Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Some Thoughts

        The entertaining part of our sport is soon to be underway. That is, for me and this season in particular. December is not without it's important races, but there is a lot of waiting around for them to start. We left Canmore last Saturday and eventually made it to Grand Rapids, MN. We were in Canmore for the sake of a couple races and a lot of quality training. Now, we're in Grand Rapids to freeze our fingers off and cram four races into five days.

       The conditions in Canmore improved as the temps dropped during the last week. It never dropped to the ultra cold levels that I remember Canmore for, but it doesn't really have to. If it gets only a little brisk the farm of industrial strength snow guns start running around the clock. This forces the relative humidity up and makes the air feel much colder than the forecast suggest. That didn't stop us from training properly. We did a lot of quality shooting sessions. The ones at race pace and head to head. The goal was to fine tune the fitness. That includes mental fitness, as well as physical. After all these years it still takes me a lot of racing before I feel ready to have a good race. With that in mind I took every opportunity available to train in a race like situation that I could.

       Have I ever mentioned that I detest travel? I know I have, but I thought I would reinforce that. Nothing really went wrong during our trip on the weekend. It's just a part of the lifestyle I've grown tired of. Some athletes are great at it. Some are not. The ones that can breeze through all of the fears of what could go wrong are lucky. I'm not one of those. When I start a travel day I automatically assume everyone in the airline industry is working against me. To me it feels like a battle to get myself and my gear from point A to point B without damage and hundreds of dollars in made up fees. At the end of the day, it could have been much worse. The skis and rifle made it through in one piece. The whole effort did take close to two days, but still... could have been much worse.

        Northern Minnesota is cold. That about sums it up. It certainly wouldn't be the first time this has happened. During the morning training sessions, at most any point, if you stop and look you can see at least one athlete spinning their hands around in circles to force the warm blood to their fingertips. I froze my feet so badly back in Canmore that one has poorer circulation than the other. Such is life combining endurance sports with the possibility of cold temps.

       The potential for the racing this weekend is wide open. Ranging anywhere from me falling on my face in failure too handily winning. Shooting has been coming together. For reasons unsure to me, my grouping in prone travels low during hard intensity sessions. Standing has been holding up well even under pressure. Ski speed is a bit on the unknown end as well. I suspect it's good enough to get the job done. The legs have been a little tired, but I can't help but think that's all in my head. Most of this is anyways.

     The confidence is up, or at the very least higher than the temperature outside. I can't promise anything special. No one can with biathlon, but even now before any of the races have started I can say without a doubt that I've tried as hard as I could. If you've ever watched a full race you would see that there is very little that you can control. Trying you hardest for a decade plus is not one of the parts that are out of your control, however.

Thanks for the support! I'll try to keep a quick update trend going for the races coming up.

Monday, November 27, 2017

On Snow and Throwing Lead

 

       The first NorAm of the season was this past weekend here in Canmore. Naturally, it was a sprint and pursuit. For most of the athletes it was a chance to try out the race day process. Something that most of us haven't done on snow since March. That, coupled with the effective hard workout these races didn't have much more purpose to them. If we were going to make a mistake these two races were here to soak it up before the more deciding races ramp up.

        The sprint race had it's high and low points. On the low end, we did not have best skis out there. The snow was warm and being on top of the wax was a limiting factor. I'm not complaining, but it was without a doubt, a note worthy part of the day. Saturday marked our fourth day at altitude. Canmore isn't super far beyond sea level but far enough to feel. The extra oxygen deprivation is often at it's worse for athletes around their third too fifth day at altitude.  There were three targets left not hit after my prone stage. While the wind was a little tricky I can't make any excuses about those misses. The focus wasn't there and the nervous tension took it's place. On the high end, the three misses in prone were all the misses I had on the day. The pressure was on and I wasn't in the mood for more penalty loops. So it felt nice to clean that standing stage.

       The pursuit race on Sunday was not unlike the sprint races with it's wanted and unwanted parts. They went with the age old NorAm method of dividing everyone up by five second intervals. A normal pursuit has you staring at whatever your time back from the lead was. In Sunday's case you could win the sprint by two minutes and still only start with a ten second advantage over third. Anyways, it started to rain just before the start. More surprising, was how dirty the snow was. We all decided afterwords that going with a clear base racing ski would have been a wining choice. Needless to say, I didn't choice the best ski base and lost time, yet again, on the downhills. I missed three in the first prone stage again, but this time there was another prone stage to make up for it. The group was low and left so I took some clicks before setting up for the second stage. I missed one, cleaned the next standing stage, but missed another two in the final stage. The legs felt a little stronger over Saturday's feeling, but still sub par. The best part of the day was being able to put in a strong surge on the long climb in the final 2.5km loop.

        Overall (without excuses used), the performance was behind what I've been training for. I know I can put together better shooting than that. More than anything, having some faster boards to glide on would change things the most. I look forward to acclimatizing some more in the coming ten days. That should help bring the spring back into racing. Hopefully Canmore can get a little colder (but not too much colder) and start making more snow.  There is still plenty of hope left in the tank so on that note I'm going to go dryfire for a little while.

 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

From Right to Left Canada Style

Quick update here!

* The on snow micro camp in Foret Montmorency was a success. That early season snow touch break in was taken care of

* The flight to the north left went by adequately smoothly. I packet as many skis as I my ski bag could fit.

* So far Canmore has been unseasonable warm. It rained all day today and training got shut down for tomorrow.

* This was for preserving purposes for the NorAms this weekend

* Energy is solid. Can't wait to see where the race shape is this weekend.

* Shooting is still doing well

* More info and quick updates to come :)

Alright so these are from last years Canmore, Camp. But they will have to do for now. 



Groomed and ready to be conquered in Foret! 

So long Maine forest. I'll be home for Christmas. 

If you know what town this was taken in then you're probably awesome.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Head Lamp Season

        November can be a gray area in more ways than one. This is the touch and go time of year for winter sports. Athletes and coaches are chomping on the bit to get on snow. Making the call on travel plans and training ideas can be difficult. On a more literal side, the sky is seemingly always gray this time of year. The plans for me this year are admittedly not what I was hoping for, but the confidence is still in a good place.

        The last training block was a success. The cold and sore throat in the middle of it didn't help, but a few months without succumbing to a stuffy nose would actually make me nervous. This was the last big push for training before things get more specific and refined. The energy level last Wednesday reminded me of what it's like finishing out a training block in July. That was the indicator that let me know I was doing it right. It was also nice to know that last Wednesday might very well have been the last roller ski session of the year. Which is a good thing. 

       Next week will have me in Foret Montmorency, Quebec. This is only a three and a half day stretch. That's just enough time to push enough on snow training to remember what it's like to ski on actual skis rather than roller skis. There are a lot of different muscles used when you're on snow. Enough to warrant making a trip like this happen. Even if it is only for a few days. The latest trail news suggest that the snow is part wood chips. For now, this is fine, because you can't say "the snow is part wood chips" without saying "the snow."

       Later on in November has me back in Canada. This time it will be on the western side in Alberta. Good old Canmore. Canmore has the chance to make you feel cold like no other place. It comes down to three reasons: It's November and you're not used to anything below freezing, much less winter like, Canmore in November can be brutally cold the way January can be in northern Maine can be, and they really like there snow guns. Blowing man made snow when it's -20 forces the air to be humid when it shouldn't be humid. The end result is me spinning my hands around in circles trying to force warm blood to my frozen finger tips. These days, you never know what the weather will do. I'm banking on getting lucky and having functional temps and great snow conditions.

       The USBA group that I'll be working with will be based out of Canmore for a few weeks. Travel is never fun so this should give us enough time to settle in. There are a couple of NorAm cups in Canmore to test out the racing skills. The real racing starts later on in December, but for now this is how I plan on tackling the overcast of November. Part of these trips are covered and the rest is not so I can't thank the recent support that's come in enough. I wouldn't be making these training and racing trips happen if I didn't still think I had a chance at the Korea team and I wouldn't be able to make the trips happen without the support. So again, many thanks! 




I charged the battery in my camera this time so it's up to Foret's ski trails to look pretty enough for a picture next week.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Away, but not Out.

       The goals for the 2018 season are still very much possible. While the past few weeks have not been without some missed opportunities, the overall performance is looking hopeful.  It's good to have that confident feeling back in the arsenal. It's not always easy to keep the confidence up. It certainly wasn't easy once I realized my December racing goals was out of the question before we're even into November. So why am I not complaining about having the rugged pulled out from under me and why am I feeling better about all things 2017/18 racing?

       The racing circa mid October in Jericho, VT wasn't all that bad. It was, however not good enough. The overall performance from my side was better than it has been in past years. I did all of my homework and was able to prove most of it. I took it easy the week leading up to the races, but for reasons unknown the legs were not as fresh as I would have liked them to be. There are a lot on variables in this sport and nailing all of them at the same time is tough. Still, the years of base training were enough to keep the ski speed in decent shape. It's a sort of an insurance for the days when you're not up to full energy.

       On the shooting side, results were better, but much like skiing just below good enough. These sort of races for athletes in my position are more difficult than racing world cups. A bad day on the world cup means learning what you can and working towards the next one. A bad day at the Jericho team trials can mean that should start looking into plane tickets and spectator free racing. With that in mind every shot feels like a fight. You might wonder why I'm not used to this by now, but remember that there is a reason why no athlete has ever averaged 100% for an entire season. I was close to getting out of standing with a clean stage and a 90% in all in the first race. Then the last shot got to me and I bummed myself down to 80%. The second race was a tricky one. The wind was a limiting factor and the field as a whole was proving this with some less than typical shooting results. For me it was 60% day. Not bad, but not great and not good enough.

The look of racing suffer. 
     The racing in October was a step up from the races back in August. My goal of having a shooting mechanic that worked under pressure was a success compared to past years of shooting range meltdowns. The changes to the stock, made for a lighter and better fit. The changes in my position give me a better probability of a hit. I'm not at the Canmore, AB team camp, simply because the overall level of competition on the US team is higher than ever. I can recall having a 45% shooting day at a trials race as a junior and still taking the win. Those days are over. USBA's goal of bringing up the depth of the team has been a success and I took the blunt end of it.

     So what happens now? The first trimester of the season may be out of grasp but the races in February are not. I have to be the fourth or fifth US man out during the IBU cups in January. To make it to those races I have to be in the top two at the trial races at Mt. Itasca in Colerane, MN. For the sake of proper preparation I will be in Canmore for three weeks prior to those races. If we're lucky there will be snow at the FKOC even before that. For now, I'm in Lake Placid with the development team. As of today, I fighting my way through a sore throat and cold. That's the point B back to point A itinerary.

      Not that it matters, but this rout has lead to my best and worst seasons ever. This is a non factor to me because I'm done with superstition. None of it is real. Doing each workout better than the rest is how I plan to have better results over the coming months. As much as I despise requesting help, any donation will go towards the flight and trip expenses for Canmore and Minnesota. The help from this summer was essential because most of it went towards paying off the racing fees from February. For now it's a matter of getting over this obnoxious cold and sore throat.  Not unlike four years ago, as long as there is even a slight chance, then I have to take the risk.
Happy October! 










Sunday, October 22, 2017

Still Alive

         All things are still a go. Was hoping to have a full run down of racing last week and what it means for the next couple of months, but that update will have to wait a few more days. For now I'm packing up for another trip back to Lake Placid. Long story short: No go on the December world cups despite an improvement in overall performance. However! The January and on racing season is still a very achievable possibility. And that includes all things February. So... if ever there is a chance then it is a chance worth taking. Might have to muster up some funding once again, but more details on the upcoming course of action later. For now it's a whole lot of driving

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Always Forward

       Greetings from Craftsbury, Vt. Last week it would have been from Lake Placid, and later on this week it will be greetings from Johnson and or Jericho. Vt. In any case, the goal remains the same. Everything revolves around reaching the top name on the result list. Oddly enough, it's a good thing I don't have any crazy adventures or short stories to elaborate on this time. With important races coming up this weekend no one is trying to make crazy adventures happen and anything unplanned would probably hinder the goal. So that's why I don't have much to update about this time. Everything is going both smooth and boringly.

      The Lake Placid fall camp was a productive one. Maybe not as packed with afternoon slowfire drills or five hour distance sessions, but plenty of quality to the point sessions. Like any late September and October camps I packed what I thought would the right attire. Little did I know that summer wasn't done with Lake Placid. The heat and humidity felt out of place with the changing leave colors. At a time when we're typically looking forward to a warm shower after training, some of us were opting for the ice bath in sports med.

       Thankfully, the weather, typical or not, didn't get in the way of some solid training. The total hours were high, but the energy was never in debt. Were I prequalified for the races this weekend, I might have pushed the training load a little higher. We had about three high intensity sessions a week. One of them was the so called "Korea protocol." This is USBA's answer to the large climb right out of the stadium of the Pyeong Chang Olympic course. The session consist of skiing up a sustained climb for seven minutes three times over with however long it takes to drive down in between for recovery. Not unlike a sprint format race in biathlon.

      Training camps don't feel quite right without a time trial at the end. The one where everyone is hanging on for dear life energy wise. The one where you know it's going to a solid effort, but your legs are so heavy you're not sure how or why. It's similar to the rule of always having room for desert. In this case, we absolutely had a hefty time trial on Saturday but none of us were in massive training debt. So there was less of an excuse to not have decent showing. I was pleased with my shooting. Range times were better than they were a couple of months ago and I hit 80% of my targets. Not prefect, but decent enough.

       The shooting score has been holding up well lately. The process that I'm clinging to now is designed to hole up under pressure. As always, nothing is immune to colossal failure so no bold promises. The refined version of my rifle has yet to be officially weighed, but in giving the hand to hand comparison to the rifles of other athletes it feels safely under four kilos. All that, and I'm not even using lighter sprint action, much less barrel.

      The rest of the fall is undetermined at for now. The potential routs from here are actually better than all or nothing like they have been in the past. Nevertheless, I'm going for the best route possible. Enjoy the fall. This is my favorite time of year.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Less Stock more Blueberries

                 

Oatmeal doesn't more unprocessed then this. 


       Whatever gets you to the office in the morning is good enough. You can't say that sentence without saying "gets you to the office."By that logic your source of motivation is good enough. Every since the poor shooting at the first round of trials I've been training out of bitterness and frustration. The way I see it, complaining about poor results has little too no benefit. Every quality training session I do brings me one step further from more poor performances. At this point, most of the training is actually just maintenance of the past ten or so years of physical conditioning.  With that said, besides training my face off, what else have I done to up the level lately?

        While I've been training for some time now, the effort that goes into training even now, never lets up. The key is be constantly pushing your threshold. Not only that, you have to be pushing it in a better way than the rest of the field. We're competing against the best in the world, there isn't time for anything less. Certain key sessions have been at the center of this model. In July we were doing six times six minutes of roller skiing at a hard race effort. Since then I've increased the load to nine by six minutes. A full hour of quality effort is the goal. Every session is a part of much larger exercise phys  setting balanced with my own experience.

       Having everything work is a minimal standard. Much like training, equipment has to be world class. Rifle, skis, poles, boots should all feel like a healthy extension of the body. You can see in the pictures that the stock has been carved out. You wouldn't think a bit of wood here and there would do much, but there is no doubting that the rifle swings on the back a little bit easier now. The hook on at the end of stock is a masterpiece. Since it's wrapped in grip tape, you'll have to take my word for it.

      On a more lighter note, have you noticed the free food falling from some of the trees lately? Am I the only one who sees this? Most apples you purchase in the store have been in a warehouse for about a year before they're ready for sale. On the other hand the tress outback are brimming with free organic ultra fresh apples. Just, going to through that one out there. It's also blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, and dozens of other fruit and vegetables season. The garden yields much more spinach than my windowsill operation ever did. I had the always fun job of dog sitting what might be a hyena last week. The payment for this was free picking of an industrial strength blueberry bush. Zimmerman, is still alive and I'm in process of freezing the blueberries.

       That's about it for now. More training camps and racing to come.

     
A before shot of the upper hook. 
Another before picture from this spring.

The new and much improved version. 




Only needed that part of the bolt lever anyway. 
Yeah.. so... I found a nice deal on four pounds of comb honey. This stuff is the same color as gold for reason!

Thank you Finnsisu for the fast and friendly help this summer. 

Just another run to get lost on. 


Had a blueberry related mishaps. It happens to the best of us. 

This bread machine is making store bought bread obsolete. 

When the USOC tells you the Olympic registration head shot isn't good enough. 

Zimmerman approves of this update. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Racing Review.

         Here we are again. Anther post August biathlon racing update. It was a learning experience when I was 16 and it wasn't  anything less last week at age 30. I sorely wish I could say that the changes I made this year paid off and that I might truly be on to something, but that's not the case. This blog has never been much to sugar coat it. You can know that any amount of positive news from here is genuine. With that in mind the weekend of racing was far from a complete loss. It was, after all another learning experience. My policy is still revolves around giving a 100% effort even if the odds are against me.

       In both races the feeling in the legs was all there. It was hot out, but a few degrees cooler than it was last year. There have been races when my face was starting to look white on the last loop. Others have succumb heat exhaustion. Thankfully, I was able to hold my own this year and ski as well or better than the field around me. Since it's August, I can't brag about this rightfully, but it certainly helps in a qualifying situation.

      The overall all set up in shooting was, if nothing else,  looking better than ever. The position for both prone and standing was more solid and the rifle looked more slick than it ever has. It would seem a few good shooting stages was in the future. Well... That didn't happen. How original of me, I know. Both the sprint and mass start was met with below expectations on the shooting percentages. There were a number of reasons for this. One being the nerves and pressure of performing on such a make or break level and the other being a direct process issue. In other words, I wanted the hits too bad to get them in standing and am pretty sure I over held on a couple of shots in prone for similar reasons.

     The final results were not season ending, they will just make things slightly more difficult. The trip home from races like these is never easy. Whether you're meandering through the states on East 2 or trying (and failing) to sleep on an plane, you sure do have a lot of time to mull it over. Fun fact: sometimes I try to arrive home evasively to avoid that initial interrogation of "what went wrong?"

        The conclusion that I came to after this particular drive north eastward was that everything is close to great. The difference between close to great and great is often much closer on the process level than it would appear on the result list level. A more tangible example: I need to be more aggressive in shooting. A little less fear and more forceful on the mat usually works well when I commit to it in training. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but I have ample time before the next races to make it a routine thing.

       You can't argue with results and I'm not about to. I didn't perform well last week and that's that. The best move from here is to use the races as reference point and trust that I'm on the right track. If that's true, then I shouldn't have any problem proving that at the next set of trials. I guess, it's just a little frustrating when you know you could have done better and have to patiently wait another seven or so weeks to prove so!

       The trick to going an entire year with out getting sick comes down to two main things. One: don't travel and two: get lucky. Since not traveling isn't an option for me, it's down to the luck side. I got unlucky at some point driving home and now have to work out a vicious sore throat and cold. The plan was take advantage of the energy in the legs by doing a short volume block. Instead I find, myself weeding the garden and blowing my nose.

      Once the cold has passed it's back to the grind. The next few weeks have me in Maine. There is another camp in Lake Placid towards the end of September into October. It's almost that strange time of year when the weather can't decide if it's summer or fall. Apple season is almost in full swing which means free food will be available for the procurement!

     

     

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Week in the Life of Jericho 2017

      Once again it's August and I find myself in Jericho, Vermont based out of the Ethan Allen National Guard base for the who knows what year in a row. There is no denying some of the advantages of training here, but there is also some understandable down sides.  Good training or not, some of the athletes swarming the loop everyday are here for experience and a few are here for the first round of December WC team trials. I made it here a few more days in advance to the weekend races, but the focus is still on those performances.

        After the last large training block, the energy wasn't in the legs, even after the recovery period. These kinds of responses, or lack there of, always make me nervous. I was tired the whole last ten days of the training block, but this expected. All I have to do is hang on and know that with three or four easy days in a row I'll be back fresher than ever. This time, after three days off in a row, the energy wasn't there. Maybe I'm getting too old, or the heat and humidity was too much, or maybe I just overthink it too much. Either way, I'm happy to report that the spring in the legs is for the most part back.

       The roller ski loop in Jericho is world class. It could just be the best North America has. It wasn't always like this. In the past, the pavement was questionable. Wet moss patches back in the day always made the downhills more exciting. In resent years the loop has be updated. It's closed in, but not falling apart with extra vegetation creeping in. The longest loop option is 4kms. The terrain has plenty of climbing and the stadium makes for a nice flatter choice if need be.

       It's not all perfection here though. Northern Vermont in August isn't exactly known for it's early fall like weather like northern Maine is. No one races well on the super hot summer days, but some handle it better than others. I am not one of those others. A solid ski speed performance has always been tricky to do at these races. The heat can really take that extra gear out of you. So far the weather forecast suggest that this week might be a manageable one. If it's not 85, it's usually pouring rain. So, I'm just sitting here hoping this weekend will be an exception to those two.

      Shooting is still feeling better. I'm not exactly averaging 95% with sub 25 second range times, but the important key sessions are going well. The changes made to my positions are still coming together. In the past month the effort to nail that perfect stage has become more and more routine. In the past couple of weeks the mechanical side of things has come a long way. A lighter barrel and actions is too pricey for me, so we had to innovate. There is no extra wood, plastic, or even metal in some spots on my rifle now. Some of the parts made for rear end of the stock came out better than I could have hoped for. While it's close, both the equipment and process of shooting isn't finalized yet.

      August has never been the time of year to make an accurate judgment of ability in a winter sport. In the end, you do have to make a call at some point. The fastest biathletes are there in February, but if you held the qualifying races one after another in late January it wouldn't be fair then either. This weekend is super early for talent to shine, but that's the hand I'm dealt with. We're looking at a sprint and mass start format for this first round.

      I will soon be out of the barracks. I won't go into detail about the right of passage it is for a junior athlete to be at the Jericho camp, but I will say that I'm looking forward to moving into a quieter place in a day or so. It might take a few years, or perhaps decades, but eventually I'll look back on the summer Jericho camp fondly.

Provided I'm not too lazy, a full rundown of the week will be up shortly after.

   

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Summer Grind

       Since nothing too far out of the ordinary has occurred in my world I couldn't think of central theme to this update. Nor do I have the motivation to whip up a proper intro. So here are a few bits of random information that have happened since the last check in.

* The remaining two weeks of training in Lake Placid were a success. The last day was spent rollerskiing up Whiteface in the rain. A whole hour of threshold training and not once did we hear the thunder. Since it was all uphill the rain wasn't as obnoxious as it usually is.

* The garden is teaming with fresh vegetables. Despite my best efforts there is only so much a lettuce I can eat.

* Before I left the county, I had a pea plant growing in the window. The watering of said plant had ceased with my departure. When it did finally have a drink, it was given soap water by mistake. At this point it was left for certain death. As of yesterday, I noticed a pod starting to grow in response to my vein attempt at revival.

* The coaches mentioned that they thought my shooting had improved since last year. It felt like it was heading in the right direction, but with the significant changes I still thought it had some breaking in to do. On the other hand if not one, but two coaches that have been working with me for a month want to tell me the shooting has improved, then I'm not going to argue.

* The actual rifle it's self has undergone some significant changes for the better. A before and after picture would have been a nice way to show this. That one will have to wait until the final touches are done. For now the rifle feels like a better fit than it ever has.

* Last week was the end of a three week training cycle. Three weeks in a row, nothing under 20 hours. After the drive back from Lake Placid I started the following Monday off with a four hour ride. This was about when the stretch of heat and humidity kicked in. There were about three high intensity sessions per week. The energy lasted to about the half way point, before every session was part of a countdown to Sunday. It's July and a winter sport, who needs energy anyway?

* The last day of that training period was the Nordic Trail Fest at the Nordic Heritage Center. The whole event was well populated and it's nice to see the place be in heavy use. The premise of the event is to essentially run or bike in circles from 12:30PM to 6:30PM. You're welcome to divide it up with a team effort, or you can thwart it on your own. I ended up going with the latter. My legs were not happy with my brain's commanding decision. 55km (33 miles) was the longest I had ever run on purpose.

* The very much needed recovery period has made for a nice break. I've been able to catch up on goals I've put aside lately. Some any normal 30 year old would have to deal with and others exclusive to me. This blog, rifle work, vehicle inspection, garden weeds, waffles and season three of The Simpsons for example.


With any luck and dedication the next update will have some more pictures in it.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

So On and So Forth

      Rest assured, I'm alive and well. All systems are a go. Living quarters is still the OTC in Lake Placid. It will be this way for a couple more weeks. Despite going to bed early and consistent afternoon naps I'm still training hard enough to be amply tired. Despite having meals ready available three times a day and training spoon fed to us I still find myself cramped for free time.  This is just another quick update with some photos to keep everyone up to date.

See! It's not so bad.
      Thanks to the support I gained I was finally able to bring the cross bike in for some much needed repair. We're looking at a new chain, disk set, bottom bracket repair, front and rear fork alignment, new brake pads, and two new tires. It will be ready and fine tuned to help me get lost on the woods roads of northern Maine in no time.


One step closer to isolating the limiting factor between a miss and a hit.
      The shoulder injury I took on a few weeks ago is undoubtable healing. The rate of recovery however, is annoying. If an injury last more than 12 hours I consider it annoying. This one is going on three weeks. More and more use of it is becoming possible. This is essential when the training load is as high as it is this time of year. You can only off load a certain muscle group so much, before you run into overuse of another.

The real clutch to rebuilding you position is the modelling component. 
Enjoy morning runs? I hope you enjoy wet shoes to. 
      Shooting is also heading in the right direction. A bit slower than expected, but still progressing. I thought I had it figured out for my standing position by the middle of May. I wasn't confident with prone and didn't bother settling down on a formula. Turns out I was way off in both prone and standing. After the brief camp with the team shooting doctor the process of reworking the muscle memory from almost point zero up to a knee jerk reaction level began. Since then, it has become more and more familiar while the groups have been getting tighter and tighter. I was able to differentiate between how to do a precision test well versus hitting targets during high intensity training combos. There are shots that still drift far away, but the misses are not from lack of effort.

          Depending on how you look at it nothing else is new. This will technically be my last update from my twenties. I'm pretty sure the root of turning 30, 40, or 50 and so on stems from the turning over of an extra digit in our base ten numbering system. Don't ask me how, but I think I would only be turning 26 in a base 12 system. Not such a big deal now, huh? Despite being within striking distance of another Olympic team and contemplating retiring there after, one way or the other, I'll probably Peter Pan my way through the next decade. Perhaps not as resource dependent on others, next time around though. At the moment, it's all about this rest day. Then it's all about making the most of training while it's being stream lined to me here at the Olympic Day Care Center. Enjoy the summer!

     
Here goes Russell in his thirties. 


So long dandelion season. 


Those days when your legs are not into it and the hot humid weather isn't helping it helps to remember how loud this afternoon was in Nove Mesto. 


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

This Is Still Our Normal


       When I found out that the team shooting doctor would be in Lake Placid to work with the national team circa early June I had my doubts. It's a long drive, I wouldn't have a place to stay at that point, the first camp starts a week after, and why not go for a thorough skype session instead? Despite going though with it at the very end of a tough training block, I have to admit that the trip was worth the effort. If you're going to do something, at least try to do it right. I needed Matt's in person perspective with my shooting even it meant going out of my way to make the meeting happen. Injured shoulder and all, the trip was success.

        Training has been going well. Or at least "going" in the literal sense. Even after I've contacted the pavement the movement was still happening. Everything was going smooth at about 20mph when my pole planted between my legs. An all to common mistake in roller skiing. I've gone down in this fashion so many times before, all I cared about was landing in a way that didn't break my pole. On the plus side the ski pole didn't snap. On the down side, my shoulder took to bulk of the fall. I do recall the feeling of my leg and elbow sliding on the unforgiving pavement. I was going pretty hard at the time and the impact knocked the wind out of me. At first, I scrambled to my feet carefully, as to not break my pole on the way up. Then frustration followed. The same frustration that comes with every fall. Then came the pain, as I hung out on the side of the road I checked the damage. The blood coming off my arm looked worse than it was. That poor scared elbow had recently healed from a bike to ice slip earlier in May, and there is was hemorrhaging all over again. The part that concerned me was the shoulder pain. That problem had held on since then. It's getting better, but it's made certain training methods difficult.

       On Wednesday I headed north, then west, then south, then meandered through the Adirondacks until I found myself in Lake Placid yet again. The place felt familiar, as if I had been there a week ago when it was actually almost a year since the last visit. Not unlike home, it was cold and raining. The dinning hall at the OTC was open just long enough after a long drive and short run to catch dinner before calling it quits for the day.

       My first meeting with Matt Emmons was Thursday morning. The roller ski session beforehand was cut short when my shoulder wasn't into it. I put on what I thought would be warm enough clothing for an outdoor shooting session in June. I was wrong to underestimate the covered range. We were both on the same page with what we wanted out of set up for prone and standing. It took a while to move the various components around to the right places. In then end we had a set up that made sense both fundamentally and for my comfort zone. There is a lot of science to precision shooting.
       
      Matt is a world Champion in precision shooting. Not only that, but he's also very good at conveying the important parts of shooting over. This is what I want in shooting from a coach, because it takes a lot of trust to make any major changes. To give you an idea of Matt's skill level: it was windy that morning. When my grouping wasn't spectacular, Matt put my cuff on and tried my rifle out for five shots. He was baffled when the group wasn't perfect. It wasn't his rifle, he shot pretty fast, and it was very windy! He opened up the front sight and swapped it out for a slightly smaller ring, got back into position and shot what we (biathletes) would call a perfect group.

        The last few days of the week were busy. The dome light to door in my truck was disconnected. This plan backfired on me when the warning light for the headlights stop ringing when you left the lights on. Thankfully, I only drained the battery twice. Both times in the OTC parking lot. Since it was the end of our three week training stretch my battery was running low. Naturally, I forgot my road bike back home and with the shoulder injury it ended up being a slight running camp. We ironed out the smaller details in shooting as best as we could. It's still going to take some time to become accustomed to the changes, but it's going in the right direction now.
 
         Now it's back to crunch time. That's the time when we you have less than a week to cover all of your bases before you're back in training gauntlet. With the confidence in the new set up I can start working towards updated the parts on the rifle stock. The next step in training has me back in Lake Placid for long training camp. Since that's more of a next week issue and this is technically a recovery week, I'm going to have to resist going into details about more training. 
 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Success!

             Plot twist! Lo and behold the support rolled in just in time. The rallyme site that I set up in April with a 45 day limit didn't have very much of attention until the last two days.  It was like racing 50km where none of the athletes make any move until the 48km mark. So, it goes without saying that the help was appreciated.

          Who would have thought an Olympic sport would produce so little money for the athletes?  Resources have been stretched thin the past three years. Yet, the amount of time and energy needed to compete at a high level doesn't let up just so you can find a job in the meantime. I've proven that I can compete with the upper end of the sport on a good day,  but the upper end of the athletes do pretty well for themselves. The level just below them, such as myself, doesn't necessarily train any less than they do, the difference is that they simply don't have the spoon fed support to carry them along. This is where the conflict of interest comes from. It's also where everyone who donated to my cause put a thorn in the problem. Do I forfeit and thwart the odds in the real world? Maybe next year, but not before the Olympics are over. Funding the gap between what I'm trying to achieve and what I can afford to achieve was lessened by your contributions.

         The first step from here is to maintain what's going right while also work on fixing what isn't. On a more tangible level this means I've recently finished out of a short rest period and going into a heavy training period. That much I can do, shooting has always been the tricky part. This year, the coaches and I decided to rebuild the foundation of my position in shooting. Since this has been harder than expected the plan now is to meet with USBA's shooting coach in Lake Placid next week. Were I on the A-team this would be easy, but without the OTC residence it becomes a long drive for a denial of a place to stay. The chance to work with someone who can help me find the right fit that looks right on a proven scientific level is worth the drive and expenses.  And, while I'm there, I should probably use this opportunity to pay back my coach for that pricey rifle harness he covered for me three years ago... There's also that.

         I hope this makes it clear that the donations are very much appreciated. None of it will go to waist. I would also like to point out that the vast majority of the support came from the state of Maine. The link was to the site was sent to a wide range from around the US. In the end it was the local crowd that was really behind me. So with that in mind, lets show the world what humble Maine can do.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dark Humor and Optimism




       What do you think: if a biography of my biathlon career was made would it be found under the dark humor aisle or the inspirational come back section (not sure what the technical name for that genre is) of the book store?  To be fair, I did say I despise asking for money, I'm not very skilled at it, and with or without help it's far from over. After all, they can't stop me from training! Still, the current status of my fund raising attempt is not suggesting the latter for my biography theme. 

        I can always train well. Training has been going well. Last week was the first 20 plus hour week of the year. My foot has been questionable in that I'm not sure if it's injured or not. Sometimes it hurts to walk on it other times, like yesterday, I run on it for 30kms and it doesn't complain. The roller skis and pole tips are weathering the training storm well. I was even able to home repair a bike into mostly working! 

       Shooting is still in the hacking phase. The plan is make the stock work for as much as I work for the stock. We're still moving the guts of my prone position around trying to find this perfect fit. Standing has shown some progress with this new outlook. Prone will do the same, but needs more trial and error at the moment.   

  In conclusion... here are a few pictures to add some more color to this update. 
And yes! I successfully skied on May first.

However, this particular day on the crust was the best. 
    
The road doubles as a river.
Not the final version. This is a experimental version. 

The trial and error of getting my head to be more level in prone.
Proof! That I was once in my early 20s.




p.s. Who ever donated that $40 is awesome ! Many thanks! 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Here We Go Again

       https://www.rallyme.com/rallies/6319


          The grind season is officially underway. This grind that is the training season that amounts to a lot of physically demanding training and thousands of rounds out the barrel. That, and a lot of other stuff crammed in and around the training and shooting. After a certain point (a point I hit more than a decade ago, but whatever)  training "hard" or "a lot" isn't enough to make the difference. This is when you have to start training "better" than the competition. The trick isn't mustering up enough motivation to get out the door, but rather knowing what you should do once you're out. Play your cards right and you'll eventually wind up on top. Thrash around like an idiot and no amount of natural talent will grant you success on the world cup level. The tricky part is figuring out what plan works best for you. Since the training season is up and running, here is how I plan on tackling this final round.

       The science part of training will be mostly similar to last year. Last year (4/2016 too 4/2017) I trained about 680 hours. That's almost 100 hours down from the 15/16 year prior. This year the year plan has me at 670. That's not too much for an experienced athlete in my position. I was hitting higher year training loads when I was in my early too mid twenties. Once the base was established it made more sense to push the harder efforts more than the longer efforts. Time spent in the speed just below race pace and time spent above race pace will take an increase this season. The strength training side of things will be more elaborate this time around. Last year's plan had good intentions for strength, but took a left turn when I injured my lower back in July. It helps to have confidence in your plan. I always take past results, other athlete's results into consideration, and mull it all over before handing my thoughts over to a coach. Once my coach does the same thing we lay out the details of the coming year.

       Not unlike past seasons the outcome of the races could have been exponentially better if the shooting had been only slightly better. Yes, most any competitive biathlete can say the same, but after being pushed to every end of the result list and team status most of those biathletes would have long since given up. Though it's been close, that's still not my style. So what am I trying this time to better the performance on the range? April wasn't over before skype meetings were happening. Components to the stock are already in the testing phase. If I can mold a rifle stock that works with me more than it does against me the odds will be more in my favor. Shooting always comes down to odds. You can never guarantee a hit, regardless of how confident you are, but you sure can give yourself the high probability of a hit. That's what I'm pinning for with my prone and standing set up.

        Finding the best set up for shooting is only part of the whole. Once we know what a stock that works for me and not me for the stock we'll start the the process of making it fire proof. Taking weight off one of the heaviest rifles on the WC field is on the to do list. Making it shiny and avoiding excessive duct tape usage won't make me shoot better, but it sure would look nicer. So much of hitting or missing comes down to the few key focus points ingrained into your head. At some point before the first round of trials in August I will have to have some idea of want thought process works the best. And if you've been keeping up with this blog you'll know how important range time is in our sport. It's another weak point for me. One that I've been trying to fix since I was 16. Every week of year has a focus and goal in the plan to bring up the shooting level.

          Training camps are an actual influential part of the summer and fall this year. There is no on snow Bend, OR camp for the B-team or a summer Euro camp, but there is a solid amount of time back in Lake Placid. Since the first camp is only five days and an eight hour drive I opted out. This will keep me in northern Maine until mid June for the fist LP camp. Spending more time training with the A-team and working with the coaching staff is what I'm looking for.
   
       That about sums up what the outlook for the summer will look like. The fall is loosely in place, but open to change. The winter is the part that matters. It's an Olympic year, so naturally everything for any winter sport will revolve around February. My RallyMe campaign has made approximately zero progress thus far. It's not over yet, and I'm plenty optimistic. Still, if it was over, it would be okay. Supported enough or not you can't stop me from trying. As I said last year at about this time "Stubbornness and stupidity can move mountains." I'm also an advocate for the "less talking, more doing" policy. With that in mind it's about time to start tinkering around with my rifle.

     

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Team Effort

           


              With one year to go before the next winter Olympics it's clear that I won't be able to make it happen without the help of generous fans. I always despised asking for funding, but if there is one thing worse, it's not reaching my full potential because I didn't have the resources to make the last bit of difference. So with the season behind me and some new ideas on the way Operation: Olympics Round Two is going to need your help.
 
            The season was a pricey one. When I said there were some narrowly missed opportunities here and there, what those misses cost me could be measured in results and monetary Euros. For a brief time, with the help of some generous support, I thought I had more than what I needed, then it was close to, and finally when the totals came in I fell short by a substantial amount. For the record, it was worth it. I needed those races, pricey or not. February's personal training camp in Antholz was top quality compared to the alternative of a trip all the way back home. Everything contributed to having enough success to set up national team support for this coming training year.

          The coming training year has a hand full of ideas on the table. Nothing is set in stone yet. Part of the reason these ideas have not been laid out is because they are not cheap. The changes I want to make on my rifle would require a plane ticket. The opening for some training in Lake Placid might require a place other than the OTC to hold up at. And yes, gas can add up when you have to drive anywhere from 40 minutes to training or eight hours for a training camp. Food is pricey when only the top quality nutrition will do. Those, plus the unpredictable equipment breakdowns and that, of course, includes vehicle maintenance. This isn't an attempt to sell the situation as gloomy, more so just highlighting what's needed to make the most of this coming Olympic year.

         This is where the rallyme campaign comes into play. As mentioned earlier, I'm not a fan of having to do this. Hence, this is the first time I've taken this rout. It's a bit unclear how the donating system works, but rallyme is popular site and has had success for plenty of athletes in similar situations. The introduction on the site is similar to this update, but includes the outlet to donate.

           Lack of commitment has never been my weak point. I still maintain that it is a matter of playing the right cards at the right time more than it is gifted talent. With your support I can better make the right changes needed to secure another Olympic team naming. Needless to say any donation will very much appreciated. The dead line is May 20th. If you have any questions you can reach me at currier407@gmail.com.

As always, thanks again!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Less Text More Pisxels Round Three

      It was a decent year for the camera. Not a great one, but "okay" at the very least. There was no pictures taken from Beitostolen, NOR, but officially that's where the season started. That said, these pictures are actually in order. More info on operation 2018 Olympic season to come. For now, here are some of the better pictures from the past few months.




The icy path to breakfast in Ostersund Sweden
And then we were in Slovenia...
Yeah, SLO is not so bad.
Just getting lost on a run in Nove Mest, CZ.




Impressive crowd size from the Nove Mesto WC.

An easy classic ski in Oberhof, Germany.

I wonder if they planned this when they planted those trees like that in Dusniki Poland.

All in one afternoon run at Euro Champs.


The post Euro Champs ride into Slovakia could have used a cow catcher.
Green light outside our window on snowy night. What timing.
Seldom sunny in Brenso, Slovakia.
You sure do get to room in some interesting places.




Russell attempts to travel via train with a ski bag. 

An average sunny warm day in Antholz, Italy.

Most days the side walk in Kontiolahti, Finland is in better shape than the actual road. 

 Tiny houses in Otepaa, Estonia. 
Racing in the bright purple of USA at the IBU cup in Otepaa. 
One of my favorite venues, the Tehvandi stadium in Otepaa. 



The final race of the season. The mass start in Jericho, VT