Kamloops Training Camp 2011

Over the past ten days I have taken a trip back in time. I returned to my former home and training partners. I returned to working with my coach in person. I returned to the routine of a life 100% focused on training. In other words, I returned to Kamloops.

After nearly a year away from coach Bondarchuk, I needed to touch base with him. We talk or exchange emails every week, but that isn’t the same as getting in person feedback from him. The feedback is something he also needs, since it is also difficult for him to determine my progress without observing me first hand.


Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 1)

One of the most overlooked names in coaching circles is that of Derek Evely. His coaching career has been going strong for more than fifteen years. After successful stops in Kamloops and Edmonton, he is now the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre, one of the country’s two national training centers as the UK prepares to host the 2012 Olympics.

Evely has been in the U.K. since 2009. While his new role is as an administrator, he has also found time to start coaching the throws again and apply the concepts he learned from Bondarchuk and others. In his first season working with Sophie Hitchon, Evely guided her to a World Junior Championship. Now in their second season together, Hitchon has already broken the U.K. senior record with a throw of 69.43 meters and she is still a teenager.

Since my experience with Bondarchuk has been almost exclusively from an athlete’s point of view, it was great to talk with Derek on Sunday about how he applies the methods as a coach. Below is an abridged version of our conversation.

As demonstrated in my throw with the 10kg hammer, I start in a generally good position but one of my first moves is to open up the left leg and drop my left hip back.

The Paradoxical Nature of the Hammer Throw

When I wrote about my training last month, things were going quite well. Distances were at an all time best, but my technique was mediocre. This month has seen the reverse. My results have declined, but my technique is progressing. This reversal often happens in my training and is one of the many paradoxes in the hammer throw. You would think that my best results would occur when I had the best technique, but it doesn’t always work that way. This time the cause of the apparent paradox is the intense special-strength oriented training program I began in November. I would complain about the crazy amount of volume, but I think Kibwé‘s new program has me beat. Nevertheless, my energy level has plummeted and my results have slowly gone with it.

Fixing technique can also be a paradox. Dr. Bondarchuk once told me about a former hammer thrower that had a bad habit of having a high point that was both too high and too early in the first turn. For four years, Dr. Bondarchuk would tell him to flatten out the entry and the athlete only made marginal success on that point. Finally, as the athlete was about to finish university and move, Dr. Bondarchuk had run out of ideas and told him to make his orbit even steeper. To everyone’s surprise, the throw actually flattened out. Bondarchuk had told him to emphasize everything wrong about the throw and he ended up doing everything right.

Goodbye Northwest, Hello Zurich

Throughout my career as a hammer thrower, I’ve constantly been traveling to find coaching. I traveled to Harold Connolly‘s cabin in southwest Virginia, to clinics on both coasts, and across the country to learn from the country’s top coaches. As a young college thrower, I went to training camps in Hungary, Belarus, and Slovenia to learn from the world’s top coaches. Then, in 2005, I met Anatoli Bondarchuk after he moved to Kamloops. He wrote my training programs while I attended law school in Seattle and after years of making the five-hour drive to visit him on the weekends, I’ve spent most of my time in Kamloops since graduating in 2008.

Since finding Bondarchuk as a coach, my schedule has essentially reversed. I’ve now spent the past two years constantly traveling away from him. Since 2008, I have made the five-hour trip back to Seattle for work several weeks each month. And, this week I signed a contract that will move me even farther away from coach Bondarchuk. But while I will be leaving Kamloops, I will be moving close to something I have missed the past few years: routine…

Kamloops 2010 World Masters Championships

This week, Kamloops will be the host of the 2010 World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships.  Kamloops is often the host of sporting events and is even known as the Tournament Capital of Canada.  With thousands of athletes coming from across the globe, this will be one the largest events the city has ever hosted.  The whole town is behind the event and it should be a great success.

Like many in this sport, I am forever in debt to masters athletes.  Specifically, I am in debt to Ken Weinbel of the Seattle Masters Track Club.  His efforts built the only hammer cage in Seattle and he also let me borrow equipment and provided feedback when I first started out in the event.  I still enjoy training there when I’m in town, and always get motivated when 97-year-old Leon Joslin shows up to take some throws. Leon played high school football with Gerald Ford and ran track with Jesse Owens at Ohio State.  Rather than playing bridge, he throws the discus for fun and I get to throw alongside him.

It’s About the Athletes, Not the Medals

Take one look at Canadian freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau’s face today when the final results flashed on the scoreboard and showed his name in first place.  Take one look and you will immediately know what the Olympics are about: the athletes.  Bilodeau had the weight of the country on his shoulders.  Canada entered this Olympics in a unique position; it was the only country that had not won a gold medal while hosting multiple Games.  As a favorite on the second day of the games, many tapped  Bilodeau as a person that could break that streak.  And he did, reminding us in the process that as much as a country wants to succeed, these games really come down to individuals.  The Olympics are about those athletes that rise to the occasion and win.  And the Olympics are also about those athletes that weren’t even given the opportunity to compete.

A recent trend in track and field is for countries to not send every qualifying athlete to the Olympics.  In track and field, the IAAF sets the entry standards for the Olympics. However, several countries have set even higher standards for their own athletes.  Nowhere is this making more headlines than in the United Kingdom.  Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, has defended this decision by spewing clichés such as “No-one ever jumped higher by lowering the bar . . . these higher standards mean those selected will be expected to make finals not simply to compete. We are looking for contenders, not pretenders.”

December Training Update

I’ve also had some great training sessions recently. I was able to toss a new personal best with the 5-kilogram hammer last week. With the 10-kilogram hammer I was only a foot off of my personal best. I’m well ahead of where I was last year at this time and even well ahead of where I was when I was throwing my best. As with last year, the key will be to transfer this success into the competition 7.26-kilogram hammer and to continue the success into the season.

A Day in the Life

At last week’s speech to the Bellevue Overlake Rotary Club, I was asked a question that I’ve received a number of times before: what is a day in the life of a professional* hammer thrower. As you will see, what sounds like a glorious life is often monotonous. However, I am nevertheless thankful to have the opportunity to chase this dream and enjoy every day as much as the one before. Without further ado, here is a typical day in my life.

More Recognition for Kamloops Throwers

The Kamloops training center was recently named a National High Performance Training Centre by Athletics Canada.  Athletics Canada is the national governing body for track and field in Canada.  They named six training centers, each with a focus on different events.  Thanks to the efforts of club president Judy Armstrong, the Kamloops training center will now be Canada’s new national throws center.  This not only gives further distinction to our training group, but it also will give the local track club more resources to continue its support of elite athletes in their quest for the 2012 Olympics.  There will be a press conference and celebration at 10:30 am on Friday at Kamloop’s Tournament Capital Centre for those interested.

November Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so bear with me as I have a few different topics to update everyone on.

First on the agenda is a lesson in cultural literacy.  While today is Veterans Day in America, it is Remembrance Day up here in Canada and other members of the Commonwealth.  One interesting fact about Remembrance Day is that many people around town are wear red poppies to commemorate the day.  The red poppy represents the flowers that bloomed on the battlefields in the aftermath of World War I.  The poppy was used as an emblem after Canadian poet John McRae wrote about the topic.

In other news, I just returned from a weekend in Seattle where I finalized the formation of a non-profit corporation.  I will post more information as our plans come together, but I envision that the corporation will be used to help support local Olympic hopefuls such as myself, Will Conwell, and Aretha Thurmond, as well as other deserving athletes.