Fifteen years into his tenure as head nordic coach at the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder, Bruce Cranmer has guided his teams to NCAA Championships in 2006, 2011 and 2013. As head cross-country coach at the University of Vermont (UVM) from 1989 to 2000, his teams won four NCAA titles. He’s kind of like the Geno Auriemma (UConn women’s basketball coach) of the ski tracks — shepherding young athletes to championships and into adulthood while trying to cultivate their best athletic performances.
So Cranmer comes with experience and he’s doubly blessed with living in an (editor’s note— we did not use the word “the”) endurance-sport capital. His nordic skiing athletes have, at their doorsteps, a host of world-class trail runs, road biking routes, and a 25-mile drive to high-alpine ski tours.
Cranmer said April is a recovery month for his student-athletes.
“I’m not pressuring them too much in April,” he explained in a recent phone interview. “I think it’s important to emphasize a rest period because when you start back training you don’t want to go, ‘I’m already burned out.’ ”
During the conversation, Cranmer mentioned several times that his wants his skiers to find something they love doing this time of year. Come May, when the training loads increase and more focused ski training takes priority, Cranmer asserts skiers should feel fresh.
“You want to feel to feel a little bit hungry, ready to go,” he said. “I think it’s important to have a little bit of a break from training for a lot of the guys I know they already out hiking, backcountry skiing, and doing stuff like that anyway because they just like the activity of it.
“I look at May as kind of the beginning on the new training year,” he added. “As far as getting back, I always like the guys to diversify before they crank up the running miles and do a bunch of rollerskiing. I’ve always pushed the guys to do stuff they also enjoy so they are not starting off cranking off rollerski miles in May and the come October and go, ‘I am so burned out, I just can’t stand to go roller skiing again.’ ”
Here’s Cranmer’s recommendation for some stellar April-May workouts. (Sorry, no rollerskiing workouts yet.) If you happen to live in Boulder or nearby in the Front Range, time to get outside. Odds are, if you’re there already, you’ve been doing that.
The Workout: Cranmer’s Early Spring Recommendations
“Spring is in all its splendor in Colorado, which can mean two to four feet of snow or 75 degrees,” he explained in an email. “This is a relaxing and resting period for the CU Ski Team with exams just around the corner. As far as a Wednesday Workout for this time of year, I recommend first and foremost, make it fun and something you really enjoy doing. I think this is a great time to focus on non-specific training, my favorite is backcountry skiing. There’s still tons of snow in Colorado, we [recently] got two to four feet [one] weekend in the mountains near Boulder, and I skied until I could barely stand up. Backcountry provides a great workout skinning up and lots of fun going down. However, I know not everyone has the snow or the equipment to go back country so here are a few suggestions.
– I suggest for our skiers to bike up Flagstaff Mountain, which is right on the edge of town. It’s a steep climb of 2142 feet in 5 miles with an average grade of 11 percent. It takes about an hour if you start from somewhere in town, but the record from the base is under 25 minutes.
– For those athletes that don’t like biking, I recommend an easy run-hike up Green Mountain, which takes about an hour to the top, and begins from Chautauqua Park. The vital stats: 6.47 miles round trip and a total elevation gain of 2,288 feet.
– For those athletes studying hard for exams there’s a quick jog up Mount Sanitas. It’s 1.4 miles to the top with 1,323′ of elevation gain. Although unconfirmed, the record up is 14 minutes, 12 seconds — that’s fast — by endurance king Kilian Jornet.”
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.