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Season of David - Part XXII
By:  David Zylberberg   (2003/09/23)


The following "The Season of David" article is part of a weekly series by the "infamous" David Zylberberg, one of the original members of XC Ottawa. He is the writer of numerous amusing and sometimes controversial articles which have been the subject of much discussion within the Canadian cross-country racing community over the last 8 months. Hopefully, it will be the source of much entertainment while you are putting off work,school, or chores. David's articles will be candid and will not be censored by the editors of XC Ottawa. (At least not usually) Please address your comments and questions directly to David.

Saturday September 20 was the annual Fall Rhapsody Mountain Running Race at Camp Fortune in Gatineau Park. The previous two editions have been the Eastern Canadian Mountain Running Championships but this year was not. Initially it was scheduled to be run as a second event in conjunction with a major duathlon in Ottawa. After the duathlon was cancelled, the running race decided to scale back its organization since it did not have the participants necessary for champion chip timing and high entry fees. The race was then run without entry fees with participants showing up ready to race for 9:00 AM and a timer at the finish. I would like to thank David McMahon and XCZONE for doing a good job organizing the race.

The course was one of the best I have ever seen for running. It contained a wide variety of terrain from a few flats, gradual uphills/downhills, steep straight climbs/descents, twisty trails run almost exclusively on single-track. The course was 14 km as opposed to the 10 and 11 km of previous years and contained many more very challenging climbs. I know Ottawa is not thought of as Mountains for running, but this course had 4 very steep and long climbs with many other short challenging sections and often required walking or using hands to climb. 14 km is also a distance that is in between a normal distance and a long race so that pacing and reserves start to be factors.

Karl Saidla started the race fairly fast, led early and split the field to be on his own within 10 minutes. I was not doing great at this point and suffered to stay with Arno Turk in 2nd and 3rd on the uphills. Then suddenly after 25 minutes my legs felt better and I was able to climb well, dropped Arno and started gaining on Karl. Karl continued to descend well and put more time into me. After a little confusion, just before the hour mark the lead pack contained 3 runners (Karl, myself and Gavin Hamilton of the Carleton Varsity Ski Team). I started the last major climb (this one was vicious) about 5 seconds behind but closed that gap fast. Then I caught and passed Karl and took off on the uphill. He was starting to suffer in the way many skiers do towards the end of a 30 or 50km race. He was trying hard but just could not accelerate, but he gained some on the downhill into the finish. I managed to hold him off and won by 5 seconds in a time of 1:08:31. Gavin had an impressive performance and shows good potential for a first year athlete, but suffered on that last climb to come 4th, 2 minutes down. Arno Turk of XCOTTAWA showed the toughness and intelligence of an experienced skier and finished 3rd, about a minute off me and Karl. These mental skills of Arno=s are partly why he is such a good skier at 50km=s. I am pleased with this result since it is the first time in my life that I have won a running race. Also, my ability to push well over many climbs, recover on downhills and maintain speed show some fitness that I hope translates into skiing.

I would also like to give one caution to readers. It seems that I am frequently mentioning races that I am doing in the summer, giving the impression that this is the bulk of my training. It is not. I have been racing around twice a month this year and training effectively through these races. I mention them because they are the most interesting things I do and the events I learn most from. For a more complete explanation of the role of summer racing, please consult Part X. Remember too that these fitness gains I believe myself to be making are the result of systematic ski-specific training and not a focus on running or tapering for these races.

That said, I would like to discuss cross country running for ski racers. Cross Country Running is a very good sport that is widely participated in by high school students. Its challenges are somewhat like skiing, especially when the courses are hilly. It is an enjoyable and effective way to do some high intensity training and prepare for the upcoming racing season. But there are some things to be careful of, in order to most effectively use cross-country running to ski faster. First of all, running races are all out efforts and hard workouts. Because of their difficulty they must replace one of the weekly intensity workouts. When I was a junior, this was not always recognized so we would often end up doing intervals on Tuesday and Thursday with a running race on Wednesday. This led to all the hard workouts being done a little worse, minimal distance training being done and the running races not being raced well. There is no point racing if you are not putting in a full effort. It will give few benefits, cause you to lose respect around school and lead to bad mental habits for ski season. A good idea for juniors would be to use the mid-week running race as one intensity workout, with a ski-specific one on the weekend and effective distance and strength training on the other days.

Another thing to be wary of is the desire to be at your very best every race. If skiing is the biggest priority, you can run fast but will not be able to peak in fall or win every race. Many skiers become pre-occupied with the importance of every race and try to train less for a few days leading into it. This does not work well if there is a race every week in October and your focus is in March. You must train effectively through these running races if ski season is the major focus. Now, there are ways to train effectively while still racing reasonably well. One advantage is that training should make you fitter, leading to better racing. I would also like to reiterate the suggestion of effectively periodising the week so that the legs are rested for the running race. One thing I often do now, is to place a workout that is almost exclusively upper body (some kinds of strength, paddling, double pole, classic roller skiing) the day before a running race so that I can train effectively the day before while still resting the legs for the race.

I hope these ideas can help you run well this fall without sacrificing winter ambitions.

Interesting Reading. . .
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