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.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

110% Relative Humidity

         The first time I did a race at the Ethan Allen venue was a mass start. I was 17. The Canadian Juniors were using ridiculously fast roller skis, It was raining at the start, but still super hot out and this was before the mold on the downhills was removed. These were the days when you had to commit to a direction going around one of the downhill corners because once you hit the moldy patch there was no changing direction. The loop has come a long way since then. We are all on zeroed roller skies and the pavement is in near perfect condition. Nevertheless racing in a muggy swamp is still a returning component of racing in Jericho. Last weekend help to remind the USBA field of this in this year's trial races.
Special thanks and photo credit to Brian Conchieri
      Thanks to some helpful friends I was able to dodge the barrack life. The thought of cutting the minimal living standards out of the trip was enough to motivate me into leaving a few days ahead of schedule. The loop and range was already plenty crowded. After two days of the normal rifle use I promptly dug out the rifle oil and lathered on a healthy layer over the outside of the barrel. Otherwise the humidity would have rusted the shine completely off.

    Saturday was the sprint race. It was not exactly a glitch free day. This time it came in the form of missing my start. Two of the three times that I've made that mistake have been in Jericho. The missed start amounted to about 10 too 15 seconds. The energy going into the race was there, but the extra gear wasn't. So the ski speed was decent, but not at optimum level. It could have been the heat. It could have been the time of year. It could have been a dozen other variables. The 60% shooting didn't help my cause either. There was some feeling of let down after such a lack luster race, but after all these years getting bent out of shape over a one day doesn't accomplish much. Rehydrating, breaking the race down, taking a nap, and simply relaxing does help.

And here we have me missing my start...
       The mass start race came up only 24 hours later. Given the heat and short time frame keeping it together on the recovery front was an advantage only a rookie would miss. It was, as expected, hot and humid. No one went down despite the close quarters on the first lap. Prone did not go as well as I hoped. I had two penalties in the first stage and three in the second. To add to this I also went the wrong way in the second lap. Thankfully the racer behind me gave me the heads up memo. It was an awkward slow down and turn around maneuver to get back on the correct course. If I had kept going things would have been much worse. Standing was almost perfect. I use "almost" because the last target of both stages didn't go down. Still, it was enough to open up an opportunity to make it to front of the non Tim Burke / Lowell Bailey pack. Also known as third. I was pleased, but some cooler temperatures and better prone shooting certainly would have been nice.

       Catching up with everyone is always nice. Since I drove myself down there was less of a bum rush to vacate the area code. I did eventually make it back, at which point it was pretty much back to work. It's back to some equipment changes and upgrades. I looked through my training log and decided on what the next few weeks are going to look like.

        The important part is that the weekend could have been much worse and it wasn't. It was successful enough to snag me a spot in a training camp in September. This time I'm also excited to work with a handful of new ideas before the next round of trials. Also, the lower back is in fully functional shape again. You never know how nice it feels until it heads south for a week. The vegetables are plentiful right now and amount of running in Stockholm turns into a apple scavenging quest.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Progress and Digress

        More likely than not we are beyond the half way point of the summer. The leaves will turn in late August if you pay close enough attention. Still, you could call this the half way through summer report. Close enough, I say. Summer has been pretty solid. The hot and occasionally humid weather hasn't worn thin on me just yet. Training is, or was, going well. I carried through well with a few goals. Shooting percentages are not averaging in the 90s yet, but the overall quality has improved. Physical training has had it's ups and down. The overall feeling, not unlike shooting, is heading in the right direction. The past couple of months have not been without the hang up here and there. Here is a break down of how the sport has been going lately.

Can you see what's wrong with this picture? 
        The most recent news revolves around the disaster zone that was my lower back. Does any of that sound familiar? Pulling the weeds in the garden at the house may not have helped, but if you've ever seen an athlete put on a pair of rollerskis it would make a physical therapist cringe. There I was with the intention of an easy two hours on the roller loop at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center. I bent over to clip into my bindings when I felt the breaking point. The denial game didn't work. Training was over and it was back to the gauntlet of recovery techniques. The rebound time wasn't as expedient as I hoped so naturally I went into panic mode. This lead to trying to contact anyone that could help on a Saturday. Since then I've visited a chiropractor, scheduled an appointment with a PT and made good use of Ibuprofen and an ice pack. The real punch to face is blow training takes. Biking has been the staple of training since the break. Running is too high impact and roller skiing is what caused the problem in the first place. On top of that shooting was off the routine. Leaning back and cradling an eight pound rifle for standing doesn't work on a seized up back.
        I'm certainly not the first ski-racer to have this sort of problem. For all the benefits of cross country skiing the occasional muscle imbalance and stress it puts on your back is not one of them. The trick to racing successfully amidst the unavoidable injuries and sickness you'll encounter is to do your best to prevent them and train around them when they do occur. It will always be a gamble, but with more experience you can better understand what your limits are. Since I wasn't even able to get into prone position, much less standing I resorted to watching world cup video from last season while working on good trigger pressure. Even switching clips was an option. When your limited on resources you can only make the very best of what you have. It was not until the following Tuesday that I was able to get into prone. This let me do some slow fire at the range. I attempted to up the road biking level and do a higher intensity session. This ended up with a busted spoke, but thankfully I traded my road bike in for a freshly repaired mt. bike. Good timing can go a long way.

A bit much on the flex end for rollerskis.
       In regards to reaching outside of the sport for some insight. After pulling a few strings I was able to set up an on range skype meeting with a precision shooter, Matt Emmons. Admittedly I was a little skeptical at first. From a glace the sports seem to have a few obvious similarities, but the actual mechanics are very different. This was not the case after all. The new stock I picked up this year allowed easy adjustments. The advise that Matt had was very useful. We made a few changes to standing that made aiming much more solid and cleared up a plaguing problem I've had in my standing since I was a junior. Prone required another session to work out. It's still not perfect, but I feel better with it than I did at the start of the training season. For now I'm going to take what I have and iron it out in time for the August trials. Post trials has an arsenal of ideas I would like to look into for shooting mechanics and components. Some are easy to experiment with, others require some funding and/or carbon weaving.

      Physical training was going well. There was a point when the energy level was starting to feel stale. With enough effort completing the training was not impossible, but doing so with the quality that I wanted wasn't happening. The energy going into the training needed to be higher. Better energy can generate better response to training. At my old age I want to make the most out of the key sessions. Training myself into the ground has it's place in the plan, but when it feels like this when it's not in the plan then we take the most simple solution. Which is to stop training. I took a four day stretch off. Naturally the spring in the legs came back and I felt good about training again. A few days later my lower back suggested otherwise. And this brings me to where I am now. Thanks to some long bike rides I've been able to keep the training load in check. As soon as I bring the injury back to homeostasis I can get back into the productive grind.
      Maybe the optimism is too high. If the first round of trials is a disaster it wouldn't be the first time. If this back injury becomes a reoccurring issue all year training quality will ultimately take a hit. On the other hand there is plenty of reason to suggest that this could be a good season. Confidence has worked well for me in the past so I'm going to play optimism card as much as I want.

Oh the glories of fresh pavement. 


Friday, July 1, 2016

Metal Trickery and the Search for the End of Training

        Have you ever wondered what your tolerance for all things boring was? Or how good you are at measuring time without using a watch? The amount of true time I spend actually training can't hold a candle to an eight hour work day, but if you've ever tried to run for more than three hours consecutively you would understand why the mental side of training has it's own department of over thinking. It's a game of self trickery. You have to find a way to make the training session feel shorter and easier than it actually is. The outcome result is all the same, but if you approach it correctly it goes by in what seems like half the time and effort.

      The trick to making it through a longer distance session is to avoid looking at the time display on your watch. You can go crazy glancing at every minute pass by during a four hour bike ride. I switch the display on my watch to heart rate only or distance, maybe altitude. As long as I don't know how long I've been out for, I'm less likely feel the gravity of the whole workout. When I've reached a certain point or distance goal then I'll check in on the total time.

      The process of mental trickery for the harder effort sessions is a different process. For these sort of days you have to mark the next corner or transition as a point goal. The faster you make it to the arbitrarily selected tree the closer you are to being done with the interval; sound strange yet? This process also works because in this case, it encourages faster speed, which compliments the point to the workout in the first place. This process of thought keeps you focused on going faster while distracting you from the onslaught of fatigue you're putting yourself through.

      The other interesting part of this is the use of time perception as a measure of quality. The shorter the duration feels the harder the effort is. My training log is broken up into zones. If I'm trying to achieve quality time spent in the top end zone anything beyond a few minutes should ideally feel like an eternity. If it's a long distance day that is targeting base building then an hour should feel rather short and easy to tolerate. Were it a race pace effort session, 20 to 30 minutes should feel about enough because that's about how long our races typically are.  Sometimes, towards the end of a training period, an hour even at an easy level will feel longer than it should simply because I'm tired. It just takes more work to force the system into training when it would rather be resting.

      It's a little difficult to explain. The topic of mental trickery is all to well known for me, primarily because I have had a lot of time to overthink it. Most of which takes place during the three plus hour sessions. A lot of athletes don't have to deal with this because they train in groups and have that element of distraction to work with. Since I'm not a fan of group training I'm left with my own thoughts. Thus we have the scheming of turning otherwise boring or grueling workouts into more entertaining goal oriented adventures. I thought this would be good mention given the time of the year. The bulk of the training load starts from May into October. That's a lot of time to get to know a roller ski loop.


Friday, June 3, 2016


      Training is back in full swing. The plan of attack for this training season was to seek new ideas. Whether it was reaching outside of the sport or reworking the normal approach to training philosophy, it was worth taking the chances. Some of these efforts have come together, while the rest have taken some time, but are still in the works. Talking and sending emails might help you look professional, but at the end of the day you still have to make things happen on a tangible level. This is what I've mustered up so far.
Because why would we not have a snow storm in the middle of May. 
      To start, the training goal plan, was to make it easier on myself, or at least in some ways easier. The only real easier side of it this year is the lack of volume. The plan is set on about 650 hours. Not much over two hour sessions the day before high intensity days and the frequency of hard efforts has taken an increase, but the amount of time per session isn't through the roof. Last training year it was about 87% easy base training and 13ish% just below or in the race effort zone. This year, a sub 85% easy level training should be feasible. In other words: less time going slow, more time going fast. That coupled with a few specific session changes and lack of marathon training mid racing season will hopefully bring the ski speed up to world class level.

The parts that make a biathlon rifle are from all over the place. Germany, France, my neighbor down the road, Norway, the garage up the road in Fort Kent and some duct tape I bought at Mardens. 
       On the shooting front I was starting to get a little worried when I wasn't able to find much for resources. On the other hand, if I were to find some incite the new advise would probably lead to changes on the rifle itself. As much as I like my old stock I was already planning on making some changes to it. The clutch was that making any changes means breaking out the wood filler and sand paper. It works, but it's not the most efficient system for making adjustments. So you can see where this is this going. I sent an email or two out and shortly later there was new stock flying through the air with my name on it. It has since arrived. The break in stage is still ongoing, but this new stock is the best for making on the spot adjustments. That was what grabbed my attention in the first place. What little live shooting I've done so far has been promising.
       Good contacts can go a long way. Despite not being named to any national team this year, the world of biathlon hasn't forgotten about me. Everyone is still behind me and sending feed back when they can. A slow start yes, but it's a long training season and the components of better results are making some headway.
      The reacquiring obstacles are still around. The orange engine light in my truck likes to stay on, I could use another pair of roller skis, I can't recommend a Jamis cycle-cross bike yet, and if my lettuce would start growing that would be grand. It's also that time of year when I take an online class and go back to dreaming of the rest of the year when I'm not taking an online class. That about sums up that.
15 sec up / 15 sec down for 8 min. 3 time over. fun times. 
      There is a lot of progress to be made that is still in the "to be made" stage, but I'm doing my homework like I always have. It's just a matter of doing it correctly. It helps when you have random snow storms in the middle of May and get to train on snow in your back yard. Even the weather is up for making new ideas happen.