Update+ Race Season 101

Hey there sports fans!! I know it’s been a minute since the blog has made its usual appearance, but no need to fret because it’s back! It seems like forever ago that I last updated you on all of the happenings, and needless to say, quite a lot has, in fact, happened. Since then, I returned to AK at the beginning of January after a great block of family time at home! Shortly after returning, I jumped right back into some races, which kicked off a 6 week “race block” where I raced (in one form or another) a total of 10 times. During all of this I started my spring semester of school, had a birthday, did my first 1 lap, 30km individual start race, and even went backcountry skiing again. Keeping you all up to date, in my last newsletter, I had told you about my recent experience with “fatigue,” and how it had disrupted a few of my races. My point then, was that you never know exactly how fatigue will creep up on you or what it will look like if it does so, as I learned in December. I felt “fine” in general, but my form had clearly dropped a couple notches from where it had been. When I got home for Christmas, I had some blood work done, and found out that I had low iron and low vitamin D. Both of which are essential nutrients for performing at your best. Originally, I swept this under the rug as “fatigue,” however the root cause of my off performances was something entirely different. This goes to show how important blood work can be. Had I not been tested, I would’ve never known the true causation for my sub-par performances. Conclusion? Get some blood work done. It can provide great insights on your body’s many mechanisms.

How to race well week after week after week…

When I was at home during my Christmas break, I had some nice down time followed by a nice block of training before returning to Alaska. After that little block of training, I wanted to commit to a true “race block” of racing week after week. Other than the obvious goal of racing fast, I wanted to apply what I’ve learned, and think will work best in order to perform well week after week. This season has been different because of COVID, for sure, and mainly in the sense that we haven’t had many “major” races or had to travel. However, we have had plenty of racing opportunities whether it be via time trials or smaller local race series. With that said, it has been a great opportunity to try things in a low risk, controlled environment. Here are some of the biggest things that I have learned, and can’t wait to apply next year in major competitions.

  1. Training takes a back seat…

When the race season rolls around, the majority of the fitness building training is complete, and the training that’s done during the race season is all about doing whatever it is you need to prepare for the next races. Personally, I love to train, and grind out those hours, so it took a cognitive shift to say, “ok I have done the training, now let’s use it and see what we can do.”

  1. Different kinds of easy.

For me, during the race season, non-race or interval days, my average day has a 90 minute ski in the morning and some core and a jog in the afternoon. During this time, the morning skis were consistently “easy distance.” Not just shuffling around, but not quite at the distance pace I train at during the summer. In my afternoon “jogs” I was experimenting with different paces/ effort levels to see what they yielded. What I found is that there are 3 levels of footspeed. A run, which is normal distance training speed which, for me, might be around 8min/mi. A jog which is around 9min/mi, and a shuffle which, for me, is 10+min/mi. During this race phase I did a lot of jogging and shuffling. I found that on most days a jog was adequate, but on days before hard efforts like races, a shuffle was superior. For example, one week we did a sprint TT on a Friday, and a 15k TT on Sunday. For the sprint, my legs felt awful, so on Saturday I wanted to take it really easy, and went for a “super shuffle” that afternoon (13min/mi) and on Sunday my legs came around nicely!

  1. The rhythm.

During the ski season when you race weekly, you fall into this rhythm which looks something like this… Race Sat/ Sun, recover Mon/ Tues, easy training or short interval session Wed, easy training Thur , Friday pre-race, then race again on the weekend. Simply put… race, recover, get the body feeling good again to race, & race again, etc… I think a common mistake is going too hard during mid-week intervals because you feel good after a couple easy days, then end up feeling flat in the race because you’ve already spent yourself on the intervals.

I am currently getting ready to start my next race block with the Tour of Anchorage, a well known 50k. Having thoroughly enjoyed the 30km I just did, I am looking forward to seeing what this distance is all about! After that, the plan is somewhat unclear, but will likely include lots of races/ TT’s to round out the ‘20-’21 race season.

Until next time,

Garrett Butts