Monday, April 18, 2016

An Update from the Camera

Crust skiing in Yellowstone is not so bad. 

Otherwise, it was sunny and summer in Bozeman. 

Late March in northen Maineh holding it's own. 

The best part is being able to ski on the crust on both sides of the country. 

The woods roads make for the best training almost anytime of the year. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fork in the Road


So what happens now? US Nationals (NorAm champs) are long over. With those races out of the way the spring time check out period has started. The goal for April has always been to relax. The peak focus of professionalism means a few coach meetings to discus training structure for the next season. This year things are different. Normally we're trying to come up with a new plan that's going to make the big difference I've been shooting for. Not unlike past years, that part is still in discussion. The difference circa 2016 is that that's only half of the equation.

          It was nice to see the other athletes on the A team in Northern, Maine again this year. The Fort Kent Outdoor Center did an impressive job hosting NorAm champs. The racing for me was solid. Nothing too out of the ordinary happened. Shooting was it's abysmal self for two of the three races. The mass start showed signs of improvement beyond the first stage anyways. Ski speed was right where I wanted it to be for all three competitions. I was clearly in the mix with the A team athletes.

 The limiting factor currently, is deciding what I want to be doing next year. The specific ideas range from training volume, to consulting precision shooter professionals, to finishing out an education, to finding a simple job. Where should I start? Well, in the big picture it's a two party situation. I can stay in biathlon and continue fighting my way back up to the level of three years ago. Or! I can abruptly and awkwardly declare retirement and start what would realistically be a new life.

If I stick with the sport for one more year I'm in for it two more years. Nobody quits the year out in an Olympic cycle. The thought process has been very conflicting. On one hand, grinding it out for another two years with little to no resources is an exhausting strain on everyone involved. On the other, were I to land another spot on the 2018 team it would all have been worth it. I wasn't named to any team again this year. Shooting must have weighed heavy because ski speed clearly was not my weak point comparatively speaking. I don’t clean sprint races very often, but when I do I’m at least capable of making the pursuit cut. Right now I'm looking into what resources are still available. Since nothing is official I'll hold off on the details.

Opposing directions include even more indecision. I wish I had an excuse not to get a degree of some sort, but the current scholarship deal I’m locked into is hard to argue with. I don't have a definitive idea of what to pursue yet, but at this point, simply committing to more than one class a year would be a decision within itself. Then there is the prospect of living in the real world. As someone who consideres quiet time to himself as good as currency, having a job that could enable me to live on my own is a tempting thought. To be fair that sort of job is also hard to find.

           There has been a lot of thinking going on and not so much decision making. My motivation changes from day to day. The goal is to have an answer by the end of the month. I'm going to wait and see what if any options I have. That aplies to both directions.
           Now, this is April. Since I had amassed some unused ticket credit that was going to expire there was no reason not to put it to good spring time use. It's down to one more connection flight to Bozeman, Montana. Proving once again that it is a small world I'll be staying with an old friend from northern Maine. Infact, to further drive home the small world theme, this trip will be a good chance to catch with several old friends from all over the place.

       All this, while trying to do less "am deciding" and more "have decided." Wish me luck

Friday, March 4, 2016

It's Not Over Yet

        The season that never was continues at it's steady pace. I was not named to any team after the NorAm races in Jericho. The effort and motivation were there in full force, as well as the stress surrounding team selection. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and yet again, I'm back training on my own in Stockholm. So what happens from here?

       Despite a nasty cold and sore throat I felt a little fresh in the sprint race. The conditions were decent. Northern Maine is pretty much the closest thing to winter in New England has right now. That weekend in Jericho had us on a meter of artificial snow. It was basically a ribbon of forced winter curving around in spring time. The wind was a severe limiting factor in the sprint race. If you were lucky you would get a brief window of calm to shoot in normal difficulty. That was not the case for me. I "camped out" during standing. It was a gamble and I lost with six penalties total. I was a ways down the result list.

      The pursuit was, for the most part, a significantly better race. It was full spring racing mode condition wise. This meant thrashing around in the slush. This has never been my strong point, but thanks to the trends of the past five or so years I've learned to work with these spring like conditions. Seriously, this is what winter has been in central Europe year after year lately. So, to my liking I actually made a strong case for ski speed. This was best performance on skis I had done in a month. Prone was decent with three misses, but it was standing that held me back. It's unclear what happened to the reliability of my standing.  

     So anyways, training is still revolving around something in the near future. I'm back home marking up the trails around the house. I can't say I miss travailing or the drawn out team dinners, but I do miss the European racing atmosphere. The next chance to make a case for myself is the North American Champs. Which, happens to be in Fort Kent, ME this year. How convenient. The focus has been on volume this week. The next two weeks will have some more shooting and eventually a brief race intensity block. Hopefully this will put things into a late season peak. After that point, I can't tell you what the plans are. For now, it's all NorAm champs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Plot Twist

         This was supposed to be the day I pack up for a flight westward tomorrow. The itinerary had me landing in Minneapolis where I would meet up with some friends and drive to Hayward, WI. This time of year any sentence with the words "Hayward Wisconsin" in it most likely has "Birkie" somewhere else in it. This was supposed to be the update of how well my marathon prep training has been going. The clutch is, it simply hasn't been going the well. Add in a race or two to confirm that and maybe some old friends showing up for the Presque Isle world cup and you have the new and improved salvage operation of 2015/16.
          I'm unsure where training went downhill, but I have my suspension. I started attempting a rather challenging session. I've always been confident in my ability to soak up training so there was no reason to fear it. I was actually excited about. This was the session that was going to allow me to crush it at the Birkie. Low and behold I suspect this was the session that crushed me. My last full effort at this marathon training left me at full depletion. I tried to do some more intensity a few days after and was unable to complete the whole workout. Naturally, I took it easy and made my way down to Craftsbury,VT for and eastern cup 10km skate race. No, the course did not favor me, but this time I had a reasonable start seed, and overall it was completely fair. The real limiting factor was the lack of spring in the legs. That sixth gear, the one that separates summer training from winter racing. Without that snap on the last loop I had no choice but to deal with a lackluster result.

         Convinced that I simply need a bit more rest to rebound I proceeded to stay indoors and stick to easy classic distance on the trails down the road in Stockholm. They needed a handful of biathletes for a the TV beta test prior to the first WC event in Presque Isle. This was a good chance to race in a more relaxed setting. A good race that day would mean that everything was actually on good pace, that the Birkie was going to be the glorified comeback to my setback of a season.
       The test race did make for a good indicator of how the shape was going. The results, however were simply not good. By not good, I mean I contemplated dropping out of a 7.5km. Stand this against less than two weeks before a 51km competition. Now do you see some reasoning behind dropping the Birkie option?

       There is another side to this as well. There is more than one reason for the change of plans. Aside from being able to catch up with the other athletes at the WC it also gave me a chance to touch base with some of the USBA coaches. Seeing the other athletes help show some contrast from the world of nordic racing and the world of biathlon. It was clear which one was my comfort zone, and which one required an ivy league education to be accepted into.  Meeting with the coaches made it clear what my best course of action should be if I want to get back into the USBA system.
      This new race itinerary puts me in Jericho, VT this coming weekend. There is a NorAm on Saturday and Sunday. The MWSC team departs tomorrow. If all goes well (it may or easily may not) then it's off to Europe for some late season racing. This will grant me a start spot for a German cup race and the last IBU cup race in Martell, Italy. Should I be able to put together a performance half as good as I know I can do it shouldn't be too hard to see myself in Europe this season afterall. On the other hand if things really head south the way they did in December then it's back to skiing on the Snowy Mt Trails.

       At this point neither would disappoint me.  I'm not suggesting that I'm neutral towards my goals right now, but the motivation these past few weeks have has been changing from one side to the other. If you average it all together you could call it neutral.

     In the meantime, energy feels decent, but it's still unclear. I wasn't able to do the intended intensity yesterday. For the first time in more than a year I woke up with all to familiar feeling. That undeniable scratch in the back of your throat. That congealed stuffy feeling in your sinuses. So it's back to the gauntlet of tricks to expedited a cold. I'm confident that by the time Saturday morning rolls around I be good to go. The bib count won't be in the thousands, but those that do show will be old acquaintances that I like enjoy racing with.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

One Day at a Time

          The past few weeks have been a strange few. This is the first time in years I've been based out of home this much of January. Last year, at this time I was bitter with myself for only being the reserve athlete for the Antolze WC. Two years ago I was skiing top 20 ski times in the same WC after qualifying for the Sochi team; times change I guess. Now I'm sitting here watching the pursuit on my PC. It hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been as difficult as you might proportionally think it should be either. The coping process of a season denied consists of two outlooks. One being the acknowledgment that when you stop caring about certain things life becomes a lot easier. The other is what lies in store for the rest the 2016 winter.

         December went down the drain. The best I can take from the Canmore trip is fact that I tried. Not every athlete, successful or not, can say the same. I didn't spend more time talking about what I wanted to accomplish than I did working for it. I'll be better off if I can convey that on a job resume someday. Since I can't do much of anything to change the past there isn't as much reason to be down about it. It's still rough, but this outlook makes things easier.
         Since then, I've been looking towards what's fun. If it's too expensive, it's not fun, If it's classic or involves heat rounds it's not fun. Lot's of travel-not going to happen. Cold- probably not. This has reduced my racing itinerary down considerably. Which is a good and bad thing. I like races that are suited for me, but sometimes going out of my comfort zone means having an excuse to leave the house to. Advantages and disadvantages, I suppose.
Time to swap out the baskets on the ol classic poles. 
        The one race scene that actually happened was at Quarry Road trails in Waterville, ME. On the plus side I think I won my starting seed in a commanding fashion. Unfortunately, despite unloading an obnoxious amounts of cash just for a start bib NENSA still pushed me down the start list. This is a known disadvantage when the condition are normal. When you're racing on a 1.5km loop and dodging (or taking out) other racers the whole time it adds to the disadvantage. Were these only the two obstacles, I might still have had a chance. The real clutch was the snowstorm that didn't let up for the duration of the race. Add in a non stop blanket of snow for an hour after the first senior man to the mix and that's what I was racing on. Shame on you NENSA. What a punch to face for the ninch athletes in my position. That concludes that rant. On a real plus side, the other MWSC athletes had a stellar classic race the following day.

        Looking ahead, a marathon in Craftsbury was sounding like a grand idea. Turns out I didn't read the fine print. There I was looking for a place to stay for what I thought would be skate marathon. A nine hour drive for a classic 50km does not fall within the fun window. With that out of the plans the next race is another eastern cup in Stowe, VT. The most glorified eastern cup of all. Or so I'm told. If all goes well I'll make the 10km skate happen.

        The real core of this salvaged season rest on the American Birkebeiner. The North American 50km to end all 50kms. I have little idea what to expect. What I do have, is a confirmed flight out, a place to stay, good ski bases and grinds, and a good wax team. Past experience tells me that when you're not sure what you're heading into racing wise the best thing you can do is be really, really fit. I contacted an old coach of mine for some tips regarding marathon training. I won't bore you with the specifics of said session, but it makes the actual 50km effort feel easier by comparison. Nailing the key sessions and timing is what's going to make the difference.

              There is more to the season than just the Birkie, but for now we'll focus on that. That, and maybe a better 10km effort come early February in Stowe.  If all goes well then great! Good for me. If not, then oh well. That might not be so bad either. Tomorrow I'm representing Snow Mt Trails in a 15km classic. You read correctly. I own two pairs of classic skies. Neither are in great shape and one is somewhere in Europe. Won't this be entertaining.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Still Functioning

A more elaborate update is in the future. For now here is a glimpse of a session I did last Saturday. It's the shortened version of a prep for marathon racing.
 Currently, I'm on antibiotics due to a tooth infection. If that clears up fast enough I'll go for a start at the Eastern Cup race this weekend.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Every Season Tries to be the Last

         The original introduction to this update was going to be much more introspective. There is a reason why I've held on this sport as long as I have. I opted not to go into detail because it would take a lot to do properly and it's almost Christmas.  The reason for considering such an intro is due to the fact that my biathlon career is at an all time low. At first, my insurrection back into the world cup points was delayed a month and now it's out of the question. Realistically, I unloaded a lot of dwindling resources last week in Canmore only to end my biathlon career.
          Did I not play my cards well? Putting the headlamp on at 5:30 in morning to train before school when you're in the eighth grade simply felt like the right thing to do. It wasn't always easy, but if I was going to make it to the top then I was going to have train before school even when my class schedule wasn't in favor of it. Taking the plunge and dodging an education after high school or finding a part time job always made me a little nervous, but if you're going to commit to something then you should really commit to it, right? It was an investment and a risk, but in the questionable chance that it paid off what an awesome story that would be, right? Now more than ever, I don't think we'll ever find out.
         For reasons uncertain, performance dropped off the deep end these past couple of weeks. Just in time for a last chance at a Euro race start in the 2015/16 season. I was fortunate to have what little support that did to make the trip happen at all. It was four races in five days at the Canmore Nordic Center in Alberta. Prone is historically my week point. While the prone shooting didn't improve last week my standing was the weaker of the two. Why? It's still unclear to me. Everything was unusually low. Preemptively checking the forecast, the temps looked to be manageable. Literally, as the first race started the air temperature plummeted. By the time I was gliding into the range my fingers might as well have been chopped off to save weight. The lack of sensation made for a dismal range time only to miss three of five targets. My best standing stage out of the four races had only two misses. To think, I almost forgot what my left leg feels like after turning right in the penalty loop four times in a row.

       Being sent home after the Olympics in 2014 instead of racing the last WC trimester was rough. The season after that started off with a good opportunity and proceeded to go downhill from there. I was burnt out and back in Stockholm before March. I wasn't named to the national team this training season. With MWSC's support being more limited than ever I remained loyal to my goals in the hope of climbing my way back up the ladder. Besides, at this point things could only go up right? Wrong. My success rate sank lower. Now more than ever, no team wants anything to do with me. In all fairness, it's justified. You can't argue with results and after 14 years the results suggest that I might have made the wrong career choice. There was point when my hard work and determination was coming to fruition. That made for some of the best days of my life. I so sorely want those days to occur more often than they are.
       At this point it only keeps going further down a road of self loathing. So on a more positive we have the rest of the season... Any suggestions?  I'm all ears. Should I go for the nordic half of biathlon? Should I pour everything into making the Birki happen? Should I simply drop everything and start a new life?  Technically, US Biathlon nationals are in Fort Kent this year and that does open up a nice opportunity, but for obvious reasons that's not high on my list right now. That being said, don't expect to see me around Presque Isle during the WC; might be the perfect weekend to live in a cave for me. Maybe what I should be asking is: what can I do to prevent my biography from turning into a dark humor?
       In the real world dreams can end on an awkward and bitter note. After watching so many films I assumed it would go out on a glorified hero's end. Nevertheless, this isn't an end by any official means. This is more of a half baked rant of frustration. It certainly wouldn't be the first time for those few of you who keep up with this blog. In an effort to resist divulging into a lot of detail, giving up on this sport would be as challenging to do as it is for me to achieve the results I want. So as the title implies, this season is trying harder than ever to put me into the retirement home and I'm still not convinced it's going to make it.

Sorry for another dismal one in the books folks,

Merry Christmas!