Category Archives: Nordic

Getting ready for RAAM

RAAM is the Race Across America, a bicycle race from Oceanside California to Annapolis Maryland that starts in a couple of weeks. For solo riders it ranks up their with the Tour de France in difficulty. On the scale of crazy things to take on, this has to rank among the craziest! Cool, eh?

I was asked by some long time skier friends to join the team, Team Badger Bikers. I believe the qualification for me was that I like to have fun, so don’t worry about serious athletic expectations from this old boy. Actually, old boy doesn’t work at all on this team because the average age is 59 and I’m not quite ready for my AARP card. That makes me one of the kids on the team. Truthfully, every one of us has some fairly high expectations of ourselves, expectations that are driven by the athlete we dream of being. Having had a LOT of experience testing those dreams against reality, a reality that includes work and family life, discipline “issues”, genetic “issues”, and the real truth of how special our athlete heroes really are, it’s still OK to have dreams for motivation and face it, out and out fantasy. As citizen athletes we have one up on our couch occupying arm chair quarterbacks and coaches because we actually get out there and do it.

This race has a much more important reason to see it through. We are doing it as a charity fund raiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin. From their own description:

The
Make-A-Wish Foundation
®
grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical
conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and
joy. Wishes provide a special type of medicine, diverting thoughts
from the difficult routine of medical treatments and hospital visits
to dreams of possibilities, fun and hope.”

Many of you may know kids that have gone through serious medical issues and know how truly awful that is. We like the idea that our team, made up of up people from an older generation are reaching out to help these kids. Some of you have probably already heard my pitch for a donation or will soon. Anybody else that is willing to donate to the effort should download the form here, and cough up a few bucks for us. The team and I would really appreciate it. Our goal is to raise $50,000 on the attention a race of this magnitude should provide. So help us out! You can check out our progress at our team site.

My training log is kept at DabbleDB, a very interesting online data application (note how I didn’t say database application). There isn’t tons of hours, but the training has been very specific. We take off on June 11th and I think I’ll be ready. It will still be hard.

RAAM

The winter of my content

I just had to mention that in spite of global warming, intense effort and hours at work, an aging body things aren’t all that bad here. This winter we got our first snow in early December and it was weeks before it ever made it above freezing. The skiing was fantastic! Then we had a thaw. A day or so later it snowed again and again the skiing was fantastic. Then a thaw, this time lasting for days and including a full day of rain, often heavy. Most of our snow was gone. But then it snowed, and snowed some more, and then many of your saw pictures of the end of that during the glorius Packer playoff game last Saturday. Once again, it stayed below freezing and now more snow is on the way.Skiing is fantastic!

Another season over

It’s been way over freezing here this week and the weekend looks even warmer with rain. That means the end of the ski season for us nordic buffs. I didn’t have much to say this year except for posting about the team that I helped coach this year. What great fun! How incredibly humbling! I’ve never tried to pass myself off as an elite athlete, but the geek in me has always loved the sport and it’s balance between technique, intense fitness, outdoor life, and nordic culture. Joining the coaching ranks is really my first experience with competition that mattered. I was surprised that it mattered to me as much as it did. It mattered to the kids on the team a lot and it mattered to the other parents and the head coach.

Quote on technique from US Ski Team coach Pete Vordenburg

US Ski Team coach, Pete Vordenburg posted this to rec.skiing.nordic and I wanted to capture it for posterity a bit more visibly than newsgroups offer.  Here is the post in it’s entirety, which I find to be both opinions I agree with and an encouraging sign from one of our top coaches.

 

Subject:      Skate technique USST two cents
From:         pvordenberg@ussa.org (Pete Vordenberg)
Newsgroups:   rec.skiing.nordic
Date:         13 Jan 2004 11:12:24 -0800

Hello all,

There is a lot of good technique discussion here and in the US in
general.  Most people have hit on what I think is most important
taking as many ideas as possible, trying them out and deciding for
yourself what works best for you.
Below I posted some clipping from the document Chris Grover and I use
at our regional camps and coaches ed camps.  I think they should add
to the discussion nicely.
But first here are some comments on the process of discussing
technique.
The most helpful discussion is one aimed at the ideas themselves
clarifying them, arguing the merits and downfalls of them and (even
aggressively) suggesting more ideas.  Discussion and articles aimed at
discrediting specific people rather than just their ideas is not so
helpful and in fact harmful to our shared cause.
As a positive example Lee Borowski emailed me some years back to
discuss our differences in technique ideas and since then we have made
some headway and I hope produced some material that helps people ski
faster.
One of our biggest obstacles in the US is bringing together what has
been a very fractured ski community.  Coming together is important
because we are all working toward the same goal  skiing faster in
general and more specifically helping American’s win Olympic and World
Championship medals.
For too long there has been an us-vs-them attitude between different
US clubs/groups and the US Ski Team.
We usst coaches have tried to increase communication with the clubs,
non-usst athletes and general ski community and opened up our camps,
ski, waxing, training and technique ideas as much as we can.  We have
also helped as many non-usst top athletes as possible at races and
with training/technique.  It isn’t perfect but it’s a healthy start.
Constructive ideas are always welcome.
The way I see it: US skiing is one body, the USST is one arm of that
body.  We need to communicate to function, we need each other to
accomplish anything.
We are not going to win without the help of the US ski community.  We
are not going to win without your help.

Here are some things I clipped from a document Chris Grover and I
wrote.  By the way when it comes to teaching the fundamentals of
technique, Chris Grover is great.  I also highly recommend you all
check out his articles on Core Strength in old additions of The Master
Skier  I think they are online at masterskier.com.  You will hear
Kris Freeman say that Core strength has been one of the primary keys
to his results and ability to hold proper body position and technique
through a race.  I can vouch for the fact that he is very strong in
the core region.  Make core strength a priority  and you will notice
a huge improvement in your skiing.

When we coach our national team athletes we mostly aim to add to their
repertoire of techniques.  In most cases (on the national team) we are
not looking to change them in major ways.  Most of the major work has
been done.  (Kris Freeman is very good at trying new ideas and
adapting to his style the things he thinks will enable him to win
World Cups.  His classical and skate technique is a solid starting
model for any and every skier  at least it is a model for the way I
think one should ski  which isn’t to say it can’t be improved upon).
With less experienced skiers we start with much more basic ideas
(covered below).  These are the same principles we use for our
national and development team skiers.
Wendy Wagner is also a great model both for technique (classical and
skate) and as a roll model for all women in sport.
I use Carl Swenson as a model for skating and from him I have
developed many of my ideas  especially his leg work.  We have been
friends since the late 80’s and it is and always has been the case
that I learn more from him then I try to teach to him.

From the document:
We look at technique from the Podium Level: that is, how does an
athlete have to ski to be the Best in the World?  However, good
technique can increase anyone’s enjoyment of cross-country skiing!
(I’ll add to this that one cannot justify an idea because of a photo
or a video  we cannot rely on imitation if we want to win!  Learn
from the best, but don’t stop there.)

These technique principles are what Kris Freeman is working on AND
what a beginning skier should be working on.  The principles apply to
ALL skiers.

The three most important elements of technique are correct body
position, efficient application of power, and using the correct tempo
for the terrain.

Athletes that arrive in Park City to participate in USST programs are
Applying Power to their skiing (kicking, poling) too slowly in both
skating and classic.

The following is what we are working on in order to win 3 Olympic
Medals in Torino in 2006.

This is taken from the classical portion  can be a problem in skating
as well:

One of the biggest problem young skiers have is over striding  key
words like “ski big,” “stretch it out,” “glide longer,” are misleading
and should be avoided.  Skiing big, stretching it out, and gliding
longer are a result of speed, not a cause of it.

Double-Pole

Good double-poling is characterized by a sharp downward crunch of the
stomach muscles.  To do this the poles must be in fairly close to the
body and held close to vertical.  The hipbone must be forward of the
anklebone, and the upper torso muscles poised over the tops of the
poles at the beginning of the poling phase.  Compression of the torso
and arms is simultaneous and the hips quickly return to a high
position.
(Do not fold over  instead, crunch down!)

Double-Pole Power Drill

If the athlete is “sitting” or applying power slowly to the poling
motion, try this drill.  To get the body up over the poles, exaggerate
the use of the stomach, and learn to apply power early in the stroke.
Insert 5-10 repetitions where you focus solely on the initial power by
contracting the stomach muscles and striking the asphalt with your
poles with quick force.  For this drill, end the push as soon as the
poles hit the ground  arms will not have passed lower than your hips.
 The motion is very clipped, quick and powerful.  Simply lengthen the
double pole from this drill keeping the same quick application of
force and you’re skiing.

Skating Technique

V2

The principles of good body position in skating are the same as they
were for striding, except that the athlete’s weight is more evenly
distributed over the whole foot.  The poling phase of good V2 skating
should imitate that of the double-pole.  The poling motion is combined
with a sharp drop down of the skier’s weight (loading the leg muscles)
onto the kicking ski.  This initiates the transfer of weight to the
other ski.

Double-Pole Power Drill

This is the same drill we used in classic skiing, with the addition of
V2 timing for the athlete’s legs.  If the athlete is “sitting” or
applying power slowly to the poling motion, try this drill.  To get
the body up over the poles, exaggerate the use of the stomach, and
learn to apply power early in the stroke.  Insert 5-10 repetitions
where you focus solely on the initial power by contracting the stomach
muscles and striking the asphalt with your poles with quick force.
For this drill, end the push as soon as the poles hit the ground
arms will not have passed lower than your hips.  The motion is very
clipped, quick and powerful.  Simply lengthen the poling motion from
this drill keeping the same quick application of force and you’re
skiing.

Double-Pole Power w/ Kick Drill

If the athlete is “falling away” from their kick in V2 (only kicking
with the lower-leg) try this drill.  First, focus only on initial
power.  As you ski in the V2 technique simultaneously drop your weight
onto the kicking ski and the poles using only the stomach muscles.
Begin and end both the kick and pole motions quickly.  Second, after
ten reps, as your speed increases, allow yourself more time to glide,
but keep the short dynamic push.  For ten reps, count to three on each
leg before exploding DOWN onto your poles and skis to transfer your
weight to the other ski.  Third, as your speed gets higher lengthen
the motion but keep the initial power quick.  Eliminate the pause on
each ski  and you’re skiing.

V1

The idea in V1 skating is to apply constant power throughout the
technique-cycle and to use the appropriate tempo or length-of-push for
the terrain.  We have identified two differing styles of skating: one
is more upper-body centric (think Gunde Svan, Per Elofsson, among
others), the other more lower-body centric (think Skari, Swenson,
Alsgaard, De Zolt, Wagner, Freeman, Zimmerman among others).  We feel
that the lower-body centric technique is most effective in steeper
terrain where most people struggle.  This technique is characterized a
low body position, and continuous and even power application by the
legs.  In gradual terrain (or V2 technique) we teach the more dynamic
upper-body centric style as it involves a larger contribution from the
upper-body.  No matter which style of V1 skating is being used, it is
important that the athlete is skating (rather than stepping) up a
hill.

Body Position Drill

If an athlete is “sitting” in their V1, try this drill.  Part one:
Start from a stop.  With your skis in a V position and weight on both
feet, bend your knees and drop your butt back behind you so your
thighs burn.  Tilt forward at the ankles and drive your knees forward
toward the tips of your skis.  Your legs should stop burning and you
should roll forward up the hill.  Part two:  without applying energy
to the kick begin to shift your weight from ski to ski maintaining
this forward, low position.  This drill demonstrates the important
contribution of body position to forward momentum in skating.
(the skis push out to the side  not back!)

Hot Feet Drill

Maintain a low, forward position (with or without poles) begin loading
and unloading each foot quickly  as if on hot sand.  The feet will
not come together, weight shift will be minimal, tempo will be high
and you will stay in the forward position.  This teaches a quick,
light tempo to match tough terrain so you don’t bog down.  It also
teaches using both legs evenly and not standing up on the non-poling
side leg and stepping off it, but staying low and skating off it.  In
V1 there is no offside, no glide side  only two push sides.

(add to this a Nathan Schultz drill that is aimed at accomplishing the
same thing but through different means.  Grover also uses a drill like
this and Torin Koos has a good addition as well).

To achieve a good forward driving position with the leg, slow down the
tempo and as the skier puts the ski down, immediately press forward
with the knee.  Over emphasise the drive you put into your knee  push
it down and forward toward the tip of your ski and from this position
skate off it to the other ski  do not stand up on that leg.
Watch Carl Swenson do this in a race.  You will notice many less
proficient skiers stand up when they put the ski down  especially
those in the “big step” school of skating and the upper-body centric
style (note a bogging down on the non-poling side leg especially in
soft and/or steep terrain).
Torin Koos’ variation is to think of running in reverse.  Where as a
runner puts the heel down and rolls off the toe, a skier can think of
putting the toe down first and rolling off the heel.  This helps keep
the knee driving forward, and keeps the skier from pushing off behind
them  out to the side is better (try this  it works well).

We conclude that:

The previous drills should be worked into any ski or rollerski workout
as a technique check-up.

With technique, it is most effective to focus on one thing at a time
and then quickly tie it into the whole technique and to go back and
fourth like this.  Try to incorporate these technique check-up drills
into almost every roller-ski session.  They are especially handy to
begin speed sessions or intervals or to add focus to a longer distance
session.
You may notice that in general these drills go from a quick, short
motion to adding more power, to adding speed, to actually skiing.
This is a good way to first learn the correct position, second learn
the correct application of power, and third combine position and power
into proper technique and tempo.  In general we go from mechanics, to
power to speed.

To follow up on some other ideas.  We do not teach weight shift by
trying to get the skier in a nose-knee-toe position because a skier
can accomplish this position without weight shift by leaning over to
the side and leaving the hips in the middle.  Also it can (and often
does) lead to skiers over rotating and swinging too much to the side.
Skiers may accomplish a nose-knee-toe position by doing the right
thing technically but they are not necessarily doing the right thing
technically just because they are in a nose-knee-toe position.  The
faster a skier is going the more in line with the ski they will be
this is because the faster they are going the more down the trail the
ski is moving.
Core strength is vital to skiing fast.  Many skiers who over rotate,
swing around and find it helpful to do so are compensating for a
weakness in the core.

I have been talking to Phil Bowen at Gear West about a usst/public
clinic.  We give clinics to coaches and juniors nation-wide but maybe
we can do one for the public.  Minimal cost.  One stop deal is all I
or any of us would have time for  Midwest probably, spring or summer,
maybe fall 2004…  Any interest?