Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2014

Four years ago, we welcomed a Finn onto the National Team staff when US Biathlon hired Jonne Kähkönen to be our head women’s coach. This summer, he finally got the opportunity to share a full dose of Finnish culture with us when we traveled to Scandinavia for a training camp.

The women’s team spent a week and a half training at next winter’s World Championship venue in Kontiolahti, Finland. Kaisa Mäkäräinen, reigning World Cup overall champion, joined us for most of our training sessions and showed us around while we were in town.

20140729-141208-51128537.jpgTraining on the Kontiolahti range. Sometimes we had three nationalities represented at practice: Hannah, Katja Yurlova from Russia, Kaisa, myself and Annelies.

20140731-225446-82486625.jpg
One day we drove to Koli National Park to do some uphill rollerski intervals: 3 times up southern Finland’s biggest “mountain.”

20140729-141135-51095449.jpgMt. Koli wasn’t very high, but it had a gorgeous view. Hannah observed that it felt a lot like Elmore State Park back home.

20140729-140637-50797154.jpgScenic views along the climb. Photo: Jonne Kähkönen

20140731-230108-82868316.jpgFor a couple afternoon workouts, we did some orienteering. Orienteering is wildly popular in Finland with new courses set up a couple times a week and we decided it would be a good cultural experience. Plus hunting down the controls made a two hour training run go by incredibly quickly.

20140729-141127-51087128.jpgTeam BBQ night in Joensuu. Clockwise: Hannah, Jani (physio), Kaisa, Erika (Jonne’s wife and our cook this week), Jonne, and Annelies.

20140729-143106-52266435.jpgNo BBQ is complete without a game of cornhole.

Two factors made it a real challenge to get enough recovery between workout sessions. The first was a blazing Scandinavian heatwave. Our solution to that problem was to swim post workout and any other time the heat started getting to us.

20140729-141129-51089093.jpg

20140729-141131-51091182.jpgAnnelies enjoying a lakeside swing.

The second challenge was the endless hours of daylight. I had never been in such a far northern place during the summer. The sky stayed light well past my normal bedtime which made me feel wide awake at 11:00. I still haven’t figured out how to adequately deal with that…

20140729-140636-50796193.jpgA local newspaper reporter asked me what the best part of summer training camp in Finland was. Wild blueberries of course! Photo: Hannah Dreissigacker

Read Full Post »

One of my favorite things about being a biathlete is traveling to all sorts of interesting places. One of the more frustrating things is not getting to really see them. We get to know our competition venues, our hotel rooms and maybe the neighborhood grocery stores extremely well, but we often don’t see much else due to our competition and training schedules.

This summer, I wanted to truly see one of the cool places we go. We had a National Team training camp in Scandinavia scheduled for July so I flew to Oslo early and spent my recovery week beforehand exploring on my own. I love backpacking and had always dreamed of seeing Norway’s mountains so I spent a few days hiking across Jotunheimen National Park.

20140724-223548-81348239.jpgLogistics were simple to plan. The Norwegian hut system provided dinners, breakfasts and sleeping dormitories. I just needed to carry the basics, like clothes, a sleeping bag liner, a map, lunch food and water. Hiking mid-week, I didn’t really need to make reservations ahead of time. The trickiest planning? Figuring out good trailheads to start and end at that would work well with public transportation schedules.

20140724-220928-79768649.jpgHut #1: Songefjellshytta. It was pure coincidence that the most convenient trailhead to begin my hike sat next to one of the country’s main spring xc skiing centers, although one I had never heard of. Biathlon and XC national teams from Norway and elsewhere often visit in June for well groomed snow and precisely salted trails. The owner of the hut told me that he closed the trails for the season only three days before I arrived. I could still see the remains of the ski course on the back side of the lake.

20140724-220930-79770697.jpgJotunheimen, “the home of giants,” is almost entirely above tree line and several of the mountains have glaciers like these ones above Sognefjellshytta.

20140724-215357-78837324.jpgIt is also the home of lemmings, lots of them. These little critters were everywhere in the rocky tundra. (Photo: http://www.kolumbus.fi)

20140724-225311-82391926.jpgPerhaps my favorite thing to spot was a rare patch of color that jumped out at me during my drizzly first day of hiking.

20140724-223552-81352607.jpgHut # 2: Skogadalsbøen, an oasis of lush, verdant plant life. Unfortunately my camera battery died at this point, so I didn’t get any fun pictures of the people I met. I arrived at the hut in the early afternoon and befriend a group of four Norwegian soldiers. Although everyone I met spoke incredible English, my Norwegian-English pocket dictionary came in quite handy playing a Pictionary-like board game with them. I was able to look up the words on my cards so I knew what picture I was supposed to draw. The guys also taught me a bunch of fun facts about their homeland. For example, Norway’s proud claims to fame include inventing the paperclip and the cheese slicer.

20140725-134530-49530099.jpgAll trails were blazed with the bright red “T” of the Norwegian Trekking Association. My next day of hiking was marked as 11 hiking hours. Distances on trail maps are marked with hiking hours rather than distance. Back home in the States, experience has taught me that I can usually halve a guide book’s estimated hiking time. Not so in Norway. 11 hours means 11 hours of a fit person moving at a brisk pace and taking very few breaks. I was able to shave off a bit of time, but still put in a long day on the trail.

20140724-215357-78837577.jpgHut #3: Gjendbu. This hut is a popular stop for visitors hiking Norway’s arguably most picturesque hike over the Besseggen ridge. I stayed at the hut but avoided hiking Besseggen due to large holiday crowds. (Photo: http://www.gjendebu.com)

20140724-215357-78837929.jpgLake Gjende from above. Most of the lakes and streams contain glacial “rock flour” which lends them a turquoise tint. Also in this picture, notice one of the only forested sections of Jotunheimen National Park. (Photo: http://www.gjendebu.com)

Mountain time is great for the soul. I left Jotunheimen feeling refreshed and relaxed, having met many friendly and fascinating hikers at the huts and having spent quality hours alone on the trails. Norway is certainly a place I could see myself returning to again and again for more outdoorsy adventures, but for now I’m ready to return to the highly structured biathlon lifestyle.

Read Full Post »

It’s time for the biathlon national team’s annual European training camp. We will spend the next three weeks training at various locations across Scandinavia. I flew over a week early to enjoy some time on my own first. I did a four day hiking trip through Norway’s highest mountains (check back soon for photos) and visited some American friends living in Lillehammer.

20140720-093311-34391814.jpg
Greta and Henrik, US Biathlon’s 2 newest fans

20140720-093310-34390881.jpg
It’s a mini Ida Sargent!

20140720-093724-34644086.jpg
Greta’s school assignment during Sochi- draw your two favorite Olympic heros- hangs framed on the wall, complete with phonetic spelling.

20140720-094232-34952099.jpg Greta made sure I had a good visit to Lillehammer- she showed me the ’94 Olympic ski jump (we counted over one hundred and thirty-ten steps walking up), the Maihaugen open air museum, and she warned me about the local trolls who live in the mountains.

20140720-094814-35294144.jpgI also lucked out by visiting in prime raspberry season.

Greta sent me off with a fresh jar of homemade raspberry jam that she made. She doesn’t realize it, but I think Greta will have two new fans of her own as soon as I share the jam with my teammates Hannah and Annelies. We all love fresh raspberry jam!

Thanks for a wonderful visit Erik, Emily, Greta and Henrik! I hope to come back again soon.

Read Full Post »