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Get to Know a Skier’s Strava: Michaela Keller-Miller

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Welcome back to “Get to know a skier’s Strava,” a sporadic series. You can find last month’s series introduction, and a dive into Federico Pellegrino’s training, here.

Most pro skiers in this country have a training plan that is more similar to other skiers’ plans than it is different: roughly 90 percent of hours spent at L2 or below, two strength sessions a week, more volume in summer and more intensity in fall, and so on. You can drill down and find some fine distinctions, of course, and coaches or athletes smarter than me can explain the reasons for them, but I don’t believe that anyone in this country is doing something so drastically divergent as, say, Swedish speedskater Nils van der Poel’s now-famous 5:2 plan.

(TLDR: van der Poel trained 30–35 hours on weekdays, then took the weekend entirely off. He won two Olympic gold medals and set two world records off of this regimen, so it seems to have worked for him.)

So if the overall training stimulus is relatively homogenous between most athletes and most parts of the country, how a given athlete approaches that training may become more interesting. This week: Michaela Keller-Miller, and life in Craftsbury.

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Michaela Keller-Miller grew up in the Midwest, in the Twin Cities region. She attended Wayzata High School and trained with Loppet Nordic Racing. She parlayed success as a junior — she placed second at the Minnesota state meet, and was on the winning state team with Wayzata three times while she was in high school — into a spot on the ski team at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She skied for UAA for all four years of undergrad, with a best finish in a RMISA race of ninth. Soon after graduating, she took her degree in Accounting and moved to New England to pursue professional skiing as a member of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project.

Keller-Miller’s Strava account (which, unlike Federico Pellegrino’s, is a pro athlete’s account, not a plebeian subscriber account; congrats to Keller-Miller for saving $5/month over her Italian counterpart) begins in 2018, approaching her junior year at UAA. The early workouts, in Anchorage and environs, are recognizable to anyone who has lived or trained in the area. Here’s L3 bounding up Gasline to Glen Alps, rollerskiing out to the Eagle River Nature Center, and Thanksgiving volume camp at Hatcher Pass, to take three classic examples among many.

This segues to on-snow skiing by late October, a RMISA race season starting in January, and crust skiing in the spring. Crust skiing out Powerline Pass valley is a late-April Anchorage staple:

But then — record scratch — comes a move to Vermont to train with Craftsbury. There are fewer bear sightings. There are more maple creemee sightings. The heat and humidity come earlier in the summer, and the snow comes later in the fall.

This is, to be clear, neither good nor bad, just different. As U.S. Ski Team Development Team Coach Greta Anderson notes, this is a large country, with a range of geography and training settings. “That’s something that can be a weakness if we let it be,” Anderson observes, “or we can turn it into a huge advantage for ourselves.”

One advantage to life in Craftsbury is the Craftsbury rollerski loop, on the grounds of Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Here is a video preview of the Craftsbury rollerski loop.

It looks amazing. It looks bucolic. There are no cars or loose dogs or even two-way traffic. This may be the most pristine pavement I have ever seen in my life. I suspect that the Craftsbury Outdoor Center maintenance budget per kilometer of rollerski track is higher than the Municipality of Anchorage maintenance budget per kilometer of multiuse trail, and it shows.

Here are some of Keller-Miller’s recent rollerski workouts from this fall. The CGRP team absolutely does rollerski in other places too, I should clarify — sometimes they ski almost to Canada, which is really neat — but you may sense a theme here.

I didn’t do the math on the total number of times around the rollerski loop within the training year, let alone the past few training years combined, but it is not a small number. Local Legend status on this loop would be a lofty crown indeed.

Keller-Miller has some company here. Any track athlete logs a lot of time each week on a 400-meter oval, and Hendrick Ramaala, the great South African marathoner, famously logged 100-mile-plus weeks while running exclusively around a 3ish-kilometer loop in a city park for the entirety of a 15-year career in international sport. Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room, and hermits are contented with their cells, as the renowned exercise physiologist William Wordsworth told us.

Snow has come to New England, it seems; recent workouts for Keller-Miller include the winter’s first ski, yesterday afternoon, and winter’s second ski, this morning. Keller-Miller’s, or any athlete’s, horizons will presumably branch out from here, as more ski trails become available. And race season bring its own set of adventures; last winter alone, for example, Keller-Miller raced in Duluth, Cable, Soldier Hollow, Sun Valley, Lake Placid, Craftsbury, Cable again, and Whistler.

But for Keller-Miller, as for any athlete, those exotic race trips and foreign passport stamps are built on the back of a lot of hard work closer to home. For many athletes, home is where the heart of your Strava heatmap is.

— Gavin Kentch

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