Blood and Good Luck in the Adirondacks – Burke Mountain Academy’s August Camp

FasterSkierAugust 23, 2008

On the tenth of August 17 athletes, two coaches and three coach / assistants gathered in Keene, NY for Burke Mountain Academy’s August training camp. Described as “Hard” in pre-camp information, the week was designed to test athletes’ fitness levels and to give them a guide for training going into the Fall. The schedule had an intensity bias, with hard workouts following hard workouts and recovery periods requiring attention so as not to waste them.

Camp Schedule

Sun 10 Arrive in afternoon. PM session Run, moosehooves, short intervals: 20 x 3 x 15/15. Jackson Road.

Mon 11 AM RS L1-2 2hr Skt inc 30-40 min No poles L2 +, 9N to Jay, PM; Cls L1-2 2hr Behind Jay.

Tue 12 AM L 3, Long Ints Cls 2,3,4 x 7-8 min. 3 min rest. Steep terrain Bark Eater Road 73-end of pavement. PM Technique Training easy terrain, Speeds, transitions, incl Impulse Strength. Probably Hull's Falls.

Wed 13 FM TimeTrial: Old Style Pursuit. 7.5 K Classic in Am, 5 k flat-out skate in PM followed by Recovery cool down.

Thu 14 Off Town Day

Fri 15 FM L 4, 4+ Intervals (f.eks capacity 4x4x L4x 4 min rest), Ist Year J1’s (4 x 3 x L4 x 3 min rest) PM Str DP Cls 2hr @ 30-45 effective time Stickney Rd. Incl impulse strength

Sat 16 Ll-2 RS Skt 2-2:30 hr incl 40 min NP in L2-3. Elizabethtown-Lewis. PM Off

Sun 17 long day…multi sport in teams…Roll/Hike / Circuit / River Run / Sprint Relay/ Lunch/ round Robin Tourney/ Roll /. 5-6 hrs. BBQ at McClellands.

Mon 18 Cabin clean up. Homeward bound.

Adirondack weather was typical of this summer; a mix of steamy heat and sun, hammering rain, and seductively beautiful days. The river was perfect swimming temperature the whole time, and the falls and pools a balm to hot, sore muscles.

Participants included the entire Burke team for the up-coming season, guests from programs throughout New England and a lone regular from Wilson, Wyoming. We had help and guest appearances from Burke Alumni Harry Poole, a junior this year at Bates College, Paul Smith from UVM, Alyssa Devlin from Harvard, Caitlin Curran, who is off to Bates, and Carina Hamel, a Burke and UVM alum and last year’s assistant coach. Other guests were Matt Briggs from Colby, Fritz Horst from UVM, Sophie McClelland and Tim Reynolds from Middlebury, Tim Baucom, Andrew Morehouse, and Sylvan Ellefson from UNH and Bates, Liza Goodwin, studying for a another year in Norway before she enters Colby, NYSEF Coach Margaret Maher, and athlete Sam Cowan.

The featured guest was Jesper Johnsson, a member of the coaching team at Are Ski Gymnasium in Jarpen, Sweden. BMA skiers enjoyed Jesper’s hospitality two years ago during a visit to Sweden and we have been trying to get him over to return the favor since then. His help proved not only inspiring and educational, but, as another scheduled coach had to drop out at the last minute, essential. He was no guest…he was a “workin’ fool”!
Seriously spoken, Jesper’s work environment at home puts him in constant contact with current developments in our sport and his observations and creative suggestions about workouts and technique were an invaluable resource to all of us. Armed as well with a great sense of humor and fun he was a perfect foil to the GOF who was nominally in charge.

Things went as planned until the third day. We were on schedule for the time trial and people were warming up for the 30 second interval start. Time grew closer and only a few athletes were milling about. Someplace in the back of the mind an ominous gong began to toll. Four athletes came streaming down the hill with shouts of “Wreck!” “People all over the road!” “So-and-so is trashed!”. If hearts make a noise when they sink, it could have been heard a long way off.

In short, there were no head injuries, no one broke bones or suffered life threatening trauma of any kind. There were no cars involved. At the end of the blur of the period of assessment it became clear that we had been very, very lucky. We were able to do the cleaning and the decision was made not to take all seven to the ER. There was going to be work to do, and there would be some very sore bodies but we were all going to be OK.

The following is not meant to preach, but to share what was a rather awful moment of reality in our training environment. It is a reminder that comes home more clearly with the writing down. Excuse the self-indulgence here, but that clarity is needed.

What happened? In brief, the old adage about “ assume” came true. Even with experienced athletes, and absolutely with inexperienced ones, directions and reminders need to be given every time, all the time. The warm up peloton started up the steepest hill in the course. Why? There was no reason to climb that to warm up for a time trial…turning at the bottom and coming back up the gentle incline leading in would seem logical. Having missed that easy question, once up the steepest hill with its fall-away S turns and 6-10% grade it would seem logical again to either walk down, or ski out the whole course. Start time was now approaching, so the latter didn’t seem to make sense. The Norns were weaving. Someplace, somewhere in one little brain a switch turned off and it turned off in every brain around it. The Rubicon had been crossed. Someone started down the hill, and herd mentality took over. Only one independent thinker, one lone wolf, one island of rationality and common sense buffeted in a sea of fools and followers took off her skis and walked down. “It looked like D-day on the beach!” was her description later on.

In the end…well, sort of the end because some folks are going to be pretty sore for quite a while and will miss a bit of good training…it was clear that I had made a bad mistake in not going over things that seemed self evident. They are not. In the end it was good that we had some first aid background, and that we had good kits. Like cereal, the prices of that stuff are absolutely absurd, but be sure to have it! If you need hints about must-haves in an XC summer “black bag” give us a call! In the end, and already thankful that no one was in danger of bleeding to death nor had suffered head injuries or fractures, we were lucky to have good help, and to have places to go to get cleaned-up and do the necessary triage that let us 1) decide we did not need to go to the hospital, and 2) get the healing process underway.

A long time ago when I was in my third or fourth season of commercial fishing in Alaska, I worked around a wonderful guy we all called “Per”. He had been brought up in a fishing family and was looked up to by everyone as a good fisherman and a cool head. No macho dumb decisions about trying to fish in the roughest weather, or act aggressively on the grounds, but always a fish-hold a little fuller that the rest. It was fun for me, a hopeless romantic about fishing, to learn the goofy superstitions that went along with it; don’t leave port on a Friday, keep the cups facing away from the galley door, don’t turn hatch covers up-side down, don’t whistle in the wheel-house, no buckets of water on deck and more, mentionable and not so. I clearly remember one night around the galley table when we had been listing them off and Per looked up and said “I don’t believe in any of that ****! ….But there’s no sense in takin’ chances!” Uff da. Why didn’t I remember? No more time trials on the 13th or talk of “blood and hair on the walls” before a camp for me! It shall forevermore be humility not hubris in the face of fate and nature.

Suggested reading for all: “The Glass in the Field” from Fables for Our Time by James Thurber. It is very short. It is very wise. And I, full of contrition, shall, like the devout of another faith, fall to my knees and read it aloud at least 100 times.

The rest of the camp was good. Easy money! A little chafing, some blisters, a knock-out and a broken (but straight!) nose in Ultimate Frisbee, but home free!

Intervals were attacked, technique worked on and Jesper’s message of having a purpose and a goal to each workout and each drill sank in. He and I had talked over a concern of mine about the effect and use of low intensity training here in the US. I have always felt that we weren’t getting the most out of it, and that we needed to give a little more thought to how we used it. I think we made some real progress there and that the gang will have more involvement in the process when L 1 and 2 are on the schedule. Think continuous work. Simple, but easy to miss. The key? There are many roads to Rome but for us at Burke; individual commitment to the workout, independence, and more understanding of why you are doing what you are doing.

The camp ended with a 5-6 hour Multi-sport day for three teams. After a 30 minute warm up it included 1) a four K, 250 vertical meter classic ski, 2) a 10K 400 m vert, run / hike, 3) 30 minutes of core strength with each team sprinting between stations and finishing as many laps as possible, 4) 1000 meter river run…in the water carrying a med ball as a team, 5) 200 meter flat out sprint relay, 6) Lunch, 7) 5 K easy ski to Round Robin Ultimate, Speedball, and Basketball Shoot-out, and 8) another vertical classic ski of 275 m in 4 k to the finish.

Afterward a barbecue, and wood-fired sauna thanks to the McClelland family and early bed.

We made it. Thanks to everyone and special thanks to athlete leadership, Guest coach Jesper Johnsson, and the appearance of Florence Nightingale (Middlebury alum, and Burke friend Andrea St. John) at the darkest moment. For those who had to go home early and nurse wounds; get back on the horse. Go for it. But read “The Glass in the Field” first..


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