NDC Thunder Bay Returns to Birkie Land for Hayward Camp

BrainspiralSeptember 5, 2014

Editor’s Note: The following training-camp recap was written by Jenn Jackson, a member of NDC Thunder Bay and Canada’s Junior National Team. Last month, her training centre, located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, returned to one of its favorite places south of the border: Wisconsin. To submit your own camp writeup, please email info@fasterskier.com with the subject line: “Camp Recap.”


As summer slowly begins to turn to fall, the National Development Centre of Thunder Bay made its way south for its final dryland camp of the year.

From Aug. 16 to 27, athletes of NDC Thunder Bay could be found rolling along the roads near Hayward, Wis. The team has hosted camps in the area before; taking advantage of the quiet, well paved roads, and extensive trail systems, which play host to the American Birkebeiner in late February.

The start of NDC's swim-run-ski triathlon in Hayward, Wis., which according to Coach Puiras “is a bit of a tradition at the Hayward camp." (Photo: NDC Thunder Bay)
The start of NDC’s swim-run-ski triathlon time trial in Hayward, Wis., which according to coach Timo Puiras “is a bit of a tradition at the Hayward camp.” (Photo: NDC Thunder Bay)

“There was a nice variety of terrain so we could concentrate on exactly the technique and training aspect we were focusing on for any particular training session,” NDC Head Coach Timo Puiras wrote in an email. “Living on the lake at Crest Hill resort meant we could access a wide variety of training venues right from our front door making recovery and rejuvenation post workout ideal.”

Puiras explained that, for most of the team, the focus of the camp was high quality roller ski volume, but that some of the more senior athletes had “ … a more intensity driven camp.”

See the video here.

During the 12-day camp, the group completed three intensity sessions, all involving rollerskiing – a marked change from the NDC’s typical summer intensities, which are done almost exclusively running or ski striding.

One of these workouts was a rollerski-sprint paceline, which the team adopted from Canadian World Cup Team coach Tor-Arne Hetland after a collaborative camp earlier this summer in Bend, Ore.

“We do the paceline to practice good form and speed,” NDC athlete Andy Shields explained. “With the drafting component we get to use very fast movements without it being too fatiguing. When we get to the head of the train, the sprit at the front simulates a sprint to the finish line.”

To ensure everyone was competitive within the paceline, assistant coach Victor Wiltmann inventoried and reassigned rollerskis to athletes according to who was strongest in the sprints and who needed a little extra speed.

For new athletes Julian Smith and Sam Greer, this was their first training camp with the team and was a very positive experience.

“It was incredible,” Smith wrote. “You are isolated, you spend a lot of time with your teammates and you get to learn a lot about all of them.”

Depositing technology for the blackout, which coach Timo Puiras explained was meant "to encourage team building and to prohibit screen time in the afternoon." (Photo: NDC Thunder Bay)
Depositing technology for the blackout, which coach Timo Puiras explained was meant “to encourage team building and to prohibit screen time in the afternoon.” (Photo: NDC Thunder Bay)

This isolation was not only geographical, but technological as well.

“The technology blackout was a bit of an experiment,” Puiras wrote. “I had two main goals for the technology blackout: to encourage team building and to prohibit screen time in the afternoon, most importantly just before sleep. I was curious to see if preventing screen time in the afternoon would have any effect on recovery and sleep. Obviously this was a highly unscientific, subjective observation, but no one on the camp got sick and everyone’s mood stayed notably positive.”

Without their electronics, the athletes enjoyed the lakeside facilities, “… spending quality time together, swimming in the lake, playing guitar, and slacklining” Smith wrote. In the evenings, some athletes would do supplementary sprint workouts, dashing from the sauna down to the docks and into the lake.

Midway through the camp, the athletes hit their longest single-session day with a four-hour classic rollerski. Rather than staying to the familiar roads near the Crest Hill, the coaches mapped out a 65-kilometre loop which wound its way up and around Cable – where the team would use CXC’s team gym for strength, then back to the resort.

Guest athlete, Holly Brown during four-hour classic roller ski workout (Photo: NDC Thunder Bay)
Guest athlete, Holly Brown during four-hour classic roller ski workout (Photo: NDC Thunder Bay)

On the workout, Puiras commented: “I am fairly certain that this is the first time in my career that after 4 hours of roller skiing every single athlete was still positive and could have easily kept on going for more.”

That positivity wavered slightly for some as the final intensity workout of the camp approached: the swim-run-ski triathlon time trial, which according to Puiras “is a bit of a tradition at the Hayward camp,” and challenged some of the land-loving athletes with a 230-metre lake swim.

In an effort to have men and women finish close to the same time, the men’s run and roller ski courses were slightly longer (4.7 k and 12.8 k) than the women’s (3.5 k and 9.0 k). As the athletes finished the TT, it was the women who seemed to have the edge on the shorter course. For results, click here.

The team has now returned to the north side of the border so the student-athletes can prepare for the start of the academic semester at Lakehead University and Confederation College.

With more than half of the training season behind them, “Everything is on track and looking positive for the fall training season,” Puiras wrote.

The team will train locally in Thunder Bay until mid-October when they head west to Canmore for Frozen Thunder. In the meantime, they have a testing week scheduled, as well as the Pancake Run.


The National Development Centre of Thunder Bay is one of three high performance training centres in Canada. Last year the team had athletes qualify for both Junior and Under 23 World Championships, and won numerous medals at Canadian Nationals. They are currently running a campaign to compensate for severe funding cuts to their program, to learn more visit: TeamUpNDC.com and follow @NDCTBay on Twitter.


Trouble viewing video above? Click here.

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