How do world class marathoners train differently than world cup racers? What would be the most important facet to focus on training to significantly improve in a skating marathon? I already do 3-4hr skis and long (20 min) intervals, along with some shorter intervals. Thanks! M,
You post an interesting question. We have long distance specialists, yet the World Cup also includes a few long distance events, and we note WC skiers compete very successfully in mass marathons. In principle, most "marathon specialists" don't train too differently than the World Cup racers, but you will likely find a good variety in what they prioritize. For instance, many skiers in Europe gun for the long classic marathons where upper body development and pure double poling dominate, while most skiers prepare for a comprehensive skill-set. Both marathon and WC skiers rack up high training volumes. Due to the nature of the competitions, the marathoners tend to prioritize longer training passes while the others mix it up with shorter, more diverse and frequent workouts. Corollary, the marathon specialists often practice long, uniform terrain features versus the more quick transition based training for WC courses. The pure marathon specialists train to do multiple long endurance events during their season while the WC skiers have more variety in their program. The marathoners develop ultra endurance metabolism and muscle memory, while the WC skiers will commonly have higher peak values in oxygen uptake and specific strength.
You are on the right track with long distance training, yet all but a few of such workouts need to be at low intensity. Interval training is dominantly a mix higher intensity work to stimulate your upper-end aerobic ability, finally spiced with a splash of lactate tolerance training to suit the individual. The longer (20 minute, etc.) intervals you mention are often referred to as "distance" or "stayer" training, basically course segments at or about race pace, and are applicable in all endurance sports. I highly recommend adding comprehensive and specific strength along with motion training to your program; you will find the successful skiers in both the marathon and WC race circuits taking this quite seriously and we see improved strength and body control as significant gainers in the amateur and master skier population. Beyond training theory, marathon skiing involves strategy and tactics; your preparations would likely benefit from analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, put them into your events and plan your training accordingly. That concept applies throughout the ranks of marathon ski racing as in other endurance sports.
Think of it this way; if a person is already training a hundred miles, is performance getting better by doing one-hundred-one, or even another five or ten? Most likely not, but he or she has a great chance of improving by doing something new and different!
All the best of luck,
sun valley, id
Jon Engen operates and www.xcskicoach.com and Sun Valley Masters; you can find them both on the web. As a "master skier," Jon competed, in the 88, 92 & 94 Olympics and has later won 12 individual World Masters titles. This experience has given him unique insight in helping other masters improve and reach their goals in year-round endurance sports. He is a certified USSA cross-country coach, personal trainer and professional engineer.