Thursday, August 25, 2016

Playa Time

I'll be out in the desert for a little while, so don't expect to see much on this blog until after Labor Day.

In the meantime, check out this audio report from Mario's mountaineering trip last spring:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trond Will Be The New Head Coach At The NTG In Lillehammer

I first met Trond Flagstad in Seward on Independence Day. It must have been close to twenty years ago.  Trond and his girlfriend Lindsey had recently moved to Alaska from Vermont. Trond had come to Vermont from Norway to visit a friend of mine, Flash, against whom I'd grown up racing against in the '70's and who, like me, had lived in Norway for a while in the '80's to try to learn how to ski faster. (Back in those days, if you were an American who wanted to be a fast skier, you went and spent some time paying your dues in Scandinavia. When I was on the national team, I guess about half of us had learned to speak Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish as a result of our having spent significant time living there.) Anyway, Trond and Lindsey showed up on the lawn in front of the church in Seward on Independence Day, and after watching the Mt. Marathon race, Trond told me he thought it looked like fun and he said he'd like to try it someday. About ten years later, he entered the race and won.

Trond had been a fast skier in Norway, chasing the national circuit around, and came to the US with a degree in physical education. But during his first few years in Alaska, he was working as a carpenter, framing houses all year round. The house-building job was pretty energy-draining and he didn't have much time to get out skiing. He and Lindsey were living in a tiny one-room cabin without running water in the mountains behind Eagle River. When an assistant ski coaching job opened up at UAA in 2001, Trond applied for and got the job. Eventually he moved into the head Nordic coaching position and then he finally became the Head Ski Coach at UAA. One thing that happened when Trond stopped framing houses and started coaching at UAA was that suddenly he was spending a lot more time on skis. And before long, the word around the team was that no matter how fast the UAA athletes raced (and they got some good results, with a bunch of NCAA podium finishes over the years) there was a prevailing feeling that the fastest guy in the UAA Ski Team van was probably the coach. 

Head Nordic Coach Trond with Assistant Nordic Coach Eric Strabel
Soon after Trond became the UAA Nordic Coach, he asked me if I'd like to come and do occasional workouts with the team from time to time, particularly interval workouts and time trials. I guess he thought that maybe I could help make things a little more aggressive and competitive during those types of workouts. Of course I was very happy to have a group to do some workouts with, so I showed up once or twice a month for a few intervals or a time trial or whatnot. As the years went by, Trond invited me to gradually become more and more involved, and eventually I found myself traveling to the NCAA Championships, to training camps, and to various other races to help Trond and Mandy with waxing and whatever needed doing. Gradually, I'd sort of morphed from the team's training partner to "volunteer assistant to the assistant coach". 

I guess it was about five years ago that Trond decided to leave the college coaching scene behind and put his teaching degree to work by becoming a high school teacher. He's been working for the Anchorage School District as a physical education teacher ever since. 
Out in the mountains - Trond's favorite place
But Trond's not one to stay in one place for too long. This summer, Trond accepted a job as the Norwegian Elite Sports School (Norges Topidrettsgymnas) head ski coach in Lillehammer. This is the place where many of Norway's promising young skiers try to go from being good to being great. It's quite a vote of confidence to be selected for the head coaching job at the NTG. We know how serious Norwegians are about their skiing, and they're putting their future national team skiers in Trond's care. The hallmark of Trond's coaching style at UAA was his infectious enthusiasm for the simple pleasures of just "going skiing" and his excitement about ski racing - anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. On race mornings at UAA, Trond could never sit still. He was always eager to get out there and start getting after it! I'm sure he'll bring the same excitement to the NTG because it wasn't like Trond needed to try to "fire himself up" for our team practices or races - his excitement about skiing and the outdoors is just a part of him. It's an ingrained aspect of his personality that he couldn't lose if he tried. Those kids at the NTG will soon find out how fortunate they are to have such an enthusiastic supporter with them in the start pen!

Trond grew up just 20 minutes south of Lillehammer, so it'll be a homecoming of sorts. It's good timing for Trond and Lindsey, too, as their children are getting to the age where their parents would like them to be immersed in Norwegian culture for at least a few years, and learn to speak the language fluently (Lindsey is already a fluent Norwegian speaker). The last time I hung out with Trond and Lindsey was a few weeks ago at the Modest Mouse show at the Moose's Tooth, and they both seemed pretty excited about this coming year. Congratulations on the new job, Trond! The UAA Ski Team sends best wishes with the Flagstad family in this new opportunity!