Hugh Pritchard, Biathlete

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Hugh Pritchard
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June 2001

Sunday 3 June

Whitstable

Packing the car to drive to Ruhpolding. So much junk. Last-minute correspondence, tax forms, etc.

4 June

Ruhpolding

Ensconced in my little apartment a few miles from Ruhpolding: the perfect hermit's retreat. No excuses now for doing anything but training.

Drove down here with a carfull of junk; retrieved another carload that I had left in storage here after last Summer. Horrifying how much kit it takes to train.

6 June

Ruhpolding

Reunited with my car yesterday, when Peter Moysey brought it over from Austria looking cleaner than I have ever seen it. That won't last.

First training session with the group: my oh my! I fell off the back after the first shoot of an 8-shoot mass-start combi. Hard work all the way. But the shooting was fine for my first combination training of the year.

It was a relief when both Andi Birnbacher and Günther Beck admitted to me afterwards that it had been a hard session. And they were both on Marwe roller-skis, which are somewhat faster than the DMS that I was using.

And the weather? Rain, of course.

Tuesday, 12 June

Ruhpolding

At last, sunshine! A long skate this morning followed by a dip in the lake - cold after all the rain, but supposedly very beneficial immediately post-training.

Fritz got back to the group for this afternoon's session. Said that the group is a bit too big now (at most I think it will be 11 athletes) - but I should be OK as he said to me a few weeks a go that I could train with the group, and he seems to respect the commitment I have made to training iin Ruhpolding. My rusty German is barely up to understanding the training we are doing: will have to keep my head down for a while.

18 June

Lofer, Austria

Weather forecast:

  • Monday: rain
  • Tuesday: rain
  • Wednesday: rain
  • Thursday: showers
  • Friday: rain

Perhaps it's time to invest in a rain-jacket.

When the weather is like this, then there is no point being anywhere but the river, so I took my old boat out on the canoe slalom course at here at Lofer: the water was high and fast from the rain, and the waves powerful. I paddled beyond the slalom course into the Teufelschlucht; but the hard bit looked horrendously hard, so it will have to wait for another day.

 

19 June

The wettest roller-ski combi session ever at Hochfilzen, with water in the remotest parts of my rifle, and my boots so heavy I could hardly lift them.

Mike Dixon balancing on his Swiss ballAn entertaining session this afternoon on Swiss balls (inflatable ball about 2' diameter), led by Amanda, the lovely physio at Glenmore Lodge. All sorts of core strength and balance challenges; then an hour and a half running along the valley, during a break in the rain. Now I am sitting in my room watching Mike Dixon standing on his Swiss ball, and he has got to half an hour so far. Every time I look I think he is about to fall off and break a leg. Amazing balance. Don't try this at home, as when you come off, it happens very fast and you land on your head!

 

Saturday, 23 June

Lofer

The last day of training at Lofer for me: a day off tomorrow, and Taking a bend on the roller-ski track at Hochfilzenthen back to the Ruhpolding gang and their brutal regime on Monday. Hopefully I will be able to keep up, now that I am back into the rhythm of things.

Took the kayak out on the river here at Lofer this afternoon: a good session for the abdominal muscles, back, shoulders, arms. And fun, of course.

It was good to catch up with the rest of the squad - they all train together in Aviemore, and they have an element of support up there, with a physio on demand, visits from Ian the coach, and free food as a sponsorship deal from the caterers at Glenmore Lodge! But it is hard to get all the little bits of peripheral training done when there is so much talking to be done - the dry-shooting, stretching, mental training and so on - not to mention studying German. Discipline from Monday on.

 

Wednesday 27 June

Rhuhpolding

Classic roller-ski up to the Steinbergalm on Monday: over 3 trips, I was nearly 5 minutes quicker than at this time last year, which shows how much higher a base I am starting from this year. It would be nice to extrapolate that to a 20km biathlon in the Winter...

This morning a 10km time trial on skate roller-skis: hard work in the heat (32°C as I drove back through the town). Hans-Peter Foidl (Austrian B team) won, a little faster than Andi Stitzl. We were watching him in Hochfilzen last week and commenting on the wasted energy in his skiing. And seeing him today on classic roller-skis without poles showed his balance to be poor. Sometimes it is difficult to believe the mantra that technique is all-important.

 

28 June

Discussing my plans with Fritz. Told him of the 3 glacier camps this Summer. Fritz no longer believes in glacier training: too much disruption to the training routine, for too little benefit - you can learn ski technique just as well here at Ruhpolding, and do much better combi training. Altitude acclimatisation you can get while doing roller-ski combis at Belmeken in Bulgaria.

This is also what Wolfgang Pichler believes and applies to his coaching of the Swedish team, which is getting gradually more and more successful.

On the other hand, you get a far better tan on the glacier than you do in Ruhpolding. And the Norwegians were at Tignes at the same time as us last October, and they are clearly the fastest skiers around.

Training at the biathlon centre late this afternoon (did an hour dry-firing at the range, then an hour and a half on classic roller-skis), the children's groups out in force: 13-year-olds roller-skiing with immaculate technique; 11-year-olds doing little relay races with their air rifles. Proud mums watching. And the BBU says that grass-roots development is not its business: for shame.

Saturday, 30 June

Another week over, my biggest yet this year at 18 hours. The training is gathering momentum, but next week is test week: Fritz's German juniors and the Ruhpolding group do a series of standard tests which are interesting for year-on-year comparison as well as for comparison within his groups.

Today a big (for me) ride on the road bike: a 75km circular route through the mountains, in blazing sun with cooler air drifting out of the forests... fantastic!

Then over to Lofer to round the week off with a little kayaking. The German slalom team was training, so I had to get in the way by running their gates - a great feeling, and good to know I can still chuck the boat around. It would be nice to get back into slalom racing.

And I finally got my annual run down the Teufelschlucht - solo, twice. Almost came unstuck the first time, then as I was walking back up I met the entire German junior slalom squad running hell-for-leather down the bank chasing some gear they had lost; so I jumped back in and did it again. I didn't find their stuff.

When something goes wrong in the white-water, you often find yourself upside down, and the temptation is to roll up before reorientating and extricating yourself from the situation; but a rapid extrication is usually easier than a delayed one because you can use your momentum, so it is, counterintuitively, better to maintain a sense of orientation while under the water, and apply the appropriate paddle strokes to get the boat moving the right way, before rolling. You also have better reach and feel for where the water is going when upside down. That requires a really good intuitive feeling which I have not quite found in biathlon.