Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Treadmill, Beach Skiing, & Lobster Roll

What have we been up to recently?  A couple weekends ago, we did a max treadmill test - fun stuff!  We've done treadmill tests in the past as part of fitness testing or determining max heart rates, but this test was a bit different - this was intended as a mental exercise.  Anyone who's done a max treadmill test can tell you that it's a huge mental game - you can stop any time, and as the stages get tougher and tougher, the temptation to quit gets higher and higher.  Hard uphill running on a treadmill can be pretty unpleasant - I've done a lot of treadmill workouts and tests, and I haven't found anything that hurts quite as much.  There's something about the way the machine sets the speed and you just have to keep up that makes it really easy to ramp up your heart rate, fill up your muscles with lactate, and generally just inflict a lot of pain on yourself.  I am not a fan of the tough guy language that surrounds endurance sports - I don't think that ski racing is all about pain and suffering and toughness, and I think that we're missing the point if we get hung up on this stuff.  But even I have to admit that treadmill tests really hurt, and they require tremendous willpower and focus.  So the point of this test was to put our skiers in a situation where they could reach what they thought was their limit and then try to continue right through it.  I'm happy to say that our skiers rose to the occasion - everyone gave a fantastic effort.  It was a huge learning experience for everyone.  Some of them definitely emptied the tank - we had a few people flying off the back of the treadmill into the arms of our vigilant spotters - while others felt that they'd perhaps chipped away at the wall but hadn't completely broken through.  In any case, it was a huge learning experience, and my hope is that everyone will be able to approach future max efforts (in races or otherwise) with a little more knowledge and confidence - once you've reached that barrier and perhaps gone through it, it's easier to get back there next time.

As it happened, it was Family Weekend when we did our treadmill test, so we celebrated with our traditional brunch with a bunch of ski team family members.  It was great

This past weekend was full of Maine coast adventures.  On Saturday we did sand skiing intervals at Morse Mountain - our usual routine of running over the mountain with ski gear in hand and then VO2max intervals on the beach.  It's always a fun change of pace and a good chance to work on technique as well as fitness.  A few of the more hard-core skiers jumped into the ocean after the workout, of course, and we finished the morning with some delicious Frosty's donuts courtesy of the Cork family, visiting from Minnesota.

Sunday was the 9th Annual Lobster Roll - a small but hardy crew took the ferry over to North Haven for the traditional rollerski race against the other Maine schools and some MWSC athletes.  It was a beautiful sunny day with the usual stiff breeze coming off the ocean.  Competition was equally stiff - the other teams look pretty sharp right now - but we held our own.  H. Marshall and Sean were our top finishers.  After the race, we enjoyed a fine pasta feed at a local restaurant and watched the Patriots game on a big screen in the town hall theater before a nice recovery jog and a ferry ride back to the mainland.  Overall, a fun day and a good chance to get into race mode.  Thanks to Andy Shepard and MWSC for keeping this event going!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Camp Video

I'm a bit late posting this, but here's a video recap of our Sugarloaf camp over Fall Break, courtesy of Tim:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

10th Annual Phil Soule Phlail

We hosted the 10th Annual Phil Soule Phlail 5k on Sunday.  The race honors the memory of Phil Soule, a longtime Bowdoin coach of many sports who passed away in 2006.  The ski team has been organizing the event since it's inception, and I always feel a strong obligation to run a good event that Phil and the Soule family would be proud of.  Happily, the event went well - a sunny fall day, a good turnout (80 finishers), and a great effort by all the racers.  As always, we had generous support from a pair of anonymous benefactors (old friends of Phil's) who helped fund some great racer gifts:  tech shirts from Atayne and also Nike gymsacks - not bad for a humble, inexpensive 5k race.  The skiers did great work keeping the event running smoothly, and a good time was had by all.  As we've done for the past 3 years, we also hosted a free kids fun run before the main event - several scrappy future 5k runners worked hard to earn their finish line lollipops.  Overall, a fine day and a quality event!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall Camp 2015

Fall Camp 2015 was one of the best camps we've ever had - three perfect days in the Sugarloaf area.  The location was perfect, the fall colors were stunning, and the team crushed the workouts - good energy and good times.

We started off our break with a pre-camp trip to Morse Mountain for some beach skiing intervals - a warmup for the rugged workouts to come.

 The next morning, we drove to the mountains for the Sugarloaf Uphill Climb - the first time we've done this race since 2008.  About half the team raced while the other half did a tough bounding workout.  After years of finishing second in this event, Tim finally broke through and took the win, adding to a proud Bowdoin Nordic history of coach victories in the Uphill Climb.  Ellie rocked it for a third place women's finish, with Sam as our top man in seventh.  We closed out the day with an recovery jog on the nordic ski trails with the late afternoon sun lighting up the fall colors - perfect.  The men made a nice pasta dinner, volunteer assistant coach Tara Whiton gave a talk about sports nutrition, and everyone went to bed tired and happy.

On Monday the team got a little crazy.  I had planned to have the crew do a long hike/run on a section of the Bigelows, but a few people decided that they wanted to do the whole range - 18+ miles over one of the most rugged ranges in the northeast.  Next thing I knew, nearly the whole team was on board.  This was a bit scary for me, but I love it when our skiers want to challenge themselves, so I wasn't going to say no.  We worked out a plan with multiple bailout points, and the team started hiking from the Stratton trailhead early in the morning.  Old friends Tyler DeAngelis and Jackson Bloch joined the group and set a brisk pace at the front, while Tim and Tara served as sweepers.  I hiked up Firewarden's Trail to meet the group halfway through with water refills - I met the men on top of West Bigelow, and I couldn't believe how fast they were moving.  The women were a bit behind, having stopped for a swim in Horns Pond, but they were making good time as well.  After refilling everyone's bottles, I absolutely hauled down the Horns Pond Trail and back to the van so I could drive to the finish at Flagstaff Lake to meet the boys - despite my best efforts, they beat me to the end, completing the whole traverse in under 5 1/2 hours.  The women finished in about 7 1/2 hours and still had enough energy to go for a swim, go grocery shopping, and cook a tasty dinner of huevos rancheros and apple crisp that evening.  Overall, a day to be proud of - a very impressive effort by everyone.

 Our final camp workout on Tuesday was pretty tame by comparison - we did a classic OD ski on the Long Falls Dam Rd, a Fall Camp staple.  Traffic was minimal, the pavement was perfect almost everywhere, and the overcast sky made the colors pop.  The group was chatty and having fun, but they were still locked in and skiing well.  Tim and I chased them around in the van, filming and giving technique feedback - we were very happy with how the group was skiing.  Overall, a perfect ending to a really successful camp.  Many thanks to Alison Welch '85 and Bob Bass '79 for letting us use their respective condos - this camp would not have been possible without their help!

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.