Jan. 3, 2011
SEATTLE - The Pacific Northwest offers one of the more stunning and unique training environments for rowing. Conibear Shellhouse is the state-of-the-art home of the Huskies' crew program. Nevertheless, both teams took to the road to mix up their winter training regimen in preparation for the spring sprint season.
While the women's team made their annual trip to the U.S. Olympic complex in Chula Vista, Calif., the men traveled across the Snoqualmie Pass to the Methow Valley, where cross-country skiing was used as a substitute for ergs and barbells. The lung-busting activity is one of the best cardiovascular sports around, and like rowing, requires athletic synchronization of the arms and legs.
Keeping with the ethos of his training philosophies, men's coach Michael Callahan had his team competing in a variety of activities. There was a 10,000-meter race, along with a biathlon (cross-country skiing + rifle shooting) competition. The challenge with the biathlon comes with trying to steady your heart rate and the rifle after skiing hard to the target.
"We are in a phase of our training where we are building aerobic fitness and XC skiing is the best sport in the world for that goal," Callahan said via email from Winthrop, Wash.
Traveling to San Diego has been one of the carrots offered to select rowers in the past, but Callahan wanted to offer something more unique to the state of Washington. It helped that Winthrop, one of the top areas for XC skiing, is only a few short hours away by van. Callahan noted the community, which is home to dozens of winter athletes, embraced the rowers. The Mazama Country store offered the Huskies a Holiday Bowl watching venue, along with plenty of root beer floats.
"I think the guys really appreciate this opportunity, the beauty of the landscape, new challenges to concur and with being with each other," Callahan said. "We are in small cabins, cooking for each other like a family, cheering our Huskies on to a Holiday Bowl victory and getting fitter. We are gaining a lot from this experience."
As the trip in the Methow Valley came to a close, Callahan instituted another one of his typical post-training/race challenges - win the BBQ.
"It's a New Year and we are making our resolutions together in the mountains as a team," Callahan said.
Women's coach and Bob Ernst took his team for the first of two trips to the San Diego area to train at the ARCO Olympic Center on Otay Lake, which is the new full-time home of USRowing. The team will return in April for the celebrated San Diego Crew Classic. Under warm sun on glass water conditions, the team has a stress-free training environment to build fitness for the spring season. Ernst refers to the trip as a "re-entry program," designed to acclimatize the athletes to the hard work in the coming weeks.
The trip also affords the selected student-athletes a chance to refine and hone their technique on the water, a level of personalized coaching that isn't always available during the season. Workouts were split between the water and on land, where trainer Wade Soenksen had the athletes focusing on flexibility and core strength.
"I was really impressed with how prepared everyone was," Ernst said. "We got down to San Diego and it just clicked off."
There was plenty of downtime as well. Ernst added that a large contingent of rowers made their way to Qualcomm Stadium to attend the Holiday Bowl. On New Year's Eve, the group spent some time at Mission Beach, where one of the rowers (New Zealand native Kirstyn Goodger) taught some impromptu surfing lessons.
"The kids just had the best time," Ernst said. "The weather down there was perfect. No complaints at all. Everybody got a lot of attention with three coaches there. It was good."