Greetings from the American West! The Green Racing Project Biathlon Team is currently two weeks into a three-week training camp in beautiful Utah. The team has enjoyed cool, sunny mountain weather to complement productive altitude training at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center. Soldier Hollow, the site of the cross-country ski and biathlon events at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, boasts a paved rollerski loop that covers much of the same terrain as the on-snow course and abuts a 30-point biathlon range. Because the venue will be hosting the BMW IBU Biathlon World Cup this February, Soldier Hollow has been revamping its biathlon setup with new targets and an upgraded coaches box, fencing, and facilities. Needless to say it’s a great time to be training at Soldier Hollow!
The camp’s purpose is twofold. First, it serves the team a great opportunity to rollerski on the Soldier Hollow paved loop, carry the rifle, and practice rollerskiing with shooting combination training (or ‘combos’) alongside the national team. While the team may miss running the Craftsbury singletrack, there is no better way in the offseason to prepare for winter competition than rollerski biathlon, especially on World Cup-worthy terrain. “It’s not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be,” says GRP member Hallie Grossman in reference to the Soldier Hollow paved track’s technical downhills. As for the opportunity to train with the national team led by new USBA women’s coach Armin Auchentaller, first-year GRP biathlete Kelsey Dickinson adds, “It’s been really exciting to work with the national team and I like how we’ve been able to do a lot of things together. They’re very inclusive and welcoming.”
The second purpose of the camp begins this week as round two of World Cup Rollerski Trials commence on Tuesday, October 30 with a sprint competition (7.5km for the women, 10km for the men). Competition continues Wednesday with a second sprint competition and wraps up Friday with a mass-start (12.5km for the women and 15km for the men). Each athlete’s three best results from the five total trials races will be tallied to select the US teams for the pre-Christmas World Cups and IBU Cups. The five trials races include the three this week and the two from August trials races in Jericho, VT (from which a maximal of one result can be applied toward selection). Says GRP biathlon coach Sam Dougherty of the team’s readiness, “Probably the second or third day here there was a moment when I realized, ‘Yeah, we’re really ready for these races and for the season’.” That said, a challenging course awaits the athletes, including the famed climb up Hermods Hill. Raleigh Goessling, a first-year GRP team member who celebrated his 27th birthday over the training camp, stressed the importance of maintaining energy and carrying momentum through all the transitional sections as key to a successful race plan.
In addition to rollerski-biathlon training, the team has relished the opportunity to explore Utah’s natural playground, for example running the Mid-Mountain Trail in Park City and rollerskiing up Mirror Lake Scenic Byway in the Uinta Mountains.”It has been such beautiful weather since we’ve been here and the Mid-Mountain trail really captures the grandeur of the west and the cool train-running opportunities that Park City has to offer,” says Dickinson, adding her greatest challenge for the trip has been balancing the need for recovery at altitude (Midway, UT sits at 1700m) with her desire to train for hours and hours in Utah’s high alpine landscape. When asked for her highlight of the trip, GRP summer athlete Johanna Talihärm offered, “Definitely hiking Timp[anogos], it’s the closest I’ve ever been to [the summit]… unfortunately we had to turn back because of darkness.” Add in a few quality strength sessions, delicious home-cooked meals, and the excitement of a Red Sox World Series title, and the team calls it a successful training camp.
After Friday’s final competition the team will wave farewell to Utah and fly home to cozy Vermont on Saturday. Everyone is anxious to get the racing season underway and return home, where hopefully they will soon be skiing on snow! Yeehaw!