Hard Track Intervals

My brother and I went to the track to run 6 x the mile this morning. I wanted to target five minute miles with equal recovery between intervals. I knew the pace would be hard, especially since I have not done any running specific workouts in over a month.

Justin was there to pace the effort. He hits the track at least once a week and has had a good summer season of running. He ran a personal record in a 10k a few weeks ago with a time of 31:18. It isn’t much of a stretch to call him the best runner in New Hampshire.

It was pouring rain with occasional wind gusts when we started our warm-up. Fortunately it was almost 70 degrees out so we were never cold. After about a half hour of easy jogging we dove into the first mile. The pace felt fast but easy enough for the first 1200 meters but then I started working pretty hard. We finished the mile in 4:59 but I already knew that I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

Five minutes later we started the second mile. I started hurting half way through. With 200 meters to go I had to get on my toes to sprint in order to make pace. I ran 4:59 again but it had taken more effort than was sustainable for four more miles. As I jogged around the track I saw that I had hit a heart rate of 179 beats per minute. That was the highest heart rate I have seen all year. My previous high was 176 which I hit the week before during a roller-ski time trial with the Canadian National Team at Soldier Hollow. The fact that my heart rate was elevating easily is a good sign for my overall fitness. When I am tired or out of shape I cannot get my heart rate much over 170, However the fact that it was so high early in the workout did not bode well for the remaining four mile repeats.

I faded slightly on the third mile and crossed the finish in 5:01. Lactate was accumulating in my legs and I knew the arbitrary goal of running five minute pace for all six miles was probably out the window. Justin was annoyingly unaffected and chipper. He was clearly working pretty hard but as he happily pointed out, not as hard a me.

Justin accidentally took the first lap of the fourth mile out a few seconds ahead of pace. If I were a runner this would not have hurt me that bad, but because I don’t do speed with regularity my efficiency gets exponentially worse the faster I go. My legs were loaded. At the half mile mark I was falling apart and Justin gapped me. I ended up limping across the line in 5:08.

I had only completed four out of six miles and I had blown up. I asked Justin what I should do. He asked how bad I was willing to hurt. I responded that I was up for a lot of pain. He suggested that he pace me for another 5:08 mile. I agreed and away we went. It was amazing how much more efficient my running became simply by slowing down 2 seconds per lap. I was comfortable for the first 1200 meters and then had to enter the pain cave once again to hold pace to the finish. I ran 5:08.

For the last mile Justin agreed to pace me for the first half mile and then we would go as fast as we could to finish the workout. At 800 meters Justin took off and dropped me hard. I held on to finish the last mile in 5:09 though.

Despite falling short of my pacing goal, I had a good interval session. I blew up at the hallway point of the workout and was able to adjust pace to keep the workload high. Whenever Justin breaks me running I like to point out to him that I was the faster runner when we were both ski racers. Maybe I’ll focus on running someday but not today.

Top Notch and Wildman

Every year that I have been in NH in early August, I have raced the Top Notch Triathlon.  It is a unique event that starts with a six mile MT bike hill climb, transitions to a 1/2 mile swim across Echo Lake and finishes after a 2 mile run up Cannon Mountain.  Last year I wrote about a great duel that I had with Ryan Kelly who is one of the best triathletes in NE.  We pushed each other hard and I had to set a new course record to beat him.  I was looking forward to another good race with Ryan but he informed via Facebook the day before the race that he had thrown his back out and would not be competing.  I knew that it was unlikely that I could challenge my course record without being able to trade drafts in the bike and swim.

Top 1

It rained hard for a few days before the race which made the MT bike Muddy and slow.  It was foggy and overcast on race morning.

Top 3

This picture was taken right after the bike exchange.  I already have my goggles on and I entered the water about 10 seconds later.

Top 2

There was a nasty headwind for the first two-thirds of the swim and I felt like I had been pummeled as I got out of the water.

Top 5

I put my running shoes on just before this arrow and began my ascent of Cannon Mountain.

Top 6

It was so foggy at the top that I couldn’t see the finish until it was right in front of me.  I am crossing the finish matts in the picture.  The run was slightly rerouted due to trail maintenance which added a little length to the course.  The last half mile had also just been re-seaded so I had to contend with calve deep hay for the last several minutes of the race.  Not surprisingly, I was no where near my record pace, but I still won the event by just over 10 minutes.

My glucose was 180 right before the start.  I raced on my current basal insulin dose of .5 units per hour.  At the start of the run I consumed 12 ounces of Gatorade and finished with a blood glucose of 126.

This year I decided to race again only one week later in another unique event called the Wildman Biathlon.  The Wildman consists of a relatively flat 10k road run, followed by a 23 mile bike from Shelburne NH to Gorham and then up the Mt Washington Valley to the base of WildCat Mountain.  The race concludes with a 3 mile run to the top of WildCat.  All told the race climbs well over 3000 ft.   I don’t believe anyone has ever won both races and definitely not in the same calendar year.  I wanted to be the first.

Wild 1

Front and center at the start.  Starting glucose was 165.  I once again raced on my current basal insulin rate of .5 units of insulin per hour.

Wild 2

Finishing the 10k run in the lead.

Wild 3

Transitioning to the bike.

Wild 5

Finishing the bike at the base of WildCat.  About halfway through the bike I was caught by two riders.  One was competing in a team and the other was a fellow “ironman” racer.  When the terrain got steeper I pulled away from the “ironman” racer but the team rider gapped me by about 45 seconds.  I believe that his Mountain runner was his daughter who has type 1 diabetes.   I thought that was pretty cool and I am psyched to see more diabetics out racing.

Wild 6

While I was on my bike I consumed two twenty four ounce bottles of my custom feed, which is 8 ounces of caffeinated energy drink mixed with 16 ounces of Gatorade.  I had about 6 ounces of Gatorade at the final transition and consumed a single PowerGel with one mile to go.  The Gel was overkill as I finished the race with a glucose of 250.  This is too high for ideal performance but I am confident that I was only that high for about 15 minutes.

Wild 7

All alone at the top.

Wild 8

I was first to the top by about 6 minutes.  I was tired.

Wild 9

Amber and She-Ra were my support crew.  I took this picture while we took the Gondola back to the bottom of the mountain.  Mt Washington is in the background.  It was an awesome view.

Whoops!

Ok, so I said I was going to update this blog once a week. I have not lived up to that goal but starting now I am going to make a strong effort to blog regularly. Because I have not written anything in nearly two months I am going to write a timeline summary of what I have been up to.

Immediately upon my return from the Olympics I underwent two minor surgeries to take care of some nagging problems. The first operation was to remove a viral infection from my right foot. The photo below illustrates the aftermath, and yes it was extremely painful.

Ouch!

The day after having the virus removed I had a gum grafting procedure.  I grind my teeth in my sleep which led to rapid gum recession.  An oral surgeon took tissue from the roof of my mouth and grafted it onto three areas of my gum line.  Here I am looking like a Chipmunk.

Chipmunk

Recovery from the two surgeries was not fun and it took about three weeks until I could do anything.  Fortunately there was still good Spring skiing in the east when I got back on my feet.  I took this selfie after skinning to the top of Cannon Mountain

IMG_0335

 

Amber took these Pictures of me skiing Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mt Washington.

 

TUckerman's Shirtless Tuckerman 1

 

In Early April I went to Washington DC to visit the White House and met the President and First Lady.

DSCN0264

White House Lawn

In late April I was the guest of honor at the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Promise Gala in Washington DC.  Here I am posing with a poster of myself.

Kris JDRF

In May I attended JDRF events in Phoenix, Albany and Detroit and also rode my bike 100 miles in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour De Cure in Minneapolis.

I also found time to take a quick four day vacation with Amber.  We flew into Phoenix and drove to Sedona where I got in a few of the best mountain bike rides of my life.

IMG_0034 IMG_0030

Then we made a stopover at the Grand Canyon on our way to Las Vegas.

IMG_0489

IMG_0491

 

Then we saw Guns n Roses perform at the Hardrock Hotel.  Use Your Illusion II was the first CD I ever bought and I have been a huge fan since.  I was twelve years old when they toured Use Your Illusion so I have never had the chance to se them live.  Axl was in top form and hit all his notes.

IMG_0137

November Rain

Amber and I aren’t really into cities but we walked the Vegas strip anyway and ate at a faux Venice restaurant.

IMG_0176 IMG_0180

 

When Amber and I returned home it was time to pick up our new Vizsla puppy.  We have both always wanted to have a dog but could not adopt one because our schedules were far to busy.  I am typically on the road five months a year.  Now that Amber lives with me with can share the responsibilities.  We named our puppy She-Ra after He-Man’s sister, the Princess of Power.

small puppy

IMG_0500

I have returned to training and my sensations have been good and predictable thus far.  The Mt Washington Hill Climb will be my first race since the Olympics on June 22nd.

Waterville Valley Pond Skimming

Over the Weekend I participated in my first ever pond skimming event at Waterville Valley.  I was asked to judge the event alongside mogul skier Hannah Kearney.

Pond Skim 2

 

After watching about 30 spectacular wipeouts and a handful of successful crossings it was my turn to make an attempt.  I don’t own any traditional alpine equipment so I used my telemark skis.  Use this link to see the video.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10202572777433208&set=vb.1609647410&type=2&theater

Afterwards my parents and I took a picture with the Executive Chief of Waterville Valley, Chris Sununu.  He has been a great supporter of me.

Pond Skim 1

 

Chris came up a few meters short in his skimming attempt but didn’t seem to mind to much.

This weekend I am flying to the JDRF Indiana Promise Ball Fundraiser to benefit Type 1 diabetes research.  My girlfriend Amber is coming with me and it should be a lot of fun.

 

“Go For It”

I have not been planning to race the 50k freestyle event tomorrow. However Eric Bjoernson got sick this morning and I was offered his race start. I am far from my best right now. Over the last week I have consulted with our team doctor and several physiologists who all told me that I needed at least three months of rest for my body to properly recover from it’s current state of fatigue. When I was offered the start I asked our doctor for his advice as I do not want to damage my body. He gave me the green light and said “Go for it, this is the Olympics!” So that is what I am going to do, “Go for it.”

Thank You

I have been flattered and humbled by the supportive letters, emails, and texts that I have received over the last week. I have especially liked getting pictures and notes of Type 1 kids that tell me how my skiing inspires them.
Reading these letters has made my disappointing performances easier to swallow. I have not raced like myself this year. I kept my training volume and intensity very high right through December and expected a huge surge in energy and speed once I cut the training down. The surge never came and I have been increasingly tired as time has gone on. This phenomena is especially frustrating because I executed my training plan exactly as I wanted to. I was never sick, I always responded positively to training, but I was not getting it done on the race tracks.
I trained harder this year than at any other point in my life. Perhaps that is the problem. I am not 25 years old anymore and I will have to adjust my training to allow for more recovery in the future.
I probably skied my last race of this Olympics yesterday. I am clearly far from my best right now and it would be fair to give fresher teammates a chance in the later races.
I have been a hair’s breath from the podium several times in my career. I wish that the publicity surrounding me now had been there for those performances. I want the world to know that diabetes does not have to hinder your performance or dreams and I have always thought that a medal would be a great way to show that. A person with diabetes should look beyond just participating, they should know that they can win too. I want to be clear that I do not believe my subpar performances here were attributable to diabetes. They came from a training plan that did not work for me this season. Many athletes miscalculate their training and become too tired to compete.
Diabetes is part of who I am just as being a four time Olympian is just part of who I am. I will never let my diabetes stop me from pursuing my goals. Being here in Sochi is the experience of a lifetime but I am already looking towards next year’s World Championships in Falun Sweden.  The Olympics is awesome but skiing at my best will always be better.

Kris-Freeman-15k-Classic

Winter Wonder Land

Much has been made of the “tropical” climate in Sochi, and wether or not there would be adequate snow to hold the games.  I am living in the Endurance Village right next to the XC ski venue, which is at 1500 meters of elevation.  I can safely say that there was no reason to worry and that there is adequate snowpack.

DSCN0157

 

This is my third full day at the Olympics.  Sometimes its hard to know where the time goes.  Everything takes a little longer than you might think and there always seems to be one more thing that must be done.

This morning I tested skis with my coach Zach.  This is a picture of him preparing one of the 9 pairs of skis we evaluated today.

.DSCN0142

 

So far the skiing has been perfect.  Hard fast tracks for classic technique and supple corduroy for skating.  The cloudless blue skies and mountain views haven’t hurt either.

DSCN0147

 

The XC venue is a 15 to 20 minute walk or a 4 minute snowmobile shuttle ride.

DSCN0156

 

I opted to walk back to the village after training and took this photo of the village.  The brown building is the main reception area where all the athletes eat and go to the gym for strength training.  There is also a disco, an arcade, pool tables and a spa somewhere in there.  Behind the structure and down a small hill is the dormitory that I am living in.

DSCN0152

 

I think I will settle into a routine here now, and everything will become a little more relaxed.  There are so many tasks and things to learn when I first arrive at the Olympics that it is sometimes hard to cut through the excitement and gauge how tired I am.  It is time to decompress a little bit and get my mind wrapped around my first race start which is the 30k skiathlon at 2:00 PM this Sunday.

 

Opening and Closing ceremonies

Olympic Processing was a little less chaotic than than my previous three Olympic experiences. Athletes used to be issued shopping carts and funneled down corridors where vendors threw clothes and gear at you. This time around the process was much more calm and there was ample time to actually try things on and make sure they fit. I got pictures of myself in my opening and closing ceremony gear. A few alterations were made later.  One of which was to remove the tag covering part of my face.

DSCN0135

 

DSCN0136

 

I have now been in the Olympic Village for two nights and everything is going smoothly.  There is a good variety of quality food available at the dining hall and I have had no glucose issues.

I did a set of light intervals this morning and felt good doing them.  The weather and conditions have been perfect and I hope they hold.  Much has been made about how hilly the courses are and how difficult they will be to race on.  However from my experience courses are only as hard as the pace you are skiing.  Sometimes the pace feels easy and sometimes it is unattainable.  On the days when the pace feels calm the course seems to flatten out (although Ida’s GPS said she hit 45mph on the one descent today).

Excited for the Olympics!

The last two weeks have been very busy.  I have been training hard and making preparations to travel back to Europe for a World Cup in Toblach Italy before flying to Sochi on February 3rd.  Yesterday I flew to Munich and then drove to Italy.  This morning I skied to the high point of the Toblach pass and felt great.  I am very excited to compete in the Olympics in only two weeks!

I got a lot of great media coverage.  Here are the most notable stories…

Feb14_Forecast_Cover_Final

http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2014/feb/behind-the-scenes-with-skier.html

http://espn.go.com/blog/olympics/post/_/id/3876/kris-freeman-gets-fourth-olympic-nod

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/-olympics/news/20140120/kris-freeman-diabetes-sochi-olympics-cross-country-skiing/

http://www.npr.org/2014/01/20/264050641/u-s-olympic-skier-finds-team-spirit-minus-the-team

 

Tough Racing

First off I have to give a big congratulations to Sylvan Eleffson on his Nationals win in the 30k skate today. He put his head down at 20k and opened up a 10 second gap on me that I was never able to close. It got as big as 23 and finished at 16 seconds. It was a very impressive way to win the race.

The lead up to the National Championships has not been easy for me. The qualification for the Olympics is based on FIS points. FIS is the governing body of all skiing disciplines and FIS points are based on what percentage back of the best in the world you are (lower points are better). The points are based on your five best races in a calendar year. In general the points list is a fair way to rank skiers but it can become a bit skewed sometimes. Because of a bunch of math that I don’t care to explain it is much easier to get good FIS points racing domestically (in the US or Canada) than it is to get good points on the world cup which resides only in Europe and Scandinavia this year. As an example, I was 25th in a world cup last March which was the best US finish of the day and I got 40 FIS points for it. Today I was 3rd at US Nationals and got a 27 point race. I believe that the race at the World Cup level was actually better than today’s race but the there was little reward for it. My goals reside at the world cup level so I chose to ignore the points list earlier this year. Chasing those goals ended up putting more pressure on Nationals than I would have preferred.

I only raced in three National level distance races last season. The races were 21, 23, and 27 points. My next two best races were 40 points from the World Cup. Those points put me in 6th place on the olympic qualification list before the two distance races at Nationals. In order to move into second place behind Noah Hoffman (who has already been selected for the Olympics) I had to score below 30 points in both distance races this weak which meant being on the podium twice.

I just managed a 29.5 FIS race in the 15k classic and I scored a 27 point race in the 30k skate today. I have not been feeling good this week so I am relieved to have moved up into such a strong position. As far as I know there are no more FIS races in the US that could affect the Olympic qualification for distance races.

Glucose control has been challenging. In the last two weeks I have had two low episodes that gave me sweats and shakes. One of them came out of absolutely no where. After racing the 15k classic I was eating dinner with my coach, Zach. One minute I was at a glucose of 85, the next I was at 38 with a soaked t-shirt and a coke that I had to push the waiter out of the way to get. The poor control continued that night. After the low I over compensated on glucose. My sugar rose through the night. My Dexcom continuous glucose monitor goes off every half an hour when my sugar is high. Each time I awoke to the alarm I took a small bolus of insulin to lower the glucose. However, I was woken up 4 times with ever rising sugar which peaked at 280 at 4:00 AM. At this point I took yet another bolus and forced myself to get out of bed and do 200 jumping jacks in order to make my muscles more receptive to the insulin I was giving myself. The physical stimulus worked and I slept until 8:00 AM when my low alarm set off at 78. For me, seventy eight is a healthy level but below 70 is not. So I got out of bed, ate breakfast, and everything stabilized. This was not the ideal recovery for a race and I started feeling very down.

I called my sports psychologist, John Hammermeister in the hopes that he could get my head back on my shoulders. I have worked with John since I was 20 years old and he has an amazing knack for helping me out of tough spots. I spent three hours on the phone with him over the last three days. He helped me to let go of the unquantifiable fatigue that the poor sugars caused and to focus on what had to be done in the next race. I have a tendency to be very obsessive so that was easier said than done. I have to thank my family and girlfriend who also got to listen to me whine about not feeling like myself the last few days. There love and encouragement really helped me to get the most out of a less than ideal time and get the points I needed to pursue my Olympic dream in Sochi.

I am very confident that with a little downtime at home that my best Olympic results are in front of me.

Chasing the leader with Matt Liebsch and 2nd place finisher Brian Gregg

Chasing the leader with Matt Liebsch and 2nd place finisher Brian Gregg

I have a great support team

I have a great support team