Thursday, May 28, 2015

Graduation 2015

The Class of 2015 is out the door - Tyler, Jackson, and Shelby graduated on a beautiful (but shockingly cold) spring day last weekend.  These three have been key members of our team for the last 4 years, and it won't be the same without them - we'll miss not only their leadership and hard work, but also the fun and friendly atmosphere that they all brought to the team.  A few other things we'll miss:  Shelby's Alex Harvey obsession, live tweets at team meetings, and extensive knowledge and appreciation of 80s music; Tyler's rock solid van driving ability (Van Driver Hall of Fame inductee), mad foosball skillz, and awe-inspiring displays of power on the erg; Jackson's affinity for whale guts, bad-but-improving facial hair, and ability to ski fast after a grueling training regimen of bird-chasing.  And, of course, we'll miss their basketball skills - the average basketball ability level of our team just went WAY down...  Fortunately, we can count on seeing all three of them again in the not too distant future.  Jackson is cuttin' brush and ropin' steers on a ranch in Wyoming, but should be back in Maine in the fall.  Shelby is shaping young minds at Berwick Academy.  And Tyler is working on a GIS research project over in Topsham - mapping or modeling or carbon dating or some such nonsense.  So we'll undoubtedly cross paths with these guys again soon.  For now, congratulations and good luck, graduates!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring 2015 Thoughts



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!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Slide Show 2014-15

Hannah Marshall put together this great slide show recap of the 2014-15 season - check it out!



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More Spring Racing

Ok, it's over for real now.  Spring Break is over and the crew is back on campus.  Unless someone is going to organize a sprint race at Farley or a Polasky Ball showdown on the quad, the 2014-15 season is done (at least for Bowdoin Nordic).  Not without a bang, though - a few hardy souls kept racing throughout the break.  Two days after the final NCAA race, the Hannahs headed over to Cochran's Ski Area for a nordic cross race (basically an agility course - slaloms, obstacles, jumps, etc), where H. Miller finished 2nd.

That same day, Tyler and Jackson raced the 40k at the Maine Huts and Trails Race, finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively.  Bowdoin Nordic alumni were also well-represented by Wade Kavanaugh '01 (60k winner) and Bob Bass '79 (5th in the 40k).
(photo from the MHT release at the link)

Finally, the Sugarloaf Marathon was last Saturday.  H. Miller was 2nd in the 50k and Jackson was 11th.  Tyler won the 25k by a convincing margin, with Mac in 2nd.  I'm guessing that Jackson and Tyler are all marathoned-out by now - no doubt this experience will help them in the Swedish Vasaloppet next year (the 2016 race filled up in 86 seconds, and they were among the lucky folks to get in).  So, that's that - now we're looking at a little more spring skiing here and there and a gradual transition back to dryland.  It's been an amazing winter - sad to see it go, but we're all ready for a little sunshine and warm weather!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NCAA and JN Wrap

The second race at NCAAs proved to be even more exciting than the first.  After a few super-warm days, temps dropped significantly, and it was good and cold on race morning.  Amazingly, the snow still wasn't fully transformed, and I spent a good bit of the morning chasing a hard wax & binder solution while the sensible people were all focused exclusively on klister.  Fortunately, I had some expert wax testers - Kaitlynn tested hard wax while Shelby was on klister.  It's amazing how much you can get done with three people working on skis and only one athlete to worry about!  With some input from Hannah, we finally settled on a klister combination that had worked well the day before.  She tested it and came back feeling pretty good but wanting just a tiny bit more kick - not too much.  I believe her exact words were, "Don't harsh my mellow."  This brought my uptight square tendencies to the surface in a big way, and I spent forever fussing with this micro-adjustment before finally sending her out the door.  At the start, Hannah stayed at the back of the pack - as before, the plan was to ease into the early climbs and try to pick up a few spots as the race wore on.  In the first few kilometers, she looked nice and relaxed, and we could see that she had good kick.  By the second lap, she had settled into a small group at the back with 2 other skiers and was moving well, and she gradually pulled away in pursuit of another pack that was starting to string out in front of her.  Early in the third lap, she passed another skier and started a furious charge to catch a few more before the finish.  It was exciting to watch her chasing down the other skiers - she was holding her technique together remarkably well, and she looked better than almost anyone out there.  For a few minutes I thought she was going to get at least one more, but the gap was too big and she just ran out of room, finishing not far behind 5 or 6 skiers after almost an hour of racing.  At the finish we found a very happy skier - she told us that the race was super fun, her skis were good, and she'd had that unmistakable "peaking" feeling.  Can't ask for much more than that - a perfect way to end the season.  I'm pretty happy as well - this was a great week.  I've coached at seven championships now, with Montana State, Whitman, and Bowdoin.  I've worked with some really fast skiers and have witnessed some great races, including an All-American performance.  But I feel like this has been my most successful championships so far, because everything went right.  Hannah skied a pair of great races that were right at the top of her ability as a skier.  Skis were good both days.  The venue was perfect.  Most importantly, it was a really fun experience for both of us.  I owe a big thanks to Hannah for being so positive, enthusiastic, and coachable, both at the championships and all season long.

Thanks also to our great support squad:  Kaitlynn, Shelby, H. Marshall, Deb, and Meg and Laurie Groves.  Shelby handled feeds, which was a big help and allowed me and Kaitlynn to be out on course (at one point, she delivered a "textbook feed" to Hannah, in the words of the announcer).  Much thanks to all of these guys, and to all of the Bowdoin Nordic fans everywhere who have given us so much support all season!

Full NCAA Results

Replay of Live Feed

While we were wrapping up NCAAs, JNs was winding down in Truckee.  I haven't heard a full report yet, but it sounds like Ellie and Mac were both solid in the mass start classic, and Mac posted a really fast split in the relay.  It sounds like everyone did a good job of spreading the good word about Bowdoin Skiing, especially Ellie - no surprise there.  Sarah kept busy shepherding the J2 girls - no doubt this was a piece of cake, especially during the dance.  Overall, a really fun week for everyone.  Full results are here, and here's a video recap.

Still a little more racing to come as we enjoy the last of this amazing winter - stay tuned for more reports!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

NCAAs and JNs So Far

The first few days of NCAAs have gone by quickly - it's hard to believe that it's almost over already.  We started our trip with a couple beautiful sunny days, our first warm weather in what seems like forever.  The venue was in perfect shape and there was a festive feel - it's always fun to see a bunch of new faces and new race suits out on the trails in the early days of the championships.  It's also easy to get caught up in the intense atmosphere - coaches feverishly testing wax, athletes hammering their pre-race intervals, multiple foreign languages being spoken.  Sometimes it seems like everyone there is bigger, stronger, older, and faster than you are.  Hannah is always very even-keeled at races, but even she was feeling some nerves as yesterday's skate approached.
It clouded up a bit on race morning, but temps stayed high, so we got to try out all the warm waxes that have been gathering dust in our box for the last couple months.  After endless rounds of testing and some serious over-thinking, I threw three different fluoros on Hannah's skis, rolled on some structure, and sent her on her way.  As soon as she left the gate, Hannah snapped into race mode and went to work.  The plan was to be conservative on the steep climbs of the first kilometer, gradually pick up the pace, and pour it on for the rolling and downhill sections in the second half of the race.  She got caught by the skier behind her at about 1 1/2k, but was able to keep it close and work the middle section of the course as planned.  On the big downhill after the high point, she skied aggressively, passed the other skier back, and put in a strong sprint in the final half k to the finish.  When the results came up with Hannah in 30th, we were thrilled.  We'd entered the week with no real expectations, knowing that she was a bit of an underdog - we figured a top-30 finish was possible, but only if everything went right - fortunately, everything did.  It was a great performance on a big stage, and I'm really proud of her.  Best of all, she made the cutoff for scoring team points, so we know we'll leave this championship with at least one point on the board for Bowdoin.

We had some great support at the races, not only from Kaitlynn and Deb Miller, but from Shelby and H. Marshall, who made the trip over from VT to cheer their hearts out.  It was a great lift to have some friendly faces out there, and we're looking forward to seeing them again tomorrow.  Hoping for another great day!

Junior Nationals are also halfway through.  After much travel, Mac and Ellie joined Sarah in California late last week to beautiful sunshine and very little snow.  The opening race was a skate sprint - both of them were feeling the altitude but battled through.  Yesterday's 5/10k skate was a definite step forward despite some on-and-off snow that produced variable conditions for different starters - they both beat some really fast juniors and were close behind several more.  By all reports, everyone's having a good time.  The mass start for tomorrow might be in jeopardy due to the dwindling snow, but it should be a fun race regardless of the format.  Looking forward to seeing how things go the rest of the way!

Monday, March 9, 2015

March Racing

March is here, and with it lots of race action.  JNs started today in Truckee with a skate sprint - no results up yet, but they'll be posted here.  They also have a link to live streaming of the races - so great to be able to watch these races live!  One step closer to the World Cup.  Next race is a 5/10k skate on Wednesday.

That other championship event is about to get started as well - Hannah and I are in Lake Placid for NCAAs.  First race is also on Wednesday, also a 5k skate.  The weather's beautiful and the venue looks fantastic - can't wait to get out there tomorrow!  These races will be live streamed as well - men at 10am and women at noon.

Lastly, March is marathon month, and a few of our people got this going last weekend.  Sam did the Pepsi Challenge, where he hung with some local Midwest stars for most of the race and posted a fine finish.  Tyler, Jackson, and August raced the Bretton Woods Marathon and held their own against a very high quality field.  Much more racing to come - stay tuned!