Spring is here at Bowdoin! Campus is finally starting to look like its best self, with green grass, leaves, and blossoms popping out everywhere. Exams are underway, and we’re just a few days away from a collective sigh of relief. It’s a great time of year to be here (especially if you don’t have to take exams).
Spring is also a great time to look back on the ski season and think about what went well and what didn’t. The start of each new training year brings an opportunity to try new ideas, break old habits, and make the program better than it was before. With that in mind, here are a few things I’m thinking about as we plan for next year:
- Keeping the easy stuff easy. This is a constant problem. Younger skiers want to prove that they can keep up with the veterans. The veterans want to show the new kids what’s up. No one wants to drop off the back. And, skiing fast is just more fun. It’s very tempting for even experienced skiers to go too hard in distance sessions. This is fine for an occasional workout, but after a while it catches up to you and leaves you flat when it’s time to go fast for real. It takes not only discipline but also confidence to go slow in training – knowing that you’re going to be fast when it counts, even if others pull away from you in an easy workout in October. We need to work harder at instilling this mentality in our skiers.
- AM practices. Getting up early is rough on college kids, and every year I weigh the costs and benefits of morning practices to be sure that they’re worth doing. I’ve always considered them a necessary evil, but after this year I’m trying to think outside the box a bit. This year, morning practices during the winter months really seemed to take a toll on people in a way that we haven’t seen in the past, so I’m wondering if we can limit or eliminate them during the carnival season. We’ll always have some people with afternoon classes and labs, so we would need to either have this group doing a dryland workout on campus after class or, ideally, have a late afternoon van to Pineland for an on-snow workout at dusk. Late skiing is no problem at the end of February, but for most of the winter it means skiing in the dark. Could we have the same quality of training while skiing with headlamps? Would this be a problem for the folks at Pineland? I don’t know the best solution for this issue, but we’ll be considering our options in the coming months.
- Training together. During practice, we always seem to be in a rush – sunset always comes too soon, and there’s always a host of reasons to get back to campus in a hurry. Sometimes we get so focused on the numbers (the right training time/distance, the right number and length of intervals, the right rest periods, etc) that we forget to keep the team together – we let the skiers out of the van and they rush off to get the workout done as individuals. Training together matters. Skiing behind someone in a distance workout or doing intervals with a group allows you to get so much more out of the training, and working hard together creates a common focus that strengthens everyone’s resolve to get faster. We know this – we just need to make happen more often. Time constraints and differing practice times due to class schedules make it tough to train together consistently, but we can still do a better job with the hand we’re dealt.
- Prolonged training load. A couple years ago, we started bringing the team back earlier after the holidays – shortly after New Year’s instead of mid-January – in an effort to reap the benefits of training together for a longer period of time before the first carnival. This has worked out really well – we’re definitely performing better in the early season carnivals than we did in the past. Unfortunately, though, some of our skiers feel that they lose this edge as the season goes along. I’m positive that much of this is due to gradually increasing academic demands (classes usually start right after our first carnival). However, we’ve noticed that a few people seem to race their best when they’re a bit suppressed from the heavy training load of January camp, and letting up on the pressure at the start of classes sets them up for a slow decline throughout the season. It’s not realistic (or desirable) to maintain the Jan camp load for the whole carnival season, but can we extend it a bit? How do we find the time during a busy week of school, travel, and racing to add in extra training volume? We also need to make sure we’re targeting the right people – training responses vary from person to person, and some people would be crushed by the combination of classes, races, and higher volume.
So, these are a few things that are on my mind as we look ahead. As always, I’m eager to do some homework in the next few months – reading research, talking with other coaches, and learning whatever I can to help us keep moving forward. Looking forward to a great summer!