The Road to Beitostolen – looking forward to deep competition

Team Bumble Bee is well into preparations for the 2019 World Masters Championships in Beitostolen, Norway in early March. It is always challenging to have just one  “A” race so late in the season. The required focus makes other, earlier, races less important but these races are still critical to the necessary progression to ensure a peak performance. Balancing the race schedule with training whilst not getting “stale” is the goal for the 2018-2019 season. Arriving at the start line in Norway fast, fit, and fresh- that is the overarching goal.

We are excited about the races in Norway because we are also hopeful that more high-level competition will show up given the location right in the center of the cross country skiing mecca that is Scandinavia. Deeper competition, particularly in the women’s fields, will be a welcome thing. Team Bumble Bee is focused on competing against the best skiers in the world- it is what drives us and motivates us.

We’re monitoring the Datasport MWC entrants list to decide which races to enter base on the competition- we’ll enter the races that have the stiffest competition. At the 2018 MWC in Minneapolis, for example, none of the top M07 skaters showed up but most of the top M07 classic skiers did, so I entered only the classic races. Hopefully we will see strong M07 fields in both techniques so that a skate race might be part of the series for me. For the F06’s, we just hope that some strong competitors who do not usually compete in F06 MWC show up given the venue location. Otherwise things may be a bit boring for Bee.

training, tweaks, and time trials

For the past three years I have been utilizing a “block periodization” protocol for training. This protocol is useful for advanced, long-time endurance athletes who wish to attempt to break off a performance plateau and further maximize their output in races. For me it works well but results in a rather monastic existence as all intensity workouts are completed alone since there are few others that take this route. Bee likes to do intensity with others and there are very few “racers” here in the Sun Valley area that actually train to race with structured interval workouts. So she has been stuck these last couple of years doing most of her intensity alone as well.  As a result, this year I have decided to return to a “traditional” or mixed periodization protocol that, after a base period, utilizes numerous four week cycles that include volume focus (V), intensity focus (I), or recovery focus (R) weeks to build toward a peaking period prior to “A” races (note: V+ and I+ are peak weeks for volume and intensity, respectively). This will allow Bee and me to do intensity workouts together and challenge one another in head-to-head repeats or by giving one another “head starts” and then try to catch during the interval.  Another technique to make things interesting in mis-matched pairs is to allow the slower person to use a fast wax to help them keep up. It is fun and makes the intensity sessions just that much more enjoyable- yes enjoyable! We love intensity and look forward to our twice-weekly sessions. We see way too much of an attitude of dread on the part of many other athletes when it comes to intensity. If something is perceived as “dreadful” it will likely be dreadful. Better to take a positive posture on something as critical to racing success as intensity sessions!

My annual training plan for the 2018/19 season is shown below and shows the traditional periodization through a series of 4-week “build” blocks leading up to our only “A” race this year- the World Masters Championships in Beitostolen. Norway in early March.

2018-2019 training plan. For a larger format view, ctrl-click on the image and select “open in new window” and then click the image.

In addition to the volume (V), intensity (I), and recovery (R) week indications, there is a bit more detail in this plan than I have shown in the past. The first additional detail is a row which shows targeted total hours of weekly training  and the second is a row showing estimated “intensity minutes” for the training week. “Intensity minutes” are the amount of time spent doing specific intensity workouts and are derived from a percentage of the total hours of training for a given week. We utilize suggested intensity proportions that Friel has found to work well with advanced athletes. Presented below is his chart for determining intensity time percentages as a function of what type of period one is executing upon. Time at intensity (intensity minutes) includes rest periods for whatever structure you are using. For instance a “lactate threshold” (LT) workout of 6 X 8 min with 3 min rest has 48 minutes at threshold work and 15 minutes of rest, so the total “intensity minutes” is 63 minutes. The weekly intensity sessions are designed to align with the percentages of intensity minutes in the table below.

Friel’s chart for determining intensity proportions as a function of type of period in a structure, periodized training protocol. See blog post here.

Friel has developed a system of periodization that includes base periods, two build periods, a peak period, and, finally, a race period. Build 2 is probably the most critical part of the program as it is the highest prolonged intensity training of the entire cycle. At 24% of total training time at zone 4 and above, this is a challenging period and one that I find to be what best prepares me for not only for racing but also in being able to absorb subsequent training efficiently and enjoyably.

As you will see in the training plan, I prefer to number all the build periods sequentially rather than have just two types- Build 1 and Build 2, where Build 1 introduces race specificity along with a few other elements and Build 2 focuses on race specificity whilst decreasing other elements. Instead I design each Build period according to the need as determined “on the fly” as there are so many extraneous factors that come into play during the season. However, the Build periods do not stray too far from what Friel suggests- I just tweak them for my personal needs.

We live in a “de-energized” nordic community where many formerly avid racers have gotten old and have selected to no longer race. These ‘oldsters” have not been replaced by younger racers because the area is so expensive to live in and the (few) jobs in the area do not pay sufficiently to offset the high cost of living in a ski resort. Accordingly, very few younger people have the wherewithal to select Sun Valley as a place to locate. All of this, of course, is in addition to the rarity of a nordic ski racer to begin with. As a result there is less energy for putting on races in the Sun Valley area and where in the past we typically had 4-5 races on the local trails we are now down to 1-2. So… Team Bumble Bee has devised a series of time trials that we schedule into our training plans. These TTs are on specific courses so we can track times and speeds over the years. We have two 10 km courses and an 18 km course that do a reasonable job of replicating what one might see at a World Masters race with  respect to climbs and downhills. The TTs play an integral part in determining our form and identifying any deficiencies that can be worked on in the coming weeks of training. Doing TTs is a very useful tool, particularly when you do not have many local or regional races to choose from.

Strength – the key to excellence in skiing

Strength has become a centerpiece of our training for a number of reasons. The three primary drivers are:

  1. As an aging athletes, we are fighting an important battle with the well-documented process of sarcopenia (loss of muscle) that is the result of hormonal changes as we age. Natural levels of human growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), and testosterone all are falling of at a fairly rapid rate. This puts strength work at the top of the training pyramid for aging athletes. Such strength work both builds muscle but also provides the body with the stimulus to produce the hormones and growth factor that would otherwise be absent.
  2. Cross country skiing has become an increasingly upper body/core-strength dominated sport. Advances in technique and equipment have allowed for increased reliance on the upper body muscle groups. A strong and durable upper body, connected via a similarly strong and durable core to the already well-developed lower body muscle groups is critical for fast and efficient skiing.
  3. One of the most significant elements that we, as aging athletes, lose is dynamic/explosive power. This ability is critical in the kick phase of classic skiing and the push-off phase in skate skiing. Maintaining and developing explosive power is a difficult thing for older skiers but one that, with properly designed strength exercises, can be straightforwardly accomplished, albeit with lower expectations that what one would have as a youngster.

Given these realities, our strength program is a year-round, intensive activity that is always in progression. There are a few periods of maintenance, but these are only during the most competitive periods, otherwise strength is playing a large role in the weekly plan.

We endorse a three-times weekly strength session protocol of between 60 minutes and 90 minutes (30-50 minutes during the race period). The protocol includes dynamic exercises that can be directly mapped onto motions and force production as similar to cross country skiing as is possible. Static exercises such as planks have no place in this program. Rather, a starting point of a plank may progress with a dynamic upper body movement in a way such that it approximates a specific cross country skiing movement. Similarly, pull-ups combined with a dynamic lower body movement are utilized. This theme permeates all of the exercises we do.

bietostolen race courses

The organizers at Beitostolen have done an outstanding job at selecting and documenting the races courses that will be used at the Masters World Cup. They probably have a large database course measurements to tap into since the site is also a World Cup venue and the courses therefore have been precisely measured for homologation with FIS. Leveraging these data for the Masters World Cup has led to some nice courses for competition at the masters level.

I summarized the FIS/World Masters Cross Country Ski Association (WMCCSA) requirements for the Masters World Cup last year and compared those requirements with the World Cup requirements. Table I presents the data and the comparison.

Table I. FIS and WMCCSA requirements for Masters World Cup events compared to requirements for FIS World Cup events.

Beitostolen have now provided their homologation certificates for each of the three courses that will be used during the 2019 Masters World Cup. The certificates are shown below for the most difficult  “A” course (World Cup Loop), the less difficult “B” course (Urban Loop), and the easy “C” course (Lake Loop or “geezer” course for F09 and older and M10 and older).

Here are the uphill summaries:

Course “A” (World Cup Loop):

Course “B” (Urban Loop):

Course “C” (Lake Loop):

The courses for the 5 km, 10 km, 15 km, 30 km, and 45 km races are built from combinations of the three course loops. The following course sequences will be utilized:

5 km: C

10 km: C-A

15 km: C-B-A

30 km: 2 X 15km (C-B-A-C-B-A)

45 km: 3 X 15 km (C-B-A-C-B-A-C-B-A)

The F09 and older and M10 and older only use the “C” course for their 5 km and 10 km race distances.

Looks like we will all be very familiar with the C-B-A combo by the end of the 2019 MWC!

The terrain summaries for each of the courses follows:

Course “A”:

Course “B”:

Course “C”:

It is a delight to have all of this information available so that one can simulate the courses on one’s home trails. We’ve already got some ideas for a couple of loops here in Sun Valey that might do a good job of mimicking the the “A” and “B” loops. The organizers, however, have not provided a summary of the height difference (HD), maximum climb (MC), and total climb (TC) for each of the race lengths. Table II is a summary of these data:

Table II. Height difference (HD), maximum climb (MC), and total climb (TC) for the three loop courses and the five race distances.

The organizers in Beitostolen have pretty much hit the specifications that the FIS and WMCCSA require (see Table I and Table II) for Masters World Cup events. The total climbing is similar to but slightly greater than that at the Klosters 2017 MWC (except for the 15 km where the Klosters 15 km course exceeded the FIS/WMCCSA limits for total climb) and much greater (by about a factor of about two) than the Minneapolis 2018 MWC. Minneapolis was challenged with low snow and the organizers were limited to trails that had snowmaking or that they could get snow to. As a result the lengths of the races and the climbs were reduced relative to what was planned. And, of course, there was the train that blocked the course in the 30 km/45 km classic races which in turn lead to further shortened races and less climbing. Bottom line for Beitostolen: focus on climbing because there will be a lot of it.

It will be interesting to see how the Beitostolen courses will ski. They appear to have good “rhythm” but you never know for sure until you ski a course.

Based upon inspection of the profiles, the 10 km course will not have a significant climb until about the 7.2 km point and after a downhill there is a steady climb to the finish for the last 600 m. It will be important to push these sections of the course as it might be hard to get away in the undulating terrain in the first 7 km.

Similarly, in the 15 km race there is no significant climb until about the 6.7 km mark. The course climbs sharply and then steadily for about 1.5 km so this will be a “crux” point in the race as after this climb there will not be another significant climb until about the 11 km mark and then the 600 m climb to the finish. Since the 30 km and 45 km races use the same loop sequence these observations apply to these races as well.

Focus, finesse, and finishes

In my wrap-up of the Minneapolis WMC, I noted that I was losing focus at points throughout the races, that I was not picking the best (or even just good) lines through turns, and I was not setting up properly for finishes as I lost two out of three sprints in the individual races. So the theme for Beitostolen will be race focus, trail finesse, and smart finishes. I’ve been actively working on all of these elements in training and hopefully it all comes to fruition in a series of races coming up in the next few weeks. If not- more work to do!

2 thoughts on “The Road to Beitostolen – looking forward to deep competition

  1. Thanks again for the great detail and information. It is always fascinating and informative to read your blog. Good luck with the race preparation.

Leave a Reply to Daniel Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.