The Engine

Since arriving up on Eagle Glacier in a very tired state from three previous weeks of hard training, I had to make a theme for myself in order to make it through the coming six days of challenging training. This month I have made a big step up, and with a healthy body, I have been able to participate in all the training, resulting in a much higher load than normal. With the weather being a bit foggy and warm all week, this meant for a tough week of pushing through some deeper slush and practicing training in the now very common conditions we race in Europe. Global warming often means slushy, man-made, dirty snow conditions throughout the winter. So when the going gets tough on Eagle with some deep slushy glacier snow, I know I am truly practicing my trade!
So, back to my original problem. I arrived on Eagle Glacier far more tired than I ever have, but I wanted to have a successful six days of training, so I made a theme for myself. “My body is an engine”. In endurance sports, we often talk about how we want to build a Ferrari engine inside our bodies, so this was my my Eagle Glacier Plan.  Granted, I don’t know a whole lot about cars and engines, but I knew enough to work on what I thought a great racing engine would require:Fueling, Maintenance, Efficiency, Speed, and Power. 

A little R & R in the rocks (Zuzana photo)
Fueling- While on Eagle Glacier, fueling is important, and also entirely up to your own choice. We cook group meals in the evening; but in the morning, afternoon, and snack hours, fueling  is open to interpretation. Now that I have started training higher volumes, I have enjoyed experimenting with different types of foods to see how they carry me through the next training, or even the next day. For example, the later in the week of training; the more glycogen I can eat, the stronger my engine can run for the next training session, or even the next day. It is a common occurrence to be woken up in the middle of the night while training up on the glacier by hunger, so I am forced to head downstairs to eat a little snack because I can’t get back to sleep. It is also common to make it through 1.5 hours of training during the second session… and find myself bonking so badly at the top of the course that I literally have to waddle back to the start of the course and find a snack in my drink belt. Avoiding these little crashes has become my goal. So, this camp, while I arrived with a high load of training, I worked really hard to keep my body fueled correctly. By avoiding useless fuel, and taking in more efficient fuel, I managed to have a very successful week of training. My favorite fueling moment came on Wednesday, during our afternoon session following morning threshold intervals. I was feeling really good in the afternoon following intervals, so I took off with a hot pace. Things felt amazing until about 1.5 hours on the top of the big climb at the far end of the course… and I began to start weaving. I could tell I couldn’t really keep my technique together, and I was dragging myself around the course, not even working on the important parts of skiing. As I came into the intersection of the access road back up to the building, and the start to another loop, I pulled over and ate the fresh baked cookie in my drink belt. As I headed out for another loop, about three minutes in, I suddenly had the “invincible energy” back. Again, I felt light, quick, and strong. This is when I discovered the “cookie comeback”. While you wouldn’t commonly feed your Ferrari a cookie, my racing Ferrari thrived on this extremely sugary and easy to access fuel!

Some Powerbar Coke Gummies on OD day saving the day! 
Maintenance- As with your nice racing car, sometimes the maintenance and care can take just as long as the actual training/racing. Many people, when they hear that as athletes, we are training 4 hours a day, they wonder what we spend our time doing the remainder of the day…. And the answer is, maintenance. As we come in from our training sessions, each athlete has their own maintenance routine. For me, this looks like: change into dry clothes, get a snack, do a stretching routine, foam rolling, massage, eat a larger meal, get my feet up and rest a little in order to recovery for second training, take care of skis (waxing and cleaning)…. and then, out for another training session, and repeat. It is literally a full days work to maintain my body and keep it healthy. A lot of times, it becomes easy to cut out large portions of this maintenance process, because it becomes easy to fill your day up with other activities. But, while on Eagle Glacier, there are no distractions. For one full week, I am living to train. I am giving 110% of my energy towards maintaining and training the very best Ferrari engine possible! Lucky for us, the APU team is sponsored by an amazing clinic, Advanced Physical Therapy. Last week we had Zuzana Rodgers, the worlds best PT up on the glacier to help us stay healthy and ready to train. For many of us, her manual labor on our stressed and tired muscles is the magic!

Big thanks to Zuzana Rodgers!
Efficiency- Finding the most efficient way get an engine going fast is key. For a cross country skier, technique is a huge factor in efficiency, and it is also an ever changing process. With new efficiency, new movements, new techniques… the sport stays exciting. Becoming a master of the trade means being innovative, aware, and dedicated to focus. With our 20-30 hours per week spent skiing kilometers around our Eagle Glacier track, we have hundreds of thousands of repetitions to work on perfecting our technique. We often watch World Cup videos, technique examples, and videos from our previous training sessions to find cues and things to work on. My personal goal on Eagle Glacier is to focus every minute of effort on skiing the most technically well I can. Because I have skied so many kilometers with my old habits. I know that I have to spend hours and hours of work on the “better technique habits” I am working on, before I will resort to them in a race. So efficiency is an ever-going goal of mine while up on Eagle Glacier. 

Technique work 
Speed- On day four of training camp, we often get to rip out some speed training. With the majority of our week so far being distance training, our distance muscles become extremely tired. In fact, we just feel exhausted. I am always blown away by the fact that when it comes to speed, I find this extra storage of energy I had no idea existed. I am magically able to rip out some speed when I thought I had nothing left. Then, day five we have a “practice race”, where we throw down some laps around the sprint course at top speed. Again, we are feeling so exhausted, we can’t even imagine we can make four laps of 1.5 kilometers. This is the speed that is fun to practice. Like World Cup racing, when it comes time to go top speed… you are rarely rested, or full of energy. Instead, it is at the end of a 1 or 5 or 30 kilometer race, and you feel you have already topped out. Instead, you have to turn that Ferrari engine up, and find one more gear of speed. The best way to train that speed, is to train it in a similarly exhausted state, on day four and five of Eagle Glacier.

Power- I think of power as your endurance. To me this is all the aerobic training I do on a yearly basis, and over my lifetime. This includes the first weeks of training in Park City with my US Teammates, the many hours of hiking and running, and the huge amounts of distance skiing that is so important in endurance sports. This is what creates my power. Eagle Glacier is all about fine-tuning my engine’s power. For 25 hours, I push my already exhausted body, and tell myself I can keep going. When the weather is bad, or I am having an epic energy crash, or I am pushing over the top of the hill on the last lap of our practice race on day five ;power is that little voice in my head that says “must keep going”. It is the same voice that chirps in during my racing! 
Rosie, Becca and I
Voilà, that is “my engine”.  Now you know all the funny and hilarious things that run through my head during a week of training that feels harder than ever! It is now back to building the strongest engine in the world right here in Anchorage for three weeks of dryland before heading back up for our final week of skiing on Eagle in August.