22 Reasons You Need a Team

I recently wrote a short article as part of the new USSA’s coaches manual. I was addressing ways of taking a competition day and making it a learning experience instead of a nervous stress-fest. You know…set small goals, focus only on what you can control, like your warm-up…but in the process of writing it I realized that the biggest part of making racing fun again was to embrace cross-country skiing as a team sport, not an individual one. Aside from relay days, it’s very easy to assume that xc skiing is a selfish endeavor and one can do it without a team, but this could not be farther from the truth. I need my teammates to push me to be the best that I can be, and in turn I challenge them to exceed their expectations. We support each other’s good races, and help each other through challenging ones. When I am having a bad day, there is always someone on the team having a good one that can pull me into their positive mindset, and I do the same for my teammates. And when I am racing, if I need more motivation I remember that the depth of a team is important and it’s up to each of us to work together and score points for our country. This was as true for me when I was racing in high school trying to help our team qualify for state as it is now when I race World Cups, trying to score points for the Nations Cup. A big part of taking the pressure off of race day while finding motivation and fire for racing is to see it as an opportunity to help my team, to be part of something larger than just myself.

So, in honor of Anne Hart’s latest Birthday (22 years old! Yay!) Here are 22 reasons why you, me, and everyone in the world needs a team.

1. Who else is going to plan a stylish birthday celebration for you, no matter where you are in the world?

Annie turned 22 last week!

2. Someone to challenge you in intervals. Because everyone on the team is the best at one type of workout, and there will always be someone else to follow when you’re working on your weaknesses. Everyone has something to learn from someone else on the team!

Doing sprint starts with the SMST2 team (photo from Pat)

Learning agility from Andy (photo from Matt Whitcomb)

3. Because cooking for one sucks.

Packer carving the turkey at one of our team Thanksgiving parties

4. When you are having a bad day, there will always be someone who is having a good day who can pull you into their good mood!

Andy serenading Sylvan when he got sick

5. Because then you have other people to blame when the van smells like dirty boots…it’s not just you!

On our way to surf in Maine...first year of SMST2 team

Soooo....who's turn was it to clean the room again? (Ida and I in the famous OTC in Lake Placid)

6. You have a reason bigger than yourself to push hard and race fast for.

Our first relay team podium, in Gallivare (photo by USSA)

7. You have other people’s successes to celebrate alongside your own, because you helped them train and they helped you achieve your goals.

Jumping for joy (and Sophie's Birthday) at Spring Series

Kik and I after the 2013 WC Team Sprint (photo by USSA)

8. The hard days aren’t so hard when you have friends by your side. The intervals in the pouring rain, the long runs when it’s hot out, the epic sprint simulations are all less painful and more satisfying with a team around you.

Liz and I at the top of Alpe Cermis after the 2014 Tour de Ski

Ida, Sadie and Sophie celebrate a loooooong uphill ski with a treat!

Going on a cold windy run together in Oberhof, Germany last winter

9. Teammates will always come up with funny ideas and things to keep you guessing.

Packer and Liz making 3D models of their feet (photo by Packer)

Skyler and Eric doing "that girly jumpy photo thing" in Quebec

10. They make being away from home and on the road for months at a time an epic, fun adventure.

"Christmas orphans" gift party in Davos last year

Road trip to daily training in Oslo!

11. They spot you when you need money for impulse-buy chili dogs.

Ben visiting the famous roadside stand near Windham, VT

12. It’s more fun organizing community events when there’s a lot of people to help you run them!

Fast and Female team for the August event in Stratton (photo from Lilly Caldwell)

13. What’s the point in having a sweet, totally sick suit if you’re the only one wearing it?

Team cheer before the 2014 Spring Series (photo by Rob Whitney)

14. They pick you up when you need it. Sometimes, they literally hold you up.

Finishing the team relay at 2014 Spring Nationals (photo from Annie P.)

15. Let’s be honest…nobody ice-tubs by themselves

Kikkan and Liz rock-paper-scissors over who has to get in the cold tub first

16. They support you when you feel the need to do some dorky stuff

Ben's fabulous 4th of July getup

Valentines Day ski outfit (photo from Kikkan)

17. They get you places

Ok, so usually it's our awesome coaches and wax techs driving the vans...(photo from Sophie)

Fish and Randy getting ready to drive our big cargo van full of skis and bags!

18. They always keep you laughing

Best van ride ever...Tour de Ski 2013 (photo from Holly)

Grover (photo from Chris Grover)

19. They are your family

My first Christmas away from home...before my first Tour de Ski with the team!

True families photo-bomb each other

20. Nobody can do this by themselves

Cork and Zach waxing at 2013 World Champs (USSA photo)

Matt risking the health of his lungs for us at the Olympics (Caldwell photo)

21. Because cheering at ski races is a fun, stylish and exciting venture and it’s way more fun when you are personally invested in the people racing.

Holly out cheering at World Champs in Italy (Caldwell photo)

22. Because without these guys to keep us in line we’d probably go crazy!

Matt and Cork (although Grover and Fish and Pat are included in this general theme)

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All the small things

Math isn’t my strong suit. It never has, never will be, and that’s ok. But even my mathematically-challenged mindset can’t deny that all the little things that happen over the course of training, living, interacting, coaching and general tomfoolery add up. It’s so hard to find out what the real workload is that you’re putting on your body, because life is a lot more than just training and racing!

It’s the little details that build me up and make me happy. It’s also little details that slowly wear me down over time and tire me out. Sometimes there’s a lot of overlap…the things I need to do to be happy also wear me out if I don’t take a break. In the end, I figure you are your own best coach because only you know what it’s like to be inside your head and your body, and it’s up to you to decide if you need to be training smarter, harder, resting more, or doing some non-skiing activities.

Beautiful sunny skiing!

This week, I found out that I needed to take a break from all my extra-curriculars and just spend more time resting in-between skiing. A month’s worth of really fun adventures and things that I would not take back eventually caught up to me, and it was time for a little more rest. So, I seized the opportunity! It’s funny how I didn’t realize how badly I needed to take a little time off until I took it. The rearview mirror is always 20/20, right? So, 12 episodes of Gossip Girl later…I feel a whole lot more rested.

And then there are the days we get rained on during long runs!

We make the most of it though...puddle jumping when it's soggy outside!

And of course there's always time to warm up by the fire afterwards

This past week I was on a slightly different training plan than most of the team, but still joined the key sessions. We had an epic 24 hours of pouring rain, and then some really nice training days as well. Best of all, the Stratton Mountain School was hosting their BKL camp and Junior camps this week! We did Q&A with the kids, helped lead some technique and agility sessions, and watched their skits at the end of the week.

Q&A time with the Stratton Junior camp!

Simi leads a smaller guys group in some more Q&A

One pretty cool workout we did on a closed road, and the Junior skiers came to watch and then do their own version of the workout. We were doing L4 intervals, sprint-style, and worked on skiing in a tight pack and staying controlled while poles and skis were flying everywhere. It was really fun to have the Junior campers there cheering us on!

Girls group warming up with Pat taking video on the bike (photo by Lilly)

Our SMST2 guys and the Canadian guys mixing it up in a sprint (photo by Lilly)

SMS Juniors lining the side of the road at BMD. Best interval cheerleaders ever!

Signing the camp t-shirts on the last day! (photo by Pat)

One little detail that has really been adding up to some great results this summer is all the video Pat has been doing with us. Coach O’Brien has some mad skills when it comes to biking next to a pace line of skiers while simultaneously cheering and shooting video. It’s great instant feedback, and good to look over later and see things I need to work on with my technique. For example, check out this still frame from our L4 intervals. When I get tired or am trying to sprint really fast, I forget to utilize my core and I get this sway-back going on. It’s not that efficient, and it’s something I’m working on changing. The video helps me see what I really look like, not just what I think I look like in my head (hint…in my head I look like a TOTAL ROCKSTAR).

Still-frame from our video feedback from intervals last week.

The other cool part about the video is that Jason Cork, our USST coach who writes my plans, can see it and talk with me about what I’m working on. Matt Whitcomb, our USST women’s coach, can also stay up to speed with how my technique is progressing. And the three of us can talk with Pat on what technique cues I’m going to be focusing on for the week, and Pat can help remind me during workouts and make sure I execute them well. It’s a pretty awesome system!

-JD

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