Ole and Dasha… the Rhythm of Summer Training
After the first few weeks and a camp or two, summer training falls into a steady rhythm with days blending together, only separated by the variety of sessions and the daily short breaks away from sport. It is the same for everyone, including those with families like Ole Einar Björndalen and Darya Domracheva who spent most of June and July in an extended training camp at Hochfilzen. This was a perfect scenario that allowed them to train and have some private time without the stress of constant travel. Domracheva commented, “This is a beautiful place, surrounded by all of this nature. It is nice to be here and just stay focused every day. We decided this summer to stay in one place a little longer and have a little less travel. When you have so much stuff with baby bath, toys, etc; travelling is a little bit harder.”
Day Off; Strolling, Perfect Weather
A typical week started with the new mother actually having a day off from training. “I had some very hard trainings the last few days, so this was necessary.” Her plan for the day started with a nice stroll from the village up to the stadium, enjoying the clean cool summer air, while daughter Xenia snoozed contentedly in her stroller. “I am spending my day with her: a walk, some play and later we will go shopping. We need some baby supplies.” Meanwhile, Björndalen is at the shooting range for shooting training on his easy day. He mows down the targets with ease while doing drills for more than an hour. He commented, “What a perfect day for training, sunny and cool. We have had weather like this for most of the time here, but there was some hot weather for some days and that was really hard.” Satisfied with his morning, he packs up his rifle and heads to the couple’s rented house at a local hotel.
Simple Schedule for Biathlon Power Couple
The steady beat of training starts again the next day. Domracheva adds, “Our schedule is simple. We get up about seven with Xenia, have breakfast with her and try to be to the stadium or starting whatever the training is by 8:15; first with shooting and then physical training. By around 11:30, training is usually done and the baby is up from her morning nap. After lunch, there is play time with Xenia, then a nap for her and some rest for us before the afternoon training. The second training is 1.5-2 hours, depending on the day; home, dinner, family time a massage for recovery and an early to bed for everyone. We have not problems sleeping!” That is the pattern for this biathlon power couple, wherever their training schedule takes them.
Full Summer Program
For Domracheva, this is a new but in some ways familiar pattern, after missing two summers; first due to mononucleosis and the second due to pregnancy. “It has been a long time since such a full summer. Last year, I walked around with a big belly, with Xenia inside. Now I have full summer training program and it is a nice feeling. It is especially nice that the body has reacted quite well.”
Ole, Dasha and Alfred
The new training day dawns clear and cool, 17 degrees Celsius in the Hochfilzen stadium. Just after 8 am, Domracheva, Björndalen, Shooting Coach Alfred Eder and physio/and all-around helper, Dima are in the stadium. Warm-up, zeroing and an hour plus of shooting drills from one-shot to timed five-shots; the pattern is relentless. Shoot, reload and repeat. Eder records everything, comments, offers advice and corrections. He times five shots, “Ole-16 (seconds). Dasha 22 seconds; Ole, 16, Dasha, 21…” Few targets are missed by either; when one fails to fall; Eder makes sure these two Olympic Champions see where the miss was. The veteran coach commented, “Ole shoots fast and rarely misses. Dasha is a bit slower, but she hits them. She is so powerful on the tracks that she can make up those few seconds.”
Domracheva particularly enjoys having Eder behind the scope during their extended stay in Austria. “It is really good. I feel his support behind me with a lot of good advice that I get from him every day.”
Three-Hour Easy Bike Tour
By 9:30 now the sun is well above the mountains as Domracheva huddles with Eder about a cycling tour. She leaves Eder and Bjorndalen on the shooting range, heading to the well-known RV adorned with the couple’s images, to change clothes. Dima sets up the road bike for the 3-hour tour (85 km) to Kossen and back. “This is just an easy ride; not too hard,” according to Domracheva. The first part is a fast downhill through Fieberbrunn and St. Johann, carefully sharing the narrow roads with big trucks and plenty of cars. After St. Johann, the road gets narrower winding through the valley, in and out of some small villages and up some easy climbs. The multi-Olympic Champion glides past other riders, who seem to be working much harder. A different route back puts her in the traffic again; her pace is fairly quick until the long grind back up to Hochfilzen from Fieberbrunn. Hitting the small village, her watch says 2:40, so “I added a small loop to get the 3 hours.” Bike parked; lunch and family await: 4:15 since training started. The day ends with just some easy running, “about 1.5 hours” in the cool mountain air just before dinner.
Hard Day on Kitzbüheler Horn
This was a solid day of training but not her hardest of the summer. “My hardest and best session was at the Kitzbüheler Horn. I went there on rollerskis and did an intensity session. It was hard, but the right intensity; my body reacted well to this. I also did this climb on the bike with Alfred; he is very strong on the bike but I was really impressed when he did the climb two times the same day with no problem.”
Strength and Power
The week started moderately, lots of volume with not much intensity. However the next day changed the focus from volume to strength and power, first focusing on the legs. The Hochfilzen stadium was packed with the some of the Austrian World Cup team, a sports school group and others the previous day. Yet this morning, it was just Domracheva, Björndalen, Eder and Co. in the stadium at 8:15, along with a Eurosport crew filming. The same warm-up and shooting drills with a few twists along the way set the stage. The cameraman, trying to get as close to the couple as possible in the hour of shooting was virtually invisible to the two; it is all about focus. After the warm-up, before Björndalen left for his session away from the stadium, he patiently answered questions on camera for 20 minutes. After 30 minutes of looping around the roller tracks, the actual session began. One big loop of double-poling, pick up the rifle a shooting bout, drop the rifle, a quick lactate check to make sure the intensity was correct and drop the rifle was followed by the same loop without poles and the same procedure. This steady rhythm continued steadily until almost noon with each at just the right effort level. The triple Olympic Champion worked hard, but glided seemingly effortlessly through each loop. Tired and looking at her watch but always smiling and congenial, she agreed to answer a few questions for the TV crew. The mid-day family reunion and meal awaited.
Mother and Athlete: Family Organization Crucial
The daily training and related activities are a challenge for anyone but especially a family with a young child. With a smile, Domracheva commented, “I can say it is much easier to only be an athlete or the opposite, to only be the momma, spend all of your time with the baby and not think about your performance, shape or training. But I was prepared for this situation. I know it is important to organize all of the things around this; to have recovery time and play time with the baby. We are very happy that Xenia has come to us.” She adds that Björndalen is a big help, especially in organizing their wandering lifestyle. “I am not sure Ole has learned anything from me, but I have learned from him. He is very well organized. He is also very good at looking not just at this day or week but several steps ahead both with our preparation but also our life around this.”
Sweating in the Gym: Weights
The afternoon of play and recovery flies by; at 16:20, Domracheva is on her bike heading to her 4:30 gym session. The small gym in the military residence hall at the stadium is packed with machines, free weights, about 20 other athletes, and Eder mostly for support on this muggy afternoon. The iPad, loaded with the strength program comes out of the backpack. The cycling was the warm-up, “The morning was for the legs; this is for core and upper body strength. I usually do this two or three times a week.” Upper body work starts the session with free weights; each exercise starts with lower weights and builds up two or three times as plates are added. With all of the other athletes in the room, it is a bit crowded but if a planned station is filled, there is a short rest break. Although the pace seems relaxed, in 20 minutes, sweat drips from her face and head. “That was hard!”
Core and More
A dozen stations completed and the more static core work begins. Planks, side planks, superman, stabilization and flutter kicks are just a part of this intense session. Giving a nod to her dance background, the afternoon ends with some ballet stretches. Every muscle in her body has been used at some point in the day. Dry clothes on and fatigued from another long hard day, she hops onto the bike and home to the family at 18:30.
Another day completed as the daily rhythm of training goes on; every muscle group is at its limit and very likely sore in spots, but the reward just a kilometer down the road. “Oh, yes; the best part of the day is to come home to some little smiles and hugs. Then you forget all of your troubles!”