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Lessons Learned in Thunder Bay
By:  David Zylberberg   (2004/06/26)

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In the middle of June, I went to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, on the Sibley Peninsula in order to attend a training camp put on by NTDC Thunder Bay and the Canadian National Ski Team. The camp was attended by the entire NTDC with Chris Jeffries, Devon Kershaw, Sean Crooks and Chandra Crawford of the National Team coming as well. Other people who attended were invited based upon results at the 2004 Canadian Championships and coaching was provided by Eric Bailey (NTDC), Lisa Patterson (Lakehead XC), Alain Parent (National Junior Team) and Dave Wood (National Senior Team). The weekend portion of the camp was open to others, and a large number of Thunder Bay Juniors arrived. For the whole week, we were well cared for by a group of volunteers from Big Thunder Ski Club who cooked all of our meals while we stayed in the staff cabins in the park.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Lakehead, Sibley is a large peninsula jutting out into Lake SUperior that helps form the bay on which Thunder Bay lies and makes it a great natural harbour. The peninsula has many small lakes and some rolling climbs but is highlighted by a rock outcropping that looks like a Sleeping GIant when viewed from THunder Bay. One day we ran into the head of the giant and climbed it. This provides a number of spectacular views of Superior, small islands and THunder Bay itself. Other days were spent with more conventional ski training and included a trip to Ouimet Canyon to rollerski (a decent climb to skate legs only).

The training generally consisted of easy distance workouts, with 2 workouts every day and all non-intensity workouts being about 2 hours. The only exception was one day we did a 3.5-4.5 hour run (time dependent on individual) with only 30 minutes of core strength in the afternoon. The day we did an intensity workout, it was 4 x 1600 m at the fastest pace that could be held for all four intervals. Coaches were standing there with stopwatches as we ran out and then back along an 800 m stretch of dirt road. The only thing that mattered when doing intervals was speed, no one checking heart rate or lactates and effort known to be hard. I understand this is a fairly common approach to intervals with the National Team, and its emphasis on speed (the thing we are after when racing) can be learned from. I also realized that it is possible to train hard earlier in the year than many of us are used to (this could be essential for senior athletes since World Championship selection races are in December) and that the National Team is doing so.

The biggest thing I noticed from training with national team members was their approach to training, racing and life. The four skiers who attended were focused in every workout and except for easy running seemed concentrated on maximizing the workout. Other places people were joking around during strength but Chris and Sean would avoid that in order to focus on maintaining a better body position. Also, Chris and Devon appeared to be at a slightly higher level than the rest of us at everything. They were running a little faster and were a little stronger with a slightly faster easy distance pace. The difference in fitness levels is small enough to be bridged but it is important to realize that it exists. Skiers who wish to be faster must get in better shape in order to compete with the Canadian National Team. Devon also emphasized the need to race hard and to put a full effort into racing. This was seen as the most important aspect in skiing fast and can be learned from.

I also noticed that Devon, Sean and Chandra are high energy people who seem to be always doing something. In the evenings after 2 solid workouts, Devon and Ian Murray would put a picknick table on a dock and then huck back-flips into a small lakes. Another day, Devon and Sean got really excited about floating down a creek that crosses a road though a culvert. It is running water and functions like a waterslide. As a result, they went there one day. I just noticed a constant restlessness and search for excitement in those guys, also contributing to the large amounts of rock climbing they do in Canmore and the backflip pictures from Mt Assiniboine. They exhibited a level of energy that I don't often see in slower skiers of a similar age and may provide something to learn from.

Overall, I really enjoyed the camp (as I do every time I am in the North West) and learnt a lot. Normally, I don't like dryland training camps since they seem either pointless or overly focused on education. In this one we trained well and also managed to learn a lot about how the national team approaches things.

 
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