Winter Penting in EuropeWritten by Joshua Riker-Fox
The last two weeks were a really good early season test of where I am at. I went to Paris for a training camp, with team mate Kelly and coach Denis. We trained at INSEP which is the national sport centre in France and is filled with super athletes across a number of sports. There were a lot of highlights. For sure, training in such a nice facility was one – basically all sports are represented there. The track is housed in a very cool building; imagine a big track, with then a small banked track inside it and a shortened velodrome for cyclists.
The velodrome is a small replica, but its wood banked walls are still spectacular. They are shaped so well and the vertical drop from top to bottom is impressive. I liked watching the cyclists. This big building is framed in dark wood and also has long and triple jump pits, weights, a shooting range beside the track for the pentathletes, sprint lanes (including descending ones for accelerating), and high jump. It’s very unique. I saw a lot of elite runners training through my week there which was quite inspiring. Despite the quality of the building, it had its perks. The track is 340m so it’s strictly for training and it’s the hardest track I’ve been on. For distances over 400m, the track is marked in 10m intervals so you know where to start and stop for any distance of repeats. The first day I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out if my math was wrong though because the markers didn’t line up. I was perplexed,… and embarrassed. I finally asked a runner and he said they mismarked the longer distance markers, so the 600m, 800m, 1000m markers and so on were wrong. Odd but funny, and relieving for me as it confirmed I can do basic math.
We fenced at the Paris University Club one night, as well as at INSEP with the pentathletes. Fencing is HUGE in France. We were very lucky to fence at the Racing Club on our last night. Racing was formed in 1834 and is a private club – very hoity toity. It is steeped in tradition and hosts a number of sports beside fencing. It has produced numerous international stars, and athletes go to it to train from all over. One the previous weekend at INSEP, I watched the Qatar Fencing World Cup online and the Venezuelan fencer Fernando who has trained at INSEP for years was in the final. Surprisingly, when I get to Racing 3 days later, he is there. I had to fence him. And he kicked my ass. But it was very cool to watch this guy win a silver medal at the World Cup and then train with him shortly after.
We did a small training competition with the French team at INSEP and it allowed me to knock some rust off. Nothing special happened, although I fenced quite decently. Beyond that, just a good strong effort in each event.
From there, we left for Budapest for the Budapest Indoor, which is a long standing annual event. There were 55 guys I believe, so a reasonably sized field with a number of strong athletes. The women’s side had 40 I think. My intent was to build on the Paris effort and to focus on sharpening each event. I was successful generally. I swam 3.5 seconds faster than last weekend, although still slow. But a move in the right direction. I fenced some great bouts, but actually wasn’t super pleased with the effort. It is annoying to earn a great touch against a strong fencer and then give up a poor touch against a less experienced one. Remaining focused for 53 bouts is tough! But a great lesson. I rode well – clean course. And, the main focus for me – the combined run/shoot was very good. I moved from 31 to 21, shot well and ran decent. It wasn’t the best of what I’m capable of but it was still a solid effort.
Our hotel in Budapest was pretty rough, but on site of the venue which was nice. The photo is the sweet wall mounted TV in our tiny room, and the second photo is the INSEP track facility I described before.
I am running a few track races in Saskatoon this weekend. I’ll have a full week back to training next week and then shortly after leave for North Carolina for the first and second World Cup. Thanks for taking a peek at my journey. Take care. J