I arrived back in the states a couple days ago following the conclusion of a five-week training camp in Europe. We spent the fist ten days in the Antholz Valley in northern Italy and then moved about 60km northeast to Obertilliach, Austria where we continued our altitude training for another week.
Obertilliach is located in a beautiful, lush Alpen valley that is interspersed with pine forests and open country that is used for haying, agriculture, and free-range livestock. We spent a fair amount of time training at the biathlon stadium that has over 4km of paved ski trails and the remainder of the workouts saw us roaming the numerous trails that crisscross the region. I did a couple of remarkable runs that covered miles of river valleys and high, craggy peaks and ridge lines. On one hike that took me into the border region between Austria and Italy, the trail climbed quickly to the high country and wound past picturesque cabins and huts, through rolling acres of grassland with a smattering of bell laden livestock, and finally reached a ridge trail that traces the border. The views along the entirety of the ridge were exceptional in both directions, south to the Dolomites and north into the Alps. One of the big surprises of the day was having opportunity to explore WWI bunkers built into the granite peaks, many still flanked with piles of barbed wire and crumbling fox holes. The unexpected find spawned images of the young Italian men that would have spent bitterly cold weeks patrolling the heights in defense of their homeland from the Austro-Hungarian advances. It's amazing how a little comparison has the tendency to bring perspective. For me, being out for five and a half hours was simultaneously a really long, 4,000+ calorie session and a leisurely stroll in the park. Go figure!
At the conclusion of our training in Obertilliach, the team took a couple of much needed recovery days. A few of the guys headed off on their own, but five of us chose to venture to Croatia in hopes of finding respite from the rain clouds that seemed to stalk our every move. Sunshine we found in abundance! Two days spent in medieval Adriatic port towns was a perfect recipe for renewed spirits and set us up well for the tests to come. Our first day back to training we had the toughest test of the camp - the Rossweld time trial. Rossweld is a mountain pass not far from Salzburg, Austria that climbs at an impressive pitch for what proved to be just over an hour of rollerskiing. The day was cool and wet, which was actually nice, save for making the pavement a bit slower. I felt good about the effort, especially since it was one of the first time trials of the season. The top of the climb usually grants nearly 360 degree views, but the fog kept us hemmed in for most of our summit time. Through one hole in the clouds, however, we did get a quick glimpse of Hitler's famed Eagle's Nest on a distant ridge!
The final week of the camp was spent in Oberhof, Germany where we split our training sessions between technique and ski testing sessions in the ski tunnel and more conventional summer sessions on the rollerski loops. This was the first time I've been able to get on snow in the middle of the summer and I felt great about the technique work I was able to do. It doesn't take long to start getting the feel back for long boards and I was able to take advantage of every minute on snow. Combo training on the World Cup loop was also great given the perfectly manicured pavement and the ambiance of one of the top stadiums in the world. Hopefully the next time I'm there it will be to compete for 30,000+ biathlon fans!
I'm back in Lake Placid now for a few weeks before heading west to Idaho and Utah for some more altitude training with the team before we head to snow in early November.