Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year and other assorted bits and pieces

I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy New Year! If you are the sort that makes New Year's resolutions - well, good luck keeping them.

This time of year has, like always, been dominated by large amounts of training for me. Last week was a high volume week, although I did not quite reach my goal. I fell 2.5 hours short as a matter of fact, but I still felt as though I got some good sessions in. I chickened out and only put in 3 hours on Christmas Day, which contributed to my loss last week. This week has been a low volume, low intensity recovery week, which I badly needed. I've spent 3 days on the sofa, with my legs up and doing absolutely nothing. I am, yet again, fighting off a respiratory infection. This would be the second this winter, if my counting is correct. I should be alright for tomorrow though, as I feel more energetic today. We shall see, we shall see.

I also need to re-evaluate my diet with the professionals in my federation. I've been slacking off and not eating enough, which has contributed to an almost chronic lack of energy lately. Instead of only having 3-4 meals a day, I'm increasing it up to 5-6, which should increase recovery between sessions. This will hopefully help the intensity during my afternoon sessions. I have been feeling great during the first session of the day, but the second session have been lacking quality. I must focus more on getting that proper recovery meal in and some rest after the morning workout.

What concerns me more, is a recurring stomach/digestion problem. Basically, I'm fighting bloat, gas - call it what you want. After meals I look like I'm 20 pounds over-weight. My lower abdomen bloats up and I'm struggling to get rid of it. I'm hoping the "so-called" experts can find a solution to this, as it is also bothering me a bit. It creates discomfort during work-outs... But hey, it I can't get rid of it, I'll make sure to turn it around into something positive. Maybe drafting behind me isn't such a good idea anymore. Unless you are wearing a gas-mask, that is. Yes, this will be the "little extra" that will make 2006 a break-through season for me.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fortitudine Vincimus

"By endurance we conquer". This was the family motto of Sir Earnest Shackleton. In late 1914, the now famous explorer, Earnest Shackleton set out to conquer the last unclaimed price in the history of exploration. With a crew of 27, he set sail for the South Atlantic, destined to cross the Antarctica on foot.

As faith would have it, Shackleton never got to set foot on the Antarctic continent. Much through poor decision making and a run of bad luck, his expedition became a race against time and nature, in order to survive. Shackleton and his men was forced to endure the wrath of the Antarctic winter, while their ship drifted helplessly in the pack-ice of the Weddell Sea. Later, the ship would be crushed by the enormous force of the ice, forcing the crew to live on floes. As the arctic summer drew closer, the crew set out from the pack-ice in small, open boats, heading for the small islands located in the South Atlantic ocean. The whole ordeal would last 20 months, before their ultimate rescue.

Despite his poor preparation and now all to apparent mistakes, Shackleton was a great explorer. Or maybe calling him a great explorer is a misnomer, a great leader would be more appropriate. Was it not for his great leadership skills and his ability to select and create a crew that worked as a well-oiled machinery, the entire exploration party would have perished in the unforgiving arctic.

Another (in)famous British explorer, Robert Scott, lacked Shackleton's leadership skills and did not possess the humble, realistic nature required of a polar explorer. As a result, Scott and his party of 5, all died on the ice. In the words of Shackleton himself; "...But what the ice gets, the ice keeps". I am continued to be amazed at what the human body and psyche can endure, in order to survive. Just when you think you have no more energy, no more mental stamina to continue - you still have not dipped into the pool of "survival energy". We, as humans, have vast and mostly unexplored capabilities, both physically and mentally. The ability to tap into just a small part of this reservoir could bring great results. The ability to ignore and suppress the feeling of pain and the desire to stop is what often separates the winner from the loser.

If find reading about the hardship and the enormous stress that these explorers endured, is very fascinating. I would highly recommend reading "The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition" by Caroline Alexander. The book has much good information and some fantastically unique pictures. To see some of these beautiful pictures, please visit http://www.coolantarctica.com. What better way to relax after a hard day of training (or working), than to relax with a good, interesting book. If you are anything like me, you will not be able to put the book down.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Listen to your body

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? It's not as if your body is speaking a language you don't understand. The signals are there, out in the open for you to see and feel. The elevated heart rate in the morning, the feeling of chronically tired legs, the complete lack of energy and enthusiasm, the scratchy throat, the inability to elevate your heart rate during training...

Why is it then, that so many athletes become over-trained, burned out and sick? Why do we ignore these signs? We all feel them and we shouldn't need someone to tell us what they mean. The language is universal, it's your body's way of saying, slow down buddy!

It is hard to stop training when your program calls for a hard session or maybe a long endurance ride. It's hard because you know that in order to become better you must train. If you don't get out and ride today, your body will be just a little bit weaker when the season starts. Or will it? Like many other athletes, listening to my body has never been something that I'm good at. I used to be a slave to my training log. If the program called for 30 hours this week, I would put in 30 hours. Regardless of weather, form and body signals. Regardless of anything. Come hell or high-water, 30 hours had to be accomplished. I would say - next week I will rest. Next week is an easy week for me, I just need to finish this week of hard training first.

Of course, my body would sometimes have other plans for me. And if I didn't listen to the early warning signs, then it would certainly make me aware by giving me an injury, illness or maybe even "overtraining". It's my body's way of slapping me in the face and telling me to wake up. I have come to understand and believe in the concept of "resting yourself into better form". Sometimes rest is what is required in order to become a better rider. But it really takes hard work to believe in that principal. It sounds so counter-intuitive. How can I get faster by staying off the bike?

You'll find the answer at the end of a season. Always have the "big picture" in mind, progress comes from a whole season of proper training. Not from 1 day or 1 week. Since the whole principal of getting better involves breaking down your body and then letting it build itself up past your previous level, it can be hard to differentiate between the good kind of tiredness and the bad kind. I, like most people, had to learn it the hard way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Reasons

What is important for the professional athlete? What counts? How does one measure achievements? If your name is Lance Armstrong, that question might be easy to answer, too easy maybe. But what if you are the 35 year old domestique, with no top international victories to show for. Then what?

What if your legs are too old and too tired to win the GC in the Tour. And what if the explosiveness of your muscles have somehow disappeared. The power that used to be there, simply vanished. The media and the sponsors are now chasing the number 1 guy. He gets all the honor and glory. You know you can never measure up to the palmares of the top riders. Why do you keep going?

When the game is over, is it possible to measure your achievements and success on your own scale? Or do you have to compare your results to the top riders of the day? Can you say to yourself; "I did well, I am happy with my career", when everyone is measured on results from the classics or grand tours?

You keep going because you know, deep down inside, that when you have that perfect ride, the ride where everything works, nobody can beat you. Nobody. You may have to wait until next season, or maybe even the season after that, before you will experience this ride again. Because of this, you keep going.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Gentleman's Sport

Does hard, honest work pay off in the world of professional sport? Does cycling reward its faithful servants? I think we all wish the answer to these questions was a resounding "YES!", we all want so bad to believe in the rewards of hard, honest efforts. The real picture, however, is more complex. Much more complex.

We yearn for fairness in sport, much like we do in life. Spectators discuss whether or not the victory was deserved. Did the best man win? We want the hard working, "under-dog" to win.

But we know better. There are no "deserved" victories or fairness in sports. We have lots of rules and regulations and even a few athletes that try and cheat. We even have this concept of fair play, but there are no governing body that evaluates hard work and reward efforts based on this. Long, faithful service does not make a bit of a difference. And quite honestly, it shouldn't. This is professional sports. Everyone is in it for themselves and it's up to you to create your own future.

And because of this "lawlessness", because there is no system that rewards hard work, we all rejoice when that hard, honest and faithful athlete once in a great while wins. We say to ourselves "he really deserved to win".

If you travel down in the heart of competitive sports, deep down into the abyss, you find a simple truth; every competitor has to perform his best and each man is for himself. We all have to compete within the rules and regulations, but without knowing that every athlete did his very best, the victory leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.

You see, the real joy of winning does not take place at the award ceremony, nor at the press-conference afterwards. It is a short, but indescribable feeling of joy the moment you cross the finish line, and you know. You know that today you were the best. Today you won, you beat them all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and what-ever-else you celebrate! I wish you and yours well and a great holiday. Mags

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The next hurdle

Gene Doping. Read it again. Gene Doping. This will most likely be the biggest problem in the world of professional sports, and we unfortunately won't have to wait long. Doping experts say that we might see the first cases of this "sci-fi" method of doping during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It will be the most talked about issue during the 2012 London Olympics.

Doctor Hemmersbach, anti-doping lab at Aker University Clinic in Oslo says "We don't think anybody is currently using gene doping, but we estimate that it's about five years in the future. It's an extremely complex field, and using gene technology as doping requires incredible expertise". Hemmersback is part of the IOC's Medical Commission Games Group, tasked with EPO and gene doping. We will most likely see it used in race horses and race dogs initially, but chances are good for it to transfer onto the arena of professional sports.

Currently, it is almost impossible to detect any manipulation of genes, but the good news for anti-doping agencies is that researchers are very likely to find ways detect it. Gene doping is dangerous for the user, since it involves injecting viruses into the body. This can lead to various diseases, such as cancer. Unfortunately, history has shown that some athletes are willing to take such risks. Just look at the problems that EPO caused when we knew less about it. Thickening of the blood and rapid drop in blood pressure would be countered by the cheating athlete by setting the alarm at night in order to get up and move around. This would increase blood pressure and blood flow, most of the time...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Weary

Ah, the bittersweet feeling of tired, weary legs. I'm in the middle of a high volume week and I'm already feeling it. I welcome this feeling, maybe even yearn for it. This slightly masochistic behavior is almost required, I think, in this sport.

I know this feeling will equate to better performance down the road and I would do almost anything for better performance. Anything within legal and ethical limits, that is. But how does a person properly train and prepare as an endurance athlete? Is there a golden, secret way to achieve good results? And more importantly, is that way the only way, or are there several ways to Rome?

As some of you more "hardcore" readers might remember, I've written about this earlier (http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/12/endurance-training-philosophy.html), so I'll do my best not to repeat myself too much.

I'm writing this piece after speaking to an old training buddy that has now, after much hard work, established himself as an elite cross country skier. According to him, there has been quite a bit of debate within the cross country community at home.

It has been written in stone that a cross country skier's training should consist of 90% easy to moderate long endurance sessions with the remainder focused around higher intensity intervals and "race-pace" sessions. Throughout the year, the racer would have 2-3 high intensity sessions per week and the rest would be long endurance sessions.

Well, a few scientists and doctors have recently released research claiming that all these long sessions at relatively low intensity has been a complete waste of time. They claim the athlete might as well have been sitting at home on the sofa. Instead, they suggest huge amounts of interval training and much higher intensity on longer sessions. This they say, develop the heart muscle, VO2 Max and builds the engine. They go on to state that all the claimed benefits of long sessions at lower intensity are hog-wash.

This they can claim, despite the fact that no successful endurance athlete has trained this way. Study the training log of any top cross country skier, bike racer or long distance runner and you will see that most of the time is spent on long, easy sessions.

If this was the end of the story, there would have been no debate what so ever. The cross country community would have simply written this up as something that doctors wearing white lab-coats came up with and left it with that. However, the cross country coach (Svein Tore Samdal) for the women's elite, national team started training his racers with these new principles. And the results of one very successful female skier (Marit Bjorgen) has brought the issue back on the table. The men's elite team are still following the traditional endurance training program, by the way.

Marit Bjorgen has used an extreme periodization program, where she basically has 10-14 day periods of daily, high intensity interval sessions, combined with weeks of higher volume and lower intensity. This is the core of the "problem", which method is correct? Who is doing something wrong and who is doing something right?

Personally, I believe in the traditional method for the simple reason that it has been proven to be very effective. But, this does not mean that it's my way or the highway, either. I do think it is dangerous to encourage younger athletes, with less of an established base, to attempt this "new" method of extreme periodization. This method may work with a few elite racers, with a very good base established by years of high volume training. A junior trying to emulate this program would end up injured, sick or burned out. And the truth is, most elite racers do not train this way.

This leads me to my point; To say that traditional endurance training is completely wrong is dangerous. This method is much more "adaptable" to the individual athlete as compared to the extreme periodization training. No matter how you choose to train, the most important thing is to make sure the program suits you. Trying to copy another athlete's training program is a losing proposition. If there is one thing I think we all need to get better at, it's listening to our bodies. Just because your training plan asks for a 5 hour session today, doesn't mean it's a good idea. Your training plan does not know how you are feeling. We all need to become less "slaves" to the training log and pay more attention to what our body is telling us. Also, training is hard work. It's as simple as that. Instead of losing sleep at night over whether or not you should use 2 minute intervals or 10 minute intervals, or if you should recover for 1 min or 90 seconds, focus on completing each workout 100 percent. This way, we reduce the amount of injury, illness and see more progress. And that is what it's all about, isn't it? Becoming better than we were yesterday, last week, last month or last year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My recovery, my escape

Who needs artificial recovery methods? This is where I re-charge and find new energy. Maybe more riders should try this...

Another positive

According to Velcochimp, http://velo.astrochimp.com/, Inigo Landaluze has tested positive on testosterone. Landaluze recently won the Dauphine, where the positive test result came from. If you are wondering why the heck he would test positive on the male hormone, well my guess is as follows:

Not surprisingly, during high, sustained and prolonged efforts you wear down your body. The testosterone level drop sharply during such times and serves as a great indicator of when you need rest and recovery. Once the body gets its required rest, these levels will naturally rise again. For some reason, many team doctors on the Continent sees nothing wrong with injecting testosterone to speed up the recovery process. As a result, Mr. Landaluze is now most likely looking at a 2 year ban, and rightly so.

As I've stated earlier, I'm a firm believer in a life-time ban for athletes that test positive (A and B sample) for performance enhancing drugs. They take these PEDs knowingly and willingly and in doing so, they give the sport a terrible image and they degrade and dishonor all the clean riders. There is no reason to bring them back into the sport again.

When news like this pops up, it makes me both sad and happy. I'm sad, not for the cheating athlete - he gets what he deserves, but for the sport. But, I'm also happy, because it proves that the system works. We are catching these dishonest riders. Many riders complain about all the out-of-season tests, but I welcome them. In my opinion they should do more testing, especially during the off-season. I'll gladly pee in a cup for anyone, if it helps improve the image of our sport.

I promise

Today I did something I have not done before. I sat down and viewed my own blog, when it suddenly hit me - what a freakin' mess! This blog is hard to read. I can't believe you even bother to come back here. Thank you for your patience.

So, I'm going to make YOU a promise. I promise to insert paragraphs, do a simple spell check and, yes, I will even check my grammar! Can you believe that? I am doing this for your viewing and reading pleasure. :) From now on, I will dazzle you with my exquisite formatting, grammar and the use of words I myself do not understand.

Now, what I cannot, and will not, guarantee is the actual content of this blog. That will most likely continue to be a constant rambling about things that really only concern me and a few other strangely like-minded individuals. But hey, starting today, this noncohesive rambling will have accurate grammar and less spelling errors. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 19, 2005

2006 Winter Olympics

53 days to go, ladies and gentlemen! Aren't you all so very, very excited? I know, I know - this is the WINTER Olympics, no cycling. But hey, there will be plenty of other interesting events to watch. One event that means a lot to me, is cross country skiing. As all genuine Norwegians, I was born with a pair of cross country skis on my feet, ready to hit the trails. So why am I so nuts about cross country skiing? Well, it is very much the winter equivalent of cycling, both in terms of training, tactics and the actual racing events (mass-starts, time-trials etc). Chances are, if you enjoy watching cycling, you will enjoy watching cross country skiing as well. Hey, maybe you'll even turn into a cross country skiing nut like me? You see, the things that make cycling great to me, are the same things that make cross country skiing an interesting sport to watch. The individual that succeed in this event has very much in common with the individual that succeed in cycling. Yet, I admire and, in many ways, envy the purity and simplicity of this winter sport. Norway has consistently produced some of the very best cross country skiers in the world. Despite this enormous success, the sport and the athlete has not changed a whole lot. Still, the successful Norwegian cross country skier tend to come from rural, extremely sparsely populated, areas and he is usually an individual that grew up having a very close relationship with the outdoors. In other words, he is a bit of a loner, a hermit. Instead of going out with his friends for a cold one, or maybe even two, he hits the trails. Regardless of weather. He excels in a sport that does not nearly compensate his training and achievements as much as comparable results in say, cycling. A top cross country skier may only make $15,000-$30,000 a year on his racing. That's it. He could be working at the local McDonald's and make more. And many do, have part-time jobs that is. Yet, he trains as much or more then most of us, year in and year out. His training methods involve less technology and are more "pure" compared to the sport of cycling. We cyclists so easily become "computer slaves". We are all about numbers. I think many riders, especially the "up and coming" ones can learn a thing or two from cross country skiing. We need to stop worrying so much about what the cycling computer says and just get out there and let the natural terrain mandate intensities, candance and heart-rates. We need to find back to the simple, basic idea of endurance training. It's so easy to over-complicate things such as training methods, diet and most importantly - supplements and pharmaceutical products. What we need is simple; training, sleep and a healthy, simple diet. There is no need for all these additional pharmaceuticals, legal or not. The use of these products is extremely limited at home, there is simply no culture for it. Coming from a small country, the Olympics means a great deal to me. The Olympics is an event that brings the country together, unifies the people and creates a healthy nationalistic feeling. We are proud of our Olympians, our pure performers, especially when they triumph over athletes from larger, more prominent nations. It's the classical "under-dog" scenario. Naturally, I hope we do well in Italy next year. Time will tell, but I think it looks promising. And after 2006, comes Beijing 2008.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bringing back the joy of the outdoors

Yes, I know, here he goes again - rambling about the woods and mountains of Norway. As I've said many times before in this blog, I believe there is a direct link between the growing health problems among young people and the lack of outdoor activities. The youth of today does not take part in outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, skiing, running etc. As a result, we see an increase in diseases such as childhood obesity. I believe we need to turn this trend around and help people re-discover all the excitement and joy that lies right outside the doorstep. We need to show youth that it's possible to have fun without the Playstation. I would like to point out 1 individual and 1 organization that is doing a fantastic amount of work with regards to this problem. 1. Lars Monsen. http://www.larsmonsen.no/ Lars is a fellow Norwegian and a great explorer. He has done much good work and showed young people that it's fun, and even cool / hip to take part in outdoor activities. Lars is most known for his epic, 3 year solo journey across the wilderness of Canada, but he has also done several other "small" expeditions across the world. Please visit his web-site and check out his diary / newsletters from his Canadian adventure. It's great reading! 2. Outward Bound Wilderness. http://www.outwardboundwilderness.org/ This non-profit organization offers outdoor activities in the US and internationally. They work with several schools and promote outdoor activities among youth and adults. Every kid they touch will have a new-found love for the outdoors! If you are looking for a charity to donate some hard-earned cash to, look no further. :)

Food

Cakes, pies, cookies, gravy, stuffing, cakes, pies, candy, cakes, did I mention cakes? Ah, the joy of Christmas! It's drawing closer by the day and I've got a dreadful feeling of joy and horror in my stomach. The joy is the obvious part, but why the horror? No, it's not the Christmas shopping that scares the fecal matter out of me, nor the inevitable "do you really have to train on Christmas Day" comment from the wife. No, it's much simpler than that, although maybe simple is the wrong word; Food. Such a simple word, such a complicated issue. In Norway we have a saying "without any oats the horses get weak". As we all know, this principle applies just as much to us humans. We need fuel to perform. Why then, do we make food and eating into such a complex matter? I'm not going to lie to you, I've got just as much of a love/hate relationship to food as the next serious cyclist. At times I worry more about getting fat than a bride does the week before she is about to get married. It's sad and a bit pathetic actually. The whole thing is completely imagined and a product of one's subconscious mind. The development and progress of an athlete consists of 3 basic items: training, eating and resting. All too often do we make the mistake of only focusing on the training bit, although the real progress takes place during the resting and eating phases. Eating sounds so simple, just put food in your mouth. But it's harder than that - eating has created problems, eating disorders. I pay close attention to what I eat, constantly. The food has to be healthy and rich in energy. Fruit, vegetables, whole wheat products, potatoes and fish makes up the core of my daily diet. A very successful athlete once told me "the more I can eat, the more I can train". For a guy that tips the scales around 140-150lbs, I eat a lot. Huge amounts actually, but during my hardest weeks I also burn 5000-6000 calories a day or more. That energy must be replenished, with proper food. Why then, do I worry when I step on the scale in the morning? I know my weight will never climb much above my optimal race weight, year round. But still, I worry. I am working hard at the mental part of this, trying to get rid of this negative thinking. Negative thoughts are a waste of energy, athletes need to focus on positive things, always. In order to perform to the max, an athlete needs to have a healthy, relaxed relationship to his own body. It can be better to be 2 pounds "overweight" and feel good about oneself, rather than spending lots of energy on trying to lose weight. There is a direct link between the mental state of an athlete and his physical form and performance. We need to be in harmony, both physically and mentally. This is where most top athletes have room for improvement. Not to mention that the hard training requires adequate energy-reserves. If the energy is not there, the body will not be able to respond properly to the high training loads. Of course, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that trying to lose 5-7 lbs before the race-season starts is a bad thing, not at all. But many riders don't eat enough, once the target weight has been reached, due to the fear of gaining weight again. This can directly, or indirectly, lead to injuries, illness, burn-out, over-training and a general lack of performance. Patience is very important when you want to lose those extra 5 lbs before the season. Start early and plan to lose small amounts of weight per month. Remember that restricting the caloric intake too much results in a lack of performance during training, simply because your body does not have the energy available to perform. And that does you no good, absolutely no good at all. So do like the horses, dig in and watch your performance increase. Oh, and pass on the cake, it's over-rated anyways... If you keep telling yourself that, maybe some day you will believe it. Until then, be strong and ride hard. :)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Grueling intervals

You know what I'm talking about - the feeling of utter exhaustion, the legs are heavy, tired and full of lactic acid. The taste of blood is all too prevalent, no matter how much air the lungs seem to draw in, it is just not enough. The heart rate is through the roof and the feeling of dizziness has set in. Most sane people would regard it as madness to do something like this, willingly and knowingly. Not to mention that it's not done once, oh no, it needs to be done over and over and over again. How? Why? These are questions that have been asked, but can anyone really answer them? These sessions are so hard and mentally demanding that it takes two days to prepare, to find motivation and inner strength. To push one's body so close to the edge, over and over again, it takes mental focus. It's all too easy to be "nice" to oneself and not put in the required intensity. Rain, snow, sleet, sun, cold, wet, hot - it doesn't matter, these sessions are what brings us up to the next level. They need to be completed properly and somewhat frequently. It's all about walking up the ladder, one step at a time. There are no limits for the person that wants to succeed, really wants to. But there are consequences for the individual that understands what it takes to make it. Year in and year out he must be willing to follow a rather boring training plan, to the "t". He knows that during the long, hard interval sessions he must be willing to push himself past the threshold of pain, far past it. Not once or twice, but over and over again. There is hardly no excuse for dropping a training session, family vacation during the summer or 10 degrees below zero with blowing snow - neither will do. He must train. If you really want to succeed and you are willing to make the sacrifices along the way - you will make it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The calm, clear one

It's a crystal clear, calm spring morning. The air is clean and fresh, the sun is starting to warm up your body and the sky is blue. Like most mornings you are out on your bike. You have been riding for maybe an hour, but you are not exactly sure. On a day like today, who is counting the minutes anyways? You are headed towards the top of the highest mountain on today's ride. Your body is responding well to the requirements of the climb and your mind is calm and clear. You are focused. You are not drifting away today, like you do on some days, you find a sort of inner peace. Just you, the bike and the road leading up to the top. No thinking about the bills that need to be paid, the yard-work you have been putting off for the last 2 weeks or how your toughest competitors will do this season. At this moment, you wouldn't want to be anywhere else, or do anything else. As you work your way up along the narrow, winding road, you are constantly looking for that next "nature experience". You know this is deer and moose country. Last fall you hiked up the side of this mountain many times, hunting the "king of the forest". When you plan training rides, you always try to find areas rich in wildlife. What if you can see a big bull, or a maybe a doe with her fawn? As you turn the corner and the forest opens up into an open alpine bog, you see them! The doe is gracing at the edge of the forest, the fawn is running around, playing. He seems to be enjoying the day as much as you are. They haven't seen you yet. You slow down and watch them for a little while before the doe notices you and with a graceful jump she is gone, into the forest. It's almost as if the trees swallowed her and the little one. You increase the pace again, returning to your efficient pedal candence. The adrenaline is rushing through your body, this short encounter revitalized you, it gave you an extra boost of energy. As you reach the top of the climb, the area surrounding the mountain lays beneath you. You can see the city down there, with the commuters stuck in rush traffic. Moments like that makes you appreciate your life. That you are given the opportunity, time and resources to do this! On days like today you understand how privileged you are. Cycling is so much more than just races, victories and losses. The feeling of being in top shape, that you have the energy and strength to ride your bike 150 miles, run for hours or ski across the mountain, that is what's all about.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Perfect Ride

The perfect ride, I'm not talking about winning, the perfect ride is something else, something more. It's when everything works. Your equipment works perfectly, your technique is effortless and efficient and every part of your body performs optimally. You feel invincible. Instead of dreading the pain caused by the next steep, long climb or the tortouress pace required to reel in the break-away, you welcome, yes even impatiently search for the next moment of hard effort so that you can pour some of that strength into it. And when the moment arrives, at the base of the climb or when the group forms into single file and the pace quickens, you feel as though you are powered by some invisible force with unlimited energy. You think to yourself, that now, now you are going to show your opponents, now they will experience the real feeling of pain and suffering. As you peak the climb, instead of resting a bit, you switch into that monster gear and spin it like you've never done before. You feel that you are recovering from the effort of the climb much quicker then usual. Even on the decent you are taking chances, no playing it safe today. With all this extra energy and power comes the feeling of being invincible. Nothing can go wrong today, today you are going to steal time both uphill and downhill. You simply cannot seem to be able to find a use for all that energy. These days are rare, very rare. Maybe once a season, sometimes even less. Maybe a few times during training. The perfect ride starts before you even get on the bike. It starts with the previous night's sleep. You have no problems sleeping, no tossing and turning, no worrying about the race. Just a deep, calm sleep. You awake with lots of energy, before the alarm-clock goes off. You get out of bed, you try to feel the body, the legs, as you dress. You wonder, is this the day? Is this the day when everything will work? The legs feel good, very good. Everything is ready for the race, all your equipment has been prepared the day before, including dry clothes to get into after the race. You know that it's crucial to avoid spending energy on useless things today. You want to bottle up all the energy and reserve it for the event that is going to take place 4 hours from now. You eat your breakfast quietly today, avoiding anything that is not crucial for the race. A big bowl of oatmeal, a couple of bananas and the glass of orange juice goes down fine. One cup of coffee finishes the morning ritual and wakes you up, gives you that little bit of "extra". You prepare your after-race recovery meal, making sure it's ready as soon as you get off the bike. You arrive in the start area about 2 hours before start-time. You are focused, getting ready mentally. You check the equipment again, is it all ready? You arrange for the recovery meal and dry, warm clothes to be ready at the finish area. This is what you have been working for, all those training hours. Those long, hard winter rides. All the hard work, it accumulates in today's event. Usually this "pressure" would cause negative feelings, but not today. Today you are focused, calm and clear. Today you want to show them all. Today is your day. You can feel it already. Is the day? Will this be the perfect ride? You warm up, the feeling as your feet hit the floor this morning is still there. The legs feel good, very good. But you are cautious, you have felt like this before. You know that you very well could feel super now, only to discover that your legs are full of lead after 3 hours of racing. You tell yourself to be conservative, realistic. Stay focused, do not celebrate the victory before the race has even started. You know that it's extremely important to directly all your energy and strength towards something positive. Happy thoughts, man, happy thoughts. The sweat starts to drip from your face, legs spinning effortlessly and fast. You are getting warm, the body is responding well during the warm-up. Finally, the time has come. The race starts, as usual, it starts fairly slow as we pull out of town. Riders chatting, exchanging stories, alliances are being forged, only to be broken 1 hour from now. Welcome to the peloton. As the race progress, you feel that this is the day! You recognize the feeling of the perfect ride. This is your day.

Posts to come

Over the last few days I have been posting "trivial" stuff, which most likely has not been too interesting for you, my reader. I realize I haven't been 100% true to the original intent with this blog - discussing cycling related topics. I just haven't had much creative juices flowing through me lately. :) To make up for all of this, I will start writing a series of articles discussing the mental aspect of training and racing. The first one should be posted tonight, I hope. :) Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Canadian dream

I'm sitting here, staring at a large map over Canada - losing myself in one of my future "projects". I would like to complete a trip (on foot) from Great Slave Lake to the Hudson Bay in Canada. The distance is more or less 500 km by air, but it would be somewhere around 550-600 km by foot. Just me and the dogs, hiking across a small piece of Canada. What more could I ask for? Of course, as I've mentioned before, crossing the inland ice-cap of Greenland from Ammassalik to Sondre Stromfjord is also very high on the "to-do" list. This distance is about 550 km as well, but in a very different climate than my Canadian adventure. And to be honest, the solo trip across Greenland is most likely at the edge of my capabilities or worse. I've been exposed to similar weather conditions before in Norway and completed long trips isimilarar climate, but still... It would mosdefinitelyly push me to my limits, since Greenland is very much a "polar" experience. Not to mention that both trips require large amount of time and resources, which could be hard to allocate in my present position. The Canadian trip is more "accessible", both with regards to time and funds and might be first on the list. Both trips would fall in my racing season, or in the weeks leading up to the season, and would therefore take some creative effort my part to pull off. Only time will tell, I guess. From one thing to something completely different - have we seen the end of the ProTour? It doesn't look like either the UCI or the 3 "big ones" are willing tcompromisese. Too much pride at stake I guess. Who would have thought that the UCI liked to flex their muscles? ;) Well, Christmas is drawing closer by the day. We were planning to get a tree today, but ran out of time. Maybe tomorrow then. The wife smashed the driver side mirror in her car and she is absoluteldistraughtht over it. I can't believe it. It's just a mirror, not the end of the world. Speaking of the end, I will stop ranting and cut this posting short, before it gets even more scrambled, if that is possible.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A quick plug for a great, great web-site

I would highly recommend visiting Ben Saunders web-site. I've mentioned this before, but it's worth saying again: This is a fantastic web-site with lots of interesting information for anyone that remotely enjoys the great outdoors. Ben describes his earlier expeditions, training and other bits and pieces of great info. The photos are worth the visit alone. The web-site is: www.bensaunders.com He is putting together his next expediton (2006), to the South Pole, visit http://www.bensaunders.com/south.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

trainer

A very, very long 4 hours on a trainer. All while watching "Glory" and "A beautiful Mind". Two good movies and both selected completely randomly from our DVD collection. Talk about mental training, geeez! I don't even know how I managed that long, but it feels good now. Anyone that has ever spent months, or even years, in a foreign country know how much you start to miss all the little things that make up "home". At least I do. I try to get my "fix" of Norwegian culture by watching Norwegian television and reading newspapers over the internet. It still gets pretty sometimes, while other days I don't even think about it. I am walking around with an idea of registering for a cross country ski race in January (open / citizen category) - for no other reason then because I think it would be fun. I'm always looking for a "change of pace" and this might be interesting. :) No decision made yet, we'll see what happens.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A slow day

Not much to report today, really. A slow day at the office, which is pretty nice actually. Winter is here to stay and I actually welcome it. Who says you have to move south permanently to train efficiently? People worry why they can't stay motivated when training indoors, if you catch yourself looking at the watch, wondering when you have reached your "planned" time period (volume) - well then you are missing the most important dimension in training; nature. Training outdoors gives us so many sensory inputs (sight, smell, feel and hearing). Many of these inputs happen on a sub-conscious level as well as consciously. So, bundle up and get out there! :)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Endurance training philosophy

I've always been interested and fascinated with what works and what does not work when it comes to endurance training. I've seen and heard many different philosophies and methods as to what works and how an endurance athlete should train. Of course, many roads lead to Rome and there are without a doubt many different ways to succeed. I would certainly say that the training culture in northern Europe is a bit different maybe then what it is in Southern or Eastern Europe. I will try and sum up what I've learned, observed and heard with regards to the "Norwegian" method vs. Continental Europe. Endurance training methodology in Norway consists of some key items: 1. As much as possible of the training is done outside, year round. Irrespective of weather conditions. We compete outside, so we train outside. We have access to some of the best natural training terrain in the world and use it well. As a side-benefit, if you are used to training in bad weather, you compete better in bad weather. One of the reasons for this "obsession" with outdoor training activities is simply that most citizens from a very young age is taught the joy of being outside, enjoying nature. 2. Cross-training. It is generally more accepted that an endurance athlete can improve his performance by using cross-training. In other words, a cyclist can become better by running, hiking and cross country skiing. He does not necessarily only have to ride his bike. This belief also allows us to train outside year round in a country that might not have 100% optimal conditions for cycling in the winter. In southern Europe the general feeling is that a cyclist can only become better by riding his bike. Running or skiing is a waste of time. 3. Long rides at medium intensity vs. shorter rides at high intensity. Traditionally, endurance training at home has been overwhelmingly dominated by lots and lots of long, relatively easy sessions and very few hard, high intensity sessions. In a nut-shell this would make up the yearly training program for cross country skiers, long distance runners and cyclists. It has become very "hip" recently to discard these long, "easy" rides and label them as a waste of time. Some scientists have gone as far as to say that this type of training is entirely wrong. Instead, they suggest more hard, threshold sessions and intervals. This they say, regardless of the fact that most successful elite endurance athletes, regardless of sport, never trained this way. I will defend the traditional method and here is why: For an endurance athlete, about 90-98% of the performance is aerobic. The remaining 2-10% are anaerobic. So, in a 4 hour competition, as much as 3.92 hours would be aerobic and 0.08 hours would be anaerobic. In other words, you can train to improve your performance in the 3.92 hours or you can train to improve your performance in the 0.08 hours. Obviously, the potential for improvement is much greater in the 3.92 hours that are performed aerobically. Not to mention that the 0.08 hours of anaerobic performance is not that "trainable / improvable". So, in short - traditional endurance training with about 90% of the total training volume per year focused on aerobic capacity (long rides with low-medium intensity) and the remaining 10% invested in intervals and tempo rides is more beneficial. The long, easy-moderate intensity rides (called langkjøring in Norwegian) improves certain key physical attributes: increase incellularr mitochondria, improvement of the capillary blood vessel network and an increase in aerobic enzymes. These long rides also improves the body's ability to utilize fat as an energy, leaving the more fast-burning carbohydrate energy for the short bursts of power in a race. Even with these facts, many modern coaches are not recommending young athletes to focus on these long rides. A simplified way to look at an effective endurance athlete's weekly training program, following traditional endurance training is: Hard, easy, easy, Hard, easy, easy. On a weekly basis it would be Hard, Harder, Hardest, Easy, in regards to volume. 4. Athlete vs. coach / team. I think we have been successful in treating each athlete as an individual and listening to the athlete. Just because you have a team of top, elite performers, does not mean that each one will not have specific individual needs. And those needs may vary from week to week or month to month. One training program will only fit one athlete, you cannot design one program and suggest that everyone follows it. Individual variables such as illness, recovery rates etc will throw that whole system off. Eastern European nations on the other hand have notnecessarilyy believed in this. They have required all athletes on the national team to follow the same training program, regardless of individual variables. This has in effect, lead to eastern European countries falling 10-15 years behind the "curve". A great example is the old Soviet cross country ski team and their training program. Between May and September everyone on the team had to follow this plan: Monday - 35 km rollerski in the morning and 1.5 hour run in the terrain in the afternoon. Tuesday - 2.5 hour run, uphill in the morning and 1.6 hour rollerski in the afternoon. Wednesday - 2.5 hour rollerski in the morning and 1 hour easy run in the afternoon. Thursday -strengtht-training and easy recovery training. Friday - 2.5 hours hard run in the morning and 1.5 hours rollerski in the afternoon. Saturday - 3 hour run or rollerski Sunday - rest with lots of sleep. In addition, they were forced to sleep at certain times. In other words, no consideration for the individual athlete. This program lead to great success for the athletes that "fit" the program and no success for the individual that needed something different. Many talentedskierss never realized their potential because of this rigidness. I think we have been successful in Norway, due to the concern for the individual. 5. Use of pharmaceuticals. One of the greatstrengthss we have in sports at home is the attitude towards taking any type of drug, legal or not. The use of any drug, pill, drink etc that is not natural is very rare. From bottom to top, we utilize very, very little products that "aid" athletes. In short, top training consists of running, skiing or biking outside combined with an afternoon nap and a good night sleep for recovery. The diet is a simple, sound composition of wheat bread, dairy products, potatoes, fish, lean meat and lots of vegetables and fruit. This is VERY different on the continent where athletes take all sorts of "recovery enhancing" products etc. I'm glad I got that attitude with me now, it makes it easier to make the correct choices in modern cycling where team doctors etc are always trying to give you something to "speed up recovery" etc. I look forward to hearing input on this!

Scrambled mind :)

In many ways I'm very much like a child, at least my wife swears by that. If I've had a good training session, she knows because I'm smiling and happy. If on the other hand, my body didn't perform properly and the session was a bit "hard", I'm grumpy and depressed. Well, today I'm happy! Over the last 2 days I've had some longer sessions with higher intensity, all aerobic still, but staying closer to my threshold. I have felt very good during these sessions. My power and energy seems to be better than what it was last year at this time. Of course, this is all just "perceived", since I haven't gone in for my lab test yet, but I have a good feeling about it. And it makes me a happy camper. :) I noticed that the Grand Tour organizers decided to leave the ProTour circuit today, the power-play continues between them and the UCI. I have to say that the gentlemen of the Grand Tours make some good, compelling points as to why they chose to go this route. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this. For more info, check out http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2005/dec05/dec09news3 Some interesting news has came out of Norway as well, as Stifinner Naturopplevelser AS will run the Geilo Festival of Cycling for the first year in 2006. This will be an 8-day long event with both road and mountain bike events scheduled. It will attract recreational bikers as well as some of the national elite. Stifinner Naturopplevelser wants to create the equivalent of the Sea Otter Classic. I wish them the best of luck and really, really hope that this event gets a great start. Geilo is a beautiful area, very well known for it's winter sports and it's well suited for this type of an event. Check out www.fjellsykkel.no for more details. I have figured out how to add pictures to this blog and wanted to show you all my "kingdom" back home:

I have spent countless hours, days and weeks in this terrain. Biking, running, skiing, hiking, fishing and hunting. This is where I go to clear my mind, to find a purpose.

From one thing to another - for my Norwegian speaking readers, I would HIGHLY recommend visiting and reading Ingrid Kristiansen's web-page addressing endurance training. Lots of very, very good information there. Although Ingrid is (was) a long-distance runner, the topics discussed here are just as relevant for cyclists. Take a look:

http://Ingrid-kristiansen.com/helhetstrening/toppidrett.htm

Well, the winter Olympics are drawing closer by the day. I am getting more and more excited, this will be a great event. I am planning, time permitting, to provide a blow-by-blow report on this blog, but February also means high volumes of hard training for me - so I may only have time/energy to watch the Olympics and not write about them. But, at least I'm planning to write a bit, time will tell if I'll be able to. For me, cross country skiing is the most interesting winter sport and I will naturally try and follow that more closely. I find it very interesting since there are a great deal of similarities between training methods (philosophy) in this sport and cycling. Very similar indeed.

Over the last few days I have been trying to collect my thoughts, trying to find time and purpose to write a posting about endurance training philosophies and the interaction between a team, a coach and the individual athlete. Maybe I'll attempt to write this piece tomorrow or later tonight. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

More on the new lifestyle of the youth

The European Union's heath commision released some frightening, but not very surprising numbers, regarding childhood obesity today: More than 400,000 children become overweight each year in Europe (!). The numbers for North America is no better. The 2 leading causes of this epedemic is: poor eating habits combined with a lack of activity. No surprise there either. This is, of course, a very complex problem and not easy to solve. In my humble opinion, here are some key issues to deal with: 1. Daily activity - we need to encourage children to be more active. Much more active. One key problem is the way 90% of all kids entertain themselves - Playstation, TV, Movies etc. Instead of this, lets bring back the joy and wonder of outdoor physical activity. Lets bring our kids out into the park, forest, mountains, back-yard, whatever is available. Encourage the wonder and excitement of being outdoors, go exploring in the forest, look for animals, go fishing, skiing, you name it. Any outdoor acitivity that is fun will teach a young child to love and appreciate what lies outside the 35" Panasonic television set. This, I believe, is one of the most important things we can do to combat the problem. It's important that it's fun and exciting, not a drag or boring. 2. Phyiscal activity in school - for some reason the weekly amount of phyiscal education in our schools have dropped. This trend must be reversed. Lets increase the amount many-folds. 3. Sports - when we enroll children in sports, lets focus on encouraging and establishing good attitudes towards training and living healthy and not focus so much on specialization at an early age or pressure the children into performance oriented goals. That can come later. And, we must face one very important fact: taking your son or daughter twice a week to football (soccer) practice does not fulfill the entire need for physical activity that week. Not even close. Studies have shown that adult-organized activities lead to 70% inactivity in the children. It is much better to let them "run with the ball" and only supervise. 4. Over-Protecting - I know this is probably easy for me to say, since I have no children, but parents are waaaay to overprotective of their kids. Take a look at an average school playground, it will either be completely clear of natural obstacles (trees etc), or if there are any - the branches are all cut off to prevent the children from climbing in it. "We" are all so concerned and afraid that the kids might get hurt, that we create this un-natural environment for them. Let children explore their limitations, and yes, that means falling down from a tree, bleeding a little bit and maybe even having to go to the doctor once in a while. I think children are much more resilient then what we think. This over-protecting creates children that are, for a lack of a better word, "sissies". They are afraid of everything, they don't want to go outside if it's a bit cold or rainy etc. I also think that this over-protecting will lead to the child looking for other, more dangerous, ways of getting an adrenaline rush later in life (drugs, alcahol etc). 5. Eating habits at home - we need to create a simple, good and healthy diet for children in the home. No more soda, fast-food, donuts, candy and other higher sugar and high fat content food. Lets go back to the traditional, simple diet that we used to eat. Some people might say that it is a "punishment" to the child if they can't have a donut and a soft drink, hell no! As I was growing up - I only had soft drinks and candy twice a year (Christmas and New Years). That was it! Was I unhappy? No, I think I had the best childhood anyone could possibly ask for. I was 18 years old or so the first time I had fast-food (training camp in Southern Europe). Have good healthy meals, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That may mean spending more time cooking, versus ordering a pizza etc, but think of what you are doing for your child (and yourself). And I'm not talking about all these "popular" diets (Atkins, no-fat and whatever else there is). No, I'm talking about a simple diet put together with good, raw products. Also, lets bring vegetables and fruit back into our lives. 6. Food in the schools - Walk into a public school now and take a look at what is available for kids to eat. It is amazing! How the heck can we let this happen???? Soft drink machines line the walls, vending machines filled with candy, VERY poor food served in the cafeteria etc. I don't know what to say about that, other than WTF!? 7. As a society we need to make changes - force the schools to serve good food. Remove the poor food items from school property. Increase PE in our schools, teach children about healthy living habits. Let them play outside, even if it's a bit cold... 8. And finally - food manufacturers. Take a look at McDonalds for example. What a great, great marketing plan they have. Happy-meals, toys, a clown as a spokes-man, play-rooms inside the resturant, a McDonalds strategically placed close to pretty much every school in the western world and a fantastic ad-campain on every channel that children might watch. Can you get any closer to a "brain-washing" program? How the heck can possibly a kid not want to eat McDonalds several times a week after all that? And it's not just McDonalds, they are all doing it. Every other food product on the market is filled with unhealthy, un-natural "stuff". Can we / should we as a society enforce what food producers can and cannot market? I don't know. But one thing is for sure, I'm scared, very scared, of trying to raise a child in this world. We don't have any kids and with my 100% dedication towards racing - we will most likely wait a while, but it scares me to think about. Even if we as parents try and "fight" the current trend, look what you are up against - poor food in the schools, heavy marketing by fast-food producers, the "everybody else is doing it" effect etc. I wish we could get this problem onto the international agenda more. Forget about the flu-pandemic. There is a pandemic going on right now, and it's obesity. Jumping from one thing to another - I'm sitting here watching the snow fall and trying to determine what role I will have in the team next season. My season goals all fall in July / August of next year and I hope to have a team behind me for those. It looks like I will, which is good. I'm already itching for the spring races to start - I love competition. I love the feeling when the body is responding the way it should, when you feel you have more power and energy left and you are just looking for the next hill / mountain, so that you can use some of it. I love the adrenaline rush during a race, I love the feeling of putting some pain on my competitors, pushing them to see how their form is today. I especially love the crappy, cold, windy and wet days. Not because I'm a sick, sick, sick person (although some people that know me might argue differently), but because I know that everyone else is suffering just as much, or preferrably, more than me. I've worked really hard on the mental aspect of racing and training - I try to find a positive in every situation. Something to fight for. I visualize myself putting pain on my competitors when I'm suffering through the hardest of interval sessions. It works wonders. :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

aches and pains

Nothing much to report today either, I did about 2.5 hours of running and I'm really paying for it now. With about 3 hours yesterday and 2.5 hours today, my body is screaming at me, wondering what the heck I'm doing to it. My hips and knees are hurting, but it should all be allright by tomorrow. I notice that I'm getting "heavier" in the step each season, in other words - my running "skills" are getting worse and worse. I guess that is a natural by-product of all the riding. After feeling the aches and pains after just 2 days of running, I'm thankful that I'm performing in a "non-impact" sport. Tomorrow I'm going to do the first session of the season on the trainer. I've got a higher intensity threshold session scheduled. Shouldn't be too bad. Other than that, I've been busy with holiday preperations. I love Christmas actually, I love how everything "slows down", spending time with family and enjoying good food. Although, I always watch what and how much I eat. But, I treasure even the smallest piece of cake, pie or cookie - simply because that is all that I will eat. Sometimes I think I appreciate such food much more because I never eat very much of it at all. I'm also trying to find time to be involved with a cause that I really burn for - childhood obesity. I've ranted about this over and over again in previous posts, such as http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/11/rest-day.html and http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/11/life.html. I wish we could get more focus on this in the main-stream media. Like it or not, it's a huge problem, no pun intended, and it will not go away unless we address it. Handling this problem means, in my opinion, making changes across the board. Big life-style changes are required. As an athlete, I hear and see the effects of this "in-activity" in endurance sports. The quality of young athletes is dropping, the level of performance is not improving, but rather declining. This is especially noticeable in endurance sports that accurately quantify performance (running, speed skating etc). Ok, I'll get off my soap-box for now. I can feel the effects of the mexican dinner I had with the wife kicking in anyways, so I better go take care of business. Although, I highly recommend mexican food, great stuff. :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

running

I put in almost 3 hours of running today. Nice change of pace from the bike and it gave me a great chance to keep the hunter in me alive. With the very cold weather we are having right now, it's either running, skiing or sitting on the trainer at home. As I've said many times before, I love to train outdoors. I'm planning to run for around 3 hours tomorrow as well. I pushed myself a bit harder today, with heart-rates around 84-85% of max HR. Of course, I stayed 100% aerobic (sort of an aerobic time trial), but the body felt great and responded very well to the increase in pace. No stiffness in my legs and I felt as though I could easily go much faster. Running is certainly not "low impact" though and I can feel it in my legs now... I'm sure I'm going to feel it even more after tomorrow's session. I'm also on track with regards to my weight loss, I'm down to about 149lbs now which is a move in the right direction. I can still need to lose another 7lbs or so, but I've got 6-7 months to accomplish that. That's it for me today, not much else to report. As always, thanks for visiting.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cold, but is it too cold?

The forced rest day I had yesterday really did wonders. I had an ok weight training session today and my body felt good. It's amazing how much more energy you have available after such a day and I tried to push my body a bit extra, just to see how it responded. It was good. The weather is typcial, cold... We've got about 0 F (-16 C) and this is getting very cold on the bike. Even for me. :) I've got a tempo ride scheduled tomorrow, but I may do some cross-training off the bike for the next 2 days or so. I will most likely go for a high intensity (race-pace / tempo) run or maybe some cross country skiing. This time of year, specific training on the bike really isn't all that important anyways. What is more important is building the engine. As a side-note, I would highly recommend visiting Ben Saunders web-site, http://www.bensaunders.com/. Ben Saunders is a long-distance skier with 3 pole expeditions and he is planning to re-create Robert Scott's 1912 expedition to the South Pole next year. His web-site is facinating reading and I highly recommend it. I'm playing with the idea to cross country ski across Greenland at some point in the future, but I would have to do it in the spring - which means I would have to dedicate 16 days or so for the trip. That is hard to do in the spring, for obvious reasons. Although, maybe I can convince my team that it would be great preparation for the spring races? :)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Forced rest

WEll, I had a 2.5 hour ride planned today - instead I'm sitting here writing in my blog. Why is that? Because I'm nurturing a cold... I've been feeling a bit "out of it" all week long, especially in the mornings and evenings. Last night I decided to take 1 day of forced rest, in order to give my body a chance to fight this off before it gets worse. So, I slept for 11-12 hours and will stay warm and dry all day long with no unneccessary activity. I take these forced rest days with both a smile and a tear. On one hand I know that a rest day can do wonders for my body and it will prevent me from getting sicker and maybe having to loose a whole week. Especially since I've got a fairly slow day scheduled tomorrow (weight room), a rest day today combined with a slow day tomorrow should make me ready for more training later. However, I've always had problems "skipping" training - I feel like I take two steps forward and one backward every time I take a forced, unplanned, rest day. Of course this is completely wrong, since 2.5 hours of training will not change the outcome of a season with 800-1000 hours of planned training. But, nevertheless - the feeling is there. Gnawing away at me, gnawing, gnawing... :) 2 years ago I would not have heeded the subtle signs of illness and continued training without an extra rest day. 2 years ago I had regulary weeks of lost training due to illness. 2 years ago my support staff was frustrated, trying to get me to stop training when sick. But still - I feel bad for not being out there today, riding my heart out. But I know I shouldn't. I know it's better for me not to. But... Anyways, there you have it - the confused, clouded mind of a Norwegian. :) I did analyze the first period of Base training this pre-season. It was good, I reached the amount of training I had planned. My body responded well to the training and I had a good road test. I think I have improved my technique and increased power, without gaining any weight. Tomorrow my 2nd Base period starts. Goals for this period are fairly simple. I need to lose 2 pounds (down to 148lbs), I will continue to work on pedal efficiency and I will be looking for improvement in muscle endurance as well as hill climbing. The intensity in my sessions will increase a bit. I will start doing tempo rides (rides at threshold or slightly below - race pace) and seated hill-climbing at a high cadence. That means rides up into the elevations, on snow-covered gravel roads... I can't wait. :) Soon the first training camp starts, which is good. The sessions will be the same, but all in much warmer weather. As always, I keep half an eye on the happenings of the Pro-Tour. I guess Basso will ride the Giro as well next season. Should be an interesting race, with riders such as Ullrich and Basso. Although, I'm fairly sure they both will only come to the Giro as prep for the Tour. I don't think they will try to peak for both races, too much of a gamble. Ok, that's it for me. Now I must go do nothing.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

T-day

Well, that was it. First road test of the 2006 pre-season is out of the way. I'll admit I was a bit excited about it this morning. The test is fairly simple, it's a 10 mile (16 km) course over hilly terrain and I ride it at aerobic intensity. In reference to heart rate, it's about 10 beats below lactate threshold heart rate, or a pre-determined amount of watts below threshold power. In other words, not an all-out effort, far from. The outcome of today's test was promising and better then previous tests this time of year. Conditions today were not great - 20 degrees F (-6C), overcast with a 15 knot quartering head-wind. Maybe it's time to pack my bags and go to Tenerife? :) Other then that, I've not done too much today. Tomorrow I've got about 2.5 hours of riding, before I start my 2nd week of base training on Monday. Intensity will certainly increase, with tempo rides and focused hill-climbs. Starting in January the first set of "true" intervals start, so next month will be a good build-up towards those sessions.

Friday, December 02, 2005

non-traditional base training and other very, very interesting topics :)

Cycling News posted an interview with Frank Schleck (CSC) today. I found it interesting, since Schleck (and B. Riis) apparently believes in the same non-traditional base-training as I do. Schleck says: "Just before Milano-San Remo, Bjarne told me that I was participating in too many races before the Giro; that he needed me there in good form. 'You can't stop all together,' he said, 'you'd lose too much muscle. But your heart needs a rest.' So he asked me if I could ski. He said, 'don't break anything, but go ski, it's good for the muscles'." He goes on to explain: "We skied together, but I also went walking up the mountain at 7 o'clock in the morning, three times a week. And I must say that it was great training! As I returned home, I was in top shape, even better than before. I'd like to do that again in 2006, if I can, as it was also great for my mind and motivation. Plus, I'm lucky I don't gain any weight that fast, so it's perfect for me". I've heard so many "so-called" expert coaches say that all training that happens off the bike does a rider no good. I've always believed this is a bunch of BS, but I've had several individuals in various continental teams tell me I'm wasting my time running, sking and hiking through the mountains. They believe that ALL training must happen on the bike, or in a weight training room. The training culture at home is very different and I would say it is more "open" to cross-training such as cross country skiing, hiking and running. All endurance sports have 1 thing in common at home, training means getting out into nature and get your heart rate up. Whatever you do to accomplish this is ok. Of course, of my 900+ hours a year training, the overwhelming majority takes place on the bike, but there is some good quality sessions running through the alpine tundra or water-logged bogs on a rainy, cold fall day. I know Kurt A. Arvesen (CSC) and Hushovd uses much of the same type of cross-training as a good pre-season "change of pace". I think we have a different mentality to much of this in Scandinavia, as compared to central and southern Europe. Base training is base training, it does not always have to be 100% specific. And hey, it gives me a great excuse to scope out the fall bird hunting terrain and still call it training. :) Of course, I once overheard a so-called expert coach tell a bunch of young, promising riders that 10 hours of training per week was all they needed to "release" their genetic potential. What a bunch of BS! Like it or not, volume needs to be there. Period. Riders that are around 16-17 need to be up to at least 500 hours or so a year, preferrably more. 10 hours a week will not do. They need to walk the ladder every year, with constant increases in volume. And the training needs intensity. To read the whole interview with Schleck, check out http://www.cyclingnews.com/riders/2005/interviews/?id=frank_schleck05 From one thing to another, the author of this blog, http://ashwinearl.blogspot.com/ posted an interested piece on the cost of cycling equipment. That made me think about something, recruitment into cycling. The equipment frenzy and the apparent need to have all the latest and greatest in cycling equipment is hurting recruitment. Imagine being a mom or a dad, looking at easily $5000 or Euroes in equipment for their son/daugther to participate. Now, if they have more then 1 kid, this can get a bit out of hand. 99% of all riders do not need that top-of-the-line bike. Especially not on a youth level. The best peformance enhancer is not equipment, but heart, lungs and legs. And it's fairly easy on the pocket-book to improve these factors. We should focus on these things for youth wanting to "make it" in cycling. Establishing good training habits and attitudes is more important then giving the kids the impression that in order to compete they need a carbon-frame bike. As a side-note, I would like to officially admit that I'm a coffee addict. Coffee is the only performance enhancing drug I take and I take too much of it. Of course, I've never (and will never) get a positive because of caffeine (I don't drink that much) , but I do like it. Nothing beats the feeling of kicking back into my favourite chair with a good book and excellent coffee after a good training session. And with that I leave you.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Still busy

I had planned my second rest day of my recovery week today and I'm glad I did. I've been running around since early this morning, achieving seemingly nothing. Tomorrow I'm back in the weight room, working primarily on leg press, leg curl and leg extensions. I plan to do a 60 minute run to warm up, which works out pretty good because that is about the time it takes me to run from home to the studio. Saturday marks a big day for me, at least in my mind. It's my first road test of the season and although my coach, DS and everybody else it seems, keeps telling me that whatever the results, I shouldn't worry - I do. I like to see progress, it gives me peace of mind. I haven't had my regular "lab-rat" session yet this season, but I will either before Christmas or shorthly afterwards. I suppose my numbers (max VO2, threshold power, lactate etc) will be ok though. Maybe even higher then last year. I'm more concerned about my road tests, since racing takes place out in the elements, not in a lab. Time will tell, I guess. I'll post my results on Saturday. Other then that - I'm trying to find out the exact details of the first training camp of the season and other logistical bits and pieces. I'm, as always, watching my weight this time of year, as the holiday season draws near. To everyone else I might seem thin (deadly thin?), but I'm still carrying 5-7 pounds extra on my upper body. I really don't want to add any more, since I got to get rid of it before May/June. If I would have to guess, I would say my body fat % is around 9-10 at the moment. My lower back has a little bit "jiggely" stuff, stuff that I don't want to be dragging uphill. My numbers will improve a lot once a loose the extra pounds. I just have to make sure I don't loose too much. Afterall, one of my main goals this pre-season is to improve power. Well, we'll see - hopefully it will all work out.