Historically, a group heads out for a short post-meeting rollerski after
each annual Michigan Cup Committee meeting. It was our good fortune that Eli
Brown, former Nordic coach for the University of Utah, attended, and joined
Frank Rylanski, Curt Peterson, and I for the rollerski.
We rollerskied north on North McMasters Bridge Road, starting at the canoe
parking lot where the road crosses the North Branch of the AuSable River. Eli
set a pretty fast pace right from the start. This is Curt's first day out on
rollerskis for the season, and my third. Frank, on the other hand, is being
coached by Eli and has tons of rollerskiing under his belt.
McMasters Bridge Road has pretty nice pavement all the way to Down River Road
where it ends. We headed west on Down River for a few minutes before turning
around and heading back. (Down River Road's pavement is not the best....)
Since southeast Michigan has exactly zero coaches, I was not going to let
this opportunity pass...
Frank Rynalski, Eli Brown, and me on North McMasters Bridge Road east of Grayling Michigan. (Photo by Curt Peterson)
"Coach Eli," I say as we turn south on McMasters, "You've seen me ski now.
Anything I should be doing differently?"
No hesitation: "You need to make two fundamental changes to the way you
"You need to start your doublepole arms higher and
generate much more force at the beginning of the poling, and you need to skate
directly out to the side rather than back".
A discussion on technique ensued...
I will paraphrase here, and hopefully won't misrepresent what Eli said.
The older style of doublepole had a more even distribution of power starting
with the abs crunch, the use of the lats, and a follow through with the triceps.
The hands would end up well behind the skier.
The new doublepole is all about an aggressive pole plant initiation, with the
elbow at a 90 degree angle, the upper arms at a 90 degree angle out from the
body, and a forward lean at the ankles. At this point, the poles tips are well
above the snow (or pavement in this particular case). Then BAM! the upper body
drops hard on the poles at a high velocity. Power is at the peak spike as the
poles hit the snow, followed by a hard pull by the lats. The triceps do little.
The hand movement ends beside the body instead of behind it. Immediately, the
hands go back up high for the next pole plant.
The old style of doublepoling, because the power phase last so long, limits
the cadence of poling.
The new doubelpole, because the power phase is powerful and short, and
because the arm movement ends sooner, allows for a much faster cadence, up to 90
pole plants per minute.
So I spent the next mile or trying to get my poles high enough and the pole
plant powerful enough. I realized right away that the muscle used to raise my
arms high were going to need some strength work.
Skate to the side
The second tip was to push the skating ski directly to the side and not to
the rear at all. This surprised me, not that pushing to the rear was wrong, but
that I was not already pushing to the side. I have certainly practiced this. We
did not discuss skating very much, but pushing back loses power.
I actually knew about the new doublepole and about pushing to the side, and I
have worked to change my technique, but it's really hard to know if you're doing
things right unless you have an expert looking at you. Obviously I need
additional technique work. Thank goodness I asked an expert!
Advice to anyone: if you have the opportunity to ski or rollerski with a
coach like Eli Brown, or Cassidy Edwards, or Nick Baic, or any other coach, ask
them for a quick review of you technique: "What's the one thing you'd recommend
I change to be a better skier?"
If you have an opportunity to attend a technique clinic, take it. Better
technique means faster more efficient skiing.
And if you live near a coach who provides long term coaching, try to take
advantage of it, especially if you're serious about becoming a better racer.