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Athlete Diary: Ed - Starting fresh
By:  Edward McCarthy   (2006/07/04)

When I wrote my athlete diary going into the 2005-2006 season (here), I was looking forward to going out west in the early season to try for the World Cups, and to making a try for Canada's Winter Universiade team for this coming season. By the end of the season, I'd done a fair bit of racing, but not that much with which I was happy. What happened? I've decided that, while everyone can have a bad season and it's important to move on, before I move on I should look at my season and see what I did wrong, what I did right, and what I can take from the year to make myself a better skier. The idea that this is a good thing is very cliched and pretty much common sense, but it's so easy to look for circumstantial excuses that I think I've been neglecting a proper inspection. Here goes...

My training began very right. Coach John and I set goals for strength (to bench my own body weight) and for Z3 time trials (continual improvement). These went well, and I entered the fall feeling both fit and strong, on my training hours. I benched my weight at the beginning of September; this was very important to me, as someone with a historically weak upper body. I think it was at this point that I made my first major mistake. After reaching this goal, I neglected to set another one. Entering the fall, I had no short-term training goals, and my training began to lose focus. I also began taking a full course-load at Carleton for the first time since winter 2003. I think that either of these issues could have been overcome, but with both together I was in over my head. As I focussed more on school, I lost energy for training, as well as losing valuable recovery time. I've always been a firm believer that school and skiing need not be mutually exclusive, and I remain one, but I think it takes more discipline than I had.

When racing season began, I had strength and the fitness, but neither mental fitness nor sharpness. Having not been focussing on my intensity, I felt dull in races, and my technique was not what it should have been. From time to time I succeeded in getting my head in a race and feeling good, but the majority of my races were disappointing.

Now... what have I taken from the season?

First, my fitness and strength have carried over. As always, the base built over this past season has built on what was already there, leaving me a stronger foundation to build on. In addition, though I didn't maintain my strength as well as I should have over the winter, it is still better than it has ever been at the start of a season - so much so that by the end of June, I've already benched over my body weight. I intend to continue to work on this fitness and strength.

I've also learned the importance of focus in training. While I think it's important from a mental perspective to do some workouts with little direct relation to skiing, such as mountain biking, any workout which is either ski-related or intensity should be approached with the right attitude. I find it very easy to slip into conversation and forget about the technique I've just been working on, and this is a quick way to lose much of the benefit of a training session. The effect is similar for focussing on only one minute of a two-minute interval, which halves the training effect and promotes bad habits (at least for me!) in races.

With all this in mind, my goals for the summer's training are to maintain focus in specific workouts, to concentrate on technique, and to try to maximize recovery. Having less class hours come September won't hurt either!
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