Saturday 1 September, Tignes, France
Rest day today, and well chosen:
snow was falling in the village this morning, and the funicular
was closed. Drove down to Bourg St Maurice for coffee and pain chocolat
A rest day somewhere like
this is a challenge in itself, as there is not an awful lot to do
that is entertaining and relaxing, and not biathlon-related. Still,
the time passes.aa
One of the world's noisiest
people is a 13-year-old Spanish girl staying at the UCPA who has
adopted us and just about everyone else. Apparently she is some
national junior champion in downhill skiing, and we are putting
money on her for an Olympic medal in 2014.
|Sunday 2 September
Perfect conditions up on the
glacier today, and a great day's training. Did 3x10' hard, with
fairly long rest between intervals, and completed the session well,
maintaining good technique all the way - in contrast to the one
hard session I tried to do on the glacier last time, which I had
to abandon. Then up to the top of the mountain on the cable car
for some downhill practice, in conditions more or less ideal for
Then straight down to the
range for a sneaky extra static-shooting session, to try to iron
out some basic issues in the shooting.
This afternoon a 'race simulation'
as running combination training - the race element being the layout
and organisation, rather than the effort, to accustom the mind to
Watching my skiing on the
video always used to make me cringe, as it looked like I was doing
nothing like what I thought I was. But now my skiing looks quite
respectable, as a result of a lot of thinking and effort on technique
- time watching videos, trying to understand what the fastest skiers
are doing, and then learning to do it myself. And it feels great.
Today another matter entirely:
rain in the village this morning; cold, dry snow blowing hard across
the glacier up top. The track in good shape, but quite uncomfortable
skiing into the wind, with the snow blowing into our faces. Did
2 hours, because the skiing was good and I did not do so much yesterday.
There were two chaps from
Rossignol here today, so I buttonholed them to ask about getting
some skis. The problem they always cite, not unreasonably, is that
there is no market for XC skis in Britain, and therefore no commercial
reason for them to support us. But we are happy to pay a reasonable
price for good skis, and the difficulty from our point of view is
simply getting good skis, regardless of price.
Could hardly get up from my
siesta this afternoon, but once I did I managed to go running and
shooting in the rain down below the dam, then classic roller-ski
up at a steady pace in 55', for some balance and core strength training
in the digs.
Now it is snowing outside;
the forecast is for clear tomorrow, so if it stops in time to freeze
up top we will have yet another beautiful day on the glacier.
Thursday 6 September
So much for yesterday's skiing:
glacier closed because of strong winds. We did a classic roller-ski
from Val d'Isere up to the Col de l'Iseran in cloud and light snowfall.
The col a cold and lonely place with the snow blasting across it.
A running biathlon race in
the afternoon. I was strangely unable to get my heart rate high
- perhaps just because I have done so little fast running the last
couple of years.
Team meeting in the evening:
Ian explaining his plan for the early part of the Winter season,
and discussing selection strategies for World Cup and Olympics.
Although the decisions are ultimately made by the Board of the British
Biathlon Union the squad members have a clear idea of what we think
is good strategy, given the various conflicting objectives of getting
numbers qualified for the Olympics versus getting the best racers
at their best versus maintaining our World Cup nations ranking,
etc. It is far from simple, and there are many different arguments.
Very late to bed after the
meeting, so took the second train up this morning and still found
ourselves making the first tracks on the glacier. Another beautiful
day, the tracks slightly softer than optimal, but nevertheless a
lovely day for skiing. Up to the top for some downhill before catching
the train down, then I drove down to the range for a little static
shooting on my own. Steack frites for lunch, and a massive siesta.
|Monday 10 September,
Interesting weekend: the BOA's
winter games conference, for all potential members of 'Team GB'
for the Olympics in February, aimed at helping everyone to optimise
performance at the games; and at making sure we all understand the
obligations that membership of Team GB puts one under (mainly obligations
to the sponsors).
Dinner on Saturday night sponsored
by the Mormons - they founded Salt Lake City to get away from the
rest of us, and are now making the best of the forthcoming pagan
invasion. They were multicultural enough to allow us wine.
Now at home for a couple of
days before returning to Ruhpolding for the Autumn roller-ski biathlon
|Friday 14 September,
The Ruhpolding half of the
German Herbstleistungskontrolle was cancelled following the business
in America, and the official races moved to Oberhof. There was a
race at Ruhpolding today anyway, and about 25 men took part (a 15km
individual race) in the dismal gloom and rain.
I thought I was skiing beautifully,
gradually catching the chap in front, when the Swiss giant Matthias
Simmen shot passed me and reminded me that elegance is not what
shows on the results list. I skied a little faster.
I was delighted to clear my
first two shoots, and trying to maintain the appropriate mental
focus rather than divert onto the fatuous distractions that usually
intrude when things are going too well. But I missed the first shot
of my third shoot, thus removing the mental pressure of a potential
Günther Beck started
30" behind me, and I ended up skiing most of the race with
him (I had a tiny misunderstanding about the course on the first
loop, and dropped a bullet on the first shoot, allowing him get
just ahead of me), just pipping him in a sprint finish. He was just
beginning to pull away from me on the climbs early on the last loop,
so I wonder whether there is any significance in the difference
in the phasing of our speed.
Overall, delighted with my
shooting (1 penalty is my best yet in a 20-shoot race) and very
happy with my skiing. Click here for results
I have had a sore throat for
a few days, which usually adumbrates a cold; this morning it was
quite nasty but now after the race it is fine. One half of the Dixon
remedy (bottle of whisky before bed, followed by a hard race the
next morning to clean all viruses from the system).
Andi Birnbacher shot clear
and presumably won, as many of the others shot badly (Ricco Groß
and Michael Greis both missed 6). So he was disappointed, as this
was originally supposed to be a qualifying race for the German World
Cup team; I suggested that if he could do it today he can do it
next week. He says it is not so easy to shoot clear in Oberhof.
Went to visit a stock-maker
in Schleching today. Larsen, who told me that he would replace for
free the stock I bought from him if it broke in use, is refusing
to do so, and I am reluctant to buy another from someone who does
business like that. So an alternative, made of some very light wood,
and largely tailored.
Once again, reality steps
out from behind the corner and slaps me in the face.
Started 7th in the pursuit
race, and reasonably well, missing 1 of my 10 prone shots; then
missed 4 & 2 standing, to end up 18th of 31 (on today's time
only) - still respectable in comparison with the field, but 7 misses
is not satisfactory. To miss 6/10 standing, having hit all 10 yesterday,
Again I had a sprint finish
with Günther Beck; again I passed him (and the Swede he was
following). Does that mean I don't push hard enough earlier in the
race? I had enough trouble shooting after skiing at the speed I
did. I don't think I am a good straight sprinter, but the ability
to sprint at the end of a race is not necessarily the same thing.
Perhaps Günther is an even worse sprinter (though he did win
a European Championships title last Winter).
- If I am thinking about
ski technique, I am not thinking about going fast. I need to ingrain
any new techniques thoroughly by the start of the season, so that
I can focus on producing speed
Skiing fast is not just about
skiing with good technique: there is a lot of the animal in it as
well. Or at least, I think that is how it is. Perhaps I should ask
Henrik Forsberg, who skied 1'30" faster than anyone else yesterday.
The notion applies to shooting
as well (and probably to any acquired motor skill): Dave Collins
told us at the BOA conference last weekend of some research on archers,
using EEGs to measure brain activity while shooting; archers who
were still trying to work on technique had greater brain activity
while shooting than those who had accepted their technique as adequate,
and this greater brain activity was correlated with inferior results.
|Sunday 16 September
now I have a horrible cold. Almost inevitable after a glacier camp
and a visit home - mixing with all those unfamiliar viruses. I did
not go to Oberhof today as the last thing the rest of the gang here
want is a chap blowing germs at them for five hours in the minibus
on the way to their first chance at a place in the German world cup
team for December. I hope I will be well in time to drive up on Wednesday
for the races on Friday and Saturday. If not, I will just have to
go and wash it away at the Oktoberfest.
At last, the sun again. There
is snow on the peaks I can see from my kitchen window (about 1,700m,
I think). And every time I open the window in flies a swarm of dozy
There is a huge landscaping
project going on at the biathlon centre, and the roller-ski track
is closed for a fortnight. I did some static shooting (I still have
my cold), getting a new PB in the 100-round test. Then I went into
the gymn to remind my muscles that life is not all sitting about
sniffing and sneezing (I have a theory that weight-training is OK
when one is ill because it stresses only the individual muscles
used, not the system as a whole).
|Friday 21 September,
Everyone says that Oberhof
is always wet, windy and misty. Sure enough, that is how it was
yesterday when we arrived, and how it was all day today, and how
it is forecast for the weekend.
Sprint race today: shockingly
hard work on a course very different from Ruhpolding - there are
no steep hills here, but a long gradual climb towards the range
leaves you gasping. Somewhere like Ruhpolding you can 'borrow' the
energy for a sprint up a short but steep hill from the rest you
will take after it, or by easing off on the flat before it; here
there are no flats, and if you ease off on a gentle climb, you go
very slowly indeed.
I missed 1 & 2 this morning,
better than most of Fritz's gang but still annoying: it was windy
and I could hardly hold my rifle for want of oxygen; but the standing
misses were simply bad shots. Interesting looking at my heart rate
graph for this race: my pulse dropped to 139 in the prone shoot
and 152 in standing (normally 110 and 130). My pulse was over 180
for 2 minutes of the second of the 4 loops (which is too high),
and after that dropped off, along with my speed.
Funny race today. Knowing
that in this company I have to shoot very well focuses the mind,
and I was disappointed to miss 1 in my first shoot. But I cleared
the next two, and was on course to equal my best shooting in a 4-shoot
race, but that thought did the trick and I missed 3 on my last shoot.
Going out of the range for
the last loop, a battle of minds emerged, which really demonstrated
the power of concsious decision-making in determining the race outcome.
Most of the minds involved were mine, thus:
- Id: OK, race done, all
the Germans can ski faster than me so I won't catch anyone in
front and if there's anyone close behind they've got me
- Superego: I'll ski reasonably
hard anyway, just in case there is someone behind...
- (German racer overtakes
- Ego: OK, try to stay with
- Id: If I were a slalom
skier I'd be finished by now
- Superego: But I'm not,
I'm here and trying to stay with this monster
- Ego: This hurts, and I
wish I was a slalom skier
- Id: It's OK, he's a German,
it's all right to let him go
- Superego: He's not going
any faster than me now, I could overtake him...
- Ego: Right, let's overtake
- Id: OK, honour satisfied,
take it easy and skip the pain
- Superego: No, make him
work for it!
- Ego: Damn! Here he comes
- Id: If I were a slalom
skier I'd be in the pub now.
- Superego: OK, I tried and
he beat me, that's fine
- Ego: Well, he's still not
going any faster than me, so maybe I should try to pass him again.
- Id: That really
hurts. But it doesn't have to, all I have to do is ease off, after
all he's supposed to beat me.
- Ego: Here he comes again.
- Id: If I were a slalom
skier I'd be in bed with some overenthusiastic groupy by now.
- Superego: OK, game over.
- Ego: Well, it's only another
50 yards, surely there's something I can do
- (Break into hopping, crab-like
sprint up the last steep hill, one ski on the grass to get round
- Id: Shouldn't have done
that, that hurts a lot.
- Superego: He's coming back!
- Ego: No he's not!
And that is more or less how
it went: 6 exchanges of position in the last loop, and the outcome
deliberately decided, rather than just being allowed to unfold.
|Friday, 28 September,
Frustrating week: the biathlon
centre closed for roller-skiing. Started the week running and cycling,
with too much enthusiasm and awoke a couple of forgotten injuries,
so started driving over to Hochfilzen instead. Got plenty of shooting
done, which is good news: I think I see an upward trend in my race
scores in the last few weeks, which I attribute to the larger amount
of shooting I have done recently.
Collected my new stock today
and gave it a quick test: seems good.
Off to Finland tomorrow, so
packing tonight and up at 3am for a ridiculous flight - I wish now
I had spent a bit more for a nicer one.
|Sunday, 30 September,
A surreal journey here from
Germany yesterday: got up at 3 to drive to the airport; the check-in
girl did not seem to register when I told her I had a gun and ammunition
in my baggage and did not call the border guards to check my certificate
as normal. I had a change in Amsterdam, and at Helsinki, sure enough
my rifle was missing. I reported it and was told that if it was
on the next Amsterdam flight they would still be able to put it
onto my flight to Kajaani. The flight from Amsterdam arrived late,
and I was at the boarding gate for Kajaani, telephoning the baggage
office, when the girl I had dealt with turned up with my rifle,
saying there had been no-one in security so she had just walked
through; I was to hand the rifle over to the gate staff to have
it put in the hold.
So there I sat at the departure
gate with a rifle under my chair. Come boarding time I told the
gate staff that my gun needed to go in the hold; they said tell
the cabin crew. So I carried it onto the aircraft.
I told the cabin crew I had
a gun that needed to go in the hold. They said put it in the 'locker'
at the front, where it was secured by a curtain...
Finland a very different country:
the language so remote that one can't guess a single wordl. Here
in Vuokatti it is really cold, everyone walking around in hats and
gloves. There were frozen puddles ooutside this morning.
And funnily enough the tunnel
is also cold. I normally don't wear much when training, but I kept
my warm-up trousers on today. We had a lie-in to get over yesterday's
early start, and the track was well degraded by the time we got
in: powdered ice on a blue-ice base. But still, it is clearly an