When Kris changed plans after Nationals and decided to go home rather than straight to Canmore it was an acknowledgment that his primary need was for recuperation, not preparation. He’s been recovering well, and getting in some good training, but it’s been mostly geared toward the acknowledged goal of recuperation. Even the four hour ski he did several days ago was as much a test of his state of recovery as it was a training stimulus. Today was the next “big” day on the schedule, and my inclination was toward something conservative - another test. Perhaps a sustained threshold session with an acceleration toward the end to try to successfully execute something like the failed race plan from Nationals. When we talked yesterday about today’s session, Kris was pretty much done with caution. He wanted to lay-down an honest race effort with no hedging of bets.
My instinctual caution is probably a reflection of an overall conservative approach - I tend to opt for the “safe” route. However, I had my reasons, and they were mostly fear of some sort of relapse. I was inclined to treat Kris as though he was fairly delicate, because that’s the way he’s been responding for quite a while. But Kris knows when he’s feeling normal, and he knows that he’s not that delicate when he’s healthy. And more than anything else, he wanted to go out and hammer. Who was I to say no? In the final analysis, the strongest recommendation for putting down a big effort was that Kris’s confidence was running high enough that he wanted the effort. He hadn’t been feeling that for a while.
So today Kris was joined by his brother and his Father for back to back 5K time trials on tripoli road in Waterville Valley. Conditions were hard and fast. Kris was on an old pair of skatecuts that had been given to his Father, and that I had refused to regrind last time Donavan asked (I think we set him up with some 610s instead). The only other pair of skate skis he had around was a pair for really cold stuff. In the first TT Kris gave Justin a 30 second head start. He caught up, sat-in for a bit of a downhill section, and then skied away to put another 12 seconds on him. Kris didn’t hold anything back - he saw HRs as high as he’s seen this year, and he was able to keep the pedal down for the whole effort. For the second TT Justin got a 42 second head start - reverse pursuit style. Kris caught him again, in the same place. This time Justin didn’t allow him the brief ride, and made him lead the downhill section. On the last climb Kris put the hammer down, and got another 4 seconds on Justin. His splits for the two TTs were 13:06 and 13:08 respectively. For all intents and purposes Kris even-split the efforts. He was going all-out on both of them, but his HRs ran a little lower on the second one, and he felt that he had gained some economy just from going out and going hard in the first one.
These indications are good. While it’s tempting to try to judge something about Kris’s pace based on Justin, it’s not a very worthwhile exercise. Justin is an unknown quantity these days. He ran some of his fastest times ever on the road this summer, and then exploded spectacularly in September. He showed up at US Nationals and put up one of his best skate results in years with a 10th place in the 10K, but then stank it up pretty badly in the classic race (his specialty) a couple of days later. You never know which Justin is going to show up these days, and it’s probably more up to Iris (Justin and Heidi’s 15-month-old daughter) than anybody else. In any case, with full recognition of the futility of the exercise, I’ll note that Kris more than doubled the gap he had on Justin in the 10k skate in Houghton. We’ll call it a step in the right direction, both in terms of performance and in terms of sensations.
It’s very difficult to take these indications and try to predict how Kris will far on the results sheet in Canmore. The original plan - prior to period one of the World Cup - was to use the time between Rybinsk and Canmore to claim some additional high-end gains. That plan turned into more damage control than anything else with a ragged end to the first period backed up against lingering illness upon his return. The goal more recently has been to ensure good health and stability in the fitness profile - to allow for some representative efforts. Having acknowledged that a representative effort may be all Kris can hope for, I’ll point out that I still believe that a representative effort is all we saw in Kuusamo when he was 5th. That was not Kris in amazing shape - that was Kris making use of the fitness he had built, and coming off a cold. In Canmore much of the field will be coming off the Tour de Ski, and the tables will be turned on the normal travel-stress situation. It’s hard to make predictions, but I’m not going to bet against some good results by Kris in Canmore.
Reprinted with permission from the Kris Freeman website at http://www.krisfreeman.net/. Copyright © Zach Caldwell and Kris Freeman