Christmas had come early for me this year when I decided to treat myself to a cross country skiing altitude training camp with Peter Schlickenrieder, an Olympic champion and the current coach of the German national team.
Most of my friends know that this is probably my favourite form of exercise and that the lack of snow and of opportunities to practice it, has been a huge draw back in England. When, at the beginning of the year, I stumbled across an article about this training camp I had to take the opportunity to sign up.
For those of you who are not so familiar with this sport, I would compare it (as a Liverpool fan) with booking a camp with Juergen Klopp or as a tennis fan with being instructed by Boris Becker or by Roger Federer (ok, he is still playing…..).
People like Peter and the above mentioned athletes will not make you a champion, but they can pass on some of their knowledge and their skills to make you better, and this in two ways: not only will your technique improve (hopefully…..), but sharing a training session and meals and one or the other drink together, gives you an amazing insight in the personalities and the unreported side of world class achievers.
This does not only apply to sports though, it also applies to leading figures of other professions, to top chefs, to musical and decorative artists or even to members of my own profession. The striking thing with most of these people is (in my experience) that the better they are, to more accommodating and approachable they are. Real “Divas” are rare (may be with the exception of Maria Callas….) and much can be gained by sharing some time with “the Best”.
Peter and his team of top athlets and trainers arrived a few days after me on the Lavaze Pass and the first person I bumped into was his amazing wife Andrea who turned out to be the heart and the ever present organiser of the training camp.
Also part of the team was Stephanie Boehler, a double olympic medal winner and with 38 according to Peter now “in retirement”…… Last year Stephanie had participated in her twelfth “Tour de Ski” and I found the description as ill fitting as it felt to myself after closing the Virginia Water chapter. Very reassuring though to see that even people nearly twenty years my junior have to go through the process of redefining themselves…..
After introducing myself to Andrea, her first point of action was to relocate me to another hotel (one with both a hot shower, central heating (which was switched on…) and additionally with a lovely Labrador called “Bella” greeting everyone in the reception).
The other participants of the camp were predominantly seasoned long distance cross country skiing event runners of whom a fair amount had already participated in the 90 km Vaasaloppet or the Marcialonga.
The following four days with a 7 am start where packed with three daily training sessions, plus a final stretching and yoga session. Considering that all exercise was conducted at 1800m above sea level, it was no great surprise that no one had any difficulties to sleep……
Following the long hours in my car and the many days spent in different veterinary clinics with very little opportunities for exercise, this made for a great change and it set me up nicely for my forthcoming adventure to the North….