Kris woke up this morning looking like he was feeling the effects of a long night at the bar and too much to drink. In fact he had just slept eleven hours and wasn’t feeling too hot. No major congestion, but he’s clearly not healthy.
I think he stopped pondering suicide sometime around dinner time last night, but he’s still not too happy. He didn’t come over here to finish 50th, and more than anything else he’s embarrassed. He knows that he’s got nothing to apologize for, but he takes results seriously and has a hard time swallowing really bad ones.
Sensations in the race were about what you would expect given his fitness profile applied to an overall state of fatigue compounded by a virus. He had low energy, and recovery took longer than it should have given the efforts he was putting out. But he was still able to recover on the downhills and get back to his mediocre to poor workrate for the next uphill. The contrast with his training efforts prior to travel puts it into context. As Kris says, during his final rollerski sessions he was looking for extra places to spend energy on more speed, while yesterday he was looking for extra places to conserve energy.
Anytime things go this badly it’s necessary to ask questions about planning. Once again quoting Kris - he spends all year trying to make things perfect and its incredibly frustrating when the major objective falls so far short of perfection. It’s easy enough to just say Kris got sick and leave it at that, but that’s not satisfactory. The one thing you can be 100% sure of regarding travel is that you will be exposed to new pathogens. If you get sick it’s because you were exposed. Sometimes its unavoidable, but if you want to have a chance you need to at least try to avoid catching a bug. If there was any error made in planning it was almost certainly to do with the relatively high training load of the first week over here. In retrospect it wasn’t any harder than what he did last year. The big difference is that last year he hadn’t turned to an intensity focus. This year he had eight weeks of intensity focus prior to travel. We know that intensity decreases Kris’s tolerance for training load. That’s been clear for years. We had more evidence of that this Fall. The training program for the first week over here was intended to be hard - as hard as we had the nerve to make it. In the end we had a little too much nerve.
Everytime Kris has walked too close to the line this year it’s taken him two weeks to be back to 100%. This time he caught a virus (for the first time since Sapporo last March), which makes it that much more difficult to recover. Yesterday he had a hard 15K race effort, which certainly won’t help his recovery. Next weekend’s race in Kuusamo comes a little too soon under the circumstances. As of now the plan is for Kris to race the sprint on Saturday and the 15K classic on Sunday. Until then he’ll take it quite easy - and for the next few days (including travel) he’ll do nothing more than take some air and stretch his legs. Assuming he’s healthy enough to race (and I expect that he will be) he’ll treat the Kuusamo races as what they are - World Cup starts. No taking it easy. If he was healthy and racing well it would be tempting to skip the sprint in favor of some more specific intensity earlier in the week. Under the circumstances the sprint is a good idea. If he’s got a hope for a good result Sunday he’ll need the effort Saturday to wake him up.
Pete has said that he’ll be satisfied with a top-30 in Kuusamo. I agree that a top-30 would be satisfactory indication that things are headed the right direction. But I also think that Kris’s fitness (under his current fatigue and illness) is really excellent right now. A top-20 would not surprise me. If he gets a top-20 then I think he’s got a great shot at a top-10 in Davos or Rybinsk.
It’s really good for me to be here and see these races first-hand. The top guys are good - really good. But there aren’t many of the top guys who won’t be a minute or more out on a bad day. And given how tight the field is that equates to a precipitous drop from the top of the results list. Kris looked strong and smooth yesterday, but nothing like what I saw from him in training this summer. At his best he’ll be extremely competitive in this field. And this is not a hypothetical “best” I’m talking about - this is is the best he’s been in training. Now he’s got to get back to his best.
Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at http://www.krisfreeman.net/. Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman