Once again, I'm amazed at how much I got out of a weekend with Sten Fjeldheim and 30 other skiers. This is my fourth 2-day clinic with Sten over the past three years, and each time I leave a better skier.
Perhaps what makes Sten so good is that he's not just a coach, he's a teacher - and a darn good one. He knows how to break technique into easily digestible chunks. And what an eye - he can spot minute technique problems in an instant.
The clinic contained skiers who were still learning how to balance on rollerski to some of the best skiers on the Michigan Cup. Everyone went away a better skier.
But enough about Sten...
I had specific goals for the clinic: how had my skate technique improved, and what are the next steps to make it better?
First the good news: The starting position, initiation of poling, the timing of the weight transfer, balance - all pretty good. Driving the knee down and forward - not bad.
Areas for improvement:
Stop reaching my shoulder forward: In V1, when I return my hand on the weak side, I reach my shoulder forward. I need to simply rotate the arm in the shoulder socket rather than move the shoulder. This is different than shoulder twist - I don't twist.
Less pole reach: In V2, my hands are slightly too far forward at the start of the poling - I need to bring them closer to my face to get better leverage.
Forward push-off. In V2, I turn my foot (and ski) parallel to the trail as I sweep my foot in after the push off and the foot is a little behind where it needs to be. I need to push off the skate ski with a forward and upward-at-the-toes motion.
Move rollerski binding: Probably related to the previous item, I need to move the binding back on my rollerskis - or add weights to the front so the rear wheels don't drag. Dragging wheels make you lift you foot which also wastes energy.
Perfect the Dirty Johnson: I need to perfect the "Dirty Johnson." This movement allegedly earned it's name when Andrew Johnson demonstrated it to a group of skiers and coaches. Let's see if I can describe it. The skate movement begins with a crunch of the abs and driving the knee down and forward. As the poles move toward the hips, the hips begin moving toward the poles (pelvic thrust) - literally getting the hips forward. Depending on how much you thrust forward - wa-la! the Dirty Johnson! The Dirty Johnson is used for all skating techniques.
Compress / Dirty Johnson!
NordicSkiRacer teammate Hugh Pritchard has been telling me all year that I needed to do this as well, but I was mostly focusing on timing and knee drive. Going forward, pelvic thrust will be the main technique improvement I'll spend the most time with.
Bonus: Classic Technique
Diagonal stride: surprise! First time I've ever been coached doing diagonal stride on rollerskis. Because you have perfect kick on rollerskis, it's very easy to use poor technique and develop poor habits, and most coaches recommend against it.
Sten thought I had pretty good technique and suggested I would be more efficient if I took advantage of free glide on easier uphills. At the end of a kick, when all the weight is on the gliding ski, he says to begin poling before the next kick. Use the arm to maintain or generate momentum, then kick. He says this makes all the difference, because it gives you a chance to relax without losing speed.
I now have a set of action items to work on before I get on snow in West Yellowstone in November.