The following is a translated and summarized from an original article by Inge Scheve exclusively for AXCS membership.
AXCS Editor: Although focused on an elite marathon perspective, this article shines a spotlight on some areas where many master skiers can get the biggest bang for the buck if they are interested in doing the best in longer events. Just be careful to know your own limitations when pushing the envelope with workouts both dryland and on-snow.
5-hour double-pole sessions? Seriously?
Elite marathon racer Tore Bjoerseth Berdal (NOR) has taken a giant step toward the top of the international level in the long-distance races, and was recently just a short toe away from the victory at Koenig Ludwig Lauf in Germany.
Berdal eagerly shares his training advice, and the road to success is as simple as it is harsh: there are no shortcuts to the top. The foundation is built over several years of hard work, and Berdal has spent three years building enough strength to double-pole most of the classic marathon events.
“I generally double-pole about 1000 kilometers every month in the dryland season, and my favorite workout is 5 hours double-pole distance where we stop and eat sweet rolls along the way,” Berdal says with a grin.
That’s a lot of distance and a lot of hours, and Berdal admits that they are challenging.
“At first, I was so tired after these workouts that I couldn’t feel my arms,” he recalls.
Additionally, Berdal puts in thee to four strength workouts per week all year round, focusing on both max strength and endurance strength. And the effort is paying off. He feels stronger than ever, and hardly thinks twice about skipping the kick wax now. The first three events of the year were no-brainers in that regards, Berdal says.
“Everyone can double-pole Marcialonga. The race takes about two hours and there are nine minutes where kick wax would be useful: One minute in Moena, and the 8-minute climb up to the finish in Cavalese. The rest of the time, you’re pretty much going downhill or flat, and kick wax holds you back,” Berdal explains.
The 50-km Jizerska in the Czech republic, Marcialonga in Italy, which was cut from 70km to 57km this year, and the 46-km Koenig Ludwig Lauf in Germany are all challenging, but strong double-polers benefit more from improved glide overall, than lack of kick on a few hills. However, there are still some events where Berdal will wait until the morning of the race before he decides on whether to kick wax.
“Vasaloppet is 90km and the longest event on the schedule, and it’s not true that the course is flat. It’s littered with hills all along the course that drain energy by the buckets,” Berdal says.
“And the Norwegian Birkebeiner is interesting. Sometimes there are a lot of World Cup skiers in the elite wave and they set a wicked pace up the first hills from the start trying to drop the double-polers. But if you can hang on up those hills, you’ve got a lot done. From there the glide will be the most important,” he says.
“I often don’t know what to do (ahead of time), the snow conditions are important. There is a huge difference between double-poling up the hills in rock solid, icy tracks and battling several inches of new heavy snow. I will have to make the call on the morning of the race,” he says. The best training advice Berdal has received is to listen to his body.
“I have learned a lot from the other more experienced guys on the team, such as John Kristian Dahl and Johan Kjoelstad. We have a really good training environment in Team United Bakeries. We train hard for hours on end, it’s a fun group to be with, and there is no better way to improve than being challenged every day,” says Berdal, explaining that training too much or too hard would be a much bigger risk if he didn’t have his training buddies.
“We take good care of each other too. If you show up to a workout looking tired or you are unable to keep up to your normal level, they will get on your case and order you to rest up. We are very supportive of each other and that is very reassuring,” Berdal says.