Monday, January 30, 2012

Brezno-Osrblie



         The sprint and pursuit are done and over here at the Open European Champs. Otherwise known as U26s. I can't say I've done as well as I wanted to but neither race was all that bad either. This is my first time racing in Slovakia. Until now I only had stories and rumors to based this place off of. The hotel is adequate, the food is hit or miss, and it's kind of cold outside.
        I took my time in prone during the sprint. I escaped with only one miss. Standing has been my go to in confidence lately so I was convinced it was going to be a good day. Low and behold I miss my first two targets. I certainly hit my last three in a commanding fashion, but the damage was already done. I didn't feel spectacular on skis. There are some transitions on the second half of the course that I just wasn't hitting very well. At the end of the day I was 27th. I was surprised that I snagged with the 7th fastest ski time.
       And then came the pursuit. My focus was resettled and I was ready for a better day. This time around I was going to be smarter with pacing tactics. Admittedly I didn't do a very good job with that one in Nove Mesto. The course profile was a little more comfortable to work with and our skis were clearly some of the best in the field. It all came down to shooting. Which was again mediocre. I took one miss in my first stage and another two in my second prone. This is not what I needed. Thankfully I kept my head on straight and didn't melt down in standing. Missing my last target in standing has been a reoccurring theme this season. This theme was present on my first standing.  Conversely I proceeded to miss my first target of my second standing. I kept it together and hit the next four, but left the range with no clean stages. I wasn't showing any modesty on the two large climbs just out of the stadium. In fact, I'll go as far to say that I made some of the other athletes look like they were touring. This tactic came in handy on the last loop when I was 28th. For the first time in a long time I was not going to finish behind my bib number in a pursuit. I passed a few more people before the final stretch and held them off across the finish line. I moved up from 27th to 24th. That's not much but I did move up for a change.
         The internet is sparse but I was able to get this update out with out having to travel too far from my room. That's more than Italy can claim. The sun has been out every day. Nevertheless this has been the coldest race series of Europe yet this season. It's not brutally cold, but a few extra degrees warmer could go a long way. The food is pretty much pork with some kind of fried potato or rice all rapped up in a greasy sauce. Yesterday we were served a plate of this sweet rice and fruit deal. This was after having a jam filled pancake like lunch. Maybe they do get the full spectrum of food, just in more concentrated periods. It should also be said that the showers suck, for lack of a better term. The water heater is located right above the bath tub and there is no holster for the shower head. So you have to take your showers with strategy.
         I'm still stoked just to be on the circuit. That's more than I say about this time last year. Some real results would have been nice this weekend. That's why I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I still have once more chance to really light it up. I never make any promises on results, but I can confirm that I'll put up a good effort. 
I think I need a better camera. Nothing comes out the way I envision it to.
       

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Antholz



         Racing, eating, sleeping, traveling, and the search for internet were just some of the activities of last week in Antholz, Italy. I've raced the WC in Atholz before back in 2009, but never with as much chance of success as this time around. Italians take a lot of pride in there food. I shamefully succumbed to a head cold that I really want to be over and done with right now. The trip too and from wasn't as exhausting as it should have been, if that makes any sense and that elusive internet doesn't bode well with northern Italy.
         The last time I did a sprint in Antholz I missed six. The coaches were optimistic and pleased that I had a top 70 ski time. I was 21 at the time and it was my first real WC tour. This time around the situation was different. I had a top 40 point field to go after. I didn't make it in by finishing 43rd on the day, but it was the closest I've ever been on a normal standard race day. I couldn't feel my hands in prone. The only thing I could feel was the altitude and uncertainty while I set up for prone. I took my time, but was able to get out with only one miss. By the time I made it through another loop the blood flow in my hands was back up and running. Confidence was better and I was planning on a clean stage... Well, I was close. I missed my last shot and kicked my self for it in the penalty loop. Ski speed was solid with a 28th ranked loop time. After words I did the math and concluded that I would have been somewhere around 32nd had I not missed that last one. Never the less it was a good race and the successful season continued.
          Food consisted of a four course meal. Breakfast was your classic euro style set up that I love so much. Lunch and dinner always started with a salad. The only kind of salad dressing you are permitted in Italy is olive oil. This is better than it sounds. Trust me there are a lot of ways to have some olive oil. After that it could be anything from salmon to duck to pasta with homemade noodles. All of this was presented to us in style. I honestly don't care for this kind of overkill, but it does make eating a little more interesting.
          The team split up last Tuesday. Some were off to Canmore, some were staying in Antholz and some were on there way to Osrblie, Slovakia. We met up with the rest of the team at the Munich airport. The worst way to travel is to travel sick. I'm not sure where or how, but I caught a cold last weekend. I really don't like being sick. It never gets any easier to deal with. No matter what you do there is no 100% chance of staying healthy all season and once you do get sick there is nothing more effective than resting and just waiting it out. I took some half baked naps in the car. You know those naps that you wake up from and have no idea where you are or what's going on? When you're heading east across Europe and wake up from a nap it doesn't matter how well you slept you'll literally have no idea where you are located. The whole drive took us about ten hours. Thankfully, after all these years you start to realize that getting stressed over directions or potential blood clots have no benefit what so ever. I only wish others on the team realized this to. The best you can do is just sit back and accept that traveling is large component of this sport.
And I thought West Yellowstone would have the best classic ski of the year.

         I'm  rooming with Leif. Leif was thrilled to find that our rooms were not only large, but had four walls around them. On the other hand the internet was sparsely working this afternoon. I can understand how not everyone needs the internet, but this is a modern hotel. Even when there is wifi half the time it doesn't work. In the year 2012 shouldn't we be able to make internet that works dependable? Maybe this is our good friend planned obsolesce failing on purpose for the sake of a better profit. All I want is to stay a little more connected to the world. It's a never ending drama to find a router that works these days. 


          Snow is plentiful and it's somewhat cold so it's not going anywhere. The sun was out for training today and the course fits my style. Osrblie is exceeding expectations thus far (excluding the internet). The mens ten km sprint is on Saturday at 10 central euro time. I left Antholz on a good note and I plan on leaving the U26 world champs on an even better one.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good Timing




        When I was bracing to leave the starting gate in Aforni Voltri, Italy a couple of weeks ago the last the thing the announcer said, in broken English, was “Here starts Russell Currier from Presque Isle. He is good skier, but not very good shooter.” He was wrong about the Presque part and it always annoys me when people claim that I'm from anywhere else but Stockholm. In his defense though I can't say that the shooting has been my strong point over the years. So you can imagine how I felt a week later when I cleaned a world cup on an exceptionally windy day.
This is Nove Mesto
        I wasn't even sure if I was going to race the sprint or not. We only have four start spots at the moment and five guys to choose from. The individual competition on Thursday was a decent day. 64th was nothing to right home about, but it was my best finish in a WC individual yet. I was feeling confident in my season thus far and thought a top 40 seemed perfectly plausible for a sprint race. I watched the womens field take miss after miss on TV the day before and heard that it wasn't going to be any less windy for our race the.
The rumors were true. The wind was strong but somewhat consistent. It would occasionally snow and no one had seen the sun in days. The snow skied the way I would imagine skiing on a sponge might feel like. In other words it was slow conditions. The race officially started at 14:30. Representing bib 103, my race didn't start until about 3:30 in the afternoon. I glanced at the top 10 on the result board and saw at least one miss per name.
        The legs felt good despite the 20km two days prior. Given the slow conditions I upped the tempo a little bit to adapt. The wind died down enough to take three clicks left and one up. I dodged the penalty loop in prone and headed back out on course. The bulk of the difficulty other athletes were having was in standing. I was excited to have cleaned prone but the real test was going to be standing.
And here we have Antholz.
          If every dog has it's day, that was mine. For some reason I didn't notice to heavy wind pushing my barrel around and took five fluid shots. I double checked the target number just to make sure I hadn't cross fired or missed a target after all. There was no mistake. I hit all five. I could hear Armin clapping over the sound of my name in between a bunch of Czech I didn't understand over the loud speaker. The full scope of what just happened didn't fully settle in until I got my first split. I believe it was Jonne who said “Seven seconds from the podium!” The surge of adrenalin from hearing those monumental words of encouragement over rid any amount of fatigue going up that climb. There was no privacy on the last loop. When I made it to last gradual climb before the stadium I was safely in the top six and that's exactly where I finished.
          Aside from having to go through drug testing for the second time that day (the first time was for blood control) it was one long glamor trip for the remaining day. The congratulatory comments were flooding in from people I've known for years and other never known before. Later on in the evening my escort to the award ceremonies showed up. It was the BMW  Xdrive  that you see parked at every WC venue. After some hang out time with the other top six men and women we all got called up on stage. The whole experience was overwhelming and if it were not for some extra melatonin I don't think I would have fallen asleep that night.
This just seemed like the best move at the time.
          The pursuit wasn't my best race. In fact in fact it was the worst performance of the new year and even then it was still my second best WC result yet. I had a solid prone and very fast skis. I made a few tactical mistakes for pacing and really took a dive with four penalties on my last standing. I handled the wind like a champ in the sprint and an amateur in the pursuit. One or two extra hits could have done wonders judging from how large the pack was just in front of me on the last loop. I guess that's what next time is for.
          
            I don't know when next time will be to be exact. I may race this week in Antholze Italy or may not. On Monday Leif and I head for Slovakia. Where we will compete at the U26 world champs. From there the plans are even less clear. The coaches and I are going to play it by ear from here on out. After Nove Mesto the presence of snow and sunlight on Antholz feels exponentially great right now.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Things that were entertaining

       As much as I would like to say I've updated my blog on everything that has happened in the past 48hrs I simply can't. I've been typing and responding to emails all evening. My fingers are starting to get sore and I would much rather relax right now. There is no guaranteeing any source of internet in Antholz but I'm sure I'll find a way to give this poor blog the update it deserves. Lastly I can't say thanks enough for all the support I keep hearing about. More info and pictures soon!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let's go ski 20km!

       Five four km loops and 20 shots with a minute per miss is not a race to be taken lightly. There really is no race this time of year to taken lightly, but any amount of doubt will show it's self exponentially in an individual. today. You can't fake fitness in a 20km. I'm not going to go into great detail because I have a meeting with the coaches in 20 minutes about the very subject of today's individual
        The range here in Nove Mesto is tricky one. Oder of misses is 1,1,2,1. I took a few clicks on that second prone and as you can see from the two misses it did not pay off. Shooting was also very slow which a common theme for me these days. There is not much I can do about it now, but in the future there is going to have to be some improvement in the range times. I so sorely wanted to hit more of those elusive targets but if just wanting to shoot better lead to better shooting than I'm pretty sure the whole field would have cleaned.
         Ski speed was down right good. 35th on the day. I was bib 88 and I'm pretty certain anyone beyond bib 60 got the lower hand on snow quality. My skis were rocket ship fast on the first lap. It felt nice to pass Bjorendalen while cresting the biggest hill in the loop. The snow was becoming more and more saturated as the race progressed. By the third loop there was a hands down decrease in glide speed. This was not the wax techs fault nor the quality of Lowell's skis that I used today. Wet snow just isn't very fast and it was evident on the down hills. Nobody around my start number lit it up on course time so I'm pleased with how speed was today.
        64th was the placement at the end of the day. Last year I spent most of my WC time out in the 80s no man's land. 75%  shooting is okay but "okay" on the world cup will get you a kick in the teeth and a better luck next time. Nevertheless it was solid effort for me. There's no confirmation on my next start, but I'm more than anxious to get in that top 40 point field.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 So Far

       There was no hope for sleep this morning when I woke up at 5AM here in the Hotel Jehla. I carefully planed out how to get all of the right clothing on with out waking Leif up. After a 20 minute slush run I heading down to breakfast. Only the wax techs were at awake for breakfast. With so much time on my hands for a change I decided now would be a good time to summaries the past few days. 
Good morning.
      Let's start with the individual last Saturday. I have to admit that I was a little nervous with the shooting component. There was some lack of confidence from the training day before and I had some difficulty zeroing. Never the less all was taken care of and ready to go with a whole 90 seconds before start. I was getting positive feed back on ski speed already on the first loop. I settled into a good rhythm for the sake of a 20km race. Cleaning your first prone stage feels great and that's exactly how I felt after my first stage. I wish I could say the same about my first stage of standing, but I simply can't. Position was off and I couldn't settle at all. I practically camped out on the range and still took on two misses. I told myself to relax and to just stick with the process, but I was so anxious to get back into the range and prove I could clean another prone. Meanwhile ski speed was become more difficult by the meter. There was one additional miss in my second prone, but I pulled together with good focus and cleaned the last standing rather quickly. I feed well off of instant and positive feed back and that was all I was getting from the staff on the course. That coupled with decent shooting was enough to move my corpse through the last four km. 
       Post race consisted of smiles and hopes of a top 20 result. At the end of the day 7th was the number! It was hands down my best international result ever. I was especially stoked to learn that I had posted the fastest ski time of the day. That was a first. Even as a junior I was never ranked first on course time. I told Armin that I died on the last loop when in fact my last two loops were the first fastest. Could this day have been any better? The answer is yes. Had I races an extra 0.3 seconds better I would have been top six. A top six affords you two things. One is being called up for the flower ceremony. The other is 200 euro (200+$$). It's not a lot, but it makes a difference with my income standards. So close...


       The week end wasn't over. There was still ten more km of racing to be had. The warm up to the sprint race on Sunday was a slow and careful process. My legs were back to that leaded feeling from last summer but everything else was on time and looking well. This trend was abruptly ended when I noticed that I was missing part of my binding... twice! The second time forcing me run away from the start with one ski and scramble to find my NIS key to make some last second (literally "last second") changes before just barely making it to the starting wand in time. First loop pace was a little too modest for an amazing race and after two penalties in prone I was going to need something better for even a solid result. The last two loops were much smoother and standing might have been my best ever. Clean with little wasted time was just what I needed. 
      I was "randomly" selected for a drug test immediately following the race. That shenanigan ate up my whole afternoon. I drank so much water I felt sick for hours after. Drowning was was starting to feel easier than producing a 90ml sample. 
     The result was 27th. Not as good as the previous day, but still an absolute good sign. The heavy feeling in my legs took it's toll the result list. It's takes a lot of experience to be consistent. After a nap and some dinner we played a game of charades. My team won. 
Good afternoon.
     In the morning we packed everything up. It was the classic overly crammed euro trek. Some went to France and some went towards the Czech Republic. I should get at least one start in this week world Cup here in Nove Mesto. 
video




p.s. I should have more pictures up as soon as I can find my camera. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

And then came Forni Avorltri

       My apologies for the lack of update. One might think that with out a job or an education to tend to that I might have the time to update more frequently. That's not the case however. The holidays were busy as expected and did not permit enough time to do such. Travel was time consuming but is finally over. Then came Forni Avorltri, Italy. The one of many places in northern Italy that has no concept of internet. It's 2012 mind you! A lot has happened in a very short time. Here are a few details
       I despise over weight and extra baggage fees. If I weigh 145lbs and pay 120$ extra, shouldn't the  passengers who weigh 200+ lbs pay a little extra to be fair? The trip up from Portland was nice for a change because I spent it with an old friend from high school. We had to divide the drive up due of poor road conditions.
      Christmas was nice. I made bank on gifts and nailed it in the giving department despite having a minimal income. Nothing says merry Christmas like a poster of Johnny Cash giving you the finger. The skiing was great for a day or so before the rain settled in. Especially in contrast to the rest of New England. I did a tour of the Stockholm skis trails. After all these years I cease to find boredom with them.
      The week after was spent bouncing around the county. Try as I may there is no avoiding at least a couple of  trips to either Fort Kent or Presque Isle per week. There was business to attend to in PI and just enough snow in FK. Training went well for the brief period that I was home. There wasn't much time, but enough to confirm that everything is still on good pace.
      Travel was pretty much uneventful. I didn't sleep much on the plane, but worrying about those things only makes it worse. Sitting in the back seat on a narrow switch back road that snakes through the mountains of northern Italy can cause severe lack of appetite. I just dealt with it. I like to think that it helped my roller coaster tolerance. That aught to be useful some day right?
      And then came Forni Avorltri. If I'm not mistaken this might be the only biathlon venue in Italy that I have not competed in. So far so good. The snow has been in good shape the past couple of days. There is a lot of gradual hills to work with. It's not too windy and we're staying right at the venue. I've slept at the 10th Mt lodge in Fort Kent and even the NHC in Presqui Isle once or twice, so this will be the third biathlon facility that I've clammed a bed in. On that note it appears that the family that runs the whole place actually lives here year round. I can't ask to confirm this because no one in this neck of the mountains speaks English or German. Although our fearless coach Armin happens to be tri-lingual.
       Today was our time trial. With the IBU cup races this weekend that will give the US IBU cup team three races to decide the extra WC spot. It went well today. Ski speed felt solid and I can't wait to see where it racks up against the Euros on Saturday. Shooting was good enough but missing your last target in standing sure does suck, for lack of a better term.
       I'm sitting in the designated IBU office room right now. It's the only dimly lit hope of internet with in 100km of here. I want to take a nap, but after waking up a three AM the other day and failing to fall back asleep there's just no room for chances with jet lag. I will make an effort to take some more  pictures. This is a place worth of a picture or two.  Stay tuned. Saturday is an individual.