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

How to Peak for Racing for Beginners

by Karmen M. Whitham, CXC Skiing

My suggestion for any relatively new cross-country ski racer is to build the endurance foundation first, with A LOT of true level 1 volume. The time to do this is in the spring and summer and then come back to it for a short period after the fall intensity block. This allows you to put in major hours on snow and absorb the work you’ve just put in from your intensity training. Paying attention to the aerobic foundation is paramount at the beginning of your skiing career because it builds a foundation of fitness that acts as a spring board for anaerobic training. It’s the difference between building a house with a cement basement “foundation” vs. just sticking some plywood and drywall into the dirt. You’ve got to have something to keep you strong and stable.

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There is a caveat of losing speed however. Therefore, it is advised that you add simple speeds (fartlek) to your distance workouts. For junior athletes I like to surprise them with 15-30 second sprints during distance or over-distance workouts. I like this method because it also creates playful competition which reminds us why we love to mess around on skis in the first place. Alternatively, you can strategically plan sprints into distance workouts, for example, add 5×30 second speeds (take a minute between each to get the heart rate back to level 1) in the middle of a 2- hour ski or run.

If you keep distance workouts (with speeds) as the foundation of your training (4-6x a week) and add level 3 and level 4 workouts 2-3 times a week, you should not jeopardize your endurance capacity. In training blocks where level 3 and 4 are the primary focus, make sure you are still doing one over-distance workout per week. These workouts are designed to be at true level 1 in order to build mitochondria for oxygen transportation thus maintaining your aerobic fitness.

As for sprint workouts that are effective, I’m a big fan of “mock-sprint days” where you have a qualifier, and three more sprints after that with about 5-minutes of active recovery between them. Not only does this help build anaerobic fitness it also sets an environment for mental preparedness that will get the athlete ready for sprint competitions. Otherwise 1-km relays, time-based ladders, and distance based ladders are other ways to construct sprint, level 4 and level 3 intervals to promote anaerobic capabilities.

To train to be a cross-country skier means you are creating fitness in every aspect of human performance. You should think of training as an interplay between strengthening the aerobic and anaerobic systems as opposed to training either exclusively. That said, you may shift your attention to simply emphasize one system over the other, to coincide with the goal of your respective training period.

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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Alexander Legkov: Nutrition Advise for Marathon Skiers

Olympic Champion 50 Km free style, Sochi-2014, Alexander Legkov gives his nutrition recommendations for long distance marathon skiing.

Aleksandr Legkov

Marathon nutrition is very important. It is important to constantly eat during a race, practically from the start. After first 5 km, even if you don’t want to drink, it is still important to do so. I would recommend sport drinks with high percentage of carbohydrates. You can get additional energy from them right from the get go.

– How often do you drink during a race?

Nowadays loops  are shorter, maximum two different fives, and usually between them you still cross the stadium. So it is important to try to drink every five km. Often a racer has a misleading feeling that he/she still has a lot of energy, but as a rule, the energy runs out quickly and unexpectedly. To avoid that, it is important to fill yourself up with carbohydrates.

– What exactly do you drink during a race? Do you use anything else besides drinks?

I drink a standard carbs drink, almost every sport nutrition company has it. Every racer can pick his/her favorite. Also energy drinks that contain necessary salts and minerals are very useful.  They replace what is lost during sweating. I would like to point out that you need to figure out the right consistency of your drink beforehand, so it is not too runny, and not too thick, so you would not feel the need to flush it down with something else after. Before 40 km I drink a carbohydrate beverage, and closer to the end of a race I drink fizz free coco-cola mixed with a pretty strong coffee. That mixture opens my eyes, gives me an energy boost and this is exactly what I need before the finish. Sometimes during races I also use energy gels. Gels need to be eaten right before the food station, so you can follow with something liquid.

– What are the servings of drinks and what temperature should they be?

Ideally all the drinks need to be warm: not too hot, and not too cold, so they would go in pleasantly and easy. There are many things to consider when we talk about quantity. It all depends on how you feel, how the race is going. As a rule, I ask to pour a little too much then needed, I take one-two sips, and if anything is left, I just throw a bottle away. It is also important to have the right containers – no cups. The most comfortable ones are the small plastic bottles from a drinkable yogurt for example. Optimal neck width – the same as on Swix belt containers.

– It is not a secret, that marathon nutrition is not only food during a race, but a diet before the start…

In professional sport, as far as I know, no one follows any special diet. I am not an exception, and before the marathon start I eat the same as before other races. The matter of fact,  50-km distance became so fast nowadays, that it is not much different from other shorter distances. Two-three days before the marathon I would recommend to eat food containing lots of carbs, for example pasta.

– This spring you are planning to ski super marathons, like 90-km Vasaloppet.This distance is quite a bit longer, then those two hours that you usually spend on 50-km. How are you going to eat there?

My advice would have been more valuable if I had done the race and had the experience. Right now I can not imagine what it even is and what is waiting for me there. As for now, I have the same idea in my head: drink carbohydrate drinks as much and as often as possible, not to allow the body to become depleted.

– What do you usually eat for breakfast before the race?

First of all, it is cereal! It is possible to have it anywhere. I try to get a very large serving, and finish it too, because it digests very quickly and it is not in the way during a race. Ideally, cereal is best made with water, not milk. Also, if possible, it is very good to eat some bread with red caviar. Even now, it is not a huge luxury, but it is very nutritional. Muesli, cottage cheese, honey are also good, anything that gives you energy.

– What would you NOT recommend doing before or during a race?

I would not recommend eating lots of spicy or fatty foods before the race, so the liver does not get stressed out. The rest does not need to be limited in my opinion.

Source: www.skisport.ru

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What to Eat Before an Endurance Race

by Beth Skwarecki

So you’ve decided to tackle an endurance race—maybe a marathon or half marathon, maybe a triathlon, century ride, all-day hike, or some other multi-hour effort. Of the many tough decisions you’ll make that day, one of the first is: What should you eat for breakfast?

There’s only one right answer, in a sense, and that is: Whatever you practiced during your training. Race day is not the time to try anything new, because you’ll be living with the consequences for several (possibly agonizing) hours. Still, you have to start somewhere, so here are some of the things you’ll want to keep in mind to prepare the best breakfasts.

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Keep Your Guts Happy

Exercise, and especially running, can make your guts unhappy. Digestion can result in uncomfortable bubbling, and meals that digest slowly—which means especially large or fatty ones—can feel heavy in your stomach.

Small meals give your body less to digest at a time, increasing the chance that food will be out of your stomach and into your small intestine by race time. Food in your stomach tends to be the least comfortable. Once it’s in your small intestine, you can efficiently absorb the sugars and other nutrients in the meal.

Carbohydrates (like sugars and starches) tend to make it through the stomach the fastest, so they make for a “light” meal. Liquid foods move through even more quickly.

Carbohydrates may increase your chances of GI distress (nausea, flatulence, diarrhea); some athletes swear they get symptoms from eating too much sugar (like combining Gatorade and gels), but the situation may be more complicated.

Ultimately, what upsets someone else’s stomach may not upset yours. Responses to different foods are personal, so experimentation is key. Try a new breakfast on a short run day, then on a long run day, before deciding it’s safe for your race. In other words, trust your gut.

Manage Your Time

Most races and endurance events start in the morning, so you’re already getting up early and dealing with a million tiny things. (Where are my safety pins? Which roads will be closed? Did I remember to put BodyGlide everywhere?)

Race morning breakfasts are, for almost every athlete I know, something that’s quick and easy to prepare. Make sure to shop the night before so you have those bagels and bananas handy, or consider a make-ahead recipe like overnight oats that you can grab on your way out the door.

You’ll want to consider the amount of time it takes to begin digesting the meal. Most runners I know will eat their breakfast about 2 hours before the race’s start time, to be sure they won’t be running with a heavy stomach. If you’re pinched for time, liquid calories like a smoothie or a cup of gatorade will digest quickly, and could make a good last-minute breakfast or a post-breakfast snack to carry with you to the start line.

Hydration should factor into your schedule, too. Rather than chugging water right before the race (which could leave you looking for a porta-potty when none are to be found), you’re better off drinking lots of water in the days leading up to the race. To schedule that other important bathroom duty, consider drinking hot tea or coffee (or even hot water) to make yourself poop. (Make sure to practice this on training days to be sure you have your timing down!)

Some Winning Breakfasts

Here are some classic runners’ breakfasts, along with what makes them so great:

  • Peanut butter on toast: Provides carbs, along with a little fat and protein to slow down digestion so you won’t feel hungry while you’re lining up at the start. Because of the digestion time, fans of peanut butter either have it in small doses, or recommend eating it at least two hours before the start.
  • Bananas: A good source of carbs (mainly sugar) with just a little fiber to slow it down, and some potassium for good measure. (Some runners swear potassium staves off cramps, although the science isn’t clear on that.)
  • Coffee: In addition to helping you poop, coffee is good for a caffeine boost that can help athletic performance. Keep the amount within the limits of what your body is able to handle—another key area to experiment.
  • Oatmeal, overnight or otherwise: Oats are both a good source of carbs and a great vehicle for your favorite type and amount of proteins, fats, and fruits. Have it hot, or try cold oats made the day before, which you can pack into a jar for a portable breakfast.
  • Bacon and eggs: These break the rules (unless you’re used to exercising on a ketogenic diet), but it’s possible to work these into your morning if you get up early enough to have time to digest it all, or if you keep the amounts small (for example, a little bacon with your toast and banana).

Any breakfast can be a great one for race day if it’s something that works for your body, but now you know some of the ground rules for building a great pre-race meal. Athletes out there, what’s your favorite breakfast?

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Taper Before the Race – Counting Down 7 Days to a Marathon

Assuming you have been training regularly, have your travel booked and know where to find your skis, boots, and poles the hard work in preparing for a marathon is done. Here is a general outline for a taper before the race and a few tips to help you make the most of your marathon.

The taper should be between 45-55% of your average weekly training volume. For instance, if you are averaging 6 hours per week, you would cut that down to about half (3 hours) for the taper week. Depending on how your body is feeling, you can adjust that number a bit (hence the 45-55% range).

by Brian Gregg

SEVEN DAYS UNTIL THE START OF A MARATHON

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Brian Gregg

7 Days Out: Over Distance Ski (3-4 hours)
Get out for a long ski, 3-4 hours at a super easy pace. Use the same technique as you plan to race (i.e. skate or classic). Going longer than your predicted race time will make the effort on race day shorter and feel ‘easier.’

6 Days Out: Recovery Day
Let your body recover and rebuild from your OD workout. Hydrate well and make sure to replenish all glycogen stores by eating plenty of carbohydrates.

5 Days Out: Threshold Intervals 5*6-8m
You should be feeling pretty good after your rest day. You need to remind your muscles how to move quickly. Find terrain similar to the race course and ski just below your race pace. I would recommend 5 intervals of 6-8 minutes for 30-40 minutes of fast skiing. Focus on technique and stay relaxed.

4 Days Out: Easy Ski (1 hour)
Give your muscles a break by switching to the opposite technique of the race (classic or skate).

3 Days Out: Medium Distance Ski (1.5-2 hours)
If you are feeling good, keep the pace easy but go a bit longer so your body remains familiar with exercising for a long period of time.

2 Days Out: Easy Distance Skiing w/ Speed (1-1.5 hour)
Throw in a 5-10 ‘speeds’ of 10-30 second efforts at a pace similar to or just above race pace.

1 Day Out: 20-30min Ski
Try and stay off your feet as much as possible. Go for a short 20-30 min ski or jog to help keep you relaxed. Pack your bag; prepare you feeds/snack for tomorrow to be ready.

Race Day: Race
Treat this day like any other day. Get up have a normal breakfast and give yourself plenty of time to get to the start and enjoy the day.

BEFORE A MARATHON

Travel
Plan your travel to be as smooth, quick and stress free as possible. If you are flying look for direct flights and plan to avoid rush hours and minimize night or poor weather driving. Remember to get out for a walk or jog after travel or sitting for long periods of time.

Wax
It is always nice to have fast skis but a marathon is really the time to invest the time and money. Check online for service representatives recommendations and if you don’t have it in your wax box go out and support the local shops.

DURING A MARATHON

Feeds
Find out what your body likes during your long training sessions. We have enough glycogen stores in our muscles for about 1.5 to 1.75 hours and a marathon is generally longer than that so it is a good idea to refuel several times midrace with something. Try different gels and sport drinks at varying concentrations. If you are particular to a certain brand, flavor, or mix you may want to consider carrying your own bottle. If you do choose to ski with a bottle practice drinking from it while moving. You may even want to arrange for a friend to hand you a bottle or gel during the event. Caffeine is something to play around with too. I enjoy a little flat Coca-Cola/Red Bull mixture with about 25 minutes to go.

Equipment
Make sure your equipment is all in working order prior to race day. Check your poles to make sure that the straps are the way you like them. Also check that your baskets are the right size and have plenty glue. Try out any new gloves, hat, boots or skis in training sessions before the race.

AFTER A MARATHON

When you finish the race there is a good chance that you will be a little out of it. A little planning can go a long way in making your post-race experience more enjoyable.

Warm Clothes
It is important to get into warm dry clothes as soon as possible. Hopefully you will be plenty warm when you cross the finish line but you will cool of quickly in your sweaty clothes. Many race organizers provide bags to put your warm-up clothes in at the start and will have them waiting for you at the finish line. If this service isn’t provided you may consider bringing a bag from home to ensure your clothes stay dry while you are racing. Remember how good it feels after a race to put on a pair of clean dry socks. A nice cotton sweat shirt is good too.

Cool Down
Ski around a bit after you finish the race to let your body flush out some of the lactate and hard work from your system. You may not feel like doing this but this will go a long way toward making you feel better in a few hours. At the very least get out and walk around for fifteen minutes and cheer on other competitors.

Replenish Fluid and Energy
Your body needs it and will likely crave it. Take advantage of the race food provided. It is also a good idea to throw a water bottle, snack and some cash into the warm clothes bag. I always enjoy a treat from the bakery after a long race effort. Try and get a meal in within an hour of the finish and make sure it includes some protein.

Communication Plan
It is fun to share the race experience with friends. Before the gun goes off, make a plan for how you will connect after the race. Do cell phones work at the race venue? Are you going to meet at the finish line or the food tent? It might seem like a silly thing to plan for, but it easy to get lost in the crowd at big races and have some people waiting at the finish line, others at the food tent and some at the car.

Enjoy
Great memories and best friends are made during marathons. Enjoy the process of preparing for, racing in, and celebrating your marathon experience.

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Switch Your Level 4 Session Day to the Race Day

Q: Hi Coach! During the Fall I have three races planned, two rollerski and one biking biathlon. What do you suggest I do with my training plan? So far I have bee using the “workout importance” to move things around and miss as little training as possible.

A: If there is not any racing specific days on your plan, you can always switch your Level 4 session day to the race day. This will get you the Level 4 work that you need in the fall without overloading you. What I mean by overloading is doing multiple intensity sessions in one week since those are the sessions marked most important. That can take a toll on a person that may put you in a deficit. Instead of taking out one of the least important general distance or strength sessions, just substitute your structured intervals for a race.

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