For the past couple
of weeks, the Norwegian Men's National Team has been training in
Park City. The came here for three weeks of high altitude training
and also to get familiar with the Soldier Hollow trails and surrounding
area. The more you know about an area: its food, its weather, its
accommodations, etc. the better prepared you will be when you go
there to race. So the Norwegians have been inspecting Utah, trying
to leave very few surprises for this winter's world cup race and
the 2002 Olympics.
Since they are not
very familiar with this area, some of the local skiers here have
been invited to join them on occasion to show them a good run or
rollerski route. Since I have been out of town, or more recently
sick, I had not had the chance to train with them until today. But
finally I had my chance to jump into a rollerski interval session
with the best skiers in the world. All the famous names were there,
with the notable exception of one Bjorn Daehlie, who is not technically
on the Norwegian National Team due to his semi-retired status (which
means that he'll only win 5 World Cup races a year instead of 10).
We started the workout
with half an hour of warm up skiing. I jumped in behind the train
of Norwegians and tried to study every movement as much as I could.
I am still recovering from a week-long sickness, so I didn't plan
on actually doing the intervals, so this would be my best chance
to follow and observe. After 30 minutes, we all pulled over, did
a little stretching, and listened to two coaches explain the workout
in Norwegian. Then, kind of lackadaisically, the skiers made their
way back onto the road and took off one by one. It was so nonchalant,
that I just assumed that they were simply doing a little bit of
speed before jumping into the intervals. So I decided that I would
try to hang with quite possibly the best sprinter in the world,
THomas Alsgaard. At first I was not impressed, after twenty seconds,
I was still right behind him. "That's not a very fast sprint,"
I was thinking. But then another twenty seconds went by, then twenty
more. Soon I realized that we weren't sprinting, we were in the
middle of a four minute interval. I hadn't planned on doing intervals,
but I also was not going to just stop and let Alsgaard ski away.
I hung tough. For three minutes I stayed on his heels, building
my confidence and probably annoying him. He pulled away some in
the final seconds, but I was happy with my performance. He was definitely
faster than me, but the gap was not as big as we, in this country,
are led to believe it should be. I desperately wanted to do more,
but since I was still feeling the remaining effects of my cold,
I did not want to overdue it. I decided to just ski easy and watch
as the skiers went by me. What really surprised me was that Alsgaard
also called it quits after one interval. Apparently I was too much
for him! The thought that kept coming back to me as I watched the
best skiers in the world was that, yes, they are better than we
are. But the difference was not nearly as big as I had been led
to believe it was. Granted, I was making this judgment after one
workout, where I did exactly one interval, but still my confidence
was boosted greatly by what I saw.
The Norwegians are
leaving tomorrow, so today was our last chance to kick their butts.
They were doing a 7.5K running time trial on the trails at Soldier
Hollow and invited us to jump in with them. So Justin Wadsworth,
Scott Loomis, Erik Stange, and myself all gave it a shot. Before
the start the Norwegian coaches explained (at least as it was translated
to me) that it was NOT a race. We were all to push the uphills,
and back off slightly (to level III or so) on the flats and downhills,
making it more of a natural interval session. My first thought was
"Great! Now if I go all out the whole way, I might be able
to keep up!"
For the first K or
so of the workout, everything seemed to be going as planned. We
were all still in a large group, though I admit I was near the back.
But soon, I realized these guys were just too competitive with each
other to adhere to what their coaches said. They were definitely
hammering the uphills, but there was no letting up on the flats
or downs either. This was a full-on race. I was running as fast
as I could on the brutal Soldier Hollow trails. I was ahead of two
or three of the Norwegians (there were about 15 of them total) and
trying to stay within striking distance of those ahead of me. Meanwhile,
Justin Wadsworth was right up near the leaders and Scott Loomis
was in the main pack. I finished near the back, but I have never
been a fast runner. It made me feel good to see that the people
who usually beat me in running workouts, Scott and Justin, were
competitive with the best skiers in the world.
So I only got to do
two workouts with the Norgies, but it was enough to tell me this:
Yes they are very good, but that level of performance is attainable
with the right training and support. It just means that we have
a lot of work to do.
I had planned to go
for a two hour rollerski workout this morning, but when I climbed
out of bed, I found that I just couldn't do it. No, I wasn't overly
tired and I wasn't having a motivational crisis. I just couldn't
do it because there was a foot of snow outside our house! The forecast
last night said "maybe a few inches in the mountains,"
but this was a full-on winter storm. It continued snowing throughout
the morning with no signs of letting up. I began thinking that if
we had a foot of snow outside our house, then there must be at least
a couple feet up on the ridge behind our house. So I recruited a
couple of friends, gathered up some rock skis, and drove up Guardsman
Pass to get in the first ski of the year - in September! When I
was in college I came out west to train one fall and had been amazed
that my teammate Colter and I were able to ski on October 12th on
a pass outside Jackson, WY. That was the earliest I had ever been
on snow (in the northern hemisphere). But this was a full two weeks
before that. I was mildly disappointed when we reached the ridge
and found that there was probably LESS snow up there, but I was
not going to let minimal snow stop me, especially since I had my
rock skis on. We set off on a jeep trail that traversed the ridge.
For the most part the skiing was good, except that every few strides,
I would get snagged on a rock and throw off my balance. I would
say a little prayer for my quickly deteriorating skis and move on.
We skied for two and a half hours, getting in an amazing backcountry
tour for September. I was so psyched. Maybe touring around on backcountry
skis wasn't the best training I could have done, but it was a lot
more fun than running in the snow and it got me to start thinking
ahead to winter.
Today was much nicer
than yesterday, with bright blue skies, sunshine, crisp air, and
white snow covering the fall foliage. It warmed up quickly this
morning but there was still too much snow to do much "real"
training, so I decided to go skiing again. The golf course in Park
City wa still covered and the manicured grass underneath meant that
even if I did go through to ground, it would not damage my skis.
I skied in a 25 minute
loop, careful to avoid tees and greens that I might damage, which
I circled around three or four times. By now it was probably 60
degrees and the sun was eating away the snow in a hurry. My tracks
were now nothing but slush and grass. I tried to ski in another
loop, but by the second time around, it was already complete mush.
But I pressed on and managed to ski for three hours. A three hour
OD on snow in September! Unheard of. After this weekend, I was content
to go back to rollerskiing for another month or so because I had
my first taste of winter and I knew the real thing couldn't be far