It’s been a long time since I last posted. This post is clearly not going to be an all-encompassing review of everything I’ve done over the last two and a half months. My goal is simply to give a broad update of my training and to upload the best of the pictures that I’ve taken, so I can get back on a semi-regular blogging schedule.
After the conclusion of the World Cup season, my teammates and I headed to Craftsbury, Vermont for the US Super Tour Finals, the final event of the domestic racing calendar. After a long winter in Europe, it is often hard to motivate for one more week of racing at home, but it is a great opportunity to race against the domestic field and to see so many friends that we haven’t seen all winter long.
For me Craftsbury was a mixed bag. I paced the 15 kilometer skate race at the beginning of the series too aggressively. I started to fade on the last lap but held on for a narrow win thanks to Northern Michigan University’s Adam Martin, who started 30 seconds ahead of me and whom I had caught earlier in the race. When I started to slow on the last lap, Adam took the lead and showed me the pace I needed to ski. The second race of the series, a classic sprint, was my first opportunity since the Gallivare FIS races in November to ski in sprint heats. It was fun and a learning opportunity, but I didn’t make it through my quarterfinal, finishing fourth in my heat. The third race in Craftsbury was the National Championship Club Mixed-gender Relay. Since Ski and Snowboard Club Vail didn’t have any women in Craftsbury, Tad Elliott and I teamed up with two women from the Craftsbury club for an “illegitimate” team. Because we weren’t eligible for prize money or results, I took the opportunity to try double poling the 5 kilometer course on skate skis. I had never previously double poled a distance race. Because the course was fairly flat, I wasn’t even sure it would be slower than classic skiing but in retrospect it was. However, I learned a lot about double poling distance races. It was hard at the beginning but your arms recover faster than your legs or cardiovascular system, and I felt like I was fully recovering on the downhills more than I would have if I’d been classic skiing. I fell way behind on the first lap, but came back through some skiers on the second lap. The final race of the series was the important one, the 50 kilometer national championship race. We started in the afternoon in some of the slowest conditions I’ve ever raced in. The eventual winning time was an astronomical 2 hours and 44 minutes. The race was 15 laps of a 3+ kilometer loop. I felt very good for the first 10 laps. I had skied away from the field without putting in a deliberate attack. However, I didn’t feed well enough to match my aggressive skiing, and at the end of the race I suffered the worst sugar bonk of my career. In the final four laps I lost upwards of eight minutes on eventual winner Erik Bjornsen. I was seeing blurry and shaking. It was an awful feeling, and again, I learned a lot.
From Craftsbury I headed to Colorado to get the hardware removed from my left ankle. A plate, several screws and an artificial ligament had been in there since December 2014 after I broke my fibula in Kuusamo, Finland. Dr. Thomas Clanton of The Steadman Clinic, who did the original surgery and helped me get back for the 2015 World Championships, removed the hardware in a short and easy surgery. Physical therapist Ana Robinson helped me through the short recovery. I was weight-bearing after only a couple of days and out of the boot after only a week and a half. In two weeks I could do all activity except running, which I could do after six weeks. Once again, I am indebted to Dr. Clanton and Ana as well as my mom and the Ryerson family in Vail for helping me through another successful surgery and recovery.
While in Colorado I was able to spend some quality time with my grandmother. My grandfather passed away in March, and it was hard to be at their house without him. However, it was so nice to spend time with my grandmother and to see the incredible support that she is receiving from everybody in her life.
After completing the necessary physical therapy I headed to Aspen to meet with my coaches Zach Caldwell, who flew in from Vermont, and John Callahan, who lives in Aspen. As we do each year, we reviewed the last twelve months, discussing what went right and what went wrong in my skiing and my life, and made a plan for the future. In discussing the last twelve months, we talked about the posture project that I did last spring, which was a partial success, and all of the technique work that Zach and I did over the last twelve months, which was almost a complete failure. We talked about my results from the winter, which were more consistent than ever before with eight top-25 results on the World Cup, but which were very disappointing because there were no standout performances, and most of all, we talked about the fact that my training load over the last year had dropped significantly (to only 678 training hours) because we had pursued so many goals like the posture project and travel to snow that had required lowering the training load.
Looking ahead, we made some plans that are very different from what I’ve done in the past. My goal going into the meetings was to make a plan that was different enough from what I’ve done in the past that I could expect different results because I’m not interested in continuing to ski if 20th place on the World Cup continues to be a great day. Over the last five years I have prioritized improving my weaknesses (technique, strength and power) over improving my strengths (my aerobic capacity). This year, John and Zach and I decided to let me train the way I’ve always wanted to train, which is to say hard and a lot, without worrying much about my weaknesses and deficiencies as an athlete. This training season we are going to do very little technique work and travel. I will not be taking trips to Vermont for “technique blocks” and I will not be seeking out on-snow opportunities in addition to two U.S. Ski Team camps. I will not be travelling to train with other athletes, and I will not be doing many fun weekend trips. Instead, I’m going to take all of those extra days and train significantly more. My goal is to train around 1000 hours this year. The idea is that if I can become one of the fittest athletes on the world cup, which I believe I can, then I can win on the right day, even if I can’t win when the race is more about speed or finesse than fitness. With this plan we are still being mindful of the need to monitor training and energy levels. I’m training in new 2-week blocks, each of which will be broken down into three 3-day blocks, each separated by a single recovery day, followed by three days of recovery at the end of the two weeks. I am continuing to collect heart rate data every night to monitor heart rate variability scores. My big days are not getting any bigger than they have been in the past, there are just more of them and fewer junk days. In addition to this new volume plan, my coaches and I, along with U.S. Ski Team strength coach Tschana Schiller, have developed a new strength program for the year. We have developed a series of 30 minute strength programs that I am doing four to five times a week first thing in the morning, separate from two aerobic sessions on those days. The strength sessions are short but very intensive. They are focused around challenging body weight core and upper body exercises. After having purchased some equipment, I can do these sessions at home and do not need to go to the gym at all this summer. I am very excited about the entire plan that my coaches and I developed in Aspen.
After meeting in Aspen, Zach and I swung by Montrose, Colorado to see my parents new house then picked up Zach’s wife and son in Grand Junction before heading to Moab, Utah for a week of riding mountain bikes. I’ve been riding bikes in Moab since I was ten years old, but I hadn’t been in a long time. In the five days we were there we hit many of the great trails, and I had so much fun relearning the incredible network.
From Moab I headed back to Park City to really begin the training season. I did three big weeks of training before taking off for my only true vacation of the year, a five day trip to Holbox Island, Mexico. The vacation was everything I dreamed it would be. Holbox is primarily a nature reserve and I had a ton of fun exploring it.
After returning from Mexico I headed to Bend, Oregon for the first U.S. Ski Team camp of the year. My teammates and I came into the camp ready to work as a team to get better, and we did a better job of pushing each other and training together than we had ever done before. The skiing at Mt. Bachelor was really good, and overall it was the best U.S. Ski Team camp of my career.
I am now back in Park City getting into the meat of the training season.
Here are some pictures from the last three months: