Coming off a top-20 distance result during Norway’s season-opening International Ski Federation (FIS) races a little less than a month ago in Beitostølen, Anne Hart, of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team, jetted to a victory in the first SuperTour race of 2017/2018 — the freestyle sprint in West Yellowstone, Montana.
“I haven’t straight out won a highly competitive race in two years, so winning on my arch nemesis course of West Yellowstone was huge,” Hart, 25, wrote in an email last week about her Dec. 2 sprint win. “I know that the period one altitude is not my best friend, and am really working on keeping a positive and confident mentality. The race for period two World Cup starts is tight (I think right now there are five or six women all within three points), so I’m trying not to focus on that too much. It would obviously be wonderful to lock those up, but more than anything I just want to set myself up physically and mentally well for a stellar nationals in Alaska.”
The day after her win in the 1.3-kilometer skate sprint, Hart finished 15th in West Yellowstone’s 10 k classic mass start on Dec. 3. Last weekend up at Sovereign Lake in British Columbia, Hart finished seventh both in the NorAm-opening skate sprint and 10 k skate, which counted toward SuperTour standings.
She started her season with a training block in Sjusjøen, Norway, then at the Beitostølen races, with a goal of racing on snow before it really counted at this month’s SuperTour and U.S. nationals. In Beitostølen, she told FasterSkier she was mostly focused on recovering, feeling fresh, and above all, having fun.
“I’ve just been doing way less training this year and paying attention with my strength coach, saying that you’re trying to be an athlete first and then the skiing comes,” she said on Nov. 17, after placing 31st in the 10 k classic in Beitostølen (she raced all three races there, repeating in 31st in the classic sprint, then 19th in the 10 k skate). “So this whole summer I’ve been working on my general athleticism and I’m just now starting to hone in on the skiing intensity of that.”
In West Yellowstone, she talked about using her journal to map out the sprint course, point pointing areas to focus on.
“In my journal last night I actually had part of the course labeled ‘mushroom boost,’ which is right over the top of that last hill,” Hart said after her sprint win, alluding to the speed burst featured in the Mario Kart Nintendo game.
“So I was able to do my planned mushroom boost at the end, came across with the win and I couldn’t be more thrilled,” she said.
That mushroom-boost reference got us thinking: what kind of journal does Hart keep? It’s nothing like a training log, she explained, but rather a tool she picked up from a mental trainer she’s been working with since the summer, at the suggestion of her strength coach Max Lipset.
“I had been doing all of this physical training, but had been struggling a bit with how to wrap my mind around all the variables inherent in ski racing,” Hart wrote in an email. “This past season I had a really hard time shaking off bad races, and ended up carrying negative feelings from one weekend to the next. And I can tell you that there is no amount of physical training that can surmount that.”
She started speaking with John D’Agostini of Invictus Leadership, a “mindset and personal leadership coaching” company based out of the Twin Cities, according to D’Agostini’s Linkedin profile. Hart grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and now trains out of Stratton in southern Vermont.
Hart explained that they initially spoke twice a week and are now in contact about once every 10 days.
“The Invictus program is a bit unique in that John is not a sports psychologist — he is just an individual with a lot of experience in the arena of mental fortitude, and has developed a curriculum that has helped me immensely,” Hart wrote. “As part of my ‘homework’ he suggested I start keeping a journal. I’m the only one who looks at it (although I’ll give you a sneak peak), and it has been a great way for me to critique myself without being negative.”
Here are the key aspects of Hart’s journaling:
1. Don’t think of it as a training log. It’s for everything else that’s on your mind.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with a training log (I have a big old google spreadsheet for that), but is instead a place I write down random thoughts, anything that is bothering me, things that are empowering me, and even recipes I want to try,” she explained.
2. It can include drawings, or more specifically, course maps for pre-race, mental training.
In West Yellowstone, Hart “drew a very loose representation of the sprint course, noting how I wanted to ski different sections and places I should look for passing opportunities (to either pass or be passed),” she explained. “This ended up being a huge help, as when it came to the final of the sprint and I found myself in the back, I had already figured out four or five different places I could attempt a pass as long as I kept my head cool and my wits about me. I ended up being able to use one of my pre-planned places and come out with the win.”
3. It’s your journal. Nobody else needs to see it. Although Hart did share a few excerpts (below) as examples:
In terms of a physical workout, here’s one Hart recommended:
“Late last winter I did a workout with the Craftsbury team that I really loved,” she wrote. “It is designed to prepare for a hard but somewhat paced 10-kilometer race, and I did it once while I was in Norway to get ready for individual start distance races.”
The Workout: 2 x 5 k time trial
Warmup: 30 minutes of easy skiing, plus 3-6 minutes of threshold
The workout: On a measured 5 k loop, time yourself while completing 5 k at threshold with an occasional Level 4 pace.
Rest for five minutes, then try to complete the same loop 15-30 seconds faster.
“It is WAY harder than I would have initially thought, but is an awesome way to find a hard but sustainable pace, and a good way to pay off part of the mortgage on your own personal pain house :)” Hart wrote.