11 March 2011

Marathon Cycle

My last 3 week training cycle was dictated by the previously mentioned Tartu- and Haanja cross-country skiing Marathons. This meant lowering the training volumes and having two really tough training-competitions.

On the first week I trained only as much as I needed to maintain the fitness level and just kept the body mobilized. Just for the sake of trying and finding out my body's reaction, I tried a short tapering. While reducing the amount of trainings, I had a very rich protein (and very low carbohydrate) diet 4-3 days before and a very rich carbohydrate diet on the last two days before the Tartu Marathon. This was supposed to create an increased need of carbohydrates on the first two days, then "overload" the energy depots on the last two days (especially on the last day), which eventually would create a longer lasting energy reserve. As for the race itself, I was rather skeptical of improving my last years 53rd place, since the competition was tougher than last year and I basically hadn't done any special trainings for this. I still had the plan of beating the best woman though. I started a bit more aggressively than last year, but still modestly and not lavishly. After 20 km, I reached for my first gel. As it was about -20°C, the gel was just about to freeze stone hard. I managed to warm it up in my mouth, but by the next gel-time they had totally frozen over. I had to settle for just drinking in the checkpoints. Before reaching the half way, I found myself skiing totally alone for about 10 km. I wondered where the promised ~4000 participants were. Then I started passing 5-headed groups and climbed with every checkpoint. As customary, my skis didn't glide well. I had to work really hard to leave my opponents behind. Eventually, there was one guy who passed me, otherwise I was the one passing others. The final place: 52nd!. Improved! The time of 3:04:18 is really fast, the track was like a railroad! Actually, what shows the actual improvement, is the ratio of my time compared to the winner. If last year it was 1,156 than this year it's 1,142. As for the tapering, I didn't feel any supernatural power, but I didn't feel any immense tiredness either. So it's hard to say if it gave any effect. Results

The first guy in a jacket
From Ardo Säks' gallery
It didn't take long to recover, so soon I was up and running again. The trainings continued in the good rhythm for more than a week. One "training" was watching the Oscar gala through the night. It was totally worth it! Despite waiting for the second skiing marathon, I put the main effort into running. It would be too late to train for it on the last week anyway... This time I didn't decrease the training volume that much, the second marathon would just be the main event of a rather difficult week.

After about 8 km
From Riho Lüüs' gallery
Just ahead of the Haanja Marathon I had my skis checked many times and had slight adjustments made to the grip zone, I didn't want to have bad skis once more. This time I needed help on the course, someone who would hand me my gels. On the last moment I lost my initial assistant, so I had to quickly look for a new one. Luckily Kerstin Uiboupin and her father were willing to help me. Thank you! If improving my TM place was a bit real, than this time beating my previous 13th place seemed utopic: a lot of Estonia's national team skiers were present, right from Holmenkollen's Championships and also other very strong skiers on the doorstep of the team. I didn't have a very good start, I was constantly in the wrong lane and often got tangled in slow groups. It didn't take long to see that again my skis didn't glide and the overall feeling was difficult. This was going to be one a helluva ride! I knew I had to withstand the first ~1/3 of the course, since it's the most difficult part, after that I could rest for a while. In reality there was no rest, because I had to work hard to keep up with others who had better skis. I was a part of a four-headed group for a long time. I had a lot of power going uphill, but it was of no use since I got caught up again on the plain. The course had a new ~5 km part this year, I remember my brother telling me about a difficult key climb. It starts with a very difficult steep slope, using the herringbone technique and after that continues with a gentler slope. I used it tactically: since the group didn't want to get left behind, I planned to torch them. I ran quickly up the steeper part and then tiredly skied as fast as I could on the skiing part of the climb. It worked - they were too tired to do the same. I went on alone and after the last vital service point, I finally started seeing opponents to catch. On a long climb, I passed a very familiar face, it was Peeter Kümmel (this year 6th in sprint)! I went as fast as I could on the uphills and hoped that he wouldn't catch me. Unfortunately the last km-s are basically double poling, which gave him the advantage. Not that he's slow on climbs or anything, it's just that my arms are weaker and my skis were worse. He was very close and I intended to fight til the finish. But about 500 m before, he made it clear who's a better skier and left me behind. Finished at 18th place with 2:18:49, 8 seconds behind Peeter and 9:37 behind the winner Algo Kärp. This was the most difficult race of the last three and also the best. Though I've been 17th and 13th, the time ratio shows definite improvement. 1,120 -> 1,079 -> 1,075. The last ratio doesn't show it that much, as the best skiers were much stronger than last year. One example is that last years 2nd place was 12th this year. But this is just speculation. In the finish I briefly spoke to Peeter and he told me that if we would have traded skis on the course, I would have beaten him with 10 minutes (joke of course). Anyway, the most important race of the winter is over and I got very positive feedback from it. Results, map of the course

Strange posture and proof that I was ahead of Peeter Kümmel
From this gallery

This was the last race with these skis. No matter which weather or which wax, they don't work! For the next season, I'll look for better ones and maybe finally step into a fair fight.

Concerning the near future, the next cycle will be very different from the last. Wintertime is over!