Given that skiing is different from any dryland training methods, most skiers find that they need some time adjusting to snow before they are ready to race. In order to do this early skiing, the members of XC Ottawa, accompanied by coaches Pavol Skavridlo and John Langstone, travelled to Foret Montmerency north of Quebec from November 16 to 25.
The skiing had been good earlier in the month but due to unseasonably warm temperatures, it was marginal upon arrival. Yet in the second half of the week we were able to classic ski on hard wax for many hours a day. Given that this was a week off of work and school, we were determined to ski a lot and take advantage of this opportunity to get the feel back for snow before the major races in December.
It was an interesting camp and very different from training camps I have attended or know of in the rest of the country. As our priority was to get in a lot of skiing in order to adapt to snow, we skied for 4-5 hours every day with one day off in the middle, giving me a total of 29 hours and others more. As well, Pavol is of the belief that a lot of skiing can be done effectively if you are eating during very long workouts. So we would stop every hour or so to grab energy bars, tea, coffee, honey, molasses and other foods to keep up our energy stores. I have not tried this in the past but it seemed to work in that I felt better for having done it, had energy to last the whole time and was able to handle the entire training load.
While we were in Quebec, many North American racers chose to race in Silver Star, British Columbia. Though Silver Star has many advantages for early season training, we did not feel that this was the best option for a number of reasons and chose Foret Montmorency instead. The biggest priority in November is getting in kilometres in order to adjust technique to snow, and having major races at the end of the week is not conducive to heavy training. In addition, Silver Star is at a fairly high altitude and hard terrain, requiring low speeds in order to ski at low enough heart rates to not overtire. By training on flatter terrain at lower altitude we were able to ski faster for the same effort, thereby allowing for better technique and better muscular training. This faster skiing should hopefully benefit us with improved technique and speed. As such we were able to train better by going to Quebec without pressure and just skiing for a week.
Another benefit of training through the month of November is an improved training base going into race season. In order to race fast, you must ski less and rest around major races. Doing so does not include enough training to adequately maintain endurance and strength, both systems that are useful for racing fast. As a result, they tend to decrease during the racing season and can lead to decreased performance and a burnout feeling towards the end of the season. By training through the month of November, we were able to work on endurance, both improving it and delaying its decay, which should be useful preparation given that Canadian Nationals are in March.
Following this heavy volume week, we returned to Ottawa and our lives and are currently resting in preparation for the Continental Cups in Thunder Bay and Telemark.