In just three weeks of training on skate skis, I have gone from total beginner, having trouble even figuring out how to get into my skis and strap on my poles, to a level far beyond what I would have imagined.
In this short time, I have managed to greatly reduce the amount of time spent on my face in the snow, and have developed a highly advanced hop-maneuver to recover my balance when I push off a little too aggressively in one direction.
I know this improvement sounds shockingly rapid, and I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself, but it does have me wondering about my future as a Nordic Olympian.
In reality, my own trials, tribulations, and baby steps have me wondering what a serious biathlete, also training for the Mammoth Biathlon (but much less comically), is doing at this same point in time. So I contacted Britt Cogan of Mammoth Lakes to ask her a few questions.
Cogan, now 25, came to Mammoth Lakes four years ago. She grew up in Wisconsin, and while that state is known for its cross-country skiing, she didn’t live in that part of the state. She played soccer for her college in Iowa, and certainly didn’t consider herself a skier.
As an orthopedics technician at Mammoth Hospital, Cogan met the charismatic Dr. Mike Karch, the mastermind of the Mammoth Biathlon. He didn’t so much as ask her if she wanted to participate in the biathlon, but rather told her “you are going to be there.”
She gave it a go, and was quickly hooked. She likes the dichotomy of the sport—the contrast of intense aerobic activity with the need to stop and steady yourself to shoot accurately, despite a pounding heart and heavy breathing.
An encouraging sidenote: the first time she ever shot a rifle was at her first winter biathlon. Last weekend, she placed first in the 10th Mountain Division Biathlon in Auburn, and in a couple of weeks, she will head to West Yellowstone, for the National Biathlon Race, to test herself against some of the nation’s top biathletes. She also carries one of Clayton Mendel’s custom biathlon rifle stocks, made right here in Mammoth Lakes.
Cogan has certainly come a long way in a short amount of time, and serves as a great example of where dedication, motivation, and a good dose of training can get you. So how is she training right now to be at her level?
This week is a ‘low volume’ week for Britt.
Tuesday: One hour easy distance.
Wednesday: one hour easy ski plus specific strength: 4x1 minute uphill double pole (poling only, no legs!) and 4x40 second uphill V2 poling technique (pole with both arms for each leg). Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes.
Thursday: 20-minute warm-up. Speeds: 6x15 seconds, rest 30 seconds. Intervals: 2x5 minutes, rest 3 minutes. Level 3 exertion level (“I can think clearly, but I can’t talk much”). Then, 3-2-1-1 minute ski at level 4 (“no talk, need to focus”) on a gradual uphill with equal rest.
Saturday: Ski with Masters class.
Sunday: 1 hour 45 minutes easy distance, with 6x10 second speeds in the last 30 minutes.
From my current vantage point, it is mind boggling to think of working specific poling techniques (Cogan’s Wednesday workout), when I can’t even seem to efficiently strap into mine. But as with all things, practice makes permanent, but perfect practice makes perfect.
Nordic conditions report
New snow at higher elevations has made it a challenge for skating, and not much new snow in town means Shady Rest hasn’t been in shape for grooming. It’s a challenging winter out there, but Tamarack and Rock Creek continue to work hard to put in good track. These storm cycles are a great time to get out and work on your diagonal stride. The soft snow is great for hopping in the tracks and working your classical skiing technique (especially since it’s much easier to brake in the soft snow).
Beginner skier workout
Technique: One session lasting about one hour to work on technique. Skiing without poles is a great way to feel body position on your skis. Try it for 15 minutes of your workout. Think tall, and focus on forward lean from the ankles.
Overdistance: Go out for a very easy 6k ski.
Target practice: This week, be sure you are skiing between rounds of shooting. Running or jump-roping are good substitutes that will get your heart rate up so you can practice shooting with an elevated heart rate.
Experienced skier workout
Overdistance: Ski 9k (for 4.5k racers) and 15k (for 7.5k racers).
Intervals with target practice: ski intervals at Level 4 (about 90-95 percent of your maximum effort, or “uncomfortably hard”). Try some pyramids: 1:2:4:4:2:1 minutes (with equal rest) on hilly and variable terrain to work on transitions (uphill, over hill, downhill, flat). Target practice between each interval is great—jumprope or running are great substitutes if you can’t find somewhere to ski and shoot.
Level 2 ski with technical focus: Ski for one hour at a comfortable pace, working on technique.