Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Assistant Coach Ian Hubbard

We've hired a new assistant coach!  Ian Hubbard is a 2004 graduate of St. Lawrence, where he majored in biology and history and was a member of the nordic ski team.  Since graduating, Ian has worked as a trail designer, sled dog guide, carpenter, and environmental technician, among other jobs.  He has also held a variety of educational and leadership positions, leading numerous outdoor trips for the Chewonki Foundation and teaching history at Carrabassett Valley Academy.  Most recently, he served as director of the ALPS outdoor leadership program at CVA.  Ian's ski racing experience and educational background are a great combination, and I'm excited to see what kind of new ideas and perspectives he'll bring to our team!

Friday, July 1, 2016

REG 2016

I just got back from the Eastern REG camp at GMVS.  Hard to believe it's been a whole year since the same camp in the same place last year!  As always, it was a great experience - I always enjoy working with the up-and-coming junior skiers, and it's super fun hanging out with other coaches and talking shop.  I love being in Vermont, and GMVS is a beautiful little campus.  So it was a very nice week.  Here are a few things I took away from camp:

- The USST is putting a major focus on basic movement skills and postural stability.  Every morning we did a series of drills focused on maintaining a neutral pelvis while going through a variety of movements.  I think this is a really great thing - lots of skiers have great strength and fitness but terrible posture and limited mobility.  We occasionally touch on this stuff on our team, but it's one of those things that often falls through the cracks with our tight schedule and limited workout time.  I really liked having this as a regular component of the training and would love to figure out how to make time for it in our workouts.

- Hills - got to have them.  Here at Bowdoin we have to work pretty hard to get some quality time on hills - the immediate area around Brunswick is pretty flat.  I loved being surrounded by hills - so good for strength and aerobic fitness.  The VT terrain does make it a bit tougher to do easy/fast workouts - that's one thing that I think is a big advantage of our topography - but having all those hills and mountains at your door is pretty great.

- Bryan Fish hates the endless plank as much as I do (or, as he calls it, the "2-minute brace").  I knew I liked that guy.  It's not that there's no value to a plank/brace - I love this exercise!  It just doesn't make sense to hold it forever.  First, most people quickly slump into a bad position and let their spine sag out of alignment, and that defeats the purpose (and hurts your back).  Second, if you're the rare person who has the stability to hold that position for more than a few seconds, why not make it more challenging and add some movement/instability?  I was really glad to hear this message coming from a USST coach.

- Rollerski loops are a great thing.  We did a distance workout on the rollerski loop at the biathlon range in Jericho.  This was great for two reasons.  First, no other users - no cars, no bikes, no pedestrians.  Amazing how much stress a closed environment removes from a rollerski workout.  Second, a loop allows you to see the skiers so much more frequently - good for filming, technique work, and just checking in.  It would be amazing for timed intervals as well, where you can repeat the same course each interval and compare times.  It's easy enough to train on a loop on snow, but short rollerski loops are hard to come by, at least around here.  I'm super jealous of this setup!

Overall, a very fun and productive week for me (and hopefully for the skiers as well).  Thanks to the good folks at NENSA, GMVS, and USST for making this camp happen!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Training Venue Slideshow

Check out this slideshow of our favorite training venues, created by Tim:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Graduation 2016

The Class of 2016 graduated on a beautiful sunny day in May - Lucy, Tess, and Hannah Marshall are off to write the next chapter of their lives.  These guys were such a joy to have on the team - always friendly, fun, and positive.  I couldn't have asked for better role models for our younger skiers.  These three were a huge reason for the wonderful team chemistry we enjoyed this year - this fantastic season would not have been the same without them.  We're sad to see them go, and we miss them already!  We're also super excited for them - they have some exciting adventures planned!  Lucy is thinking of moving out West for some ski adventures - last time I checked, the great town of Bozeman, MT, was at the top of her list.  I'll be super happy for her and also a bit envious if she ends up there - amazing outdoor opportunities and one of my all-time Top 5 donut shops!  Hannah is working for Maine Huts and Trails - she'll be assigned to a hut somewhere in or near the stunningly gorgeous Bigelow Preserve.  And Tess will soon be headed off on her year- long travels for her Watson Fellowship.  Congratulations Class of 2016 - we're so proud of you!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

College Skiing Issues

Some interesting discussions with implications for our skiers at the EISA spring meeting on Monday:

- Looks like sprints are going to become an NCAA Championship event at some point in the next couple years.  Not official yet, but from what I can tell most coaches have warmed up to the idea in recent years.  It's going to happen sooner or later - probably sooner.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I think it's appropriate for us to include an event that's become such a major focus in international racing.  I just don't like how it affects the experience for a lot of our college skiers - it's not much of a race day for those who don't qualify for the heats.  That's fine for one or two races a year, but we're going to have to hold several sprint races a year for NCAA qualifying purposes - it's probably going to take up almost half of our season, and I'm not crazy about that.  That's a lot of skiers who trained a lot of hours sitting on the sidelines for a lot of races (after a 3-minute prelim).  The current proposal doesn't call for a championship sprint race every year, though, which makes me feel OK about the change - I think it's a reasonable balance if we have a sprint every other year or so.  Interestingly, the proposal also goes in the other direction and raises the possibility of a 30k race at the championships.  That's probably never going to happen, but I'd absolutely love it, and I think most of our skiers would as well.

- We also discussed a proposal for men and women to race equal distances.  Fasterskier published a pretty good summary of the arguments on either side of the issue.  Lots of interesting points, and it doesn't break down cleanly along gender lines.  I'm in favor of equal distances - it's 2016!  I've never had a good answer for my skiers when they've asked why women do shorter races, and I'd love to not have to answer that question for my daughters if they become ski racers a few years from now.  I'm not in favor of shortening everything to 5-15k, though, which is where many people seem to think this is heading.  I'd rather have all skiers racing the full range of distances up to 20k (or 30k - wishful thinking).  I think my ideal setup would be something like sprint & 10 or 15k alternating with 10k & 20k every year.  We'll see what happens.  I have a hard time picturing this change happening this year, but I won't be at all surprised if it happens a few years down the road.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What We Learned in 2016

We’re down to the last few days of the 2015-16 school year – classes end tomorrow and exams start next week.  It’s been a very challenging yet very enjoyable year for our team, and I’m sad to see it end.  Like any other year, this season had some lessons for us.  Here are some of the things we learned these past few months:

- The bar continues to rise for upper body power.  Every year I scheme ways to improve our upper body power, and every year I feel like we’re devoting more and more time to this aspect of fitness.  It’s still not enough.  Double poling distance races has trickled down to the college level and even the junior level.  Even in skate races or classic races with wax, the advantage gained by skiers with great upper body power is readily apparent.  It drives me crazy, because I’ve KNOWN THIS FOR YEARS, and I’ve adjusted our training accordingly, but things are evolving so fast that I continue to  underestimate the sheer volume of double pole focused training that’s required.  I think we do good work with our upper body power training – we just need to A) do more of it, and B) do a more diverse range of upper body focused workouts.  I wonder if I need to start treating upper body power development like a whole separate discipline of skiing – ie, skate, classic, and double poling.  This isn’t a perfect model, because poling power is obviously a sub-category of skate and classic skiing, but breaking it down like this might make it easier to give it the attention it requires.  For example, when I think about training for skate or for classic, I plan a whole range of workout types for each discipline:   easy distance, threshold, speed, etc.  We also do these different workouts with a double pole focus, but I tend to squeeze it all into the category of “specific strength” training – it takes up a smaller proportion of our training, and we only scratch the surface with each workout type.  Maybe the answer is to cut the pie into three roughly equal pieces to make sure we’re fully developing each aspect of fitness within each discipline.  I’m not exactly sure, but I’m looking forward to trying something different and figuring it out.

- A close-knit team is a wonderful thing.  We had an amazing fall – training was great and everyone had so much fun. Our Fall Break and Thanksgiving training camps were probably the best camps we’ve ever had.  Everyone ended the semester feeling fit and happy and motivated.  Shortly after coming back to campus in January, we ran into trouble with weather and health, and things never really got better.  With the lame snow and the various illnesses afflicting our team, our team could have fallen apart.  We had some really rough moments, and it would have been the most natural thing in the world for people to just check out mentally or settle into a funk of negativity.  But these guys did the opposite and rallied to support each other and make the training and racing as good as it could be every week.  This was a really great season for Bowdoin Nordic despite all the challenges, and it was all because these guys really loved each other.  It was a good reminder that building a unified team is just as important as anything we do in training.  We were lucky to have a great mix of personalities on our team, but it still took an intentional, thoughtful effort on everyone’s part to make this team what it was – captains and seniors setting the tone, hard work and positive energy from everyone, and regular team activities to cement the bonds.  We also succeeded in one of our goals from last year – to work around class schedules and bring the whole team together for more workouts.  All of these things will be harder to achieve with a bigger group next year (we have a lot of first-years coming in), but I really think we can recapture the great team dynamics from this year.  We have to – it’s too important to it let slip away.

- We could stand to be a bit more neurotic about health.  Every team deals with sickness every year – it’s just part of the sport.  But this year was extra bad - I’ve never seen anything like the sickness that ripped through our team this year.  We had four skiers – almost a third of the team – miss a significant portion of the race season, and several others missed a race and/or several training days.  We just can’t afford to get hit by this kind of pervasive and persistent sickness – the season is too short.  I’m not sure how much we could have done to prevent the health problems we experienced this year, but we can certainly try harder.  We need to double down on the usual best practices – good sleep, good eating habits, hand washing, getting warm and dry after workouts, etc.  Coaches and veteran skiers need to be better about instilling these habits in the rest of the team.  Skiers need to be proactive about seeing a doctor for a persistent illness, and also honest with themselves about when it’s not OK for them to train and race.  And I need to be more ruthless about keeping sick people away from the rest of the team to minimize the chances of anything spreading.  All of this might add up to nothing – there’s a lot of luck involved in staying healthy – but we can at least improve our odds.

- Thanks, Quarry Road!  The folks at Quarry Road in Waterville really did a fantastic job this year.  They cranked out a ton of manmade snow when all of New England was bare.  They hosted our first two carnivals in January when there was just about nowhere else in the East to ski.  And they kept their loop in good shape for training as the snow steadily dwindled throughout the winter – we ended up training there several times this year when things were thin at Pineland, and this kept us afloat from one carnival to the next.  This was great work by the whole community, and it was a huge gift to us and to skiers all over the state.

So these are the things in the back of my mind as we ramp up the training for next year.  Pretty soon exams will be over and the skiers will disperse.  Campus will be peaceful and quiet, and I’ll have a lot of time to think about how we can keep building on our experiences to make next year ever better.  I’m really looking forward to this, but I’m even more excited to get a whole new season started next fall!

Friday, April 1, 2016

March Racing

March was a busy month for Bowdoin skiers and alumni!  Here’s a rundown of everything that happened:

Kaitlynn Miller ’14 competed in the Ski Tour Canada – her first World Cup races!  She completed the whole tour – a grueling schedule of 8 races in 12 days, with the last 4 at altitude in Canmore.  She held her own against the best skiers in the world, including a 39th place finish in the 10k classic and 38th in the classic sprint.  She closed out the tour with the 38th fastest split in the classic pursuit to take 41st place in the overall tour.  Several Bowdoin skiers went up to cheer her on for the Quebec races – definitely one of the highlights of the season!

Nick Crawford ’09 wrapped up a successful first year as head coach at Alaska-Fairbanks.  His skiers performed well at the NCAA Championships in Steamboat, highlighted by a 4th place team finish in the women’s classic race, with his top skier earning All-American honors.

Wilson Dippo ’12 had several skiers representing Bogus Basin at Junior Nationals.  His top skier earned All-American honors in all three of the individual races and was on the winning U18 relay team, along with a Jackson Hole HS skier coached by Rainer Kenney ’13.

Jackson Bloch '15 and Tyler DeAngelis '15 finished their two-month European marathon tour by completing the most prestigious of all nordic ski races, the Norwegian Birkebeiner, in which they were the top American finishers.

Jake flew to Finland over Spring Break to ski in several Paralympic World Cup races.  His best performances came in the classic sprint and the 10k skate – just off the podium in 4th place!

SuperTour Finals in Craftsbury provided the big finish, with a huge crowd of Bowdoin skiers and alumni in attendance.  Mac and H. Miller did all four races, along with alumni superstars Spencer Eusden ’12 and Kaitlynn.  Jake, H. Marshall, Sean, Ellie, August, and Sam each doing at least one, and our alumni marathon specialists Tyler and Jackson dropped in for the 50k.  Since our NCAA training/racing period was over, the skiers had no coaching support and had to wax their own skis – the variable spring conditions made this tough at times, but they did a great job of figuring it out from day to day.  H. Miller led the way with a 43rd place finish in the 10k skate, and Mac followed it up with a 46th in the classic sprint, just a few seconds from qualifying – very strong results against a super competitive field that included almost all of the top skiers in the US, along with dozens of college skiers and fast juniors.  On the alumni side, Kaitlynn took 8th place in the sprint and 12th in the 10k.  The Bowdoin folks formed 2 teams for the mixed relay, and Miller Low Life (Mac, Jake, and both Millers) scrapped their way to 21st place finish.  The final race of the week (30/50k classic mass start) was an event like no other – many, many laps around a short loop with some nasty climbs, made even harder by wet, slow snow.  The women went first, before things got really sloppy.  The Millers were our only racers - Kaitlynn had an amazing race to finish 5th, and Hannah was strong as well, holding her own for 35th in a very tough field of experienced racers.  Things got really ugly in the men’s race – the tracks had been obliterated, the temps had reached full-on spring mode and continued to rise, and the snow was incredibly slushy, soft, and slow.  The race quickly turned into an ultramarathon-style test of survival rather than a race – people dropped out left and right, including some of ours.  Even the top skiers were just walking up the hills – it was too soft and slow to do much else.  Spencer showed great veteran poise, steadily powering his way to a 36th place finish.  Sean and August just kept plugging away, and both managed to finish – the only two juniors to complete the race!  A crazy race and a fitting end to a crazy season.  A huge thanks to Deb Miller for hosting the ever-growing group of skiers throughout the week!  Thanks also to Everett Marshall and Deb again for the photos in the post.

And that’s the end – no more ski racing for Bowdoin Nordic this year, unless someone decides to go race across Greenland this spring or some such nonsense.  It’s been a great year despite all the challenges – although we’re sad to see the end of it, we’re all excited for the new adventures ahead!