Sunday, November 28, 2010

Out of the sun and into the freezer

On Wednesday I left Melbourne at a beautiful 35˚C and arrived in Austria at minus 25˚C. A 60˚ temperature drop in 24 hours. Definitely a shock to the body!

I am now back at Stubai Glacier in Austria, where we spent two weeks training in October. Things are looking a little different now compared to when I was here 5 weeks ago. The valley is white and the sun makes an appearance for only a limited number of hours each day. Lets just say it’s no longer ‘Sound of Music’ green like it was in spring. This is Europe in November!

It is still beautiful however. The rugged mountains are snow capped, and fresh snow blankets all the trees.

(Trees covered in fresh snow)

(Heading up to Stubai Glacier at 3200m)

(Windy at the peak. Photo courtesy of Anton)

(The snow cat prepares the skier cross track)

After we arrived on Thursday morning, I spent about 5 hours at a special race boot-fitting shop to get my new Nordica boots sorted. Unlike any normal ski boot, race boots need to be extremely tight. My ski boots are in fact 2 sizes smaller than my normal shoes.
I had foam-liners made, which is a custom-fitting boot liner. Foam is injected into the liner through tubes in order to mould perfectly to your feet. The boots now fit like a glove. They’re tight and a bit painful, but extremely responsive. Any tiny move with your foot is transferred straight to your skis and onto snow.

(Foam injected liners)

We have now had two days training on snow. It is great to be back on skis again. I always love the feeling of that first run when you haven’t skied in a while (not that 5 weeks is a very long time… although for me it feels like ages!)

(Windy, eery and cold on the glacier)

(Covered head-to-toe in -25 degrees)

(Anton Grimus and I)

We are training on a skier cross track up in the glacier, working on features and some head-to-head skiing. After a week of training here, we will head to Hintertux glacier for some training with the German team. They have a start gate set up there as well as a small course. Then our first competition of the season kicks off with a Europa Cup in Pitztal, Austria. This will be a great chance to practice before the first World Cup of the season one week later in San Candido, Italy.

Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

AIS / Sydney training camp

Last week the Australian Ski Cross National Team headed to Canberra and Sydney for a 5-day camp before we depart for Europe.

We started off the week with fitness testing at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. This was the first time I had ever been to the AIS. As an AIS athlete, we will now be using the world-class facilities more and more for fitness testing and training.

We began with anthropology testing, which is a measure of our percentage of body fat. Along with this, we used the AIS’s extremely high-tech “body scanner”, which takes a 3D image of our body, and is used to analyse muscle mass and body composition. Pretty interesting!

Next was our favourite… the VO2 max test, which is a maximal aerobic test that measures cardiovascular fitness. Fun! It was great to see some large improvements after such a heavy training period. It’s good to know that all the hard work is paying off!

(VO2 max test on the bike) 

(AIS lab) 
Over the following day, we did some explosive strength testing as well as made use of the AIS’s incredible recovery facilities. The recovery centre is equipped with enormous hot tubs, cold pools and whirl pools, all set to highly specific temperatures…. a little more high-tech than jumping in the freezing glacier-water river in Austria!

On Tuesday we drove to Sydney’s Northern Beaches where we spent the next two days training in Narrabeen. Over Wednesday and Thursday, we did a total of 8 enduring training sessions (about 6-8 hours of training per day).

This was the schedule:


Session 1: 6am- Beach sprints and exercises plus a swim in Warriewood beach.

(Warriewood beach)

Session 2: Strength testing and anaerobic testing (maximum sprint for 30 seconds on the wind-gate bike to test lactate threshold and power output… the longest 30 seconds of my life!). On top of this, we did the beloved ‘farmers run,’ where you carry your body weight whilst running with dumbbells for 400m, or alterteratively half your body weight for 800m. About 6-7 minutes of pain.

Session 3: 1 hour bush run in the Narrabeen hills.

Session 4: 1 hour session of ‘Crossfit’ – a strength / cardio-based circuit session.


Session 5: 5:30am – 2-hour bike ride to Sydney’s ‘West Head’ (very hilly).

(At the top of the lookout point at West Head, Northern Sydney)

(View of the morning sunrise)

Session 6: Soccer / agility training.

Session 7: 1 hour of sea kayaking.

Session 8: Boxing.

By Friday, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to hold my pen for my final Construction exam! All-in-all however, a great week of training.

It is now that time of year again! On Wednesday I leave for Europe. We are heading back to Stubai, Austria, for a block of training before we begin racing. Our first event is a Europa Cup ski cross in Pitztal, Austria, and then on to the first World Cups of the season in San Candido, Italy.

Will keep you posted with how the first few weeks in Europe go!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Melbourne training camp

Last week the National Ski Cross Team had a training camp in Melbourne. Like most off-snow training camps, we try to mix it up a bit for variety, the chance to try new things, and have a bit of fun!
Matt Lyons, Head Coach, ran the training camp with help from Shawn Flemming, coach of the newly formed Development Ski Cross Team, as well as Anthony Khoury, OWI acrobatics coach.

We started off the week with wind tunnel testing out at RMIT University in Bundoora. They have a special lab where they test the aerodynamics of a variety of things; from formula one cars to cyclists to bobsleigh to skier cross racers. Basically the aim was to figure out, a) which position is fastest whilst racing, and b) what type of clothing is most aerodynamic at high speed. After over 2 hours in the wind tunnel, getting in and out of a tuck with a maximum speed of 70km/hour, the session was tiring but a success! Hopefully this will give us a bit of an edge leading into this coming world cup season. Every millisecond counts in this sport!

(Preparing my tuck position for the wind tunnel) 

(In the wind tunnel)

(Traveling at a simulated speed of 70km/hour)

The following morning we headed to Lilydale at 5:45am for water jumping. It’s a great chance to practise jumping without having the fear of landing hard on ice. Water is definitely a more comfortable landing surface if you happen to land on your head! After a much needed coffee at that hour, I was ready to get going. We geared up with our retro ski gear and jumped all morning (about 30 jumps).

(Anton, Harry, myself and Sami ready to hit the jumps)


(Having a bit of fun and practicing our 360s) 

We jumped again Thursday morning, and for something a little different, we had an ice hockey session at the new OWI Ice House at Docklands in the afternoon. After an hour or so of ice skating drills (which are harder than they look!), we got straight into it, and had a lot of fun. Our competitive sides definitely came out in the ice hockey match!

(Kitted up and feeling like a pro... that is before I step onto the ice....)

(Australian Ski Cross Team, turned hockey team!)

On Friday night, I attended the I Ski For Tommy Gala, which was a great success. Over 150 people came to show their support for the cause, which raises money for the Victorian Melanoma Service in honour of the late Tom Mathias. As an athlete ambassador for the organization, I’m proud to welcome aboard Jarryd Williams, Australian halfpipe snowboarder, onto the ambassador team.

 (Mark Cicchiello, founder of ISFT, his father and myself)

For the next few weeks I will be in Melbourne, finishing off assessments and studying for uni exams, as well as training in the gym.

I’ll keep you posted with how things are going!