Up High, Down High

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 (8 hours) and altitude (Hotel= 1700m, Dachstein glacier= 2700m) 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, 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.  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 100m from the gondola station the commute was really short.  By 7:40 I would be in line to catch the first ride up at 7:50.  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 a 1:15 to 2 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, 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 email and find out what was going on in the rest of the World and a nap.  About 3:30 we drove down the hill, at the bottom we then start our afternoon roller ski back up.  The road was give-or-take 8kms uphill, with a few section of 12% grade.  It was a good hour and a bit work out.  At 6:00 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 and 10.

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 (which is 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/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.  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 web-cams 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!  Enjoy the remaining part of your Autumn.


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