Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Start of Tryouts

We're moving - the 2015-16 season is underway.  We started off with a fitness testing day on Saturday, the Morse Mtn time trial.  Newcomer Lucy Skinner (senior cross-country captain) set a new course record in 6:36, breaking the five-year-old mark set by Hannah Wright '13.  The men showed good depth, with three people under 6 minutes and the whole group fairly tightly clustered.  Almost everyone set a PR - very good sign that everyone's summer training is paying off.  The first-years did a nice job with their first time through this course - off to a good start.

Lucy 6:36
Tess 7:27
Emma 7:35
Ellie 7:49
H. Marshall 8:08

Sam 5:50
Mac 5:58
August 5:58
Wil 6:09
Sean 6:09
Jake 6:14

Testing resumed yesterday with the 2000m erg test.  The captains stepped up to show the rest of the group how it's done - Mac broke his own record by a couple seconds, and H. Marshall was less than 4 seconds from H. Miller's record.  More PRs and a great effort by everyone on this very tough test.

Men Time
Mac 07:04.3
Jake 07:14.5
Sean 07:17.4
Sam 07:44.7
August 08:11.3
Wil 08:31.4

Women Time
H. Marshall 08:18.8
Tess 08:30.3
Ellie 08:56.9
Lucy 09:14.2
Emma 09:38.8
Rachel 09:42.2

This morning, we did some technique, speed, and agility work on skate skis.  I can see that several of our skiers have put in some time working on this stuff over the summer, and it's made a noticeable difference.  The group as a whole seems a bit more nimble on skis than in past years - looks like they're ready for increasing challenges as the fall goes on.

This afternoon, we'll keep things rolling with a strength and spenst workout before concluding our team selection phase with a classic distance ski and technique session tomorrow.  More updates to come!

Friday, August 21, 2015

New Assistant Coach Tim Whiton

I'm happy to announce that we've hired Tim Whiton as our new assistant coach!  Most Bowdoin Nordic fans will remember that Tim was our assistant coach for two seasons from 2009-2011.  He went on to become head coach at Gould Academy for a year before moving out to Bozeman to start a master's program in History at Montana State.  This past year, he finished up his degree while also serving as the assistant nordic coach at MSU, where he helped two skiers earn All-American honors at NCAAs.  I'm super excited to have Tim back at Bowdoin - he's obviously learned a lot and enjoyed great success in the last four years, and I'm looking forward to seeing what new skills and ideas he'll bring to our program.  I feel like we're incredibly lucky to have him on board - a great start to the year!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

REG Camp 2015

A couple weeks ago I traveled to the beautiful campus of GMVS (widely known as Alec McGovern's alma mater) to help out with the Eastern REG camp.  It was a great camp - gorgeous surroundings, productive workouts, and a very talented and enthusiastic group of athletes.  Justin Beckwith (GMVS) and Amber Dodge (NENSA) did a great job of organizing the camp, and everything ran remarkably smoothly.  I always come home from these things with a lot of food for thought - here are a few of the things that stayed with me:

Coaching Juniors - I worked with a junior program for a couple years in Pocatello, Idaho back when I was a youngster, and this camp made me miss it a bit.  There's so much energy in a group of junior skiers - they're pretty happy-go-lucky and ready to have fun with anything.  I got to lead a general strength workout for one of our sessions, and it was really fun to see them fired up to try some new stuff.  Juniors are also very "plastic," especially the J2s - they're in a great spot for learning new things and making technique changes, so sometimes you get these dramatic breakthroughs that are really satisfying for athlete and coach alike:

So yeah, I really enjoyed working with these guys, and I do sometimes miss the junior scene.  Having said that, I'm pretty happy that I don't have to manage that energy all the time - a little pre-bedtime chaos in the dorm is a good cure for nostalgia.

Strength Training Priorities:  Matt Whitcomb was the USST representative at the camp - we had an interesting conversation about how general strength training fits into the big picture.  Matt's take is that if you're only training 500 hours a year, you have to limit the amount of general strength training you do and focus on building a foundation of aerobic fitness.  Keep your general strength workouts short and sweet and get back to the more important work of running, rollerskiing, double poling, etc.  This was also reflected in the choice of tests for the REG camps - this year, an 800m double pole test has replaced the traditional Canadian Strength Test.  This is not to say that general strength work isn't valuable - just that A) aerobic training takes greater precedence when you have limited training time, and B) specific strength (as expressed through double poling, etc) is more important than general strength.  I was incredibly glad to hear Matt endorsing this philosophy - I've taken this approach with my team for years, and it's the place where I get the most pushback.  If the USST starts promoting this concept, it'll take hold at the junior and college levels soon enough, and that will be a good thing.

Approach to Technique:  We did a number of technique sessions with the athletes - on skis, on foot, and on film.  I was reminded of how different coaches approach technique in different ways - I often found myself saying or thinking something that was totally different from what another coach had said, but was essentially just a different way of looking at the same concept.  It was a good reminder that there are a lot of different ways to reach the same goal, and that different athletes may need different approaches to a given technique challenge.

Engaging and Motivating Athletes:  I noticed that the athletes were locked in every time Matt addressed the group, and the level of focus was always higher in the sessions where he was present.  On the last night, he gave a presentation about World Cup racing and the current USST athletes, and the kids were riveted.  I was really impressed and a bit envious of Matt's ability to engage the athletes.  Back when I was a novice coach and I didn't quite know what I was doing, I was pretty good at this - I didn't have a lot of experience, but I had a ton of fire.  These days, I know a lot more, and it's easy to coach from the head and not so much from the heart.  This camp was a good reminder that I need to do both.

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!