Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall Camp 2014

We left Bowdoin for Fall Camp 2014 on a bright October day.  Fueled by a stop at Georgio's Donuts in Auburn, we soon arrived at the base of the Sunday River alpine area.  We dodged crazed downhill mountain bikers and rambunctious 8-year-olds as we bounded up the mountain (keeping our heart rates at threshold, of course).  The mountain road proved longer than our workout - only a hardy few reached the highest chairlift, and only Captain DeAngelis summitted whichever peak we were climbing (always hard to tell at Sunday River).  Post-workout, Shelby led us to the Letter S swimming hole, a lovely picnic spot with a vast expanse of smooth, round rocks that were equally perfect for napping or collecting as Phlail prizes.  Afterward, we did a little technique work and a short recovery ski on pristine pavement out to the iconic Sunday River covered bridge.  The boys cooked up a bunch of ham/veggie burgers for dinner, and that was our day.

Waking at a leisurely hour the next day, we headed to Grafton Notch for a long run/hike through the mountains.  The boys parked at the base of Old Speck and immediately began their assault on the imposing mound of granite.  After a brief interlude on the fire tower atop the peak and a high-speed descent, they split up into several small groups, tackling Table Rock, West Baldpate, or (in the case of Tyler and Jackson), both West and East Baldpate.  Meanwhile, the women had fearlessly continued through the notch in search of the Appalachian Trail route up the north side of the Baldpates.  With Sarah at the helm and Shelby navigating, they soon found themselves in New Hampshire, far from their desired destination.  Apparently, Hannah Miller was not involved in the route-finding; however, given her past track record it seems logical to conclude that her very presence was enough to throw the group off course.  Undeterred, they returned to the notch and enjoyed a lovely jaunt up both Baldpates.  The afternoon was highlighted by napping, rock varnishing, and a series of spirited table tennis competitions dominated by Jackson.  After a top-quality meal of burritos courtesy of the ladies, another fine day had come to an end.

We finished off our camp with a nice long rollerski from Locke Mills to Rumford along the Androscoggin River (much thanks to Gould coach Jeremy Nellis for the route).  Pavement was nice (mostly), traffic was minimal (mostly), and the skiers glided down the road as gracefully as clouds floating on a summer breeze.  After a brief post-ski picnic in the parking lot of a local church, we were speeding home through the scenic byways of central Maine - another successful fall camp in the books!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bike Path & Penny Rd

Testing has been ongoing these last couple days.  Monday was the bike path (fast, mostly flat skate TT) and yesterday was Penny Rd (point-to-point, mostly uphill classic TT).  These two tests were clear examples of the variability inherent to rollerski time trials - surprisingly slow times on the bike path, and absurdly fast times on Penny Rd.  We could look at these times and conclude that our seniors have regressed mightily in skate over the last few years while making huge leaps forward in classic, or we could just shrug and focus on how people looked and felt during the test.  I'm in the latter camp - I've come to accept that so many factors affect rollerskiing speed that we can't hope to control for all of them and produce a reliable, repeatable test that will yield meaningful data for year-to-year comparisons.  This is maddening for someone who loves data as much as I do, but what can you do?  In any case, we had a couple solid time trials - lots of people battling and looking sharp out there.  Here are results:

Bike Path
Tyler - 10:50
Jake - 11:04
Marshal - 11:18
Mac - 11:21
August - 11:39
Jackson - 11:46
Sam - 12:12

Shelby - 12:28
Ellie - 13:11
Louisa - 13:30
Rachel - 13:49
Margaret - 18:28

Penny Rd
Mac - 13:57
Tyler - 14:02
Jackson - 14:42
Jake - 15:07
Marshal - 15:39
August - 16:43
Sam - 16:54

H. Miller - 17:06
Shelby - 17:56
Ellie - 18:20
Louisa - 18:48
Rachel - 19:07
Margaret - 21:53

For what it's worth, Mac's and Hannah's Penny Rd times are both team records - who knows what that means, but a record's a nice thing to have!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Morse Mountain TT

We're back!  First official day of fitness testing yesterday with the Morse Mtn Time Trial.  It's always exciting to feel the energy and get our first look at everyone.  Nice day for a time trial - overcast and not too cool, not too warm - good effort all around.  Shelby led the way for women and newcomer Marshal Landrum put up an impressive time on the men's side.  Here are results:

Shelby - 7:34
Margaret - 7:43
Ellie - 7:44
Louisa - 8:03
Rachel - 8:03
H. Miller - 8:27

Marshal - 5:49
August - 6:01
Sam - 6:02
Mac - 6:03
Jake - 6:16
Jackson - 6:19
Tyler - 6:38

Everyone headed to the beach afterward, and most of the skiers went for a swim.

Crazy kids.  Great way to get the year started!  More testing coming up - bike path and Penny Rd time trials tomorrow and Tuesday.

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Assistant Coach

I'm happy to announce that we've hired Sarah Dominick as our new assistant coach.  Sarah is a 1995 graduate of Bates, where she majored in Fine Arts and was a varsity skier and runner.  She is a former MWSC racer and has worked in a number of different coaching roles around Aroostook County, including three years as head coach of the Presque Isle HS team.  She currently operates her own yoga studio.  We're incredibly lucky to have a coach with Sarah's knowledge and experience joining us, and I'm super excited to start working with her in September!

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.