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Canmore wrap, and beyond

Kris Freeman

Mon, Feb  4, 2008 - By Zach Caldwell

It’s been a while since I posted anything. Sorry, I’ve been busy. We went from the distance skate race right into the sprint day, followed by packing and morning travel the next day, and several days of testing and grinding with Larry Poromaa here at the 2010 venue. Old news or not, I’ll give a run-down on how things went, how they’ve been going since, and what we’re expecting next.

I haven’t re-read it, but I have a feeling I left off on the last post with expectations of an improved result for Kris in the 15K skate at Canmore. He was 29th, and quite a ways out of the action. Not exactly the improvement any of us were looking for. However, the signs weren’t all bad.

My expectation for improvement was based largely on really good sensations on the days following the pursuit. It seemed clear that Kris had made some gains from the hard work in the pursuit, and that he was rested enough to benefit from the action. In particular, he was moving with confidence and crispness, and his active heart rates were heading lower every day. Things looked good.

On race day I was standing at the 1.4K mark, or someplace near there. Kris planned to start quite conservatively, and when he came by (as bib 42, the first guy in the red group) he was in 14th place, ten seconds out of the lead. Yup - it was conservative, and it sure looked it. He was incredibly relaxed and composed, and was skiing really well. By the top of the course, a couple of K later on, he was running with four seconds of the lead, and once all the red group had gone through he was withing a couple of seconds of the top ten. By the end of the first 5K lap he was in 14th place, and things looked good. It was almost exactly the way he started the Kuusamo race. However, he started to struggle a bit on the second time up the climb, and instead of climbing solidly into the top ten, he started to drift back. And by the last lap he was no longer standing on his skis well, and he was giving away a lot of time.

It’s tempting to call this a pacing error, except that he was demonstrably not going too hard at the start. OK - a said demonstrably, and I’m unable to demonstrate, but I’ve seen Kris race quite a lot and it’s generally easy to see when he’s overreaching. He did NOT look as though he was under any stress until the second half of the race. Kris says that he never felt like he died, he just gradually got slower.

When we initially talked about changing the travel schedule we wanted to avoid arriving at altitude at just the wrong time. Typically a skier going to altitude will have several good days, and then experience a downturn around days five or six. This can last for a little bit, and then slowly improve. The original plan was to head up straight from Nationals, over two weeks prior to the first race. Plenty of time to acclimatize! When we made the new plan, we actually pushed the travel back as close to the first race as we dared in hopes of missing the downturn. But the concern was that Kris would have an off-day on the second day. We talked about having him travel a day later - only one day before the first race. But that seemed to leave too little margin for travel difficulty and just getting his feet on the ground in time for a race.

I don’t know if the altitude was to “blame” for a poor second race. The bottom line is that Kris had two performances that were not terrible, but were sub-par. Given all that he’s been managing, the end result of the Canmore race was feelings of stability and progress. Even after a couple of days Kris could acknowledge that he was disappointed with his performances, but that his confidence was higher than it had been at any point in the season. He finally feels as though he’s got his feet firmly on the ground. He continues to set a new standard for feeling “normal” each time he wakes up. He mentioned a couple of days ago that he feels so much better than he did when he first thought he was back to normal, that he should really be feeling excellent by now! All things told, it simply puts into perspective how big a hole he was in when he got home from Europe, and during Nationals.

Kris traveled to Otepaa yesterday, and he’s got his first race next weekend. The first weekend after travel has never been a great performance for him. The door is open for Kris to throw in some intensity a couple of days before the Otepaa race. If he does this, it will be with an eye toward the following weekend’s racing in Liberec. We’re not looking for anything spectacular in Otepaa.