On August 2nd, the team traveled from all around the country to Park City for the start of the National Training Group camp. It was awesome to get to see all of our teammates whom we hadn’t seen since racing season. We were blessed to have such a talented and dedicated group of people brought together for this camp. Each person had their own individual strengths which they brought to training every day which raised the level of the camp so much, really separating this group out from other training groups we have been a part of.
We started our first day of training off with a distance skate rollerski tour of Park City. Coming from Alaska, it’s always a challenge to find the flow of training at altitude right away. Thankfully, so many of our teammates are so experienced with living and training and altitude that we were able to let them show us the pace we needed.
That afternoon, we completed strength testing at the Center Of Excellence (COE). The COE is the headquarters for US Ski & Snowboard and is awe inspiring to say the least. The facilities at the COE are world class and provide athletes with every service we could ever need to ensure peak performance. The strength testing we completed measured each individual’s functional mobility movements as well as maximum power output.
We were then able to review our results with Tschana, one of the COE’s awesome strength coaches, and determine what all of this data meant for our skiing. In addition to having full access to the COE’s amazing facilities (which include a massive weight room, contrast baths, physical therapy, a basketball court, and a small trampoline park), we were able to eat prepared dinners there every night thanks to Megan, the head nutritionist at the COE.
The Center of Excellence is the center of high-performance ski racing in the United States and to get to be a part of what it represented was humbling and inspiring. Every single staff member we encountered passionately believes in our ability to become the best in the world, and the amazing things happening at the COE are a testament to that.
The next day, at 7:30 am, we departed for a long classic rollerski session from Salt Lake [City] up Immigration Canyon. It was awesome to be able to group up with the whole dudes’ team and plug away for two and a half hours. Having such a big group of talented skiers together is really notable on workouts like this when you can spend so much time skiing with people we normally don’t. This is a super easy way to pick up subtle technique cues from our teammates that can make a huge difference and which we would otherwise never be exposed to.
After a super productive morning session, we spent the afternoon running a series of single tracks behind the COE. Coming from Alaska, the altitude and dry, desert-like climate made this run a much different effort than we were used to. This made for really good training and made every workout so unique and valuable, especially for us.
The following day, we had some threshold level bounding intervals up Canyons Resort on the schedule. Bounding is such a good way to build the massive aerobic motor that we need as cross country skiers and has been cited as one of the most aerobically demanding workouts in any sport. With the combined factors of the altitude and an incredibly fit group of dudes, the intervals were really, really productive.
It was sweet to have our dedicated coaching staff of Bryan Fish, Maria Stuber, and Tim (T-bone) Baucom up there with us doing everything from filming us for technique review to taking our lactate levels to make sure we were hitting our targeted efforts. Seeing the whole team throw down so hard on these intervals so early on in camp was really motivating and set a very high precedent for the rest of the camp.
After such a hard workout it’s incredibly important to recover well, so as to ensure peak performance for every workout. This was yet another area it was super valuable to be surrounded by other dedicated, elite athletes; we were able to pick up and integrate new, and sometimes better, habits when it came to recovering and living the life of an athlete in general (nutrition, sleeping habits, etc.).
The same day of the intervals we had strength as our second workout of the day. The workouts that really tax the body are specifically planned to fall on the same day, so as to really “break” the body in an effort to rebuild it even stronger. Each athlete brought their own strength plan from their individual club teams, but it was cool when there was overlap between plans so we could challenge each other, in a friendly fashion of course, and hopefully improve one another.
The day after we set out for a skate rollerski OD, or over distance; a workout designed to prepare skiers for longer races such as 30 or 50-kilometer competitions. An OD tires the body in a different way, as it’s not necessarily that challenging of a pace, but it’s the length of the workout that really gets to you as an OD is usually over three hours long.
What I personally noticed, and found incredibly cool, was that each athlete knew the pace they had to go to get the most out of their workout and paced accordingly. If someone got too eager and started pushing the pace, the others would politely ask him to ease up a little or just let them go do their own thing. This is such a stark contrast from, say, the U16 camp where every person is challenging everyone else in how fast and how long they can go, which leads to an over-taxation of the body and a less productive workout in general. This speaks volumes to the maturity of the group and the overall level of talent of everyone there, as it’s arguably equally as important to know when to go slow and do your own thing as it is to know when to go fast and push each other. There was only one workout that day, which no one complained about as the OD was exhausting enough.
The following day, August 7th was an “athlete’s choice” day. We could opt for a run, rollerski, mountain bike, or just nothing at all. Again each individual made the choice that suited them, with some going mountain biking, others running, and one athlete went rollerblading at the skate park. Also during that day, we had a group excursion to the Utah Olympic Park, where we took full advantage of the 60ft free climbing rock wall over a 16ft deep pool and a very exciting ropes course. It was very scary, but we were so brave. It was definitely nice to have a day of relative relaxation as the next day we had a sprint simulation.
We traveled to Soldier Hollow early in the morning, partly to beat the heat, where Bryan Fish went over the format of the sprint then sent everyone on their way to warm up. The sprint consisted of a prolog, or qualifying race, quarter finals, semi finals, and then an A and B final, each of which took around 3 minutes. This was a very cool workout as everyone got to really lay it out- give it their all in seeing just how fast they could go.
The prolog was by far the hardest race of the day as we were by ourselves and essentially racing the clock. As we progressed into the heats, the overall time of each race got slower as more tactics became involved. It was an incredibly competitive workout, what with having some world-ranked junior sprinters in the mix, and the tantalizing prize of some Bliz glasses on the line for the winners, but everyone was still supportive and friendly throughout the entirety of the sprint, encouraging others to really push their limits and talking about tactics and what could be improved.
It was endearing, to say the least seeing everyone come together as a team and compete with one another all the while helping each other in striving for a common goal. There were no feelings of resentment, no bitter comments, but rather congratulatory remarks and all-in-all fun times. That afternoon we had another strength session where again everyone followed their individual plans. This was the end of the first week, and it seemed to have gone by too quickly. Everyone was comfortable with each other, and more importantly liked each other, and that bond appeared only to get stronger with each passing moment. We are unified through our sport; we are united in pursuit of a common goal, we are stronger through each other. We are the National Training Group.
The NNF's mission is to support athletic excellence in developing nordic athletes in the United States.
“Thanks for all you do for us in U.S. skiing. The NNF helped me through the Development Pipeline last winter by getting me to the U23 World Championships and OPA Cup events. Because of it, this year I am prepared to win an OPA Cup race.”- Tad Elliott