Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cross-Country Coaching

The snow is piling up like frosting on a birthday cake out there. Apparently Punxsutawney Phil’s weather forecasting abilities do not cover northern New Hampshire, because I’m doubting that the three or four feet of snow we’ve got on the ground right now is going anywhere soon. I know, Mother Nature can be fickle, and it could all melt away, but for now I’m relishing all the winter fun to be had.

The Nordic (cross-country) conditions at Bretton Woods have been nothing short of perfect lately. This past weekend, the temperature was moderate and the snow was fast. I had the opportunity on Sunday to take a lesson with Dave McGraw to work on my skating technique as I prepare to race in the Mount Washington Cup on March 13.

I’ve been skate (freestyle) Nordic skiing for about seven years, but I had never taken a real skate lesson and had found myself in a rut. There are several techniques that a skate skier can use to propel themselves through the snow, but somehow I got comfortable doing just one, and now the “V1” is all I know how to do.

Without getting too technical, mostly because I’m worse at explaining the different techniques than I am at actually doing them, using more than one skating technique will make getting around the cross-country trails much easier for me. As Dave explained to me, the “V1” is like first gear: great for getting started or going up hill. But the “V2” and “V2 alternate” add more gears to your motor as you speed up.

In the "V1," you ski with offset poles and power your push from one side. First, Dave had me practice really loading the push from that one side, to take full advantage of the rebound that push would give me to propel me forward.

Next we spent some time practicing the "V2," where you push and pole equally on both sides, but I have to admit that my old habits kept me from making it very far. Dave was really patient with me, and although I couldn’t quite get it, he broke the arm and leg movements down into steps that I can visualize, so at least I know what I’m working towards now. We also worked on switching dominant sides for the "V1," which will help me with balance and versatility.

I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the trails to practice what I’ve learned. Isn’t it great to know that we can take something we’ve been doing for a while and see it with a fresh perspective? Sure, I felt a little (okay, a lot) silly as stumbled over myself, poles flying in awkward directions, as I tried to manage some new moves on the snow, but I think with some patience and persistence, it will get easier. The payoff: a more efficient ski, a little more balance in my life, and perhaps a little more finesse out there.

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