Sunday, December 14, 2014

And a Series of Unfortunate Events, again.

          Racing on a narrow ribbon of forced snow is becoming all too common these days. Unfortunately for my season thus far the lack luster results are on the same all too common pace. But hey if you want to win the race you have to pace yourself.  Leading into the finish is the important part. Everything before that isn't relevant. Hochfilzen has been good to us in some ways and believe me when I say I'm still happy to be here and have the chance to bang heads on the WC.  But the raw honey comb and sunshine doesn't compensate for the sprint result and unlucky relay. This is the run down of what happened during our week in Hochfilzen, Austria

          The flight from Ostersund was one the smoothest travel days in recent memory. Nothing went wrong. It was a charter flight so they didn't even bother giving us seat assignments. Everyone was offered a full meal and the flight attendant just so happened to look like a supermodel. The bus ride to the hotel wasn't even the usual four hour sauna trek. Our hotel is great. There is always a large wired box of raw honey comb for breakfast. This gold could be considered candy if candy was locally produced and surprisingly good for you. I've considered buying some from the hotel. The only motivation not to is due to the fact that the excess "stuff level" is overwhelming and with only 23kgs allowed for flying it's best not to add to the pile.
Last night's desert. 

           So anyways aside from that there is the racing portion this update. I had high hopes for the sprint race. What else can I have? Naturally I was in the last seed. The difference this time was that the conditions held up better than they did in Ostersund and the last starting seed wasn't being ignored by some top level biathletes.  Bjordalen and Fourcade were both around my start time. This is what eventually  made the race even more painful. I had my focus ingrained into my head. Stressed or relaxed it didn't matter. I refined the process down to a few key words and held on to those the best I could.  It helped, but wasn't enough to stop two rounds from missing the eight ring. With two penalties a clean standing would have to be in order. Of the 20 shots standing I've done this season I've only had three misses. The second stage of the sprint race had one of them. With three total on the day I knew it was going to be close if I wanted to make the pursuit. It was... The first split had me at seven seconds out of the top 60. The next one was two seconds out. Then two seconds in. With not much course left I should have been safe right? When I crossed I was listed as 59th. The clutch was that Ole and Simone Fourcade had not finished. Ole had shot the same as me but skied faster. I was ahead of Simone ski speed wise that day, but with his clean shooting he was going to be in the pursuit and I was not. The two knocked me down from 59th to 61st.
            It happened to me in an Oberhof race, at the Olympics, and last Friday for the third time. I wasn't feeling to well. The goal was a top 40 and there I was knowing that I would be left out of the pursuit. It wasn't a very happy post race cool down.

             The relay was a second chance. A good relay could do a lot. Well folks that was not the case. We have a very talented wax team. We're one of the most organised teams out there. We can expect to have skies as good as any other team despite not have the limitless resources that the bigger teams have. Only on the rarest occasions do we miss the mark. Saturday was one of them. There wasn't enough time to switch out the skies before Lowell's and Tim's leg. They both had solid races but when your skies are clinging to the snow you don't have a chance. Trust me I've tested this out by accident and it's close to hopeless. Leif and I were able to get on the corrected grind for the day. We both had fast skies, just like anyone else. Leif has been shooting well this year, but Saturday was an off day. No one is safe. It happens. There's no better way to describe it. With a few penalties it wasn't shaping up to be the day I envisioned. I was the last leg and was tagged off with the Belarus team. It made for a good draft the first loop. I thought we were going a little too hard, but I figured one of us would lose it on the last loop if that's what it came to. Prone went clean with two extras. The group around me had to have used at least this to get out, because I was ahead leaving the range. I came into standing pretty hot. With the range approach in Hochfilzen it's hard not to do this. Standing went well. One miss from the clip and only one extra to clean. I raced around the corner onto what I thought was my last loop. Instead I was met by IBU officials who were waiting for me and anyone else still racing with there arms waving in the air. The lead team had crossed the finish line before I left the range. Via IBU rules we were not allowed to finish. I was denied my last loop.
           This may have been the worst relay team USA has ever had. No one is really thinking about it. It was a lot of bad things crammed into one race. Even more there was no race to be had the following day. If only I had been two seconds faster. Place 60 didn't even race the pursuit, nor did Bjordalen. It was rough having to watch the men's pursuit on Eurovision yet again.

           As always, if there is ever a chance for success then it's reason enough for a full effort. The next chance lies in Pokljuka, Slovenia. The season is just getting started and the parts of slowly coming together. It only takes one good day to start a catalyst. If that's a possibility for me then I'm going to go for it. The hiking was good today. Tomorrow will be a semi rest day. Tuesday similar with some easy combos. The sprint race is on Friday.

         Some things never change. Some things need to change. Wish me luck in trying to break those thresholds next week by having a better day. Then I can relax and come home for Christmas. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as it's not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon. I like to keep anyone back home who's interested up to date. Maybe it would be enjoyable to write if I had better news.

Okay probably not.

Hochfilzen in June? No no. This is earlier today. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


         There wasn't much for success last week in Ostersund, Sweden. The only thing that kept me positive after the individual was the thought of proving otherwise in the sprint race two days after. The best way to cope with a bad race is to look forward to the next one. When the next race is only two days away it's easy to keep the spirits up. When the next race is in a flight and five days away it's not as easy. That was the case for me after a dismal sprint race last Saturday. A good result to have under the belt before the races in Austria would have made a convenient difference. Instead I'm left to keep the confidence up on my own without any undeniable results to back it up.

         The misses were low. There are endless amounts of reasons why those four misses in prone were low. Zeroing was a little strange that day. Perhaps my position was off. Was it the last tenth of a second aiming? That's been a crucial focus point this year. My standing stage was solid, but I did miss that last shot. Ski speed wasn't much to write home about either. The conditions were all over the place. Not unlike the individual they broke down as the race progressed. The deep and sugary snow covering a base of ice is far from my specialty. By the time the race was over I was unsure about myself and it was only the second race of the season.
          After some thought I came back to the conclusion that I always do. If there was ever a chance for success then there is no reason not to give 100% of your effort. So the coaches and I thought it through and next thing I know I'm outside a hotel in Hochfilzen, Austria doing double pole intervals on the C2 machine. For the past month shooting has been great when it doesn't matter. It's only been the race days that cause the percentage to drop. There were four clean prone stages in row during easy combos today. The ability to relax just isn't my strong point. There are a few things you can do about this. It's much easier said than done though. Since that's the case I'm going to wait for Friday to be over before I divulge any more details. For a sport that is monumentally physically demanding it also has a significant sport psychology side to it.
         Training was good yesterday and for a change the energy level carried through today. Shooting is back under control. The next race is this Friday. We're skiing on a mix of man made snow, snow from the closest glacier, and even trace amounts from the sky. Still, there isn't much that separates Hochfilzen's December from it's late April right now. The work is done and the pieces are there. All I have to do is put them in place for ten shots and ten kilometers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Moron Everyone!

        Only in Sweden can you call everyone a moron have them think you're just commenting on the time of day. It does give some strange looks in the afternoon though. To summarize the individual on Wednesday I'll put the details in to three categories.

What Couldn't be Controlled :
-- The conditions post bib 94. It was warm and the course was not holding up well. Some parts were manageable but most of it was a disadvantage for the last start seed. Also it was a tricky day on the range. As indicated by the unusual amount of misses from a WC field.

What I should have Controlled
-- Prone. Or the shot timing, for closer detail. It's hard to trust the sight picture when you want the hit badly. This lead to some over holding and ended with 40% prone shooting.

What I did control.
-- Standing was solid. 90%. The pre pressure on the trigger and sight reaction were spot on aside from the one miss.

          Unfortunately with seven misses at a minute each there isn't much you can do on the result list.  It's rough to think about the missed opportunity knowing how much better training and shooting has been this year. Conversely it's relieving to know there is another chance tomorrow. Not to mention several after that. I've not one to sugar coat the bad days, but I don't believe in basing an entire season off of one race either. I know some old coaches that would do just this, but lets just leave it at that.

        Shooting was good in training today. I don't think the conditions will hold well tomorrow, but with some better focus in prone there is still a good chance for a better day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Here We Go Again

             Guess what time of year it is? It's time for the 2014/2015 racing to be underway. First race is today.  The mens individual here in Ostersund, Sweden starts at 17:15. That's 11:15 in the AM for everyone back in New Stockholm. Since I'm in the last start seed 17:15 is bit earlier than my start time. It's two minutes past six for me. That's all the details for now. Maybe some more tomorrow when the race is done and over. For now here some pictures from the last week at the office.
If you look closely you can spot the skier on the perfectly groomed trail. 

Sunlight huh? Hope you brought some vitamin D and a headlamp.

Pandemonium  2014

Beards 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In Limbo

**  **

Anything helps!

           There is a lot to be said about early and late fall, the whole season just brings up a lot of bittersweet memories. It has been a little different this year with a few minor tweaks in the itinerary. Still, the old days, good and bad, find a way into the week. Since I can't do this topic justice with just words I thought I would attempt to do so with some pictures. To say that work has been "In Limbo" has a lot to do with the war on weather conditions. An all to limiting factor in this line of work.

What a great year for fruits and vegetables. Craving apples meant going outside and picking them. No purchase necessary. 
         Some success was had on the hunting front. I might have more luck if I had the disposable amount of free time that I wish I had. So far only a few birds, and no deer. I'll be here for a few more days so the deer count is still technically pending. The roomers of a more than one buck in the area is enough to warrant some early morning outside sitting.
The sun having a hard time prevailing through the overcast month.
         Training has had it's ups and downs. This was going to be the last solid push for volume before racing season. After the last round of trials it was important to bring the confidence in shooting back up to previous levels. This was difficult with some persistently tricky winds in Fort Kent. That range is different from most. I've shot there more than any other range and why I can't figure it out is beyond me. The wind that you feel skiing into the stadium, the wind you feel setting up on the mat, and the wind indicated by the range flags are three different messages to comprehend. Do you see why this frustrating? It was nice to have one day last week when the wind was a non factor. In a solo time trial I managed to shoot 90%. With that and a lot of hours working on basic dryfire skills behind me the confidence is back and ready to go.

         Fitness wise? Who knows. Some of the biathlon world is already racing out in Canmore, AB. Some are racing in Sjusjion, Norway. The US team will be there next week. I was looking forward to the roller ski race in on North Haven Island last week. As far as roller ski racing goes this is as about as grand as it gets. As luck would have it a cold and sore throat crept in just in time. Given the events that were planned for the weekend on top of the 15km race and the five hour drive in van with everyone else it was out of the question if I should come or not. On the plus side it was a relaxing couple of days.
In other news: After hours of frustration and lack of professional tools I successfully changed a firing pin.

        Once the cold was gone and energy levels back to 100% I was ready to nail down a few quality training sessions. This time of year it's all about the key sessions that are going to make the differnce. If you can get some on snow time that's nice. If you can get some high intensity sessions on the shooting range that's also nice. If you can find groomed trails leading to an A licensed range that's great! I was never able to time that one just right. The grooming here in Stockholm was hard to complain about. I certainly wasn't the only one using that "hidden field" track but I claimed about 100+ km on it.
         The downside to this training option is that lack of 30 point ranges kicking around. To combat this I always head north for a couple of days and really focus on quality shooting  sessions. This has worked out fine most of the fall. The roller loop at the 10mt Lodge in FK is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately the stadium pavement soaks up the sun very well. Making it difficult to ski on snow. The other shady parts of the loop are practically an ice factory. Thus removing the roller ski option. Since it's too cold to go mt. biking this leaves us with lots of running. It's not this best, nor most exciting way to train. Worst of all, if you're like me, running has a finite amount that you can handle before injury becomes an issue. I survived 45 minutes of intensity on Thursday. The goal was log another 30 on Friday. After about 20 there was no chance of that happening.
Just Stockholm things.

            Any experienced coach or athlete could tell you that that's how it works this time of year. The conditions are unpredictable. A degree lower can make all the difference. I do recall one work out involving the cold rain a few weeks back. My least favorite training condition, by the way. Soon my daily living quarters will be in Europe where there is confirmed snow and 30 point ranges. In the meantime I'll have to hang out in limbo. Somewhere between driving, packing, hunting, skiing, roller skiing, running, and... more packing.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Trials Round Two

Does this look like the face of someone who doesn't
train hard enough?
       It's snowing outside and if I had to update about something that interest me it would how much I appreciate this time of year. I could go on, but this is a brief summary of how this years December team naming panned out for me. The combined four races  (best three of four, point wise) would be used to name the world cup team for December. The alternative racing option for December makes me cringe with cold repressed memories. With out any IBU cup racing opportunities this year it was an all or nothing situation. I so dearly wanted to be in Europe when the racing season kicked off this year. Well, this is what happened.
         Round numero uno was held back in August in Jericho. Round two, not unlike past years was in October. Since we had an early Utah training camp this year the races were held in Jericho again, instead of the normal Solider Hollow slip n'slide roller loop. Think super smooth sealed pavement with large cracks around every corner. Think perpetually dull pole tips. While the weather in Jericho can't hold a candle to an average day in Midway, UT the functional roller ski track at the National Guard base makes up for it.
The racing scene. 
         The post Utah training was up and down. After a couple of days off I was back at it. No mini vacation from roller skiing or the rifle. I was back into it with a three hour ski. The legs felt a little heavy. I assumed this was due to the travel and rest days. But as the week went on my the energy was still low. When I talked to the other guys later on they all had similar experiences. By the following Monday I felt a lot better. This carried through for a couple of mini time trials. Shooting was good and everything seemed to be on good pace.

The December WC team: Tim, Lowell, Leif and myself. 
At least my eyes are open in this one. 
       When I say "good pace" I mean it was normal. At least for this year is was normal. Since the start of the training season the goal was to break some thresholds on the shooting front. This has been the goal for several years now. But with the start of a n ew Olympic cycle it was good time to take more chances. This meant being more open to advise. In the end we made some minor changes in prone. It took a solid two months before any of the changes has a positive result. This, coupled with the normal search for better technique, training quality, and what not made a change for the better. Hit percentage was better when it mattered but what excited me the most was seeing the improved range times. A sub two minute cumulative total for a four stage time trial was the norm.

No ultra cold Canmore this year. 
             That last part was worth mentioning, because I suspect it played a key role in the final team selection. The races that weekend did not go very well. Ski speed was strong. That much worked out fine. Technique was better than it was in August and overall fitness came in very handy. The real clutch was the age old problem of spending too much time in the penalty loop. I'm not making any excuses. All the misses were operator error, but it was out of the normal tendency I had set in the months prior. After all the these years you never truly feel immune to the set backs. It's not unlike training or racing. The more fit you are the faster you go. The last loop still hurts as much now as it did when I was 14. I did my best to hold it together. Since the MWSC team was there as a group I didn't have to drive myself home. This was great, as I hate driving, but it also gave me a lot of time to sit around think about just how bad the weekend was.
             Monday was filled with the usual gauntlet of busy task. No training, just laundry, ebay stuff, emails, stoking the fire, so on and so forth. After some thought the best perspective I could conjure up was trying to see this as a chance to train a little more through December. As if my season were delayed. There was the usual Canmore and Minnesota trips, but to me it was a delay on the real racing front. The thought of the cozy little rooms in Ostersund from two years ago overlooking the race course vs the racing scene in Colerain, MN was too bi-polar to dwell on.

          So... I was out in the woods looking for a bird before it was too dark. My phone vibrated. When I saw the quick view it was an email titled "WC." "Oh great" I thought. "This is the famed end all email". With no hesitation I put my head down and waited for the ax to fall by opening up my email account. There in glorified times new roman text was the words "you will go to the dec WCs." I didn't mean to over dramatized this part, but I was so excited I thought it deserved some gravity. I never did get a bird that afternoon, but I did get named to the first trimester team of the 14/15 season.
          The details are still somewhat unknown. Still waiting for that plane ticket, for example. I'm in the county for a few more weeks before heading over to Norway for brief prep camp. Then it's off to Ostersund, Sweden for the opening races. Good news or not I can still carry out the quality training I need, but admittedly training last week was much easier to do after that email.
Finding bright colors in the darkest time of the year. 
           The next update will have some better pictures. Maybe some pertaining to this time of year. Realistically I didn't think I would make it in after having back to back 50% shooting days, but for one of the rare occasions optimism won over. Training is still somewhat heavy. Training and the stress of keeping everything organized will wind down once I head over. For now I have to go look for my snow baskets to swap out the roller ski tips with. It will be gone by Wednesday so might as well see what I can do with this few inches of fresh snow while I can.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

UTAH 2014

       This one needs to be dated to differentiate it from all the other years. The Utah camp really has become an annualized trip. This year the camp made for nice little extension of summer. Of all training conditions, the cold rain of fall in northern Maine is the best to avoid like the plague. The timing of this years camp wasn't the most convenient in all regards. It pretty much forced me out of potential hunting opportunities. Conversely it made for some great training opportunities. I always leave these focused camps with something gained to work on before the next one ramps up. The 2014 Utah survival camp was no exception.
Not Utah
       To be fair the three week suffer cycle started a week before flying left for a couple of time zones. Unlike the other years this Utah camp was a little earlier than usual. Last year after three weeks we were back home for November training. This time, it has only been two weeks and we're not even in mid October yet. That's where the summer extension comes from. It was fall when I left the county. Which is something to appreciate for plenty of obvious reasons if you've ever spent some time in the east (right) this time of year. The deal with training out here is that it's close to perfect all the time. Blue skies and dry across the board. It's been around or just below freezing every morning. By the time we start the core part of the morning session it's all 60s with a t-shirt. It feels even better when you remember what it's like trying to load clips when your hands are so cold and wet that you have to mash the fifth round in with your knuckle because your thumb is too numb. Yeah. Those days will make you appreciate nice weather. When I retire what ever I move onto will have no weather grounded limitations.

Extremely Utah
        Travel wasn't too bad. My flight actually made it as planned. Which is seemingly unusual these days. Unfortunately the ride to our house in Midway didn't go planned. The other coaches and athletes were delayed. The coaches didn't make in till after the rental agency closed. It took some shenanigans to procure the rental car before 1:30 AM. Everything after 12 in the morning is blur. I remember waking up occasionally when the coaches needed to know where I parked the rental. I guess it was nice to be able to just close my eyes at the SLC airport and open them to our place in Midway. After finding a bed to sleep in at three in the morning I decided that skate combos at 8:30 were not going to happen.
         Once travel was out of the way is back to the grind. The second round of trials were not at Soldier Hollow this year. With no pending races there was no excuse to not train at full bore. With out any classic roller skis or bike it was down to skating, double pole, running, and the few weight room stops. The problem with this came down to how much running my legs could take. It wasn't easy, but I was able to make it out with any serious injuries. A four plus hour run / hike  with a hefty amount of downhill running will demolish your legs. Skating and biking will make your legs tired, Running will make them sore and tired. I planned my massages  accordingly. That coupled with some good stretching was enough to make the difference. Energy levels always have a different pacing at altitude. With all the eggs, spinach, iron supplements, and wild game consumed in the past month there was no excuse for lack of iron to hold me back. The first week was the hardest. The dead feeling in my legs on the first Thursday suggested that there was no chance of making it through this camp alive. Sure enough Friday was slightly easier. With Sunday off Monday was much better. By the time we were doing easy skate combos on Wednesday I felt considerable better that I had six days prior. Altitude is strange like that. With one more day to go I'm somewhere in the middle. Tired from training and feeling better with acclimatization.      
          There wasn't much for long workouts. No one got lost or hit by a train. Shooting has also been fairly repetitive and boring. There were few wake up call sessions. Shooting at altitude tends to add a new element. It's hard to switch up the pattern and take that extra breath after the first shot. Still things are heading in the right direction. When I look back on it there was never a terrible shooting day. A couple of them were great and the rest were mediocre but never abysmal. Consistency in shooting is more precious than gold. If you can shoot at a high level on a consistent bases you're at least bound to do well in the overall.

         Aside from the roller loop in Soldier Hollow continuing it's downward spiral in quality it's not so bad out here. I managed to get in one meal of some real Mexican food. Goose season may have taken the blunt end of the camp timing but for the first time in years I'll be home for Halloween. So at least there is that for non business related events to look forward to. Before that however, is the second round of December team trials back in Jericho, VT. Let's see if I can make the most of the time spent home leading up to those races.