Busting Myths About Cramping

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best advice and most interesting insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist.

For decades (almost a century, in fact), we’ve been told that cramping is caused by electrolyte imbalance or bad hydration. But new science suggests that this probably isn’t why you cramp during exercise.

So why do you cramp? It all comes down to something called altered neuromuscular control.

Take a listen: https://soundcloud.com/user-562497687/fast-talk-ep-26-busting-myths-about-cramping

Swedish Study on the Effects of Drafting and Air Resistance in Nordic Ski Racing

MITTUNIVERSITY in Ostersund has been investigating a study on the effects of drafting and air resistance in Nordic ski racing. Researchers are trying to figure out how much energy and power cross-country skiers can save when they tuck in behind other skiers. Researchers and athletes have reason to believe this can make a huge difference in mass start races.

An ongoing research study is looking to see how much energy and power can be saved by skiing behind others. “Drafting” is not a new concept, and proper drafting techniques are commonly practiced in cycling, however, to date cross country ski sports scientists have yet to prove its relevancy for Nordic racing.

“I absolutely believe that you can benefit from the study, since you can not only focus on how much you can save on skiing behind but also for the one in the very front – how can I optimize my race to give as little benefit as possible to those behind, says Mats Ainegren.

“We want to look at different speeds, because the air resistance increases at higher speeds, and then we want to see what speed has a significant impact,” says the associate professor of sports technology, Mats Ainegren.

The study called for 10 men and 10 women of elite and semi-professional racers, and will release the results in the fall of 2017, just in time for the 2017-2018 race season.

“It’s no news that it’s easier to ski behind, but I think, on the other hand, that you can develop the technology to be first and not loose anything. Sometimes it difficult to be second and third, – so the trick is to find the right method.” – says Jerry Ahrlin.


Source: SVT Sport

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Thoughts on Nutrition When Preparing for a Marathon or Long-Distance Race Event or “Carbo Loading Strategy”

Q: My question is really about what/how to eat the week before, night before, and morning of a marathon to ensure my body is as energized as possible. I know carbs are important and also know that a certain ratio of carbs, protein, and fat are required to help your body optimize the benefits of each component. So, I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about how to eat for race prep, and maybe some examples.


A: When preparing for a marathon or long-distance race event, nutrition can certainly be a limiting factor. Muscle glycogen is the primary fuel athletes use in training and racing. Carbohydrate loading (the infamous, “carbo-load”) strategy has been shown to enhance marathon and long-distance performance by preventing premature fatigue.

For a well-trained endurance athlete, tapering exercise in the final days (36-48 hours’ pre-marathon) while maintaining adequate carbohydrate intake (10-12 g/kg/day) is a simplistic method for using nutrition to your advantage.

Sports nutritionists recommend that endurance athletes consume adequate carbohydrates to promote restoration of muscle glycogen between training sessions, for ideal recovery. Basically-make sure you are eating carbohydrates between workouts for recovery as well as to fuel your next workout. In general, endurance athletes should be sure that 60-65% of their daily calories come from high-quality carbohydrate sources, 12-15% from protein, and 25-30% from fat.

For a marathon (or longer) event, the last meal should be completed at least 3 hours before the start of the race to ensure that timing of energy release is ideal, and to avoid any gastro-intestinal problems. Foods that are rich in carbohydrates (bread, oatmeal, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes) However, some easily digestible fat and protein sources are also needed to help the carbohydrates supply a steady release of energy to the blood. A good example would be a bagel with nutbutter or oatmeal with nuts or butter, or nutbutter, giving you the carbohydrates and fat source.

Keep in mind, however, it is important to be able to supply adequate amounts of high quality foods without causing disturbances to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A pre-competition meal should not stray from foods that you normally eat in your everyday habitual diet.

Carbohydrate drinks have been loved and hated throughout the years. One camp claims that sports drinks before a race cause insulin to spike, and then drop during the race causing a “crash”. Studies more recently show these shifts in blood glucose are to minimal to cause a problem.

Hydration is of special concern for athletes who are exercising for extended periods of time. It’s not uncommon to forget to hydrate when training and racing, however, it is very important to have a hydration strategy in place prior to a race event and to practice regular and consistent hydration while training.

Be careful not to exceed ~700-800 ml per hour during a marathon, as high volumes have been shown to present intolerance problems.  It is key to have a hydration strategy to consume ~150-200 ml periodically throughout the race. If you know the course beforehand, look at the sections of the race profile where you can take a drink effortlessly.


Karmen M. Whitham
CXC Development Coach
karmen.whitham@cxcskiing.org

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2018 Masters World Cup: One Year To Go!

Coming January 19-26, 2018 the biggest age-group competition in skiing will visit Theodore Wirth Park in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the 2018 Masters World Cup (MWC2018) returns to North America.

The MWC2018 will be the culmination of five years of planning by local organizers, The Loppet Foundation, and the American XC Skiers (AXCS) non-profit masters association.

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Photo credit: Vuokatti MWC2016

Well over one thousand masters from nearly two dozen nations spanning the entire cross-country ski world are anticipated to take part in the MWC2018. With no qualification process required, adult skiers ranging from 30 to 90+ years of all abilities will enjoy up to three individual races (in their choice of technique) plus a national team relay in all age/gender categories. Opening and closing ceremonies, social events, and Olympic-style medal ceremonies for each race are also part of the annual MWC program.

All MWC2018 racing will take part at Theodore Wirth Park located just a few miles west of downtown Minneapolis. Major improvements will be made, including expanded snowmaking capability at the park; a redesigned stadium configuration; a new event and administration building; and new trail access for the MWC2018 connecting the park golf course trails to two lakes on park property. Construction of all the planned improvements have begun with completion anticipated by Summer/Fall 2017.

“The new infrastructure is going to be great for World Masters, but also for everyday skiing,” says Isaac Kasper, the Loppet Foundation’s Trails Superintendent.

Part international ski festival and part world championship, the Masters World Cup is a celebration of cross-country skiing as a sport for life spanning over decades of competitor ages. All race events start in 5-year age groups making the MWC perhaps the only time adult skiers can actually take part in a ski event with a representative group of their exact peers.

Rotating around the ski world, the annual event was last hosted in the United States by McCall, Idaho, in 2008, with the last North American host site being Sovereign Lakes/ Silver Star, British Columbia in 2011. It is anticipated that next North American hosting slot will be no earlier than 2022, making the MWC2018 an incredibly unique event for any North American master skier.

Longtime USA National Director and current World Masters Association President, J.D. Downing, believes the Masters World Cup should be seen as welcoming and inclusive as any major ski marathon.

“Every year we have USA skiers attend the MWC from a huge range of abilities and fitness levels. The beauty of the MWC format is that everyone has a wonderful time.”

According to Downing, the selection of Minneapolis and specifically Theodore Wirth Park to host the MWC2018 was the result of a strong desire by both American XC Skiers (AXCS) and the World Masters Association to leverage a big city environment to build interest in both the MWC as an event and cross-country skiing in general.

“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for skiers from around the world to experience our sport in a true big city setting,” says Downing. “After skiing on really great trails at the park, participants will have their choice of literally hundreds of dining and entertainment options just minutes away. From NBA and NHL games, to world-class cultural events, to the Mall of America — this is going to be anything but the same-old ski experience. This is going to be the biggest XC ski party ever held!”

Loppet Race Director Mike Erickson thinks this will be really exciting for the whole Loppet community.

“We can’t wait to share our great trails with skiers from around the world.”

Understandably, the reliability of snow for the MWC2018 has been the single greatest point of focus in the event bid and development process over the past several years.

“The MWC2018 will be the first Worlds in history that has multiple plans in place for low or no snow situations, says Downing. “The Loppet Foundation has already tested lake ice grooming technology plus remote snowmaking systems so that in low or no snow they can incorporate the extensive Park lake ice into the courses plus surrounding terrain into the expanding golf course snowmaking loops. The fantastic natural snow courses at Theodore Wirth Park are obviously our preference, but everything will be in place for a great MWC2018 regardless of what Mother Nature provides us.”

Registration for the MWC2018 will begin in Fall 2017 via the official website www.MWC2018.com with extensive information already available via www.xcskiworld.com and other AXCS membership media over the coming year.

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Things to note ahead of the MWC2018:

— Although there is no qualification process required for the MWC2018, all USA racers will need a current 2017/18 membership in American XC Skiers (AXCS). Visit xcskiworld.com for details on joining AXCS.

— All MWC2018 races are wave starts by age/gender categories. USA racers that have taken part in the 2016 or 2017 Masters World Cup events will automatically have World Masters Association seeding points. USA skiers without points will have the option to petition the USA National Director in Fall 2017 for discretionary seed considerations.

— The MWC2018 relay (2 classic and 2 freestyle legs x 5km each leg) is a national team event with every nation limited to just one team per nation in each age/gender relay category. With a very large USA contingent expected, the AXCS National Director will have the responsibility of selecting all relay teams and alternates immediately following the first three days of MWC2018 racing.

— The 2017 AXCS National Masters will be held on many of the same courses as the MWC2018 and thus will represent an excellent opportunity for North American skiers to preview the venue for the “home” Worlds.


For more information:
J.D. Downing — AXCS National Director jd@xcskiworld.com 541-317-0217

Amy Oberbroeckling — The Loppet Foundation Communications Oberbroeckling@loppet.org 612-900-6890

How to Taper and Rest Between Marathons

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.

Good luck,

Brian Gregg
www.facebook.com/GoTeamGregg


Brian Gregg

Cramping

Q: I am a citizen racer and completed my second Birkie this year. Both last year and this year my legs started cramping up during the second half of the race. I never cramped any other time in my life, including during ski training, triathlons, etc. I know the Birkie is a grueling race, but what suggestions do you have that can improve my off season training? I am a skate skier; do you have any specific drills I should do? – Cramper

A: Cramping most often comes from muscle fatigue. Your muscles need to get used to the 2,3,4 hours of marathon skiing. I do not know how much you train now or what your long days are and if you do intervals, etc. But the only way to hope to avoid cramping in next year’s Birkie is to replicate your Birkie effort in training leading up to the Birkie, to train your body for that effort.  You need to get some long days in skiing replicating the efforts that you will be racing the Birkie. Up hills, down hills and balancing on one ski over uneven terrain and in sloppy Birkie snow.

I think the unusual nature of the Birkie with the often sloppy snow and the stop and go nature of maneuvering around other skiers adds additional strain on your muscles. So you should try and replicate that effort. If you do not already do it, you should start rollerskiing in the summer, and increase your long days come fall. In winter do one long distance day a week and increase that throughout the winter. Race other ski marathons before the Birkie and then peak at the Birkie. There are no secrets. It just takes time.

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The difference in a ski marathon to a triathlon or a running marathon is the unpredictability of the snow condition. On a bad/sloppy snow day it takes a lot more muscle work to remain balanced. That, plus skiing in a huge crowd wears on you. And this is why I believe you may be cramping at the Birkie but not at a triathlon. So work on technique so you can ski more relaxed. Skiing faster, easier can be done with fitness and also with technique. Many people focus on fitness not enough people focus on technique. So learn how to glide father faster.

I hope this helps!
Andy at SkiPost

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Surviving Sub-Zero Marathons (and other chilly encounters)

By: CXC Team Member, Andy Brown 

The 2013-2014 polar vortex taught me several, quite literally, painful lessons about what works and what doesn’t when the temperatures really bottom out. Everyone is an individual and has a different internal furnace and circulation, but these are the things that have worked for me.

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1. A light hat and a buff are basically mandatory when things are 5 degrees or colder. If things get really cold, a single buff is generally too thin and I like to switch to a thin balaclava. Balaclavas are shaped to fit your neck better and don’t bunch up quite as bad as two buffs. You don’t need much of a hat when it’s doubled up with a buff/balaclava and too thick of a hat will just make you sweat.

2. Breathing cold air, especially during hard exertions can hurt your lungs. The worst my lungs ever felt was after a 10k at zero degrees in which I wore a headband. Keeping your throat warm with a buff or balaclava really can help to prevent this. If it is truly arctic conditions the AirTrim breathing masks are the best solution. They look dangerously uncool, but it beats permanently damaging lung tissue.

3. Glasses are a no brainer and a must for cold conditions. They not only keep your corneas from freezing, but protect a fairly large portion of your face. Plus who likes getting snow in their eyes?

4. For the parts of your face not protected by your buff of glasses, Dermatone/vaseline and Warm Skin are great. For many people they are enough to keep frostbite at bay. If you have gotten frostbite before, I highly recommend moleskin at least on your cheeks. It looks weird but really does work. Put it on dry skin before any lotion to ensure it sticks. You can generally find it in the footcare/orthotic section of a store.

5. If you are prone to cold feet, boot covers are great. I generally don’t race in them, but they are nice for keeping your feet warm before the race. Don’t go crazy trying to jam extra socks in your ski boots, you’ll just restrict circulation.

6. For gloves it’s all about windstopper. Having normal size windproof gloves beat bulky mitts all the time. If you really get cold hands, Toko has sweet overmitts that block the wind and go on over your pole straps so they don’t mess up your strap adjustment. Also be careful at feeds not to splash liquid your gloves or you’ll freeze a finger or two.

7. To keep the rest of your body warm, windproof baselayers are great and can eliminate extra clothes that otherwise will make you feel bound up and inflexible. Craft makes several nice models. If all you have are normal long underwear adding duct tape to the front for the knees and over the groin makes a huge difference. It is under the suit and no one will notice

8. For guys, windbriefs. You want two layers of wind stopping material somewhere in your layers, especially for skate races. Ignore this rule at your own peril (and maybe that of your future offspring). An extra buff can also be stuffed down there in an emergency.

9. Feeding during a race in cold conditions can be problematic. I’ve poured boiling water into a drink bottle at the start of the Vasaloppet, only to have it turn into a solid block of ice by 30k. Energy gels also become impossible to eat if they freeze. For the most part I no longer bother trying to keep a bottle with me when it’s below zero. Instead I depend on aid stations and team support along the trail to give me warm fluids. I still carry energy gels, but I tape them inside my waistband where they stay warm enough to eat.

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