Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Less Stock more Blueberries

                 

Oatmeal doesn't more unprocessed then this. 


       Whatever gets you to the office in the morning is good enough. You can't say that sentence without saying "gets you to the office."By that logic your source of motivation is good enough. Every since the poor shooting at the first round of trials I've been training out of bitterness and frustration. The way I see it, complaining about poor results has little too no benefit. Every quality training session I do brings me one step further from more poor performances. At this point, most of the training is actually just maintenance of the past ten or so years of physical conditioning.  With that said, besides training my face off, what else have I done to up the level lately?

        While I've been training for some time now, the effort that goes into training even now, never lets up. The key is be constantly pushing your threshold. Not only that, you have to be pushing it in a better way than the rest of the field. We're competing against the best in the world, there isn't time for anything less. Certain key sessions have been at the center of this model. In July we were doing six times six minutes of roller skiing at a hard race effort. Since then I've increased the load to nine by six minutes. A full hour of quality effort is the goal. Every session is a part of much larger exercise phys  setting balanced with my own experience.

       Having everything work is a minimal standard. Much like training, equipment has to be world class. Rifle, skis, poles, boots should all feel like a healthy extension of the body. You can see in the pictures that the stock has been carved out. You wouldn't think a bit of wood here and there would do much, but there is no doubting that the rifle swings on the back a little bit easier now. The hook on at the end of stock is a masterpiece. Since it's wrapped in grip tape, you'll have to take my word for it.

      On a more lighter note, have you noticed the free food falling from some of the trees lately? Am I the only one who sees this? Most apples you purchase in the store have been in a warehouse for about a year before they're ready for sale. On the other hand the tress outback are brimming with free organic ultra fresh apples. Just, going to through that one out there. It's also blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, and dozens of other fruit and vegetables season. The garden yields much more spinach than my windowsill operation ever did. I had the always fun job of dog sitting what might be a hyena last week. The payment for this was free picking of an industrial strength blueberry bush. Zimmerman, is still alive and I'm in process of freezing the blueberries.

       That's about it for now. More training camps and racing to come.

     
A before shot of the upper hook. 
Another before picture from this spring.

The new and much improved version. 




Only needed that part of the bolt lever anyway. 
Yeah.. so... I found a nice deal on four pounds of comb honey. This stuff is the same color as gold for reason!

Thank you Finnsisu for the fast and friendly help this summer. 

Just another run to get lost on. 


Had a blueberry related mishaps. It happens to the best of us. 

This bread machine is making store bought bread obsolete. 

When the USOC tells you the Olympic registration head shot isn't good enough. 

Zimmerman approves of this update. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Racing Review.

         Here we are again. Anther post August biathlon racing update. It was a learning experience when I was 16 and it wasn't  anything less last week at age 30. I sorely wish I could say that the changes I made this year paid off and that I might truly be on to something, but that's not the case. This blog has never been much to sugar coat it. You can know that any amount of positive news from here is genuine. With that in mind the weekend of racing was far from a complete loss. It was, after all another learning experience. My policy is still revolves around giving a 100% effort even if the odds are against me.

       In both races the feeling in the legs was all there. It was hot out, but a few degrees cooler than it was last year. There have been races when my face was starting to look white on the last loop. Others have succumb heat exhaustion. Thankfully, I was able to hold my own this year and ski as well or better than the field around me. Since it's August, I can't brag about this rightfully, but it certainly helps in a qualifying situation.

      The overall all set up in shooting was, if nothing else,  looking better than ever. The position for both prone and standing was more solid and the rifle looked more slick than it ever has. It would seem a few good shooting stages was in the future. Well... That didn't happen. How original of me, I know. Both the sprint and mass start was met with below expectations on the shooting percentages. There were a number of reasons for this. One being the nerves and pressure of performing on such a make or break level and the other being a direct process issue. In other words, I wanted the hits too bad to get them in standing and am pretty sure I over held on a couple of shots in prone for similar reasons.

     The final results were not season ending, they will just make things slightly more difficult. The trip home from races like these is never easy. Whether you're meandering through the states on East 2 or trying (and failing) to sleep on an plane, you sure do have a lot of time to mull it over. Fun fact: sometimes I try to arrive home evasively to avoid that initial interrogation of "what went wrong?"

        The conclusion that I came to after this particular drive north eastward was that everything is close to great. The difference between close to great and great is often much closer on the process level than it would appear on the result list level. A more tangible example: I need to be more aggressive in shooting. A little less fear and more forceful on the mat usually works well when I commit to it in training. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but I have ample time before the next races to make it a routine thing.

       You can't argue with results and I'm not about to. I didn't perform well last week and that's that. The best move from here is to use the races as reference point and trust that I'm on the right track. If that's true, then I shouldn't have any problem proving that at the next set of trials. I guess, it's just a little frustrating when you know you could have done better and have to patiently wait another seven or so weeks to prove so!

       The trick to going an entire year with out getting sick comes down to two main things. One: don't travel and two: get lucky. Since not traveling isn't an option for me, it's down to the luck side. I got unlucky at some point driving home and now have to work out a vicious sore throat and cold. The plan was take advantage of the energy in the legs by doing a short volume block. Instead I find, myself weeding the garden and blowing my nose.

      Once the cold has passed it's back to the grind. The next few weeks have me in Maine. There is another camp in Lake Placid towards the end of September into October. It's almost that strange time of year when the weather can't decide if it's summer or fall. Apple season is almost in full swing which means free food will be available for the procurement!

     

     

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Week in the Life of Jericho 2017

      Once again it's August and I find myself in Jericho, Vermont based out of the Ethan Allen National Guard base for the who knows what year in a row. There is no denying some of the advantages of training here, but there is also some understandable down sides.  Good training or not, some of the athletes swarming the loop everyday are here for experience and a few are here for the first round of December WC team trials. I made it here a few more days in advance to the weekend races, but the focus is still on those performances.

        After the last large training block, the energy wasn't in the legs, even after the recovery period. These kinds of responses, or lack there of, always make me nervous. I was tired the whole last ten days of the training block, but this expected. All I have to do is hang on and know that with three or four easy days in a row I'll be back fresher than ever. This time, after three days off in a row, the energy wasn't there. Maybe I'm getting too old, or the heat and humidity was too much, or maybe I just overthink it too much. Either way, I'm happy to report that the spring in the legs is for the most part back.

       The roller ski loop in Jericho is world class. It could just be the best North America has. It wasn't always like this. In the past, the pavement was questionable. Wet moss patches back in the day always made the downhills more exciting. In resent years the loop has be updated. It's closed in, but not falling apart with extra vegetation creeping in. The longest loop option is 4kms. The terrain has plenty of climbing and the stadium makes for a nice flatter choice if need be.

       It's not all perfection here though. Northern Vermont in August isn't exactly known for it's early fall like weather like northern Maine is. No one races well on the super hot summer days, but some handle it better than others. I am not one of those others. A solid ski speed performance has always been tricky to do at these races. The heat can really take that extra gear out of you. So far the weather forecast suggest that this week might be a manageable one. If it's not 85, it's usually pouring rain. So, I'm just sitting here hoping this weekend will be an exception to those two.

      Shooting is still feeling better. I'm not exactly averaging 95% with sub 25 second range times, but the important key sessions are going well. The changes made to my positions are still coming together. In the past month the effort to nail that perfect stage has become more and more routine. In the past couple of weeks the mechanical side of things has come a long way. A lighter barrel and actions is too pricey for me, so we had to innovate. There is no extra wood, plastic, or even metal in some spots on my rifle now. Some of the parts made for rear end of the stock came out better than I could have hoped for. While it's close, both the equipment and process of shooting isn't finalized yet.

      August has never been the time of year to make an accurate judgment of ability in a winter sport. In the end, you do have to make a call at some point. The fastest biathletes are there in February, but if you held the qualifying races one after another in late January it wouldn't be fair then either. This weekend is super early for talent to shine, but that's the hand I'm dealt with. We're looking at a sprint and mass start format for this first round.

      I will soon be out of the barracks. I won't go into detail about the right of passage it is for a junior athlete to be at the Jericho camp, but I will say that I'm looking forward to moving into a quieter place in a day or so. It might take a few years, or perhaps decades, but eventually I'll look back on the summer Jericho camp fondly.

Provided I'm not too lazy, a full rundown of the week will be up shortly after.

   

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Summer Grind

       Since nothing too far out of the ordinary has occurred in my world I couldn't think of central theme to this update. Nor do I have the motivation to whip up a proper intro. So here are a few bits of random information that have happened since the last check in.

* The remaining two weeks of training in Lake Placid were a success. The last day was spent rollerskiing up Whiteface in the rain. A whole hour of threshold training and not once did we hear the thunder. Since it was all uphill the rain wasn't as obnoxious as it usually is.

* The garden is teaming with fresh vegetables. Despite my best efforts there is only so much a lettuce I can eat.

* Before I left the county, I had a pea plant growing in the window. The watering of said plant had ceased with my departure. When it did finally have a drink, it was given soap water by mistake. At this point it was left for certain death. As of yesterday, I noticed a pod starting to grow in response to my vein attempt at revival.

* The coaches mentioned that they thought my shooting had improved since last year. It felt like it was heading in the right direction, but with the significant changes I still thought it had some breaking in to do. On the other hand if not one, but two coaches that have been working with me for a month want to tell me the shooting has improved, then I'm not going to argue.

* The actual rifle it's self has undergone some significant changes for the better. A before and after picture would have been a nice way to show this. That one will have to wait until the final touches are done. For now the rifle feels like a better fit than it ever has.

* Last week was the end of a three week training cycle. Three weeks in a row, nothing under 20 hours. After the drive back from Lake Placid I started the following Monday off with a four hour ride. This was about when the stretch of heat and humidity kicked in. There were about three high intensity sessions per week. The energy lasted to about the half way point, before every session was part of a countdown to Sunday. It's July and a winter sport, who needs energy anyway?

* The last day of that training period was the Nordic Trail Fest at the Nordic Heritage Center. The whole event was well populated and it's nice to see the place be in heavy use. The premise of the event is to essentially run or bike in circles from 12:30PM to 6:30PM. You're welcome to divide it up with a team effort, or you can thwart it on your own. I ended up going with the latter. My legs were not happy with my brain's commanding decision. 55km (33 miles) was the longest I had ever run on purpose.

* The very much needed recovery period has made for a nice break. I've been able to catch up on goals I've put aside lately. Some any normal 30 year old would have to deal with and others exclusive to me. This blog, rifle work, vehicle inspection, garden weeds, waffles and season three of The Simpsons for example.


With any luck and dedication the next update will have some more pictures in it.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

So On and So Forth

      Rest assured, I'm alive and well. All systems are a go. Living quarters is still the OTC in Lake Placid. It will be this way for a couple more weeks. Despite going to bed early and consistent afternoon naps I'm still training hard enough to be amply tired. Despite having meals ready available three times a day and training spoon fed to us I still find myself cramped for free time.  This is just another quick update with some photos to keep everyone up to date.

See! It's not so bad.
      Thanks to the support I gained I was finally able to bring the cross bike in for some much needed repair. We're looking at a new chain, disk set, bottom bracket repair, front and rear fork alignment, new brake pads, and two new tires. It will be ready and fine tuned to help me get lost on the woods roads of northern Maine in no time.


One step closer to isolating the limiting factor between a miss and a hit.
      The shoulder injury I took on a few weeks ago is undoubtable healing. The rate of recovery however, is annoying. If an injury last more than 12 hours I consider it annoying. This one is going on three weeks. More and more use of it is becoming possible. This is essential when the training load is as high as it is this time of year. You can only off load a certain muscle group so much, before you run into overuse of another.

The real clutch to rebuilding you position is the modelling component. 
Enjoy morning runs? I hope you enjoy wet shoes to. 
      Shooting is also heading in the right direction. A bit slower than expected, but still progressing. I thought I had it figured out for my standing position by the middle of May. I wasn't confident with prone and didn't bother settling down on a formula. Turns out I was way off in both prone and standing. After the brief camp with the team shooting doctor the process of reworking the muscle memory from almost point zero up to a knee jerk reaction level began. Since then, it has become more and more familiar while the groups have been getting tighter and tighter. I was able to differentiate between how to do a precision test well versus hitting targets during high intensity training combos. There are shots that still drift far away, but the misses are not from lack of effort.

          Depending on how you look at it nothing else is new. This will technically be my last update from my twenties. I'm pretty sure the root of turning 30, 40, or 50 and so on stems from the turning over of an extra digit in our base ten numbering system. Don't ask me how, but I think I would only be turning 26 in a base 12 system. Not such a big deal now, huh? Despite being within striking distance of another Olympic team and contemplating retiring there after, one way or the other, I'll probably Peter Pan my way through the next decade. Perhaps not as resource dependent on others, next time around though. At the moment, it's all about this rest day. Then it's all about making the most of training while it's being stream lined to me here at the Olympic Day Care Center. Enjoy the summer!

     
Here goes Russell in his thirties. 


So long dandelion season. 


Those days when your legs are not into it and the hot humid weather isn't helping it helps to remember how loud this afternoon was in Nove Mesto. 


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

This Is Still Our Normal


       When I found out that the team shooting doctor would be in Lake Placid to work with the national team circa early June I had my doubts. It's a long drive, I wouldn't have a place to stay at that point, the first camp starts a week after, and why not go for a thorough skype session instead? Despite going though with it at the very end of a tough training block, I have to admit that the trip was worth the effort. If you're going to do something, at least try to do it right. I needed Matt's in person perspective with my shooting even it meant going out of my way to make the meeting happen. Injured shoulder and all, the trip was success.

        Training has been going well. Or at least "going" in the literal sense. Even after I've contacted the pavement the movement was still happening. Everything was going smooth at about 20mph when my pole planted between my legs. An all to common mistake in roller skiing. I've gone down in this fashion so many times before, all I cared about was landing in a way that didn't break my pole. On the plus side the ski pole didn't snap. On the down side, my shoulder took to bulk of the fall. I do recall the feeling of my leg and elbow sliding on the unforgiving pavement. I was going pretty hard at the time and the impact knocked the wind out of me. At first, I scrambled to my feet carefully, as to not break my pole on the way up. Then frustration followed. The same frustration that comes with every fall. Then came the pain, as I hung out on the side of the road I checked the damage. The blood coming off my arm looked worse than it was. That poor scared elbow had recently healed from a bike to ice slip earlier in May, and there is was hemorrhaging all over again. The part that concerned me was the shoulder pain. That problem had held on since then. It's getting better, but it's made certain training methods difficult.

       On Wednesday I headed north, then west, then south, then meandered through the Adirondacks until I found myself in Lake Placid yet again. The place felt familiar, as if I had been there a week ago when it was actually almost a year since the last visit. Not unlike home, it was cold and raining. The dinning hall at the OTC was open just long enough after a long drive and short run to catch dinner before calling it quits for the day.

       My first meeting with Matt Emmons was Thursday morning. The roller ski session beforehand was cut short when my shoulder wasn't into it. I put on what I thought would be warm enough clothing for an outdoor shooting session in June. I was wrong to underestimate the covered range. We were both on the same page with what we wanted out of set up for prone and standing. It took a while to move the various components around to the right places. In then end we had a set up that made sense both fundamentally and for my comfort zone. There is a lot of science to precision shooting.
       
      Matt is a world Champion in precision shooting. Not only that, but he's also very good at conveying the important parts of shooting over. This is what I want in shooting from a coach, because it takes a lot of trust to make any major changes. To give you an idea of Matt's skill level: it was windy that morning. When my grouping wasn't spectacular, Matt put my cuff on and tried my rifle out for five shots. He was baffled when the group wasn't perfect. It wasn't his rifle, he shot pretty fast, and it was very windy! He opened up the front sight and swapped it out for a slightly smaller ring, got back into position and shot what we (biathletes) would call a perfect group.

        The last few days of the week were busy. The dome light to door in my truck was disconnected. This plan backfired on me when the warning light for the headlights stop ringing when you left the lights on. Thankfully, I only drained the battery twice. Both times in the OTC parking lot. Since it was the end of our three week training stretch my battery was running low. Naturally, I forgot my road bike back home and with the shoulder injury it ended up being a slight running camp. We ironed out the smaller details in shooting as best as we could. It's still going to take some time to become accustomed to the changes, but it's going in the right direction now.
 
         Now it's back to crunch time. That's the time when we you have less than a week to cover all of your bases before you're back in training gauntlet. With the confidence in the new set up I can start working towards updated the parts on the rifle stock. The next step in training has me back in Lake Placid for long training camp. Since that's more of a next week issue and this is technically a recovery week, I'm going to have to resist going into details about more training. 
 

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.