The snow arrived here on 18 November (which is typical for our area) and the transition from ultra running training to Nordic ski training has begun. This has been the first season that I have engaged in a rigorous ultra running training and racing program and it will be of interest (to me) to see what affect this has on ski training and racing. The skiing is great and is a welcome respite from running and rollerskiing.
One aspect that I have immediately experienced while skiing is a significant increase in power in classic technique skiing. Leg push-off on the power stroke phase is noticeably stronger and balance on the subsequent glide phase is improved. I suspect this is from the substantial amount of climbing that was included in my training regimen. Hill climbing, either via running or power hiking, engages the calf muscles in a primary way as anyone will experience in their hill training. Nordic skiers traditionally develop this muscle group via hill bounding and hill climbing/running. I did not do any hill bounding this fall and replaced it with significant, lengthy (1 km+) vertical ascention running/power hiking on 20%+ grades. I did this to improve endurance on long climbs (both running and skiing). Hill bounding can help with such endurance but is more focused upon explosive power, something that an oldster like me needs to be careful about to prevent injury. Although I have never been injured doing hill bounding, I can definitely feel the stress on the connective tissue and the associated low level pain after any substantial hill bounding session. I felt that I could do much more hill climbing/running than hill bounding for the same level of connective tissue damage and that at my age this was preferred.
An orthopedist once colloquially described the slow transformation of connective tissue in the human body as the following:
jello -> rubber -> leather -> cardboard -> glass
So, starting out as jello (as an infant) then developing into rubber (until about age 25 or so) and then on to leather (up to about age 50, depending upon how abusive you have been to your body), then cardboard (up to about age 60 or so), and then into the final, “glass” stage. I am in the “cardboard” stage and therefore take appropriate precautions- like limiting the amount of hill bounding I do.
So far the transition to skiing has been going well, partly due to a good measure of rollerskiing since May and also due to a concentration on trail running with challenging vert and essentially no mountain biking. I find the mountain biking, although a reasonable cardiovascular stimulus, to be less challenging than an equivalent trail run. In addition, given a certain level of skill, the downs can be quite abusive of the upper body, particularly with a hardtail. We will see how it goes with a continued concentration on trail running, but mountain biking, for the time being, has become a very minor part of my training program.
The current program includes another week of volume (about 150-200 kms and about 14-15 hours) and then two weeks focused on intensity (primarily hill repeats and fartek) with a reasonable base volume of about 120-150 kms very easy, still with a total training time of about 15-18 hours. Fortunately we are in the process of getting “feet” of snow, at least above 7,000 feet, and significantly more terrain should open in the next day or so and it will be more enjoyable to notch the volume up to 200+ kms.
At the moment running is not happening to allow for sufficient volume on skis and to provide a “break” and let the connective tissue repair fully. Limited trail runs and power hikes will return sometime around Christmas.