Summer Training for Winter Sports with Bill Harmeyer
Vermont native Bill Harmeyer just wrapped up his collegiate skiing career with a nursing degree from the University of Vermont. Named to the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association’s First Team in his senior year, the result of strong skiing amidst the top D1 racers in New England, the 22 year old is making his transition to the acclaimed T2 ski program at the Stratton Mountain School. As we caught up with him, Bill had begun an extensive summer training session in order to be ready for the coming winter.
Congratulations on graduating! Wrapping up your college experience amid a global pandemic must be a tad surreal. How has the segue gone for you from Burlington to the T2 program?
Finishing school online and having a virtual “graduation” was a bit unexpected. But I’m beyond thankful to be safe and have the support of my parents during this transition.
Moving from Burlington to the T2 program was a breeze. Originally from Underhill, Vermont, I’m used to more rural areas, dirt roads, mountains, et cetera. Coming down from Burlington after hours and hours of staring at a computer was much needed. I could not be more thrilled to be in an area with so much new terrain to explore. I’m a huge gravel enthusiast and love how much dirt there is down here. Riding class 4 roads can lead to some pretty awesome adventures and is a great way for me to log easy hours.
Overall, I think this transition, paired with quarantine, has been surprisingly beneficial for me. Usually, the T2 team does a bit of traveling in late spring/early summer, to some “on snow” camps in the western US. The team has decided to stay local for the majority of the summer to reduce potential exposure so we can still be active members in our community. This has allowed me to settle into a training routine and get some much needed rest and relaxation following a hectic spring.
Photo: Flyingpoint Road Photo
Take us through the day in the life. What does your training look like on the acute level? Are you working in distinct multi-week cycles or is it just an all out smash session? Related to this, what are the demands of the year? How many hours do you anticipate training and talk folks who don’t understand the mix of rollerskiing, strength training and running through how those efforts are balanced when there isn’t snow:
I’m still getting accustomed to the structure here at Stratton, but it's safe to say, this stuff isn’t rocket science. We generally train in three week cycles. One week will be focused primarily on volume, the next will be volume with a little more intensity focus, and then the final week will be a recovery week. Generally, I’m hitting between 19 and 24 hours during the volume weeks, and dropping down to 10-14 hours during the recovery weeks. I’m currently midway through a two week volume stretch. I’m looking forward to some easy days but I truly live for this stuff. Being able to push my body to the max is a unique feeling and I love exploring how far it can take me.
I anticipate training around 750 hours this season. Coming from a collegiate program, I never was able to really ramp up the hours. I attribute this mainly to the time requirements of school, and especially the demands of being in nursing school. I’m super excited to have the opportunity to focus solely on training and have all the time in the world to focus on my body.
Training for Cross Country Skiing is unique because there is SO much cross training. We spend the majority of our season logging training hours that aren’t on snow. In fact, our season is structured so that the majority of our training takes place during the summer and fall months. Then, when intensity increases during the race season, volume decreases. So, a huge portion of our training is actually cross training. Rollerskiing is one of the closest substitutes but running, mountain biking, and gravel riding are some of my favorite activities for logging easy hours. In addition, we generally do specific strength training twice a week throughout the summer and fall.
We’ve seen glimmers of Vermont’s sticky summer heat. How do you stay ahead on nutrition and hydration in the heat of training?
Heat can be a real challenge, especially with Vermont’s signature humidity. I generally train twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. The morning sessions usually start between 8 and 9am.
First and foremost, let’s talk coffee. I almost always mix a Maple UnTapped in with my morning coffee to get a few extra calories -- plus the taste is impossible to beat. There's nothing like a good “pick-me-up” cup of coffee mixed with some of Vermont's finest maple syrup to get a tired body going! Then, with breakfast, I’ll have a bottle of Lemon Tea Mapleaid to top off on electrolytes and also get some more carbohydrates in. What I really like about Mapleaid is that it's easy on my stomach. I’ve tried sports drinks in the past and a lot of them are pretty harsh on my GI tract. Most of them have tons of processed sugar which can wreak havoc, leading to stomach issues during workouts. Mapleaid is perfect because it has the optimal amount of sugar and electrolytes that are easy on the stomach.
During workouts, it’s almost impossible to replenish water at the rate I’m losing it. I try to consume 12 ounces of Mapleaid every 90 minutes or so. In addition, I like to eat something for any workout longer than 60 minutes. I’ll start off with a Maple UnTapped packet in the first 30 minutes. Then, I’ll alternate an UnTapped Waffle with a Maple UnTapped packet every thirty minutes. So, during a 2.5 hour rollerski, I’ll consume two waffles and two UnTapped packets. That way I can stay ahead of the bonk and get a quality session in while staying hydrated.
Then, after workouts or between sessions, I’ll sip on some Mapleaid to replenish lost fluids from workouts.
Cross Country Skiing has gained a bit of notoriety in the past few years, firstly with the long awaited first Gold medal performance from teammates Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins, and more recently, with back to back World Junior Relay wins by the U.S. mean. What’s the current scene feel like for someone who might not follow cross country skiing closely?
The current scene is promising to say the least. The United States is incredibly strong at the moment. The development ranks are deep, and we’ve had some promising international performances over the last few years. This past year, both the men’s and women’s relay teams at Junior World Championships medaled, with the men taking gold. Gus Schumacher, a native Alaskan, was the first American to win a gold medal at the World Junior Championships this past year. There have been some phenomenal performances by Americans in the past few years and I’m excited to potentially be a part of those performances in the future.
Overall, what are your goals for the coming year? Let's say, one year from now, what do you hope this year has held?
It’s hard to say how the coming year is going to look. There’s still a lot of uncertainty with how the race calendar is going to look moving into the winter because of the pandemic. But, with that being said, the best day are still training, regardless of if there are official competition dates. My dream is for international events to take place this winter and to have the opportunity to race in Europe. Ultimately, my eyes will be focused on World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany in late February/early March.
Finally, UnTapped is a sponsor of the Great American Birkebeiner. At what age did you first catch Birkie fever, have you been able to handle the debilitating symptoms and when do you predict making your first Birkie debut?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t catch the Birkie fever until recently. My current roommate, Ian Torchia, was the top American finisher this past year and my teammate, Alayna Sonnesyn, won two years ago. Both of them have advocated heavily for the Birkie and I’ve officially caught the fever. Symptom management has been handled primarily through war stories from Ian and Alayna. I’m planning on making my debut this coming season. Finger crossed, that quenches the thirst for Birkie glory, but no guarantees…
Thanks very much for the time Bill. And for everyone who wants to keep up with Bill, be sure to follow his YouTube channel with their very catchy and informative videos about how all this summer training is going down.