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Preparing for the Unpreparable

January 12, 2004
By Pat Lorentz

Note: This article is rather lengthy but I feel it is worth the read. All opinions and recollections of events in this article are strictly from the author's point of view.

While explaining the American Ski Marathon Trip to various skiers over the last few months many people asked: "How do you prepare for something like this?" In this article I would like to attempt to explain how I have approached this task.

For starters I would like to note that I realize doing eight marathons in one season is not physiologically intelligent. I am not sure if we will even be able to complete all of them, after all the four of us are pretty inexperienced in the ski marathon. Last Saturday I was able to get out to Elm Creek for a nice ski and skied some with Jay Tegeder of St. Paul. Jay and I talked about the trip and he informed me that he has done twenty-seven marathons or maybe it was twenty-seven Birkies alone, I cannot remember, but that would be more than twice as many marathons then the four of us added together. Nonetheless, the concept of doing the majority of the American Ski Marathon Series in one season proved too great of a temptation.

I have had four great ski coaches throughout my ski career so far. It started in high school where John DeWall and Rick Wheeler taught me the basics of nordic skiing. John and Rick also instilled in me a passion for the sport and for racing. Since Danny, Evan, and Justin are all from Hastings, I imagine they would say the same about John and Rick. Years later (after high school) I had the opportunity to coach with these two individuals and continued to learn more about the sport from the wax rooms and side lines of ski courses. During the summer of 2002 I got a chance to coach with Kevin Brochman. While my role was that of a coach, I was able to learn a great deal about skate and classic ski technique, as well as the ins and outs of waxing. Kevin was a tremendous resource and he really honed and tuned my ski technique from what it had previously been. This past summer Piotr Bednarski approached me about coaching biathlon. For those of you who do not know Piotr, he is running for president of USBA, we need to elect Piotr. You will not find a more dedicated, knowledgeable, focused, and enthusiastic candidate anywhere, period. Being a long time fan of biathlon from years of following Danny, I jumped at the opportunity. Once again I found myself as a coach, but felt that I was really growing as an athlete as well. Piotr spent a great deal of his own time helping me with technique. I was able to work with him one on one and utilize video analysis to continue to improve my skiing technique. While I picked up a few pointers about skiing from Piotr, it was something he said to me one day this summer that has made the biggest difference in my training.

Flashback, its mid August, hot as hell, and I am riding in a fifteen passenger van smelling of sweaty shoes with a group of biathletes. I sit shotgun and Piotr is behind the wheel. We had just got done with a three-day high volume training camp in northern Minnesota. During the camp we got up at about six every morning ready to put in a three-plus hour workout and every morning Piotr would wake us with a smile on his face. "Get up, oatmeal is on the stove", he would say.

(Here is some free advice: if you ever get in a card game and Piotr shows up, cash out. Piotr has a great poker face, or maybe he just doesn't get sore, or maybe it is that his love for this sport is so great it provides him with unlimited enthusiasm. Whatever the case is the enthusiasm rubs off on you.)

On the way home Piotr and I were talking about the tremendous success the United States Nordic Ski Team has had over the past few years. We noted the positive environment and attitudes of the U.S. Ski Team's coaches and athletes. Piotr mentioned that sometimes the environment of a team or club is simply ok, it is not bad but it is not great. Piotr said: "It's not enough to be just ok, the environment has to be great or excellent!" Now I know when Piotr said this he did not intend it to be an eye-opening comment, but when Piotr said this it was like someone slapped me in the face or shook me violently. As I reflected on my previous year of training I realized that my attitude towards training was ok, my enthusiasm was ok, and my racing was ok. It is not enough to just be ok, wow! This fall and early winter I have approached training with a new energy. I think I just may have been taking training and racing for granted, when really we are blessed to be healthy enough to train and race.

For those of you that have read this article hoping to hear about the actually training for this trip, I will get to that now. In order to train for a trip like this I needed to get focused. After three of four meetings with Piotr and a number of e-mails and phone calls, I had my training plan set up in mid July. The month of July called for a lot of power and specific strength. The weekly hours were relatively low due to the impact of jumps, bounding, etc. ranging from about ten hours a week to thirteen hours. During these weeks I did two or three bounding and/or plyometric workouts. Every week I tried to get one three-hour workout in just to keep my base up. For specific strength I did a lot of double polling. There is a hill near my house that takes about five minutes to get from top to bottom when double polling hard that I utilized all fall and early winter.

August was a high volume month, mixed with some recovery of course. Weekly hours for a high volume week ranged from thirteen to twenty hours and recovery weeks were about seven hours. During the volume weeks I did some roller skiing, biking, running, swimming, and bounding. In September Evan and I started training together almost every day. The addition of a new/old training partner added some fuel to the training fire. Evan is a great athlete and the two of us were able to feed off of each other. In early September I dropped the hours and revisited the power and specific strength. After this, I hit another week of volume and a week of recovery. The beginning of October started with two weeks of intensity. During these two weeks I mixed in 4 X 10 minute threshold roller ski workouts with road races. Overall, I did two or three intensity based workouts in each of these weeks. Outside of these intensity weeks, I only did one intensity based workout of this nature during the latter part of October.

The month of November was all about volume, ranging from fifteen to twenty hours a week with one week of recovery. The month of November also brought two additional challenges. First, it was getting dark early. I get off of work at 4 and start my workouts by about 4:30. In November it was getting dark by about 5, this meant that Evan and I had to do a lot of roller skiing in the dark. One night while working on the double pole hill in the dark, I almost hit a raccoon and later a cow that had gotten out of a pasture and was walking across the road. I suppose it could have been worse, when I first saw the outline of the cow I thought it might be a bear. The other difficultly came later in the month when my grandpa, Don Lorentz, lost his battle with kidney cancer. Grandpa Lorentz was over six feet tall and weighed in at about 230 lbs. He was a rock; nothing slowed him down. He supported a wife and eleven children while working as a millwright and a farmer. He was the foundation of our family and is greatly missed. If I am so lucky as to have even the smallest fraction of his strength, I know I will be able to complete every marathon this winter.

December started with two weeks of recovery, one at five hours, the other at ten. After this it was time for a week of intensity, which meant racing. I was able to get out and do the New Years Eve and New Years Day races at Trollhaugen. After the races I returned to the volume getting the last two volume weeks before the trip. Right now I am just trying to maintain as I tie up lose ends in my student teaching position here in River Falls at the Renaissance Academy and in my college career in general.

Well, that about does it and I hope this was informational. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to e-mail me and the rest of the MN Marathon Skiers at mnmarathonskiers@yahoo.com. Thanks for your time.

Pat Lorentz
*ski with red!


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