Interview: Owen Hanley
October 20, 2003
Last season Owen Hanley burst onto the local citizen racing
scene. After skiing for Carleton in college, Hanley joined
the Rossignol team and started notching top finishers at a
number of area races, including third at the Pepsi Challenge,
and second at the inaugural City of Lakes Loppet.
This summer, Hanley has joined up with Chad Giese. By working
out together, they hope to both improve on snow this season.
We interviewed Hanley by e-mail on Monday, October 20th.
- Skinnyski: Last season, to many master skiers at least,
you appeared to burst onto the local skiing scene. Can you
give us a little background on your skiing?
Hanley: I first started skiing and racing in an organized
fashion as a freshman in high school. I was a competitive
swimmer growing up and I started skiing for some cross-training
in the off-season. I was very lucky to be a part of an
awesome high school team and learned by skiing behind
some of the more experienced skiers. I would follow them
around the entire practice, pretty much sprinting to keep
up. Maybe not ideal training, but it taught me how to
ski. I attended Carleton College in beautiful Northfield,
MN, where I skied for four years. I had an awesome experience
there, although I never achieved my goal of skiing at
NCAA. Some of us are just late peakers I guess.
- Skinnyski: When did you first start skiing?
Hanley: I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, where getting
out to ski is one of the best ways to avoid getting cabin
fever during the cold, dark winters. I began skiing very
young. My parents were very patient with me, freezing
their toes off, as I fell, took a few strides, then fell
again. I did a lot of backcountry skiing in the Alaska
Range as well. Growing up, these backcountry trips became
one of my favorite activities.
- Skinnyski: You had a number of really strong races
last season, which did you feel was your best performance?
Hanley: The last two years have really been breakthrough
years for me skiing-wise, although not as consistent as
I would like. I had some good results at U.S. Nationals
last year. The top finish was a seventh place in the 50km
- Skinnyski: You competed in the Birkie, notching a great
top 25 finish. Was that your first race at that distance,
and how did it feel?
Hanley: The year after I graduated from college, 2001,
my best friend Peter Abraham and I spent 8 months racing
and training all over Europe. I competed in many marathon
distance races over there, the longest of which was a
95km classic race through the mountains around Lillehammer.
So I do have some experience with the distance races.
The Birkie is an awesome event and I really had a fun
experience last year. It wasn't my best performance, however.
I felt flat from start to finish and kind of slogged through
the entire race. One of my goals this year is to be top
15 in the Birkie.
- Skinnyski: This summer Chad Giese and you have been
training together fairly frequently. How has your training
Chad has been awesome to work with. He is a great skier
and someone who is not afraid to work hard and hurt a
little to achieve his goals. Needless to say, we work
well together. We have focused a lot on performing explosive
motions, extending this principal to strength workouts,
intervals and easy skiing as well. I feel this will greatly
improve my skiing. I have increased my hours this year
as well, but more importantly, I have increased the amount
of intensity workouts. It is all about quality, not quantity,
especially this time of year. I am optimistic that all
this training together will improve both Chad and my own
performances this winter. We shall see...
- Skinnyski: Are you juggling work with your training,
or are you able to train "full time"?
Hanley: Last winter through the end of this summer, I
have been taking classes full-time at the U of M. I am
planning on applying to medical school next summer, which
would allow me to enroll in the fall of 2005. If skiing
is going well at that point, I will defer admission and
go for the Olympics. But ya gotta have a plan right! This
fall I have been studying for the MCAT test next spring.
So the short answer is, no I don't have a job at the moment,
anyone got one for me?
- Skinnyski: The racing season starts in just a few weeks.
You're planning to race at the NorAm SuperTour kickoff event
in Fairbanks, Alaska in early November. What's the rest
of your season look like, and any major goals for the year?
Hanley: I have a lot of goals for the season. I feel
that with all the training I have been doing, I will have
a good season and I hope to improve on last year's results.
My number one goal is to race more consistently throughout
the season. I feel that if I can accomplish that, good
results will follow. I love racing here in the Midwest
and was disappointed last year that the poor snow and
my race schedule didn't allow for much racing around here.
I am planning on doing the City of Lakes, Vasaloppet and
Birkie for sure this year.
- Skinnyski: Finally, can you share any favorite training
tips or advice that you've received?
Hanley: I think it is important to train with other people
(at least a few times a week). There are so many benefits
to this. Another person's opinion on your technique is
extremely valuable. Testing yourself against another person
during intervals, strength, distance, etc. can tell you
a lot about the things you need to work on or how your
training is progressing. Plus it is just fun to have someone
else to share those early morning sunrises with!