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Season of David - Part XI
By:  David Zylberberg   (2003/07/08)

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The followingis the first in a series of weekly articles 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. While David does not possess an advanced degree in physiology or sports science, hopefully the articles 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.

Before I get into the main events and topic of this week, there is an incident that I would like to relate. On Thursday evening I was skate rollerskiing on my own up on Tilton Lake Road. After almost an hour I fell on a flat and when looking at my equipment realized an unusual problem. Ski boots have a screw at the front that connects the hard plastic sole to the boot part. I had managed to wear away all the material around this screw as well as the other connecting material so that my boot was no longer connected to the sole near the binding. This meant that I could not control the ski (since my foot had no effect on it) causing this minor fall. I then called my brother Joel who picked me up since I was a little ways from home. I mention this because I have never heard of it happening before and found it interesting. I knew the boots were getting worn down but did not believe something like this was possible. I remember those being my first top of the line pair of boots (purchased in December 1997) and winning my first, and so far only, National Championship on those boots.

Other than freak occurances, the main event of my week was participating in the Firecracker 5km Running Race on Tuesday. I raced hard and was in second place (with one other runner) at 3.5 km when I blew up because I was not used to having high lactates for that long. I ended up fininshing in 17:06 which, though slow, is 30 seconds better than last year, despite a more spectacular blow up.

Racing in the summer can be a useful training tool but is also one to be cautious with. As I am reminded of this week, to race fast requires being mentally and physically ready to push through the pain and tolerate the high levels of lactic acid. Racing is one of the best ways to train to race fast. I generally like to race 1-2 times/month in the summer and fall in order to get these benefits. Racing in the summer also provides a nice change from the large amounts of distance training and can help in maintaining motivation. I also find it useful to see all of these races as important events and have found that considering them important when I show up helps increase the benefits. Remember these are still taking a toll on the body and should be factored in.

That said, there are some concerns with summer racing. The biggest concern is that racing is very hard training and doing too much of it while training high volumes can lead to overtraining. It needs to be balanced into a training program in order to provide sought after benefits without compromising other objectives.

Another major concern is that summer racing can be seen as the priority, causing skiers to not train enough volume in the summer and not be fit enough to handle the heavy winter racing schedule. It is a careful balance to be rested and ready enough to race hard while not compromising the ski-specific training. This problem happened to me on a few occasions as a Junior and I found that I was not making the improvements I wanted because I was never focused on just training.

One thing I often do is a mainly upper body workout the day before running races. This could be a distance double pole workout or upper body strength in the gym (when I did a lot of it). This way my legs were fresh enough to race well, without compromising training towards my winter priorities. This is part of the act of accomodating the race I am doing to train my racing instincts while not compromising the training I need to be ready for winter.

Another interesting problem with excessive racing is that it is mentally taxing. I find that I only have a limited number of truly all-out efforts during the year. The amount that I can handle increases with proper training and increased motivation but is still finite. Me, and most elite skiers, race at least 30 times every winter. A number of times, I have lost my motivation to push all limits in the pursuit of speed going into the very last race of the year. I also find that I cannot get myself to push a real hard effort until at least the middle of June following an intensive season. This sort of racing burn out is something to be careful of since it is better to be ready to put in all out efforts at Nationals in March than to race every weekend in July. Again, this is something that must be balanced against the above mentioned factors (like training to race hard) and will require an individual balance. Those people who race a lot less in the winter can handle a little more racing in the summer.

I should add that these are things I have learned relating to myself, but have found them to be fairly common for most skiers. There are always exceptions to these rules, like Carl Swenson. He is among the top 10 in the world in any distance skate race yet races mountain bikes professionally from April to September. Remember though that he had a huge training base before becoming elite in two sports and apparently has an unlimited desire to race hard. Some of you might be capable of it but be careful before trying his program.

I hope that all your summer racing is succesful, enjoyable and leads to improved ski racing come winter.

 
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