I have a few minutes now after I have just finished packing to go home after another successful training camp. I am wrapping up my very first high altitude, glacier skiing camp.
The camp was in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria. It is a beautiful country. Like most of central Europe it has traditional customs but also hidden modern features.
This camp has been a tough one. The coupling of jet-lag (eight hours) and altitude (hotel at 1,700 metres, Dachstein glacier at 2,700 metres) made it very difficult to get acclimatized.
I had to be really careful not to go too hard skiing because the altitude makes your heart rate go up really quickly; also you produce much more lactate acid.
The first few days these were both way too high compared to normal. Slowly they did come down.
The second week was where things got going. I was feeling much better compared to the first week and all the signs were showing that my body was adjusting to altitude quite well. The intensities we did in this second week were awesome, some of the best I have ever done.
I take that as a promising sign for the upcoming season.
A typical day at this Dachstein camp went as follows: we woke up at 6:30 a.m. This is followed quickly by a Rusko test, which is to see how well you recovered from the past days training by comparing resting heart rates.
Next, I got dressed for skiing and headed down for breakfast, which ended about 7:25 a.m. then quickly ran up to the room to grab my backpack with clean dry clothes and extra skiing clothing in case the conditions up top were a little colder.
Since we stayed at a hotel that was only 100 metres from the gondola station the commute was really short. By 7:40 a.m. I would be in line to catch the first ride up at 7:50 a.m.
About 60 skiers (with a pair of skis, poles and most had a backpack) crammed into the gondola. The gondola ride took about 10 minutes. Then another 10 minute walk from the upper gondola station to the cross country trail.
I skied for anywhere between one and a quarter to two hours. To gain extra exposure to altitude we stayed for a cup of tea on top after the ski. I would head down around 11:20 a.m., shower and set everything out to dry. Lunch was around noon. After that it was back to my room for some quiet time, usually to check e-mail and find out what was going on in the rest of the world and a nap.
About 3:30 p.m. we drove down the hill. At the bottom we then started our afternoon roller ski back up.
The road was give-or-take eight kilometres uphill, with a few section of 12 per cent grade.
It was a good hour and a bit work out. At 6 p.m. it was supper time. After supper was usually a time to relax maybe watch a movie or try and understand German soccer commentators. Bedtime was somewhere between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
On our day off we headed into Salzburg. It was a really interesting city, full of historical buildings and importance.
To name one, I saw the house where, in one of the apartments, Mozart was born. We walked by one of the oldest, if not the oldest café (still in operation), which is believed to have been a common hang out for Mr. Mozart and possibly inspiration for some of his work.
We’ve had wonderful weather throughout the entire camp, and as another sign that is time to leave today, it was a misty and cooler day.
Still we went out for an amazing run and hike. Too bad the view from the top of the trail was of a fog bank. Conditions on the glacier were good, considering that it is the fall and we had multiple days above 0 degree Celsius.
The parts of the glacier that were not groomed for skiing were dirty and it was a weird kind of dirt. If you got it on your clothes or shoes it was just like grease, being nearly impossible to wash off.
The trail conditions were similar to that of spring skiing, being hard, almost icy, early in the morning and quickly- as the sun comes up- breaking down and becoming what we call sugary or granular.
Both conditions are great for training as the icy conditions are harder to keep control, but are really fast. While warmer or sugary conditions again are difficult to keep control as the snow may force the ski somewhere you don’t want it to go, it is also slower and therefore demands more energy in order to maintain your speed.
With the western webcams showing the glorious white stuff and at this very moment Canmore Nordic Centre have their snow cannons on, making some really early snow.
Hope it stays!
Time seems to fly by when you’re having fun - this is the phrase I would use to describe the last four weeks.
Two days after getting back to Calgary from the New Zealand training camp, I moved up to Canmore, making that my home until next fall.
The tough part of that decision was not where to move, from the first day I spent in Canmore which was a sunny -30 degrees Celsius with a -40 degree Celsius wind chill kind of day I had always wanted to live and train there, but the decision to put school on hold for the year and focus almost solely on training and preparations for the Vancouver Paralympics was the tougher one.
Once that decision was made everything seemed to fall into place.
The remaining three and a half weeks have flown by.
Recovery – was the word of the following two weeks. The training in NZ was unbelievable, but it was time to take a breather and recover a little.
I was not complaining of the beautiful weather in the Rockies. The weather for the two recovery weeks was awesome with temperatures well above 26 degree Celsius and sunny. It made relaxing an easy thing to do.
I was able to catch some of the Biathlon Canada’s roller ski trials. Biathletes from across the country were going head to head in order to determine who would represent Canada on the World and IBU Cups for the upcoming season. Congratulations to all selected athletes.
With the next training camp fast approaching it was again time to increase the hours and intensity and prepare for the (fingers crossed) soon-flying snow.
I have been feeling incredibly strong these past few weeks. Technique and strength has never been as strong as it is right now. If I feel this good under a training load, I can’t wait to see my form once the race season begins.
The added bonus of training in Canmore is the ability to train with the best cross country skiers and biathletes in Canada. It is a great benefit when you can train with someone that may just push your limit a little.
My “slightly” competitive side comes through and I refuse to let anyone drop me, and I’m sure that any training partner of mine refuses to get dropped by someone with only one arm. So together we are both pushing ourselves a little harder, and eventually we both end up faster.
As I wait in Toronto to board my now one-and-a-half hour delayed flight to Munich, I’m excited to get the next training camp under way.
This year our early fall camp has moved locations from the ski tunnel in Vuokatti to the Dachstein Glacier in Austria.
I have never been to the Dachstein or even in Austria besides the 20 minutes driving through it.
Rumor has it through this is an amazing place to training, and very popular by many European cross country and biathlon teams.
My coach described it saying this - “a train of skiers will pass you and you can go world champion, world champion, Olympic champion, three times world and Olympic champion…” and so on.
From other athletes that have been there before they simply say - “it is a place you have go, it’s amazing.” With all that said I am exciting to be spending the next two weeks there and hopefully enjoy some great training and experiences.
That’s my flight they’re calling so I better be off. I promise to let everyone know how the camp goes.