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.