Friday, 11 July 2008

Camp Altitude

As you can imagine when we do get a bit of free time off from rowing there's not much to do up here. Unless you're a keen rambler or into herding cows then the mountains don't offer to much in the way of entertainment, so for the most part you have to provide your own. This year someone has got a little creative after discovering they have an ability to direct movies. So with a hand held camera and some clever editing of a famous nineties song, the entire team has been cajoled into taking part in what will probably be there first and last stint at film production. The theme is a copy of the Pet Shop boys "Go West" topically converted to "Go East" with the actual video, to go alongside the music, being along the lines of "Show me the way to Amarillo", except with a certain amount of butch camp air to it. In fact I think it's one of those things that you'll likely live to regret at some stage. If anyone of us were to go into politics I think we would have a short time of it until this came out. As if grown men prancing around in lycra for our living isn't enough we have to go and make a video parading around Austrian mountain paths miming to the pet shops boys. I can't say for sure when the release date will be but no doubt a pirate copy will find it's way on to You Tube in the near future.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Altitude Camp

Today is the 8th day of our pre Olympic training camp set deep in the Alps along the Swiss/Austrian boarder. Not a particularly bustling place, a few mountains, some cows, a few wooden huts and a 2k long dammed off reservoir. To be fair though Norman Foster couldn't have designed a better place to train at altitude. There's a nice little hotel at the top, which caters for and looks after us, while we stay in converted army barrack style huts just below the base of the dam. Surrounding us is an incredible backdrop of glaciers and skyscraping mountains feeding down at the base to an ice cold lake on which we row. Although very simplistic it's actually perfect for getting away from normal life and focusing on the rowing and the crew you are in. No traffic, no noise, no pollution, no stress. The only annoyance is the cows who persistently patrol around our huts at night with their incessant bells ringing from around their necks. It gives the impression of sleeping in a graveyard.

The reason we come up here is because it's almost exactly 2000m higher than sea level. At this height the air is thinner meaning we have less oxygen to breath effectively with. As a result if you stay up here for a prolonged period, about three weeks, your body tries to adapt to this new environment by creating more red blood cells for you to carry oxygen with. The idea being that when you come back down to sea level where we'll be racing you have more red blood cells in your body to transport oxygen than you would have otherwise. For an endurance sport like rowing this can be vital to success. Given that the last coxless four Olympic final was won by 0.08s it's easy to see how it might well have made the difference.