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Four Weeks

Kris Freeman

Thu, Nov  6, 2008 - By Zach Caldwell

It’s been four weeks since I updated this site, and the last thing that Kris wrote on his fasterskier blog was a day after my Whiteface update. It’s less than three weeks until the first World Cup race of the season in Gallivare. Heck of a time to be incommunicado. Things were looking great as I wrote the last post. Kris planned to complete his tough October training block and do the Moosilauke hillclimb. Anybody who’s really paying close attention might have noticed that he didn’t do the Moosilauke hillclimb, and might be wondering what the heck is going on. But I kind of doubt anybody is paying that kind of attention! Anyway, in case you were incredibly concerned about Kris’s race season preparations, rest assured. All is well.

Kris decided not to do Moosilauke shortly after the last post, when his scheduled trip to New York to visit Julie got changed because of adjusting schedules. Nothing sinister there. Kris trained a 30 hour week when he got home from Lake Placid and felt great - good energy and no meaningful suppression. He ended the period with a bounding intensity session and then he got a cold.

Usually I’m inclined to consider all viruses opportunistic and avoidable. You get sick because you allow yourself to get sick. In this case Kris was training hard, and so he was naturally somewhat exposed. But this cold was in no way representative of mismanagement or poor judgment. He executed the plan very well, and managed his energy perfectly. The combination of training load, changing seasonal weather and exposure to a pathogen just happened to nail him with a full-on seven-day cold virus.

Aren’t pretty much all cold viruses seven day affairs? What’s the saying? If you catch a cold it’ll either take seven days or a week. Well, Kris often has the ability to shake a virus before it really latches on, so he might get a one or two-day cold. This one got him, but it didn’t beat him. He got congested, and he felt snotty and energetic. His insulin sensitivity remained stable (when he’s really beaten down a virus will make it go haywire) and he felt alert and energetic throughout. As it was, he elected to take some days off for a variety of reasons. The scheduling worked - he was planned to have a recovery period anyway and the goal was to bring his training load up conservatively after a very easy week. It was also an abundance of caution and a certain sense of paranoia about the possibility of opening the door to an opportunistic secondary infection. Kris is prone to sinus infections, and they can be incredibly nasty for him.

As it was, he took five days off. Five days off in mid-October, and it wasn’t a source of incredible stress and anxiety. This is remarkable news, and is indicative of the single biggest change in Kris from the past couple of years. In the past he would have trained through this cold. The thought of taking back to back days off (not to mention five in a row) would have been inconceivable. But there are lessons to be learned with the passage of time. Kris has seen, often enough, that he can come back from a week of rest and feel great. He’s not at risk for getting out of shape. What he is at risk for is putting the start of his race season on very bad footing.

Generally, if Kris ever took five days off at this proximity to race season, it would mean that he was dealing with a crisis situation. This time he took five days off to be absolutely sure that there was no crisis. And when he came back to training it was clear that his judgment was spot-on. In his first session back his legs felt great. He continued to feel a bit of congestion in training - nothing bad - just crud. But his energy was excellent and he was covering ground. He took it pretty easy for several days, keeping the volume and workload low. Then he got back into a standard homeostatic load of three and a half to four hours a day. That carried him for several more days, until today.

Today was intervals. Nothing brutal - just some light intensity designed to elicit an immediately positive response. I’m thinking of them as “activation intervals”. He did them on classic skis, on rolling terrain. 3 X 5min at race pace. The report was “more energy than I knew what to do with”. The pace was high - just below full sprint pace in sensation. His lactate several minutes after his last effort was 5.5 mMol/L. That he felt like he was going that hard suggests that he might not be activating his system - elevating his HR and lactate - super fast. That would be more likely  coming off a lesser training load. The next couple of days will be lower load - three hours or less. And then he’ll do Sunapee.

Oh yeah, Sunapee. He’s done that once this year. That’s the benchmark hillclimb test that Kris has used to measure his progress. Last season he did it a lot - probably half a dozen times. His times documented the rollercoaster ride that his training season turned into. This year we decided not to focus as much on benchmarks, and to focus more on energy management, and taking control of Kris’s ability to be good on the target days. The upcoming Sunapee time trial is a test of that system.

It’s going to be a little bit hard to assess this effort because he hasn’t done many of these tests this year. And because he hasn’t done many of these tests he hasn’t been prepared for many. He’s had very little uphill running specificity lately. We know that specificity counts for something on this test because we’ve seen where Justin can gain time on Kris with good running fitness. On the other hand, I think Kris’s fitness is good, and I’ve got more confidence in his energy management and insulin dosing than I’ve ever had. These factors have the potential to be huge, and to keep days that might otherwise fade to mediocre solidly in the “good” column. So I’m expecting good. But how good? Well, I don’t think he’ll break his own record on the course (20:31 set last October). The reason I don’t think he’ll break that record is that I know he “got it right” on that day, and I know that he was incredibly fit at that time - coming off the Lake Placid camp, and immediately prior to upping his training volume in an effort to “put a cork in it” - prevent him from being his best too early. I think it’s more reasonable to look for a time comparable to November of 2006 when his fitness profile was more similar to what it should be now. I’m going to give him a little edge on the 2006 time based on better energy management and dosing, but knock a little back off based on the fact that I think he’ll start too hard because he hasn’t done one of these in a while. I’ll say 20:42.

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

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