Training Camp Diary with Benedikt Doll
It is mid-summer and training camps are in full swing. Many teams have made their way to Italian venues including Bormio, where the German men just finished a week of altitude, long uphills and great Italian food.
2017 IBU Sprint World Champion Benedikt Doll provided insight and impressions of the daily camp routine in this stunning location. “We have been here almost every year; I think we choose to go to Bormio because of the long uphills and mountains around; the shooting range is not a big focus in this camp. It is a really good place for long uphill trainings on rollerskis and mountain biking. At home, we sometimes have problems rollerskiing on the roads and in Italy we do not have this.”
Doll travelling from his home at Hinterzarten in the Black Forest lamented, “Five hours in the car is hard on the body; definitely need to do some stretching. Dinner is pasta which I love and then comments from Coach Mark Kirchner about the weekly training plan.” Of course, the best laid plans always needs some flexibility. “The summer shooting range with the hilly rollerski track in the forest is closed due to a landslide caused by recent heavy rains, so our option becomes the flat short loop at the winter stadium.”
Although Bormio and the surrounding valley is not especially high at 1220 meters, everything around is straight up, from the famed Stelvio pass at 2757 meters to the Gavia Pass at 2621 meters, so an acclimation day, “a long slow training” kicked off the busy week for Doll and Co. The first day starts normally with “7:15 breakfast; 8:30 start for our mountain tour on foot with poles. A 1300-meter ascent gave us a nice view over the area, but it was really cloudy and windy; back down to the hotel. Back in the hotel 2:50 after we left, cool down and stretch a little bit. 12 0’clock pasta lunch—perfect! Back in the room for some minutes to chill and check the mobile, but not too long; I’m tired and want to make my daily 20 min. power nap.”
Recovery and Staying Healthy
After his daily nap, Doll heads to the physio for 45 minutes of recovery. “I always go in the lunch break because in the evening, the others want to go, so I always go at the lunch time. It makes no difference if I go in the afternoon or evening.” The team physio is as important in the training season as in the competition season. “His support is really good. I think the most important part of the physio is of course the recovery aspect, but the second part is to prevent any problems with muscles and injuries that stop you from training. The thing is to stay healthy so you can train.”
Coffee and Cake Ritual
Doll’s second afternoon ritual comes right after leaving the physio. “Coffee and cake, because afternoon training will be long. After a long morning training you cannot eat too many calories to completely refuel your energy reserve. That is why you need a second lunch or coffee and cake to get the additional energy. We also do this to sit a bit together as a team, to enjoy the sun, relax. Coffee is important for me to get activated for the next training.
The lunch break quickly fades as “We leave at 3 pm for rollerski training with shooting; 40km with some different shooting exercises. Although it rained some, it was mostly dry. My shooting was good, I tried to focus on my shooting rhythm. We got back to the hotel and watched the summary of today’s Tour de France. They climbed Mont Ventoux two times…crazy guys!”
They say an athlete’s life is “train, eat, sleep, repeat;” a good meal can be a highlight of the day. Doll’s expertise in the kitchen are well known, so the next diary entry says it all, “Dinner time and again incredibly good food.” Regarding the food in Italy, “It is so different. I do not like to eat so much meat. In Italy, the kitchen allows you to live very well as a vegetarian. I am not a vegetarian but have meat maybe two times a week and one or two times fish but not more. This kitchen makes really good pastas. It is different and the taste…it has a great aroma.”
The day ends with a bit of free time and “my rifle needs to be cleaned and I need to stretch and like always at training camps, the day passed by way too fast.” Lights out.
Perfect Training Conditions
With the acclimation day past; day two is serious business. Bormio is supposed to be cool (around 17C) but heading to breakfast at 7 am, “Surprise, the sun is shining, the forecast said it should be raining. This is actually perfect conditions for training, not to warm. Today's plan: small shooting competition with three teams; part two: rollerskiing with 8 times fast arrival at the shooting range and part three: running uphill sprints with poles and sprints at the uphill.” The previous day took a toll. “The legs from the mountain tour yesterday are hurting, but after 30 minutes the pain leaves. Shooting and running is difficult, way more instability in the legs compared to rollerskiing.”
Until it Rained…
The mid-day regime is the same: lunch, quick power nap, “short visit with the physio until 14:25 “I need to hurry, at 14:30 I have a videocall with my management and a sponsor. At 15:00 it's coffee time, I'm lucky, because I took a piece of cake from breakfast. While drinking coffee it rains like hell. It looks like we will have a really wet afternoon training. 16:45 and I'm lucky because outside it's dry again. I get prepared afternoon training: Soccer and stabilization training…The soccer field is under water; it's going to become a funny game. The rain starts again, but for once weather like this is not a problem. In the end it made the game a lot of fun! Shower, dinner and again time to watch the highlights of the Tour de France.
Need for Speed
Day three and the effects of hard work are setting in for Doll. “Legs are still hurting from the mountain tour, but it's getting better.” The team heads back to the flat track at the stadium. “Normally the plan was to make a mountain bike+shooting today, (unfortunately the forest tracks and shooting range are still closed) but the flat rollerski track is perfect for fast roller ski training with target speed at 7 m/s. But first. zeroing and a short mass start, 4 times zero and the win. Even if it's just for training, the win feels good. After that, first four laps with Philipp Horn and the second four Laps with Philipp Nawrath. These guys have a lot of power in flat area, it's hard for me to follow…I inherited slow twitch muscles from my dad who is a long distance runner. When I was young, I did a lot of endurance training and not so much speed training. In recent years, this was my biggest disadvantage. A big focus of my training is to get faster, especially on short intervals.”
Beijing 2022: Focus on Shooting
Beyond trying to improve his speed, Doll who won the 2018 Olympic Pursuit Bronze medal has a second focus as he looks towards Beijing 2022. “the biggest focus is my shooting. Last winter we had some of the best shooting conditions with less wind than ever. In the years before there were always two or three weekends with not so good conditions. Last season, you needed a shooting percentage of over 85, which I could not reach (81%). I have invested a lot of time into it. That is my biggest challenge.”
The morning speed/shooting session ends as usual with “a short cool down, back to the hotel and the lunch break routine (eat, sleep, physio, coffee cake) and planning the route for our afternoon regeneration mountain bike workout.” That session was a bit tough in the beginning, with “about 30 minutes of stiff uphill but then a flat track with an amazing view into nature; balm for the soul. Once back at the hotel, another great dinner. We persuaded Mark (Kirchner) to let us go cycling again tomorrow on a longer route with some single tracks.”
With another day in camp in the books, post-dinner was a good time to step away from biathlon and relax with the team. “It is important as a team to spend time together in the evening, not always go back to your room. You do not have to do this every day, but some evenings, team building is important… This night, it was European Championships Soccer Finals in London. Italy against England. We watch the European Championships from London together. The boss of the hotel gave us only one option: we had to cheer for Italy! And I think Italy deserved to win.”
Three more training days down for Benedikt Doll and German men’s team on the road to the 2021/22 BMW IBU World Cup season and Beijing 2022.
Photos: Benedikt Doll, Jerry Kokesh, Christian Manzoni