Q: I’m an avid ski racer and most of my races throughout the ski season are marathon (~50km) skate races. This season I have been thinking more about how to properly taper and rest between marathons without loosing fitness. For example, ski the Birkie, followed by a two week break until the Yellowstone Rendezvous. I’m hoping to feel fast at the Birkie, and peak for the Rendezvous. What types of workouts do you recommend to make sure I recover from the Birkie but peak (instead of loosing fitness) going in to the Rendezvous? I’m very comfortable with interval training, but am not sure what types of intervals (duration/ intensity/ reps), if any, are appropriate in this late phase of the season.
A: First of all I am impressed that you are prioritizing a race in your schedule. It is easy to want to do well in every race you enter, but prioritizing one race each month can help you to have a truly great race rather than a bunch of so-so races.
I would recommend maintaining your average training load up until Tuesday before the Birkie, then I would recommend reducing your training load by 50 percent for the next three days.
Keep the training frequency the same, but just make each workout a lower load. If you normally ski for an hour, just go for a half hour. If you normally do 6*4 minute intervals, do 3*4 minute intervals. Maintaining the workout frequency will help you to still get the hormonal and physiological benefits of the training but the lower load should help you feel good and fresh for the race.
You will not loose any fitness over three easy days. After the Birkie, feel free to take a day or two off, or better yet get out for a super slow recovery ski, walk, bike, yoga or jog. Keep the intensity super low as the purpose of any training is to help your body recover. Hopefully by Wednesday you will begin to feel good again. Resume your normal training load and frequency. Since you have already had a hard race effort, I would recommend threshold interval workouts with burst of speed thrown in. A favorite of mine is 6*8 minutes at level 3 with 2*15 second bursts in each interval. The focus of this workout is helping your body to buffer lactic acid and to improve your comfort and technique at speed. If you still feel the load from the Birkie, just do easy distance skiing with 10 x 8-12 second bursts of speed at 10 km race pace. Give yourself a good 2-3 minutes between each burst. The entire week of your target race drop your training load by 50%. If you get that restless feeling, that is a good thing, just save that energy for the race.
March is one of the most fun times to be a skier as you can essentially rest and race.