Thursday, August 31, 2017

Landgraaf 1

Only a few hours of actual slalom time was available to us on this trip - but Alex made the most of it with a very much improved response to his reactions to the long poles. 

Technical Report (password accessed)

Drifting sideways before the turn (dramatic speed loss - details explained in password file)


Good in verticalé (but left arm falling back due to upper body rotation/reaching)

Stand up here

Friday, August 18, 2017

3.9 degrees

Today was a scorching hot 38°C with relentless sun and a stiff wind from the West. I’d set off in the morning on a 115km bike ride taking in a 2000m mountain pass but not anticipating anything like this temperature or the accompanying dehydration. Despite drinking about two litres of water I still lost 2.5kg by the end.

Recent modifications to the bike made the cycling even harder because of the time taken for the muscles to adapt to a different mechanical action. The pedal crank arms had been reduced by half a centimetre and the saddle lowered by two centimetres. Less leverage on the cranks necessitates using a lower gear but also facilitates higher cadence due to the circle being shorter. Getting this geometry right for your leg length just makes you more efficient overall once you are used to it. I’m now on 165mm cranks instead of the industry standard 170/175mm.

The outcome was that despite an enjoyable climb and high heart rate for two and a half hours the legs died from Beaufort onwards about half way through the ride. Deep pain in the thighs just means the muscles are not used to it and that cramps are imminent – so you need to back off a bit and nurse things along carefully. I had one stop at about 90k just to refill the two water bottles and by then the wind was no longer in my face but the legs were mush. The heat was really strong and uncomfortable contributing to a headache as well as muscle pain so arriving home was a great relief. After drinking and recovering a bit Christiane offered to take me to the river above Bourg (from the Cormet de Roselend) to swim in the cold water and she would drive because I absolutely could not concentrate well enough to drive.

The river in contrast to the air is very low in temperature at around 3.9°C with the water flowing from glaciers. It seriously shocks the system to go into it let alone to try to swim in it and I didn’t think in that state I would even have to fortitude to even get into the water.

Prior to the cold water swimming I felt totally trashed by the cycling. Immediately after – with only a few minutes actually in the water – the headache was completely gone and normal energy levels returned and it stayed that way both for the rest of the evening and the next day (today – as of writing).

Usually the day after a hard workout my HRV (Heart Rate Variability) is low and related stress levels read very high because the body cannot distinguish between physical and emotional stress. This morning – as well as feeling good the HRV was high and stress levels very low. The long hard workout tends to suppress the sympathetic autonomic nervous system and leave you feeling very tired and flattened – this ramping down HRV significantly. (High HRV is healthy – a very steady linear heart rate means that it is unresponsive). It appears that the significant full bodied cold exposure practically reset the sympathetic autonomic nervous system on the spot by boosting adrenaline and probably a bunch of other hormones or nerve actions. The result was both unexpected and amazing. Not only was my head clear for driving but energy levels were immediately normal once again. Sleeping at night was only very lightly disturbed but otherwise normal whereas in such situations it would normally be difficult to settle down and sleep.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Luke Slalom day 3

Final day and mountain under threat of imminent closure – 40°C in the valley at 700m altitude.

Luke and Leonie have different technical problems but gradually it became apparent that they have a common source and are just different expressions of the same basic issues. We focused on two fundamentals only:

  1. Really getting pressure on the fronts of the boots and skis safely
  2. Committing to really coming over the downhill ski

Those two issues are intimately related even though they can be separated. Leonie was stemming a lot to varying degrees but the cause of stemming is nearly always a failure to go far enough over the downhill ski to exit the existing turn. Luke was lifting up his inside ski tip quite high and simultaneously getting into the backs of his ski boots and skis. For Luke the lifting of the ski is a move he has learned will allow him to fall into the new turn – but it is much too slow and then serves instead just to get the ski out of the way and not help directly with dynamics. This needs to be replaced with a solid pressure on that downhill ski until the body passes over it even beyond perpendicularity – implying a true commitment to dynamics. Later on this can be refined with measured leg retraction at the right moment.

We used the exercise of leaning hard forwards to feel pressure on the ski fronts – almost pulling the heels out of the boots – and even turning in this exaggerated stance just to feel the directional effect of the ski fronts. It is only safe to go hard on the fronts if good dynamics and angulation are already present so as to avoid being pitched over the ski tips. In Luke’s case the this worked a bit in reverse because getting forward allowed him to angulate better and produce better dynamics.

In the verticale section of the slalom Luke was seriously allowing his skis to overturn and brake – which is why he was fighting to be quick enough to stay in the course and tending to lift the inside ski – but he still calmed this action down very well with just improved dynamics over his lower ski.

Leonie was able to eliminate the worst of her stems and hopefully realised that “throwing herself downhill” really means using that downhill ski to come up out of the turn and over the ski. Remember that the ski lifts you up – so use it for that not just as a safety crutch for stemming.

Both were looking like true skiers during the descent on the glass with Luke definitely on the fronts of his boots and standing well on his right hip.

Dead centre – observe the concentric rings on the glacier (you have to look carefully)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Luke Slalom day 2

Today we had a guest skier – young Ben. Ben is already a competent skier at age 11 even though most of his skiing experience is on plastic. My comments regarding skiing in the ruts is that he did a good job of keeping his legs independent and supple. He needs to avoid losing angulation in ruts as this leads to rotation and problems at higher speeds. I’d advise however reading the fixed page (accessed in the menu at the top of the page) on “Dynamics” – with a view to increasing dynamic range.

Luke came out strongest by the end of the day when the ruts became bigger – because despite being still partially stuck on the back of the boots he successfully managed to use leg retraction to get across his skis. This is on top of working on his right hip and trying to angulate so as to be secure on the fronts of the skis (only in combination with appropriate dynamics).

Leonie had one of the best runs of the day – smooth and efficient – when moving from coming up over her downhill leg to using leg retraction when the bumps became bigger. She was also working on several other issues and managing to organize and coordinate it all.

Ella was working hard on several technical points – but performed best when asked to forget them all and just go back to throwing herself into each turn – a natural movement for her. The thing is that some to the technical work sticks even when you stop thinking specifically about it. With Ella it’s a case of working with her natural aptitudes and letting technical issues feed into this appropriately – not as directly as other people might require. She has a natural feel for things so it has to be exploited constructively.

Jacob understood how he had to resist the forces at the end of the turn and immediately skied far better. It’s very early days for Jacob’s technical skiing but he is doing well. The ruts at the end of the session were just a bit too much to allow him to relax enough to cope at this stage.

This blue run is a black ski run in the winter

Val d’Isere Glacier

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Luke Slalom Day 1

Luke, Leonie, Ella, Jacob in slalom for the first time ever. Simon is missing from the video as he was recharging his batteries in anticipation of the icey descent of the glacier to come…

Arrival day (prior to skiing) was used to acclimatize to altitude and attitude with a late afternoon introduction to downhill mountain biking – which went very well… (Ella was missing)

Simon was very wobbly on his skis and I hesitated about taking him up the glacier – but what assured me that he would manage was the way he had done so well on the mountain bike the previous day. He did not disappoint – concluding the day with a strong descent of the glacier all the way to the bottom.

Both Simon and Jacob had to be rapidly introduced to dynamics to try to get them to stop pushing their skis outwards. They both understood the idea regardless of a minimum of explanation, exercises or practice so were able to use this to protect themselves when going from slush onto ice and in the ruts in the slalom course. They didn’t have time or enough information to develop real skill and avoid traps and errors – but both became far more secure on their skis as the morning progressed.

I could let Leonie, Luke and Ella just ski meantime to get their feet back and their confidence on the special glacier snow and ice and they all managed to do that as expected.

Simon in particular was wobbly due to staying vertical during the descents and being jammed firmly in the backs of his ski boots – so this was explained – and how to stand perpendicular. Entanglement with the drag lift and general temporary exhaustion brought our efforts to a halt for the day.

Jacob needed more input but there wasn’t enough time to go around – I let him get on with it by himself because he is young and strong. The only emphasis was to move the body more like he had done the day previously on his bike.

Leonie was working on “selective muscle use” and had to work to correct her hip and upper body rotation – which she improved in slalom. If skiing slalom ruts with rotation then expect to spin straight out of the course. Just note it’s not the shoulders facing downhill it’s the pelvis! Leonie was asked to use the fronts of her boots and skis – this helping to grip and to avoid rotation.

Luke was struggling with posture on his right leg – and not managing to stay on that hip – probably exacerbated due to getting on the backs of the boots.

Ella was the surprise of the day – fully understanding that she had to launch her body face first downhill to get into the next turn early – and she discovered the exhilaration  of slalom.

Luke – good posture on the left leg

Bad posture…

Pelvis and upper body need to face downhill for slalom…

Strong entry into the turn – slight stemming – more dynamics needed – move the body not the skis…

Looking good…

Not so good… watch the posture (hollowing of the lower back), keep both hands in front and in sight.

Not bad – a bit back on the boots and not looking downhill – where you are intending to go…

During the end phase of the turn drive the body uphill so as to stay inside the turn – otherwise rotation is spectacular… you found out later on the Ice to at least keep the hip tucked in and not allow the bottom to fly out downhill as you try to grab the mountain in desperation.