Sunday, August 29, 2010

Euro Camp Wrap-up

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.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reflections of Old & New

Home for a week.

The Dolomites.

Don't try this at home - wild Yaks!

The Antholz training venue...

It has been far too long since I last updated. To the handful of you that actually read my blog, I'm terribly sorry and, as is usually the case after an extended absence, will commit to trying to be more consistent. This time will be different. :) Whoever you are and wherever you may be, welcome back!

Since it is now August 1st, that means I'm already well in to the summer training schedule. Coming off a very successful season, yet realizing that I didn't make a couple of the teams I was pursuing (missed both the early season World Cup and Olympic team by one spot) has been a unique experience. It's always interesting when a situation can at the same time be both the Yin and the Yang. That certainly seemed to be a central theme of the last season. Of course, referring to the Yin and Yang would suggest equal parts euphoria and defeat and there was actually much more of the former, though that's almost always easier to see in hindsight. However, somewhat ironically at times, that can be a catalyst for growth. And did I ever grow. Some call it the 'calm after the storm' and others 'purification by fire', but regardless of cliche description, last season's experiences gave me new perspective on my life as an athlete and, more broadly, on sport's contribution to the whole that is me. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I'm back training and have a renewed drive to excel in biathlon while continuing to search for a healthy balance between that and the other facets of life.

Coming off of last season's successes of qualifying for the European Championships, being the Olympic Team alternate, and winning the overall North American Championships, I was excited to be renamed to the National Team. The team has been reduced to only eight men this season so it was great to have made the cut. The improvements to the team structure are already evident to me since I finally have access to full-time coaching and a much better support network. I'm into my fourth year of residency at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid (can you believe it?). Hard to imagine how quickly the past three seasons have passed and how much my training has progressed. It's great to see that the positive trajectory continues for me and the Team.

Training has been very focused and effective thus far in the season. We started off the year with a camp in May in Lake Placid. Three weeks of solid training and getting reacquainted with the coaches. Following that camp I was excited to spend two weeks in Alaska with my family. Not getting to be home very often makes it that much greater to return. The weather cooperated perfectly and produced typical Alaska training; read: fantastic. There was plenty of wildlife to see, including moose, fox, eagles, and even a black bear boar that said hello on the Coastal Trail near Anchorage. The weeks following being in Alaska included a shooting specific camp in Lake Placid, a trip to Rhode Island for Sara's grandfather's 90th birthday party, a quick trip to the San Francisco area for a wedding, and then on to Europe for a month-long training camp that has just gotten underway.

I arrived in northern Italy a handful of days ago and have been using the time to get adjusted to the altitude difference. We're currently in the Dolomite Mountains near the Austrian border in the Antholz/Anterselva valley. I've been lucky to see many beautiful places in the world, each one seemingly grander than the last. This area surpasses most of its predecessors on my list with its rugged, steep peaks, turquoise bejeweled lakes, quaint valley villages, and charming culture. I certainly can't do Antholz justice with mere written descriptions so I've included a few pictures above that will whet your appetite should you be in need of a place to venture. I'm here in Italy for another week before heading to Austria for ten days and then on to the ski tunnel in Germany for a final week of training before returning to the states. Hopefully the next locations will be just as photogenic as Italy has already been. If so I'll be able to pass on the views.

Until next time...Ciao.