It seems a bit surreal to say it and every time I am reminded of the diminishing time frame until race day I am filled with an ever-increasing mix of nerves and excitement! In some ways I feel like I have been waiting for the Olympics to roll around from the moment I qualified in Chicago last September, but at the same time it feels like all of a sudden we are here, with just over a month until race day and I don’t know where the time went.
I’m now well into my final block of preparation before the Games and we are spending this time in the familiar surroundings of the Swiss Alpes in St. Moritz, Switzerland. I say familiar as I have now spent time in this beautiful location every summer for the last four years and before that, I spent time just over the mountains in Davos for the four summers previous to that. Being my 8th summer spending time in Switzerland, this place really is a home from home. I enjoy the simplicity of mountain life, the lack of distractions to anything other than the daily ritual of eat, sleep, train, recover, and the way Swiss efficiency and order enable things to work perfectly and without complication. For example I’ve never had a train arrive late, any road damaged in the harsh winter is resurfaced every summer, and the swimming pools are the cleanest I’ve ever been to.
Living and training at altitude brings with it an extra dimension to the usual daily training, with things to consider that we often don’t have to at home. It’s not all incredible views and sunny mountain riding – although that is a definite perk! The weather up here is always unpredictable, even in the middle of July. Two nights ago we had a big snowstorm and woke up to a beautiful, if chilly scene yesterday morning. The temperature hovered around 8C most of the day. In contrast, four days ago it was sunny and the temperature was in the mid 20s. Things change quickly up here so packing for a month in the mountains is always a logistical challenge – be prepared for everything! I bring my thickest winter jacket, gloves and overshoes along with my nicest summer jerseys and shorts – and plenty of suncream!
It is easier to burn in the mountains so we try to minimise any risk of this on sunny days. Sun burn inevitably means you become a little dehydrated and with the dryer air at altitude this is something we have to be vigilant about anyway. Dehydration impacts our daily training performance and can even effect things like sleep quality and mood so we are as careful as we can be to minimise this risk.
The most obvious change to training at sea level is the lack of oxygen up here. For the first week I inevitably feel terrible as my body tries to adjust to the ‘thin air’ and I don’t try anything hard for at least 5days. Even now, after ten days here, I still find I need more recovery on harder reps. This feeling lessens the longer I stay and by the time I return to sea level I can usually complete sessions in the same times with the same recovery as I do at home.
All in all things are going well here. Without wishing to jinx myself, both health and fitness are on the right track and I am making progress every day. It has been a slower and steadier start to this season for me, with the aim always being to build through the year and be in peak shape for Rio. This training camp is my final push to achieve optimal fitness and give myself the best possible chance of bringing home some ‘hardware’ from Brazil. So far, so good… Watch this space.