sprint pace - and his heart rate was dropping into the 130s and below on the downhills. That kind of takes the edge off the average HR.
Technique felt good. Kris has spent a lot of time playing with different V1 gears. In the past couple of years he’s moved from a very centered high-tempo V1 toward a smoother, lower V1 with a lot of lateral float. It’s improved his efficiency, but made it more difficult to accelerate and a bit harder to ski in traffic. This Summer he’s been working on connecting the dots on the continuum between a super-long smooth climbing technique and a tempo-driven hop-skate. Much of this has focused on skiing from a more aggressive position. Today he was looking for gears on the V1. He played with the hop-skate, but it wasn’t going fast enough on the steep climbs. He found that a more aggressive position with really active use of the abs had him really covering ground.
The last eight minutes of this course was rolling uphill, ending in a sustained V1 section. Toward the end of that Kris started feeling the lactate load. His HR topped out at 175 - not incredibly high. He felt that if he wanted to see 180 he would have needed another three minutes of all-out V1 climbing.
Based on the very encouraging sensations in today’s session Kris decided to cancel a tentatively scheduled set of light intervals for Tuesday. He felt that they would be redundant - he’s got what he needs right now. If he’s worried about anything it’s that he might be running a little too hot. But he’s not terribly worried. He’s got a huge base of training behind him, and he knows that he can load the volume back up anytime he needs to cool things down.
All things told I’m pleased with the way things look headed into race season. Kris is confident, and happy with his fitness. It’s worth noting that we’ve all been impressed with Kris’s fitness before and watched him consistently turn in top-twenties. But I’m quite certain that Kris has a much higher level of fitness than he did last year at this time. His Sunapee times are better. His VO2 is comparable at 6800′ to what it was at 4500′ last October. I think podiums are a stretch right now. There are still gains being held in reserve (I hope!). But I think the stage is set for a good start to the season.