Saturday, July 9, 2011

Park City Testing and Rookie Camp

I just returned from my first testing camp in Park City, UT.  We do a lot of testing in Craftsbury and it’s usually something that I really dislike but with lots of new tests planned, I was much more excited than usual.  The schedule for this testing was intense and comprehensive with VO2max and submax treadmill tests taking the priority but flexibility, strength, mobility, body composition, blood tests, bone density, concussion baseline testing, and physicals filling in the the rest of the schedule.  The USST has a sports science staff with physiologists, strength coaches, physical therapists, and nutritionists so I went into the camp with an open mind and was excited to see what I could learn and hoping to expose myself to all the available resources.
This trip also was my first visit to USSA’s Center of Excellence or COE and I was very impressed.  The building has a giant gym and weight room, recovery room with hot and cold baths, pool, sauna, and steam room, full kitchen stocked with lots of great recovery and training food at the athlete’s disposal, basketball court, rehab and physical therapy room, skate park and trampoline room complete with a huge foam pit, living room, and a couple floors of offices, conference rooms, etc.  The walls were covered with pictures of Olympic and World Cup medalists making it a pretty motivating place.  The COE is also surrounded by running and mountain bike trails as well as roads for rollerskiing on so it is definitely an awesome training center.
The COE has two treadmills for rollerskiing.  Sadie and I are warming up for a test tests on one of them.  Skiing on a treadmill was a little tricky at first but with some practice I got used to it and actually felt like I was rollerskiing.  Still it was easy to get tripped up or get shot off the back as the fatigue set in or the grade and speed of the treadmill really got turned up so during the tests we were hooked up to a harness set to catch a falling athlete.
Here I am during one of the classic rollerski tests.  We did three tests on the treadmill during the two testing days.  We did submax tests in both classic and skate in which we skied 4 minute stages at increasing treadmill speeds and had our lactate and oxygen saturation levels measured at the end of each stage.  These tests provided information about our individual training zones showing the heart rate and lactate levels corresponding to each zone.  By doing the same test with each technique it showed the differences in efficiency between classic and skating.
We also did a VO2max test on the treadmill.  The protocol for this test was a consistent treadmill speed but the grade of the treadmill increased every minute until you could no longer keep up and were thrown off the back.  It wasdefinitely a weird feeling to hit that breaking point!  The original plan was for these tests to be done with supplemental oxygen to mimic training at sea level or whatever elevation one spends the majority of their training time but that system was having some problems so we all ended up testing at the altitude of the COE or about 6800′ feet.
We also did a lot of strength and mobility tests which were designed to pinpoint specific muscular strengths and weaknesses that could then be used to design an individual strength plan.  The tests included lots of weird exercises.  Some movements were quite easy while others looked like they should be really easy but ended up being impossible to do.
For this test, they loaded up a bar with more weight than they expected we could lift we stood on a plate that measured the amount to force we exerted while attempting to squat the bar.  Apparently in the past and there have been a few athletes that have been able to stand up but I can’t say the same happened for me.  Try as I might, that bar was not going to budge.
We also did lots of jumping exercises on the force plate.  Sadie and I did this test together immediately after watching the ski jumping girls train so we were feeling a little embarrassed about our “ups” or lack their of.  By the end of the test we had mastered the camera angles to get the best shots.  This one actually looks like I’m kind of off the ground while some of the other attempts were not as successful.
For this last part of the strength test, muscle contraction speed and force was measured as we jumped off a box, onto the force plate, and then as high into the air afterward.  More boxes were added to change the starting height and by the end I was feeling like I was taking quite a leap.
By the end of the two days, I had a big packet of data and results.  Since most of these tests were completely new it was a lot of baseline information whichI will be able to build upon and use for comparison with future tests.  Testing has never been my favorite part of the training process as I personally don’t like to get too caught up in the numbers and scientific side of training, preferring instead to base my judgement on how my body feels.  But its very important for Pepa and the other coaches who actually design the training plans to have this data so I was glad to have this opportunity and definitely learned some new things.
After the testing was done, the rest of the new USST athletes from all the disciplines (42 in total from Freestyle, Alpine, Snowboarding, Free skiing, Nordic) showed up for Rookie Camp.  This is a three day fastpaced introduction into everything that USSA has to offer which is quite a lot.  We learned about USADA, media training, USSA education and career services, nutrition, sports psychology, marketing, events, fundraising, sponsors, and probably a lot of other stuff that I’m blanking on right now.  It was incredibly busy.  I felt like we went non-stop with presentations, team building activities, workouts, meals, and more, from when we left the hotel at 6:45 am until we got home around 9pm each night. Here are some pictures from that section of the camp.
Huge thanks to Adam Korzan, the USST nutritionist, who cooked amazing meals for us and always kept the kitchen and fridge at the COE very well stocked with great recovery food.
Jessie and Skyler fighting for the ball during an afternoon of soccer at Rookie Camp
My soccer skills were pretty rusty so I tried to stay far away from contact and ended up running around in circles without being any help to my team.
We did a ropes course one afternoon as a team building exercise.  Here I am with Mikaela Shiffrin, an alpine skier from Burke, during a blindfolded traverse of one of the elements.
Sadie and Jessie up in the air together– not sure where they are going from here…
Really fun to meet all the athletes and everyone else at USSA.