A five week training camp in Europe might seem a little expensive for old USBA, but when you take into consideration that the only Americans on the US team are the athletes themselves then all of a sudden training in northern Italy, Austria, and Germany doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. All of the team’s coaches, wax techs and staff live in Europe. So you can see where it would even out. So the US mens A and B team ended up spending the month of August bouncing around central Europe. The venues and equipment we used provided some very unique opportunities. Every camp I go to I always come back with more than enough to work on and this camp proved no different.
First off was Antholz, Italy. Antholz is one of the most popular venues to be at in the winter and always puts up impressive spectator numbers during their January world cup. Turns out the training is just as great in the summer as it is in the winter. It also helps that one of our head coaches lives in Antholz. While we were there we did some good hiking. With in 30 minutes of run/hiking from our hotel it felt as if you were in the Lord of the Rings. A half kept path lead us up to the summit. We had to be careful as to not anger the Yaks on the way up.
That’s what the hiking felt like. The cycling was also epic in it’s own right. Our coach, Armin, had some pretty good contacts that were able to supply us with road bikes. These bikes were not your typical Wal Mart specials. One of them was a pro tour bike that would have cost around ten thousand dollars! We covered about four passes in one ride. Then there was the Kronplatz ride. I turned around a little early, but the guys that went on said they could have used a mountain bike towards the top. The Kronplatz is just a steady climb that takes some of the best riders in the world an hour complete and takes us… well, longer than that.
Hiking and cycling was not the only reason for the Antholz portion of the camp. Of coarse there was plenty of rollersking and shooting, but this particular region of Italy sits at just under 3000 meters elevation. Don’t ask me what that is in feet. The first few days at altitude are never easy when you’re coming form sea level. The lack of air pressure forces your body to be more efficient and adapt to new standards. Altitude training still is and will probably always be a training mystery for exercises scientist. Basically each athlete responds to altitude differently. The timing and what kind of training the athletes should do is the mystery. We took this opportunity to gather data and find out what works best for us. To do this each athlete went to bed with a clip attached to there finger tip. The clip had a wire going to another devise that could measure and record what our heart rate and blood oxygen saturation was while we slept. When we woke up we would get our finger pricked by a USOC altitude training specialist and record our blood glucose levels, lactic acid values. Evan our blood pressure was monitored. This may sound a little confusing and trust me there is a lot more to it, but that’s why there are altitude training specialist who study this kind of thing for a living.
About and hour away from Antholz in Austria is small valley town called Obertilliach. This place is a popular training spot. The greatest biathlete of all time, Ole Einar Bjorndalen can be found training there. When we showed up the Germen Women’s A and B team were also there. As well as a few other eastern European teams and of coarse the Austrian team. The roller loop had a nice layout and was in good shape.
The weather was not so good. The last time I had been in Obertilliach was in the winter. With no exaggeration it snowed 10 feet in less than a week!
Well precipitation is still pretty high in the summer. We were either in a cloud or in the rain for most of the time we were there. On the other
hand, a little rain never hurt any one.
Training was still great and included a time trial we did at the end of the week. 15 km with four shooting stages and 45seconds per miss was just the right equation to get me on the podium for the team. I had three misses (85%) total and a solid ski time. Including the fast last loop time. It was nice to see both ski speed AND shooting coming together for a change.
The time trial along with two and half weeks of hard training had the whole team pretty tired and very much looking forward to the three days of rest on our camp schedule. The problem was we didn’t know what to do with ourselves for these three days. The place we were staying at was on a side hill in the middle of nowhere basically. In fact this house could be used for a horror movie setting to give you an idea of what we were looking at.
Well that all changed when team member Lowell Baily noticed that Croatia had a fairly large coast line and was not to far from us. And so it was decided, Croatia is was! Five hours later (that’s about the amount of time it took me to get to the airport I flew out of) we were staring at the ocean. We found a cheap but still very nice place to stay. We spent 48 hours exploring the Mediterranean climate of Croatia and getting tanned (or burned) next to the ocean. The trip was success. We left with a full physical and mental recovery. Needless to say leaving this paradise was
Next thing I knew I was eating dinner at a restaurant in Salzburg, Austria. The next morning was the hardest time trial of the year. From swimming in the ocean to a 12 km all up hill roller ski time trial there never seemed to be a dull moment. It took me just over an hour and to make it to the top. I had the second fastest time on the team. In the end though, I was just glad to say it was done. The coaches were glad to see a strong effort from me, but I could have really use some better V1 technique.
That was only the skiing part of the test Salzburg had in store for us.
The local sport university just so happen to have an indoor shooting range. This shooting range had some advanced tools at it’s disposal. I was excited for this test because I had just fitted my rifle with a knew stock. This time it’s from Finland with a little bit of Italian craftsmanship mixed in. They fitted my rifle with all sorts of measuring components and gathered data as I shot a few clips. The goal of this was to potentially isolate certain weak points in our shooting mechanic. As it turns out scientifically speaking I’m a good shooting. Trigger squeeze was almost perfect and all of the other values were solid. The conclusion was that I might be a bit of a head case when the shooting matters.
The Euro camp 2010 wasn’t over just yet. After several hours of driving I was unpacking my back in Oberhof, Germany. Oberhof has a lot to offer. It is considered the biathlon mecca of the world and is likely the most popular world cup venue of the racing season. In terms of training opportunities you’re looking at 60 km of running trails, three shooting ranges (one world class and one indoors), two expansive roller ski loops, and a ski tunnel. The unpredictable weather and gradual rolling terrain of horizon after horizon of trees makes Oberhof feel like home. The team did a couple hours of skiing on snow in the ski tunnel in the mornings and some roller skiing with shooting in the afternoons. As usual the coaches took the opportunity of skiing on snow to break down my skate technique and try to sculpt it into some thing more efficient. I’m still trying to get used to it now, but it’s going in the right direction
The trip home was pretty uneventful. All my luggage made it in and I was back in Stockholm before I knew it. This camp was an all around success for me. There is just no better way to describe it. I’ve shown up to camps before only to get sick and miss out on training. This camp had almost no speed bumps to slow me down. I would go as far to say it was the most successful camp I’ve ever done. So far everything is on track. I couldn’t have asked for more as far as training in August goes… Alright I take.
Contributed by Russell Currier – Russell is a member of the MWSC Biathlon Team and U.S. Biathlon National Team