November 19th (Hanover, NH):Â Thomas Alsgaard, who led the Norwegian cross-country ski team for the past ten years and earned 11 Olympic and World Championship gold medals during his career, trained last Friday with the Ford Sayre junior cross-country ski team, and later spoke at the Black Community Center, in Hanover, NH.Â On tour with his sponsor, Alpina/Madshus (based in Lebanon, NH), Alsgaard had already visited at Pineland Farms, in New Gloucester, ME, and after his Hanover visit, was bound for Glens Falls, NY and then W. Yellowstone, MT.Â
With so many questions to ask their hero, the Ford Sayre team members wrote down a list of questions for Alsgaard to answer later, so they could just watch and absorb the fact that they were ski bounding and striding around Oak Hill with a Norwegian icon – one who still smiled like a kid, loved being outside, even in the cold dusk of November, and kindly gave suggestions and advice to anyone who dared speak up and ask.
If they weren't convinced after their workout, by the end ofÂ Alsgaard'Â Powerpoint presentation of his life and theÂ “salmon social” that followed at the Community CenterÂ Center, the star-struck teens, parents, coaches, and master skiers were finally grasping that hard facts – There is no magic key to skiing fast, no scientific combination of heart rate monitoring, no ideal anaerobic to aerobic ratio of training, no “one-size-fits-all” regimen. Instead, Alsgaard kept pointing out, answering kindly both the simple and the complex questions: “Hard work is Rule No.1” and “Keep it simple, enjoy it .. . . It's important to have fun.”
Young Alsgaard grew up in a village outside of Oslo, where he remembers spending every day outside, and every snowy day on skis, skiing the trail behind his house. At age three he screamed and yelled so hard the organizers of a youth race allowed little Thomas race against the five year olds. He won the race and kept on going.Â Along the way he found his teammates to be very important to the support and the fun that kept him focused 110% on racing for 30 years. He also pointed out that it was his focus, constant desire to improve, and the enjoyment he had in training and racing, that strengthened his resolve to continue through illness, his father's death, and two back surgeries. “There were many downs,” he said. “I turned those downs into ups”.
At age 14, when he changed coaches – from hisÂ mom to his dad – his dad told him these four precepts, which Alsgaard has followed ever since:
Honesty – with yourself. You always be able to know when something is not working for you and change it.
Patience – there are times when your results are not there, or you're injured, be patient; if you are a junior skier, put the time in and be patient that the results will come when you are a senior.
Evaluation – constantly. Always, every day, ask, “What can I do now to become a better skier?”
Well-being- aways look for and be sure you are motivated by the joy of your sport. Make sure that you are happy, healthy.
Alsgaard retired last year, when he found it was not motivating to race anymore. Anyone who meets him would say that he has motivated them.
Questions for Thomas AlsgaardÂ from theÂ Ford Sayre/Dartmouth Ski Team members
how tall are you?
how old are you?
– 32 years old
where do you live?
when did you start skiing?
3 years old
did you play other sports while you were growing up?
Swimming, track and field, bicycling, soccer, etc.
when did you shift your focus to only skiing?
how many hours did you train annually (daily) as a junior?
1-7 days/week, 300-500 hours/year
as a pro?
700-800 hours a year
how often do you take rest/off days? Totally off vs. easy?
When I felt for it.
what kind of training do you do post -season in the spring.
what would you say is your most valuable workout? Favorite workout?
all!! skiing in new snow.
what is the most important aspect of your summer training?
Get a good base
what is the best alternative to rollerskiing?
what kind of training did you do as a teenager/junior racer?
Mostly ski, rollerski, running. Then strength, bicycling, kajaking (sic)
if there was one idea or word that describes your mental preparation for a race, what would that be?
talk about race strategy… approach to tight races (relay legs)
Always one strategy – NO STRATEGY
describe your race warm-up routine
Testing skis. slow skiing. some sprints
what did you eat/drink on race day?
Normal food. Whatever served.
how do stay healthy during the winter?
Don't think about it
what do you do while you're traveling to eat well, stay healthy, etc?
Bring a sandwich. Drink a lot of water
when you were a teenager/junior racer, what kind of goals did you set for yourself and how did you go about achieving them?
To be better. Focus
how did you stay motivated during hours and hours of training?
I loved training.
tell a story about getting lost while skiing
what is your heart rate at lactate threshold?
I'm not sure – or more correctly – I don't care!