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Season of David - Part XXV
By:  David Zylberberg   (2003/10/14)

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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.

To begin this week I should apologize for the delay on this being posted at xcottawa.ca. Craig Storey, our web editor, is away for a week to attend a friend's wedding and then climb Mount Whitney (highest peak in continental US). As a result he may not be near a computer to post this on Tuesday. For a while I had been thinking about going to Hamilton for this weekend to watch the bike race. Then I realised that television coverage is better in some ways and going to Hamilton was not the best idea in my preparations for ski season. Instead, I went to Sudbury to visit family and enjoy the outdoor activities that the Nickel Belt provides.

On Saturday, the members of the NADC participated in an uphill running time trial in Ottawa. Since I was not around and Sudbury has no hills that take over 10 minutes to run, I had to find an alternative intensity workout. Rob Bewick of NTDC Thunder Bay was doing some Z4 uphill bounding intervals at Nordic Hill so I joined him. It was the hardest workout I have done in a long time. We did 5 intervals, which is hard but not unusual. What made it hard was the effort we both put in. I wanted to start the first one easy but the hill was so steep that I got frustrated with my slow speed and we ended up being at a near all-out effort (Rob hit 94% of max heart rate). Then we started going hard. After the 3rd and 4th intervals it took me at least 20 seconds of collapse at top of hill before I could walk back down and Rob was nearly maxing out his heart rates. The competition between us meant that neither would allow the other to get away and both wanted to drop the other so that we hit intensities that are rarely hit in training and may be harder than the Uphill time trial (it was harder than the one I did in September). Also, I had forgot that Nordic Hill is a hard one. My last year of high school I thought it was nothing special because it takes 2:30 to go up all out and other places have longer hills. I have since done workouts on Mount Mackay and Penguin which are longer and thought them to be harder then Nordic Hill. Then, I returned to Sudbury and tried Nordic again. It may be short but it is viciously steep and has some changes in gradient. It felt like racing at high altitude with the pain, oxygen debt and slow speeds, because it was so steep. But we did a hard workout on it and survived to fight another day after 5 good intervals.

That brings me to this week's topic, training with others. Training with others has its advantages and disadvantages. First of all, training in a group makes it more likely to have a coach present, which is useful for technique and corrections in how the workout is being done. Also, it allows for the creation of some very good workouts for speed and strength that cannot be designed for one person. It can also, lead to having more people to push you in situations where this is required. Another aspect of training in a group is that, when done well, one becomes more comfortable skiing behind others and in a pack which are useful skills for mass-start racing. Furthermore, tactics can be learned by doing intervals against others. The most common disadvantages include racing easy workouts. I have not seen this among senior skiers in this country but when it occurs it can be detrimental and those workouts may be better done alone. A problem I often see is that in a group everyone trains too slowly and does not get the proper training benefits. Another problem is when people become too social and lose focus on the workout. These happen frequently and make it more efficient to do some workouts alone.

I have been doing about half of my workouts with others this fall and have a few thoughts on the subject. I find that I generally go too slowly on distance training with others and don't get heart rates into zone 1 (they are too low) so I have stopped wearing a heart rate monitor on easy training to avoid frustration. I also find that I cannot always push as hard with others around and occassionally get discouraged. By the same token, I have learned many weaknesses from training with others and have gone back and improved them on my own. I have also done some well-designed workouts that were very beneficial but required others. Generally, it is good to consider the benefits sought from a workout and the nature of the group when deciding if a workout is better performed in a group or alone.

Training alone, meanwhile, has the advantage of being done at exactly one's pace and in the manner that suits one's weaknesses. I have made large fitness improvements doing a lot of easy distance on my own since I do not get caught up in others or worry about going too fast for them. For optimal improvements a balance is best.

I would also like to mention the atmosphere of a good team. Many skiers look fondly upon varsity programs because of their enjoyable atmospheres. This year at Carleton we have a good atmosphere that has improved greatly over the last few years. The combination of elite skiers and less serious racers is working to not impede training while being enjoyable. This is a very good situation and one that if people are careful to retain the proper balance should be beneficial to all. It also allows the top skiers to work of the strengths of others since some of the young guys are particularly good at something and can challenge us on those workouts. It also makes it more interesting to have a large group for cooling down after hard workouts since it is just very slow running anyway.

I hope these thoughts can help lead you towards the correct balance and that you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving.

 
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