Like a lot of national teams, the U.S. biathlon squad has training camps at different facilities around the country throughout the year. And after a stint at the Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vermont, this week, they needed to get home.
Unlike most national teams, they solved the logistical challenge by biking there – all the way to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York.
“It’s funny because it sounds kind of long, but I don’t think it’s even 100 miles,” laughed A-teamer Susan Dunklee. “I feel pretty badass after I do it, but then I think what the Ironman participants are going to be doing this weekend and it doesn’t seem that impressive.”
The team covered a large part of that distance on back roads. Their one major geographical obstacle was Lake Champlain, a 490-square mile behemoth that runs 125 miles along the Vermont-New York Border. Rather than take a ferry – a nice opportunity for a snack break – they rode south to a bridge, and after leaving Jericho at 8 in the morning, arrived home around 3:30. Dunklee said she didn’t bonk until about a mile and a half from the Training Center, and headed straight for the food to recover.
After a week of hard training in Jericho, Dunklee appreciated something different.
“Mixing it up is exciting,” she said in a phone call from Lake Placid. “We did it last year, and I think people liked it a lot – it was tough, but it was good, so we decided to do it again this year.”
Plus, it fit with her training plan.
“I wouldn’t say it would [have been] a wasted day because it’s only two hours to get there, so we easily could have done a workout or two,” Dunklee explained. “But it’s that time of year when we’re trying to put in a ton of volume, and it’s a really fun way to put in a good day of volume.”
Volume hadn’t actually been the focus of the Jericho camp; the team had done a few time trials, while volume is still two weeks away on the schedule. One of the main things that exhausted them was actually the humid, muggy heat wave that has hit New England just like the rest of the country.
“It cooled off a lot today compared to what it was before,” Dunklee said. “The heat was definitely getting to us doing combos and such on the range this past week, and living in the barracks where there’s no air conditioning [note: Camp Ethan Allen is an Army National Guard site that also houses the Mountain Warfare School].
“But today felt pretty nice,” she continued. “It was still warm, but on a bike you get a lot more breeze.”
The beginning of the camp also featured a guest appearance by German World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Andrea Henkel, who was at the end of a long stay in the States; she had also joined in some sessions in Lake Placid earlier. In Jericho, she was mostly training on her own, doing a series of intensity trials to make up for missing her own national team’s testing block. But the U.S. athletes still appreciated having her.
“It was great to see her on the range, and we did a few shooting drills and stuff when she was around,” Dunklee said. “She shoots really fast. It’s nice to have her there to remind us what we have to strive for.”
It’s not the first time Henkel has joined in; as the long-time girlfriend of U.S. athlete Tim Burke, she has visited before. But Dunklee, who just completed her first season on the World Cup, says that this time around, she’s getting more out of the superstar’s presence.
“I think having been on the World Cup, now I feel a lot more confident about being able to– I guess I just don’t feel as intimidated by her as I used to,” said Dunklee. “So that allows me to look at her a little more objectively, at what she does. I see a lot to learn.”