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Heading to Houghton

Kris Freeman

Mon, Dec  31, 2007 - By Zach Caldwell

Until Saturday it wasn’t clear whether or not Kris would be going to Houghton for US Nationals or not. The primary objective of the season remains the Canmore World Cup races, and anybody who’s followed the updates on this site will be aware that Kris came home from the first period with some training volume on the plate. The original training plan did not call for a nasty virus to take him out of the game for the first ten days he was home, but that’s what happened. As of several days ago Kris was still feeling the effects of his cold, and he hadn’t been able to begin systematic training of the kind that he needs for his Canmore preparation.

But things started to improve, finally, and the day before yesterday Kris went out for a four hour ski a Waterville. He reported positive sensations, not too many snot rockets, and no sense of depletion until the final few minutes of the session. All of this in spite of slow, wet new snow conditions that forced him to double-pole the downhills, and gave him no recovery opportunities to speak of through the session.

Yesterday, the morning after the OD, Kris felt better than he had in weeks. He felt the effects of a long training session, to be sure, but he felt less congestion than he had, and good energy levels. He had a short training day and felt as though he could put the hammer down at any time - a feeling he hadn’t had in a while. Good indications, for a change.

So, Kris decided to go to Nationals. However, he’s going in full knowledge that he will carry a training load through the week, and will not be at anything close to peak race fitness for the races. He’s traveling today, and tomorrow, the day before the skate distance race, will be a legitimate training day - probably a couple of hours of skiing. The plan from there has been discussed and fleshed-out by Pete and myself, but Kris has probably just heard it from Pete for the first time since they just met up in Minneapolis for the final leg of the trip to Houghton.

Kris always wants his plan around races to include racing simply as fast as he can. Pete and I both want to see these upcoming races approached somewhat conservatively, as training days. We’d like to see Kris start these events and hold the effort to something very close to threshold levels until the final 5K where we want to see him unleash whatever he’s got. This approach will be both a safety against overreaching the effort in training, and a good test of his high end capacity under stress. The trick now will be convincing Kris that the plan is in his best interest.

The other part of the plan that Kris hasn’t heard yet (from me) is the facilitation of the ongoing distance load by putting an OD ski on the “rest” day between the races. This is certainly not the best way to go fast in the classic race at Nationals, but once again, that’s not the point of the plan. The timing of the Canmore races dictates something of a schedule, and Kris’s fitness profile has been demanding a volume load. In the big picture, this appears to be the best option.

All of this is subject to change, depending on how travel goes, and how Kris deals with the load. Because he’s had so much time without a consistently high training load it’s difficult to know what to expect, and staying healthy through the period is priority number one.

As a side-note, I’ve had a number of inquiries about the Tour de Ski, and why Kris isn’t taking part in that event this year. It’s apparent that the Tour is a format that will play a big part in the future of the World Cup. The event is interesting to Kris, and he’s eager to take part at some point. However, as we’ve stated many times, his primary goal for the next few seasons is the Olympics. Kris still has a lot of ground to cover to be a solid medal contender at a “big event” like the Oluympics. Stage racing presents a very different set of challenges and considerations, and the Tour represents a massive drain on energy and resources. Kris probably does have the physical tools to be a contender in an event like the tour, but for him to do it (considering everything, including managing blood sugar levels) will require careful planning and an approach that brings him to the start with a very different fitness profile than what he brought into the race season this year.

In the end, success will come with planning, not with simply starting every event on the calendar. Being competitive in a event like the Tour means a huge investment by everybody - including the USST. The demands on the service staff are massive, not to mention the expense involved with supporting an athlete in such an event. Kris will do the tour at some point. Hopefully he’ll do it with a full team (and I think we’ll see an unprecedented element of team skiing emerge in this year’s tour) and an appropriate level of preparation and support. It was never part of the plan for this year, especially once the Canmore World Cups were placed immediately afterwards on the calendar.

Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman

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