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Whistler in July (& July Testing)

Kris Freeman

Mon, Jul  21, 2008 - By Zach Caldwell

Kris and Dan Roycroft both arrived in Squamish Thursday for the much-vaunted July intensity camp. The first intensity session came today on the rollerski track at Whistler Olympic Park. So far so good. But first things first.

Kris Freeman rollerskiing at Whistler MountainPrior to coming up here, Kris spent two days in Park City in the physiology lab with Randy and the rest of the sports science crew. This was normally scheduled July testing, plus a continuation of the experimentation that was initiated in July with utilizing the Omnipod capabilities to optimize race-effort insulin dosing. The short report on the tests is as followed: Kris kicked ass.

I don’t have the raw data yet to provide a comprehensive long report on testing. But I can pass along the gist of it. Kris had predicted that he would beat his previous best duration at the max stage of the standard sub-max/max protocol, and he predicted that he would have better (lower) lactate values at sub-max. He also predicted that his peak VO2 would be no better than it was in May. This prediction is reasonable, given that Kris has done extremely little intensity since May, and given that he’s been feeling quite good and fit in his endurance training. He wasn’t far off - he did put up his best maximal workload, and he did have better sub-max lactates in all but the final submax stage. However, he also had a very significantly higher peak VO2 than he has previously had on this test, and put up higher VO2 numbers throughout the sub-max stages.

This is unquestionably good news, but is also a little unsettling. It’s like looking back at your skid-marks on an icy road and realizing how close you were to careening off a cliff.

The defining characteristic of Kris’s training this year has been that of aggressive energy management and a very conservative approach to overload. We want him to be a short recovery period away from peak energy levels at all times. We know he can reach peak race fitness quickly if he starts with good energy, but last year he dug too deep. We already knew that. One of the signs of digging deep is heart-rate suppression. This is been an acknowledged part of Kris’s training in the past two years, and something that we’re treated with respect and caution. We’ve allowed the process to be guided by field tests indicating consistent and impressive capacity gains. If you’ve been reading the posts on this site then you know we’ve had the strong feeling that last-year’s load was too high, and that Kris spent too much time in an overloaded state. As we look back on last-year’s treadmill results compared with his most recent results, we have to ask ourselves whether he wasn’t experiencing suppression of his entire system, not just his heart rate. The fast is, he had trained harder and with more intensity last year at this time than he has this year. He has trained with more careful management and better quality this year. The Park City tests indicate that he’s currently in better shape than he was last October, five weeks before he was 5th in Kuusamo.

The other factor here that is almost impossible to separate from the rest of the information is the change in Kris’s insulin dosing strategy. The Omnipod has allowed Kris unprecedented flexibility in dosing his efforts. Blood sugar profiles during the most recent round of testing have been the closest we’ve seen to what the non-diabetics on the team experience. On the second day of testing Kris repeated the race-simulation protocol that we developed in May to test different dosing strategies. This protocol puts him on the treadmill for three five-minute stages at a workload calculated to be representative of race-pace for a 10 or 15K. He stops for a minute after each stage to check lactate and blood sugar. When he gets on for the fourth time the protocol becomes progressively harder and the main metric being evaluated is his time to exhaustion - how long can he stay on the test as the workload increases from a sustained race effort? For this round of testing Kris used the highest insulin dose he’s used to date. It still didn’t totally normalize his blood-sugar response, indicating that he’s still not able to cope with the sugar-dump that occurs as he reaches a maximal effort. But the profile was much closer to normal than we’ve seen. And he completely obliterated his previous efforts on the test. There’s no way to know how much of what we’re measuring is improved fitness, and how much is insulin dosing. We know that his fitness has improved, and we’re pretty darned certain that he’s narrowing in on an optimal insulin dosing strategy, but we can’t really separate the two factors.

Kris Freeman rollerskiing at Whistler Mountain

Maybe that’s not important. From a scientific standpoint it would be nice to have really clean data and be able to attribute things accurately. We could do a lot better if we were willing to subject Kris to several more days of lab testing. But this time of year we’re working with an athlete, not a guinea-pig. As I mentioned, the next item on the agenda is the Whistler camp that we’ve just begun. It would be counter-productive to put Kris on the treadmill for additional max efforts immediately prior to a specific intensity camp. So we’re going to call the testing a very positive set of indications, and move back into training mode.

Thursday was the race-simulation test and travel. Friday was a relatively easy day (for Kris, not for me) - a two hour run in the morning and a one hour double-pole session in the afternoon. Today Kris and Dan did rollerski intervals on the rollerski track at Whistler Olympic Park. I don’t tend to make frequent use of interval structure in off-season training. But today was quite specific in nature. The rollerski trails are easy, winding and fast. My goal was to have these guys covering ground very quickly - responding to terrain changes with appropriate technique changes, and skiing with aggressive and sharp technique. We wanted this session to ignite the engines - start a bit of a fire if you will. But we wanted the overall load to be quite manageable. So, the guys did 5X5 minutes targeting a finishing lactate of 4-5mMol/L. The pace was such that sustaining the workload for a lot longer would result in rapidly climbing lactates, but the total level of acidosis was moderate to low, and the total workload was quite manageable. This afternoon is off, and tomorrow is easy. Monday they’ll hit the trails for some natural intervals over about 12k of continuous pole running and bounding on the Olympic red (classic) loop.