So far so good. By next week, this will have been my longest stint back at OTC (Olympic Training Center) in Colorado since moving away to Cape Cod a year and a half ago. International training camps are always fun (in a masochistic sort of way), and I was pleased to receive an invitation and funding to attend. It always feels good to be wanted, but more importantly a vote of confidence in my abilities and potential. Also, at the end of this session will be the first of three qualifying competitions, which will select the US team for the first World Cup of 2015. For me, making that team should be routine, and I am more focused on a good result there and beyond, but I must never forget to take things one step at a time.
Despite several pitfalls that exist in extreme environments such as this, The OTC has incredible facilities, coaching staff, and resources. Plus, the place is just dripping with talent- it’s very motivating to be surrounded by athletes at the top of their sport. All of this combines to a one of a kind place situated on a few city blocks of Colorado Springs.
First, a short primer of what happens when traveling to altitude for training (the OTC is at ~6200’). Yes- altitude training can be amazing and beneficial, however there is an adaption period with some discomforts. Of course respiration increases and ones ability to sustain high end aerobic/anaerobic work initially decreases. However it’s the dry blood crusted snot from the dry air(sorry to be frank), and increases dehydration that always get me. I seemingly need to drink 2x the water I would at sea level. It’s been around 8.5 liters (2.2 Gallons!) each day for the past few days, just to give you an idea. As for my nose (and just about everyone else I know), that just takes several weeks for the body to adjust.
On to the training specifics. My #1 goal with my time here is to get in quality fencing. Carlos, my fencing coach in Boston has been terrific for me, but due to the long drive it has been hard to get up there more than once a week for training. Being able to put our good work to use every morning has been excellent. There is no better crucible for trying out new strategies and techniques on piste than against a pool of top international talent. This Saturday and Sunday consisted of 2 fencing competitions- a pentathlon style one-touch on Sat., and a traditional tournament on Sunday. More than 10 countries were represented in the field of 40+ competitors, including much of the USA National Team fencers. So, when I say I was satisfied with my 21st and 10th place finishes this weekend, it is a reflection of the class of my opponents. I spent much of the bouts trying to implement new to me strategies (re 2nd intentions, disengages, faints) rather than relying on my trusted favorites (counter attacks and hand shots). I won some great touches, and lost some others that were errors, but all part of the learning process. I’m looking forward to more quality fencing this week, and then focusing on a good result at this coming Sundays qualifying competition.
I felt I came into this camp a little (or a lot?) behind in my swimming from where I think I can and should be. But I've been pleasantly surprised on how fast my swim fitness has been coming around after only a few days of concerted work. It’s more like I am dusting off speed I had all along rather than creating anew. Hoping for more of this the next 7 days. It’s also fantastic to be back in a super nice 50 meter pool. Overall I am very happy living and training on the Cape, but the local Y’s narrow 25 yard pool is a far cry from a world class facility. I’ve also been focusing on shorter, faster repeat sets at home, and here I have been getting in the longer threshold work I have sorely been missing. The only negative so far has been a slight pain in my left shoulder, but I’m hoping that todays rest from swimming will leave me fresh for tomorrow.
Shooting has always been one of my strengths, but it’s always good to confirm things are still working. I currently don’t own a electric target needed for shooting our laser pistols, so my at home training is without a target and mostly dry-fire exercises (holding without shooting) plus visualizations. That is why winning several of the little competitions during shooting practice has been a nice moral boost and confirmation that what I am doing is working. I hope when I can finally afford my own target my shooting will be on another level altogether.
Running has been great, though my least concern during this camp. I got in several runs sans shirt (Vitamin D baby!), including a nice 9 miler up the Santa Fe trail with a 3 mile tempo run in the middle. Due to the constant elevation gain of the trail and only being at altitude for a few days, I never concerned myself with pace and instead went 100% off heart rate. I’m sure seeing my pace per mile would have been demoralizing.
In order to focus on what I’m missing back East, I’ve elected to not ride during the camp and only at the competition. Thanks to my awesome coach Kay, I feel ready for anything that may come.
Outside of training (not that there is much time for that), life is good. By some luck, I have my own room in the dorms here on complex, which has been awesome for quality sleeping. Despite attending 3 Universities, I’ve never lived in a dorm. It now feels like I’m making up for lost time. By next Monday, I will have spent almost 10% of my time here since February. I’ve been navigating the dining hall food better than in times past, but I’ve still seen an increase in my blood pressure due to the added salt I’m not used to. After speaking to some of the staff (and they are very friendly), I’ve now got some special plain food available when I need it. Now I just need to not eat too much of it so I can get back down to fighting weight (goal: 158 lbs., currently: 172 lbs.).
I had the fortune of two of my best and oldest friends, James and Stephanie being in town during my stay (which considering we live in 3 different states is amazing). So good to finally catch up with those two in person, and shoot some skeeball at the Manitou Springs Arcade, which has become a bit of a tradition for James and I when we are both in town.
It’s been great catching up with athletes and staff all over the complex (everyone from fencers, to pool staff, to shooters, security guards, and coaches). It makes me feel semi- at home. It’s also been great to get to know all the fresh faces in my sport and beyond. Positivity and youthful energy are things I wish I could bottle up and force feed to the rest sometimes. I ran into Alex Meyer (2012 Olympian in the 10k Swim) who is also out for a camp. I first met Alex a couple months before the London games (and his excellent 10th place finish). This was very fortunate as he was training near Boston until recently, and has put me in touch with his top notch strength coach, only 2 miles from where I go fencing. This has been something missing from my training, so I’m hoping this will pan out in a great way.
I’m a little sore and beat up from the week, but overall great and very motivated for another productive week!