Canadian Team: Preparing for the New Season…at Home
While many European teams have been on the road away at camps the first 6 weeks of the new training season, the Canadian biathlon team has been training just as hard, but at home, sleeping in their own beds every night.
Limited Budget; Hometown Advantages
The past couple of seasons, with extra funding (after Nathan Smith’s and Relay WCH medals) from the Canadian “Own the Podium” program, the Canadian biathletes have been able to do some camps away from home. Unfortunately, after a tough 2016-17 year, the team has no extra funds to assist in their OWG build-up, so they will train exclusively at and near their home base in Canmore. Although at a financial disadvantage, they have the advantage of a World Cup stadium, weight training facility, rollerski tracks, a glacier, high and moderate altitude plus mountain roads and trails just outside their door.
Effortless Spring Skiing
Like everyone else, the Canadians started their new season in early May. However, they kicked off the “Road to Pyeongchang” a bit differently. Coach Matthias Ahrens commented, “We were able to ski at the venue (Canmore Nordic Center) on our first day, May 3; there was still over 15K of groomed trails in good condition…Then we moved over to Banff Sunshine Village for another week of on-snow to kick off our training. We are really lucky to have this spot so close. There is a 6K loop that they groom for us, but when there is a good freeze the alpine meadows are nice and crusty and we can cross ski off the trail. One day it was frozen so well that you could ski effortlessly anywhere up there. That was the highlight of our early spring!”
Snow and June Road Cycling
Late spring skiing is pretty much the norm for the Canadians, as they wait for spring to arrive in the Canadian Rockies. It is how they usually start their year, on snow. The snow lingers in the higher elevations for a long time and teases Canmore even with the official start of summer, just 2 weeks away. It was snowing on the shooting range during training on May 25, and “on Saturday (June 10) we had a four-hour bike ride planned and when we started, there was a combination of snow/sleet falling!”
Dry-land Training with a Canmore Twist
Still the skis are packed away for now and the focus is on dry-land training with a Canmore twist. Ahrens continued, “The spring is a mixed bag with all different kinds of training. Cycling is a big part of what we do to get the big volume; because we have really good mountain bike trails, our cycling is mixed between road and mountain biking. Anything up to two hours is on the mountain bike and beyond that up to 5 hours is road biking. We also run and ski stride a lot at this time of the year; we rollerski but it is not the focus now.”
Bighorn Sheep, Elk…and that Grizzly
Mountain biking, running in the forest and cycling/roller skiing in the spectacular backdrop of the jagged Rocky Mountains, makes everyday training enjoyable. Of course encounters with wildlife are almost every-day encounters. “We do an uphill rollerski workout where we always see bighorn sheep, elk and deer are always around. Grizzly bears are out and about; we wanted to park in a spot to start our rollerski workout recently and there was a one right there. The park rangers were there watching it, so we obviously moved to a different spot to start our workout!” All of the potential wildlife encounters keep both the coaches and athletes on their toes. “Part of training here is keeping an eye on the wildlife. That is why we do not want anyone training with headsets or music. You have to have all of your senses available to see if there is a bear alongside the trail!”
Windy Shooting Training
Besides all of the physical training, shooting is a big part of resetting for the new season. With no indoor facility, the Canadians do all of their shooting outdoors. Ahrens does not consider this a handicap. “It can be windy here, so we get plenty of practice shooting with the wind. I see that as a plus for us. We also now have a Megalink system, so the athlete can instantly see how they are shooting.”
Natural Air Conditioning
Spending the summer training at home in Canmore is full of positives. The July high temperatures are generally around 25 degrees Celsius with plenty of sunshine. The atmosphere is generally quite dry and accordingly, there are few insects to deal with. Ahrens recalled a recent day on the road with the team. “We were rollerskiing from midway between Lake Louise and Banff up to Moraine Lake on a warm day. There were snowbanks alongside the road from Lake Louise up to Moraine so you had that cooling effect from the snow.” Natural air conditioning; the perfect solution for summer training!