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Top Notch –a good effort, not a good test

Kris Freeman

Thu, Aug  7, 2008 - By Zach Caldwell

Kris had a good day under difficult and somewhat eventful circumstances at the Top Notch triathlon on Saturday. He’s already written-up the race on his new Fasterskier blog – you can read his account of it there. He won the race, but that’s not news – it would have been disappointing (even shocking) if he hadn’t. Unfortunately the wet and muddy condition of the course, along with various other mishaps made it impossible to use the effort as any kind of measurement against previous efforts. So we have to take Kris’s impressions and sensations as the only useful data, and those were positive.

Kris felt good. When he wanted to go hard, he was able to go hard. He recovered quickly on the fly. My impression is that the return to moderate volume after the Whistler camp did not set him up for an absolutely top-flight race effort, but that wasn’t the point or the plan. He’s clearly got well developed high-end fitness available to him right now, and that’s what we were looking for.

Kris has had an up and down relationship with adversity. Certainly, on the large scale, he’s overcome quite a lot in his management and control of his diabetes, and he’s a better and more professional athlete because of it. However, Kris has never fared well when circumstances beyond his control start to wreck havoc on his efforts. He can weather a lot when he feels that he’s got a handle on things, but when control starts to slip, things start to go bad. Kris’s assessment of the triathlon was that it was a good experience – he was able to maintain a satisfactory (to him) effort while his plans for the race unraveled around him. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the cyclist involved in the crash with Kris during the first leg –I’m sure that fellow caught quite an earful and would probably be the first to argue with the idea that Kris’s attitude held up pretty well through the race. But at the best of times Kris is competitive and angry during a race, and overall he maintained his sense of humor about things.

The number of times per season that everything goes perfectly in a World Cup race is pretty small, so this kind of thing is good practice for Kris. He has pointed out how easy it is to be the best in the world all Summer – training alone, accountable to nobody but himself. His personal standards are high enough so that he may well be the best in the world at training. But taking that strength onto the snow, onto the World Cup circuit, is an exercise in flexibility and crisis management. It begins the moment he leaves his own space and puts himself at the mercy of airlines for travel. It continues through the vagaries of team logistics on the ground, an endless series of European hotels with varying food options and a different living arrangement at every stop. And it means a new training environment at every stop, and endlessly varying and often difficult waxing conditions. Kris has gotten quite good at controlling what he can, but he can always be better at improving his ability to perform through unpredictable circumstances.

Curiously the lesson in adversity management continued into Sunday’s session, a four hour skate rollerski on new and relatively unexplored terrain. A little more than half way into the session Kris picked up a rock or something, and got it jammed into his wheel – stopping the ski completely and immediately. He hit the ground hard – tore his shirt up, got some road rash on his chest, and completely crushed the carbonfiber shaft inside his pole grips. He was ten miles from his car, somewhat bloody, and without useful poles. So he skied without poles for an hour, got back to the car, swapped his poles for his spares, and kept skiing for another twenty minutes. His assessment of the session was that he got some good V2-alternate practice on some new terrain, and had a good no-pole session.

Monday marked the start of a four-day sponsor travel trip (diabetes events and flights every day, Monday through Thursday). Kris called from the airport once he learned that his trip would start with a three-hour delay. He was laughing as he told me about it. More unplanned adversity, and nothing to do but laugh about it. Let’s hope he can maintain his sense of humor when the madness hits this winter!


Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at http://www.krisfreeman.net/. Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman

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