Last July 4th there was some build-up and anticipation of a big duel between Kris and Justin in the Woodstock (VT) 4th of July running race- a seven mile affair with a big climb in the middle of it. Last year Justin conducted a clinic - a perfect demonstration of the importance of specificity. Today was the rematch, and Kris figured that he might be able to pick up 35 seconds, and that if Justin would cooperate by going 30 seconds slower then they might just have a race. I wasn’t buying either side of that scenario. Justin has had a promising early Summer of running tests in support of a fast 5K goal later in August. He had one “poor” result in his most recent 5K, and Kris figured that was indication enough that he might be a bit off.
Kris himself is less of a known quantity when it comes to running at this point. Unlike last year his training has been overwhelmingly positive this year. He’s managed his energy well, and he’s avoided the kind of unprogrammed overload that made him volatile last season. This race last year came eight days after what might have been the biggest one-day mistake of the training year - a scheduled six hour running OD during which the brothers got lost, emerged from the woods an hour late in the wrong place, and had to hitchhike (still no food) to their car. This race last year came during a 36 hour training week, in the last week of a 92 hour three-week block. This year is a different story. Kris has been training a lot but he hasn’t had the killer overload that he had last year. His energy management has been a primary focus, and he’s been doing well with it. The week before this past was very low in training load because he had his yearly five-day sponsor related travel obligation. Unlike last year’s road show, this year’s was relatively stress free because he had a PR “handler” traveling with him to deal with missed flights, changed itineraries, etc. All in all, he’s felt much fresher this year, and is coming off a lighter load.
On the other hand, last year by this time Kris had done six sustained threshold running sessions, two Sunapee tests and one short legspeed session in preparation for the race. While he didn’t do any “real” speed work last year, he had at least run some hard efforts. This year he’s done one Sunapee test and no other specific running intensity or speed. So this one looked too tough to call for me. What’s more important - good energy, or hard training? Damned good question!
Last year Justin gradually pulled away from Kris from shortly after the start. This year Justin pulled away immediately. He went through the first mile just a couple of seconds from five minute pace. Kris was running faster than last year, but he was also losing time more quickly. Justin paid the price for his fast start and struggled in the second half, finishing the race tied with his last year’s effort to the second. Kris was steadier - he didn’t give away much time to Justin in the second half, and he finished seven seconds ahead of last year’s pace.
So what does it mean? Is Kris on pace? Is he meeting his training goals and will he achieve the results he wants this winter? It’s tempting to read a lot into a comparison like this. In fact we know only one thing - Kris ran a bit faster today than he did on the same date last year. He hasn’t trained for the event, but he’s not overtired. The first ski races are a long ways off. There’s a lot of work to do, and there are a lot of opportunities to screw-up as well. You can’t ever succeed by trying not to screw-up, but that sure doesn’t mean we’re going to repeat all of last year’s mistakes. If nothing else, Kris has been more patient with the pace of progress this year. Today’s test was a good indication that this approach has not left him behind where he was last year.
In ten days Kris heads out to Utah for another round of testing on the treadmill. From there he’ll come up to Whistler for an intensity camp with me supervising and Dan Roycroft providing some head to head competition. There will be much more fodder for updates as all of this unfolds.
Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at http://www.krisfreeman.net/. Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman