Four Far West junior girls recently returned home from the National J2 Camp in Sun Valley, Idaho. Katrin Larusson, Laurel Fiddler, Bria Riggs, and Raylene Chew have every reason to feel good about the week they spent training alongside the nation’s best J2 boys and girls. Technique training, an uphill time trial, agility training, and the Canadian Strength Test were all part of the J2 camp experience. It was a week to remember for the training, the Sun Valley scenery, good food, and the new friends that were made.
The second annual J2 Camp, which is partially subsidized by the NCCSEF, was organized and coached by Janice Sibilia (NE), Alison Deines (Jackson Hole), Rick Kapala (Sun Valley), Josh Smullins (Steamboat Springs), and Bryan Fish (USST). Additional coaches and interns from programs around the country pitched in to provide consistent and high quality coaching throughout the week.
Without the defining divisional race suits, the J2 boys and girls who competed against each other at the Minneapolis Junior Nationals looked like fit, athletic kids from anywhere. From Alaska to Maine, these kids just want to train hard, eat good food (and lots of ice cream!), splash in the river, paint their nails (girls), and apply temporary tatoos (boys). Divisional lines were crossed as the group bonded throughout the week during the course of the workouts, tests, and just living together in the Bald Mountain Inn rooms. Sharing meals, riding in the vans, hot springing, and taking part in the evening presentations further solidified the group into a unified and formidable force of J2 talent and determination.
Monday, 8/1 was a travel day with an hour trail run up the Warm Springs side of Baldy. After that, days began at 7:15 with a light jog and stretch session, followed by a hearty breakfast prepared by Chef Doug. Vans were loaded and on the road to the morning workout at 8:30. Tuesday’s workout was a double pole session on the Hailey bike path with some practice on the “Lock and Load” initiation drill and “Lock and Load with a Hop”. Coach Fiddler was assigned a group to ski and work with and was able to draft some good coaching by Bryan Fish. Tuesday afternoon was the dreaded Canadian strength assessment. Standards were strict for the test, but the Far West girls proved that they have done their strength homework and all placed in the top half of the girls group. Everyone learned what areas they needed to work on and all were drenched in sweat by the finish of the 5 exercise test.
Wednesday morning brought the highly anticipated Harper Hill Climb. All athletes were able to preview the bottom of the course in the warm-up and were treated to a view of the top of the 1.7 mile single track climb. Coach Kapala provided a verbal description of the final section of the course, which he claimed was flat (Coach Fiddler did not find it so!). Once again, Katrin, Raylene, and Laurel proved their fitness with finishes all in the top third of the field. Coach Fiddler did a little educating of her own on hill climbing and Bria (not able to run this week) pushed herself with some bike intervals back at the SVSEF clubhouse. It was inspiring to watch all the young athletes pushing themselves in this workout. After a leg soak in the chilly waters of the Wood River, it was back for another sumptuous lunch at the digs, then recovery time. Some of the athletes spent their recovery time riding the bus to town for ice cream at LeRoy’s and shopping, but Coach Fiddler took a nap. The afternoon was a fun skate agility session at Dollar Mountain parking lot. Cones were set up to practice circles, sprint starts, and slaloms. The athletes were either working in the course for 15 minutes or doing easy distance skiing for 15 minutes, with 3 rotations of each. Progress by everyone was witnessed by the coaches, who stood by the different stations encouraging and instructing.
It was back to classic rollerskiing Thursday morning. A distance session with technique stations was set up in the White Cloud development (no cars) and bike paths. Athletes worked for 1:30-2 hours on “Lock and Load” and some striding drills that emphasized the need for keeping the hips forward and not over-striding. The afternoon workout entailed a series of foot agility drills at the Community School Fields. After a high energy warm-up that had the kids leap-frogging, doing push-ups, rolling, and somersaulting, they did a lap through a course that emphasized agility and lower body strength through jumping over hurdles, single leg jumps, cone running and bounding, slalom courses, and more. Coach Fiddler’s legs hurt just to watch! The drills were followed by some exciting flag tag games that involved much sprinting, scheming, teamwork, screaming (girls), and laughing.
Moose Hoof intervals were the order of the day on Friday, so the (finally starting to show signs of wear and tear) athletes loaded up and headed for Dollar Mountain. On the lower slopes of the hill, the coaches set up a cone course that led the skiers up moose-hoofing, then jogging down for recovery on a course that combined “on” times of 30 seconds to about 2 minutes. Athletes were instructed to stay in the course for a continuous 20-35 minutes. Once again, there was a lot of learning, with plenty of coaching support to teach the proper moose-hoof form. It was finally an afternoon off! The kids were given a choice of hanging out, going to town, going to a yoga session with Coach Dan, and going to the hot springs. Some of the kids managed to do all the options. Coach Fiddler took another nap and then went to the movies!
Saturday morning was the moment of truth for the coaches. The athletes’ faces were the preface and the workout told the real story. It was a skate distance and technique session at White Cloud, where, once again, the skiers did distance interspersed with stations of technique practice of “Lock and Loaded” V2 and “Locked and Loaded” V2 with a hop. V1 skiing with an emphasis on keeping feet apart was another technique station where athletes skated and hopped uphill, attempting to keep their feet on chalk lines. For some athletes, the drink stops were longer than the actual rollerskiing, but the Far West girls really worked the entire time, and all learned a lot. It wouldn’t be camp without a real kick butt strength routine, and no one was disappointed in the workout that Coach Kapala put together at the SVSEF gym. Four work stations (each with 5 or 6 exercises) were set up, and groups rotated through each stations training the exercises for 15 minutes per station. Coach Fiddler got tired just watching and catching and throwing the 8 lb medicine ball for an hour.
It was all over but for the over-distance workout. The morning jog routine was shortened and turned into a walk on Sunday morning, which Coach Fiddler used as a ploy to get the girls into breakfast before the boys for the first time all week. The girls all relaxed over french toast, while the boys grumbled and waited for the next batch to appear at the buffet. It was sweet! All week, the feeding frenzy had been intensifying, with each day bringing hungrier and hungrier teen-agers to meals. Even the tiniest kids were throwing down large platefuls of food by the end of the week. Sunday’s workout changed at least 3 times (daily thunderstorms made Coach Kapala about going high) before the group drove north a few miles to do a trail run/hike in the Oregon and Chocolate Gulch areas. Everyone got a workout of between 1:30 and 2:30. The Wood River cool-down never felt so good!
It was an amazing week for all the Far West kids and coach who attended. Evening presentations included topics on Nutrition, Learning to Learn, the USSA Pipeline and Skier Opportunities, Skate Technique, and Goal Setting. For Katrin and Laurel, this was their second year at J2 Camp, and they showed maturity and experience in all the workouts. Katrin was pleased to report no road rash for the week and a solid third place in the time trial. Laurel showed huge technique and fitness improvement over last year and gained many new friends. Bria was forced to make daily decisions about how to train with her injuries and handled each situation very well, ending the week with a 2:20 double pole workout while the others ran in the mountains. This scenario is not as easy as it sounds. Raylene probably got more ski-specific training in a week at camp than she has any week all summer. She proved that San Jose is every bit a Nordic town as Anchorage with her usual positive attitude and 100% effort at every workout.
Far West, Be Proud!