Kelsey Shares Her Story - Summer With The National 2010 Acceleration Team - BC Alpine Ski Association

We know you’ll enjoy this entertaining and detailed account of a summer in the trenches with the national "2010 Acceleration Team" ladies as they prepare like never before for the fast-approaching competition season. We’re not sure how she found the time, but we thank Kelsey Serwa for an enlightening and inspiring tale of what it takes to reach the goals these hardworking athletes have set for themselves!

"The 2010 Acceleration Team of twelve girls from across the county was brought together in hope to prepare us for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The team consists of three girls from BC, four from Alberta, two from Ontario, and three from Quebec:

-Andrea Bliss – Edmonton, AB (Edmonton Alpine Sports Academy)
-Marie-Michèle Gagnon – Lac-Etchemin, QC (Mont Orignal)
-Anya Holinski – Edmonton, AB (Edmonton Alpine Sports Academy)
-Marie-Élaine Lépine – St-Colomban, QC (Mont Tremblant)
-Kelly McBroom – Canmore, AB (Banff Alpine Racers)
-Alexandra Parker – Calgary, AB (Sunshine Ski Club)
-Krystyn Peterson – Mississaugua, ON (Craigleith Ski Club)
-Eve Routhier – Sherbrooke, QC (Mont Orford)
-Kate Ryley – Toronto, ON (Craigleith Ski Club)
-Kelsey Serwa – Kelowna, BC (Big White Racers)
-Georgia Simmerling – West Vancouver, BC (Grouse Tyee Ski Club)
-Elli Terwiel – Heffley Creek, BC (Sun Peaks Alpine Club)

Fitness Testing
May 17-19: The team comes together for the first time for dryland testing held at the University of Calgary, not far from COP. Athletes and staff meet for the first time. Our head coach, Pavel Stastny, has a high reputation and comes from the Czech Republic. Along side Pavel was our new ski technician, Scott Reid. Jean-Francois Belisle and Ryan Jazic are also among the support staff but were missing in action during this first testing period. Testing began early Friday morning. We started out with the basic procedures of measuring blood pressure and taking blood samples for further analysis. Next was the notorious “fat test”. The idea behind this test is to measure our fat to muscle ratio, fat percentages, muscle volume, and tissue volume. This information is calculated after a lovely lady strips you of your clothes and pinches various areas of your body. She then calls out the measurements to her assistant who then writes it all down on a formal document. The whole time you are oblivious to what these numbers mean. Later in the morning we begin our lactate tests which are performed on a stationary bike. Blood samples are taken from our fingers every two minutes to measure the amount of lactic acid being produced by our muscles. The resistance of the bike also increases at periodic intervals every two minutes. It would be nice if this test stopped when we reached a blood lactate level of 6.0, but we continue pedaling until failure. The team continues through the day with some more activities to test our strengths and weaknesses. These include the standard penta-jump, performed on two legs then on a single leg. A squat test is used to measure power output, and a jump mat is used to measure maximum height and quickness. The last test of the day is a 90 sec box test, which can be hazardous near the end of the minute and a half time period when the legs begin to get sloppy. After a rigorous day of testing, all of the girls were thrilled to get back to the hotel to catch some food and sleep. The next morning, each girl had a physical assessment by the team doctor, as well as a mould of her mouth for a custom fit mouth guard. The team trainer, Dave Ellis, also reviewed a new workout plan which the team would be training with for the next two weeks. Testing was finally done, or at least for the next couple months, and now it was time to return home and hit the gym hard.

Training/ Studying at Home #1
May 21-June 21: As intense as our new dryland program was, school was the priority. In my final grade twelve year, it was crucial that I stay on top of my studies. Luckily, I did not have many in-school classes as I was completing some through correspondence. This made it easy for me to stay on top of the extensive dryland schedule. Some of the girls that had already finished their studies moved their belongings to Fernie, BC where they worked out as a team for the two weeks. These girls included Krystyn Peterson from Ontario, Marie-Michelle Gagnon from Quebec, Marie-Elaine Lepine from Quebec, Eve Routhier also from Quebec, and Andrea Bliss from Alberta. The program ran from every Monday through Friday, with Saturdays as an active recovery day, and Sundays completely free. Every Monday included a lower body workout to be performed in the morning, along with a 90 minute mountain bike ride to be performed in the afternoon. On Tuesday’s, an upper body workout and a 45 minute core session was carried out in the AM hours, while fartlek/ field training took place in the afternoon. A grueling aerobic bike ride takes place each Wednesday from 2-3 hours in duration. Thursday’s schedule is another lower body workout and core, as well as some more field training. Fridays are reserved for another upper body workout and 90 minute mountain bike ride. The end of the week is finished with an easy recovery activity every Saturday.

Farnham Camp #1
June 4-10: The time comes when I am finally allowed to take a break from the studies and hit the slope. The team has our first on snow camp scheduled at Farnham Glacier, situated a few hours out of Radium, BC. Because of my graduation dinner and dance, I showed up at the glacier a day later than the rest of the girls. I got a special ride up to the glacier: Lana, one of the ladies working with CODA, picked me up at the Radium Resort and we drove to the checking station where we were picked up and driven to the snow line in a Hummer (this was no H2 either, but the real deal). At the snow line, a snow cat was waiting for us and drove Lana and myself to the base of the camp. Mornings come early at the Glacier with breakfast starting at 5:00am. By 5:45am, everybody is loaded in the Cat’s and the team heads up to the Glacier to begin training for the day. The first few days on snow were strictly to regain feeling for the snow. Ironically, the majority of us were losing feeling in our feet from having to slip on those tight ski boots once again (quite a change from the comfortable flip flops our feet had become accustomed to). On snow, our time was spent doing monotonous drills over and over again. Simple stubby courses were set by Pavel to have us working on basic technique with guided turn lengths. Every day after training, lunch would be prepared for the team in the designated food tent. After lunch, the majority of us would return back to our damp tents to catch up on the shortage of sleep experience the night before. After a revitalizing power nap it was time for some dryland. Dave Ellis created a detailed recovery/ maintenance program for us girls to perform after our day of on snow training. This included some weight lifting as well as plenty of spinning at our individual recovery heart rates, which was created based on our lactate bike tests performed during fitness testing. After six days on snow in the rain, Mother Nature finally gave us a break on the last day, offering clear skies and “hard” snow, at least compared to the slush we had been skiing in the days before. Sunday June 8th, we got off the glacier, packed our things, heading into Radium, and then all went our separate ways home for another two week dryland block.

Training/ Studying at Home #2
June 11-26: There is no rest upon our return from Farnham Glacier. Our coach, Pavel insists that we work out extremely hard the first four days upon returning home. Due to the high altitude training our bodies endured over the previous week, we were able to work more efficiently than before the camp. Therefore, two lowers, an upper and core, as well as a long aerobic bike ride must be completed before a day off was deserved. After the two days rest, the same schedule took place as before: Monday – Friday, Saturday is used for active recovery, and Sunday is completely off. On top of this however was the added stress from the upcoming provincial exams. Because I was taking courses through correspondence, it was my responsibility to have them finished on time and to prepare myself for the finals. No one would believe how relieved I was when I finished my last exam. Twenty-four hours later I was back on the snow doing what I love.

Farnham Camp #2
June 27-July 6: The camp starts out more promising than the last camp as we are supposed to have cool, clear weather for the entire week of the camp. The focus of this camp is SG, with periodic sessions of slalom in between. Due to the amazing conditions, Pavel decided that waking up at 4:30am, and skiing by 6:00am was not early enough. Because of this, our alarm clocks were set an hour earlier for a 3:30am
wake up call. I could do nothing but laugh when I woke up the day after Canada Day because at home it was 2:30am, and no doubt about it, most of my friends were probably returning home for the night, while I was waking up for the day. The next day was a long one, and we ended up skiing for more hours than we slept for the night before. The experience was well worth the tired eyes as we had the opportunity to watch the sun rise into the dark morning sky of the mountains. Skiing by 5:00am does have many perks. At this time, the snow is still frozen from the night before, and we are able safely train speed. As the day progresses, the powerful UV rays from the sun soften up the snow conditions significantly. At this point it becomes a hazard to train on the longer skis, and so we move to the shorter slalom boards. Forty-five second courses are spaced throughout the slope of the glacier. A timing system is set on one of the courses to keep track of speedy runs. Once off the hill, it was time to relax, or at least for a couple of hours before we began our dryland/ recovery spins. From the hill we would eat lunch right away and then head to our cozy, dry rooms to catch a quick cat nap. After a nap, there was usually a trampoline session before dryland, but for entertainment purposes only. We would be doing flips and tumbles when Pavel would step out of the food tent and begin freaking out like a mother who witnesses her child partake in something dangerous. He would yell at us in his European accent, “Be careful! Watch out! Don’t hurt yourselves. After nine days of incredible training on snow it was time to pack our things once again, but instead of heading home, we were heading for Fernie, BC for a four week dryland training block.

Fernie Dryland Camp
July 7-August 3: Although we were extremely fatigued from the last nine days on snow, the girls and I pushed through to take advantage of the extra red blood cells floating in our circulatory systems. Our first task was a three hour bike ride which was supposed to be in our aerobic threshold zones (around 145-155Bpm). Being the competitive athletes that we are, our average heart rates were around 180Bpm. The next day began at 8:00am for an hour and a half trail ride. Later that day, the team hit the gym for a lower body workout. Because we were such a large group of girls, we had to split into two groups of six. The atmosphere couldn’t have been any better. We motivated each other through each rep and each set, pushing ourselves to our limits. This was the tone for the entire camp in Fernie. With one more day to go before our two days off, we could do nothing but dig down deep and fight through the fatigue. Another 90min bike ride, upper body workout, and 45min core workout was the plan for the last day. The next two days were a dream. For the first time in almost two weeks there was no schedule to follow. Not knowing what to do with ourselves, we headed to the park to play some tennis. The next day we began to venture out of Fernie to explore the surrounding lakes in the area. For the next four weeks we would be on a strict fitness schedule from Monday to Friday. The schedule was similar to the workout regime followed at home, but had some supplementary activities added on top. Every Tuesday and Thursday both the men and women’s team would meet at the gym for an intensive core session carried out by Paul, the “Core Killer”. An hour of continuous endurance core killed even the strongest members of the team. At the end of the first session Paul told us our efforts were good, but he had 60 year old women and men doing a better job than we were doing. Of course this was supposed to act as a motivational tool, but the majority of us walked out of the gym feeling defeated and weak. I’m happy to say that the entire team improved 100% from the first class till the last; we would have schooled any elderly persons from the other classes. Every Monday and Wednesday the entire team would meet in the park for yoga. Once again, we made fools of ourselves in the first couple classes, but improved dramatically over the course of the four weeks. Our field sessions were performed in the heat of the day at the near by high school. The coaches loved this because after we would complete a circuit, and then have to sprint around a 400m track to top it off. This continued for 6 sets. It didn’t take long for Dave Elis to discover that we could be pushed harder. So, instead of performing an upper body on Fridays, we substituted sled pulls. Not having done sled pulls before, I had no idea what to expect. Some of the other girls that have done them explained to me that it is not unusual for a person to expel their breakfast after completing a few sets. Basically, there is a metal plate with a pole protruding upwards in the middle of the plate. There are two straps connected to the plate to which act as handles to drag the sled along the uneven, sticky grass. Plates of weights are stacked on the sled to increase resistance. By the last week, one set of sled pulls consisted of various exercises to pull the sled back and forth six times over a 50m length. Altogether we performed four sets of these. One set was equivalent to sprinting 300m while dragging 100lbs behind our backs.

Sounds like fun doesn’t it! Thankfully, they only lasted for an hour or so and then we would have the rest of the day off. However, I have never felt my lungs, legs, and heart burn so bad in such a short period of time. Over the weekends we became more adventurous and discovered some great local spots to go cliff jumping. We discovered this one spot where it was virtually impossible to jump into the water by just running off the slope. Instead, there was a giant rope swing tied onto a tree that hung over the ledge. We all had a few good laughs that day. We also spent some of our free time floating down the river that runs close to our house. Before I knew it, the four weeks of dryland had passed and it was time to pack our things and head home for a short week before making the three week trip to Argentina and Chile."

~ by Kelsey Serwa