Paranordic team unveils secret training weapon: Hawaii

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Canada’s ParaNordic ski team might just be the first to fly to Hawaii in search of stress.

Four members of the top squad, including Brittany Hudak, Emily Young, Chris Klebl and Mark Arendz, spent nearly a week in the tropical paradise, not to sip cocktails by the ocean, but to bust their butts for seven days straight in preparation for the Paralympics and ParaNordic season.

“Hawaii is actually all about really, really hard work,” said head coach Robin McKeever. “We put in only seven days, and three really hard, maximum intensity (workouts).”

The team recently returned from Park City, Utah, where it finished an altitude camp. Park City sits at 2,100 metres elevation, with easy access to terrain in the 3,000-m range. Such camps increase the body’s red blood cells and hemoglobin for a two-week period, which in turn gives athletes a performance boost at lower altitudes. In Hawaii, the ParaNordic team focused on speed, with that boost still in its system.

“We have access to really good roads to roller ski there, low altitude, some sun and a psychological break which will help us get through the long, cold, winter,” McKeever said.

There is a body of thought that believes training at high temperatures produces a litany of benefits, ranging from increased blood plasma volume and reductions in blood lactate, to better training effects at cold temperatures. Yet McKeever said speed and high heart rates are what he is after. This is the second year in a row the ParaNordic team has trained in Hawaii in November and McKeever said it has been a success.

“Hawaii is about getting the speed in. We go there to get higher heart rates than we can at middle altitudes like Canmore. We tested it last year to see if it would work. We had good success and decided to repeat it,” McKeever said.

Training at sea level, the team was able to ramp up its efforts, and included long days of several all-out, limit pushing interval workouts.

“We were able to push them extremely hard. There were times of heat exhaustion because we are pushing to the max for 15 to 20 minutes worth of intensity at a time, which is pretty tough to do,” McKeever said.

Not all of Canada’s ParaNordic team joined in the trip. ParaNordic legend Brian McKeever stayed in Canada to prepare for the Frozen Thunder trials race at the Canmore Nordic Centre, along with most of Canada’s able-bodied skiers.

The Canadian ParaNordic team won’t have to travel for its first world cup, as Canmore hosts the first set of races Dec. 8-18 at the Nordic Centre. It’s the first time Canmore has hosted the event in four years, and the event will attract a deep field of the world’s best ParaNordic athletes. The event is also still looking for volunteers.

“It forces a lot of other teams to travel here, deal with the jet lag and what not. We get to race at home, which is great,” McKeever said.

The Canmore races will be a good tuneup for the Paralympics, McKeever said, and will allow coaching staff to tailor training accordingly if issues do arise.

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