The original plan called for two sprints back to back, an off day, mass start, and then finishing up with another sprint. When you think it over this actually fair. Sprints races are crucial in this sport, and are always a good indicator of talent. Mass start races force the head to head atmosphere and are therefor good for exposing the head cases. The final points were based off of each athlete's best three of four races. Best man makes it the IBU cups in Italy next month plus one extra via the discretion card. Due to cold weather the second race and off day were switched. Also the snow conditions were VERY SLOW and Mt Itasca has one of the hardest courses on the circuit. What I'm trying to get at is: four races in five days was even harder than it sounds. Even with the low training volume and usual battery of post race of recovery strategies nothing can save you from the gauntlet that was the IBU cup trials.
First race was far from professional. Windy or not 40% is not something to email home about. With two misses in prone I was optimistic. Last year I missed two in the prone at World Champs and was still able to clean standing and secure a spot in the pursuit. When I came in for standing this time around I wasn't settled and just didn't have it together, for lack of a better description. No excuses, it just wasn't a good shooting stage. I put up a good fight skiing off the four penalty loops and managed to finishing in third only twelve seconds out. Though not great, the majority of the field had one too many misses. In the end the points were virtually zeroed.
After a nice off day classic ski at one of the local trails is was on to yet another sprint race. I wasn't nervous or bitter as much as I was anxious to just prove otherwise on my ability. While I ended up skiing better, and technically shooting better it was still not the world class level that I craved. Casey on the other hand had a world class day in the range with clean shooting. Unlike the first race someone now had the upper hand on points. I was in safer position for the discretion card. Nerves were starting to calm down.
The mass start is always so much easier on the eyes than it is on the lungs. In other words, it may be the best spectator event, but one of the most nerve racking events for the athletes. In these conditions as describer earlier it was exceptional hard on the system over all. As it rightfully should, the first lap felt like a citizen pace. Though not the only one with a miss or two the three misses that I had in the first prone was more than the rest of the field and I had to drop the ski speed dominance card earlier than planed. I made it into the second prone close to the lead. After taking some corrections I mustered up a clean stage. Oh how I love clean stages. Wish there were more of them under the belt. By the time the first standing stage was coming up I safely had about one penalty loop worth of lead on. Good thing to because I had two misses. It was just Casey and I on the fourth loops before setting up for the last shooting stage. We were both clearly fried going up the long climb. Neither of us were going to make a move. Now I really wish I could have claimed another clean stage. It would have made life so much easier. Well, I can't say that, I missed another two when Casey pulled it together again with only one miss. It wasn't easy, but after skiing off the extra loop Casey and I were back where we started with a solid lead over the rest of the field. It took the full max V02 and hurt like hell, but it did the job and I finally claimed a win. That was the mass start race. It wasn't the last race of the series however.
The last race was another sprint. Same course and same cold air. What was nice was the hard packed conditions. They weren’t fast, they were just normal. Compared to the first three races this was an improvement. Still bent on some better shooting there wasn't a lot of room to relax. Historically I'm good for one really hard effort and a few decent efforts on the energy side of things. The mass start was the hard effort of the four races. That being said, while ski speed was strong and helpful it wasn't as fast as the previous races. Thankfully after camping out on the shooting mat I made it out of both stages with only one miss. 80% with good ski speed will get you into pursuit. I garnered another win. After everything was done and over I knew I was on the IBU cup team and could finally relax for a bit. I was impressed with Casey. His shooting has always been solid and this past week was no different. With some better ski speed he was able to get the half of percentage point lead over me.
So what does this mean from here? At the moment not much. It's home to the north of Maine for Christmas. I'm really looking forward to relaxing with some mellow training and holiday shenanigans. Casey and I will not be in the US for new years. It's off to Ridnaun, Italy for us. We'll meet up with some coaches, Jeremy Teela, and Sean Doherty. After some IBU cup races the top athlete will make the Olympic team, and one additional athlete will be selected via discretion to represent us in Sochi. That's the basis of the game. I could go into more detail, but it wouldn't help me sleep at night. I'll think about that department when I'm training or dryfiring. For now it's all about keeping my ski bag under 70 pounds. 50 is just a pipe dream now.