Thursday, July 3, 2014

Lake Placid REG

Last week I attended the Eastern REG camp in Lake Placid.  I helped run the training sessions, worked with several other coaches, and met a great group of top junior skiers - a very good week.  I really enjoy stepping outside the usual routine of running my own program - there's always stuff to be learned from working in a different environment.  Here are a few thoughts from my trip:

- One of the tests the athletes did was an agility course.  This one included all sorts of tricky stuff:  180s, backward skiing, obstacles to hop over, and an off-pavement section.  Kind of goofy, perhaps, but also a good indicator of how well people can handle their skis and adapt to new challenges.  I was struck by how comfortable the top juniors were on their skis - really impressive how well some of these kids moved.  Some of our skiers would have done well in this test, but honestly, some others would have struggled.  There's no question in my mind that these skills translate well into technique and speed development, so this is a significant advantage that some of our athletes are missing.  I've always been a big believer in the value of agility training, but I've only made it happen sporadically during our workouts.  Perhaps a bit more focus on this could help.

- Bryan Fish (USST Development Coach) gave a few presentations at the camp, including a discussion about general strength training.  One thing I found interesting is that the USST has reduced its focus on general strength work - their athletes average about 2 GS workouts every 10 days, according to Bryan.  Also, they've de-emphasized core strength work, reasoning that the athletes can develop core strength/stability through their other training modes.  This was music to my ears - in our program, I've cut back significantly on GS and core work in recent years.  This isn't to say that USST has suddenly adopted my minimalist approach to general strength - they do a decent amount of periodized weight training - but it's still gratifying to know that I'm not the only one thinking that less can be more in this area.

- I gave a presentation on speed development on one of the evenings.  I really hope the athletes got something out of it, but if nothing else, putting together the presentation was a good learning experience for me.  I was reminded that a great way to learn something is to try to teach it to others (I think this is what my teachers/professors were trying to accomplish when they assigned all those presentations in high school and college, although I didn't really get it back then).  It's one thing to design workouts based on stuff that you've learned and now take for granted - it's entirely different presenting this information in a way that others can learn from and hopefully use.  I didn't want to put anything out there that wasn't backed up with research or experience (or both, ideally) - this meant that I had to check my own knowledge by going back and re-reading some of the materials that have influenced my approach to speed development.  In the process, I learned some new stuff and re-learned some old stuff, some of which caused me to question my own methods.  Now that it's all done with, I feel like I understand speed development much more thoroughly than I did a few weeks ago - maybe I'll make a few tweaks to our speed plan and we'll get more out of our training this fall.  Overall, a very interesting experience - hopefully I'll have more opportunities to do this kind of thing in the future.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Kent Island Blog

Jackson is spending a few weeks on Kent Island doing ornithological research this summer.  He's started a new blog with photos and write-ups about the project - check it out.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Deep Thoughts for 2014-15

2014 was a great year for Bowdoin Nordic – we really raised the bar for this program.  With four of our top skiers graduating, it’ll be tough to live up to this standard, but we’re all fired up to give it a shot.  One way we’ll do this is to figure out how we can keep getting better.  Right now I have lots of ideas rattling around in my head – here are three of them:

Technique work:  We made good use of our IPad and did a lot of good trailside/roadside technique work this year – this was very effective, but also limited.  With video review, the athletes are analyzing and thinking a lot, which is a useful piece of the puzzle, but I’d rather have them thinking less and doing more – just moving on skis and playing with different ways to make themselves go faster with less effort.  I’d like to incorporate more drills into our day-to-day training – free-flowing stuff like running, skipping, etc, as well as lots of balance drills.  I’m thinking that a short routine that the skiers can do independently at the start of each session might be a good way to accomplish this.

Elasticity:  Good technique requires light, springy movements and quick force application (minimal ground contact time, for lack of a better term).  As I mentioned above, we try to focus on this in general technique work, as well as speed training.  But - you can’t be light on your skis if you’re not light on your feet, so we also do a short elasticity routine – skips, hops, jump rope – now and then.  Can this be done more frequently without adding too much stress to the overall training load?  I could see elasticity work as part of a warmup for any on-foot workout, or maybe even incorporated into an easy run.  For many of our skiers, more elasticity work could be an important tool for improving technique.

Poling power training:  Am I obsessed with poling power?  Yes.  We did a lot of upper body training this year – lots of erging and poles-only rollerskiing – and our skiers were pretty solid in the poling department.  So that was good.  But I think we can do better.  The arms can be heavily trained as a means of propulsion, as shown by paddlers, sit-skiers, and wheelchair athletes.   Fast skiers need to have great upper body power - we’ve known this forever, yet most skiers are nowhere near these upper body dominant athletes when it comes to generating power with the arms.  There’s a ton of room to improve here.  Weights, pullups, rollerboards – good stuff, but not even close to enough.  A few uphill double pole repeats once a week?  A good start, but only a start.  Even the sustained poles-only workouts that we do throughout the fall only add up to a small fraction of our overall training time.  I’m positive that we can continue to increase the amount of time we spend on upper body training without neglecting other areas – more double poling and more erging, and just a touch less of our other training methods.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Congratulations to Riley and Kaitlynn - both of them have nailed down plans to continue their racing careers after graduation.  Riley is off to Montana to ski with the Bridger Ski Foundation, while Kaitlynn is headed home to Vermont as the newest member of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project.  As a former Bozeman resident, I'm a bit jealous of Riley - Bozeman is a fantastic town.  It has everything a skier could want - mountains, snow, tons of trails, a supportive ski community, and, most importantly, an outstanding donut shop.  Craftsbury is pretty nice, too - the Northeast Kingdom might be the greatest place on the planet.  It's a real honor and an exciting milestone for our team to have these guys moving on to two of the top post-college programs in the country - I'm excited to watch their progress next year.  Good luck Kaitlynn and Riley!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Craftsbury Spring Tour

A small but fearless crew represented Bowdoin Nordic at the Craftsbury Spring Tour last weekend.  Both Millers raced - there was also a tall lanky guy who looked just like Mac but was wearing an unfamiliar race suit, so who knows.  This was a 3-race event that included a classic prologue on Friday, a classic sprint on Saturday, and a 10/15k skate pursuit on Sunday.  The field was small but absolutely stacked, including a number of highly-ranked seniors, several top college skiers and juniors, and one Olympic biathlete - basically a mini-SuperTour.  Our crew posted fine results in the two classic races:  Kaitlynn 4th and 13th (7th qualifier), Hannah 8th and 9th (8th qualifier), and Mac 34th both days.  The cool thing about these races is that they were waxing their own skis - Saturday in particular turned out to be a very tricky day, so this was a job well done and a good learning experience.  Everyone skied well and gained some spots in Sunday's pursuit - no overall results that I could find, but for skate splits Kaitlynn was 4th, Hannah 8th, and Mac 35th.  Great skiing by everyone - really nice to see some of our skiers mixing it up with such a high-level field.

As we've come to expect, Deb Miller kindly provided some photos of the event:

Friday, March 14, 2014

NCAA Photos

Here are some photos from NCAAs, courtesy of Deb Miller:

Not a ton of snow at Soldier Hollow.

 Every team got a wax cabin, which was great.  We shared ours with Bates - they were wonderful neighbors.
Whether you're waxing for 2 skiers or 12 skiers, you can always make a big mess.

A pleasant musical interlude the night before the first race.

 Kaitlynn with our two intrepid kick wax testers.

Photographic evidence that Kaitlynn raced in a t-shirt without a buff.

 The team with some of the Bowdoin Nordic alumni who showed up to offer support.

 Alumni and parents - a great crew.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

NCAA Skate

We were lucky to end the 2014 season on an absolutely gorgeous day at Soldier Hollow.  It was sunny and warm, but the snow was frozen and fast, and it stayed fairly firm through both races - perfect for skate racing.  James and Kaitlynn both skied well and showed great tenacity.  James hung with the pack for a while before finding the pace a bit too fast - he dropped back but didn't stop fighting, and was able to pick up a couple places in the final kilometers to finish 35th.  The women's field went out at a furious pace, and Kaitlynn quickly decided that she'd be better off skiing her own race - she was well back after the first few kilometers, but she kept pushing, skiing smoothly and steadily gaining on the skiers in front of her.  By the end of the race, she'd moved up to 28th - a well-paced and determined effort.  Overall, a great day and a nice finish to James's and Kaitlynn's Bowdoin Nordic careers.  These two have been pillars of our program for a long time, and they've done a lot to make our team a better place.  Working with them has been a pleasure - I feel so lucky to have had the chance to coach them.  It's hard to imagine next year without them - they'll be missed!

One thing that's been pretty special about this week is the amazing support and encouragement we've received.  There's been a decent amount of positive press about our skiers' accomplishments, and we've heard a lot of kind words and good wishes from a lot of people in the past few days.  We had a great crew of parents and alumni helping out and cheering this week - pretty amazing considering that we're a long way from Bowdoin.  No one has helped our team more this week than Wilson - he's been outstanding as our volunteer wax tech.  It's been a lot of fun testing skis and waxing with him these past few days, and it's neat to see how far he's come in the last couple years as a professional coach.  One last thing that's made this week great has been working with other EISA schools.  Our wax cabin was in a small group with Colby, Bates, Williams, and Harvard - all week we've been constantly talking and sharing information in an effort to help each other have a successful week.  It's pretty cool to be part of such a supportive ski community.

So now the 2014 season is over for real.  It's been a great season - far better than I could have imagined when we all came together last fall.  I'm already looking forward to next year.  For now, though, we'll all enjoy a bit of a break.  A few folks will do a little more racing over Spring Break - I'll post updates about this and anything else team-related, including photos from NCAAs.