Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday, whether it was crushing a training block at camp, indulging in great food and company, or dominating the local Turkey Trot!
For my holiday, Adam and I headed down to Syracuse where I spent the weekend eating three varieties of pie with every meal, and getting incredibly sore from throwing around the football (let’s just say I’m a nordic skier for a good reason!). This Thanksgiving was notable for me, because it was the first time since 7th or 8th grade that I have not spent the holiday at a training camp. It felt a bit weird to not be on snow, but spending time with family and getting caught up on some sleep and relaxation felt pretty good too!
Now, with the lethargy of overindulgence finally starting to wear off, I have been thinking ahead to the first races of the season, and how different I feel heading into this winter than previous years. The main difference is that I have absolutely no idea what to expect.
For the past 10 years, my training has followed a similar pattern and even if the exact results were never a given, I at least had some idea of how I would stack up generally against the field. This year however, the uncertainty of how things will go is a bit daunting.
What exactly is so different between what I’m doing now and training for the SuperTour? There is a lot to that question that I won’t be able to answer until the end of the season, but I wanted to at least take a stab at highlighting some of the main differences between preparing for the SuperTour/World Cup full time and training for domestic marathons.
To start, training is not the focal point of my daily life, it is just another piece of a busy puzzle. I don’t “eat, sleep, train, repeat” with anywhere near the same intensity as before. Which is as it should be! My mentality towards the season is also different because the focus is much more on the community that ski racing brings together, rather than striving for an individual result. Generally, things are just a lot less intense, with more time to spend not focused on skiing and more time to explore a new lifestyle.
As I mentioned, the physical training is entirely different. For me that means it’s a bit sporadic, not well periodized and entirely imperfect.
I think this is something a lot of you reading will probably be able to relate to. I have a newfound appreciation for dedicated endurance athletes who are able to train while juggling work, family, social outings, ‘me-time’ plus many more demands on the precious few hours of the day. It is really hard! After a day of work, I can be absolutely zonked, and the last thing I want to do is get out the door and plod along for ninety minutes, much less do structured training like intervals. And some days, I just don’t.
(Cruising in the bike lane - Exercising with so many people and so much traffic is something I’m still getting used to).
That’s both the benefit and struggle of training alone and not with a team with a structured plan. On the one hand, I can give myself a bit of a break now and then and not force myself to do a workout. On the other hand however, it can be really easy to slip into a pattern of bailing on workouts that I probably should have pushed myself to do.
While I was training for SuperTour, I often craved the spontaneity that unstructured training allowed; the ability to enjoy a relaxed morning, do a big adventure without worrying about the consequences, or just not do anything when I was feeling unmotivated. At the same time, I thrived off of that structure, and it helped keep me accountable during those times when motivation was low.
Now, the only person I am accountable to is me and finding ways to stay motivated while also letting myself live outside the strictness of “training” is a delicate balance.
One thing I have found helpful is to prioritize 2-3 workouts during my week. If I do nothing else except nail those three workouts, I can call the week a success. This was a strategy in my tool box as a SuperTour racer that allowed me to still have productive weeks when I was struggling, either with motivation, fatigue or some other distraction.
(Another perk of retirement training is being able to ride my bike more than I ever have, and cycling comes with the added perk of having “coffee rides” which I’ve decided is nearly every ride I do. Because why not.)
In this new phase of ‘retirement training’, I try to be active everyday, and I still shoot for 6 days of ‘training’/week. But that isn’t always realistic, and sometimes we have to work with what we’ve got and be ok with imperfection.
Here are the three workouts that I try to do every week:
Intensity: Ideally one aerobic intensity session, so something like 6-8x8min or 5-7x10min. Longer aerobic (L3) intensity is important for building a bigger fitness base, or keeping the one you already have from disappearing. If I am short on time, I will opt for shorter but higher intensity intervals like 400m repeats on the track, or 2x(6x90sec) hill running/bounding. These are good because they reward pacing (good for marathon efforts) and they also target your top-end fitness and VO2 max.
Strength: Strength is such a huge part of skiing, and it is really important to maintain core and upper body strength. This fall, I have been managing a nagging hip injury (one of those big adventure consequences) and so I have been prioritizing a lot of stabilizing strength to ward off any further injuries. I was lucky enough to have the GRP strength coach, Will Ruth, write me a plan to follow into the season, and so far, I have been enjoying each lift and feeling stronger every week! I always target my upper body and core, because I tend to lose muscle there quicker and I will need all that strength to power through 50ks later in the year!
Longer Aerobic Training:In general, if you are competing in longer races, you should be training more than if you are competing in shorter races. Marathons require a strong endurance base and therefore a good amount of training needs to be longer aerobic sessions. This is one part of training I have been struggling with a lot, mostly because it requires a lot of time. Even a two hour training session can be tough to fit into the day along with two jobs and basic daily tasks. Enter the weekend warrior! I try to get in at least one 3+ hour easy distance session every week.
(this summer one of my long adventures was a two-day run, with 67 miles of beautiful mountain running and an overnight camp in between. My dad was kind enough to hike in my overnight gear so I didn’t have to carry it while I ran. I had never run this far before, and I was stoked to do it on a whim and not really worry about the ‘after’).
It is also hard to do these workouts alone most of the time, especially when it is a bit more of a production to find safe rollerskiing or enough dirt for a longer run (anything over 1.5hr on pavement ruins me). I try as much as I can to keep things interesting and keep the motivation high.
A few weekends ago, I headed to New Hampshire for a little weekend getaway and did two long runs with a night of camping in between. Calling it running is a bit generous, as is most trail running in New England, especially once it starts to get a bit icy, and although the westerner in me continues to be baffled at the lack of switchbacks, it was a lovely little getaway from the noise and bustle of Boston.
(The view from the top of Mt. Canon)
(A lovely waterfall heading up to Franconia Ridge)
(The “trail”. No, I did have my microspikes, just good agility!).
With those three target workouts in mind, as I get closer to the competition season I am trying to focus my training goals and add a bit more ski specific training to the mix. Overall this summer and fall, I have not done much rollerskiing, and while my elbows are thanking me for it, I have been adding it back to my training repertoire once or twice a week to make sure I haven’t completely forgotten how to ski. I am also aiming to consistently add another long session and another intensity session to my weekly training.
The second thing that is very different about going into this season is my mentality. Skiing and racing this season is above all a privilege and a fun adventure. I didn’t think that I would be supported as a racer once I moved away from the SuperTour scene, so I’m really quite excited to keep doing what I love.
As I’ve said previously, I felt like I had lost a bit of that fire that made me love skiing and ski racing so much. My goal for any race I do this year is to enjoy myself. Again, I have no idea what that will look like. I am still extremely competitive and don’t know if I know how to wear a bib without also wanting to be the best across the line. Working towards relinquishing a bit of that competitiveness and “high expectations at all costs” will be crucial to rediscovering that childlike joy in skiing again.
I want to do well but more than that I want to have fun doing it. The mentality piece is one that will be the hardest to adapt to, but I’m confidently hoping that the energy and passion that YOU will bring to some of these citizens’ races will help me get there.
My goals for supporting this new approach to skiing are simple but important:
Be ok with imperfection: don’t let perfect the enemy of good.
Embrace spontaneity: Lean into the freedom from strict structure
Be kind to myself: I am my biggest critic, which means I can also be my biggest supporter and cut myself some slack for not being perfect!
Simple, but powerful reminders that progress , and just life in general, isn’t linear and that anything you love doing should build you up instead of breaking you down.