LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Friday morning’s U.S. Ski Team workout at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg nordic trails wasn’t designed to be too hard. According to men’s coach Jason Cork, the idea was to run with poles and ski bound for 45 minutes at Level 3 – a sort of tempo pace.
Once a couple dozen athletes between the U.S. Ski Team (USST) and National Elite Group (NEG) got going around the designated loop, most realized what they were in for. Two weeks of dryland training at the USST Elite Camp in Lake Placid had taken its toll on their bodies, and on the last day of camp, they had to tackle Russian Hill – three to four times.
Cork said he’d noticed the group’s fatigue levels increase throughout the last few days, especially during warmups.
“You can see people are getting a little sloppy; you can tell they’re getting pretty fatigued,” he said. “But that’s kind of the whole point of having a training camp, you get the best guys together and have them kind of push each other a little bit and have an easy week afterward.”
Friday afternoon, several athletes took part in the camp’s final workout – a 1-½ hour double pole – which USST head coach Chris Grover said was more of a recovery.
According to Grover, the morning session was considered threshold-intensity, natural intervals. He went on to explain in an email how those intervals work.
“The terrain dictated when the athletes were working harder (uphills) and going easier (downhills and flats),” Grover wrote. “They were probably above threshold at the tops of the hills and well below threshold at the bottoms of downhills. A workout of this duration (45 min.) probably has about 25 minutes of real threshold work-time. But it closely mimics the demands of ski racing, which is important at this time of year.”
The loop was marked by two big climbs, one of which was Russian Hill. It took the front group, with Ryan Scott (Team HomeGrown) leading about seven men and Liz Stephen (USST), about 11 minutes to complete. Others rounded the loop in about 15 minutes, and kept the effort going for 45 minutes or more.
Asked what was next for many of his athletes, Grover said off days.
“Some athletes will take just one day off after the camp, others will take two, and some will focus on active recovery for a few days,” he wrote. “It just depends on how each individual handled the load of the camp.”
Looking back, Grover was satisfied with how things went throughout the last two weeks, with workouts ranging from intensity bounding intervals up Whiteface Mountain to the Climb to the Castle Rollerski Race up its access road. On Thursday, 40 skiers competed in a classic rollerski sprint time trial at the Olympic Jumping Complex.
“I was impressed by the improvements of many of the athletes at the camp, USST athletes and club athletes alike,” Grover wrote. “Some of the most biggest gains in my mind include Liz’s overall fitness, Ida’s technique improvements in both skate and classic, Skyler’s performance in the sprint, and Ryan Scott’s performance in just about every workout. We had close to 50 of the country’s best athletes at the camp, across a spectrum of age groups, and it was really cool to see how hard everyone was working and how professional these athletes really are.”
Next on the USST agenda is a final dryland camp in Park City, Utah, where the team will be from Oct. 8-18. Then, they’ll immediately fly north for an on-snow camp Oct. 18-27 at Frozen Thunder, where snow has been stockpiled in Canmore, Alberta.
“The entire team will be in Park City and most of Team in Canmore, the exception being the Alaskans who will head home to find snow,” Grover wrote. “The main goal of the camp is exposure to altitude living (and an increase in Hb [hemoglobin] mass) prior to departing for Europe. Another goal is lab testing to follow up with tests completed on each athlete in the spring and summer; i.e. determining what sort of progress was made by athletes this summer and fall and what needs still must be met. The goal of the Canmore period is to get on snow and to work on technique before heading to the World Cup, and to tune up for racing with some on-snow time trials.”
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.