• Justin Eberhardt

Designing and implementing a Birkie training plan

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

As the windchill outside plunged to double digits below zero this week, it was too cold to ski (even for a lifelong Minnesotan), so I took some time to check on my progress compared to my training plan.


How I developed my training plan

My main goal for the 2018/19 season is to improve my place in the 58km Vasaloppet skate race, where I have finished 43rd two years in a row. My second goal is to earn a 25% Merket at the Norwegian Birkebiener classic race. This one will be a real challenge for me. The Merket goes to anyone who finishes within 25% of the top 5 in your age group, and typically requires around a 4:10/km pace in the classic race. I had these goals in mind when I originally devised my training plan last summer.


It is important to note that I’m not an expert in exercise science, by any means. But, I met with a trainer at Sanford Power in Fargo for professional advice and baseline VO2/LT testing last spring (that testing was actually a birthday gift from my awesome wife), and I have also read quite a few books and articles related to training and endurance. The training plan I came up with for myself includes the following components I have found to be consistent across these sources:


· long distance workouts to increase endurance

· tempo sessions at a comfortably fast pace to increase lactate threshold

· interval training at or near your maximum pace

· weights and core exercises to increase power and for injury prevention

· practicing good technique consistently, even when fatigued

· incorporating recovery time after difficult workouts


I think it is also important to set goals, make a customized plan, and track and benchmark your progress while still allowing for some flexibility. By analyzing the data collected by my Polar M430 watch during training sessions, I am able to keep some real-time surveillance of my progress and make adjustments to my workouts to better achieve my targets for intensity, duration, and recovery. This also gives me a chance to use my stats expertise for something useful--the ultimate goal of any math teacher!


I’ve posted my plan below. If you are a first time Vasaloppet or Birkie skier, or if you are just looking for ideas to add to your training plan, you may find some useful information here.


Assessing my training progress

My previous year race pace is just over 3:30/km on the Birkie skate course and about 3:15/km on the Vasaloppet skate course, and I am trying to improve year over year. To see if I’m on staying on track to achieve that goal, I compared my total training hours, rollerski km, and on-snow km to previous years. For the past two seasons, I averaged 300 total training hours, 350km rollerskiing, and 700km on snow. So far this season (with over two months remaining), I have 215 training hours, 300km rollerskiing, and 400km on snow. I should be on pace for 300 training hours by the end of the season, and I think I’ll go well over 700km on-snow by the end of March. I don’t know if this will be enough to earn that 25% Merket, but I’ll keep working and give it my best shot on March 16th.




My Polar M430 training watch tracks HR, distance, speed, elevation, and duration to help me track my training progress and set new work out goals.


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©2020 by Justin Eberhardt