Monday, May 22, 2017

Success!

             Plot twist! Lo and behold the support rolled in just in time. The rallyme site that I set up in April with a 45 day limit didn't have very much of attention until the last two days.  It was like racing 50km where none of the athletes make any move until the 48km mark. So, it goes without saying that the help was appreciated.

          Who would have thought an Olympic sport would produce so little money for the athletes?  Resources have been stretched thin the past three years. Yet, the amount of time and energy needed to compete at a high level doesn't let up just so you can find a job in the meantime. I've proven that I can compete with the upper end of the sport on a good day,  but the upper end of the athletes do pretty well for themselves. The level just below them, such as myself, doesn't necessarily train any less than they do, the difference is that they simply don't have the spoon fed support to carry them along. This is where the conflict of interest comes from. It's also where everyone who donated to my cause put a thorn in the problem. Do I forfeit and thwart the odds in the real world? Maybe next year, but not before the Olympics are over. Funding the gap between what I'm trying to achieve and what I can afford to achieve was lessened by your contributions.

         The first step from here is to maintain what's going right while also work on fixing what isn't. On a more tangible level this means I've recently finished out of a short rest period and going into a heavy training period. That much I can do, shooting has always been the tricky part. This year, the coaches and I decided to rebuild the foundation of my position in shooting. Since this has been harder than expected the plan now is to meet with USBA's shooting coach in Lake Placid next week. Were I on the A-team this would be easy, but without the OTC residence it becomes a long drive for a denial of a place to stay. The chance to work with someone who can help me find the right fit that looks right on a proven scientific level is worth the drive and expenses.  And, while I'm there, I should probably use this opportunity to pay back my coach for that pricey rifle harness he covered for me three years ago... There's also that.

         I hope this makes it clear that the donations are very much appreciated. None of it will go to waist. I would also like to point out that the vast majority of the support came from the state of Maine. The link was to the site was sent to a wide range from around the US. In the end it was the local crowd that was really behind me. So with that in mind, lets show the world what humble Maine can do.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dark Humor and Optimism




       What do you think: if a biography of my biathlon career was made would it be found under the dark humor aisle or the inspirational come back section (not sure what the technical name for that genre is) of the book store?  To be fair, I did say I despise asking for money, I'm not very skilled at it, and with or without help it's far from over. After all, they can't stop me from training! Still, the current status of my fund raising attempt is not suggesting the latter for my biography theme. 

        I can always train well. Training has been going well. Last week was the first 20 plus hour week of the year. My foot has been questionable in that I'm not sure if it's injured or not. Sometimes it hurts to walk on it other times, like yesterday, I run on it for 30kms and it doesn't complain. The roller skis and pole tips are weathering the training storm well. I was even able to home repair a bike into mostly working! 

       Shooting is still in the hacking phase. The plan is make the stock work for as much as I work for the stock. We're still moving the guts of my prone position around trying to find this perfect fit. Standing has shown some progress with this new outlook. Prone will do the same, but needs more trial and error at the moment.   

  In conclusion... here are a few pictures to add some more color to this update. 
And yes! I successfully skied on May first.

However, this particular day on the crust was the best. 
    
The road doubles as a river.
Not the final version. This is a experimental version. 

The trial and error of getting my head to be more level in prone.
Proof! That I was once in my early 20s.




p.s. Who ever donated that $40 is awesome ! Many thanks! 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Here We Go Again

       https://www.rallyme.com/rallies/6319


          The grind season is officially underway. This grind that is the training season that amounts to a lot of physically demanding training and thousands of rounds out the barrel. That, and a lot of other stuff crammed in and around the training and shooting. After a certain point (a point I hit more than a decade ago, but whatever)  training "hard" or "a lot" isn't enough to make the difference. This is when you have to start training "better" than the competition. The trick isn't mustering up enough motivation to get out the door, but rather knowing what you should do once you're out. Play your cards right and you'll eventually wind up on top. Thrash around like an idiot and no amount of natural talent will grant you success on the world cup level. The tricky part is figuring out what plan works best for you. Since the training season is up and running, here is how I plan on tackling this final round.

       The science part of training will be mostly similar to last year. Last year (4/2016 too 4/2017) I trained about 680 hours. That's almost 100 hours down from the 15/16 year prior. This year the year plan has me at 670. That's not too much for an experienced athlete in my position. I was hitting higher year training loads when I was in my early too mid twenties. Once the base was established it made more sense to push the harder efforts more than the longer efforts. Time spent in the speed just below race pace and time spent above race pace will take an increase this season. The strength training side of things will be more elaborate this time around. Last year's plan had good intentions for strength, but took a left turn when I injured my lower back in July. It helps to have confidence in your plan. I always take past results, other athlete's results into consideration, and mull it all over before handing my thoughts over to a coach. Once my coach does the same thing we lay out the details of the coming year.

       Not unlike past seasons the outcome of the races could have been exponentially better if the shooting had been only slightly better. Yes, most any competitive biathlete can say the same, but after being pushed to every end of the result list and team status most of those biathletes would have long since given up. Though it's been close, that's still not my style. So what am I trying this time to better the performance on the range? April wasn't over before skype meetings were happening. Components to the stock are already in the testing phase. If I can mold a rifle stock that works with me more than it does against me the odds will be more in my favor. Shooting always comes down to odds. You can never guarantee a hit, regardless of how confident you are, but you sure can give yourself the high probability of a hit. That's what I'm pinning for with my prone and standing set up.

        Finding the best set up for shooting is only part of the whole. Once we know what a stock that works for me and not me for the stock we'll start the the process of making it fire proof. Taking weight off one of the heaviest rifles on the WC field is on the to do list. Making it shiny and avoiding excessive duct tape usage won't make me shoot better, but it sure would look nicer. So much of hitting or missing comes down to the few key focus points ingrained into your head. At some point before the first round of trials in August I will have to have some idea of want thought process works the best. And if you've been keeping up with this blog you'll know how important range time is in our sport. It's another weak point for me. One that I've been trying to fix since I was 16. Every week of year has a focus and goal in the plan to bring up the shooting level.

          Training camps are an actual influential part of the summer and fall this year. There is no on snow Bend, OR camp for the B-team or a summer Euro camp, but there is a solid amount of time back in Lake Placid. Since the first camp is only five days and an eight hour drive I opted out. This will keep me in northern Maine until mid June for the fist LP camp. Spending more time training with the A-team and working with the coaching staff is what I'm looking for.
   
       That about sums up what the outlook for the summer will look like. The fall is loosely in place, but open to change. The winter is the part that matters. It's an Olympic year, so naturally everything for any winter sport will revolve around February. My RallyMe campaign has made approximately zero progress thus far. It's not over yet, and I'm plenty optimistic. Still, if it was over, it would be okay. Supported enough or not you can't stop me from trying. As I said last year at about this time "Stubbornness and stupidity can move mountains." I'm also an advocate for the "less talking, more doing" policy. With that in mind it's about time to start tinkering around with my rifle.

     

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Team Effort

           


              With one year to go before the next winter Olympics it's clear that I won't be able to make it happen without the help of generous fans. I always despised asking for funding, but if there is one thing worse, it's not reaching my full potential because I didn't have the resources to make the last bit of difference. So with the season behind me and some new ideas on the way Operation: Olympics Round Two is going to need your help.
 
            The season was a pricey one. When I said there were some narrowly missed opportunities here and there, what those misses cost me could be measured in results and monetary Euros. For a brief time, with the help of some generous support, I thought I had more than what I needed, then it was close to, and finally when the totals came in I fell short by a substantial amount. For the record, it was worth it. I needed those races, pricey or not. February's personal training camp in Antholz was top quality compared to the alternative of a trip all the way back home. Everything contributed to having enough success to set up national team support for this coming training year.

          The coming training year has a hand full of ideas on the table. Nothing is set in stone yet. Part of the reason these ideas have not been laid out is because they are not cheap. The changes I want to make on my rifle would require a plane ticket. The opening for some training in Lake Placid might require a place other than the OTC to hold up at. And yes, gas can add up when you have to drive anywhere from 40 minutes to training or eight hours for a training camp. Food is pricey when only the top quality nutrition will do. Those, plus the unpredictable equipment breakdowns and that, of course, includes vehicle maintenance. This isn't an attempt to sell the situation as gloomy, more so just highlighting what's needed to make the most of this coming Olympic year.

         This is where the rallyme campaign comes into play. As mentioned earlier, I'm not a fan of having to do this. Hence, this is the first time I've taken this rout. It's a bit unclear how the donating system works, but rallyme is popular site and has had success for plenty of athletes in similar situations. The introduction on the site is similar to this update, but includes the outlet to donate.

           Lack of commitment has never been my weak point. I still maintain that it is a matter of playing the right cards at the right time more than it is gifted talent. With your support I can better make the right changes needed to secure another Olympic team naming. Needless to say any donation will very much appreciated. The dead line is May 20th. If you have any questions you can reach me at currier407@gmail.com.

As always, thanks again!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Less Text More Pisxels Round Three

      It was a decent year for the camera. Not a great one, but "okay" at the very least. There was no pictures taken from Beitostolen, NOR, but officially that's where the season started. That said, these pictures are actually in order. More info on operation 2018 Olympic season to come. For now, here are some of the better pictures from the past few months.




The icy path to breakfast in Ostersund Sweden
And then we were in Slovenia...
Yeah, SLO is not so bad.
Just getting lost on a run in Nove Mest, CZ.




Impressive crowd size from the Nove Mesto WC.

An easy classic ski in Oberhof, Germany.

I wonder if they planned this when they planted those trees like that in Dusniki Poland.

All in one afternoon run at Euro Champs.


The post Euro Champs ride into Slovakia could have used a cow catcher.
Green light outside our window on snowy night. What timing.
Seldom sunny in Brenso, Slovakia.
You sure do get to room in some interesting places.




Russell attempts to travel via train with a ski bag. 

An average sunny warm day in Antholz, Italy.

Most days the side walk in Kontiolahti, Finland is in better shape than the actual road. 

 Tiny houses in Otepaa, Estonia. 
Racing in the bright purple of USA at the IBU cup in Otepaa. 
One of my favorite venues, the Tehvandi stadium in Otepaa. 



The final race of the season. The mass start in Jericho, VT






Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Weekend on USA Snow

        Since my last update time zones have been crossed. Races have been denied, won, and, if nothing else, hard fought. There is a lot more on my mind at the moment, but it's fair to my blog readers that I start by updating the status of my season since the last post. Hopefully, within the next ten days I'll have a more rounded update on what's happening in the world of Stockholm's top biathlete, but for now here is the past few(ish) weeks.

       I recall saying that the US IBU cup team had one more race to go. The mixed relay in Otepaa, Estonia. The sinuses and throat were far from 100%, but at that point the plan was to go for it. Here's a fun fact: on the day of the mixed relay the British team accidentally packed my race bib into there bag and proceeded to leave Otepaa for the season. I didn't know this and needed it for zero, not to mention starting the race at all. After some professional panicking the organizers whipped up a make shift race bib. It was official enough to get me zeroed in one of the most brief pre-race zeroings I've ever done. Shortly after, one of the British athletes came running through the stadium to return the bib. We all make mistakes. It was nice to see everything workout in just enough time. Unfortunately, having a race bib didn't make a difference. I was the third leg of four. The US team that day was lapped on the last lap of the second leg. I remember being in the tag off zone and having the IBU official look at me and say "I think you not race today." There wasn't much I could do about it. These days happen.

       Did I mention I wasn't 100% recovered from that sore throat and cold? Did I mention I had to cross more than half a dozen time zones? While it's open to debate, the best guess is a post nasal drip brought on by a nasty cold. Whatever it was, I can still feel trace amounts of the sore throat that originally manifested after the 20km individual in Finland at the start of the month. In this line of work, a few sick days can be a disaster, so anything that last as long as this one did is a set back. Thankfully, the bulk of the season was over. The trip home was mostly glitch free. I lucked out and was able to convince the sister that picking me up at the Boston Airport was a good idea. -20 is bad enough, travel might be higher on the list of things I'm not going to miss post retirement.

      When I did make it home the urge to fully relax was prevalent. After all, it was mid March. The last time I was home was at Xmass. The warm fire, and local fresh eggs in the morning made a strong case for not even bothering to unpack race gear. Obviously, I didn't let the urge get the better of me. Within a few days I found myself in Madawaska racing the famous 40km. Everyone had a good time. The snow was soft. Last year I completed the race in about 90 mins at a light threshold effort. This year the recent snow storm made for some soft conditions. Not my strong point, so it was a good day to work on less desirable conditions. I was happy to finish in under two hours.

      And now this brings us to the final stretch of the 2016-2017 racing season. That is, of course, US nationals. I won't go into the details, but it's nice to see the A team make a showing at US nats whether they like it or not... In the past racing a NorAm or making it out to US champs was a bit of a lost cause. Given the lack of depth in the NorAm biathlon field any racing outside of Europe was barely worth it. That's hasn't been the case for the past couple of years. This year we all had a chance to race against world championship medalist. Thankfully the races were held in Jericho, which meant they were within driving distance for us northern Mainers.

      Poor weather conditions are never an excuse. You can curse the race day snow fall all you want, but it won't make it go away any faster. You simply have to deal with it. This was the case on the day of the sprint race. Maybe in December coping with a snow storm would be acceptable, but at this point in the season it's not what any of us were in the mood for, including me. And what would you know, I prevailed and won my first US biathlon sprint title. To the best of my recollection the mass start and pursuit title are in there, so I can check the sprint format off of the list. It was the first day I woke up with almost no trace of sore throat. Snow was in my front sights and it took me about 10 or 15 seconds of blowing into it to clear it out enough to see the target clearly. After this was done I hit all five and gladly dodged the penatly loop. The snow was slow, to say the least. There was no gliding to be had. Which meant no recovery. I missed two in standing and thought a podium was feasible. When I finished, I had heard Lowell had only missed one. A second was sounding likely. Much to my surprise, I was able to ski myself to a win, despite two misses in standing. A win doesn't happen very often so this was a nice boon to the end of the season.

       The pursuit and mass start were solid races. I finished third in the pursuit and fourth in the mass start. One less miss in the mass start could have potentially put me on the podium, but that's how the sport works. It's important to note that racing this time of year is different from racing in January or mid February. Top level athletes peak for the most important races of the season. The results late in the season or even at the start are often not the best indicator of an athletes best performance. So you have to take this past weekend with a grain of salt. Still, racing is racing and I was pleased with the outcome.

        Now we are back into the spring time. The best time of year for many in winter sports. There is lot to extrapolate on but that will have to wait for another day. Lets just say, I'm trying to tackle some unexpected bills and potential expenses for the coming year. That, and how to make the most out of training. Which means I need to take everything into considerations to generate the best strategy. If all goes well I'll be competing on my second Olympic Team.

     

     

       

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Back to Otepaa

      The Tehvandi stadium in Otepaa Estonia is a nice venue. The presentation of the whole facility is impressive. The wax cabins to starting pen isn't far apart, despite the size of the place. That much, is rare with the modern biathlon venue. I wish I could say my performance this week was as equally impressive. I'm happy to say it wasn't that bad either, all things considered. What's more, is that it's not fully over either.

      Grinding out this clingy cold and sore throat from Kontiolahti was the focal point of my week. The sooner I can rid myself of it the sooner I can race at full capacity. Every time you get sick you never truly know how long it's going to last. This time around it was a solid ten plus days. I was tired of having to sit back and willfully retreat from racing because I simply got unlucky. That's often what it seemingly amounts to. My chances to prove myself on the Euro circuit were dwindling. The only option was to go for it, 100% or not.

      The races consisted of a single mixed relay, followed by two sprints, and a regular mixed relay on the last day. The single mixed relay only uses 1.5km loops. It's a little difficult to explain the mechanics of the single mixed relay, but lets just say I wasn't up to the task skiing wise and while shooting was actually not too bad, it wasn't enough for a note worthy result. That was okay with me, I wanted something to wake system up both mentally and physically.

      The first sprint was an odd one. In most cases you want to start in the first or second seed. This means you are on the course while it's still in the best shape. Thus giving you an advantage in ski time. On Thursday's sprint this was the case ten fold. It wasn't exactly snowing, but the snow was losing it's form fast. Even starting in the top ten vs the top thirty made a noticeable difference. I was lucky just to have bib 26. I recall finishing the race and assuming that it wasn't a good day. Shooting was solid 1,1 80%, but the system still wasn't firing at max from being sick. In the end it was on the better side of decent. Whether it was from the top quality training in Antholz or the relatively early start number is unclear, but I was aiming to improve on it.

      Today was the closest I've been to homeostasis since the individual in Finland last week. My throat is still a sore and sinuses aren't clear yet, but it's not consuming my full attention anymore. Nothing went colossally wrong today. Everything went somewhere between okay and mediocre. I'm not convinced we hit the skies today. If we did then the Norwegians and Russians hit it much better than anyone else.  Both teams were able to glide away from me when I was in there draft. I missed my first shot in prone, but carefully hit the next four. I wanted a clean standing so badly it worked against me. The pressure got to me and I missed two in standing. Still, 70% isn't terrible. The conditions were slushy. I had an early start number, but the start order was less detrimental today. I'm not as doomed in slushy conditions as I used to be. I've worked on the technique needed to race in this stuff. Still, whether it was the skis, the week plus of sickness, or unfavorable conditions I was unable to have the result I knew I could have had in different circumstances.

       That's how the sport works. One of opportunity and frustration. Tomorrow is the last race. The mixed relay. I seldom have the chance to race in relays because I'm usually told they favor shooting too much. The way I see it, one of the best ways to be better at relays is to do them in the first place. Which is exactly what's happening tomorrow. Overall the past few weeks have been alright. I was able to recover from the low point of the season that was IBU cup 6. One last race and then it's a shenanigan to make it back state side. Wish me luck for both endeavors.