Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Abroad Updates

We have an unusually large number of people abroad this fall.  It's sad and lonely without them, of course, but we're happy that they're all off having great adventures.  I've gotten a couple updates so far - here's a quick overview of who's where and what they're doing:

Orion is in a small city in China - sadly, I've forgotten the name.  As far as we know he hasn't been chased by any rabid bats lately, so that's an improvement over Montana.

Luca is in Switzerland - again, I can't remember the town.  I am a very provincial New Englander and can't be expected to remember complicated things like the names of foreign cities.  He's living with a very kind host family and is really stretching his comfort zone by trying lots of new foods - he proudly reports that he's eaten everything he's been served so far.  Studying abroad really does contribute to personal growth!

Christian is in Bergen, Norway.  He's finding all the good training, including a rollerski workout at Holmenkollen.  Last I heard he had just come back from a weekend field trip of clambering over glaciers.  Rad.

Cirque is in Cape Town, South Africa.  He's studying hard and doing a lot of surfing.  I am very concerned about shark attacks but so far so good.  He's found some great trails overlooking the city - here's a photo of the view:

Fiona and Lily are both studying in Grenoble, France.  Fiona flew over a bit early and met up with long lost ski friends Ellie and Hannah (Miller) for some hiking in Switzerland.  Here are a few photos:

Apparently Hannah is British now.  All I know about Lily so far is that she got lost on their first trail running workout, so she's clearly feeling right at home.  But she brought an exergenie, so fake gold star for her!

I'm definitely noticing a void with all these big personalities overseas.  It's going to be strange once we start team practices without them.  But I'm super excited that they're having these great experiences - can't wait to hear their stories!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Summer Recap

Fall 2018 is underway - students are back and classes have started!  It's been fun catching up with the skiers and hearing about their summer experiences.  Here's a quick rundown of some cool things our people did this summer:

- Sara manipulated fruit fly DNA in a lab on campus
- Russell built and tested medical micro devices at Michigan Tech
- Fiona taught summer school for homeless children in Portland
- Noah led mountain bike trips and worked events at Galena Lodge
- Lily did her canoe thing in the Ontario wilderness
- Ian worked as a qualitative analysis intern at LL Bean (most Ian quote ever:  "Didn't sleep much last night because too excited for intern BBQ.")
- Gabby, Elliot, and Christian attended the Eastern REG camp, where they did some quality training and crushed the fitness testing.  On the strength of these efforts and last season's results, Gabby and Elliot were two of just 14 juniors nominated to the National Elite Group - outstanding!
- And, of course, everyone had all kinds of unique training adventures in interesting places around the country.

I'm really proud of our skiers for the way they balance training with so many other fun and worthwhile endeavors.  The best part of coaching Bowdoin Nordic is working with all of these talented and interesting people - so glad to have them back!

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!