Monday, July 16, 2018

New Assistant Coach Leslie Krichko

I'm thrilled to announce that we have a new assistant coach - Leslie Krichko will be joining us in August!  Leslie is a Maine native and two-time Olympian ('80 & '88).  She helped UVM to a national championship, qualified for multiple World Championship teams, and raced numerous World Cup events over a 12-year stint on the national team.  After winding down her international racing career, Leslie moved to Connecticut where she built a career in realty and raised three children.  Luckily for us, she's now ready to move back to Maine and jump back into the ski world!  Leslie brings a huge range of experience to our program - in addition to her rich ski racing background, she's held a variety of coaching/instructing roles in skiing, rowing, hydrofitness, and youth exercise programming.  We're so fortunate to have a person of Leslie's stature joining our team - she has a deep well of knowledge to share with our team, and I can't wait to work with her.  Bowdoin Nordic's bright future just got brighter!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Graduation 2018

The Class of 2018 has graduated!  Congratulations to our four wonderful seniors - Sam, Ellie, Rachel, and Jake.  This class has profoundly influenced Bowdoin Nordic - every little detail of how this team functions and interacts with the world has their fingerprints on it, and they deserve a huge amount of credit for the success that we had this year.  They've been incredible role models - not just through their hard work and professionalism, but through their good energy, their sense of fun, and their love for their teammates.  It was no surprise that almost all of our skiers attended Graduation to see them off - no one wants to let them go.  Thanks for everything, Class of 2018 - you've been incredible and we'll miss you so much.  Good luck and keep in touch!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Spring Thoughts

It's a beautiful spring day in Brunswick - blue sky and sunshine.  Campus is gorgeous, and graduation is right around the corner.  That means I'm overdue for a rambling post on subjects of interest only to me (and Nick Crawford).  As we close the book on another fine school year, here are a few of the things I'm thinking about:

Walking the lineWhen it comes to training, there’s a fine line between too much and not enough.  If you want to get faster, you need to push the limits, and it’s easy to push just a bit too hard.  This happens pretty frequently to college athletes - every year a few of our skiers hit the wall and start feeling crushed by the training load.  The big challenge is how to respond – rest, of course, but how much and how early?  Our typical response is to have people take a day or two off if they’re a little tired, and a week or two off if they’re really in a hole.  That works sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t.  A day or two doesn’t seem to do much if an athlete is really tired, and a week or two off doesn’t do much if a skier has been struggling for a while.  I’m starting to think that we need to have a lower threshold for the longer rest periods – catch it early when someone is just starting to get into a hole, and rest them longer to ensure that they’re fully out of it.  This year we had a couple instances where this approach paid off, and I’m ready to keep using it going forward.  What we really need, of course, is to not get into any holes in the first place – keep the intensity carefully controlled, use good recovery practices, get plenty of sleep, etc.  But the world isn’t perfect yet, so instead we’ll settle for being a little more aggressive with our interventions.

The sophomore jump:  Our sophomores were a huge part of our success this year – not just because there’s a million of them, and not just because they’re such wonderful people, but also because they all improved significantly this year.  Sophomore year is often a time of major improvement – most people learn a lot in their first year and then turn all that learning into better race results a year later.  But that doesn’t always hold true – some skiers make big gains right away and then have a bit of a sophomore slump, while others just sort of plateau.  But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole group of sophomores make such steady progress as this year’s group did.  Why did this happen?  There's a lot of good energy surrounding this group – they have good relationships with each other and with the whole rest of the team, and I think they’re having fun with this whole ski team thing.  Happy people ski faster, after all.  We were also lucky to have a great group of seniors to serve as role models, and the younger skiers have learned a lot from them.  I’m really encouraged by the progress our sophomores made this year, and I’m excited to see what they (and all of our other skiers!) can do in the future.

Organic training:  Organic training is our term for training that just sort of happens naturally when you’re doing something for non-training purposes.  Some examples drawn from our team in recent years:  trail work, hunting, running/hiking between data collection sites, bicycle touring, raft guiding, and more.  This is stuff that doesn’t fit nicely into a training log – you’re focused on something besides heart rate or pace or duration, and it’s hard to quantify the training benefits that you’re getting.  But you’re working hard, and you end up getting stronger and fitter whether or not you realize it.  I love this stuff!  It’s not training by the book, and maybe it’s not an optimal use of a skier’s time and energy.  But people come back from a couple weeks or months of organic training in great shape, and more importantly they come back happy and fired up to jump back into regular ski training.  This year we had several skiers doing their share of organic training, and it certainly didn’t seem to hurt anyone when it came time to race.  Lily is the most notable example – she spent the summer leading canoe trips in Ontario, and she came back decently fit and outrageously strong after hundreds and hundreds of hours of paddling and portaging.  It took her a few weeks to get her running and rollerski fitness back, but once she did she was unstoppable.  I’m not at all sure that she would have skied faster this year if she’d spent the summer on a traditional training plan.  I’ve always had a soft spot for outside-the-box training, and I’m more convinced than ever that any college skier can benefit from some random outdoor adventuring over the summer.  Happy people ski faster!

The dam breaks:   Despite Bowdoin Nordic’s gradual improvement over the years, we haven’t really seen much change in our team finishes.  By every other measure – placings, percent back, USSA points, NCAA qualifying – we’ve improved, but it never seemed to translate into better carnival finishes.  This season, we suddenly jumped from 8-10th to 4-6th.  I’m not shocked – we’ve been working toward this for a long time – but I’m struck by how big the jump was when it finally happened.  It’s encouraging to see how quickly things can change after years of grinding – persistence pays off.  The other lesson to take from this, though, is that things can go the other way just as quickly – we’ll have to fight hard to stay at this level.  Right now, we’re in a good position - we’re bringing back a great group next year, and I think it’s realistic to expect us to stay competitive.  But it’s not going to just happen.  We’ll have to find ways to keep improving and keep closing the gap between us and the teams ahead of us.  It’s going to take imagination and creativity and a whole lot of hard work.  We're ready for it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Last week was Bowdoin's All Sports Award Ceremony, and I'm happy to report that Elliot was named the Outstanding First-Year Male Athlete!  It's a real honor considering how many great hard-working athletes there are on campus - I'm really thrilled that Elliot was able to stand out among such a strong group.  This is just the third time Bowdoin Nordic has won an award at this event - our team won the 77 Award in 2016, and John Hall '08 won the Academic Achievement Award for Men - and it's a nice feeling to see one of our own being recognized.  It's certainly a well-earned award.  Anyone who reads this blog already knows about Elliot's exploits:  NCAA qualifier, podium finish in the 10k classic at Regionals, 2nd place at the Chummy Cup and 1st Team All-State, and EISA All-Academic honors.  In the USSA rankings, he's currently the top ranked skier in the country in his year of birth.  He had the most successful season ever of any Bowdoin Nordic first-year, and the future is bright.  I can't wait to see what he and the rest of the crew can do in the next few years!
Congratulations to Elliot and to all of the award winners!  It's been a great year for Bowdoin Athletics, and it's exciting to see our fellow teams crushing it all three seasons.  Go U Bears!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Marty Hall of Fame

Last weekend the great Marty Hall was inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.  Marty is a North American nordic ski legend - his long career included stints as a national team coach for both the US and Canada, among other stops, and of course eight years as head coach of Bowdoin Nordic.  I was lucky enough to attend the induction ceremony in Squaw Valley, California.  Among Marty's many supporters were a few other folks with Bowdoin Nordic ties:  Jacob Scheckman '06, Alison Flint '05, and former Bowdoin Nordic assistant coach Adam St. Pierre.  It was a special moment seeing Marty receive this honor, and I'm so glad I was able to be there.  The whole event was pretty interesting - seven others were also inducted.  Listening to their speeches and seeing their tribute videos gave me a real appreciation for how many different ways there are to have fun sliding around on snow, and how much we all have in common despite the huge differences between the various snowsports.

There's a lot to talk about in Marty's legendary career.  As a USST coach, he helped Bill Koch to a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics and served as the first coach of the US women's cross-country ski program.  He led the Canadian national team for much of the 80s, coached numerous athletes privately, and had his hand in countless innovations that have shaped the sport as we know it today.  For decades, he's been a vocal and influential commentator through his books and columns in various ski publications.  Here's a recorded interview by Peter Graves prior to Marty's induction, and here's a written one from a few years ago by Nat Herz '09.  Marty has left his mark on North American skiing like few others.  But what I really want to talk about is the final chapter of his career and what he means to Bowdoin Nordic.

When Marty arrived at Bowdoin in the fall of 1999, the program had been competing at the NCAA Division I level as a member of the EISA for six years.  For several decades prior, the program had been gradually evolving from club to varsity team, led by a string of dedicated part-time coaches.  The step up to EISA skiing meant a much higher level of competition, and in those first few years Bowdoin skiers fought gamely to adapt to this new environment, with only mild support from the college.  Marty's arrival was a watershed moment for the program.  In classic Marty style, he turned everything upside down, with a new approach to training, technique, waxing, travel, everything.  His knowledge, professionalism, and forceful personality inspired the team to new heights - he had high expectations for the team and held the skiers to high standards.  Marty was also a tireless advocate for his athletes, always pushing for more resources.  This in particular was huge - although Bowdoin Skiing had had varsity status for several years, the program was well behind most other varsity sports in terms of funding, facilities, and coaching positions.  Over the years, Marty and AD Jeff Ward worked together to expand the team's resources; correspondingly, the team gradually became more and more competitive.  By the time Marty retired in 2007, the program was solidly established and poised for future success.  I was so incredibly fortunate to inherit a stable foundation with all the resources I needed to build a competitive team.  I am really proud of how this program has progressed in my 11 years at head coach.  I'm also well aware that none of this success would have been possible without Marty's tireless work building our launching pad.  For that, anyone involved with Bowdoin Nordic owes him a huge debt of gratitude.  Thanks for everything, Marty, and congratulations on a well-deserved honor!

Monday, April 2, 2018

March Wrap Up

While we were focused on NCAAs and the Paralympics, there was plenty of other good Bowdoin Nordic-related stuff happening in March.  Here's a quick rundown:

Rangeley Loppet - Rangeley used to be an annual season-ending tradition for our team.  We've had a lot of fun and some great performances there - most notably a win by Erin Hatton '12 in 2010 and a double victory for Jackson Bloch '15 and Hannah Miller '17 in 2014 - but the team hasn't competed in this race for the last few years.  This year, a small but determined group went back to Rangeley to recapture our lost glory.  Mission accomplished!  Ellie won the women's race by 10 minutes - she was mixing it up with the college boys for most of the race, and ended up beating some of them.  Sam nearly made it a sweep for the captains, finishing just three seconds behind GMVS coach Peter Kling, a former elite nordic combined skier.  Russell was 3rd for men, while Lily was 10th and Rachel 11th for women.  A fine team showing and a great reminder of how much fun this event is.
Spring Break - After NCAAs wrapped up, several of our skiers descended on the peaceful home of the Watson family in Livingston, MT.  Orion spent the next several days guiding Christian, Rachel, Noah, Ian, and Elliot around the mountains of Montana on various ski adventures.  When Orion headed back to campus for track, the crew went over to Noah's cabin in Idaho for a few more days of skiing.  Here are a couple photos courtesy of Lee Watson:

Meanwhile, a few of our skiers were adventuring all over Norway:  Sam, Ellie, Cirque, Lily, and Fiona.  They crossed paths with Tyler DeAngelis '15, who spent the winter racing World Loppet events, as well as Mac Groves '17 and Hannah.  Here's a short video of a typical day.  The trip culminated in the Norwegian Birkebeiner, where they all carried a little Baby Haakon 54 kilometers to safety.  Pretty much all of them have described this event in superlatives:  hardest race ever, most exhausting, most fun.  A Spring Break well spent.

World Cup - As the SuperTour leader, Kaitlynn Miller '14 earned start rights to the March World Cup races.  Even after four highly successful years as an elite skier, Kaitlynn had never raced in Europe, so this was a nice opportunity for her to race some at some iconic venues against the world's best; she held her own and put up some respectable results.

Spring Series - SuperTour Finals were in Craftsbury this year.  Renae is one of those people who just can't get enough of racing, so she headed over to Vermont with some Colby friends to do a couple races on the final weekend of Spring Break.  Spring Series is the only time all year that the international skiers race domestically, so the races are super competitive.  The whole Olympic Team was there, including two newly-minted gold medalists!  Exciting stuff.  Renae was just 1 second away from qualifying for the heats in the classic sprint, and she posted a solid mid-pack finish in the 10k skate.  I'm proud of her for taking the initiative to get to these races - it's a daunting task to handle your own logistics and wax your own skis at a big-time event against a field of fully supported elite skiers.  Not a bad showing for a college first-year.  Meanwhile, Kaitlynn posted three strong finishes to lock up the overall SuperTour title!  That's no easy achievement - women's skiing in the US is stronger than ever.  This should open some doors for her in the coming season.

The Medal - Jake came back to campus with some hardware.  It's pretty sweet.  Here's a photo:

Fast and Female - Speaking of medals, Kikkan Randall held a Fast and Female event at LL Bean last weekend.  Fiona, Lily, Ellie, and Gabby all helped out - very exciting to meet Kikkan, help the next generation get fired up about skiing, and of course take some photos with the gold medal!

(thanks to Steve Fuller of Flying Point Road for this photo) 

Quite an eventful month - looking forward to a peaceful spring!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Paralympic Games - Silver!

Ok, I kind of ruined the suspense with the title of this post - couldn't help myself.  I couldn't make it out to Pyeongchang for the Games, but I followed Jake's races as closely as possible from the US, with Sue Conner and Sean (who were there in person) providing added details.  Here's a recap of the week:

Conditions were beautiful in Pyeongchang - sunny and warm but plenty of snow.  Monday's 20k skate got off to a good start, with Jake feeling strong and in medal contention, ably guided by Sawyer Kesselheim - unfortunately, Jake got tired and faded to 5th as the race went on.  Wednesday's classic sprint also looked like it was going to be a special day at first - he qualified in 3rd and tied for the win in his semifinal.  After a strong showing in the finals we thought he'd won bronze, only to find him relegated to fourth after a protest by the coach of the fourth place skier.  I don't know the exact details, but apparently it had something to do with a lane change while double poling uphill.  I support the current push to protect classic skiing and enforce technique rules, but man, this was tough - if enforcement at the NCAA Championships had been this strict, half the field would have been disqualified!  This particular case was a bit extra frustrating because it had no real effect on the outcome - the gap between Jake and the fourth place skier was pretty substantial.  But those are the rules - nothing to do but hope for the best in the next race.  I got a little worried when I heard that Jake had come down with a cold going into the 10k classic on Saturday - I knew it would be mentally tough to come back after two near misses, and adding a cold on top of this could have easily sunk Jake's chances.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about - Jake won silver!!!!  Such a hard-earned and well-deserved honor.  Here's a video of the medal ceremony, and here's a press release with some quotes from Jake and Sawyer.  The last event of the Games was a 4x2.5k mixed relay - a pretty cool event where skiers of all classifications competed in the same race, with different time adjustments depending on gender and classification.  The US team finished 7th overall, with Jake posting the fastest split for the anchor leg.  Overall, a great week.  It's been a long road for Jake - lots of hard work went into this achievement.  He's trained more hours than any skier in the history of Bowdoin Nordic - the past four years have been an experiment to find out how much training is possible for a Bowdoin skier.  He's improved a ton and has put up some strong performances, but it certainly hasn't been easy - he's had no shortage of setbacks along the way.  After four years of ups and downs, it's incredibly gratifying to see Jake's career end on such a high note.  We're all so proud - can't wait to get him back on campus to hear all about his adventures!

Here are some photos, courtesy of Sue and Sean: