Zig zags and the frozen north

Since my last blog the surroundings have undergone a bit of a colour and texture change, winter has arrived! In an effort to make this transition as seamless as possible and to get another dose of altitude, I spent, along with the rest of the national team, 4 weeks high in the Italian mountains doing a mixture of rollerskiing, running and snow skiing up on the Schnalstal glacier at 3200m. The transition to snow is an important stage in the season. Particularly for me, having spent relatively little time on snow in the last couple of years. Rollerskiing is a good imitation but it can’t totally replicate gliding across an unstable and variable surface like snow! It’s important to ensure any roller skiing technique quirks are ironed out at the outset. Basically, pushing backwards just doesn’t work on skis like it does on tarmac! With this in mind, whilst on the glacier we were working closely with team coaches Roy and Alex, as well as a guest coach, Johanna Ojala, who joined us for the third week of the camp.

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Getting in the snow kilometres whilst trying to gulp down the elusive oxygen on Schnalstal glacier zig zags.

A long pre season training camp like this just wouldn’t really be complete without a bit of an epic to stretch/scare the shit out of us. In the summer this was a six hour run in the Scottish mountains, everybody present was consequently immobile to some extent the following day. This time, an easy afternoon recovery run resulted in James and I reaching a col at just shy of 3000m in complete darkness. Thankfully we had one headtorch between us and someone had kindly drilled in bolts and chains into the steeper sections of the descent. Team leader, Roy was surprisingly composed when we returned, soaked to the skin, 4 hours after we left for a 90 minute jog.

Not the sort of text message that should really give you any reason for concern… 

On return from altitude it was straight into the racing season, for me this kicked off in Brucksvallarna. Starting out with a 10km skate race in which I managed a solid but by no means perfect race to take 39th in a field of 260 international, but mostly Swedish, senior men.  Being so poorly ranked on account of my minimal racing last year meant I started in the middle of the field, I was leading the race for the entirety of my race and for some time after I finished. Clearly quite a few people skied faster than me in the end, but it was quite fun to have everyone out on the track shouting for me for my 26 minutes of struggle! Last weekend saw the opening round of the world cup season in Kuusamo, way up in northern Finland. I managed two more stable races. I didn’t finish either thinking I’d put in a amazing performance but they were both clear personal bests for me at world cup level, hopefully indicating that this full time training business is working! I feel I now have a great starting platform for the improvements I hope to make this season, I’m excited to start picking my way through the world cup field up to where I want to be in February 2018.

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The sun certainly doesn’t shine every day in Val Senales! 3 hours on the glacier is made pretty exciting when you can’t make out the tracks

I’m now back in Lillehammer ahead of next weekend’s Scandinavian cup, for those that watched the world cup on TV this weekend – the hills are at least as long and steep as they look! I’m particularly looking forward to Sunday’s 30km classic mass start, with roughly 250 senior men lining up, many of whom trying to impress their respective nation’s world cup selectors, it should make for a tough fight! Thankfully it’s forecast to be a lot warmer than the last time I raced at Scandinavian cup, where whether or not you could actually finish was mostly dictated by how many pairs of windproof boxer shorts you could fit under your race suit!

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There was actually another bed in the room, but if you’re going to get your name written in pistachio shells then why not share?
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Running back into the valley after the final “dry land” interval session of preseason training
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