I was back East for a visit in late May, and was able to grab a day to go visit Kris at his new digs in Campton, NH on Thursday. Kris scheduled his first sustained intensity session of the training season for the afternoon that I was there, so I got to chase him around the back roads of NH for a while as well. It was good to catch-up, really good to see him doing a high quality session, and extra good to chase him around in his new (slightly used) Mini Cooper S.
My wife says that a Mini is a girl’s car, and Emily Nishikawa of the CVTC program here in Squamish seems to agree. But yesterday afternoon Thomsen D’Hont and Pate Neumann (a couple of new CVTC recruits) spotted a Cooper S here in town and exclaimed their appreciation and admiration of it. Chris Werrell seems to be pretty jealous of his girlfriend’s Mini. I’m not sure whether the implicit endorsement of Chris, Pate and Thomsen does anything to counter claims that the Mini is a girl’s car. As for me, when Kris was having second thoughts about actually plunking down the change he called me and asked me to talk him out of buying the thing, so I told him that a Mini is a girl’s car. That might have been the most effective argument I could have employed, but it didn’t work.
Kris might be the only guy out there who bought a Mini because it’s practical. No - really! It gets great milage, and it holds its value better than just about anything. Kris doesn’t need to haul a huge amount of stuff around - ski will need to go in a roof box no matter what he gets. The list of options was pretty short - I think it came down to a Yaris or a Mini. The fact that the Cooper S is really fun to drive seemed to be all it took to send him that direction.
So, I got to chase Kris around in his Mini. It’s British racing green, and just about as loaded with options as it’s possible to get. It was a factory-refurbished car - replaced under warranty originally because the airbag light came on and wouldn’t go off. Kris didn’t order all the options, it just came with them as the best deal going - not that I was complaining on Thursday, mind you. Keeping in mind that this website is about ski training, I’ll refrain from the full product review. I’ll leave it at this: The Mini may be a girl’s car, but so is an Indy car if you ask Danica Patrick. Girl’s car? Maybe. Really cool girl’s car? Definitely. I’m not too proud to drive like a girl.
The Mini isn’t the big purchase in Kris’s life these days. He’s just moved into his new Condo in Campton, NH - about 15 minutes from the ski trails at Waterville Valley, his longtime favorite training venue. The running and rollerskiing in the neighborhood is astonishingly good, and the whole set-up seems ideal. The only person more excited than Kris appears to be his mother who is already booking winter vacations. Anyway, the condo is up to date and recently remodeled. It looks great, but is decidedly empty. Kris has been furniture shopping lately and is really excited to move the futon off the floor and get a table to eat off.
It’s really important for a ski racer to have a life. Kris has lived at home when he’s not been on the road for most of his life. He’s been at his best living at home, and is quick to recognize the support of his parents as a hugely important contributing factor in the success he’s had. But it came time for him to get his own place, and I’m pleased that he’s got a place where the training is good, and he’s happy to relax and recover. It’s good to see him settling into the place - I think he’s quite happy. It’s not necessarily Kris’s nature to be happy. When he was in Whistler he commented to me that he has a lot to be happy about. Skiing is his job. He’s got a great and supportive family, and he’s in love with his girlfriend. Now he’s got a home of his own, not to mention a car that can get him into trouble. Kris has a life and it’s good. Mind you, it’s not advisable to start thinking that he’s lost his edge. He’s not likely to start settling for results that don’t meet his goals and expectations. And he’s as motivated for the sport as he’s ever been.
Training is going very well. The threshold session that I watched looked great - especially by contrast with his race efforts in the second half of the season. He looked energetic and snappy, and was covering ground very quickly. Training volume for this period is high. Not high by the standards of July and August in the past couple of years, but he’ll wind up at about 80 hours for the current three-week training block. The hours are coming easily, and his energy levels are continuing to build as he gets into a routine.
The low-point of Kris’s season came in Fairbanks at the end of March. He was wrecked - really completely finished. Since then he’s been busy. In large part he got rested and recovered - he got is energy back. He started using a new insulin pump that appears to be an extremely powerful tool. He bought a house and a car. He joined the USST for a two-week camp at the 2010 Olympic venue. He went to Park City for a testing camp. And then he came home and moved into his new place. Back in mid-March when he was finishing up the World Cup season this whole agenda was laid out before him and it looked daunting. I would go so far as to say that he was somewhat intimidated, and as we started planning we figured it would be mid-summer before everything was sorted-out and stabilized. It’s all happened quickly, and with nothing but positive impact on his state of health and energy. If anybody had suggested back in Fairbanks that things would be this well settled and looking this positive two months down the road I would not have believed it.
Last season was draining - I think most regular readers of this site got a good sense of that. However, it was incredibly valuable. I find this in skis all the time - identifying a really bad pair of skis doesn’t give you a good pair of skis, but it sure helps to know what you’re not looking for. Last season put some valuable limits into perspective, and I’ll say it again - the 5th place in Kuusamo serves as a reminder that the capacity was there to do great things.
In 1976 Bill Koch got a silver medal in the Olympics at a young age (20 years old). In 2003 Kris was 4th at World Championships as a 22 year old. That Spring I talked to Bill Koch about Kris, and Bill talked about his experience dealing with distractions and expectations after ‘76. He had some crappy years in there, but in 1982, six years after his breakthrough performance at the Olympics, he won the overall World Cup. Next year will be the sixth season after his ‘03 breakthrough performances at U23s and World Championships, and Kris has his ducks in a row. I’ve been hopeful for great performances from Kris for years, but as of now I’m genuinely optimistic.