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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time Spent in the Suffer Zone

      Our stay in Lake Placid is winding down. Coaches and athletes are on there way out today. It's been a delight to stay in one room for more than five days at a time. In the last few weeks the team has been run through the full gauntlet of training ideas. Ranging from five hour rides, time trials, shooting test, all the way to sprinting through speed traps. Some results missed expectations, but for the most part progress is still a thing. I appreciate the resources of  Lake Placid. I don't see much reason to hate on it. Nevertheless I've made plenty of good use out of my time here and that being said I'm looking forward to heading back the home for brief time.
        On my last update I was attempting the last week of a three week cycle. This is never an easy task. One of which I've described more than once. This last week was different though. This one ended with the infamous Climb to the Castle. You can drive up the road to the top of the White Face alpine hill. On this early Saturday morning it was a mass of skinny granola eating dudes in spandex and rollerskis suffering it out to reach the top first. I hope you like the occasional dark humor because to me these kinds of races make me think of what it would be like trying to drown yourself in a puddle. You see, this race has no rest, no downhills. Whatever fatigue you put on yourself in the first five minutes is going to be with you the whole race. You're always in that hypoxic oxygen deprived suffer zone. This is not a life or death situation. In theory I could have stopped as soon as I decided I had had enough. Realistically this isn't going to happen. No matter how little rain water is in that puddle you're going to give it your best shot. Tim lead out of the start. Shortly later Welly Ramsey took over and strung the pack out. When Tim took back over it didn't last very long. He soon pulled over, looked at me and said "I'm not going to pull the whole thing". I lead for an X amount of time. When I thought I had done my fair share I backed off and hoped to survive in the draft. When I moved back I realized it was done to about three or four of us. Then it was just Tim and I. It wasn't long after when I cracked and watched Tim get a lead that I couldn't compete with. Tim's not an idiot so I didn't expect his pace to fade much. The goal from here on was to stay in second. While most of the field had a heavy use of V2 I found it easier to work with my V1 better when I was alone. It didn't seem to be any slower. There are still some technique issues to work out with uphill V2. It was foggy at the top. As soon as the road turned for the last 200 meters it was also windy. And we're not talking about a tail wind here. It was debatable whether or not a narrow double pole would have better than skating at this point. After almost 40 minutes of an unending climb there was no hope for a strong finishing sprint. It was down to one grinding gear and the hope that the end was close.
           At the end of the day I was second overall. Tim took the lead and Welly was third. I was pleased and suspect everyone else good race or not was just glad to say it was over and done with. We had one more session that afternoon and it was still dark and rainy out. Hearing the beep your watch makes when you stop it for the last time at the end of long week is feeling of relief I'll always remember.
            The following Sunday brought more competition. It was not in the endurance sport form however. I can't go into too much detail and still keep this blog casual. I will say it took us about nine plus hours to do 18 holes of golf. My team didn't win (I've never actually done the golf thing) but we had an exiting day trying to. We had two more easy days after that. Both of which were dearly needed in the name of super compensation.
         This is where the the "USBA test week" technically began. It kicked off with some shooting test. After some meetings with coaches we concluded that trying to push precision points and range times at this point in the season was futile. Shooting has been going well lately and the primary focus from here on out is to keep that trend going. I have a good system for prone and standing and the goal is to keep reconfirming it. For the record the shooting test that day went well. Event the point scoring and timed drill were not that bad. Admittedly the second round yesterday wasn't as good, but that's how shooting works most of the time.
          The time trial we did last week was also a success. For the start of a training period I was more tired than I wanted to be. I'm pretty sure I may have gone too hard during the prior day's session. The blood lactates were low and I really didn't have that extra gear. Shooting was solid. Total range time was under two minutes. Something I wasn't trying to push. There were three misses in prone and clean in standing (85%). Ski speed was better than I thought. It was nothing special but a good time trial overall.
           After an easy day of skiing on the treadmill and a 90 minute run we had another hard effort. This time there was no shooting. It was mostly uphill, but not as steep as the previous climb. I was tired and it showed. The result was solid, but it felt stale. The training was starting to catch up with me. We did the time trial twice. I had less energy for the second round, but better tactics. Maybe next time I'll get the best of both in one.
          Two days later we had another climb up White Face. This time from a different angle and on foot. We ran up the actual alpine hill. A few of the athletes had done this race a couple of weeks earlier. Being one of them I was not looking forward to thwarting this hill again. It's another shot of pure suffer. While only 14 or less minutes it's not as taxing as the Climb to the Castle but it's a great test for engine power. Something that steep doesn't favor top end speed. It's short enough to prevent any pacing, but long enough to utilize full engine use. It wasn't even the half way point that I recall telling myself "The faster you go, the sooner you don't have to do this anymore." That's how you know you're pacing appropriately. The final stretch didn't seem like it was going to end soon enough or at all for that matter. When I crawled over to my coach after the finish we took a lactate sample and I put up a 13.1. Which might be the high for the season and my finish time was 17 seconds faster than the first time.
            The uphill race was the last positive test of the week for me. We had one more day left. This time we were testing our top end sprint speed, and upper and lower body power. These kinds of efforts are not my strong point. The 100 meter sprint test made this obvious. The speed trap the coaches set up in the parking lot proved it fair and square. The other test consisted of measuring the distance we could go with 20 double pole cycles and then again with legs only. Aside from not being much for sprinting when you're only 5'6'' (168cm) there isn't much you can do to defend yourself in double poling.
Try to imagine that cold and damp feeling coupled with an obnoxious head wind. 
              At this point we were all pretty tired. It wasn't a lot of training and it wasn't even two weeks. Nevertheless the next few days will be light. There was more on the plan, but with the Utah camp looming around the corner it would be nice to have some more energy stored up. Overall progress was made the in last six weeks since I left the county. Summer is nowhere to be found in upstate NY anymore. From what I hear it's not around back home either. This the best time of year. Or at least until it's cold enough to rain, but not enough to snow. Aside from that Fall is best. With the progressive trend and the next three week cycle soon to start up again there's still time to leverage it. Sitting in a car and navigating my way back home for nine hours sounds like a good way to start.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Familiar Places

     There isn't much new to report. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened. This is a good thing for the most part. The down side is that my updates are less entertaining as a result. This isn't even a full post to be fair. If anything I'm pretty much just checking in to let you know I still have internet access fast enough to post JPEGs. 

The whole team is settled down in Lake Placid at the moment. Training is going well. Shooting is still on an upward swing. Prone feels more consistent than ever. Energy isn't necessarily through the roof. If is was I would just train more and go back to being tired again. 

Hiking today. No joke, I almost went the wrong way again setting myself on another 7 hour death hike. 

Recovery and fear training DO mix.

         I have a few more days left in the current training cycle. This week is going to go out with a bang. After all these years I will finally have the opportunity to race in the Climb to the Castle roller ski race. Won't that be fun? It's going to hurt like hell, but overall it probably will be entertaining. From there it's a brief rest period and then back to work. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This is Our Normal

      If there is one month of the year that can guarantee some summer weather and still find time to generate some pandemonium it would have to be August. August used to be that last chance to enjoy summer before school started back up. These days when someone mentions an August date all I can think of is the obnoxious humidity of racing in Jericho, VT. Officially, only once in the past ten years have I not been in Jericho for the annual summer races series. This year wasn't that one year. It was just like the other nine.
          Some of the training camp life had already started the week before the races. I opted out of this because it was rightfully a rest week. Since I had to be ready to go for the trial races on the weekend I needed to get in what ever rest week plans I had, done in about 36 hours. The only plan I followed through was sitting around and remaining motionless for a while. Once that was done it back to favorite regiment of packing and training. The time trials from the weekend before didn't have the best shooting and I was hoping to leave on a confident note. I did this with some 80% plus shooting in Fort Kent on the Wednesday before leave. It's hard to gauge ski speed very well when you're on your own, but it's still summer. How fast does it have to be?

           Ski speed has to be decent. These are the first round of trials for the December WC team. Saturday was your normal sprint format and Sunday was the glorified mass start style. I left the great north of Maine on Thursday of last week. The ride down was uneventful. The goal is to not have to look up the AAA phone number. I met up with the rest of the national team on Friday afternoon. Weather was looking surprisingly nice. The joke was that if there no overbearing heat and humidity then it's a cold rain. Otherwise, if the conditions are inviting, someone is going to have to be struck by lighting in order to balance out the universe.  

On a slightly different story the fruits and vegetables this year have been awesome! 
       On a more important note we have the actual races. Which went well. Saturday's sprint was decent. With two misses in prone it was up to standing to keep me in the race. Standing has been my go to this summer and sure enough it lived up the hype. Clean in 24 seconds was enough for a solid race. Loosely estimating it would safely put me in a WC pursuit.
         The mass start was the real boon for confidence this past weekend. I didn't sleep well the night before and it was the normal trek of waiting for the race to start. This is a lot for what is still a summer TT. Lest we forget big boy racing doesn't start til December. With the pressure of qualifying that logic seems to have a loop hole. So the only logical move is to focus on the process of a good race more than anything. It's sort of a way to manually override the fears of failure. Seems simple right? Well, it's not. In an effort to not digress any more lets get back to the race. It was raining. So the rule of a one time lightning strike was out? The first loop was all about staying close, but not leading, but also not overrunning the roller skies in front of you. It's delicate balance. The first shooting stage is fun to watch but difficult to do. Sure enough I dodged the penalty loop. Lowell and I skied the second loop together. This is where things really start to look up for me. Head to head shooting is something Lowell is one of the best in the world at. So I was excited to clean my second prone stage. For a whole lap I was in the lead of a mass start. “So this is what it feels like” I thought. Lowell proved himself as king by cleaning the next two standing stages. I missed two in my first and I very last shot in my second standing stage. 85% with solid ski speed was much better day for me. I can't remember the last time I made it out of two stages in row of clean prone shooting.  

        For a brief period it really did feel like racing season. This might explain the odd feeling that came with two hour ride the following day. Usually after racing and travel you have a morning of just moping around the hotel room. It wasn't actually two hours. I don't know the roads of Craftsbury very well and added 45 minutes. The B-team and development team are doing a short camp in Craftsbury, VT this week. It's been just fine thus far. The place is great and like any training zone has it's pros and cons. I refuse to go into detail. At the end of the week we head back to Jericho then it's up to LP. After that we actually have some time settle down in one place for more than 48 hours. So far the dorms at Craftsbury are officially the fifth place I've had to unpack for this month. Do you see how someone can grow to despise packing?
              Shooting is still in the lagging faze but has made progress since the start of the training year. That's something that hasn't been easy to do in past years. I presume ski speed is on the right track. Technique is little better rounded. The threshold zone is higher. We'll know for sure in a few months when it actually matters. For now it's the same old heavy leg feeling. I stopped bringing any heavy or baggy pants with me because it's too much to walk around in. And for the record that one year with out the Jericho time I was too busy tanning on the beach in Croatia or maybe we were doing an hour long TT uphill. Something in that mix. This is our normal.
Craftsburry shooting range. Not up the IBU A licensing yet, but better than nothing.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Boring and Repetitive

        My apologizes for the lack of updates as of late. Never mind being busy as always there simply isn't much to update about. With out any camps or real misadventures life boils down to few simple routines. On top of that these routine are not very exciting. Conversely, for me the average day is still a stretch from the real world. to be fair it's a lot closer that it has been the past couple of years, but the thought of taking back what had yesteryear is yet another source of drive. The kind of drive that comes in handy during this morning's four plus hour ride in which I bonked twice. Now I remember why I always bring food with me.

The Belgium waffle iron was a win birthday present. 

You can see my ol shooting range in this one. It functions well for running / standing only combos.
Transplanted my precious. Not really sure what kind of tree it is, so lets see if it can deal with northern Maine.

Almost made a perfect loop. There's always plenty of uncharted trails around these parts.

An afternoon on the hill of 2nd Ave.
We plowed right through the rain and made our 4th of July awesome.

The car is the least expensive item in the photo.

But I still think highly of my horseless buggy.  

                "Boring and repetitive" came from an old coach. It revolved around the way shooting should feel. Every shot should feel the same as the last. In other words good consistency in shooting should also feel boring and repetitive. In case you were wondering.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

From One End of the County to the Other

        24 hours are not enough. Can we all agree on that? This week has been a bit of a gauntlet of training and socializing. Broken only up with some failed sleeping attempts and whole lot of driving. I thought my "to do this week" list was pretty tame and yet here I am updating this blog on the last day of the week so I can finally cross it off. There are a few key objectives left to accomplish, but when I look back on last Sunday so much has happened.
         Let's start off with the important part of the week. That was the plan from the beginning. Knowing that the fourth was coming up I wanted to get the key workouts in before hand. This was a high intensity week. Monday kicked off with a 6x4min race pace effort. Not the most original work out but very effective. Did I mention it was hot out? Yeah this was day one of the 2014 summer meltdown. You know that feeling when you open the oven after you've been baking something for hours. Replace what ever homemade food that was in that oven with zeroing and a roller ski warm up and that's what it felt like.
          This level of heat didn't let up after one day and neither did the hard workouts. Tuesday was full blow time trial. About 15 km with four stages of shooting. Pacing held up surprisingly well. I could feel the sun pouring it on going up the last hill on the roller loop in Fort Kent. Shooting was solid with 80%. I'm still in the midst of trying to nail down a better prone system. It's getting there, but still a limiting factor.
           Even after some strength in the UMFK weight room/ sauna that afternoon the feeling in the legs was good enough to push the third intensity session on Wednesday. Cumulative total it was an hour of threshold effort. 15 minutes of one shot range loops. a 15 minute semi time trial, 15 minutes of no pole skiing and just to balance to universe out, anther 15 minutes of double poling. And yes, I think it goes with out saying that it was sweltering hot out again.
          Sleeping was a tricky endeavor. Naturally I didn't think to bring a fan up with me, so I had to innovate. If you take a cold shower before bed, maybe add in some melatonin, put an ice pack or two on your head and sleep as spread out as you can you should be able to make it to four in the morning. This is the kind of weather  happens all to often during the Jericho race series. The sooner you can learn to work with it the easier it will be race come August.
          Thursday was round four. It just so happened to be my least favorite workout. This is how you know it's effective. 3x8min 15/15sec L5 bounding. So basically you just pretend you skiing as fast as you can uphill for 15 seconds, stand around for 15 seconds. Do this for eight minutes, and repeat two more times. Try it some time. As annoying as those kinds of mornings are it sure does feel nice when it's over.
          This is where the week transitions from eat, sleep, and train to drive, smile, and say hello. I made my way down to Houlton to help out an old friend. I didn't run the Miracle Mile this year, but was glad to be around and help out. The turnout wasn't as large as expected, but everyone was in good spirits and the Houlton was packed.
           I made it back to Stockholm by six, had breakfast, took a nap and got ready for the parade. As of this year in Stockholm the fourth is referred to "Russell Currier day" I'm not complaining, but as soon as the parade started there was no amount of modesty to be had for the rest of the day. I didn't want to lead the parade alone and thankfully the bulk of the MWSC athletes came out to join me. There was a lot of smiling, waving and picture taking, but I have to say the most memorable part was the fall I took. Not sure if the wheel picked up a rock or hit a crack in the road, but the grand marshal Olympian went down in front of the masses.  Who doesn't enjoy some good irony now and then. The rain held off and everyone was having a good time, but when you're as introverted as me the sensory overload can be lot. I wanted to exit ASAP. A two hour nap and a two run was enough to recover. I spent some more time with old friends for the rest of the day.
           I didn't do much of anything on Saturday. The almost non stop rain was more than enough sign to take the day off. After all the overbearing heat the thought of starting a fire was amazingly tempting. I stayed inside all day and enjoyed every second of it.
          Sunday is usually the off day of the week for me, but all things considered shifting the rest day to yesterday was good move. Now it's between me and that to do list. I still have a short ride, some work on the rifle, some paper work, so and so fourth. As always there is nothing worth really complaining about, but the sense of accomplishment when it's done and over is something to go for.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Shut up legs! Do as you're told!

      All is well on the north eastern front. The summer training season has long since been underway. Lately the weather has caught up. That fresh summer feeling is still a nice feeling. The mosquitos are not helping preserve it, but the hot and sunny days have yet to deter me. After that cold and rainy day of slowfire back in May I'll take an overly hot day easily. For the most part this summer has not been much different from past years. This time around there is a lot more driving to be had and I spend a lot of spare time cleaning the kitchen. When you have dozens of obnoxious pet peeves the little things can really add up. I could go on but this update isn't about my first world problems. Instead, let's take a look at some of the good news. It's only June and nothing really matters until snow flies and sunlight diminishes, but in terms of current results it's looking somewhat good.
         Training has been plentiful. Especially this week. I was optimistic going into this one. The goal is 25 hours of mostly volume. With only a couple of harder sessions this should be no problem, right? The long over distance days are nothing to fear. All you have to do is keep it moving at a respectable pace and run out the clock. At this point in my career I strive to do these sessions by myself. I'm not exactly a fan of the hand holding, walk around the woods safety courses that seem to be the so called group distance workouts. So to kick the week off I decided to do a five hour roller ski. One of these years I'm going to procure a faster pair of roller skis to see if I can get in a whole century of kms crammed into five hours. This time I only made it to 84. The leaking water belt did not help the effort. Dehydration is seldom ever a problem. Because after all how hard is it to drink water? Am I the only not on crazy pills here? You would be surprised how often I see world class athletes succumb to this problem. On that day I guess I actually was on crazy pills, because despite refilling my water belt during the session I still did not have enough and should have sought out a belt that doesn't constantly drip during training. It's also fair to say that you should always anticipate a head wind while roller skiing. Even if you're doing an an out and back rout don't expect the head wind to disappear when you turn around. It will overcome the laws of nature and physics to ensure that it's always blasting you front side. These two flaws made the last two hours a death march. So that was hopefully the once a year dehydration training session being crossed off the list. The dual pole snap has already been used up so what else is there to go wrong?
             That was one day of this week. The week prior was a different story. Some weeks are about the hours and distance while others are geared towards the number of high intensity efforts. Last week I fit in four hard efforts into five days. It was a good old fashion 6x4 on Monday, an 8x1km track workout on Tuesday, and hour of threshold too race pace combos on Thursday, and DP intervals followed by a short running time trial on Friday. If you didn't understand some of that just ask any ski racer or biathlete and they can translate it. The week was a success. I was fried and glad to be on all fours after the last running TT. If one of the goals this year was to flesh out the upper end speed zones then last week was a direct effort towards it.
             And then there is the shooting half of the sport. Thus far all is looking well. Yes, you heard that right. If you can't argue with results then there is nothing to fear. In the last three "head to head shooting test" (or "HSS" as my training plan labels them) I've shot 90%, 80%, and 90%. Almost no misses in standing! The changes in position have taken some time to get used to but. Sometimes the group is pretty spread out and other times it's good but not centered. I wish I could say it's up to the world class standard that it needs to be at, but I can't confirm that one yet. We're making progress. I've seen a trend similar to this in past years. Usually right around this time of year. The difference this time there is the few mechanical changes. The slightest change in focus, or just moving the hand stop can do a lot. Let's hope the upward trend in shooting doesn't fade into the night like it has in years past.
             Most days are still busy as ever. Sunday is always an off day. I will go out of my way to make it an off day. It's not really a choice when you see it the way I do. If Russell doesn't have his precious rest day then Russell will go crazy. Or something along those lines. When the training is over it's over. I believe in keeping work productive the non productive time not productive. In short, the always on, but never really professional approach not my style.
            Working with Seth has been great. If I want the slightest change in my rifle I can count on it being ready to got the next day. In fact the rifle in general is starting to look more professional. Hopefully by the end of July everything will be finalized. The last week of this training cycle is a medium week in Lake Placid. I'm looking forward to seeing the other guys for a change. We'll all be glad to see the last week come to an end. The legs were pretty wiped out after those 85kms. After next week it's a few more days of classes, plus a dentist appointment somewhere in there, and I turn twenty something. The trick is to just assume that you're going to live forever. In which case birthdays are irrelevant.