Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hills Shall Be My Friend

Today is the 41st day that it has been over 80 degrees in Seattle.  I am suffering.  If I wanted to live in Texas, I would move there, but I do not; I want the misty gray dampness of the real Seattle back again.  I know it will come, eventually (maybe), so if I can just keep trying to slog through some workouts, I'll be that much ahead when fall weather comes back and I can actually stand to be outside.

And continuing to train matters; I'm registered for the American Birkebeiner and I just found out last week that I'm in the seventh wave after all, not the ninth, so I'm re-invigorated, re-inspired, to train as well as I can and be happy and have fun in my race.

The American Birkie is not the Norwegian Birkebeiner, with its three long steady climbs to mountain passes, nor is it the rolling flatness of the Swedish Vasaloppet.  No, the Birkie is hills, hills, lots of hills, more hills, another hill, and then some more hills, some longer than others, some steeper than others.  It looks like this ...

So I'm changing up my training this late summer and fall.  I'm a training junkie; I love to read training plans and training blogs and training stories, and I'm impressed by people who follow specific training plans prepared for them by professionals.  The Birkie website even offers a free online training plan, which is staggering in its specificity.  But none of those work for me; my work hours are too unpredictable to be able to commit to a regular Thursday evening bounding workout, for example, or Tuesday mornings in the gym.  So instead I wander, trying this, discarding that, somewhat aimlessly.

Comes Andrew Gerlach of with a training discussion of just the right amount of structure. He divides skiers into Type 1 (lots of speed, not much endurance) and Type 2 (lots of endurance, not much speed), then he offers general guidelines and prioritizes the critical workouts for both types, without being too hard-nosed about when and how you get them done.  I fall squarely into the Type 2 camp, and this is what he suggests:

Type 2 racer workout emphasis

First priority, two to four endurance sessions of 1 to 1.5 hours each per week in level 1 and 2 with 5-10 20second speeds included in half the sessions; one session per week of spenst and bounding. 

Second priority, shorter LT intervals such as 7x3 minutes at LT with equal recovery. 

Strength priority, max-strength weight work.

Hey, this I can believe in!  It's remarkably like the training I did with Martin when he lived here, which not coincidentally led to my best racing season ever, and it also falls into the guidelines JD Downing, from XCOregon, sent me when I complained about all the time I spend bike commuting.  My 1'45" round-trip bike commute most days of the week qualifies as perfectly adequate base training, and I can usually squeeze in one max-strength workout at the free gym one evening per week.

So that leaves the intensity training for the weekends.  This weekend I dusted off the workouts I used to do with Martin and headed for the hills, looking to get my heart pounding and my muscles burning.  Yesterday I biked to Woodland Park, found a good hill that was slightly less steep than the one I used with Martin ...

... and spent an hour or so on various bounding drills: ski walking, classic bounding, skate bounding, ski running (between walking and bounding) with 10-20 seconds of sprinting at the end of each one, and frog jumps.  Then I went over to the jungle gym and did some fake pull-ups, and then I biked home, to collapse in the shade with a huge bottle of cold recovery drink.  I'd rather be doing this workout on Wednesday evenings with Martin and Brad and Kyle, like the good old days, but that isn't going to happen anymore, so this will do.  Saturday morning is almost always available, and the workout is the same whether it happens on Wednesday night with the guys or Saturday morning by myself.

Today was roller ski interval day.  I drove to the locks, walked across with my skis in my hand, and rolled up to Discovery Park.  There I did a Lucky 21 workout: 3x7" uphill striding, followed by 7x3" uphill striding.

The last couple were starting to get really hard, which put a sweaty, satisfied smile on my face.  And I gave myself bonus points for the lock tender who said, as I walked back across after my workout, "Wow, I saw you walking across earlier and you've been out there a long time.  Bet you had a great workout!"  Indeed I did, Mr Friendly Lock Tender.

This weekend put some serious deposits into the fitness bank, for withdrawals next February at the Birkie.  Perhaps doing my intensity workouts on consecutive days is not optimal, but it's what I've got, and I'm telling myself that doing intervals on already tired legs will come in handy at about the 40k mark of the Birkie, when I still have lots of hills to go before I'm done.  I have a lot of confidence that this training so-called "plan," such as it is, will do me a lot of good, because it did before.  Now all I have to do is stick with it through the ups and downs of daily life!

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