Only one disappointing event marred what was an otherwise excellent New Zealand training Camp.
We came to New Zealand with several goals in mind:
Improve technique (specifics below).
Train a high (but manageable) volume.
Complete 6 to 7 quality intensity sessions.
Beat the Alpine team in Soccer.
Our only disappointment came when we lost the soccer match against Alpine 2 goals to 1. We lost in spite of having a good number of talented players and a cohesive squad. Only by openly evaluating our play can we learn and improve our game. We were unable to win balls center-field — our players being outweighed by upwards of 50 pounds is no good excuse. In addition to this we played with what I would describe as a â€œchicken-with-its-head-cut-offâ€ offense that couldn’t convert the few scoring opportunities it had into goals. Our tenacious defense kept the Alpine team’s scoring at a minimum, but was unable to clear the ball up-field with anything but a wild and panic-stricken toe-punch. Soccer practice commences with renewed vigor upon return to Utah.
On the positive side the skiing has been excellent. In spite of the low snow year the grooming produced good to perfect conditions. We skied mostly on purple hard wax, and used race skis the whole camp. Being able to test race skis in winter conditions in August is one of the prime advantages to skiing in New Zealand rather than other summer ski sites.
Not a single athlete or staff member got so much as a sniffle this year whereas last year five of us got sick on this trip. We are always attentive to things such as hydration, sleep, washing our hands, sleeping well, etc, but this often is not enough. We attribute our success this trip to resting properly before traveling to New Zealand (backing the training down a few days prior to travel) and to being religious about caring for asthma and allergies (taking medicine regularly — as prescribed — rather than sporadically — as is often the case. Also some athletes are now traveling with allergen resistant bedding and have taken other steps to avoid bronchial and nasal irritants).
We have also adopted much stricter rules regarding training when tired. The days of training for the sake of accumulating training hours is over. This â€œtraining trendâ€ which has ruined many an athlete’s career is officially a thing of past generations — at least for the US Ski Team.
We were able to train a very good volume — while closely monitoring fatigue and being sure to not chase hours. Our skiers were able to train up to 28hours in a week — and keep their head well above water. Athletes must develop the confidence to plan rest into their training and more importantly to take unplanned rest when it is needed.
Technique was our biggest success. Every athlete made considerable technical advances. We put a large emphasis on moving quickly from ski-to-ski in steep V1 terrain. This means keeping the feet wider, not taking big steps up the hill, limiting side-to-side twisting and using the arms in a quick pendulum motion much like V2 alternate only shorter and quicker. Kris Freeman has mastered this style of steep-terrain skating, and is looking impressive on such terrain. Andrew Johnson has also greatly improved his up-hill skating using this technique and, like Carl Swenson, uses it with a slightly slower tempo than Kris, but still with the exact same principles.
The athletes also worked on maintaining a high forward position and keeping a light, quick tempo while classical skiing in steep terrain. This has been a down-fall especially of our women’s team (they tended to keep a slow tempo and over-stride). The improvements they made by shortening their stride was dramatic and should translate to very fast racing this winter. Wendy Wagner has put a considerable amount of work into increasing her tempo in steep and even gradual up-hill terrain — both skating and classical. This has forced her to cut her training hours back a bit to allow for skiing a bit faster in distance training. The improvements were well worth the lower volume of training.
In V2 and double-poling we have worked on getting the skiers to stay in a high and forward position where they can apply more power directly down on the poles using body weight and core strength (stomach and back muscles) and in V2 with a sharp compression down on the ski. This is a very powerful way to double pole and skate even in up-hill terrain (that isn’t so steep as to demand V1 skiing). Again Kris Freeman is a tremendous example of what we are looking for — both in doublepoling and V2. Justin Freeman made gains in this as well. To do this he had to back the intensity off his intervals and focus on making each skate/pole as perfect as possible. The point of training is technical as well as physiological — and a focus on technique often yields greater gains than a focus on intensity. This is true in the weight room as well where using the correct motions is more important than using a higher weight. It is likewise true in doing speed training where we focus first on performing with the proper mechanics, then on adding power, and finally on raising the sprint tempo to max.
Our intensity training included both long (3 x 8 minutes) and short (15 x 60 seconds) Level 3 intervals as well as Level 4 intervals (5 x 5 minutes) and races.
The sprint race was won by Torin Koos who absolutely released the beast to charge away from speedster Andy Newell and NCAA Champ Chris Cook. The threesome of Newell, Cook and Koos have been focusing on sprint training and this training seems to have so far paid off.
In the Women’s sprint Kikkan Randall cleaned clock on the rest of the field. The rest of the women spent a good deal of the of the camp learning to use her quick and dynamic tempo. Kikkan has developed very good technique working with her coaches up at the APU program in Anchorage as well as with Chris Grover (US development team coach) and is looking very strong for the up-coming year.
The final race of the camp was the Merino Muster — the biggest race in New Zealand. Andrew Johnson, Justin Freeman, Dave Chamberlain and Kris Freeman skied together for 18km of the 36km race before Kris pulled away from the other three. Andrew dropped the other two to finish second with Justin taking third. <Results here.
Other than the soccer fiasco the camp went better than planned. We return to Park City as a team early/mid-September. We are conducting an open camp in Park City for all skiers and coaches with designs on international success this Sept/Oct. We hope to have a good number of participants. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
US Assistant Coach
Author of: Momentum: Chasing the Olympic Dream look for it at www.outyourbackdoor.com.