Monday, September 28, 2015

LP Part Two

        For only have one week to work with, the amount of progress in Lake Placid was plenty sufficient. The goal with every training camp is utilized any opportunities that you might not have access to otherwise. In this case, it was mostly having that head to head style competition and an overabundance of coach feedback. An extra week would have been great. Nevertheless, after a few very hard sessions crammed into a seven day period the confidence is better than it was before I left.

        The idea was to push a lot of hard sessions into a short period of time. The reason having a lot to do with exercise phys. The exact kind of test we did were chosen because they are the same ones we did a year ago. Giving the coaches and athletes some results to work with. The last benefit is the fact that we would all be doing this at the same time.
          When it comes to shooting, this extremely beneficial. Dryfiring in you pajamas and doing a time trial in the cold rain may actually look very similar mechanically, but mentally it's much more different. Having a chance to shoot in a situation that creates the pressure and stress of an important race is always worth your time. For my week in LP this was a couple of afternoon shooting test and couple of morning time trials.
          Physically the time was just as demanding. With only 15 hours total it shouldn't be anything out of the question. Still, the week ended with an almost 40 minute continuous uphill race. This was after three time trials, a short race pace effort session, and three strength sessions. Not to mention the easy distance sandwiched between it all. I mentioned the first two time trials in my last update. The third one was XC roller ski race on the well known Bear Cub road. The conditions were a little better than our previous test on the road. As a result most of the team was about a minute faster. Still, I like to think we're just that much better now, but who knows.
       As for the last day, this was the so called "C2C" race. The Climb to the Castle put on by NYSEF has become a staple in the annual US ski and biathlon fall calendar. There is actually no obligation to show up. The only gain you have is the satisfaction of completing a very hard workout and knowing how good you are at long sustained uphill efforts. Long story short, the 2015 C2C was a success. It could have been a little better and lot worse. I learned that in the awkward V1 or V2 (similar to 1st gear or 2nd gear in standard vehicle) technique delima, V1 is the choice for me. Compared to the other athletes V1 felt like a recovery, but without losing any ground. I also learned that if you know know you're going to be racing in a cloud, the darkest set of lenses you own are not the optimum choice of accessories. While I'm at it, make sure you know the course well enough. I wished I had attacked a little bit earlier. On the other hand, with the way the last 100 meters panned out I'm not sure what effect that would have had. I was in the back of the lead group of five. After drafting for about 35 minutes I was fresh enough to go for it. Unfortunately I'm not much of a sprinter and should have made a move earlier. In this case, Tim lost a pole tip and was out of full sprinting capability. This opened up a window for me. I wasn't able to out sprint Patrick Caldwell to the line, but was able to secure a second place for a second year in a row.
        Good results or not the week was a success. I drove back with some new information to work with and solid week of training under my belt. This harder intensity block of training will give the top end gear the update it needs just in time for the next round of races in Jericho, VT. Shooting wise, standing was dependable as always. The prone grouping is equally as solid when the focus is spot on. The conclusion between the coaches and I was to just simply keep reinforcing a well focused shot again and again. I really do like the flow of living and training in Lake Placid, but it's also nice to be in the county this time of year. From here, it is still unknown what the the full fall plans are, but in the meantime all I can do is make the most out of every training session.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

LP Week Half Way Point

        The summer felt a little strange without any significant amount of time in Lake Placid. Now that the summer is gradually starting to transition into fall I can atleast say I had a week in Lake Placid.  It isn't  much, but some of the training we have been doing has made it feel similar to slow motion. Training wise this is just another high intensity week. With the lower amount of time spent training I don't have as many excuses to not update the blog. It's Thursday and our last critical session is on Sunday. So far the US team has done one shooting test, and two time trials.

         The first time trial was your average four stage rollerski biathlon race. Standing was solid, with 90% shooting and about 25 to 27 second range times. Prone was 60% with mostly low misses. Aside from the drive over I was coming off of a brief rest period. The recovery was intact, but the overall spring in my legs wasn't. Ski speed was decent, with some good transitions and improved technique. Overall the time trial wasn't that great, or all that bad. If anything it was closer to the great side.

        We did a precision test in the following afternoon. I'm pretty certain I set my PR. The 30x30 test has up to 600 possible points. It's 30 shots prone and 30 shots standing. Shooting better than 500 requires some skill. I scored 486. It's nice to beat your own record, but even still, I was in the middle compared to the rest of the team.  Precision shooting has never been my specialty. One ten ring after another would certainly feel nice, but the real limiting factor only needs five eight rings (three in standing) in row in under 34 seconds to affect the real goals.

        That was Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday morning brought us to the Whiteface Alpine hill for everyone's favorite session. This is the part of the week that makes it feel longer than just a week. It's amazing how much suffering you can cram into a sub 14 minute effort. The trick is to find a incline continuously steep and just start running. The real high, or low rather, point of the time trial for me wasn't posting a slower time than last year, but the fact that I took a wrong turn. Yeah, I know, it's not the first time I've pulled this move. For the record, I wasn't the only one who found that particular part of the trail questionable. There's no point in making excuses, but I would like to push for a marker cone or two next year. The result was slower than last year, but I'm not overly concerned about my third attempt at a running race in September. The effect and effort was evident with a solid max heart rate of 201; not bad for a 28 year old.

          We have another shooting test this afternoon. It's referred to as the "French test." Naturally we all call it french toast because it sounds more exciting. On Friday we have a mini biathlon TT followed shortly by a XC TT on the road. Saturday will have a much more relaxed two and a half hour hike. Sunday is the last and longest day of the camp. Not unlike last year at this time, it's the Climb to the Castle race. We're looking at about 40  minutes of rollerskiing uphill. The best part is when it's over and you don't have to do it anymore... Strangely enough, not doing the sufferfest when you know you could have is still the less desirable option.
        The goal for the seven day period is work in the upper race zones and log some head to head experience. These periods required the least amount of time, but the most amount of focus and quality. Taking the best advantage of this training opportunity may not directly reflect my results this winter, but will instead directly benefit them.

         Here are some pictures that have little to nothing to do with the update. If nothing else they are mildly entertaining.
Just new vehicle things. 
Oh look what happened. All this for one carrot.

It took a few hours for the bleeding to give up. Good! Now I have less thumb to carry.

And here we have the one week later shot. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Weekend In Jericho, VT

       August wouldn't feel the same without a few days at the Ethan Allen guard base in Jericho, Vt. At first glance it would seem that Jericho has a great roller loop and is within striking distance of Burlington, but nothing more. To be completely fair, to this day the best sandwich wrap I've ever had came from the Jericho center general store. So, it has at least three high points going for it.
         This year we were only around for a quick three day trial situation. It was the exact same formula as the previous year. That is, a sprint format on Saturday and a mass start style on Sunday. Gone are the days of moldy downhill corners and multi colored grades of pavement. The redone roller ski loop is much easier to work with. The mostly functional internet in the barracks was a break though that I never thought I would live to see.
        Not all has changed, however. The overbearing heat and humidity this place is know for lived up to it's reputation. To put it another way, (hypothetically) if there was a race to be held strictly in a sauna I would be better prepared for it after that weekend. Saturday's sprint was much warmer than anticipated. Some athletes can handle hot days pretty well. Others, not so much. I'm in the later category. I've raced tired and I've raced out of shape. This was neither. It's a strange feeling to be at max capacity in these sorts of conditions. Rather than just becoming overly dizzy and pass out I tend to ski just slower than I would on a cooler day. This was the case as ski speed was not what I expected in the sprint. It wasn't bad and as always it's fair to point out that it's August. Still, an extra 40 seconds faster would feel more accurate. On the plus side there was one miss to be had in prone and none in standing. 90% shooting was a nice advantage to what could have been a much worse day. In the end I concluded that it was a solid race and not worth worrying about.

       The mass start was slightly better in some ways and still off expectations in others, yet still better than it could have been. It was a few degrees cooler and as a result skiing felt a few seconds faster. The overall feeling was still below expectations. Some of my technique on the climbs wasn't as dynamic as I've been trying to force it into being. Excuses aside, the effort was there and I used whatever drafts I could.  Of the four shooting stages, one was brilliant and the other three were missed opportunities. There were two misses in each prone stage. All of which were pretty much "head case misses" as I described after. There was no wind, just some breeze in my head I guess. Cleaning the first standing stage was a nice confidence boost and put me with in striking distance of the podium. Since this sport has a way of kicking you in the teeth I unfortunately missed anther three in the last stage. Despite some lack luster ski speed and one too many poor stages I wasn't too far out.
      That's about as much as I know for now. The next weekend of trials is in October. It's a best three of four system, plus some other confusing parts in the mix. Naturally, the best move is to stay focused on the process and train well. That being said, the races were great from the experience side. That's the conclusion that's going further better results. I have a lot of feed back to work with in training now. There is a brief camp in Lake Placid on the schedule. The rest is in the county. So if you see a short little idiot flailing expensive equipment around it's probably just be me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer 2015

        There has not been much content in the blog lately. The reasoning is simple: nothing out of this world has been happening. This indicates that everything has been going smoothly. Summer is the heaviest training season of the year. If there really was something to update it about it would most likely mean training is not going well. As you can see from my update frequency training is going great.
        It's nice to not have the stress of travel and racing enveloping you most days. That's the advantage summer has over the racing season. Instead, it's the perpetual fatigue that accompanies you this time of year. The difference in the spring in your step when comparing July to January is staggering. But this nothing new. I've made it clear more than once that this is out normal.
       Here are few pictures of how summer has been wrapping up.
Music festival in New Sweden

A cloudy day at the office

Did I mention I'm officially the owner of a truck?

The powerbar that keeps on giving after the mix is used up.

The end is near for these over used shafts 

It took half a dozen eggs but it was worth the muffin mountain.

Derailleur bit the dust for the second time this summer. Taken down by one renegade stick.
       Aside from the four plus hour rides, Stockholm Mt repeats, and about four too five hundred rounds a week this could be the summer of baking and equipment shenanigans. The garden has been great, and the truck runs well, but I sure wish the mt bike would last more than a month at a time. The first round of trials in Jericho are this weekend. It won't be anything I haven't down before but it should warrant something worth writing about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Summer Grind

            Welcome to the summer portion of the year. If you’re in the northern Maine area, enjoy it because we typically have about two weeks of actual summer.  The longer the days are the longer the training sessions are. There is not very much for news and that may be a good thing. Training has been going well. Each week has an objective to it; one that always ends with fatigue. It’s just a matter of how you get that point.
            The bulk of my training is just volume and distance. In some ways, these are the easiest sessions. This is only true until it’s the last hour of a five hour ride at the end of 23 hour week. The real trick to this sort of day is giving yourself a goal. In the spring the goal was to find moose antlers.  Despite not having any success it was enough to occupy me. The woods roads around here are endless as I have yet to chart the whole thing. At the rate of one flat bike tire week it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
At least he's not on the roller loop. 
            This week is a high intensity week. What that translates into is less overall training, but more training in the race zone effort. The goal is to cram as many hard efforts into a five or six day span that you can. The extra time compared to a volume that these weeks grant me is a fair trade off. The catch is that if I’m not on my hands and knees by the end of at least two training sessions it’s not considered a success. While this kind of training is not my favorite, if done correctly, it’s the most effective towards race season.
You don't need a world class range to have decent grouping.
            Last week was for recovery. The normal cycle is three weeks on and one week off. Without some time dedicated towards rest the effect of training is lost. Naturally this sort of thing varies per athlete. By the end of the three weeks I’m usually clinging to the railing when walking upstairs to offload the use of my legs. At that point, you can understand why a seven day stretch to relax physically and mental is needed.
You looking at some exercise nerd stuff from a hard day on the treadmill.
            That was just a small piece of some of the training ideas that biathletes use. You can spend a lot of time mulling over what a training plan should look like. This is important, and in my opinion, more of a limiting factor than natural talent. Nevertheless, talking about training doesn’t actually make you any faster. Doing the training, is what moves you up the result list. That’s why I did nine two by two minute running intervals this morning at max effort. It was good quality and the best part was when it was done. Aside from a bit windy and rainy the summer has been entertaining. I’m happy to be done with an online class. Lately it seems, there is never a dull weekend. While training is very plentiful and fatiguing it’s there is always a reason to stay motivated. 

Rhubarb! It's not just for stacking! 

No flat tires that day! What a convenience. 
The wind is down! There is no rain! Quickly everyone go outside!

Good old range flag. Always there to soak up 20 seconds for the first one to show up to morning training. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

An Update

        Hello fatigue my old friend. There is no denying that this update is long over due. The reason for the lower rate of post is pretty simple: Training season is in full force and with that comes an arsenal of other task that ultimately push the post frequency down. I thought I was busy in April and as it turns out I was completely wrong.  April did not have an online class, 20 + hour training weeks, slow fire sessions, or the always favorite 40 minute drive. The grind is in full force again for another year. Some parts will stay more the same than ever and some parts are going to be a little tricky.
        One online class is nothing to complain about. Intro to Reading and Writing isn't brain breaking, but I do find it obnoxious. According to what I've learned so far my writing is terrible and I should probably apologizes to the literary world. But this isn't a graded assignment. So don't be surprised if you see a stream of conscious style update just to smite the system. Not everything should repeat the same run of the mills formula. Pretty sure that last one was a fragment and I started a sentence with "but," so there!

      Physical training is going well. Some weeks, the goal is to be outside and moving. The volume weeks have two harder sessions at most and the rest is longer distance sessions. Some weeks are focused more on faster speed. These weeks have fewer hours but more high intensity effort sessions. Other weeks are a mix version of the two and some weeks, such as this last one, are for recovery. After a short ride on the mountain bike this morning I'll come in shy of ten hours for the week. Next week is on pace for 23 hours. After that it's an intensity week.  We used a similar system last year. While it's nothing new it's never too easy. By the end of the week I'm opting for the lighter loose fitting clothing after training because it takes less energy to walk around in. Just biathlon things, I guess.
       Shooting is still on the top of the "to fix" list. Every shooting session has a desired focus going into it. Sometimes the goal is to work on trigger pressure, or my position set up, or maybe it's just simply aiming.  For the past few weeks the objective has to been to work with the basic skills. The outcome being a tight and consistent group on paper. Once that skill is reinforced the shooting sessions will migrate towards handing higher stress situations. Neither precision shooting or under pressure situations are my strong point so you can see why they are in the plan. The groups on paper have been getting better. Proving this has been difficult with the perpetual wind. Yesterday was one of the few calmer days and sure enough the shots were closer together. That is, until the blanket of black flies swarmed in. If it's not cold, it's windy, and if the wind dies down then the bugs take over.
       Training will be based out of nothern Maine for the bulk of the summer. First confirmed departure is not until mid August for the usual Jericho time trial festivities. Beyond that is unknown. What is known, is what's on training plan for next week. That much I can control. Team naming and allotted resources are technically at an all time low, but do you really think that's going to stop me? I actually have fond memories of Pyeong Chang and would like to visit South Korea again in a few years down the road. The core of the effort is as good as ever. The two venues are in fine shape. The targets still fall down when you hit them correctly. All the attention and resources in the world still need a motivated athlete to revolve around.
          The situation isn't overly impossible this year, rather a little more tricky. If solid training is still possible then attaining higher team status is still possible. In which case... problem solved, or at least one step closer. The last time I did a four stage time trial I shot 95%. While the past three years have been sub expectations I still can't accept thinking there isn't more room in the tank. Looking ahead, let's not forget the world cup in Presque Isle. The thought of having a great performance at that venue next season is more than enough to push my sad pathetic legs though another five hour ride on the bike.

          Enjoy the summer while it last. It may as well be our shortest season for nothern Mainers. For a brief time I thought nature was going to skip right into October. Calm and sunny days are sparse so enjoy the outside world when you can.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


         In case you haven't noticed the update frequency has been on the low end as of late. This is due to the fact that it was April. In the world of winter sports this is typically the time of year when most athletes pretend they are not athletes. It can occasionally make for some pretty entertaining stories. I used to despise this time of year. The weather could never make up it's mind. Now I have immense respect for it. Coaches don't expect anything from you and actually encourage a full spectrum break.

  The atmosphere resembles the fall but with out any hunting and the days are actually becoming longer. Instead of gearing up for an expedition with warm clothes when the temps sink to just above freezing we wear t-shirts and assume it must be pushing 70.  Eventually the air has that fresh spring smell in it, but with northern Maine's occasional second or third winter cycles there is no way of telling when spring really begins.
         My spring wasn't too bad. Nothing exciting report. My goal was to just relax and let everyday organize itself. Nothing was confined to a scheduled that I didn't think of on the spot. If I can finish the month feeling board then I've accomplished enough as far as I'm concerned.  The past few weeks have been full of the things I enjoy doing in my spare time. Catching up with old friends, movies, baking attempts, spring skiing, and taking naps are random points in the day. What a rebel right?
          One of the exclusive highlights to this time of year is the skiing opportunities. While there is no guarantee of it crust cruising still remains the best form of XC skiing there is in my opinion. It's the golden standard. If I retire and drop the training load by 97% the remaining 3% will be crust skiing. Those elusive mornings when the humid snow from the warmer spring temps the day before freeze into a hard crust overnight turning the whole landscape into a ski trail are worth going to bed early.
       For all of the great memories of crust skiing they will have to remain memories for now. There was very little to no crust skiing this year. Some years it's great and others, well they just don't pass the test. The test consist of stepping outside before breakfast with a ski pole in hand. If you can punch through the surface then the skiing isn't going to be great. If you can walk around on the snow bank and jab the snow all you want with out breaking through then the skiing is good to go.  Most mornings this year I just ended up with little pole plant craters in the yard. Thankfully the afternoon classic ski sessions were a nice compensation.

        Since there is a lot to be said about what's ahead for me I'll leave it for another update. Despite the good, the bad, and the still unclear everything is still functioning. Last week was a warm up for the training season. With a couple of higher intensity sessions and about 17 hours of volume the system is starting to wake up for another run through the summer gauntlet.

The things you find on the ski trails these days.

2nd winter

May or may not have made this jump.

The Icarus effect. 

Almost made it.
And then shut down.