Annie takes on the Headwind

Annie distinguishes between the physical headwind and the wind in her head, plus lots of pictures!

We kicked off last week’s training with a double pole test.  The test lasts about four minutes as you work your way up varying levels of “steep” terrain, with equally varying numbers of double pole techniques.  In a “real race” situation I would probably only double pole 25% of the course (the rest would involve some striding), but the test still provides solid feedback on many fronts.  The only problem?  The test goes one direction (up), with conditions changing every time it happens.

Some days- a beautiful day last September- bring a strong tailwind, the ideal pavement temperature for roller skis, yielding almost across the board personal bests.  Other days- this past Tuesday- brought an incredible headwind and cold pavement- which resulted in no personal bests (in the post-trial email Pat measured our times in percentage back from our best, earnestly trying to demonstrate we shouldn’t put any stake in the times).  While I understand that a constant gust blowing you backwards when you’re trying to use only your arms to go uphill isn’t doing me any favors, I must admit it was a little hard to ignore the nasally (thanks allergies) and annoying voice in my head.  The wind in my head, as it were.

Sometimes distinguishing between an actual headwind and just wind in my head is frustrating.  As a self described extremely competitive person, I am always looking for improvement.  And it usually helps my competitive self when I see that improvement in actual time, i.e. a personal record on the double pole test.  But what the literal headwind on Tuesday taught me was sometimes improvement isn’t in the numbers.

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My apologies for the grainy screen grabs of some video, but I think the difference between 2015 and 2016 is clear.  Both of these are taken on the steepest section of the course, but from these stills you wouldn’t guess that the 2015 time was 4.8% faster than the 2016 time.  Because in the 2016 frame my hips are further forward, I’m not “caving” at the core, and for the first time in maybe ever I’m actually engaging my lats.  And from a “feel” standpoint, I felt so much better this past Tuesday than I did last year, which led to peak frustration levels after I realized I hadn’t hit a new personal best.

I had to remind myself that if I let the actual headwind turn my head into a hurricane, nothing positive would result.  So I looked for the improvements, noticed the areas of weakness, and went diving into another couple intervals following the “test.”  Because one of these double pole test days we will have a tailwind once again.  And I can’t wait to take advantage of it :)

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