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Kris Freeman - not a ski racing fan

Kris Freeman

Fri, Dec  14, 2007 - By Zach Caldwell

Kris called today from Munich. Tomorrow they catch a charter flight to Russia for the races in Rybinsk, and he’ll be out of touch for a few days. He’s been very tired for the past several days. Monday and Tuesday he skied an hour and a half or so - mostly testing skate skis with Peter (one of the wax techs). Today he was quite tired, and it was a day off from training, but travel to Munich. Tomorrow is off as well - flight to Russia. Friday is short with some intensity - Saturday 30K mass start skate.

There’s not much more news than that currently, so I thought I’d give you another glimpse inside the brain of Kris Freeman - along the lines of the “big softie” post. I don’t recall exactly how the conversation turned this way, but on the phone today Kris mentioned that he didn’t really know a lot of the guys he’s racing against. He knows most of the regulars, but the “big” nations seem to have a rotating inventory of potential top-20 finishers, and often enough Kris has no idea who these guys are. Most regular web-surfing ski-junkies could probably tell you the name of Marcus Hellner’s dog, or Simen Oestensen’s birthday, or Ville Nousiainen’s favorite ice-cream flavor. Not Kris. When it gets right down to it, he doesn’t really follow ski racing too closely. He pays attention to the guys who are going fast - he studies the successful racers in an analytical way. He’s totally involved in the sport - obsessive about it, in fact - but only as far as getting faster is concerned. As much as he loves racing, he’s not into watching ski races. He’s a student of the sport, but he’s not a fan.

As a student, he’s brilliant. He gets the salient points in a way that most of the skiers I talk to just don’t. I can promise that I learn a great deal more from Kris than he learns from me. He’s got a good eye for technique, and an even better eye for athletes. He can tell when his teammates are fit, and he can tell when they’re run-down. He has strong opinions, and they’re usually well considered and right on the money. If he had any patience for it he would be an amazing coach. But I don’t think he has the patience - certainly not now, and maybe not ever. His tolerance for anything less than his own level of commitment is not high, and there aren’t many athletes committed at his level.

I could go on - draw some connections between Kris’s mindset and his potential for success. But what I’ve said is probably sufficient food for thought. So, back to the regular fare:

It’s important to recognize that the weekend’s efforts took a toll on Kris. He’s been very tired for the past three days. With a really aerobic fitness profile - such as he carried through August this year - Kris has a hard time hurting himself. He can go pretty much as hard as he wants and not feel that the effort has taken a great deal out of him. The fact that he was able to hurt himself badly enough to still be feeling the effort today is a good indication that his fitness is swung quite far toward a highly developed anaerobic capacity. He’s got a good high-end right now. I’m still convinced that he has gains to make in terms of tolerance, but a heavy intensity load right now would be likely to push him over the edge. His brother Justin could comment on this phenomenon - being an expert at locating the proverbial edge by charging straight off it without so much as a backwards glance.

All of this - the lack of tolerance for heavy training in Norway, the good race in Kuusamo, the high level of fatigue after Davos - contributes to the picture that we’re building of Kris’s current state of fitness. The current plan is for Kris to come back home, take about four days of recovery from the trip, and then have a decently high training volume during the lead-up to Nationals. He’s planning for one sustained threshold session, and one OD during that time. He’ll also have the green light for basic training of two or more hours per day. Nationals will be hard because of the race schedule. Kris is planning to do all four races, and there are only two “off” days in between the races. There’s really no room to “train through” that week without putting training on top of racing. As it stands now Kris will use the race schedule at Nationals as an intensity block. He won’t be hot coming into it, and he’ll be tired coming out of it, but he’ll head straight to Canmore with time for recovery and fine-tuning.

This plan is pretty well set at this point. If Rybinsk is either inexplicably bad, or outrageously good, we may have to reconsider things. Pete and I will be in touch as we hear about the Rybinsk races, and we’ll work with Kris to fine-tune the plan as necessary. The expectation is that Kris will be able to recover sufficiently from last weekend to be good again this coming weekend. Tomorrow’s travel is the big question-mark. Provided that goes well and no further disasters befall him, Kris should have a representative effort in the 30K on Saturday. He hasn’t had a good skate race yet this year, so it remains to be seen how his skating is going on a “good” day. There were some technical adjustments to make from what we saw in Beitostolen, but that was mostly because he was pretty run-down, and skiing like it. Kris has worked on putting some new gears in the transmission for his skating this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how those play in a mass start World Cup.

Apparently some of the big names won’t be in Russia. The top Germans, for example, are reportedly not skiing. Last year there were only 36 men in the field, but the names at the top of the list were quite familiar. I imagine it’ll be a similar situation this year. A good result will be indicative of a good day. A bad day will be a bad result. Even with only 35 finishers last year the top 20 finished within 37 seconds in a mass start 30K event.


Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at http://www.krisfreeman.net/. Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman

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