Kris did his Sunapee time trial this morning in 20:31 - 13 seconds faster than his previous best time, and 18 seconds faster than last November. He paced the effort fairly conservatively today, and the result was obviously much better than his previous test on October 4th when he ran a 21:13.
Kris has been confident in his roller-ski fitness, but going into the test he wasn’t sure he had the legs to run a new best time. This lack of confidence combined with the disaster of his last effort may have made him a bit too conservative. The sensations today were much better than last time. Instead of spending a minute and a half on the ground at the end of the test, he was ready run back down pretty much as soon as it was over.
Kris’s average heart rate today was 172bpm. That number has become very familiar. It was the “ceiling” beyond which he was unable to push during his last really difficult training block. At that time he felt that he simply couldn’t put himself into unsustainable workloads. That was why he approached the last Sunapee test with no pacing strategy - just go as fast as possible. As the training load has come down Kris has had better access to high work loads. He’s been able to get his heart rate much higher, and to mobilize a lot of lactate quite quickly. But the result has been unsustainable efforts. During the week at Lake Placid he started to see a window of sustainable output in the low to mid 170s. That was reinforced during the Whiteface TT. When following Duncan put him up toward 180 he was forced to back-off the pace until he HR re-stabilized in the low 170s. Today - maintaining a HR in that range, Kris hit the hardest part of the climb with positive anticipation rather than the dread he felt last time. In large part I think that today’s effort marks an improved ability to optimally use his available fitness.
Ski races generally don’t involve long unbroken climbs of between 20 and 40 minutes (Sunapee and Whiteface, roughly). The climbing efforts are shorter and recovery opportunities tend to follow them. Kris will not have the luxury of skiing in his “comfort zone”, right around 172, if he wants to be successful in real ski races. He does have excellent recovery capacity - we saw this at Lake Placid where he recovered from a peak effort of 14mMol/L down to around 5mMol/L in three minutes (I should check these numbers - this is based on my memory). In a race situation where he’s got recovery opportunities he’ll be able to lay-down harder efforts on the climbs.
One thing Kris has not started to do is look for increased tolerance of high lactate concentrations. He has trained a sustained output of 7-8mMol/L, and efforts beyond that will require recovery. He can get more out of his capacity by building the tolerance for higher sustained lactate concentrations. But that process is a slippery slope, and not something that we’re looking for in the early season. Prior to the Canadian World Cups I imagine we’ll see come tolerance work. Until then, Kris will have to work with what he’s got, which will require some balance.
If Kris was coming out of this Lake Placid camp having difficulty generating high workloads, then we’d continue to look for an increase in lactate mobilization capacity. At this point, because he can mobilize more lactate than he can tolerate, the plan is to put a cork in it for a little while - even suppress the response for the time being. Kris has nine days of volume focus coming up, followed by a quick trip to Utah for lab testing. Shortly after that he’ll head over to Norway with a couple of weeks to go before the Beitostolen distance opener.
Based on last season’s Gaellivare opener we had set a target of 20:07 on the Sunapee hill-climb as an effort representative of a podium finish. Who knows whether that’s appropriate, but that’s how the math worked out based on his time behind Bjorndalen last November correlated with his Sunapee effort a couple of weeks earlier. Right now Kris feels that he’s in solid top-ten shape. He feels that a podium finish would take something special. His improvement over last year’s Sunapee effort would have put him in seventh place in last year’s Gaellivare opener. We can’t say that he’s ready to go win a World Cup, but I think he’s closer than he’s been in a long, long time.
Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at http://www.krisfreeman.net/. Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman