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The Way I See It – Gregg and Diggins, New IDEA, Noah, Query To Matt, Bryan Fish, Race Strategy, Befuddled…

by Marty Hall

September 01, 2015 – Well, it’s been awhile. In late February I had a bi-lateral knee replacement, which was one of more interesting periods of my life and left me pretty flat for the next 2-3 months. Also some other issues had to be cleared up and have been. So, I’m back and ready to write.

2015 WSC – Bravo to the US medal twins, Caitlin Gregg and Jessie Diggins and also to Alex Harvey of the Canadian Team. Alex is continuing to show outstanding medal performances, strengthening his hold on the title of being Canada’s greatest xc racer – and the future is bright for more of the same from him.

The two ladies were a definite surprise in the Ladies’ 10 km Individual Free style race at the World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden this winter. Under ever increasing and continuing snow fall they raced to a silver medal for Jessie (bib #37) and a bronze for Caitlin (bib #3) in a totally befuddling set of race conditions and results. More on this later. You’ll like this…

NEW IDEA – So, as I was sitting on my mowing tractor last week cutting the lawn, I had a light bulb flashing moment. As we all know we make a prodigious effort early in the spring each year to produce our training plan for the coming year – laid out on a daily basis with all workouts carefully accounting for all types of activities, intensities and methods. VERY,VERY DETAILED – a masterpiece to say the least.

It is well known that most skiers will over train, or think they do, but really they blow up because they under recover – that is the main problem. In all my years of coaching I’ve never ever seen a recovery plan – never!

So, why don’t we have a recovery plan that is as detailed for every workout? AND you have to meet those recovery requirements just like you do the training workouts. We are always talking about training hours etc. but why not an accountability system for our recovery plan?

List all the types of recovery activities by title and assign them a number or a letter that you would assign to each workout. I’m sure that if you or the team sets its mind to this program you will have quite a list of activities to work from hydration, nutrition, stretching and flexibility, yoga, meditation, supplements, massage, sleep and on and on.

Put a group of coaches, a doctor, nutritionist, physiologist together and others that are knowledgeable of the requirements of the recovery process and develop such a program and process.

I think this would be an excellent program for any XC Development Coach to lead and oversee.

NOAH’s Winter 2015 – “Yesterday was a disappointing end to a disappointing season”. Noah’s evaluation after the 50 km in Oslo WC in March.

Last winter was a very interesting one to follow with his broken ankle, the operation, the recovery planned for him and the fact that he was going to be ready to race at the WSC’s in late February, a little over 2 months to accomplish all that. In my mind – not happening – but surprise, surprise, there he was on the starting line and in my mind he had a miraculous winter considering all of this.

There are a few reasons why he didn’t do as well as he thought he should – but, one big reason stands out above all the rest. From the moment he arrived back in the west from Finland until he headed back to Europe two months later he was at ALTITUDE! Even when he was on the operating table.

Altitude is a “positive” when used right, but it can’t be 24 hours a day every day – you are training your body to be slow  when you eventually  go down. For  a skier who is not known for his speed, this was a big dose for being slower.

Another big factor, during this whole period, was that he was training alone – no other national calibre skiers to share the training with and also no racing that I know of – another big negative!

At the WSC he was 44th, 34th and 31st in the three distance races – not bad compared to most of his last winters results. I commend him for what he did accomplish. More on Noah later.

Query To Matt Whitcomb – I can remember a phone call from you, a couple of years ago, talking of the Ladies Team starting to research past Olympic women’s XC skiers and would be looking for some help in the collection of the history of this project. Have not heard of any more interest by the team in pursuing this effort since then and my offer still stands to be a resource in moving this project forward. I believe at this time Martha Rockwell is the only women’s skier in the Hall of Fame – this is a shame.

It has been 43 years since the ’72 Olympics and in that 1st team there are many women who deserve this recognition.

I’d like to suggest an interesting proposal that will move this effort into high gear. That the present team be the sponsors for that first Olympic team to be nominated to the Hall Of Fame as a team. Those members were Martha Rockwell, Alison Owen-Spencer, Margie Mahoney, Trina Hosmer and Barbara Britch.

This was a huge step forward for women’s XC skiing and there is a good story behind in breaking through. This would also serve to  bring the present team in contact with many of the older skiers that started to break down those barriers over time.

Bryan Fish – Development Coach for the National Team – until I saw a press release a few weeks ago about a junior training camp for leading US Juniors in Norway with mention that Bryan would lead this trip, I wasn’t aware that he still worked for the team, as he is quite invisible at least for me.

Recently I became aware of a CXC Central REG Camp Update – Who’s Got “Next”? – great. I’d love to see more reports about training camps, trips to Europe, World Juniors, National races, US Jr Nationals, new training methods, technique, US training camps, plus identification of athletes attending all of the activities and whatever else go’s on.

It’s important to see more of a pulse beat in growing the development program in the US – or anywhere for that matter. Let’s make our younger skiers better, faster!!!

US Women’s Team Outlook – with the addition of Rosie Brennan and Caitlin Gregg, this is a team with a solid eight WC-point-scoring skiers who will be the world’s number #2  or #3 ranked team by the end of the 2015/16 season. A hard team to juggle now when getting everyone enough racing starts – a fun problem to have. This kind of depth helps with sliding through sickness, let’s the coaches and athlete’s juggle their in-season training programs better, and means consideration for other races when the WC group has been selected.

This prediction will come to fruition much easier if Kikkan Randall returns to more normal racing results, Diggins makes the improvements I expect from her, Sadie Bjornsen is able to be a more dependable starter all season, Lizzie [Stephen] works on her speed in training – and especially in racing – and Sophie  doesn’t break any more bones.

This team has more potential to realize, especially after the 4th-place relay finish at the WSC with out Kikkan.

Racing StrategyHere you have a complete set of results from the WC and I would like you to open the address and look at the results closely and see what you learn from them.

When I was running the Canadian program back in the ’80s the coaches and the leader of the Coaches education program were talking one night and the conversation led to where we felt we needed to do a study on the WC to see where our Canadian skiers were losing time in races. We thought we knew – but did we? Not so sure…? So, the Coach’s leader, Tom Siletta, appproached 3-4 WC organizers to see  if he could get 10-15 volunteers for their races. He then organized them into stations along the course where there were terrain changes. All sections were timed and after the race all sectional times were figured out and put on graph paper. As a team we were losing time in all sections – the most being when climbing – we were better on the downhills. But the biggest thing we learned was the race was pretty much decided as to the order of the finish in the first 2-3 km – in all of the races. So, we had a new race starting strategy – early split info and a kick-in-the-butt to get on pace.

So, did you see this or notice it in the results I gave you above – look at the first split and  you will see everyone is quite near the places they are going to finish – yes, changes after this time do take place, but the die is pretty much  cast.

The message – GYAIG!!! – from the start!

Befuddled – I’m taking this quote from a “SkiTrax” article written by Randall this past winter and reiterated earlier in the season by the National Team coaches. “After all, the plan I had laid out with my coaches had been to start the season a little slower to aim for the best form at the World Championships in February.”

This was the team plan, as the usual program of racing non-WC races for the first two weeks before the WC season began was dropped – same as the Canadians had done the previous year. The Canadians were flat for the beginning WC races, as were the Americans. All other nations were in those early races!

The tried-and-true strategy is that you should be at the top of your training curve in late November ready to build towards the top of your racing curve through out the winter to a point where you are peaking for your most important goal of the winter, be it the Olympics, WSC, TdS or the WC circuit. An individual program for each athlete should be in place so each can reach their goals through training and racing segments during those winter months – there is no such thing as “start the season a little slower”.

Hope that idea is out of the system now, as this approach was clearly a mistake for both camps. I also suggest that there’s lots of expertise out there from the old guard in both countries that’s not being tapped into.

Ladies 10km FR – WSC in Falun, Sweden – Very interesting race and outcomes to say the least at this race – temperature 32 degrees, light snow with accumulation during the race and deteriorating conditions would be the words of most observers. Definitely some big surprises, but also some confusing surprises in the results. The big winners and losers on a day like this are the ski and waxing technicians. Many years after modern-day synthetic skis had been on the scene, Gerhard Thaller,  Fischer’s “racer chaser”, told me that the ski (flex and camber) accounted for 95% of its speed and the other 5 % was the wax, base and grind. This was clearly displayed during this race.

The Norwegian Team as a group when you consider all these components and their results totally missed the skis and the Americans totally nailed it – four ladies in the top 15.

The Norwegians essentially were seeded late and the Americans early – but Diggins and Stephen had bibs #37 and #53 and were 2nd and 10th – so there goes that excuse and confirms that the overall performance of the skis was critical.

Chalk one big one up for the US technicians – way to go guys!!
Watch the full race but note that it starts at the 50-minute mark here.

Noah Hoffman Again – Back when Noah was writing his blog everyday I was there to read it 99% of the time – it was very complete and very interesting to read. I wrote to him a couple of times about his lack of a recovery effort. Also, communicated this with his coach and we exchanged communications over a couple of years time until this past winter.

Then the coach was very direct in asking me to back-off. Accomplished.

But, Noah has now  upgraded his program – firstly, stopping his daily blogging and dedicating himself to a bigger recovery program and effort. It looks like it’s working with his results from Norway a couple of weeks ago. The horsepower is there!!! See here.

That’s The Way I See It!

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