Rob Bradlee has competed for 35 years in cross country skiing and most recently competed in the World Masters Championships last year in McCall, ID. Rob can be seen most every weekend racing the Eastern Cup circuit as well as coaching skiers from the successful CSU program near Boston.
1. Rob, you work full time in the Computer field- how you find the time to work, coach and train for your own events?
True confession time: I don't really work full-time. I teach week-long classes in programming and operating systems, but I'm not booked every week. Although I have lots of prep work to do during my “off” weeks, I still have way more time available than most people. But, I do spend huge hours on skiing. I love doing it so it rarely seems like work.
2. Are there any specific time management techniques that you find particularly helpful when you do have busy weeks?
Time management is not my long suit, but a few things that help me: Get a good night's sleep – you can do much more if you're rested and have energy; Do the priority thing first; Make a schedule of deadlines for task completion; Plan, plan, plan.
3. Coaching is obviously a very rewarding endeavor- But what do you personally take away from it that you feel helps you in your own racing?
Coaching is fantastic for improving your own racing. You are forced to think about how everything should be done correctly and you feel mighty foolish if you don't follow your own advice. Being self-employed means that the boss is always watching what you do. Being self-coached means that the coach is always riding you to improve.
4. What do you feel is the biggest difference in how you approach your training now, compared to when you were in college?
My big secret now is that I start training in April instead of mid-November. My biggest motivation as a coach is to not let junior athletes make the horrible mistake I made as a junior of not training.
5. How will your training differ this summer and fall from last year?
More speed-work, more balance training, and more strength.
6. How many hours do you train per year?
I've done right about 500 per year (not including strength) for the past 29 years.
7. What percent of that is specific ski training, compared to bike riding, running, etc..?
Skiing, roller-skiing, ski-walking, and bounding are at least 300 hours of my 500.
8. I know you are a big proponent of core strength training for your athletes. How much of this do you do as part of your own training? Do you also lift weights? If so, what do you focus on when you are in the gym?
I've been a big advocate of functional strength training for at least 10 years. I like to joke that strength is my weakness. It's my least favorite training, but I try to do it twice per week throughout dryland season. I do lots of exercises, but almost all are just body weight or involve throwing a medicine ball. Mike Boyle and Gray Cook have written great books on this subject.
9. What still keeps you motivated for racing after all these years? Are there any special techniques you use before an important event, that gets you psyched up and ready to race hard?
I still love ski racing as much as ever. Each race is a unique puzzle to solve and it engages every aptitude both physically and mentally. I do a lot of visualization and imagery in the days before important races. In the starting gate I always pause to look around and say “It's a beautiful day. I don't have to do work or take care of anyone else. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. And they are going to let me ski as fast as I want”. The bigger the event the better I feel.
10. You raced the sprint race last November out in West Yellowstone which was a Super Tour race- Knowing the age spread that was in your heat, did that make a difference in how you approached the race ? (If I remember correctly you were up against guys like Justin Freeman!!?)
I did that race to gain sprint experience to improve my coaching. It was humbling to see how fast the young (and elite) guys can go. But, I approached the race the same as every race. I take EVERY race seriously. You can't wait for the championships to practice your A game. I knew I was doomed, but I was going to do my best no matter what. And, I'll add that I was 3rd Master because one of my competitors failed to read the results and realize he was supposed to show up for the final. So, my twenty years of extra experience proved to be of some real value.
11. What do you think is the most important aspect of your training as a master ski racer?
I think consistency has been a key for me. I try to train all year and maintain a steady level of fitness.
12. Racing and training takes a lot of time and sometimes it becomes challenging to keep it all in perspective. How do you manage to keep everything going while still managing to keep your family happy and a priority?
I don't think I've done the greatest job in that area. It's been a struggle.
13. What is on your agenda for this upcoming winter? Will you be going to Europe for the Masters World Championships?
I had so much fun in McCall that I'd love to go to France. But, my wife has a trip to Florence as a priority and I have two kids in college. Looks like the Eastern Cup might be the extent of my travels this year.
14. Anything else you would like to add for any masters who want to either give racing a try, or improve their race performance?
I'd just add this: Get some technique coaching! Tiger Woods is still working on his golf swing so why aren't you working on your ski technique? Get the full value of your hard-won fitness by having the best possible technique. Skiing is not running on snow; it's dancing on snow.