As the summer months wind down and the nights cool off, I reflect upon a terrific few months of training. The later part of June and the majority of July were sent in the backyard- Canmore. First was some time to recover after a very successful camp in Bend. Then the focus shifted to intensity and strength while I was home. Before finally starting to build towards the next camp which was our annual on-snow in New Zealand. A new addition to the team’s schedule this year are a few Biathlon Camps. The first was the final week before we departed for New Zealand. The camp was six days of a precision focused shooting. When we were not on the range shooting (and even when we were) we had sessions with the team’s psychologist. Working on mediation, clearing the mind and listening internally to the body. These sessions applied instantly to the work we were doing on the range. When I’m shooting at my best, I enter a near meditative state. There are no other thoughts, and at times no thoughts at all. The shooting is essential on auto-pilot, muscle memory takes over. Though I’m aware of small external factors that may affect my shooting like a breath of wind on my cheek, or the distance rustling of trees as a gust of wind approaches. I don’t act upon these until my subconscious deems them to be sufficient enough to affect the pellet. Shooting starts out as a physical skill. How good you will become depends on how well you drill in the basic skills of sight picture, trigger control and follow through. Once you have these skills (and few others), shooting becomes almost solely a mental skill. Your mindset will then determine more in your performance than all other factors combined. The camp’s final training session and our departure for New Zealand were the same day. In the morning we shot, finished up with one camp and departed for the airport, onward to the next.
I’ve had some of the best training camps down in New Zealand but this year’s edition is up there as one of the best. The conditions were fantastic, great snow and lots of it. The first week or so had some wetter weather but nothing that really hindered our training. You just had to dress for it and be smart about your post-session recovery. The rest of the camp had great weather. I felt the best I have ever felt in New Zealand, in terms of fitness, strength and technique. As the camp progressed I was getting better. The plan was to end the training camp in New Zealand essentially with racing the Merino Muster. I was pumped after the race. I had had a little trouble off the start. It was a double pole start and as I took my second pole plant my pole stuck into the snow and snapped. So there I was trying to double pole (which I’m already not great at) with half a pole. Once I got out of the double pole section I had to ski around the first kilometer without a pole before getting a replacement. It wasn’t too bad as there was a small hill that slowed most skiers down and I could keep up. Then once the trail flatten out my skis were so fast I hardly did anything and I was flying by the others. I used the next four kilometers to catch up. I eventually settled in just off the lead group, creating the ‘chase’ group. The rest of the race was awesome. I felt great, was skiing very well and after a few skiers went up ahead, I soon started to reel them in and put distance between me and those behind. I felt I had a terrific race, finishing 8 overall for the 42km race. There was some time where I thought I had gone out a touch hard in the beginning but I kept a steady pace throughout. Even better was once I neared the finish I still had a little left in the body to up the speed for the final charge for the line. It is neat to see the progression in fitness and speed over the years from my results in the Merino Muster, like this year where I shaved 16 minutes of last years’ time, yes some of that will be conditions but I like to think most of it was me. The few remaining days that we were in New Zealand I felt amazing. I put in a lot of fantastic hours on snow, making huge improvements in technique and fitness. I have never felt this strong in New Zealand. I seemed to be getting stronger as the camp on.
But as all good things do, it was time to fly back to Canmore. An important rest period before back to back altitude camps in the States. It is usually tough getting back from mid-winter temperatures to mid-summer heat. Though Canmore did try to continue the wintry conditions for us shorty after our arrival with multiple dustings of snow in the three weeks following our return from New Zealand. It is so nice that home tries to make things easier. Not!
I’m now headed to the Sierras of California, Mammoth Lakes for the next camp. A training location that has long been a favorite of Canadian National Team skiers but it will be the Para team’s first trip down. I look forward to exploring a new place (and new trails).

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