Altitude and Sunshine

19.Oct.2011 by Susan Dunklee

It’s October, which means I’m training in Utah’s Heber Valley for our biathlon team’s annual fall altitude camp.  Every day so far has been warm, sunny and beautiful on the valley floor.  The surrounding Wasatch mountains are capped with fresh snow; a promising reminder of the skiing soon to come.  Solider Hollow, the venue where we are training and the site of the 2002 Olympic games, sits at 5,500 feet.  The thinner air at this altitude makes it slightly more challenging to train and race.

The US Biathlon Association board members were in town last weekend for a meeting and banquet, as were the US Biathlon Foundation members.  We gave them some shooting instruction and then enjoyed a variety of activities together such as horseback riding, golf, and fly fishing.  At the banquet, I had the honor of sitting next to Bitsy Kelley who runs a west coast weekly radio show about everything outdoors.  We chatted about hunting, gardening, farming, and shared ideas for living self-sufficiently.

I went horseback riding with the board in the town of Sundance, home of Robert Redford. The scenery was beautiful with the aspens, oaks, and maples at the height of foliage season- almost as colorful as the Green Mountains back home. photo credit: Laura Spector

I went horseback riding with the board in the town of Sundance, home of Robert Redford. The scenery was beautiful with the aspens, oaks, and maples at the height of foliage season- almost as colorful as the Green Mountains back home. photo credit: Laura Spector

The first week of training was great.  We’ve shared the range with Maine Winter Sports Center, Twin Biathletes (the Barnes), the Junior National Team, and a contingent from Canmore.  A couple of times, we even saw our xc friends from the US Ski Team, Central XC and Sun Valley sprinting around the Soldier Hollow trails.  Although all these groups are on different training schedules, it is inspiring to train around them.  At the end of this week, we’ll also have the chance to meet some of the US speed skaters.  They invited us to watch their World Cup competition in Salt Lake.

Group training on the range. photo credit: Pat Coffey

Group training on the range. photo credit: Pat Coffey

Today was our first of two sprint races out here.  Racing at altitude tends to be very painful, the lack of oxygen makes it harder to recover.  My goal was to start at a relaxed pace and keep getting faster as the race went on.   I also applied a similar strategy on every uphill: ski at a controlled pace until the last few meters, when I would accelerate and carry more speed over the top.   It paid off- I had the fastest ski time of the American contingent (not by much), but I missed 3 out of 10 targets, while several of my teammates shot clean or only missed 1 or 2.

Standing shooting. Notice the new custom stock that I got a few months ago. photo credit: Jonne Kahkonen

Standing shooting. Notice the new custom stock that I got a few months ago. photo credit: Jonne Kahkonen

To read more about our Utah training camp and see more pictures, check out this Fasterskier article written by Chelsea