Friday, November 25, 2016

The Beitostolen Breakdown

Here are the details about the IBU cup today in Beitostolen, Norway. No fluffy intro this time. Lets cut right to meat and potatoes of how it went and what it means for the racing season.

- Nice course profile, lots of snow, warm today, stable conditions.
- Legs felt a little heavy during the race. Might have been the two days of travel or six hours of jet lag, or the lack of race prep
- Very windy! Misses were more frequent than normal for the IBU cup field.
- Almost lost my cuff before the race. Found it, had a back up cuff ready to go otherwise
- Missed my first two in prone on the right, last three went down when the wind let up slightly
Accidentally ejected a magazine in standing! Shouted for spare. Single USA coach was on the course with my back up. Range officials eventually figured out the reason for my hysteria and I was able to complete my standing stage. 
- Missed last two in standing and about a minute plus in range time.
- Good ski speed, despite a one man wax team. Tenth fastest! 
- Result was a 111 point race. I needed to be under 125 points to race the WC in Ostersund.
- In the car with Jonas right now on our way to Ostersund.
- The faster route is snowed in. Now we're hoping for a sub nine hour trek. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Canmore In Pictures

Panorama doesn't always nail it. 

Rabbits! Rabbits everywhere! The local wolf and coyote population hasn't caught on. 

Our attempt at classic skiing at Lake Louise was a partial success.

The camera was compromised. 

One last hike before a day and a half of travel. 

Success in Canmore

       Fitness was feeling good, shooting was coming back into place and a potential spot back on the world cup team was up for grabs. All I had to do was keep my whit and train well. With most of the national team present for the training camp there was plenty of reference to gauge my performance with. This was the warmest Canmore has ever been with the I've time spent there. It was seldom below freezing for the two and a half week training camp. Nevertheless, we were able to train on snow. It was only a 2.5km loop, but to be snow while wrapped around a 360 degree mountain view made the training camp a good time. The racing was tough, but the performance was there and my 2016/17 season has a good chance now. 

       Training was pretty straight forward. As long as you knew what time we were leaving in the morning and what time zero opened it was difficult to botch the session. On some days the conditions turned into a slush fest. Other days it was not unlike the bullet proof conditions we're used to in New England. Most everyday however, the loop was crowded. It was always an awkward operation to carry out the high intensity sessions. Once you were in an efficient rush to get around the loop the slower athletes turned into moving traffic cones. We were not necessarily in Canmore to go hiking. Still, skiing everyday would have been troublesome for the training quality. Some of the best sessions were the ones spent soaking up the scenery on a long hike. 

      I knew shooting was on the verge of something professional. Up until the last week it wasn't quite showing when it needed to. The changes I made a month or so back had shown promise. Unfortunately, not everything was ironed out and the hits weren't there under pressure. It took about a week into the camp to figure out that my zeroing should be on the top of the prone ring. Whenever I came in to shoot with a high heart rate the grouping would move to the center. The base for better shooting was in place, the final tweaks are still in the works. Yesterday was our last day of on snow combos. The first four stages were all clean with tight groups. Range time is still a ways off from professinol, but that's not the goal at the moment. In other words, hitting five in a row in 40+ seconds is better than hitting two or three in under 30 seconds. 

     We had two time trials back to back last week. Officially, they were both sprint formats that used the same course. However, this was not the perceived case. It never came close to freezing the night before the first race. With the sun hitting the snow in full force we were stuck racing in midday spring like conditions. After talking with some of the other athletes post race, I wasn't the only one counting down the number of times remaining to ski up a certain climb. It was a slow and debilitating race for only a 10km. The wind changed from where is was during zero. I wasn't able to compensate for this and had two misses in each stage. Since I wasn't the only to have difficulty with the wind, 60% was about the average for the day. 
      24 hours later we were warming up for the same format on the same loop. This time it had been close to freezing the night before. The snow was holding it's own and it felt like a good old fashion well groomed trail from the days when winter was a yearly feature. With firm conditions the average race time dropped about five minutes. Once again I wasn't able to master the change in wind flags from zero to the race. I took clicks on my rear sight, but it wasn't enough to match the new wind direction. That's where I took four misses. Conversely, I was able to clean standing. The ski speed was solid. I was somewhat glad to hear my group was decent for second day in row. It simply wasn't sitting in center. Had the wind been more consistent, the prone results might have been better.

      The next day my inbox had an email informing me that I was selected for the world cups one through three. That's Ostersund, Sweden, Poklijuka, Slovenia and, Nove Mesto, Czech Rep. All places, that I'm not unfamiliar with. Since I didn't race on the WC last season I am technically required to requalify at an IBU cup. This mean the first stop is actually Beitostolen, Norway before Ostersund. Another process that's been done before.

      The season hasn't even started yet, but when your team qualification process starts as early as August and ends mid November you have to be carefully on the ball. Fast enough to make a team, but training enough to race well in February. This year I have a chance from the the very start of the race season to have a successful one. From that perspective it's been a better year than last year was before it's even started, oddly enough. After about 36 hours of travel I should be back in the north of Maine area. In about a week the ski and rifle case need to be packed again for an Oslo airport arrival.

Thanks for the well wishes regarding team naming and overall support this year! 

Pictures to follow later on in the week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Frozen Thunder Traffic Jam 2016

       What a nice change of pace it is to be in Canmore, Alberta when the temps aren't peaking in the single digits. Then again, being in Canmore anytime of the year (if you can afford it) is a nice situation. Still, we're on snow and it's only now November. It took a lot of travel and resources to get the US biathlon team out here, but with a 2.5km loop and a 31 point range it was worth it.

        Training has been going well. The altitude is high enough to feel, but not so high that you can't keep your whit during training. The loop is over crowed even when it's supposed to be closed off to non national team athletes. On more than one occasion we have had to run over skis when three skiers abreast are taking up the trails without the slightest idea that another athlete might be going faster than they are. Nevertheless, training has been going well. Shooting felt a little nervous the first week, but after the past couple of days it's been under control again.
         The loop was occupied by a XC race so the US biathlon team went for a run instead. Here's a few pictures snagged during.
And here we have Canmore.

Not too much for photographic evidence of the loop yet. If look closely you can see the ribbon of snow.    

Local running trails here are okay I guess. 
The most photogenic bird I've ever encountered. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Post Trials and Pre Canmore

Less heat, less humidity, and more colors makes racing in Jericho possible. 
        Not unlike the old days I'm sitting here making the most of the brief time between one trip and the next. It was a close one; a few more misses in the mix and it would be just me sitting hear getting ready for another month of training on my own. Fortunately, that is not the case as I was able to put together a decent enough cluster of races to snag a spot on the Canmore, AB national team camp. The races in Jericho were not what I was hoping for, but there is room for hope.

        The changes in set up for prone that I made a few weeks back were making an undeniable difference. Still, there were enough moments of failure in training to suggest that I wasn't immune to bad stage in an important race situation. My fears came true when I missed the first three of five in the sprint race last weekend. For a brief moment I felt sick to my stomach as the thought missing four or five became a possibility. I missed another two in the following standing stage. With 50% shooting it was down to damage control mode. Thankfully the old ski speed was on good form. Despite a cold and sore throat three days before trials the energy and snap was solid enough to help the cause. It never felt like I had all five gears skiing, but at least 4.5.
Thanks to some good contacts I was able to stay in the coolest house I've ever seen.

      The second race was an exact replica of the race 24 hours earlier. A sprint format using a 2km, 4km, and 2km loop. I took my time in prone, but was able to keep it down to a single miss. Hopes were high going in standing, but a light breeze and tense nerves gave me another two misses. 70% is better than 50% but still under what I know I can do. Similar to the previous race, ski speed was strong for October. I ended up second overall. It was nice to see the results back in the mix with Tim and Lowell like the old days.

      From here it's all about working with the new shooting process more and more. Since I'll be around the rest of the team I can work with it under pressure. On top of that Canmore will have snow. The first week has a bulk of volume in it. Enough to get the legs back into the feeling of skiing on snow in place of pavement. From a more immediate time frame it's all about packing, Russell's favorite activity. It will be nice to ditch the roller ski pole tips for snow baskets, but dealing with check in employees after a five hour drive to the Portland airport, not so much.

The forecast for Stockholm next week. May have dodged something here. 
       In case you were wondering a possible start for the December WC team is very much possible. What I have to do is keep my whit during this coming training camp and it shouldn't be a problem. Shooting wasn't what I wanted last week, but I'm still feeling good about it. Everything was solid for yesterday's intensity session, shooting, ski speed, energy, absence of rain. There is plenty of reason for optimism.

     Since I live in northern Maine my trip westward starts Sunday afternoon and ends what I hope is before Tuesday morning. Shortly there after I should be skiing on snow.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Zeroing Through the Fog

        Quick update here. Training is going well. Fall is in full swing. The training camp in Lake Placid went well. I set a new PR for the Mars Hill Climb this last Saturday. Tomorrow I head south for Jericho, VT. This time it's the second round of trials. Shooting is still feeling well. In the meantime here are few pictures from the past few weeks.

There is World Class A licensed Biathlon range somewhere in the fog.

2nd Place in the Climb to the Castle again this year. 1st for the non blue wheeled Marwees category

Am I the only one who see the giant billboard next to every apple tree this time of year? The glowing one that says "FREE FOOD IS HERE." Why are more people not capitalizing on this?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Substance Part 2


      There was almost a frost on the ground yesterday morning. It was about quarter past seven when we were packing into the van at the OTC parking lot. For whatever reason it is always a few degrees warmer in Wilmington. It was nice to ski up White Face when the ski is clear. This seldom happens in my experience. The colder temps and clear sky are just a couple of examples of new changes that have happened in recent months.  Summer is close to over for us in the north east. After the trial races in Jericho I set out to fix some limiting problems.

       Equipment failure is a chronic problem you can't escape. Three sets of pole tips have been swapped out and replaced since Jericho. The rear rim on my road bike lost a spoke earlier this summer. That is nothing new, as it happens about once ever year. The front rim decided to take up the slack from the recently retunned rear tire and lose a spoke. Yesterday I picked it up from the bike shop in Lake Placid, just in time for about one more good ride before the temps get too cold. The most obnoxious hangup came in the form of rollerskis. In this sport you need rollerskis to train effectively. Excluding ski tunnel use, I suppose. My attempt to save some money by repairing what I had didn't work. Luckily, thanks to some support from Finsisu, Swenor, and some local help I was able to solve the problem the best way you can. Now I have two fully functional pairs of rollerskis allowing me to train professionally.

       The physical side of training has been going well. After Jericho I was able to get into a normal training rhythm. Everything started out with an intensity block consisting of five hard sessions crammed into four days. Nothing says ski faster than hill bounding in the AM and back to back mini time trials in the PM on a Friday. After that it was a brief volume block. Which is pretty much the opposite. Consisting of easier, but longer distance sessions. By the end of the week, the three hour roller ski followed immediately by a two hour run was feeling even longer than it actually was. With trials coming up again in a few weeks it's not always easy to have that dedicated training rhythm. That said, it felt very productive to have a solid block of intensity and volume.
        Shooting underwent a handful of changes. Lo and behold, I may or may not be on to something. The new process is still in the break in phase, but all signs have been hopeful so far. I moved some of the components around on the stock changing my natural point of aim. Before, it was all about nailing a small window of timing and rhythm. This worked super well when I could find it, but the lack of consistency was holding me back. With the new set up I can depend more on aiming and confirming a good shot before taking it. This is a subtle change, that makes a big difference. The rifle it's self has also undergone some changes. Thanks to some local machining the front and rear sights are higher. Now I can properly bolt the chamber with out having to punch myself in the face; how convenient. The changes haven't fully set it, but overall all signs are looking up.

A small partial view of the course.
        So that's where I am up to this point. This Sunday is the Climb to the Castle race. This will be the third time racing up this suffer fest. Efficient technique and engine capacity are your best friends for this style of racing. The rest of the following week is packed with testing and time trials. If you're going to train in a group there is no better training than this kind. Energy is feeling fresh and good to go. Wish me luck.

The final stretch.