PARK CITY, Utah (June 21) - Sometimes a change of scenery can have a huge - make that HUGE - impact.
Exhibit A: Oregon hosted the first cross country training camp of the season, a two-week mix of snow at Mt. Bachelor and water on the coast that jump-started the preseason training regimen. It was a mix of drills for the mind and body, from on-snow training to team dynamics exercises with the U.S. Ski Team's longtime sports psychologist, Jon Hammermeister, and a few days of dry-land workouts as well as wet-land (i.e., surfing) on the Pacific Coast.
"It was my first time we've done a camp this early," said Olympian Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), who's trained with the Team since 2002.
Head Coach Pete Vordenberg setup the on-snow details while Coach Justin Wadsworth - who lives in Bend - arranged for the training on the Oregon coast. "He's a celebrity down there," Newell laughed, "and knows everyone, so Justin arranged everything for us."
"It was very cool," Newell said, making no reference to the weather. "It was cool to get the whole crew together so we could all dive in 100 percent, make sure everybody's on the same page and motivated...
New training site, new energy
"The change of scene [from the U.S. Ski Team's base in Park City] is important, and it's good at this time of year, just after the season," he added. "It's nice to be able to relax in conditions where it's sunny and warm. Everybody was focused...really, everybody was on-point. One day, the entire team was surfing, and when we're all surfing the same wave, that's definitely pretty cool."
Vordenberg, who took over as head coach after the 2006 Olympic season, following four years as assistant coach, was pleased from start to finish with the twin-site results in Oregon. "Team building is not new; we were just trying to make it more successful. Last year I felt we did a good job with team building - and I think we did a good job with what we set goals on, but we still came only part of the way, so we know that's one area where we need to improve.
"It's really important. Park City has a lot to offer and we take advantage of that, but two or three times a year we'll change the setting. Going to Bend," the coach said, "was awesome - everybody was hammering, and we'll be in New Zealand by the end of July, and in Lake Placid in October. The OTC [Lake Placid's Olympic Training Center] makes it so inexpensive for us, the terrain is so good and it turns out to be such a productive camp out there."
Vordenberg received "incredible" assistance of groomers at Mt. Bachelor after the resort had closed for the season, setting - or smoothing - tracks at the nordic center. "We skied early in the morning, usually pretty early, then ate lunch and trained in the afternoon. Several days," he said, "were unstructured for the athletes to do what they wanted; other days were more social, maybe playing a soccer game or something...but otherwise it was strength work and running intervals, some roller-skiing.
"In evenings we'd do team stuff - meetings, games, we all took turns with groups of three cooking dinner. We rented two houses in Bend, so that allowed more people to live together and that worked well...
Coach: "big emphasis on working together..."
"We kept it pretty simple, nothing too fancy," Vordenberg said. "I think the way we did it made it so successful. We had a big emphasis on working together as a team. We talked about it most nights; one day we had three meetings on team building...
"The skiing was good in Bend, then it was great on the coast - running intervals on an awesome bluff over the water, then a great bike ride. We lifted weights and played around in the water. It totally worked out."
For Newell, the on-snow training was important, especially as he looks to build on his progress a year ago in getting beyond being a sprint specialist. But the team building played out beautifully in Pacific City, finishing an "outstanding" camp on an obvious up note. "We had road bikes, some long rides, and did some running intervals and in our off time everyone went surfing. Everyone," he said.
There was little or no problem with his teammates getting the hang of riding a surfboard, said Newell, who has made countless drives from his home in southwestern Vermont to the New Hampshire beach to rides waves. "They're all such good athletes - and cross country skiers pick up things so fast...but it did get a little cold, so we were in full wetsuits, gloves, boots, all of it. Otherwise, it was sunny, everyone stood up on a board...and it looked like everyone was having a good time. It was a nice change."
Exhibit B: The cross country squad had physical testing in April in Park City to help determine the effect of last season on the preseason conditioning regimen. Vordenberg said the Team will regroup in Park City in mid-July for additional testing before heading to New Zealand for the annual three-week camp at The Snow Farm outside Wanaka on South Island.