Hugh Pritchard, Biathlete

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Hugh Pritchard
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1 June 2000

Move to Ruhpolding. Took ages moving all my gear out of the flat in London down to my parents, reloading the car, trying to fulfill all my commitments before leaving.

Finally left home about 4am; very tired, having hardly slept the previous night either. Peculiar hallucinations on the road; got half-way to the ferry before realising I had forgotten my rifle...

In Ruhpolding the weather is always busy: either the sun is trying to whither you to a husk or prodigious amounts of rain, snow, frogs etc are falling from the sky. When I arrived it was sunny, and it is a great freedom to be wearing shorts rather than my usual suit and tie.

6 June

Met Joe Brooks, another of the GB squad, who will also be training here for a while.

Spoke to Fritz Fischer: his group starts training next Tuesday, so we will join them then. Did not discuss any more detailed input that we might get from him - coaching, planning, etc.

Spoke for a while with Wolfgang Pichler, who has coached Magdalena Forsberg for many years and has now been taken on as head coach to the Swedish team. He is appalled that we do not work to a programme, and says there is no point being here if we just improvise. He is right, and the programme is what we hope to get from Fritz. Wolfgang tells us that Fritz normally charges DM10,000 per year for coaching, which is a bit of a shock.

14 June

Great country for training: endless country lanes, cycle tracks, footpaths through the forests. I have never really trained on a bicycle before, but the appeal here is terrific. I am at last getting value out of my mountain bike; I have arranged to buy a road bike from Peter Moysey, a langlaufer and former triathlete who lives just over the border in Austria, in an idyllic village high in the mountains.

This week the cattle are grazing on the roller-ski track at the biathlon centre, so roller-skiing is off. Fritz's group now starts next Monday. Joe and I are both still static shooting, as neither of us is yet sufficiently happy with his shooting to apply any further pressure to it. I identified the fundamental problem which causes me to group worse when I fire 5 rounds at a time than when I fire 1 round at a time: there is nothing to stop the butt from sliding out of my shoulder, and with each shot & recock it slides a little further out. The loose grouping is a result of my 'muscling' the rifle back into aim. I now need to work out what to do about this: grow another muscle? get my collar-bone broken and reset?

My knee is a real worry; its state fluctuates but does not seem to get bettter, despite frequent icing and both oral and topical anti-inflammatories. I am not really doing any running, but trying to stick to cycling and roller-skiing, which I think are probably less injurious. I am also wearing the tailored insoles that I got from the British Olympic Medical Centre, and doing some odd exercises to straighten the natural bending motion of my knees (the right one particularly bends well outside its proper plane of flexion). Fingers crossed.

Germany differs from England in many ways:

  • the shops are only open when respectable citizens are at work
  • there are hardly any low-fat yoghurts etc at the supermarket
  • fruit and vegetables are of uniformly poor quality - almost every item blemished
  • you have to show your passport to get a pay-as-you-go mobile phone
  • it takes a week (and a copy of your passport) to set up an internet account
  • cyclists ride on the pavement
  • the houses in the villages are all bedecked with flowers at every window-ledge and balcony
  • it is either blisteringly sunny or torrentially wet, with nothing in between
20 June

Disappointment yesterday when we went to the biathlon centre expecting to train with Fritz 's group, to find no Fritz. Inferred that he is unable or unwilling to help us and reluctant to say so.

Today, however, Fritz was there, and we are to join his group, for a fee. I hope that this will be a success, although the members of his group are somewhat more advanced in their training than Joe and I (one won the sprint at the European Champs this year; another won a gold at the Junior Worlds).

After discussing tactics of shoot training with Fritz (whether I should start shooting with a high pulse, even though I am not grouping well at low pulse), I did quite a hard combination session - my pulse recovering less during the shoots than sometimes during racing! (In training I generally do not ease off before the shoots, as I wish to keep the pulse high, for training value).

25 June

The surprising simplicity of Fritz's training programme - just lots of hard work. Somewhat contrary to my understanding of how a programme should be constructed, but I will go with it for the time being. Perhaps the Germans do not find each session hard as I do, having done them all for years already.

Went for a mountain-bike ride with the Swedish team. Pouring rain, astonishing steep, long hills. Got off my bike at the end gibbering, whether due to exhaustion or to incipient hypothermia I am not sure. Will have to be careful.

28 June

Sprints and foot speed drills on the running track; a double-poling session on the track including a fierce hill; 37km biathlon combi; horrifying classic roller-ski hill session. Two days training. The programme is presumably progressive, so we have another 4 months for the sessions to get harder if training peaks in October. If my body can absorb all this then I will end up a superman by Winter. If not...

A shooting breakthrough yesterday: did 2 4-shoot roller-ski combis, missed 3 on my first prone shoot, adjusted my sights and cleared the next 3 prone shoots; missed 1110 of my stand shoots, so both well above my averages. More significantly, the second combi was only one miss in 20 shots, which is a lot better than I have ever managed before. Will have to do better today.

The Germans are amazingly quick in their shooting - when it goes well. If they have a problem they can take longer than I do, but normally they are extremely quick to get the first shot off, and a little quicker than me in the rhythm between shots. I shoot nearly as fast as them standing, but far slower prone.

29 June

My first fall! After one of the descents I put my roller-ski off the track and went sprawling, trying to save my rifle, my poles and myself. At first I thought I had destroyed all three and just lay in the track scared to move; but it turned out it was only me hurt, which will heal soon enough.

I love to see the huge numbers of children training, on the roller-ski track or for ski-jumping. I suppose I was doing a similar thing with kayaking (although without coaching) at that age, but it still makes me envious to compare my skiing career - first time on skis at the age of 25.

30 June

Another week ended. My shooting is coming on well; today I was trying to speed it up and lost some of the accuracy, but was still better than my long-term average.

Did a session of heavy weights this afternoon - I was wondering when they would come in. Interesting that Wolfgang Pichler is adamant that one should do a lot of this sort of training, while Fritz is not. Wolfgang also maintains that snow training in the Summer is unnecessary for the Swedish team because roller-skis are sufficiently similar for skating; the German men's team is in Finland this week using the snow tunnel there.

Seven consecutive sessions on roller-skis this week. Test week next week, with the German junior team (I presume they train at their own clubs and come together just occasionally in the Summer). Then on to more general training.

Fritz is giving me and Joe a lot more rest than the others in consideration of our poorer state of training (this certainly applies to me, as I did only 300 hours last year). I was initially worried about overtraining, but if I get 3 or 4 days off per fortnight I should be able to absorb all the training. I fear I will have to do less kayaking as that makes quite a tough rest day.

Accumulated injuries:

  • R knee - from Arctic Race
  • L knee - big scrape from fall yesterday
  • R knee - little scrape from fall yesterday
  • R thigh - little scrape and big bruise from fall yesterday
  • L hand/wrist - bruise from a little uphill stumble a few days ago
  • R wrist - sore from I don't know what
  • L elbow - scraped from too vigorous contact with the shooting mat.

Two days rest and I will be fine again.

Meanwhile, the Stadtfest in Traunstein this weekend, and a World Cup kayak race in Lofer, where I hope to catch up with some Cambridge friends who I think are still in the team.