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Getting that last .5 seconds

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
OK, My race league season has reached the halfway point. Frustrated that my times have not been improving. Seem stuck at 20.5 seconds. Sometimes I backslide a bit to 21 seconds, but even when I feel like I've had a great run, my time is 20.4. I feel like I should be getting consistently sub 20 second runs, but no matter how hard I seem to push, I can't break the 20 second mark.

So, if you were trying to pick up another 1/2 second, what is the first thing you would focus on trying to improve?

Background note:
Racing at Buck Hill, NASTAR type course, vert of 300 feet, pacesetters are running @ 17.5 to 18 seconds. Running on Fischer RC4 WC GS skis.

Did run a 20.43 last night which was enough for a gold, but not sure if that was because this was my first race as a 50 year old or because the pacesetter was unusually slow last night at 18+ seconds.
post #2 of 14
The start? It's only 20 seconds long, and probably takes 5 seconds and the first 3 gates just to get up to terminal velocity. So getting there a half second quicker on the gates that are coming at you too slowly would be a good start (no pun intended).
post #3 of 14
What are you wearing?
post #4 of 14
Sometimes it also takes a really, really stupid line- especially on sprint courses.

For instance, in my intramural league last week we had 10" of new snow on the course that the groomer only slightly compressed. Slipping only did so much, and the various lines people took made it a chopped-up mess and very slow. The fastest racers were coming in over 30 seconds on a set that usually is faster than 27 seconds. I ran last (I do the timing, so I run when I can), and noticed that my inside ski was riding firmer snow so I started skiing straight, late, and through the panels. It was very, very ugly, and I pulled out just about every panel (made tear-down easier for me), but I beat my first run by about 1.5 seconds and moved from 4th place (the "correct" line) to 1st place (the "stupid" line) and took the overall for the night.

A steady diet of sprint courses can really ruin a racer that way, but when you have a short course every error is magnified- it's hard to make up time when you screw up. The key is knowing when to "cheat" a gate and when to ski the "correct" line, and that comes from experience, inspection, and looking ahead.
post #5 of 14
the start- my guess is that adding more velocity with a good kick start and skate for gates 1&2 might find 0.5 second. At our local beer league the flat at the top is extemely important. Lots of guys nail the line but only some really bust it to get to the pitch-

good luck- the pursuit of speed is very frustrating and never complete-
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post
What are you wearing?
Not a GS suit, which is what I think you wanted to know. I do make a point to take off my parka at race time, but still wear my Columbia ski pants. I have a Marker semi-fleece top that I use as my top layer under my race bib. It's really meant for recreational nordic skiing, I think.

My league team has 4 racers that wear race suits and they all say that you are definitely faster in the suit. Our fastest racer last night (@3 degrees at race time) said "Trust me. I wouldn't be wearing this on a night this cold if it didn't make a difference." Of course, he races well enough that he actually beats the pacemaker from time to time. I'm a bit more skeptical that for my level a GS suit would make much of a difference.

But if Trekchick decides to add one to her collection, well, then I'll know that it's the right tool to have!
post #7 of 14
Tag- on such a short course I am not sure if that will find you 0.5 secs simply due to reduced clothing drag but simply having it on may cause you to be a touch more athletic and allow a little more motion.

As a side note, I will share a piece of data about the aerodynamics of suits-

last winter we were running a speed trap for a fundraiser. We had a pair of J2s running consistently 55-56 mph through the trap. In frustration they pulled off the warmups (it was a cold day) and ran 2-3 more runs in GS suits. Each of them ran 60-61 mph on the next 3 attempts. No new wax, no brushing etc- only descernable difference was the suit.

a) simply less clothing drag

b) when you are in your suit you can get a little tighter tuck and a touch better body positon-

not really germain to your problem but it was an interesting experiement- the only thing we didn't do to make the experiment valid was to have them run 3 more attempts back in warmups to varify that there speeds returned to the 55-56 range.
post #8 of 14
I'll agree that the last .5 comes from the first .5! Develop a stronger start!

Also, when you practice, start trying to take a few chances with your line... it's possible that you are being a bit conservative, as you are still developing your eye for line. Try running a little straighter and see if any changes occur.
post #9 of 14
Also, to add to the start, skate like a madman! When you get to the bottom of the ramp, get in two good, powerful skates before the first gate. Skate out of the first gate or two also.

And to Vail SP's comments about line, go straight at the first gate. You probably won't be able to build enough speed to get to it with too much speed. I've seen a number of people line themselves up for the rise line of the first gate as if they'd be at full speed. It's just not necessary and too round and long for the speed you'll have. A starighter line will allow you to skate better, too.
post #10 of 14
Yup. The start is crucial on shorter courses!

But check this out, too:
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 

OK - it does make a difference

YEEHAW! Picked up a full second tonight! Dropped from 20.5 last week to a 19.5 this week.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Put two into place tonight. First, went out over the weekend and picked up a GS suit (Thank God the spring clearance sales have already started!). Second, when I got to the hill tonight, took a couple of warm-up runs then spent the rest of the practice time working on making a strong pull out of the starting gate and getting a good skate in before the first gate (thanks for drill, V.Snopro).

Now, about getting below 19 seconds......
post #12 of 14
Okay Tag, you're going to think I'm kidding here but trust me I'm not.

I'm a pretty well established sprint racer going back to pro-racing in the early 80's. Firstly, the start sets the pace, timing and most importantly the intention of the run. A good start is more than getting out of the wand - its how well organized you are in your skating and how deep you can take it before you're up to race speed. Okay, you've got all that from the previous posts. Want to read more about Starts, check this out.

Let's also assume you've got your skis tuned to perfection, which in sprint racing you'd better and have the right wax on. I'm sure you wax before each and every race - right? You'd better.

So here's my advice that you're going to think I'm kidding about.

The second you trip the wand there is only one thought, motive, intention and that is - ready?

Getting to the bottom as fast as you possibly can

Sounds stupid? Believe it or not the reason why I beat guys in the sprint courses regularly that kill me on the big hills is because once I push out I ski like my hair is on fire. I take it deeper, I move quicker, take more risks and throw myself at the finish line.

Its execution with attitude. Give it a try and see what happens.

BTW - I was running against one of the IMD's best ever Master racers on our Putt-putt course. He was beating me by a fair amount and I'm not used to that. His name is Nate Schwing, young guy, in his twenties. On a chair ride I asked him what he was doing to get the extra speed I couldn't find that day. I was looking for a technical response about his transitions or release, whatever.

He said - "I try to get to the bottom as fast as I can"

He was dead serious. I realized that's what I've done in that type of racing at my best as well, going well back to the head-to-head off the bumps days. That kind of single mindedness directs the body to its potential, especially in a 20 second sprint course.

Don't believe me, check my sprint record out

Now if I can just figure out why I'm so stinking slow in Slalom :
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

Ending on a high note

Beer league came to end for the season last night. Thrilled to report that I came away with my best time of the season, 18.80 seconds. Just a tenth of a second away from my first platinum medal, but almost 2 seconds faster than my times at the start of the season.

The tips on developing better starts were great. They helped a lot. The new race suit also helped, I'm sure. Will have to get a bit more informed about tuning the skis, 'cause today, I don't do anything more to the skis than wax them at the start of the season unless Tag Jr. has a chance to put a fresh coat on and touch up the edges. Again, on such a short course, does waxing and sharpening the skis make a big difference? Should probably attend a few more race clinics to learn about how to "read" a course to determine the best line. Always more to learn!

Definitely a great season!
post #14 of 14
Originally Posted by Tag View Post
Will have to get a bit more informed about tuning the skis, 'cause today, I don't do anything more to the skis than wax them at the start of the season unless Tag Jr. has a chance to put a fresh coat on and touch up the edges. Again, on such a short course, does waxing and sharpening the skis make a big difference?
Congratulations and well done on your breakthrough! Yes, waxing and sharpening does make a difference, although the difference is less on a shorter course, and it's less in a GS-type NASTAR course than in speed events.

Sharp edges are especially helpful on hard pack (colloquially "ice".) They grip and carve better, and there's less resistance from burrs.

Wax is good for the base of the ski, it makes the skis go faster, and the figure often tossed around is that a properly waxed ski is 30% easier to pivot and steer in pivot entry turns. The right wax, I think, is especially helpful in really wet, slushy snow (high floro content) and in really cold, dry grabby snow where otherwise the conditions slow you down considerably. But the difference with the right wax is much, much smaller than the difference from wearing a speed suit. (The figure I've seen tossed around is that in a course where a speed suit saves you a second, the right wax saves you a few hundredths.)

Again, congratulations on your big improvement.
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