A Long Slow Drive

After waking up with minimal symptoms I was all good to drive again so started on my way back home. Over night there was a lot of snow that fell and these heavy snowfalls continued throughout the morning making the going quite slow. Here is a photo which pretty well summed up most of the 380km that took the best part of 6.5hrs.

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It was all fine until you got stuck behind a truck. Aussies can best relate to it when driving behind a semi on a dirt road except this of course being snow that froze to the windscreen. If you got within any sort of range to try and overtake you couldn’t even see your own bonnet so it was just a case of holding back and crawling along at his pace until he either takes a different road, or you have to stop for a pee. This guy certainly had the setup that was on point for the day.

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It’s all good really though because finally Sweden is starting to look as it should for this time of year. Hopefully we will have enough snow for all trails in Falun this week!

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I’m glad that the concussion issue has only been minor and will be all set to train properly after a good rest day.

Broken Pole and Mild Concussion = DNF

Never a proud moment getting a DNF. The unfortunate truth is that it just feels like everything that you have done to prepare for the race was a complete waste of time. Another skier and myself went down on the fastest point of the course (yesterday I clocked 52.5km/hr without race wax) and to me it is all still a bit of a blur. One thing is for certain, something had hit me hard in the back of the head. I didn’t even know where I was for a period and if I had of closed my eyes, my first guess would have been a boat – a small one in a raging storm! Standing was challenging enough so continuing was out of the question, I was having a hard enough time getting off the track.

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The race before that was not great anyway. I had a terrible start and found it tough to find a rhythm and frustratingly enough I was only just starting to find it shortly before I DNF’d. In summary, disaster. There’s not to0 many positive things to say really. The only positive thing to take from it is that I of all people know that it could have been much worse.

I’ve been nauseas all afternoon with a cracking headache and won’t be allowed to drive home to Falun until tomorrow. There’s always things that go wrong in a season and hopefully that’s my one out of the way.

Too Cold to Race.

Today, I was glad to have made the decision yesterday to not race the sprint. Today the skis cleared and temperatures dropped further just shortly after the prologue meaning that the heats had to be cancelled. Racing distance races is tough in those temperatures, but sprinting just shreds your lungs even when temperatures are only a little under zero, let along 20 under!

Callum Smith (British Ski Team) feeling concerned that he hasn't put his sunscreen on. It's a rare sight for a Brit...

Callum Smith, @callumrsmith92 (British Ski Team) feeling concerned that he hasn’t put his sunscreen on. It’s a rare sight for a Brit…

Going to events of this standard alone is tough and today I found that even more. To prepare the skis to test for classic is a time consuming job, and made even tougher when you have new skis in the mix too! Wax techs are under the pump, and today I was too. It’s frustrating at times when you know that other athletes can simply do their short race prep session then get back inside, warm up and maybe even get a massage. A pretty nice little luxury particularly when it’s -23 degrees C. Meanwhile, I’ve got a 3+ hour job of waxing, testing, cleaning, then race prepping the fastest pair along with doing the race prep that everyone else did. The positive thing to get out of it is that the result will be more mine and mine only. I deserve every little piece of it and that’s exactly how I feel about yesterday’s result.

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I should note that this event is outside of the National Team’s schedule and was therefore my own choice to undergo it unsupported. This schedule suited me best and so far I think it’s gone pretty well and was certainly the right decision! Tomorrow has been shortened to a 16km Classic, however I’m still excited to see what I can do on the challenging course.

A New Personal Best on Scandinavian Cup

Today at 8am, the temperature was -19.8 degrees C in the stadium and that was enough for the first race of the Scandinavian Cup to go ahead! Exercising at those temperatures is brutally uncomfortable, but to push it as hard as you can is something even more challenging. Keeping my hands warm when I’m going easy is not usually a problem, however when I’m pushing the pace, the blood just decides it’s more important to feed the working muscles instead of keeping my hands from freezing solid!. So today, it was a double glove day and the first time I raced in boot covers! Only three fingers on each hand were literally frozen solid like an ice block once again, so I guess it could have been worse!

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The race started off pretty terribly to be honest. I was getting a lot of pain in my lungs from breathing deeply and was trying to breath shallower with a higher frequency but it just wasn’t working for me. I felt oxygen deprived and lethargic as a result. The skier who started 20s behind caught me by the top of the main climb in the first lap. It took a lot of mental energy to force myself to just deal with it and stick with him. On the downhill I realised my skis were absolutely incredible! They felt pretty good but it’s not until you go down a hill with other skiers that you get a real comparison.

From then on the race just got better, I gained a good rhythm with my breathing and felt more and more comfortable with the pace. It was even to the point on the final climb I pushed the pace even further and dropped the couple of skiers I had been skiing with. That made me realise I have even more to give next time around when I don’t have breathing difficulties. Essentially the 30km couldn’t come soon enough.

The race was not only a Scandinavian Cup, but also counted towards the Swedish (Intersport) Cup. I placed 21st in the Swedish cup and 62nd in the overall Scandinavian cup, 3mins 12s 0ff the pace which means it was my best ever placing in a Scandinavian Cup race so far. Sorry for the lack of photos, I’m pretty sure basically any phone or camera that was out on course froze and is still thawing out just like anyone else out there! Below is a link to the results from today:

http://data.fis-ski.com/dynamic/results.html?sector=CC&raceid=26442

Another huge thanks to Lennart from Atomic for the ripper skis and British Nordic for their race support. Tomorrow will be an easy day for me to give the lungs a chance to recover. I will focus on preparing the new classic skis and testing to ensure I have the best ones possible for Sunday.

Ski Testing and Atomic Support

Today the forecast became even worse with yr.no is now forecasting for -28 degrees C tomorrow! The only hope is that the temperatures today were actually significantly higher than what was predicted so we are hoping the same for tomorrow. With the FIS limit being -18 though, it has a fair way to go….

Race prep is a go ahead none-the-less but slightly adapted due to the cold temperature. A relaxed warm up followed by short efforts was enough to get the muscles firing without stressing the lungs too much.

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All colder skis were tested with the fine grind AC3’s being the top pick on this aggressive snow. Now thanks to Peter Landl and Lennart Cedervarn from Atomic Nordic, I have a few more fresh skis to add to the fleet, including a new transparent base prototype. Although not ideal for the cold conditions of this weekend, they will be great to test for later races in the season. Atomic will also be providing me with race support this weekend as I have no team support for these races. Thanks once again, a ski company that truly cares for their athletes.

A Cold Snap Ahead

The weather here in Sweden has gone from tropical, to cold, to polar. The races in Ostersund are in risk of being delayed, postponed or potentially even cancelled. The FIS limit for racing is -18 degrees C and currently the forecast is slightly lower than that! They are hopeful that where the race course is located is slightly warmer than in town as it is at a slightly higher altitude and less affected by the cold inversions.

Anyway, to prepare the skis properly, you really need a hard base on your skis to deal the with incredibly abrasive snow. Everyone has always said Briko-Maplus is good in the cold and now thanks to Hans Olov Steen (Briko rep) I’m going to give it a go! It takes a while to prepare all the skis with such a hard wax but I’m confident it will be worth it.

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This afternoon I travelled to Ostersund in my $895 AUD Volvo! This car was really put to the test today and the image below explains why!

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Luckily I made it in one piece, but only just. The trusty old Volvo began to seriously lose power half way into the 5hr trip. At -30 you can see why I was a little stressed to say the least. With only 40mins to go, the car wouldn’t rev over 2500 revs/min but luckily I managed to get the old boy to limp in to Ostersund. Fearing the worst (blown turbo), I wasn’t sure if I even dared to take a look under the bonnet…. Luckily, after some research and fiddling around, I have already found the cause of the issue and fixed it temporarily. The cold temperatures had frozen and blocked the lower intercooler hose, starving the engine of air! Gladly, it looks at this point to be a relatively easy fix.

Onto ski testing and race prep tomorrow.

Level 2 Classic Intensity with Sprints

Today is just one of those days that classic skiing is as good as it gets. Cold temperatures, hard tracks and sunshine. With the loop here being extended to over 2.5km, there is finally a good race loop to really get some good flowing technique and transitions which is what’s needed particular when doing intensity sessions. The colder temperatures have allowed the snow makers to work overtime and now there are big mounds most of the way around the ‘murderbacken’ race loop ready to be pushed out.

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Today’s training was with Dala Sports Academy (DSA) and it’s a good reminder of how much of a benefit it is to be able to train with a group of good athletes. The session was 30min L2 block followed by 2 X 5min of 15s on, 15s off with a focus on efficient technique. After feeling terrible all day yesterday during the rest day, it was clear that my body was in full recovery mode but fortunately this morning’s session felt amazing which just gets me even more keen to see what this weekend bring!

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This afternoon will be an easy 1hr explosive gym session followed by a 1hr run.

Can Wax Go Off? Mora Pinglan 10km Classic Pursuit

The question of the day was ‘can wax go off?’ Here is a photo of the Holmenkol mid block that we used as a top layer. This type of wax is suppose to be soft and able to be chalked onto the base. This block had gone so hard that it had to be chipped away, then crushed, then sprinkled onto the base and used like a powder. It didn’t take too long into the race to have that answer clearly answered with a definite yes. I have used these exact skis with the same Homenkol wax in the same conditons previously and they were rockets!

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With a pursuit start, it would have been ideal to catch the bunch that were all within 10s of me however all were double poling and that was clearly the better pick for the day. I understood that this would probably be the case even yesterday but I decided to use grip wax to prepare for next weekend’s Scandinavian Cup. I skied most of the race with Erik Persson who was one of the many with significantly faster skis than mine (he was on grip also)

Yesterday was tough, and although it was a flatter style of course it was difficult with minimal rest. You had to ski with aggression and power all the way and that took it’s toll on my body. Warming up today I was struggling to get my heart rate to rise in the efforts – for me that’s a sure sign of fatigue. I wanted to ski faster but just couldn’t find that top gear until the group that started just behind us caught up on the last lap. Then it felt good to stay with them and really push myself.

They were all double poling too, so I went for a break on the last final sharp climb to try and get away. It felt good and I gained quite a gap! Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough and lost 1 position to finish in 12th, 2.59 behind the winner’s total time for both days.

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My shape is there and I believe this weekend’s results  reflect that! Additonally, it now feels like winter is finally here which is a great feeling. Here is the first lot of sun after the fresh snow we received and  it shows what Sweden in Winter should really be like.

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Now onto recovery before the next races in Ostersund where I will race in the Scandinavian Cup.

Mora Pinglan 10km Skate

Today was the first race in 3 weeks since the races in Alvdalen. The races in Alvdalen went went, however training has been tough since then! Mattias is a hard man, although it may be the Christmas Period, why not train harder! Honestly, I was wrecked two days ago but gladly this morning my muscles finally felt more the way they should! I think I was even over excited for it, my reasoning is that I was having a hard time getting to sleep last night and I can’t really think of anything else I should be excited about!

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I had tactics which I ordinarily wouldn’t choose – start fast and see if I can hold it together. Normally I’m slow at the start, too slow in fact and that is something that has to change. The first 2.5km felt good, and I splitted in 9th place, however starting that second lap is where I battled. Gladly I forced my way through it and settled into a solid rhythm to finish 11th. With no wax support, I can’t say the skis were even close to the best, however I was satisfied with what sort of rush job we did on them last night. Now I’m excited to see what tomorrow’s 10km classic brings with a hunting start. Most people will Double Pole, but I will mix things up a bit and see what I can do with grip wax. It will be my first race this season not double poling.

Because these are just training races, Today’s training continues with a 1.5hr classic this afternoon. 20160102_120831

Natural Snow?

After being in Sweden for 1 month, this is only the second time that natural snow has fallen in Falun. With a week of temperatures up to 13 degrees C, this is the miserable state that the Lugnet stadium was in just last week!

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Then finally temperatures dropped to below zero for a week and they were able to get the guns firing…

Today was the first day that the stadium re-opened and extended the short 1.1km loop to around 2km. It may not sound like a huge difference, but mentally it had such an effect!

Today’s training;

*Just an easy 1.5hr classic with a few speeds. One of the best sessions in terms of feeling and technique which is nice ahead of the races tomorrow!

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Jackson and I travelled to Mora tonight where there has been even more snow than Falun. Postis battled through some snowy roads in fine form of course! A pretty unfamiliar sight unfortunately but feels good to be able to race in surrounding tomorrow where our National Team racing suits finally won’t act as camouflage against the green forest!

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Tomorrow’s race is Mora Pinglan is a 10km Skate. Although only a club race, it is a competitive field and I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of shape I have found myself in after a few tough weeks of training!