Tuesday, March 12, 2013

From Russia with Snickers





Really wish I could take credit for this one. 

       One day you're back home walking the same old loop with a shot gun, looking for any bird that might cross you. Some days you find your self alone in a gondola at one in the morning heading up a mountain just north of the Black Sea. Just when I thought life was becoming repetitive.
        Turns out there's a reason why host venues host world cup events the year prior to an Olympics. Sochi has a lot going for it, but it's not with out it's room for improvement. Aside from the less than optimistic travel expectations I think everyone was a excited to see what the new venue looks like. It's not very often that the field goes anywheres out side of the normal tour spots. As for the racing it's self, I wish could be more positive, but there isn't much to take from those three races. The best part was when they were over and the promise of a new day took over.
       The venue and stadium are beautiful. It's has a large and almost futuristic look to it. The whole complex was no where near as confusing as I thought it would be. Everything is enveloped in a mountain range. Turns out we weren't that far from Georgia. The way the sun settled on our first day of training was something to see. Naturally I didn't have my camera on hand. And yes even the internet was fast and dependable.
      This update can't go with out the cons of the Laura Ski and Biathlon complex. The food at the dinning hall was actually down right decent. Unfortunately this only applies to when the food was actually available. The food at the Y club won the worst Y club food food of the year award by a landslide. The transportation had a lot effort that shouldn't go unnoticed, but I can't help but think it shouldn't have been that necessary in the first place. If certain structures were built closer to each other or if the cabins had some kitchen elements to them it would have made a huge difference. Instead we were looking at a 20 minute investment just to get too and from our meals. If the driver didn't understand you there was no guarantee you were going to get dropped off at your intended location. One morning I ended up at the stadium when all I wanted to do was eat breakfast. The distance between the warm up area and the starting pen is also well beyond my comfort zone (this is not the only place to make this mistake) and I still haven't mentioned the daily security shenanigans or the treacherous course.
      Our flight into Sochi wasn't too bad. Charter flights can be convenient like that. The waiting game that ensued once we landed wasn't very convenient at all. The gondola was less than two hours away, but our departure had to tack on an extra two hours of waiting at the airport for what ever unknown reason before we could leave. We went through about a half dozen security check points before we were allowed into our cabins. It's Russia so don't even think of keeping you rifle with you. There's no doubt in my mind that all of the serial numbers on my paper work match up with each other. After the past week there's no way any of them could be off. We were in the rifle packing room for about two plus hours on the last day waiting for them to find the papers for us to sign. I even heard a horror story of ammo being counted one round at a time to for the sake of confirming how much was packed!
      The racing was not my best. In fact I decided that the individual was my worst race of the 2013 season. The course will hopefully undergo some changes before next year. The rumor was that one of the German coaches counted upwards of 25 crashes in that race. The uphills are long, steep and tend to get chewed up pretty easily if you're in the last start seed. The downhills are packed with corners and tend to get glazed over. This eliminates any chance of recovery before you get back to seemingly endless ascents.  The course is already difficult enough with the altitude. At first I thought this was great. The downhills were naturally easy and smooth during training and the climbs were so big they would surely favor the well trained athletes such as myself right?
       After the individual I wasn't sure if I had trained at all this past  summer. Seriously, that's how felt! The contrast between my training log the result list made me cringe and question my ability in this sport. There was not a trace of positive feed back to take from that race. I contemplated banging my head against the wall until I forgot about my evening.
       As bad as the sprint race was it was also somehow better than the individual. Ski speed was slow and pathetic, but it was functional compared to the other day. I didn't have my head in the right place for rookie like reasons and missed four in prone. At least I stayed on my feet this time. Almost forgot to mention that I fell in the individual. I was a part of the crash count.
      The relay was another sign of progress. Lowell had a good first leg and Tim did well too. This put us with the lead group. I narrowly escaped a crash at the tag zone. The tag off is something few teams if not none have figured out, including us... I went for some good drafts where ever I could. I was a pair of Tim's skies that were crazy fast. These were the fastest skis I've had all season. My legs felt tired during the warm up, but I had to think that I wasn't the only one. That and the fast skis made ski speed less of a factor for a change. The problem with shooting for me in  getting to that first shot. If the field around me uses two extras and I clean with five, then I'm safe and can with leave with or ahead of the pack. The last time I did a relay I did just that. This time I had one extra in prone. Even then with good ski speed we were still in the lead group. Unfortunately I was off in standing. I narrowly escaped the penalty loop by using all three of my extras. The time it took me to safely dodge the penalty loop was enough to put us out of the lead group. In the end it was a decent race, but not what we were hoping for.

In case you were wondering it was the Snickers buffet that inspired me.
       I had a good time in Sochi. Now I can say I know what the course looks like and how the flow works around the venue. I would be lying if I didn't say I was looking forward to a season end. On the other hand with out much for noteworthy results I'm glad there's still more to go. The most professional thing I did all week was bounce back from the set backs in a commanding fashion. And that's what Khanty-Mansiysk is for. Once again that one will have to wait for a later date.

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