The Road to Klosters – Race Course Profiles, Peaking, and Training Update

klosters logo

This is Part 8 in a series of posts about training and preparation for the World Masters Cross Country Skiing Championships in Klosters Switzerland in early March 2017. See Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 for an overview, specific training plans, strength training, an evaluation of the required pace to podium in the M07 and F06 age classes, critical assessment of the efficacy of Block Periodization, fleet evaluation, and racing weight, respectively.

Training for any event should include some race-specific sessions that will simulate what one will see on race day. Since cross country skiing competition dynamics are significantly driven by the details of the race course terrain, it is important to establish an understanding of the race course profiles, climb sequencing, and downhill challenges to both simulate racing but also to develop pacing strategies. This analysis all starts with elevation/distance data for the race courses.

The MCW Klosters website has .pdfs of each of the race courses that will likely be used at the events. I say likely because there could be last minute course changes due to weather and conditions at the time of the races. The resolution of the .pdf files is marginal and with 60 year old eyes, getting accurate and precise elevation/distance data from the files is a challenge.

I contacted the race organizers in Klosters and asked if they had the digital gps files that were used to construct the .pdfs on the website. The person I contacted responded promptly and wanted to know what I would do with such data and I told her that I would use the data to have an accurate digital file of the profiles so I could make comparisons with the trails here in Sun Valley. I suggested that there should be digital files of the courses since they would be needed to produce the .pdfs on the website. I further suggested that it would be productive if the organization could make the .gpx or .tcx files  for the courses available (or whatever digital files they used to make the .pdfs) so the competitors could have an accurate representation  of the profiles. I indicated that the Chief of Course might have access to the files. Unfortunately, I have never heard back from the race organization. So what follows has been derived optically from the website .pdfs and, as such, will have some errors and be of lower resolution that typical digital data. However, the profiles presented here will be representative and largely applicable to any comparison exercise.

klosters world masters course profiles

There are four courses that will be used at Klosters-

  1. Doggiloch – an easy “geezer” 5 km couse for the M10-M12 and F09-F12
  2. Aeuja – the 5km relay course for M01-M09 and F01-F08
  3. Schwaderloch – a 10 km course for the distances races for M01-M09 and F1-F08
  4. Schindel Boden – a 15 km course for the distance races for M01-M09 and F01-F08

I did my best to translate the elevation/distance data from the website .pdfs and made some .xls files that could be plotted with comparison courses that are available here in Sun Valley. The data are presented in “normailzed elevation” form* to facilitate comparisons. Distances are in km and elevation is in feet. Sorry for the mixed units but I am helping some fellow competitors here in Sun Valley (USA) and they are most comfortable with elevation expressed in feet.  Peak actual elevations (in feet) are noted where appropriate.

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I will not comment on the “geezer” 5km course but the Aeuja 5km relay course would appear to have a “crux”, nearly continuous, 170 ft climb starting at about 1km and ending at about 2.75km. This climb should do a reasonable job of spreading the teams out but it could also lead to some very hard individual efforts to keep teams in contention- should be exciting to participate and watch!

The Schwaderloch 10 km course is the same as the relay course for about the first 3km and then begins to climb a second and third time to a peak elevation of 4179 feet. Likewise the Schindel Boden 15km course is the the same as the Schwaderloch 10km course for about the first 9km (to about the highest point on the Scwaderloch course) and then continues to climb steeply to a peak elevation of 4267 feet before descending back to the start through a few small hills.

Although possible, it is difficult to get a feel for a course just from the elevation profile so it is informative to plot a race course along with a local training loop at one’s home area. From such a comparison one can evaluate the steepness of the climbs and descents, the lengths of the flat sections, and the sequencing of the course challenges. Plotted below are comparisons of the Schwaderloch 10km course with a loop at the Sun Valley Nordic Center, known as the White Clouds-DiamondBack Loop and the Schindel Boden 15km loop with another loop at the Sun Valley Nordic Center known as the Trail Creek-Boundary-Proctor-SideWinder Loop.

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As can be seen, the net elevation change and absolute magnitude of total elevation change are comparable with the Klosters courses having a bit more corrugation (short ups and downs). However, there is nothing in the Klosters courses that is as steep as some of the climbs in Sun Valley with the possible exception of the last 75 feet of ascent on the climb to the high point on the Schindel Boden course. None of the Klosters climbs are as long as a number of the climbs in Sun Valley. With the exception of the super fast descent off of DiamondBack, the downhills are quite comparable. The Klosters courses are also about 2000 feet lower in absolute elevation.

This analysis enables one to do some simulations and familiarization of the Klosters courses on one’s home trails. In our case, the TC-Boundary-Proctor-SideWinder-TC loop is a good proxy for the Schindel Boden course from both a total elevation change perspective and in steepness/length of climb (the SideWinder climbs are very similar to the steepest parts of the Schindel Boden course).

Another functional comparison is the Schwaderloch 10km with the 7.5 km Lake Creek Loop in Sun Valley. The Lake Creek trails are the primary trails that the local nordic team trains on, including the National-level athletes. It has a big mix of terrain and a stadium area where competitions are staged. Nearly all of the climbs at Lake Creek are as steep as or steeper than those on the Scwaderloch course but the climb lengths are similar and the total elevation gain is similar. In a different way, the Lake Creek Loop is also a good proxy for what we will see in Klosters.

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Another analysis is to look at elevation/distance data for some interval loops and hills that one does regularly and then compare to the race courses. One interval hill we use regularly is a steady climb that takes about 6-7 minutes, depending on effort level and conditions. This hill is plotted below along with the Schwaderloch course. The ascent grade of this hill is the same as the grade in the start of all of the courses out of the stadium area at Klosters. Given that I use the local hill as a double pole workout, it looks like I will be double poling for at least the first 4 km in the classic races (and all of Aeuja 5km relay course)- and probably 80% of the rest of both the Schwaderloch and Schindel Boden courses as well. I’ll need to consider going without kick wax, or maybe going with skate skis and combi boots.

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A local interval climb vs the Schwaderloch course. The interval is done as a double poling workout- looks like much of both the Schwaderloch and Schindel Boden courses will be double pole in the classic races! But we will have to wait until we get there to ground truth and confirm.

Of course there is no substitute for training on the real courses and I am certain we will be surprised by something once we get to Klosters, but it is worth the effort to develop some level of feel for the race courses prior to arrival.

peaking

As any experienced endurance athlete will know, developing a robust peaking program for an “A” race is critically important. Young athletes have great difficulty with this because takes time to discover the type of peaking progression that works best. And “best” is a very individual thing, a thing that requires some experimentation. Having been active in competitive endurance sport for over 40 years, Team Bumble Bee has pretty much figured out what type of peaking program works for us as individuals. Given that we are both “high responders” to interval training, our peaking program is tailored around this advantage. Without going into the details (as it is highly individual and not reliably transferable to others) the basic program includes the following steps:

  1. cut training volume about 4 weeks out from the “A” race and
  2. increase the intensity until about 10 days out from the “A” race, then
  3. cut both intensity and volume for those last 10 days
  4. focus on being fully rested as we are seated on the plane to Europe
  5. minimize interactions with others and wash hands regularly
  6. glue your feet to the floor

Team Bumble Bee is now well into the increased intensity portion of the program where we are doing intervals every other day until about 21 February. Then everything is easy skiing and resting until we toe the line at the first race. This program has worked well in the past so we are going with it for the World Masters.

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Bee finishing up a VO2 max fartlek-style interval session with a smile- we love intervals!!

training update

In part 7 of his series I put a goal in place to add weight- a lot of weight, like 8 lbs or 6% of my then extant body weight of 128 lbs. This goal came about after an analysis of the racing weight of competitive cross country skiers summarized in the part 7 post. I realized from this analysis that I am way underweight for a competitive skier and that my performance is likely being negatively affected. Adding 8 lbs would just get me onto the charts for the competitive athlete group of my height- but this 8 lbs cannot be fat, it must be lean muscle mass.

So I continued the strength progression program rather than going into “maintenance” mode as planned. I also upped calorie intake by about 500-700 calories per day (20-25% increase) whilst ensuring that protein levels were more than sufficient. What happened? Well, I gained just 2 lbs in six weeks but I also became even leaner, reducing body fat from about 8% to about 6%. Though I succeeded in adding lean muscle mass, the rate at which this can happen (for me anyway) is too low to allow the original goal to be achieved in the timeframe that I have. But I am stronger and I can feel additional power on skis so it would seem that I have done what can be done in the time allotted and I will just have to play those cards at the Wolrd Masters races. However, I will continue the program for increased weight (in the form of lean muscle mass) after a short hiatus from the strength work for the competitions in Klosters.

I also had the opportunity to work on technique with a couple of current World Cup skiers and it was very valuable. We worked on double pole and V2, did some video, and had some longish skiing together. I managed to put some tweaks in place that have led to increased power and efficiency.

Overall the training has gone well with no injuries or chronic issues other than a minor hip flexor strain (while shoveling the copious amounts of snow that have come down this year). It took about a week to come fully back but the strain occurred just before a rest week where I was slated to do a bunch of ski testing and feeding during a race, so there was no real set-back.

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Near-record snows in the Sun Valley area has led to great training and racing conditions… yet we still hear people complaining here- #getalife!!

The two per week interval sessions have been very high quality and the results are obvious. Hopefully that continues in this last stretch of interval work concentration in the peak progression.

Downhill skills have also improved although this is still a weakness and one that I continue to focus on in every workout. I have found “my edges”- both on the skis and in my current skills. Most of the work is in proper body position and I am slowly getting there- but not without some scary moments!

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Bumble testing his ski skills on a fast downhill turn!

travel and travel stress

Travel to an international venue can be very stressful, perhaps even more so than a lot of one’s training. Therefore it is important to manage this stress and minimize the impact it might have on your performance. Everyone is different but what works for me is to consciously go from “control freak” mode that works well for day-to-day training to a much more relaxed “whatever happens happens” mode whilst traveling. You cannot, in any real way, take much control over what happens once you are in the “transportation channel” so it is best to concentrate on relaxing as much as possible and making good decisions along the way. So, put some time buffers into the travel schedule, take some reading, some headphones, and take an interest in watching what’s happening around you to make the best of a fundamentally stressful time.

packing

We are taking 8-10 pairs of skis, 8 pairs of poles, and four pair of boots so packing is going to be a challenge. If I have time I will put up a post about how we managed to get everything into suitable ski bags and carry-ons… and within the weight restrictions.

final thoughts

It’s been nine months of concentrated and focused training for the Klosters World Championships. There have been significant gains in VO2 max, LT pace, max strength, and power on skis. I’ve learned that even a 60 yo can do “elite-level” training both with respect to volume and intensity- albeit at a slightly slower pace and with significantly reduced accelerations. Averaging in excess of 15h of “certified” training per week with peak volume at 24h on a diet of blocks of intensity and endurance follwed by a more traditional race season structure convinces me that there might be yet another, even higher, level to which this training can be taken.

As far as the efficacy of the “block periodization” approach, we will have to see as the results come to fruition at Klosters. I certainly enjoyed the “block” approach as it allows one to focus on a singular aspect, fully develop that ability, and then move on. Bringing it all together for the race season has gone smoothly from a cardio, strength,  and endurance perspective as my position in races has been right there with former top National performers and retired Olympians that make up the competitive group in the citizen races. My biggest challenge- sticking with the lead pack on the technical downhills… I’m getting there but there is still work to do.

I will write up a full training analysis after the World Masters, but I feel very fit, well rested, and ready to attack the starts and accelerate on the climbs- hopefully with good results!

*the elevation data are transformed to reflect a starting elevation of zero feet

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