Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fall Camp Update

I'm only two days away from finishing one of the toughest blocks of training I can remember and I couldn't be happier with how things have gone.

Last week we moved houses to a place closer to the training venue. It's not quite the palace from the first week, but it's really comfortable. We've got a really friendly barn cat that sits at the back door, several horses that are all too eager to take carrots or apple cores off our hands, and one group of about 15 deer that walks by the house every morning and evening. The two pictures below were taken from the house - and yes, that is snow you're seeing in the second picture. We woke two different mornings last week to a couple of inches on the ground. It melted pretty fast both times, but it was just enough to get us psyched about getting on snow next month in Canada.
Last week was a solid 18 hours of training that included lot of speed work and two time trials. I raced against a few juniors on Wednesday in a 12.5K pursuit and shot well enough to win. Saturday was a 15K mass start time trial with the National Team and National Guard athletes. We raced five laps of a really challenging course and had to deal with gusty wind conditions. I led for the whole of the first lap, but skied too hard and was subsequently sucking wind when I came in to shoot the first stage. From there, things went south. I ended up missing 11 of 20 targets (one more than National Team member Jeremy Teela), which unfortunately had me in the penalty loop for a long time. Despite missing lots of targets, the time trial was a great learning experience and goes down as a success in my book. I'm making positive progress as long as I can learn from every time trial and race and I'm confident things are going to come together during the race season.

The picture below was taken on the range at Soldier Hollow one morning last week before all the snow melted off. Winter isn't far away!
This week has been great so far. We're all getting tired and starting to feel the strain of nearly three weeks of training, but thoughts of racing next month are helping us stay focused. Today we did one of the toughest workouts I can remember that consisted of 12 uphill intervals that we skied as hard as possible. I got to ski with National Team member Tim Burke, which was a great opportunity to mimic some of his technique. I've been working with the coaches on some new skating techniques and trying to match one of the fastest biathletes in the world stride for stride is one of the best ways to learn. I got dropped a few times, but I was able to hang more often than not, so I'm stoked.

I took the picture below while on a run on the hillsides above Soldier Hollow, the Olympic complex, where we do most of our training. In the foreground is the stadium and barely visible on the hillside are the trails. What a fantastic place to train.

Tomorrow is an easy day and then Saturday is one last hard interval set that will wrap up the camp. I'm headed to Boise, ID on Sunday with Sara and her parents to spend a few days and then I'll fly back to Lake Placid where I'll spend about a week training and getting packed up in preparation for traveling to Calgary for our first on-snow camp and the first set of North American Cup races. The races aren't that far away and I'm getting antsy to get things rolling.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fall is here and racing is just around the corner...

Hello from Heber City, Utah. The last few weeks have been busy as ever as the start of the competition season looms. I’m excited to get the season underway so I can try my new wings as a biathlete. Below I’ll try to fill you in on some of the happenings from the last few weeks.

Just over three weeks ago, beginning on the 24th of September, I started a ten-day block of hard training that culminated on the 3rd of October. We got in three level-4 intervals sets during the first week and then a couple of solid level 3 efforts during the last few days. One of the first hard interval sessions was done on a giant treadmill at the Training Center. Rather than try to explain what roller skiing on a treadmill actually looks like, I’ve attached a video clip below that will hopefully make a little more sense for those of you not familiar with this form of training.

In case you weren't able to view the video and/or as a means of explanation, we do some intervals on the treadmill because it allows us to control the speed and incline of the surface. This is great because sometimes it’s hard to find a hill long enough on which to do six 4-minute uphill intervals and it also is a great tool for assuring that a constant velocity is maintained during hard workouts. In short, NO slacking. Another of the treadmill’s advantages is that a coach is always present throughout the workout to give technique tips and, if necessary, to check blood lactate levels to make sure we are working our bodies at the correct exertion level.

Following the end of that block of training I got packed up to leave the Training Center for a three-week camp with the National Team. Sara’s parents were visiting the east from Boise, ID so I got to travel with them down to New Haven, CT to visit her younger brother who is a freshman this year at Yale University. We spent two days in New Haven seeing the sites and reminding ourselves of why we don’t particularly like gigantic cities. Even though trapped in suburbia, it was fun to check out Yale’s campus and see where so much history has been made and so many great and not-so-great leaders of our country have made their starts. We attended a Dartmouth vs. Yale football game on the weekend and Sara and I unfortunately had to watch as our Alma Mater got punished. Regardless though, it was a fun (and HOT) day none-the-less. With temperatures hitting nearly 90 degrees on the weekend, walking on the beach was more reminiscent of being in Central America than October on the east coast. On Sunday we celebrated Sara’s birthday with a breakfast on the beach near the hotel and I got to wrap up the meal by helping a local fisherman release a sea gull that he somehow caught while casting from the beach. That afternoon we drove to Providence, RI and had dinner with some of Sara's relatives and then got packed up to leave the next morning.

Both Sara and I flew out Monday, Oct. 8, for Salt Lake City. I arrived nearly 24 hours later in Heber City, a smallish city located near Park City. Heber City is a great location for Biathlon training because it was the site of Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic Nordic and Biathlon races. It offers world-class roller skiing loops and a fantastic biathlon range so we are able to do very specific training. Another of the great benefits of the venue and one of the primary reasons for training here is that Heber sits at an elevation of roughly 5,500 ft, which is perfect for altitude training. Distance athletes try to train at altitude several times throughout the year in order to naturally boost the oxygen-carrying capacity of their blood, which in turn allows them to go faster in competitions.

So, we arrived at the beginning of last week and got settled in a house the team rented for the week. Check out the fantastic views we had right from the back porch.We spent the whole week doing lower-intensity training to allow our bodies to acclimate to the change in elevation. Trying to do really hard training in the first few days at altitude is almost futile because it stresses the system too much, so we are very careful to monitor our heart rates and how we feel to make sure we don’t go too hard initially. If an athlete does go too hard in the first couple of days at altitude, it can sometimes result in sickness and/or fatigue that, if not properly monitored, can turn into an extended problem. That’s not to say that these same problems don’t happen at lower elevations, but rather that it’s easier to over stress the body initially when going up to elevation to train. One of the workouts we did was a long 3-hour hike/run up Mt Timpanogos, which towers over the small town of Sundance where the famous film festival happens annually. What an absolutely gorgeous day! The aspen were in full fall colors and above 7,000 ft we got into over a foot of snow. We also ran into two moose on the way up so I was feeling right at home.

We wrapped up the week with a 20K level 3/4 interval combo workout. It was a great opportunity to ski behind a couple of the National Team members and try to pick up a few more technique tips. Shooting wasn't great, but that's how it goes sometimes. That's all for now. Check back in the next day or two - I'll have more pictures up. Cheers