Pete Vordenberg is the Assistant Coach of the US Ski Team. He is the author
of Momentum: Chasing the Olympic Dream, available now at <www.outyourbackdoor.com.
Recipient of only five star reviews at <www.Amazon.com
(type in “Vordenberg”). Ask for it at your local ski or book shop.
We are very excited to bring you this look at Pete's year with the
U.S. Ski Team. Initially we planned to post Pete's story as one article,
but it is so in-depth and fascinating that we will post it in 3-4 sections,
one a day for the next few days. Check back each day for more.
Part Two is below, Part One is here.
The next day is intervals. The work is hard but in control.
We work primarily in level 3 and 3+, seldom even in level 4 and next to never
in level 5. At least that is what we did last year. The right pace is vital,
and so a level 3 workout done in level 3+ is a failure. They are responsible
for monitoring their pace themselves, which they do by feel and with the aid
of their heart-rate monitors. We take lactates just to double check. A typical
workout early in the summer might be 3×10 minutes level 3, and later in the
summer a ladder of 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3 minutes at level 3+ and 4. We do them rollerskiing,
skating, double-poling, ski walking, running… next year we will do more
bounding. There are no secrets here, just a lot of work done at the right pace.
In the afternoon following intervals we might go for an easy hour or hour and
a half run and then play half an hour of soccer. Soccer is awesome. We play
on a shortened field with tee-shirts making small goals. We attack the game
with great vigor – to make up for grace, and sprint around like mad (Torin
especially), shouting for the ball… Gooooaaaaallll!
Half an hour of intervals in the morning for a workout of an hour and a half
total, an easy distance run and some informal speed and agility on the soccer
field in the afternoon – and that is another day.
We will make changes to the training this coming year. Not because it wasn’t
successful but because it can be more successful. We believe in risk taking.
Risk taking falls under Team Cohesion Policy number four. You cannot succeed
if you are afraid of failure. We have made room for failure so that there is
room to strive whole-heartedly for success. What we did this past summer for
training was good. What we will do next summer will be better – we believe.
The risks we take are measured, are the products of research and much thought.
They are not blind risks.
On Sunday we go for a long run. These runs take place in the mountains above
Park City – often around 8 or 9 thousand feet. They are three to four
hours in length, done at an easy pace. There is no training that afternoon.
I’m not giving you enough secrets. I have so far given you all of our
secrets. "Our goals are shared and so is our success." That is team
cohesion policy number 6. We dream together, work together and succeed together.
There is a photo of Kris Freeman held aloft on the shoulders of his teammates
after his fourth place at worlds. This is metaphorical. What is harder to show
is that his teammates are also standing on his shoulders. Even harder yet to
show: he is standing on the shoulders of all the coaches and people who have
helped him in the past, of the athletes who have come before him, a whole network
of support…and harder yet to show, that this country’s ski community
as a whole is standing on his shoulders as well, his and Carl’s and the
rest of the national team’s shoulders – waiting for that glimmer,
waiting for the next Koch. Expecting something like trickle down economics.
These skiers have the potential, via their international success, to pull American
skiing up by the bootstraps. But they can’t succeed alone. We can’t
do it alone.
Here is a hard week of training from last July:
Monday morning. Running Time Trial at Soldier Hollow, 5km women, 10km men. On
these hard trails that is about 21 minutes for women and 38 for men. This, unlike
most our intervals last summer, is a puking hard effort.
Monday afternoon. Distance double-pole of 1.5 hours.
Tuesday morning. Distance skate rollerski of 2 hours.
Tuesday afternoon. Distance run of 1.5 hours.
Wednesday morning. Spenst and Strength training, 1.5 hrs.
Wednesday afternoon. Distance run, 1 hour.
Thursday morning. Distance classical rollerski, 2 hrs.
Thursday afternoon. Distance run and soccer, 1.5 hrs.
Friday morning. Run and spenst, 1.5 hrs.
Friday afternoon. OFF.
Saturday morning. Intervals on rollerskis, level 3 double-pole and d-pole w/kick
4 x 6 minutes. 3×1 min level 4, double-pole only, 2 hrs.
Saturday afternoon. Strength, 1 hr.
Sunday morning. Three hour run.
An easy week during the same period:
Monday. Strength in the morning, nothing in the afternoon.
Tuesday. Running intervals in the morning, nothing in the afternoon.
Wednesday. Strength and spenst in the afternoon, nothing in the morning.
Thursday. Distance rollerski in the morning, distance run in the afternoon.
Friday. Distance double-pole in the morning, nothing in the afternoon.
Saturday. Ski walking intervals in the morning, strength and soccer in the afternoon.
Sunday. Long run in the morning. Afternoon off.
Don’t worry about pulling out the calculator, or reading too much into
these schedules. They are first created as cute little perfections and then
man handled by reality. This happens to be the final training we planned for
these two weeks, and most the skiers did it as such, but it went through changes
based on how previous weeks went, how people’s schedules were that week,
and all of it was twisted to events, travel and other realities. The individuals
themselves made changes. The athletes take days off or easier if their bodies
tell them to. We are flexible out of necessity. Just because we wrote it down
doesn’t mean that is the rule of law. We base our training plan on science,
experience, discussion and even tradition, but we do not marry it, do not fall
in love with it, for we know we will have to kill it, or parts of it.
"Keep it simple, stupid," is a popular Trond quote.
In August we flew 14 hours to New Zealand. It was an easy flight. We didn’t
have enough money to do this, but we did it anyway. We felt we had to. It was
worth it. New Zealand is all the best parts of the world compressed. In one
eye full you can stand on a white sand beach at the edge of the blue, crashing
Tasman Sea look up through a rainforest, beyond a river of translucent blue
to forests of beech, forests of pine, to high jagged and snow covered mountains.
This you can do without moving your feet from the sand.
Dave Chamberlain and Eli Brown in New Zealand
We stayed for a month skiing at the Wairau Snow Farm near Wanaka on the South
Island of New Zealand. The snow was great, the skiing was great, the skiers
trained between 20 and 30 hours a week, and we jumped head first from a cable
car. The free fall was 420 feet. We were attached to a bungee, but the brain
doesn’t recognize that. It knows only pure terror.
Torin Koos at Wairau Snow Farm, New Zealand
Trond Nystad and Andrew Newell in New Zealand
Back home in Park City we held our September Open camp. We invited anyone who
wanted to come. Skiers came from the East, the Midwest, all over the West and
even Alaska. We worked them over pretty good. From my perspective, the two biggest
differences between our athletes and the visiting athletes was strength, and
speed in distance sessions. Our athletes were way, way stronger in the weight
room. Our athletes were able to maintain a higher speed in easy distance training,
while maintaining a low intensity. Again: higher speed over the road, same low,
level 1 intensity. In intervals they were also, faster, but that was less a
surprise. It was interesting to observe, for all present.
A medium week from September.
Monday. Strength in the morning, 1.5 hours. Distance Rollerski in the afternoon,
Tuesday. Running intervals, 1.5 hrs. Off in the afternoon.
Wednesday. Strength in the morning, 1.5 hrs. Distance Run in the afternoon,
Thursday. Distance rollerski in the morning, 2 hrs. Run and spenst in the afternoon,
Friday. Distance run in the morning, 2 hrs. Off in the afternoon.
Saturday. Intervals rollerskiing in the morning, 2 hrs. Strength in the afternoon,
Sunday. 4 hr distance bike ride – with some sprints along the way.
September became October and October looked a lot like September until we flew
to Fairbanks, Alaska. Training volume wise we built up the hours early in the
spring so that we were training good volume in June and July and even in May.
But in June and July we were also doing intensity training twice a week so the
volume was not outrageous – from 14 to 22 hrs a week. We raised the volume
in August as we were skiing all day and didn’t do as much intensity –
about one session a week. In September and most of October we lowered the volume
to accommodate a bit more intensity training, or more accurately, a little more
intensity, but harder intensity training – if you follow me.
Then on October 22nd we raised the volume again as we got on snow in Alaska.
Actually what we got on was a few inches of snow and ice. It did not snow one
flake in the twenty odd days we were there and there was maybe four inches of
snow, pressed down to 2 inches when we got there. If there is one place you
want to go when there isn’t much snow it is Fairbanks, their trails must
be carpet smooth, for only a few inches pack to a reasonable skiing surface.
We did do a good bit of shoveling, come to think of it, but the skiing was good
We have been together as a team now for five months and it is time to enact
the fifth team cohesion policy: "accept all teammates as they are, even
their quirks and flaws – we all have them." Yes, we do, especially
these lunatics. Just kidding. Of course. They are as normal and lovable as yellow
lab pups, every last one of them. This is the first time I’ve noticed
this, but there is no policy on the cohesion contract directly related to honesty.
The only thing that touches the topic, other than communicating openly (#3),
is policy number 13: "behave ethically." This has mostly to do with
illegal drugs. We are so rabidly anti-doping it can be a little embarrassing.
In public we treat those who have been caught or are "suspected" with
courtesy and cool indifference. In private, we rant about beating them with
heavy coin-filled socks. We are motivated heavily by beating dopers on the ski
course. We live for it, and revel in it. This team is not made up of yellow
lab pups, but they are lovable in their own sort of way.
Part of cohesion policy number four is: "make no excuses." The fact
that there are still many dopers in this sport getting away with cheating offers
us no excuse. We can beat them anyway – we believe that.
So, honestly, we are in fact chock-full of quirks if not outright flaws, and
we have come to laugh them off. Fun is vital. It is easy to forgive your friends
In New Zealand we all pitched-in to rent two motor homes. We toured around for
three days mid-camp, going running in incredible scenery, building bonfires
on the beach at night, and exploring the country before returning to the snow
for the New Zealand National Championships. Balance is everything.
For Kris Freeman’s birthday we raced go-carts, which Kris won. We then
rented machine guns (yep, real ones) at Salt Lake’s famous "Awesome
Guns." There, in a wide-eyed frenzy we shot up 1500 rounds of ammo filling
the range with acrid smoke and loud, evil sound. At one point an extremely hot
shell casing spun through the air and bounced down Torin’s shirt. This
sudden and unforeseen event caused Torin to jump and shout in fright and pain
("I’m hit!"). We all spun around at the noise only to witness
Torin convulsing and flapping his arms in a panicked attempt to chase this burning,
brass bee from his undergarments. This innocent revelry was followed up by a
barbequed pork rib-eating contest. Trond and I tied for first place at 7 racks
each. It was the wrong thing to do, eating all those ribs, I mean technically,
gastrointestinaly, but it was good fun – guns and ribs, and go-carts.
The next day we did roller-ski intervals at Soldier Hollow.
We raced in New Zealand, but it didn’t feel real. It was August. We raced
in Fairbanks, and that was more like it. To see them go after having seen them
train all summer was like letting out a long held breath of air. Whew, this
is what we are all about, ski racing.
We returned from Fairbanks on November 12th. The band Guns and Roses was to
play Boise, Idaho on the 12th. Trond, Andrew and Carl were set on going. They
left Fairbanks at 1am on the 12th, flew into Seattle, caught a flight to Boise
and were ready for the show by four that afternoon. They were even more ready
for it at 6, and more so at 8 and the band should have been playing by 9, and
Trond, Andrew and Carl were still standing in the audience primed for the show
at 11, but there was no sign of G’n’R. Just before midnight the
band was nowhere to be seen or heard, and so they quit the arena and walked
back to their hotel. The next morning they drove back to Salt Lake, bedecked
in G’n’R regalia, though they never saw the show, which ended up
kicking off just after they left, and which was supposedly super lame anyway,
but the adventure was a good one. They said.
Our first grand road trip began November 22nd. The Continental Cup is Luke
Bodensteiner’s triumph. He has gathered real prize money, thousands per
weekend, and made it available to the fastest racers in North America. We loaded
up two vans in Park City and began the Continental cup chase.
First stop, West Yellowstone, Montana. Six hours drive time. Looking back these
races were practice. We had to get our system down, kick and glide wax testing,
pre-race meetings, ski testing, ski waxing, more kick wax testing, then ski
testing, then kick waxing… then giving splits, taking race video, giving
feeds. And for the racers, racing. For them, it was practice, but not viewed
as such. Each race was an end in it self, and at days end, Luke handed out the
checks to the victors. In reality this was all training, training for the big
show, still months away…
Next stop Silverstar, BC. Drive time 14 hours through ice and rain and snow.
Here Wendy Wagner stepped up. She crushed. It was awesome. She classical skied
like a red-group world cup racer, she skated like she never had before. She
won everything going away.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Justin Wadsworth – who had to fund-raise and pay
his own way over as we didn’t have the money to send him, placed 22nd
in a World Cup. We talked about being contenders all summer, but with Justin’s
result it looked more real. The team’s hopes rose dramatically. The way
these guys saw it, if Justin could be 22nd, they could to…in fact, the
way they saw it, they could be even better. It was a huge boost to morale to
see Justin’s result from a far.
Silver Star, BC
Back on this side of the Atlantic, our racers have been training a fair amount,
often still twice a day, and they have been maintaining their strength training
as best they can on the road. It is still early season.
Here is a block of training from this period. It is important to note that athletes
inserted their own rest days when needed.
Sunday. Distance, 1.5hrs. Travel in the afternoon.
Monday. Travel in the morning. Run half an hour in the afternoon.
Tuesday. Distance, 1.5hrs.
Wednesday. Distance, 2hrs.
Thursday. Race, 2 hrs. Distance, 1hr in the afternoon.
Friday. Race, 2 hrs. Distance, half an hour afternoon.
Saturday. Distance, 1.5 hrs.
Sunday. Race, 2hrs. Distance, 1 hr.
Monday. Distance, 2hrs. Distance, 1.5 hrs.
Tuesday. Long distance, 3 hrs.
Wednesday. Distance, 2 hrs. Strength, 1.5 hrs.
Thursday. Distance, 2 hrs. Distance, 1.5 hrs.
Friday. Distance, 1.5 hrs.
Saturday. Race, 2hrs. Distance 1.5 hrs.
Sunday. Race, 2hrs. Distance, half an hour.
Monday. Distance, half an hour. Travel.
After Silverstar we hit Rossland, BC. Drive time, 6 hours…or was it more?
– torrential rainstorm in the valleys, heavy, wet snow in the mountains.
I have no idea what Rossland is like. It was only a dark, wet smear through
the streaked windshield of my van. I have heard it is beautiful.
At night we play cards. In Rossland we played poker without money, but not without
risk. Poker is useless without betting. All we had were sweaty clothes. We devised
a way to bet with dirty laundry. In the end Andrew had to wash my wind-briefs
by hand, Carl, my long underwear top. I washed nothing – yes, I am bragging.
That’s poker. But I’m sure to be doing the laundry next time –
for that is also poker.
Andrew washes Pete's windbriefs.
In Rossland I have two main memories. One is of Carl in the long skate race.
Kris Freeman got a good lead early, but each time they came around Carl was
closing in. It was still pouring rain. I was on the top of the course giving
feeds and relaying split times to the athletes while shaking uncontrollably
with damp chill. The last time Carl crested the hill he was half a minute ahead,
and looking like he could have kept going. The other memory is from the women’s
long skate race. Kristina Trygstaad-Saari, a junior on the Development team,
won her first Continental Cup. It was a good sign of promise.
Next stop, home. December 18th – essentially on the road since October
I do not really know how far it is from Rossland to Salt Lake, because first
I ran the van out of gas in the middle of nowhere Montana and then, while standing
by the side of the road waiting for Trond to bring me some gas, I realized that
one of the ski bags flew off the top of the van…somewhere in the last
4 hours. This caused some delay, and it caused me a great deal of anguish, being
the new coach and all, on my first big trip with the team and all and me, losing
about 20 pair of skis, and running out of gas…and all.
Trond and I ran all over Lima, Montana talking to the cops, the highway department,
truckers, to see if anyone had located a humongous rolling Salomon ski bag with
about 20 pair of skis in it. Someone did find it. A family in the impoverished
town of Opportunity, Montana picked them up off the side of the road and called
Katie whose number was on the bag. Not a single pair of skis was broken; the
bag was scuffed up badly, but was in otherwise perfect condition. Those Salomon
bags are awesome. The up side was that we found a great diner in Lima that serves
delicious homemade game sausage with eggs, toast, and hashed browns.