Glacier training in Tignes.
My first experience of a glacier camp, so I am open-minded. Staying
in a UCPA (kind of youth hostel) at an altitude of 2,100m, so I
was expecting the altitude to affect me more than it has done -
I slept fine last night.
This morning there was thin
cloud over the town, and it looked like the top might be clear.
We caught the underground funicular up and emerged blinking into
a blizzard. We walked down to the pistes, skied down the downhill
tracks to the cross-country loops - and found them 4" deep
in new snow. I asked a pistador whether they would be preparing
les pistes de ski de fond; he said tomorrow, when we will also have
a drag lift to take us back to the station (at 3,000m it is fairly
tiresome to have to ski up a downhill track. Especially in a whiteout).
Drove down to below the dam
this afternoon and did a classic roller-ski up with Joe Brooks and
Marc Walker - the rain paused for just long enough for us to do
that, so not a bad session.
Well, no draglift working
today either, so the grind back up to the station. But no cloud
either, despite the forecast: beautiful sunshine, a near-perfectly
groomed track about 25' round... my perfect Summer holiday. Did
an hour and fifty and felt great; will go to full-scale tomorrow.
Took a drive to Bourg St Maurice
this afternoon, where I used to do a lot of canoeing on the excellent
slalom course; then a gentle recovery jog and some general and core
The food at the hostel is
sensational; unfortunately not geared to endurance athletes, so
I am not coming close to my 600g/day carbohydrate ideal. But I am
beautiful day on the glacier, cruising around at heart rate not
much over 130 (ie very slow), thinking about the balance, timing
and angles. My knee was getting quite sore, as I don't have access
to a frig to freeze my cold bags, so I remembered to put a snowball
on it for the train ride down.
A session on classic roller-skis
this afternoon from Val d'Isère up towards the Col de l'Iseran;
the village is at 1,850m, and we must have climbed over 2,000',
judging by the sensational view of the valley; we were well above
the snowline, which felt odd on roller-skis, so I was again able
to get a snowball for my knee.
Stopped at a great cake-shop
in the village on the way back, feeling we deserved it.
Rest day - we are here 12
days, so it is either 1 rest day with blocks of 5 and 6 days of
training, or 2 with 3, 3 and 4. I am going for the latter, as it
is nearer to what Fritz suggested.
Drove down to Bourg St Maurice
for a bit of lower altitude recovery, had a coffee and wandered
around; went to look at the slalom (canoeing) course where I used
to train so many years ago, expecting to find it deserted. In fact
the water was running at a good level (this stretch is dam-controlled)
and there was a group of slalomists on the water, one of them very
good indeed. The course there is so much better than anything we
have in Britain...
Amazing to see the crush of
humanity in the queue for the funicular: the sliding doors open
and the mass surges forward , compressing from the rear, and the
sides - you could do an interesting study of the Young modulus and
Poisson ratio of Alpine skiers. There is usually a scream, and always
debris left behind - poles, boots, etc.
Perfect conditions on the
glacier today. I did 2hr 15', then went up the cable-car to the
top, for a downhill run. A bit steep and soft for XC planks, but
Atrocious conditions yesterday,
with wind, cloud and falling snow. Did an hour and three quarters,
but frustrating as there was a lot of new and wind-blown snow on
Double-poling intervals on
roller-skis yesterday afternoon: 6 minutes up a gentle incline (in
Val d'Isère), each time trying to beat your marker from the
previous interval. I found that my tips need sharpening, as I was
slipping badly, but I still managed to generate a decent intensity,
although I was quite a way short of the fastest man (this is also
affected by roller-ski speed: we all use different models). A satisfying
session, and one which I have not done this year, as Fritz does
not put much formal maximal work in his programme.
An interesting session discussing
technique last night, with the help of my digital video camera with
its excellent slo-mo and freeze-frame. I had a couple of potentially
significant new ideas to try today - one for the beginning of my
V2 skate cycle, and one for the end. Unfortunately scuppered by
the weather. It was snowing heavily when we rose, and I elected
to take my classic skis up, based on yesterday's experience.
The conditions were worse
than yesterday: not so much deep snow on the tracks, but visibility
so bad that I could not see where the tracks went; when I found
myself in deep snow, I had to cast about until I found the track
again, and got very frustrated. I decided to cut my losses and head
The camp degenerated a bit
towards the end, with bad weather making the skiing very unsatisfactory.
On Friday the glacier was closed, with the possibility of a later
opening; most of us waited. The glacier did not open, and I had
just decided to go for a run instead, when it was suggested that
we pack up and leave immediately, rather than wait until after supper.
We did that, so I lost the day's training; I got to my bed in England
at 3.30 Saturday morning, and was not up to much on Saturday either.
Conclusions: a glacier
camp has a lot of value as a time when you can work on technique
without the pressure of approaching races (when we get to the Winter
training camp at Tauplitz, there will be about 2 weeks before the
first selection race). However it requires thought and planning,
as other aspects of training (high-intensity work, strength, shooting)
can suffer. It also requires self-discipline, as it can be demoralising
when the skiing is bad or impossible.
Personally, I was delighted
at how well I coped with the altitude (or accommodation was at 2,100m),
and have picked up some potentially useful ideas on technique which
I was not able to try in the last few days because of the conditions.
I have also acquired some good video of myself and others, including
Raphael Poirée and Ole Einar Bjúrndalen, which is useful
I went through my mail today
and found a positive reply to one of my begging letters: Brett's
- a local gravel extraction company, with a cheque. This is very
nice, as it is my first success in raising cash. However, only a
small amount, so the quest continues.
Back in Ruhpolding. Due to
a little local difficulty I have moved into the doss-house at the
biathlon centre. This is a pile of prefab containers covered with
a tasteful wood cladding; it has light and heat, and telephone sockets
which are unfortunately not live. The loos are 50 yards away and
the showers 200 yards; it gets very dark at night as there are no
lights outside. Internet access will be problematic, as will catering,
laundry and all those other things one takes for granted. However,
it should be good for my training, given a transit time from accommodation
to the roller-ski track of about 5 seconds.
I have a charming little room,
with a window overlooking the range, and as I type am looking out
at the juniors training with their air-rifles on the floodlit targets
as the dusk falls.
The biathlon centre is quiet
in the mornings now as all the serious athletes are away on glacier
camps. The track is covered with leaves in places, and the fences
have been dismantled as the cows are now indoors for the Winter.
The sun does not get onto the firing point.
I have discovered that I can
play CDs on my computer, which is very civilised. I get the best
stereo effect if I put my nose on the space-bar. Verdi's contrapuntal
effects are stunning if I do this, but I have to be careful not
to cry into the keyboard.
Fritz and his gang are back
from the glacier, so I am training with them again. This is beastly
hard - they had the weekend off, which I did not, and we are doing
hard sessions this week: roller-blading with poles at something
near race pace in the mornings (with shooting), and a long session
of foot imitation drills, again with shooting, in the afternoons.
This emphasis on shooting fits my need perfectly, as I have got
a bit rusty in the four weeks I had away from the group. However
it could get expensive as I discovered too late that Go-Fly will
not carry ammunition (and they charge £20 to carry a rifle,
in addition to excess baggage).
Beautiful autumnal weather:
bright clear days, distinctly cool in the mornings, with mist at
night. In fact, so cool that I have been wearing my race-suit leggings,
which I very rarely do when there is no snow about. This afternoon
was warmer - back to shorts; and it started to rain just after our
session ended. So I am now sitting in my room, typing and looking
out of the window at the juniors training in the dark and rain,
The scenery is really staggering
at this time of year: an amazing variety of colours in the forests
that cover the valleys and lower parts of the mountains. When I
went to Tignes I was reminded how much less scenic the French end
of the Alps is: so much more arid, with very sparse tree cover and
thin, scruffy grass. I drove to Austria - to the Grossglockner -
on Saturday, and was struck by how the Tirol is prettier than the
Bavarian side of the mountains. Not sure why this should be, but
in the Tirol the villages tend to be more among the mountains (and
higher), whereas in Bavaria they are beside the mountains - rather
like the difference between Peru and Chile.
On Sunday I drove to Ramsau
to ski on the Dachstein glacier. This was very different from Tignes:
several hundred skiers from almost every nation I could think of
weaving along two loops, one of 8 and one of 5km. The tracks follow
a similar plan to Tignes: hairpins to get maximum track length into
a small area of reasonably flat glacier. The snow was very icy,
not nearly as nice as Tignes (the tracks are at 2,600m, a fraction
lower than Tignes). The view from the edge of the flat part of the
glacier is sensational: the valley bottom must be at least 6,000'
below, and you can see straight down to it, and for miles in the
northern quadrant. I met Peter Moysey there, who has managed to
inveigle his way into the Tirolean biathlon squad, and we drove
back to his local shooting venue: a 4-lane range in a quarry just
Got caught on the hop by Fritz's
absence today - would have done more yesterday had I known he was
about to disappear (I am more inclined to work hard when he is watching).
A surreal evening in the ski
club. I cooked so much pasta that I could not eat it all - which
is very rare indeed. Two of the juniors, after several weizbiers,
announced that they were off to catch mice - armed with brooms and
a rubber glove. Naturally I had to watch, and they wandered around
rattling bins and cupboards, but failed to find any victims, so
they settled to sprinting on the rowing ergometer to see who could
get it going the fastest. I had eaten so much that I could barely
reach the 'oar', so was unable to compete despite their beers.
I have to decide whether to
drive to Ramsau for a couple of days on the glacier at the weekend
with Peter Moysey & co. This would be fun, but the benefit to
my skiing would be only marginal, and I really have to concentrate
on shooting well now, so am reluctant to compromise my training
at Ruhpolding. On the other hand, training on a different range
would have some value - there is no other as easy as Ruhpolding
(because the range is reached via a slight descent, and there is
In Fritz's absence I did a
combination session on my own this morning, including some maximal
work. Shooting well, and back up to speed, which is nice. Now I
have to hold the focus on that for the next few weeks, when it will
be tempting to slow down.
At lunch-time I made a decision
to go to Ramsau for the weekend, to ski on the Dachstein glacier.
This means taking a day off on Monday, which was the tricky bit
of the decision. I move to Tauplitz Monday week for the Brit team's
training & selection camp, so I will take the full weekend off
so that I can blast straight into that. I need to check the snow
situation up there before being committed to going - to go there
without snow would put me in a much worse situation from a training
point of view than staying another week in Ruhpolding. On the other
hand, I need to get back in touch with the team, and in particular
impress the selectors with how cool I look (even though the last
I heard was that selection was to be competitive: these things change
This afternoon a long dry-firing
session on the range, trying to identify and cure any little hassles
in my drills, and to practise getting straight into the right position,
without having to adjust, as this saves a couple of seconds on each
shoot. Then a run to warm up before doing some sprints and speed
By the time I had finished
that it was dark, and my colleagues had already locked up the clubhouse
and hit the town, so I have to go and find a restaurant to feed
Slept on my alarm clock, so
had a frantic drive to Ramsau Saturday morning to get to my RV on
time. Just made it, and had a morning's skating on the glacier in
perfect conditions - but hard work: it is a very long time since
I last waxed my training skis, so I got left behind by everyone.
Went for a classic roller-ski
on the Ramsau roller-ski track in the afternoon: a sensational track,
with a height difference of 100m between top and bottom, and a choice
of several distinct loops; there is even a 3-way contraflow in one
place. There are some exciting descents and hairpins, so it is definitely
a track for those who have some confidence on their rollers. The
maximum speed is probably not as high as at Ruhpolding, but there
is a great deal more manoeuvring at speed.
Shot on the range: an interesting
experience. The targets don't seem to fall as easily as those at
Ruhpolding. Indeed, on inspection it turned out that the prone apertures
were not centred in the targets - not an uncommon problem with old
targets. The only ways into the range are steeply uphill, so it
is almost impossible to shoot without a high pulse; indeed the hill
is such that a 2' run is enough to get the pulse up. Again, very
different from Ruhpolding.
A talk by Walter Mayer (head
coach of the Austrian cross-country team that won medals in Nagano
and Ramsau, and the biathlon team that won two medals in the World
Champs in Oslo this year) on Saturday night. Billed to start at
8pm, the evening kicked off (in a packed hall) with a comedy turn
by Olympic medallists Markus Gandler and Aois Stadlober (including
a very good inspirational Powerpoint presentation of Austria's recent
cross-country and biathlon successes); Mayer turned up a little
after 9 and talked until 10.45, by which time I was in the bar.
It is amazing how much people smoke in this part of the world; at
my age I should no longer be amazed at the presumption that I do
not mind having a trail of smoke drifting straight over me, but
I still am.
On Sunday I took a pair of
Atomics and one of Peltonens (there are various trade stands with
gear to test at the bottom of the cable car) to test on the glacier.
I was suffering from some very stiff muscles, probably from Friday
night's unaccustomed speed training, and was not going well. However
I was able to discern that both skis had a reasonable feel to them,
while the Peltonens were shockingly slow. The chap who gave them
to me had said that they were prepared for today's conditions, and
I would have liked to hear his comments. Unfortunately he had disappeared
by the time I got down, so I just left the skis on his table and
retained a bad impression of them.
One interesting point was
that both reps gave me shorter skis than I am used to: Atomic 184cm
and Peltonen 188; I usually use 195cm (I am 177cm and 73kg), simply
because when I first started buying skis everyone used 195. But
the Fischer catalogue still seems to say that 195 is right for me.
In the afternoon a brief shoot
and blast around the roller-ski track on skates with Alan Eason
and Peter Moysey, then the drive home, struggling to stay awake
long enough to get home for an early night.
So, a rest day on a beautifully
sunny, warm day; at 23°C in Ruhpolding (at 670m), there is little
prospect of imminent snowfall. The peaks around Ruhpolding are at
the same altitude as Tauplitz (1,600m), and there is no sign of
snow on them. 1 week to go.