BY TIM BURKE
Another month has flown by and we are now three days away from the start of the world cup in Sweden. I feel like it was just yesterday that we started the training year, but I am happy to get racing underway this weekend.
I had a busy month of training and travel since my last post. I spent the first three weeks of October in Utah for our annual fall altitude training camp. We always go to Utah during October because it offers some of the best fall training conditions with sunny weather, high altitude and a world-class venue. While in Utah, we spend most of our time training at Soldier Hollow, which was the site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Soldier Hollow has paved ski trails and a full biathlon range so we can combine shooting and skiing in the same workout. During that time of year, our training is quite biathlon-specific, so we spend nearly every day utilizing Soldier Hollow. Overall, the Utah camp was a success and I was able to train more there in our three-week camp than any of my previous Utah camps. We also lucked out with some beautiful fall weather, which made for some picturesque roller skis, mountain bikes and mountain runs.
After three full weeks in Utah, I was ready for a little recovery time in Lake Placid. Unfortunately, I was only home for one week before packing up the bags again and heading for Sweden. I had a lot of organizing to do when I was home because that was my last time at home until the end of the season on March 24. This will be the first time that I have spent the entire competition season on the road. I have struggled a lot in the past with my health when I travel back to the U.S. during the season so this year I will not take any additional risks. By staying in Europe during the holiday break, I will also have the opportunity for another block of quality altitude training. With the Sochi Games being held at altitude, I think this will help me prepare in the best way possible.
After a quick week at home, I arrived in Ostersund, Sweden a week ago to unseasonably warm temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, Ostersund has one of the best setups in the world for early season snow conditions, so the tracks are still in pretty good condition. The ski venue here in Ostersund actually makes so much snow during the winter months that they can save it through the summer in preparation for the next winter. Since it has been too warm to make snow this season, the snow that we are skiing on now was all made last winter and saved over the summer months. Without doing this, we surely would not be skiing here now. What’s even more impressive about this is that we are skiing on a loop that is over four kilometers long and up to three feet deep in places. That’s a serious amount of snow to save over the summer!
Despite the warm temperatures, my transition to snow has been smooth. I feel like I am in good shape and I am looking forward to start of the racing season this Sunday with the mixed relay. It's always hard to know exactly how you will stack up after eight months away from competition, and that always makes for an anxious week before the start of the season. I feel like I am better prepared for this season than any previous year, but you never actually know until you put on a bib and toe the line!
Once racing resumes on Sunday, it will be nonstop for the next few weeks. We will have four races here in Sweden, three in Austria and three in France before the holiday break. It's a tough racing schedule, but these are the days that I look forward to all year long!