First of three camps in Park City “accomplished all the goals”
PARK CITY, Utah (May 31) – U.S. cross country athletes headed for home Tuesday after a non-holiday holiday weekend and their first training camp of the preseason.
The World Cup and Continental Cup athletes trained through the weekend, including a final roller-ski and run workout Monday while much of the nation marked Memorial Day with a day off from work. It was drill time, not time off, for the U.S. Ski Team troupe.
“Holiday? No way,” said two-time Olympian Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK). “The purpose of this camp was to come in, do some testing, do some team building and it's been great! There's such an awesome attitude, such a great staff. We've had such a great camp…even with the freak snowstorm [Sunday]…
“I really feel things all coming together for us,” she said.
Said Head Coach Pete Vordenberg, “The atmosphere was great, just great…just bubbling over. The young athletes were so excited at their first camp.”
First of three Park City camps
Thirteen athletes – both the World Cup and Continental Cup squads except for former national sprint champion Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN), a 2006 Olympian who is recovering from a broken elbow suffered in a non-training fall – took part. The group will return to Park City two more times – in July before the annual on-snow training camp in New Zealand and again in September – for additional testing.
“I had three main goals for the camp,” he said, ticking off fitness “to get some baseline data through testing and then measure the progress in the next camps,” team building “in creating a cohesive team” and starting to build a systematic psychological training program.
“I feel we accomplished all the goals,” said Vordenberg, a two-time Olympian who was departed Coach Trond Nystad's righthand man for the past four seasons.
“We were busy through the camp and I'm pooped now,” he laughed. “But we've got a little break. It was fun to have the athletes around and then [Tuesday] it was just AJ [Andrew Johnson – Greensboro, VT, the first fulltime athlete in residence back in the spring of 1999] and me working out. It was fun working with all those guys…very rejuvenating.”
Even a surprise snowstorm which dropped several inches of wet snow Sunday morning didn't slow the camp. They staged a sprint relay time trial at Soldier Hollow in the morning and underwent strength training in the afternoon. “It was a fun sprint,” according to Randall. “We've got an awesome staff who just kept us fired up.”
Staff, athletes pleased with direction
Vordenberg was pleased with the testing. “I'm so positive in the direction we're going. I really feel good about it and the athletes say they feel good, too. The organization [U.S. Ski Team] is coming in underneath us with such good support – not just financial, although that's important, for sure, but support all across the board, from all departments.”
The Sports Science Department conducted a variety of tests, from the routine treadmill and lactate tests to rare-for-cross country strength workouts in which the athletes jumped on a force plate to measure where athletes create force and apply it quickly. The final fitness test, he said, was a velocity test in which the athletes sprinted through 120 meters of timing lights which helped measure acceleration as well as when they reached – and lost – maximum speed.
Vordenberg said his long-range plan calls for testing three times a year during the preseason to help measure an athlete's progress. “Continuity is such a vital part of this, showing if our training is accomplishing what we think it's accomplishing.”
The hope also is it will help understand the variables that may cause differences in test results. “It's not like cycling or running,” Vordenberg said, “where you look a watch. We'll be looking to eliminate variables.”
The scientific approach is a major step forward, he said, but – in the end – it's just one more tool to help athletes excel.
“Kentucky windage” to go with science
“It'll never be the case where we're just scientists; skiing always has some art involved. I'm much less science-minded; I go by feel a lot of the time,” Vordenberg said, ” but I've always wanted to utilize the Sports Science staff to help us get faster. Sue Robson and Zach Weatherford have been great in working with us, and Lesli Shooter spends a lot of time with alpine but she's been terrific, too, in our testing.
“And Susie [Parker-Simmons] has been working directly with us for a couple of seasons, and she's just so sharp. What a great asset, she is.”
Randall – who has raced in the last two Olympics and in three World Championships – is in her first season on the Ski Team; last winter, she was ninth in the Olympic sprint – the alltime U.S. women's Olympic best result and she was fifth in a World Cup sprint in Borlage, Sweden, shortly after the Games. She was like a sponge, she said, absorbing everything Vordenberg and his staff – coaches Chris Grover, Justin Wadsworth and development coaches Matt Whitcomb and Pat Casey – said.
“We did testing all week and it was awesome. It's all new to me because I've never done it before,” she said. Randall, an Alaskan who has trained with the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, added, “I've been around it but never been able to fully take part, so this was super exciting…
“APU has supported me all the way and allowed me to get to the level where I can be here. I'm excited because I feel that now I've got even more people behind me … I'm excited to have more opportunities, more tools at my disposal.”
Vordenberg said the next camp is scheduled for mid-July in Park City with a second round of testing but more training before the Ski Team heads to New Zealand for the better part of a month at The Snow Farm outside Wanaka on South Island.
Alaska's Taz Mannix works out with U.S. Ski Team Sport Science. May 24, 2006. Credit: S. Kun/Utah Oval