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Beautiful Fall Day for Skate Clinic

Sun, Oct  15, 2006 - By Mike Muha

Clinic Sponsors:
The Best!

I arrive in Gaylord late Friday afternoon and check into my room at the Otsego Club. I first check out the facilities for tomorrow's Skating Technique Clinic with Coaches Sten Fjeldheim and Jenny Ryan. The Sitzmark Room at the Otsego Club is large and spacious, with huge windows facing down the alpine area and into a valley of colored leaves at their peak color. It's beautiful in the late afternoon sun.

There are flat areas outside for strength and balance drills tomorrow, and the downhill slope will be great for working on some skating drills.

My room turns out to be nice, too. Although Otsego is on older resort, the room is large and comfortable (hmmm, plenty of room to setup a wax bench in the winter).

I change clothes and head off to Aspen Park to get a rollerski in - and to see how many leaves are on the pavement for tomorrow's rollerski portion of the clinic.

Pre-Clinic Rollerskiing

Glen Goodman arrives and we skate around the park for about 20 minutes, Glen's young son riding behind on his bike. I haven't trained much this week, so I want to maximize this session by doing some VO2 Max intervals (intervals at 90% or higher of my max heart rate). Glen is game, and we do three 4 minute intervals, being a little careful on a couple sections of the path covered with leaves. The leaves are totally dry, so they don't actually cause much of a problem.

The next morning, I move HEED coolers into the lodge and the Otsego staff volunteer to fill them with water. While I wait, I carry in a couple of other boxes of handouts and door prizes from Hammer Nutrition. After the coolers were filled, I stir in the HEED mix so people could fill up their water bottles and I was done setting up. Breakfast!

By 7:30, there were about a dozen of us chowing down on an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet at the Otsego club, only a few steps aways from the clinic: made-to-order omelets and waffles, eggs, meats, potatoes, fruit, pastries - tons of food, and only $8.00! Ah, the good life...

At 8:15, I welcomed Sten and Jen to the Sitzmark room and we finish setting up. Several participants arrive a few minutes late - they underestimated the time it took to get from Traverse City and other locations - so we started just a little late.

First Order of Business

After introductions and thanks given to sponsors Hammer Nutrition, Joseph Gollinger (for the CASCO Nordic Eyewear giveaway), and Dick Fultz of the Cross Country Ski Shop for his support over the years of NordicSkiRacer and the NordicSkiRacer-produced clinics, we got underway.

Sten first talked about terminology to make sure we all understood the difference between the various techniques, a hang pole vs. push pole, etc. He then showed examples of V2, V2-Alternate and V1 skating technique by playing videos from the last Olympics. Next, he and Jen demonstrated the various the techniques on foot in front of the classroom, including using props to show the angles you want to attain while skating.

Sten shows proper positioning for V2: ankles flexed, knee forward, hips forward.

We next head outside for a warm up run while Sten and Jen setup hurdles for strength, balance, and plyometric drills. Some of the drills were familiar to participants at the June NordicSkiRacer clinic, but many were new. Beside a large number of hurdle drills, Sten and Jen demonstrated exercise that could be done with medicine balls, Swiss balls, and various balance disks.

Doing the Can-Can over hurdles for strength, balance, power.

We then climb part way down the Otsego Club's downhill slopes to a grassy area with a gentle slope to continue technique drills. The coaches are adamant about making sure we are in the correct body position as we practice each skate technique. Start wrong and the rest of the skate falls apart as well.

We stepped through each skate position, over and over and over again, with Sten or Jen looking at each individual and gently correcting errors.

Dryland drills: stepping through V2 from start to finish, breaking the technique into progressive components.

We climbed back up the hill and drove off to Aspen park to rollerski. This pre-lunch session was on V2. After warming up, Sten went through another iteration of explaining V2 technique - the fourth time - to ensure everyone had the right image. It was then video time. Each skier was recorded at least twice going  up a gentle hill. Several skiers on fast rollerskis had some problems keeping balance on a flat section of the uphill. Between the first video and the second, Sten had us try to ride the gliding ski as long as possible to learn  how to get your weight committed to one ski. His mantra: bring the hip to the ski, not the ski to the hip.

Running late, we rushed back to lunch. I was a little worried that lunch would already be served and cold by the time we arrived. The folks at the Otsego Club waited for us, however, and we had a great meal. (Several of us were ready to take a nap after that meal...). Door prizes that included Casco Nordic Eyewear and containers of HEED were given away as skiers ate the last of the cookies.

Winners of Hammer Nutrition's HEED High Energy Electrolyte Drink, 32-servings size:
Michael Seaman, Kip Knight, Susan Joslin, and Frank Rynalski.

Grand Prize Winner of a pair of CASCO Nordic Eyewear: Mike Tarnow, President of the Traverse Nordic Ski Club. Congratulations Mike!


We returned to Aspen Park for more rollersking, this time V2-Alternate and V1. More practice runs, Jen or Sten working extensively with each skier - one on one - in their attempt to master technique. More video taping, each skier wondering how they'd look on tape.

At Aspen Park, getting ready to video tape everyone's V2-Alternate.

Back to the Otsego Club to view the video. We got through an extensive analysis of our V2 rollerskiing, but by the time we started on V2 Alternate, it was getting close to the official clinic closing time of 5:30. In fact, we didn't get through all the video analysis until 6:30pm! Several people had to leave before they saw their final footage.

I was gratified to see I had actually improved since June. On V2, I was finally getting my hips forward at the start of the pole, although I still tend to sit back too long during the poling motion - I need to move my hips forward earlier in the skate. I also need my elbow up higher and more away from my body at the beginning of the poling motion.

On V1, my skis needed to be wider apart at the start of the skate up a hill - I'm bringing my feet under my hips rather than moving my hips over my ski. My weak arm needed to be a little more out to the side - it was too in front of my chest so my poling motion was too much to the side instead of back and parallel to the ski trail. I had good ankle flexion, but tend to sit down in that position - I need to stand up more while still maintaining the forward bend at the ankle. Finally, I let my hands go too far behind my back - my poling motion was too long.

After we cleaned up the room, paid the Otsego Club, and packed our cars, it was 7:00pm. Sten and Jen jumped in their vehicle for the long drive back to Marquette; I headed off in search of food before my 4 hour drive back to the Detroit area.

I'm now looking forward to improving my technique the rest of this fall, in time for the Michigan Cup!