Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving: Great Snow, Great Skiing, Great Friends

Thanksgiving was a great time this year. It always is but this year is especially awesome. It began with a drive to Vail for opening day.  I arrived the Thursday before Thanksgiving to surprisingly little snow. On Friday the mountain looked a little bear and it would be a madhouse with everyone there for the first day of the season Kristen and I decided to head to the Nordic center. It was the first time I had gone cross country skiing in Vail. There were some bare spots but it was all in all a great ski! Getting on snow the first time of the is always a little shaky but it was fun to get out. We spent the rest of the day walking around Vail Village. That evening we headed over to Minturn for some live music.

On Saturday I continued my journey north. As I left Vail it began to snow. This seemed to be a trend for most of the drive. About an hour north of Vail I encountered a semi that had rolled over and was across the entire road!  At this point in the road The cab was hanging over the guardrail and we had to drive on the shoulder to get around the accident. The drive remained snowy until I reached the interstate. On I80 the road cleared up a bit until I was 3 miles from my exit where the road was closed! After I left the freeway I headed north again up to Jackson, WY, from this point until the far side of Teton Pass the drive was beautiful!  At the the top of Teton Pass there were lots of cars parked and people skinning up the mountain. The snow looked amazing! The drive continued uneventfully until I was 60 miles outside of West Yellowstone when it started snowing hard. The last few miles took about two hours to drive but I made it. The best pert is that there was some warm Wild West pizza waiting!

The week of Thanksgiving was filled with skiing, coaching and catching up with friends and family. It is always great to spend that week in West because EVERYONE is there. I am especially lucky because I get to spend the holiday with my family. The week turned out to be one of the most beautiful weeks I have ever spent in West Yellowstone, warm and sunny with plenty of snow, it doesn't get any better than that. We had some great coaching sessions. All the athletes were excellent, they made great progress technically while getting in some great volume over the week. It is amazing for them to be able to have the opportunity to spend an entire week focusing on training. I remember how great that opportunity was when I was in high school. The amount of work that goes into the trip behind the scenes is astounding. The trip leaders and parents that accompany these athletes do a great job making sure the kids are able to not only have a trip but an affordable trip which is equally as challenging.

After a great Thanksgiving dinner I headed back to Colorado Friday morning. Instead of heading straight back to the Springs I went to Steamboat Springs to spend some time with my cousin Fred and his wife Penny. It was great to see both of them and see the sights of Steamboat. Fred and I went backcountry skiing on Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday and Sunday with Buster. Both skis were great. I also got to see Howelson Hill, the home of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. It looks like a great facility. Alpine, jumping, cross country all housed in the same location. They even have a weight room  on site. Not only does it look like a sweet facility it works.  This club has produced 79 Olympians! The number only becomes more impressive when Steamboat Springs' population is 12088. Saturday evening Fred, Penny and I went to the hot springs just outside of town. It was awesome!  Looking up through the steam and seeing the stars was sweet. Luckily we were able to stay on our feet because the areas around the spring were treacherous with all the ice on the ground.

After a great trip I headed back to the Springs. It was tough to come back to the lack of snow, but it was good to be home. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

2011 USOC International Altitude Training Symposium

This past week I was lucky enough to attend the USOC’s International Altitude Training Symposium. The opportunity to listen to some of the most renowned researchers in the field was pretty awesome! The presentations were a mix of hard science and practical experience from coaches, researchers and other practitioners. Speakers included Dr. Levine and Dr. Stray-Gunderson, researchers that first experimented and found the efficacy of living high and training low. Some of these presentations were quite technical but they have led to improved performance because of their practical significance.

When I arrived at the symposium on Wednesday afternoon I ran into one of the U.S. Ski Team coaches who I have known from racing in the Midwest. Not only was it nice to see a familiar face, it was great to catch up with him and talk about how coaching at the international level compared to his past experiences at the club level. I also ended up sitting by one of the coaches that I met in Buffalo at the USAT Coaching Summit. The three of us spent most of the three day symposium together. It was really neat to be able to compare the different models used by triathlon and skiing to produce great Olympians. I kind of felt like a mediator because I had the most insight into each but the people I was with were definitely more versed in the intricacies of their respective sport that I so it was great to be be able to learn from each of them.

At this point in the game I am a fan of the skiing model. There was a great presentation by the Nordic combined coach and a few of the members of the combined team. They not only discussed how they use altitude but the structure of their team. The residence program they have in Park City creates a team environment that fosters competition and camaraderie that creates champions, as was exemplified in Vancouver. The success of the Nordic combined team at these Olympics was previously unimaginable. They are also using a different periodization model than I have seen in other ski programs; while this is an important part of their success I believe that the team atmosphere created by the residence program allows this model to be successful.

I have heard that more business takes place on the golf course that in the office. This after hour’s business was demonstrated at the symposium. Each day at least one of the presentations contained the phrase “last night we were discussing this during dinner and…” While the only golf course I saw during the symposium was abandoned, which is a good thing because golf is not my strong suit! Each day after the symposium everyone went out for dinner. The first night the group I was with ran into a contingent from USA Speed Skating. It was interesting talking to them about the differences and similarities of speed skating and skiing. I also met people from swimming as well as a couple of coaches from Spain and Brazil.

After the symposium concluded on Friday a few of us went to the incline. The incline is a one mile hike that gains 2000 feet over that distance! It was a pretty sweet experience made better by great company. The hike up was quite challenging to say the least but once at the top there was a great view of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. Instead of hiking down, which I have been told is quite taxing, we took the Bart Trail down which is a four mile trip. It was a great conclusion to an awesome few days!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Colorado Springs and USA Triathlon

A few weeks ago I moved to Colorado Springs to work for USA Triathlon at the Olympic Training Center. I’m sure it will take a while to get used to working for eight hours in my cubicle but there are millions of other people doing it in the United States so I should be able to survive. So far living in the ‘Springs’ has been uneventful. I have begun to explore some of the parks and trail systems which seem pretty nice. There is a definite southwestern feel here that is obviously absent in Minnesota. Colorado Springs is said to be the most dog friendly city in the country which is quite apparent. There are dogs everywhere! It is pretty crazy.

Today I went for a ride and was passed by a group of riders from the Garmin Cervelo Team. It is pretty amazing how many elite athletes reside here (though it is not surprising as it seems to be a great place to train). Working with the elite triathletes has been interesting. I don’t get much interaction with them outside of swim practice but that time has been fun. Watching them train is the same as watching any other group swim, be it the U of M, or a high school practice, these guys just go faster and farther. This brings up the statement that there are no secrets to training. People claim to have them but they are not out there. Great coaches are able to identify what workouts and periodization will allow each athlete to reach their potential. They are good at using the information at hand, no secrets. Central Cross Country Skiing has the motto of ‘Dream. Plan. Execute’. This motto is applicable at every level. The difference with the athletes at the OTC is that they dream a little bigger, make their plan harder, and execute it with more precision that most other athletes. These factors coupled with the drive and ability to handle this amount of stress allows them to be the best in the world.

Last weekend I went to the Elite National championships in Buffalo, New York. It was fun to travel with my co-workers and get to see an ITU draft legal race. It definitely plays out different than your typical non-drafting tri. After the race three of us ran back to the hotel to grab our swim suits and headed back to the course for a swim. This made Lake Erie the third of the great lakes I have swum in. After a quick lap around the course we headed to the Anchor Bar to experience the original buffalo wings. We got there and there was an hour and a half wait! We decided to skip it so we would have time to visit Niagara Falls. The falls were less impressive than they are from the Canadian side but still fun to see, especially at night. The next day we scheduled plenty of time for the Anchor Bar!

After the triathlon Sunday and Monday were filled with a coach’s summit. It was very interesting to sit and listen to the coaches of national team athletes and how they all interact with each other and their athletes. After a day and a half of meetings we tried to head home but were delayed an hour on the plane in Buffalo. We made it to Chicago just in time to miss our connection but finally made it back to Colorado Springs. We were the lucky ones; one of the people in our group was delayed overnight and did not get home till Tuesday!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shootin' the Breeze

This weekend got off to a great start. After driving up to Duluth Wednesday night I headed to the Ridge Thursday morning to help wax for Duluth East Nordic. Luckily the temperatures did not change much because it was already tricky enough without having to guess what the temp would be at race time. The even better part was we nailed it! On a tough day we had great skis, fast and sticky all at the same time. At one point on the course while I was testing it was easy to look around and see that I was the happiest coach on the trail! The great wax helped but the both the boys and girls skied great races. Both teams were just ahead after the skate race and solidified their victories with a solid performance in the classic. While the girls were expected to be in the mix the boys came into State ranked 5th so they pulled off an 'upset' to those who underestimated them. It's funny because after being in the cities every coach I talk can't impress upon me enough how difficult their section is but when it comes down to it Section 7 has been a dominant force almost every year. It was great to see Duluth East win the boys and girls titles for the third time (of the six times it has happened).
After the excitement at the State meet I stayed up north and coached with the Duluth/Cloquet CXC Master's Chapter. We had an excellent ski Saturday at Snowflake Nordic Center. The course was quite fast but much more skiable than I had anticipated. As always the volunteers did and excellent job grooming. After the ski I headed to Carlton for the Trampled by Turtles Concert. Having never been inside Black Bear Casino I was surprised to be engulfed by a cloud of smoke when I stepped inside. Luckily the conference room did not allow smoking. The concert was awesome! Trampled has put on a great show every time I have seen them. Their skill on their instruments is hard to beat. They play at tempos that are extremely fast but never miss a note!
During the session with CXC on Saturday I heard there was going to be a biathlon race at Snowflake Sunday. I decided to dust off my rifle and give it a whirl! Luckily for me it was quite windy on Sunday. This is a huge advantage if you haven't shot your rifle in three years. After the first shooting Phil Rodgers and I were in the lead. During the second shooting Phil left the range quicker than I did and was about a penalty lap ahead. On the third shooting we came into the range for our first standing shooting. It was next to impossible for me to keep my sights trained on the target. The gusts were blowing my whole body around! Phil kept his lead and I knew I would have to hit at least one to catch him in the next shooting. During the next lap we both came to the conclusion that it was better to just shoot fast and get on with things instead of waiting for a good shot. I cam into the range just as Phil took his first shot. During the quick succession of shots that followed he managed to hit one. I fired quickly and missed all five as Phil clinched the win.
After the race I headed to Cloquet for another session with the CXC Master's. There was an excellent turnout! We had a great ski in the wind and twigs that had blown onto the trail. After skiing and talking about the Birkie for a few hours we parted ways and I headed into the blizzard that was engulfing the Twin Cities. Luckily I made it to Forest Lake before it got really bad. All in all it was a great weekend of waxing, coaching, racing and hanging out with friends and family!