Training and Race Prep Suggestions: MWC2018 Minneapolis!
Prepared by J.D. Downing: AXCS National Director & XC Oregon Coach/Director
Although the original MWC courses had to be changed over the past few months by factors out of the control of the Organizing Committee (O.C.), in many ways I believe the final iterations are superior to the original versions.
With the frozen lake sections now taken out of the MWC2018 mix, all the planned full courses and “low/no snow modified” courses are now quite a bit more active in terms of terrain from start-to-finish. Even the easier sections of the distance races that are planned for the downtown side of the T. Wirth Parkway offer significantly more terrain flow than would have been the case on the lakes.
Summary of MWC2018 Race Courses
Every race will start on a wide golf fairway that narrows to international trail norms for a fence crossing. The start is flat and we will be at sea level, so people will start races quickly -- that much is certain.
Once past the fence crossing, the trail has a few twists and gentle rollers on wide, dirt roads for roughly a 2.5km loop before returning into the golf course area. The course meets international standards for width in this section so there is enough room for passing. But your best chances are yet to come. Patience will be rewarded.
A short flat running opposite the start then runs you into the real meat and potatoes of Theodore Wirth terrain. On the 7.5km and 10km courses you’ll be on a near-constant roller coaster of fairway up/down sections and very wide golf course connecting paths until the finish.
The hills are generally short in duration by Western and Eastern standards, but several have some nice “kick” in terms of gradient. Twin Cities skiers of literally all abilities and all ages are skiing these hills routinely in annual events without problems and nothing is so horribly hard (up or down) that it is inappropriate for the MWC. But rest assured all you gung-ho, master blasters out there, there’s enough vertical on these courses that even the best will get a good workout by the finish line!
For the eldest classes (5km), you’ll do the first 3km of gentle rolling terrain exactly like all other courses. But you’ll turn off the roller coaster just after the 3km mark (partway up the first moderate uphill). Then you’ll make a cruising upper circuit cut-off on the upper-most golf course and then staircase downhill back to the stadium.
The 5km should prove right in the “sweet spot” of not-too-hard and not-too-easy of the best MWC 5km courses. But if conditions dictate any eleventh hour adjustments, the golf course venue provides ample room for the O.C. to modify things if necessary. The distance race plan 15km (used for January 25-26 races) has everything in the 10km plus a gentle 5k loop (on the south/southeast side of T. Wirth Parkway. As mentioned in the prologue, the added 5km loop gives a nice breather to the roller coaster sections, but it will not offer a ton of pure flat the way the previously-planned lake sections would have. For the 30km and 45km distance races there should be a lovely juxtaposition between the early gentle rollers, the roller coaster, and this middle interlude.
Double Pole Only In Classic?
In my view, there will only be a few skiers that will actually benefit from going with double pole only in classic races. These will be some of the strongest age group performers, skiers proven able to DP every citizen course, and almost certainly males with VERY well-developed upper bodies. There are enough moderately steep sections throughout the roller coaster sections of the course that for most skiers any gains in ski speed will be heavily mitigated on those hills. If we had the lakes sections still as a big percentage of all courses, this might be a different situation. Please also note that along with the FIS max classic pole height rules, WMA itself strongly enforces “micro skating” by DP-only skiers whereas the skier cheats by getting out of the tracks and putting in tiny little skate motions on steep uphills. The jury will be looking for this and will DSQ you if you do it. So most folks -- plan on kick waxing and enjoying the ride.
Practice Your Starts
-- If you are part of the bigger men’s categories (M4-M9), you will want to practice your starts in the weeks prior to the MWC. Getting off the line itself is really not a huge deal because the MWC seeded start grid will keep everyone pretty organized. But once you are in the mix zone and for the early 2-3km you will want to be nimble and calm even as things move along quite quickly. Doing intensity training in a clump of skiers or deliberately doing some of your intensity on semi-crowded general traffic ski trails (be sure to be super polite if you do this!) will help you prepare.
-- Even if you are in the biggest men’s categories, remember that you should not have to contend with a race start bigger than 100 men. So that’s smaller than many local races! Yes, there will be some overlapping with other age groups, but the World Masters Assocaition (WMA) and the O.C. have developed extensive plans to keep overlapping minimized -- even if we were on the manmade-only trails.
-- Other categories than the biggest men’s categories could also benefit from practicing race starts as described as it’s good practice, but you should have even more space to operate overall. Most categories will have start lists in the 20-60 skier range.
Make Yourself Small
As with any big event, it is always a good idea to practice shrinking your “trail footprint” in both your distance and intensity workouts. By this I mean deliberately practicing for the moments when you need to squeeze by skiers in a narrow space or allow packs of skiers to pass you. This is mainly needed for skate races, but it can crop up in classic as well. Training ideas....
a. While on a skate distance ski, occasionally put in 20-30 seconds of double pole only accelerations with your skis as narrow as possible on uphills. You can also do this same thing in the middle of intervals or tempo without changing effort.
b. While on a skate or classic distance ski, occasionally practice a “start-slow-start again” section of maybe 30-50m on variable to uphill terrain.
c. When possible, deliberately put yourself in a crowd of skiers going uphill both at easy and hard efforts. The more you learn to ski efficiently around lots of other people, the more fun you’ll have not only at this MWC, but any big event!
Practice Roller Coasters
-- Find roller coaster terrain at your favorite ski area and practice on that terrain as much as you can from start of snow until just prior to the MWC2018. You want to work on transitions over hills and at the bottom. You also want to practice good efficient uphill and downhill techniques especially when you are getting tired. So deliberately ski your best roller coaster terrain as much as possible in both distance and intensity workouts.
-- Skiers with long hills at home will want to change up your typical intensity patterns as the longest T. Wirth uphills are only a couple minutes long and with low elevation you’ll be recovering much faster to attack each subsequent hill than you ever would at elevation.
-- The downhills have nice run outs and most turns are quite wide and sculpted. But it will be a very good idea to practice coming down decent size downhills with at least a few other skiers in close proximity so you get comfortable at having others around you at moderate speeds.
Practice Your Finish and Stadium Corners
T. Wirth has a fantastic new start-finish stadium now that’ll have ample room for all starts, finishes, and laps. That said, many skiers will neglect practicing how to navigate a stadium and also how to accelerate efficiently for finishes. You don’t have to spend a ton of time on this, but it will pay dividends to put some time in when you have a local start/finish area or teaching area groomed flat. Finish a few intervals with maximum effort across an imaginary finish line. Practice making a U-turn around imaginary fencing to head out on your 2nd or 3rd lap.
AXCS will have very general waxing suggestions in coming membership media, but really your absolute best resource is going to be the many retailers and companies that are going to be on-site at the MWC2018 throughout the event. These folks know both the natural and manmade conditions in the Twin Cities better than anyone on the planet. So if a given outfit has the wax (kick or glide) that you normally use -- just follow their directions and you’ll be just fine.
On-Course Race Support
Just by looking at the race maps anyone can tell that these courses wind back on themselves so much that they will offer perhaps the very best spectating of any MWC event in history. It will be very easy for skiers to get feeds and it will be very easy for nimble spectators to get to many spots for viewing and cheering.
Final “Tough Love” Coaching Message
Do not allow the “early date” to poison your training approach to this MWC event. For skiers lucky enough to ski in late November or early December, you’ll have two full months +/- on-snow before you tow the line in Minneapolis. That’s enough time to do anything you want on skis if you keep yourself healthy. For skiers in areas with shorter ski seasons, this event date isn’t any different than any other midwest or eastern ski event you’ve ever done in the last third of January. Finally, no one in North America has more than a three hour time change to Minneapolis. Compare this to 8-10 hour time changes when we go to Europe. You will be fresh, rested, “home”, and having a great time skiing with the XC world. So get your rear end out the door, figure out what you can do to get yourself in shape, and deal with it!