Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Weekend on USA Snow

        Since my last update time zones have been crossed. Races have been denied, won, and, if nothing else, hard fought. There is a lot more on my mind at the moment, but it's fair to my blog readers that I start by updating the status of my season since the last post. Hopefully, within the next ten days I'll have a more rounded update on what's happening in the world of Stockholm's top biathlete, but for now here is the past few(ish) weeks.

       I recall saying that the US IBU cup team had one more race to go. The mixed relay in Otepaa, Estonia. The sinuses and throat were far from 100%, but at that point the plan was to go for it. Here's a fun fact: on the day of the mixed relay the British team accidentally packed my race bib into there bag and proceeded to leave Otepaa for the season. I didn't know this and needed it for zero, not to mention starting the race at all. After some professional panicking the organizers whipped up a make shift race bib. It was official enough to get me zeroed in one of the most brief pre-race zeroings I've ever done. Shortly after, one of the British athletes came running through the stadium to return the bib. We all make mistakes. It was nice to see everything workout in just enough time. Unfortunately, having a race bib didn't make a difference. I was the third leg of four. The US team that day was lapped on the last lap of the second leg. I remember being in the tag off zone and having the IBU official look at me and say "I think you not race today." There wasn't much I could do about it. These days happen.

       Did I mention I wasn't 100% recovered from that sore throat and cold? Did I mention I had to cross more than half a dozen time zones? While it's open to debate, the best guess is a post nasal drip brought on by a nasty cold. Whatever it was, I can still feel trace amounts of the sore throat that originally manifested after the 20km individual in Finland at the start of the month. In this line of work, a few sick days can be a disaster, so anything that last as long as this one did is a set back. Thankfully, the bulk of the season was over. The trip home was mostly glitch free. I lucked out and was able to convince the sister that picking me up at the Boston Airport was a good idea. -20 is bad enough, travel might be higher on the list of things I'm not going to miss post retirement.

      When I did make it home the urge to fully relax was prevalent. After all, it was mid March. The last time I was home was at Xmass. The warm fire, and local fresh eggs in the morning made a strong case for not even bothering to unpack race gear. Obviously, I didn't let the urge get the better of me. Within a few days I found myself in Madawaska racing the famous 40km. Everyone had a good time. The snow was soft. Last year I completed the race in about 90 mins at a light threshold effort. This year the recent snow storm made for some soft conditions. Not my strong point, so it was a good day to work on less desirable conditions. I was happy to finish in under two hours.

      And now this brings us to the final stretch of the 2016-2017 racing season. That is, of course, US nationals. I won't go into the details, but it's nice to see the A team make a showing at US nats whether they like it or not... In the past racing a NorAm or making it out to US champs was a bit of a lost cause. Given the lack of depth in the NorAm biathlon field any racing outside of Europe was barely worth it. That's hasn't been the case for the past couple of years. This year we all had a chance to race against world championship medalist. Thankfully the races were held in Jericho, which meant they were within driving distance for us northern Mainers.

      Poor weather conditions are never an excuse. You can curse the race day snow fall all you want, but it won't make it go away any faster. You simply have to deal with it. This was the case on the day of the sprint race. Maybe in December coping with a snow storm would be acceptable, but at this point in the season it's not what any of us were in the mood for, including me. And what would you know, I prevailed and won my first US biathlon sprint title. To the best of my recollection the mass start and pursuit title are in there, so I can check the sprint format off of the list. It was the first day I woke up with almost no trace of sore throat. Snow was in my front sights and it took me about 10 or 15 seconds of blowing into it to clear it out enough to see the target clearly. After this was done I hit all five and gladly dodged the penatly loop. The snow was slow, to say the least. There was no gliding to be had. Which meant no recovery. I missed two in standing and thought a podium was feasible. When I finished, I had heard Lowell had only missed one. A second was sounding likely. Much to my surprise, I was able to ski myself to a win, despite two misses in standing. A win doesn't happen very often so this was a nice boon to the end of the season.

       The pursuit and mass start were solid races. I finished third in the pursuit and fourth in the mass start. One less miss in the mass start could have potentially put me on the podium, but that's how the sport works. It's important to note that racing this time of year is different from racing in January or mid February. Top level athletes peak for the most important races of the season. The results late in the season or even at the start are often not the best indicator of an athletes best performance. So you have to take this past weekend with a grain of salt. Still, racing is racing and I was pleased with the outcome.

        Now we are back into the spring time. The best time of year for many in winter sports. There is lot to extrapolate on but that will have to wait for another day. Lets just say, I'm trying to tackle some unexpected bills and potential expenses for the coming year. That, and how to make the most out of training. Which means I need to take everything into considerations to generate the best strategy. If all goes well I'll be competing on my second Olympic Team.




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