Monday, February 19, 2018

Pyeong Chang ! Presented To You In Color!

Alright! Here we go! This time we have some photographic evidence of a life in the Pyeong Chang life from the athlete's view. Hope you enjoy. 

The lighting was not taken lightly. 

Walking back from dinner at 11pm.

The USA masses waiting to march during the opening ceremonies. 

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They don't put much effort into hiding which country is based out of which building. 

So much time spent in this elevator trying to get to the 15th floor. 

An afternoon classic ski on the XC course. 

The dinning dome. 

Walking up to the Alpensia biathlon Venue. 

A view of the XC stadium from the biathlon stadium. 

This place comes in handy. 

Last hill before meandering into the stadium and range. 

Lower level wax cabins.

Watching the sun go down waiting for the bus back. 

The sort of captures the inconvenience of logistic during the games. 

Walking back view from the other direction. 

I really like the bright and colorful lights that keep you ever awake on the buses. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Week in the Life of Athlete Village.

       Greetings from the mountain cluster athlete village. It's been a busy week to say the least. It's nice to know that the loop distances and range are technically the same as they would be at any other world cup event because everything else has a different quality to it. It's not just variety of athletes it's the Korean atmosphere, the extra time between races, the revamped apparel that every team goes through, and hype that's in the cold air everyday. I have yet to acquire a race bib, but the racing is far from over. The team has only been here for one week and that's been just enough time to acquire some grip of familiarity with the ins and outs.

       The US athletes that are based in the mountain village are all staying in the same building. For reasons unknown to me I'm on the top floor. I like to think of the 15th floor as the cool kids floor, but really I spend more time in elevator or even just waiting for the elevator. I would take the stairs but they are random slippery zones and I get dizzy after a few levels. The village is pretty simple once you take a look around. Every county has there own 15 story building. There is a fitness center with a gym and treadmills open all day, a laundry tent (very useful), a small shopping plaza, a down time recreation tent, a few other essentials, and of course the dining hall dome.
      The dining hall is fine by my standards. There is a wide variety of food and it's all pick and choose buffet style. The structure is a large dome. The building itself isn't that far of a walk. Most of the walking is done in the dome trying to get what you food you want from each station on your trail before sitting down at the table. We have other options for food. The USOC set up their own personal cafeteria outside of the village. It's pretty much a transplanted OTC. We also have a US athletes only hang out apartment with good coffee and food on the bottom floor of our building and if you really wanted you could even eat at the Y club at the race venue. So, as you can see, lack of food is not an option.

      The never ending clutch of failing to stay healthy is an ongoing ordeal. While I've made it this far with out succumbing to cold or sore throat others have not been so lucky. I still maintain that the key to not getting sick is to stop traveling and get lucky. Hand sanitizer is everywhere. They might as well start dispersing it into the air because the masses are on full germ paranoia. Bleach wipes have been handed out like candy by our team doctors. While I question the use of these products in the long term I'll role with it for the month to minimize any risk.

      The Alpenisa Olympic biathlon venue is alright by my opinion. It's not very convoluted. Once you're off the buss it's very straight forward. Wax cabins on the lower floor, athlete cabins above those, Y-club and bathrooms to the right. Then it's a straight away stretch to the rifle storage. The race course is easily accessible from there or the cabins. To makes things even more convenient the XC trails and stadium are a 90 second ski away from each other. The course profile is also to my liking. The pacing is tricky. It's very possible to go too hard and or too easy. The steep climbs into rest sections held together with some well placed transitions make it an interesting course to tackle. It's mostly cold with an obnoxious wind that blows through the rolling hills and what looks like an Asian variety of pine tree. 

      There is no confirmed race start for me that I know of. At the earliest I would know the night before the next race. At the latest it could be an hour before the race start. That's the deal with being the fifth man in a four person start deal. I'm still happy to be here and have been preparing everyday as if I were going to race. Yesterday had me doing a time trial. It was very windy and snowing. More than anything it just felt lonely. The XC classic sprints were taking place a few meters over. I could see the heats rolling out as I was warming up. Leaving the starting gate and sprinting to the finish at the Olympic stadium with no one but my coach and heart rate monitor to witness was a surreal feeling. 

       It should also be mentioned that the biathlon field is on their own time zone structure. Biathlon isn't a sport to scoff at in Europe and the Euro prime time tv ratings don't give into the local time zone. The end result being that the races all start in the late evening. The women race their 15km individual tonight with the first stater going out at 8:05pm. Personally, I've been calling 2:30am an early bed time. If I close the shades I can sleep into 11. Training in the mid afternoon is logged as a morning session in the training log. I can't speak for others, but I kind of enjoy it. It adds to the whole different atmosphere.

      Rest assured many pictures have been taken. Some shots haven't even had much care to them as usual because I just wanted to capture what every bit I could for memory's sake. Don't be expecting any videos up here as the IOC has capped each athlete on what they can and can not post to social media outlets. Maybe some more on that next month when the black out period is lifted.

      For good measure let me say thank you again for the positive feed back that has been coming in these past few weeks. Most of the team was able to do the opening ceremonies this time around. I didn't think I would show up in the large crowd that was the US team, but firends were posting the screen shot of my face on my fb wall. If you have an NBC subscrition or are crafty enough with a VPN I reccomend tunning in for today and tomorrow's individual races.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mean While In The Athlete Village.

       I'm alive! My apologies for the lack of updates to this place, but it has been a busy week. No surprises there, but know that I've been meaning to keep you guys up to date with news from the Olympics for a while now. We're simply don't have an overabundance of down time. Under normal circumstances I consider free time and privacy as good as currency. Since this is a rare occasion, I'll make an exception and admit that I'm enjoying myself despite the seemingly unending shenanigans. 

      For now I have to get going again.We're 14 hours ahead of Maine so if I update at what I call tomorrow it will actually be later on in the day for you. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pre-Olympic Camp 2018

     Every athlete and team has a plan to be at the top of their game for the upcoming winter games. The training leading up to opening ceremonies is a crucial part of that. This is where you make the finer adjustments to make the last second difference in performance that could make the difference. For the US team, this has us in Ruhpolding, Germany. Bavaria is a nice part of the world to be in if you don't mind some overcast skies and a year round chance of rain.

     We spend our time between training in some really nice cabins. Picture sauna quality wood for walls and an open living room in each cabin to let everyone space out. If we like, each cabin has an outside heated hot tub ready to go all day. Food is prepared by a motivated chef and everything has been super fresh. After our three northern euro coaches maxed out the coffee machine we had to have a replacement installed asap to solve the crisis. To be fair, the athletes, including myself, contributed to the coffee crisis. I also need to finish this update in time for my scheduled massage. My point it is, we're being sufficiently spoiled for our pre-olympic training camp. I can't speak for all, but this VIP treatment has been very clear to me.

      Training is going very well. A few of us have been sick and are still on the recovery train. Thankfully, I've dodged that one so far. For me the focus has been on few key things. One being the range. From keeping the hit percentage up too doing so under stress and under 33 seconds. The other being some precise high intensity sessions to top off the physical capacity while I can. Shooting is coming along better than I thought it would. Faster range times are becoming the norm, and the hits aren't dropping off. 

     We have also been training in the evenings. On a normal day in the summer the important session is always in the morning. As part of the preparation for February we have moved the key training sessions to around 6pm. The races next month will all be stating at night. What would be our AM training zone time has been moved to the early afternoon. "Sleeping in" will be considered just "sleeping." This is not unlike the last time I was in Korea. The race start times are based off of what's best for European TV coverage so we never had to adjust to the time zone much at all. Bedtime was around 2AM and none of us thought much of it.

       The pre camp is winding down. We will drive to Frankfurt on Friday and fly out to Seoul late that day. From there we're supposed to be run through a gauntlet of information and process. The finer details are still unclear to me. The latest updates has the Alpensia Biathlon stadium feeling pretty cold. It can only stay cold for so long, right? I'm banking on the cold temps running their course before we have anything to do with it. Stay tuned in! There is some more pictures and other great news coming down the pipeline! For now this what I've been up to.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2018 in Pictures Part 1

So... part of saying that a picture update is in the near future is actually posting the pictures... So here you go. These are actually in chronological order to! Well, except for the last couple.

Just another day in Orsbile, Slovakia

So many afternoon runs through the towns we race at.

A scarf: It's like be strangled comfortably to death. 

The race venue. Sorry for the lack of sunny days.

Early morning jog before breakfast in Arber, Germany

Out of the van when we made it to Dobiaco, Italy

Nice day for classic skiing in Toblach.

I mean it was really nice.

Good ol SeeHause in Antholz.

I like mountains in black in white because it reminds me of cookies n'cream for some reason. 

And yes, I will have a third cup of coffee. 

Come to think of it, that's a picture of the web camera for the Antholz venue.

Last day in Antholz. Trying to make it up the pass into Austria after a solid snow storm.
Back in Bavaria now.

I had to take this one because it looked so familiar.  
Ah here it is. World Jrs 2008

I guess it was more sunny that day. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Antholz Sprint World Cup

Happy to have a starting bib today back in the world cup field. Here is the quick break down of how it panned out.

* Place 63. Top 60 move onto the Pursuit.

* 80% shooting. One mistake in each stage.

* If the field was devoid of cheaters / dopers I would be racing tomorrow, but I guess that's too much to ask for.

* Trails were in great shape. This is the best skiing I've been on all year.

* Was a little sick at the start of the week and was just recovered enough to make the race happen

* Range time was my demise today. I wasn't able to get out of prone fast enough. The wind pick up in standing and I had to fight to only miss one target. The extra time spent on the mat compared to the rest of the field was worth more than one penalty.

* Skiing was smooth and in control. I like the hard packed conditions. It's fair and exposes the disadvantage of bad technique.

* Energy was okay... Not great, but not bad either. Need to keep recovering and pushing the peaking level

I'm not sure when my next race will be. Worse case, today could have been my last. Best case, I'll get a start in Korea. More details are still in the pipeline for this blog.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Other Side

        Oh look what happened. This old national B-team member from Stockholm, Maine rose to the occasion and snagged the last spot for the 2018 US Olympic team. The athlete that was told Rossignol Europe didn't have enough room for him and residency at the OTC wasn't possible overcame the odds and made it happen. After reading a fasterskier article about our December WC team that was named after a couple of roller ski time trials it almost suggested the February team was already figured out. I knew this wasn't the case and had to assure myself that there was still a chance for the "rest of us" to make it. Thankfully, not everyone was doubting my potential. The whole state of Maine seemed to be behind my goal and was willing to help in any way to make the goal more possible.

          I was feeling good about progressing up after the games four years ago. I felt confident that competing on the world cup and world champs team the following years was in my future. It was clear to me that this sport is unpredictable, but I wanted to prove my worth. That following April I didn't get named to the A-team and was moved down to B. The following two years I wasn't on any national team and despite my best efforts, was excluded from the team atmosphere I was so well accustomed to. The 2015/16 season was my all time worse stretch yet. I didn't make the any racing trip that season. It took the whole month of April for me to decide if I was going to continue with the sport or start a new life. The limiting factor in my decision to stay in the sport and fight it out for another two years was, in one word: curiosity. I had to know. I had to see if a few changes here and there to training and gear would be enough to put me back on the world class level. The conclusion of that particular season just wasn't settling and definitive enough for me to call it quits.

       The changes to make a step up were set in motion that following May. I didn't have much to work with, but I'm good at utilizing only a few resources when need be. With some local help I was able to procure a new rifle stock. Motivation and work ethic were never  a weak point for me. The real key was working differently in a better way. Training and coach input took some changes. I made the December WC team that fall. In January I scored a few WC points for the first time in years. Everything was on pace... Or so I thought. My spot for the 2017 World Champs team was open and I wasn't able to keep the focus together on the range. The low point of the season cost me a lot financially and result wise. Since I had made it that far, I wasn't about to call it quits as early as late January. Some local support once again came to my aid and I was able to train in Antholz, Italy for the last two IBU cups in Finland and Estonia in March. Once again everything was back on good pace. I nailed down a top 20 in the IBU cup and was hoping to do better... Then, once again I got sick and wasn't able to fully recover in time for any of the rest of the racing. I flew back state side and was home for a few days before heading down to US nationals where I pulled through in a snow storm to win the sprint race despite the A team showing up. Last season was what I called a "missed opportunity" but still a step back in the right direction.

      After two years of close to nothing (to be fair, a few key members did everything they could to help) from the national team I was named to the B-team. Someone asked me what the odds were after the season of snagging a February 2018 spot were and I gave it the old "50,50" answer. Which I still maintain was pretty accurate. I knew, very well all year that I was at least the 4th to 6th man on the team. The team made a step up during the roller ski races in August and October. While there was improvements on my end they were not enough to keep the pace. Still, the all but one man (World Champ Lowell Bailey) had officially been qualified for the February team. This meant there were still three more race spots and one reserve available. I would not be able to snag any of those in December, but the January IBU route was still open.

      The nerves started months in advance. From as early as training in May. It only gradually grew from there. That is, gradually, until the races in Minnesota where it felt more like exponential progression of stress than anything linear. The races in Minnesota were successful enough to net me a  top qualifier position going into January. The races were solid, but I never felt like the ski speed was where it could be. I took it easy for a few days over the Christmas break hoping to reset the energy and prepare for the last round of trials.

        The first two of four races were held in Brenzo, Slovakia. I had raced here a couple of times prior. The first was during Euro champs a while back. I was skiing well at those races and was hitting top five loop ski times. The other occasion was last year when I was in the midst of recovering from a brutal sore throat and cold. I missed seven targets of ten in the sprint and was not feeling so well about my shape at the time. None of that mattered this time though. Being a headcase about those things is a waste of time. For a rare occurrence, I cleaned the first sprint race and finished 14th. I missed three for ten the next day and still skied well enough to keep myself in a safe spot for trials purposes.

        From Slovokia we did the seven hour van ride into Arber, Germany. This is a place I had raced at before, but that time was almost exactly ten years ago. In fact, the race venue wasn't even referred to as "Arber" back then. You were racing in "Landorf," Germany. I have no idea what the details of that exchange were, but the place did feel vaguely familiar. The next trial race was not an IBU cup, but rather a team time trial instead. Two of the four of us were sick and unable to race. So Leif and I were dueling it out. 15km with 45 seconds added per miss. Neither of us had an outstanding performance, but I had a narrow lead of about 13 seconds. However, this race was also being used to help name a fourth man to the WC relay team in near by in Ruhpolding, Germany that following Friday. Leif is one of the fastest shooters on the team and it made sense to have him in the relay.

      That brings us to the last race in our two weeks in stress hell. One more sprint format in Arber. I wanted the day to be over before it started. After breaking through the stress with clean shooting the week before I was confident I could keep it together one more day. In the end biathlon showed it's cruel side yet again. I skied very well, by only skiing 45 seconds down from the lead ski time. On the other hand, shooting didn't go as well. I missed two targets in each stage and lost a great deal of time just getting the shots out the barrel. But the team isn't named off of one race. It came down to each athlete's best two out of four. In the end end this put me in second. This got me named as the fifth man for the February team.

        Naturally the meeting to determent this was not held until 8:30 in the evening. So, despite the race being over the stress prevailed in force. My fears were vanquished when I learned that I would be in South Korea in February. Team naming is just one of the many cruel and vicious sides to this lifestyle. The slightest difference in a day to day performance can make a staggering change in your life. We all knew this was deal when we were handed a race bib and there is never a completely happy ending for the whole field. All these jarring day to day swings and for the most part no pay check to really call it a career. But hey, I had to know. If I had won, I would have won and if I had lost I would have won. It was more about knowing what a gratuitous amount of effort would cause if I played my cards right.  I've been on the other side so many times, that the times when I do make a team are still good enough for that seven year old on Christmas day sort of joy.

       I could drone on about where I am now and what's going to happen from here, but that can wait for another day. I wanted this to be a grand article to this tiny little blog of mine. A few more days of thinking it over and polishing could help, but it's been due since Sunday and I owe it to my viewers to have something up sooner rather than later. For the record there is a chance that I could not race in Korea at all. I'm the fifth man on a team that can only race four guys. That, and some more details will be made more clear later. There are a a lot of solid pictures in the near future though. That much I can promise. 

        None of this success could have happened without the support from everyone back home. There was enough support in the mix to argue that this is as much of a success for me as it is for the supporters that stayed with me over the years. I also hope this makes it clear that even a lower middle class raised, once chubby, introverted weird kid from a town with a sub 250 population can in fact make it to the grandest winter carnival in the world, not once, but twice. That's about as sentimental as I will ever be so please enjoy. Thanks for checking in!