It seems just yesterday when I was packing my gear for the first training camp of the year in Bend, Oregon. It was exciting, going somewhere new, fresh, to explore and enjoy training in a different setting. I loved it in Bend and look forward to another opportunity to go back and train there. It was kind of fitting that we started the training season in a new place. It is the beginning of a new season but most importantly the beginning of a new quadrennial between Paralympic Games. Then in the fading days of July the next camp was the team’s old faithful location of New Zealand. Always a huge camp in terms of benefits that are gained. After countless trips to the other side of the World I’m still amazed each time by the natural beauty in New Zealand. It is like stepping into another World. I’m probably more familiar with the Snow Farm then I am of any other place I’ve traveled to, yet every year I do something completely new. Afterwards back in Canmore, as the nights cooled off and the feeling of fall hung in the air. It came time for the final dry-land camp of the year. For the first two weeks of October I traveled to Ramsau, Austria. In what feels like a blink of an eye the season began and is drawing to a close with a mere few weeks before the competition season starts. I can almost count the days on my fingers before the snow is rolled out for Frozen Thunder.
This Ramsau camp had a bit of everything. From skiing on snow at an altitude of 2700m, to roller skiing as low as 800m. Ski striding up grassy alpine slopes or easy afternoon runs that turned into climbing vertical rock walls. In 2009, I made my first trip to Ramsau and the Dachstein Glacier. After this trip I have a fleeting question as to why I didn’t return earlier. I really enjoyed this camp in part because I was ready and able to benefit from the camp. I think back to 2009 and recall how I trained, how much I trained. Then I reflect back over these past two weeks. I’m now actually training ‘with’ some of the best in the World. It is still hard work but it doesn’t feel like work. What was a big training camp amount of hours in 2009, is now a medium week. The hours I do now in a volume week, I could not have dreamed of on my first trip to Dachstein. Yes, training hours have a lot to do with getting better but it is the quality of those hours that will truly make you better. Skiing for four hours up at 2700m, will make you tired. It is making every stride, every pole plant, and every muscle movement perfect in those four hours that will determine whether you get better. It is easy to overdo it at altitude, so I was always watching my heart rate, trying to keep it low. My technique suffered from that and I wasn’t skiing that well. I was too afraid to actually ski properly thinking it would spike my heart rate. Finally when I did ski properly, yes I spiked my heart rate but I was skiing more relaxed and efficient. I learned to believe in my fitness and my strengths so that I can focus on improving my weaknesses.
Very few opportunities in sport allow you to train at the same place, at the same time as several World Champions. Skiing the 10km loop that zig-zags along the Dachstein Glacier, you could be skiing with countless past, current and future Olympic and World Champions. With this comes the benefit but also the chaos of Ramsau in early October. From kids whose ages are still in single digits to skiers with double digit World titles to their name. It is a wide variety of abilities. Ramsau has become the gathering place for a countless nations’ Biathlon and Cross Country teams. With this mass invasion of skiers it became convenient for the equipment suppliers to hand out theirs goods for the upcoming season. From skis, poles, boots, wax, you name it and it is distributed in Ramsau this time of year. I would like to say a special thanks to Fischer and Leki for the new gear.
For now, it is back to Canmore but it won’t be long before I’m skiing again. By the weekend the Canmore Nordic Centre will be rolling out their pile of stored snow. Like a phoenix, Frozen Thunder will be reborn for another season. Canmore will play host to a mini invasion of North American skiers eager to get on the first snow of the season. With Frozen Thunder comes the promise that in only a few weeks the skies will fill with the white stuff. As the temperatures fall, so do the snowflakes both natural and artificial. Before you can finish your Halloween candy Lake Louise will be a snowy white paradise. In Canmore, a single snowflake will instantly turn into a pile, that pile will then become a trail. There are six weeks before the first major competitions, but that time flies by quicker than a lap of Frozen Thunder.
It is fair to say that, as the training season draws to a close, it has been a fantastic year. As the year has progressed I felt better and better. I see large improvements from small adjustments. I learn everyday something more that I need to do to get better myself. I get excited about switching from training to competition in the coming weeks. It will be a long competitive season with a fair bit of travel as well. First the focus stays on working on my weaknesses, recovery and staying smart with decisions.
Happy Thanksgiving!


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