Monday, May 21, 2018

Some Thoughts Part I

                   Naturally, I was highly recommended to hit the ground running when it came to post retirement paths. Since, I hate being told what to do (even when it's good advice sometimes) and I can only put 100% into one goal at a time I did not exactly have a whole career waiting for me after my long biathlon life wrapped up. Figuring out what I wanted and or could do was the closest thing to a plan. I had the impression that this ordeal would take a while (for a number of reasons) and within that time span I would be able to fully take in the last 16 years and leave is conclusively in the back of my mind. Events did not pan out this way. Within a few days I had a job lined up and a place to move into before the end of April! Here's what happened and hasn't happened yet.

         When the dust had settled after my semi vacation in Bozeman, MT I immediately took to the spring skiing in the mornings. This was one of the better years for skiing on the crust. Crust skiing is the gold standard for XC skiing and I'll always look forward to every spring that it's available. That was the mornings, the afternoons had at least some attention on the new life front. The details of how I was going to make it happen were still up the air. The goal was to find a spot where I could work and make enough to move out of the rents house. Then, grind out that day to day life until I felt like moving on to something more ambitions. The attempt to make it as an athlete proved chaotic and inconsistent. I was not in the mood for something stressful and was willing to pursue something boring and repetitive if it meant having dependability in my life for change.  Thanks to some good friends I was able to find a nice place to call home and job that fits within those parameters. The last week at the house in Stockholm was a busy one. Between packing, skiing and a 24 hour trip to DC I didn't have much time to think.

      Somehow, enough of the shenanigans came together to for me to make it to work on time the following Monday morning. I currently work at a landscaping company based out of Saco, ME. I'm not the most mechanically inclined and can't back up a trailer to save my life, but tedious manual labor is second nature. If there was every a generalization that northern Mainers are the go to employees to work their asses off then I'm doing my part to keep that generalization in tact. My arms are always covered in scrapes from rose bushes and my farmers tan is back in full force. The real draw back is the 45 minute drive each way. Audio books help alleviate this otherwise wasted time.

       Don't bother trying to find me. The address will not show up on google maps which by 2018 standards means I'm as good as invisible. Living quarters is the basement of an old friends place. With the walls and ceiling recently redone with pine it looks and smells like a lovely sauna in here. Plus I added xmass lights and a window plant to say I contributed. At night I can hear the loons and the chickens keep us supplied with plenty of fresh eggs. The drive to most anywhere is at least 20 minutes. Downtown Portland is 45 minutes away. That's about the distance that I want it at. Close enough to try a new restaurant whenever I feel like it, but far enough so that I'm not living near a city in any form.

       Nothing is perfect. The truck is running fine for now, but the long drives are not helping it's 200,000+ miles. The traffic is horrendous compared to driving up north. Despite not having any obligation to train nor having to pack up and leave every two weeks I still don't have all that much free time on my hands. I've removed more ticks than I care to count already. I've spent a night in the hospital since I've moved here but that's another story. I could go on, but these are all first world problems and everything is actually more under control than it was a year ago which is what I was hoping for all along.

      Once an athlete always an athlete. Not sure where that came from, but it's proved true for me thus far. I did some hard running intervals last week. I squeezed in a three hour run this weekend to see how my legs held up should I chose to do the longer event this coming weekend at Pineland Farms.  The truth is I have yet to fully think over the previous career as an aspiring athlete. This didn't fully hit home until I had to send a official letter of retirement to USADA. I hovered over the send button for a few minutes before I was able to do it. The details on that will have to wait for another update. This is here to let you know just where and what exactly I'm doing, should you have wondered.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Even More Pictures

Spring skiing was so great this year. If you're going fast enough the snow starts to feel sharp. 

Oh and I had another tour of the white house this April.

Not too many bargain priced furniture and paintings in this place. 

Last day at the house before heading south. 

       A more detailed update is still in the works. I know I've said that before, but it's been a busy few weeks. Some thoughts on the past 16 years and some info on what I've been up to lately. April has been an entertaining one. A couple of weeks in Bozeman, great spring skiing on both sides of the country, a 24 hour trip to DC, catching up with friends, and general sense of freedom.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

More Pictures

Sunny and snowless in Soldier Hollow

Or at least naturally lacking snow anyways

Bozeman however, not so devoid of winter just yet. 

The crust skiing up at Fawn pass was not so bad.

It actually doesn't get much better than this.

Still found time to get on the crust back home.

The subtle differences between crust skiing in MT and ME.

Monday, April 2, 2018

US National Championships Of Championships

         This past week brought me to Soldier Hollow in Utah. This past week was also officially the last series of biathlon races of my career. The full details on that thought will come in another update. The full impact hasn't set in yet. This is just a quick break down of how the three day racing extravaganza played out. That, and how and why I'm not back in the far right end of the States.

         We all expected much less from the trail conditions. The reports were coming in from Soldier Hollow were not so positive and we all thought it was heading for the back up venue in Casper Wyoming. This fear was gone when it was clear that the man made snow effort was going to make the races smooth. There was also some salt usage in the snow just to top it off. All three days had hard pack and fast conditions. We were anticipating a drudge through the slush on a 1.2km loop. Instead we raced on a full 3.3km loop. The effort that went into making a ribbon of hard packed snow on a landscape of brown was appreciated.

      Not unlike the past couple of years the races were pretty similar. It kicked off with a sprint format, followed by a true pursuit, then the glorified mass start style race. While the conditions differed from my expectations the relaxed atmosphere that I expected was exactly how I thought it would be. The warm temps and sun only encouraged the laid back feeling among the athletes that made it out. All this combined with the pending last race of my career in the back of my mind made the three races feel surreal.

       Still, once an athlete always an athlete. I landed in late on Monday. I booked my hotel on what was the cheapest- big mistake. I also didn't rent a car and had to carefully talk my way into a transport. Nevertheless, I had a bed and never missed a race start. The results were irreverent, but that didn't stop me from doing some combos and high intensity training during March in preparation. I was pleased with the ski speed in all three races. I liked the course profile and conditions, but with that altitude and time of season there was no promise that I would be able to do much damage on ski speed, so good ski speed was a sign that I'm not that old yet. Shooting, after all these years, was still my weak-point. There were a few good stages in the three races, that proved how long I've been doing this and the rest made me feel like I was 16 years old again. Such is life. Not once did the successfully hit targets feel lucky or undeserved.

       There is a lot to be said about the last stretch of the final loop during the mass start. Even fully exhausted I couldn't help but appreciate a foreign feeling of knowing this was the end. That was a new one. This is where there is a lot to be said about... all of it. There is lot more to be said then there is to be said about the this year's US Nationals. So obviously that will have to wait for another day. Some of it will be positive,  some of it will not. There is no regret for my decision. It sure did feel much more last minute than I thought it would based on the reaction my followers have had. The truth is, this decision was 97% made two years ago. The remaining three percent had it's reasons.

      It has been a long and strange trip. It was as much mine as it was for the supporters of me that never gave up through the highs and lows. For now, I'm in Bozeman Montana for a semi vacation. I was already out west, so why not kill two birds with one round? With that said, I'm going to enjoy the brief moment in moving from the non real word to real world transition. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Semi Super Tour Finals

       Despite my best efforts, next thing I knew I was waiting at the starting line for a classic five km race in Vermont. This is what a weekend in winter would look like when I was 15. At age 30 I didn't exactly see this coming, but sure enough I raced the first classic leg of the relay at SuperTour finals this last Sunday in Crafstburry, VT. The 15km mass start skate was on Saturday. If you break the weekend down some parts were working in my favor and some were not. In the end, none of it really mattered. I was there to thrash and have fun. Results in the xc and biathlon world are somewhat irrelevant now.

        So what went well and what was working against me? The skate race was fun, because there was actually enough snow this year. Not as much as we have back home, but enough to race the full 5km loop. Even more helpful, was the hard packed conditions. When it's not slushy or icy it's fair. You can use good technique and pace yourself accordingly. The course profile was also to my liking. Nothing too technical and with a couple of drawn out climbs.
      That much was in my favor, but the race was not devoid of disadvantages. The whole weekend was planned on a whim. With that in mind, I was searching for a good pair of skis to race on. While I was able to find a wax tech with many thanks to the team from Bozman, the quality of skis was a missed opportunity. Everything was coming together too close to the last minute. There was a fast pair of skis from a higher level at my disposal. They were flown over from Europe after the previous world cup. Unfortunately, without any cell service I wasn't able to find them in time to have them in the mix. My skis were decent, but I was loosing more than I wanted to on the downhills. Craftsburry is also a course that I suspect some wax teams know significantly better than anyone else in the USSA crowd. 

        The other disadvantage I had to contend with was racing in bib 49. In a crowd of 118 this could have been much worse. I was glad to have been moved up as much as I had. Still, 12 kms of that race was spent fighting through the masses. Poles were stepped on, certain words were used, and often I had to slip through a narrow opening to move up at all. I made the best use of the climbs as I could. By the time the race was down to a few kms I could see the lead pack. At that point it started to break up and at that point I was too far out and had spent most of my push just clawing my way up to that point in the first place.

      Overall, it was an alright race. I was glad when it was over and was pleased where I ended up given the extra distance I added skiing around others. If I was really concerned I should have planned ahead better on ski choices. A better start placement could have been had if I had done a USSA race at all prior to Saturday. The damage I did on the climbs was noted and I'm confident I could have been with the lead group were things a little different. Still, fair is fair.

         And yes I did a classic race on Sunday. For reason unknown to me, it did not occur to me that I should ski in my race skis before the start to give some feedback on the kick wax. So long story short, there was a lot of double poling going on during that race. Without very much kick it's supper hard to make a fast transition into striding on the climbs. The extra effort spent on really pressing the wax pocket only added to the frustration. Thankfully, much like the skate race, this race wasn't much more than just for the fun of it. The rest of my teammates (Clair, Raleigh, and Susan) did pretty well and we were not all that far back.

       Come to think of it, that concludes what could be my last xc racing experience. I'm trying not to overthink it right now. I was in southern Maine before the end of the day. On Monday I flew out of PWM and landed in SLC. Now I'm in Heber City, UT hoping there is enough snow to make US Biathlon Nationals happen. Again, these races don't have very much weight on them. Maybe I'm just looking for some closure. It might actually just be authentic Mexican food that I'm really after.

Friday, March 23, 2018

One Last Effort

        The warm care free feeling of calling is done for the season was a tempting one, there's no denying that. But we all knew that wasn't going to happen. Without being able to bring home any start bibs from the games my last real race of the season would have been the sprint world cup in Antholz back in January. So what started out as a pretty simple out and back to Solder Hollow turned in a spider web of elaborate planning. It took a lot of texting and staring at a computer screen but, for now, everything has momentarily come together.

      The first leg of my end of season racing project starts on Thursday. I'll fly out of Presque Isle (while it's still PenAir and NOT United) into Boston and then landing in Platsburg, NY. From there I should have a ride from the airport to Lake Placid where I can procure a pair of my training skis and race poles that somehow found themselves at the OTC. This is why I had to fly into up state NY, rather than driving over. I never requested to have my gear in LP, but whatever... On Friday morning I'll get a ride down to Craftsburry VT.

       US SuperTour finals for XC are in Craftsburry this year. I was aware of these races and the opportunity they brought to racing in the east, but I still wasn't really giving them the time of day. That was, until I was convince to jump into the mixed relay on the 25th. The ones doing the convincing were all biathletes. This meant that I was voted in to do the classic leg of the relay. I don't have any remotely competitive classic gear so I had to contact some help and now have a pair of klister skis to borrow for this occasion. This should have been the end of it but... Since I was in the Craftsbury area the thought of the mass start 15km skate race crept in. So making that happen became a part of the planning. Which is why I'm leaving Thursday. Friday will be a course warm up day and Saturday will be a competitive one to tackle. Any good racing skis that I have are in Europe and while I will see them again at some point, I had to pull some strings to get a good pair on their way to Vermont for this skate race.

       As I said, the last real race I did was in January. Thankfully I was in decent shape way back then. This is US XC spring series and some the men have been racing well in the distance races this year. I haven't raced against this group in a while so I really have no idea what my status is going into this race. For all I know I could be near the top or I could fall on my face both figuratively and literally. Late March is always an interesting time of year to see results. Some of the top racers can fall off the list just because it's not the peak racing part of the season. So here goes whatever.

       The relay is on Sunday. Start order hasn't been nailed down, so I could very end up doing a five km skate race. The thought of racing classic was reason enough to make an appearance at the Henry Anderson Memorial Ski Dag this past Sunday. For as much snow as we've been having the conditions were well groomed. It was fun to try a slightly different style of ski racing but I think I'll stick with skating when I can. Still, I have at least one hard classic ski effort under my belt before I jump into a national champs relay. It's five km classic male, then five km classic female, then five skate male and 5 skate female. I think... the details are still unclear, but it will come together when we all meet up in Vermont. 

        On Monday I have a ride to the Portland Airport. This is where the focus switches back over to biathlon. The US Championships are held in Solder Hollow this season. I have a place booked in Heber City. The snow coverage of the venue was a pending issue all year, but since no one has heard otherwise yet, it looks like the races will still happen. They might be on a 1.5km look, but happen nevertheless. It's the same deal as the past two years. First day is a sprint, then a pursuit, and ending with a mass start. All in the Thursday to Saturday time span. Solder Hollow might not have the climb that Fort Kent does, but it is at altitude.

         This is the last race trip effort of the season. Without much race experience in the past two months, it will be interesting to see where I end up. The training has been there and I haven't been sick much at all this season so there is plenty of reason for optimism.

         Once the racing is done the logistics of the trip are not over. Since I will have made it all the way out west what is an extra sixish hour ride into Bozeman MT? I'll be there for a couple of weeks, with no immediate itinerary other then to relax. It will be April by then and much more of a justified timing to relax then the alternative of calling done before it was even March. With or without the race starts it's been a long season, and the next two weeks of racing followed up with some Bozeman sky will be a fitting end.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Pictures Round 2

Through the tunnel at the Nations House Village
Team Sweden's house

One last afternoon jog.

Closing ceremony was pretty slick. 

Nothing a 13 hour flight through 14 hours of time change to make it feel like it never happened.

Back in northern Maine where snow is. 

It just won't let up. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

There And Back Again


           And just like that it'a all rapped up and done. I'm back where I started in Stockholm. This place felt foreign for about five minutes when I got home at about six in the morning. Shortly after it was as if I never left. Which feels off considering less 12 hours earlier I was in South Korea. The change of pace from this past February compared to my February a couple of years ago when I didn't qualify for any teams is staggering. Oddly enough, I still did more racing two years ago. Everyone put a maximum effort. We didn't have the results that we wanted, but that's no easy task in one of the most competitive and challenging sports that took place in Pyeong Chang. Still, everyone had a good time and I was happy to be there when I arrived and just as happy when I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to make the bus ride into Seoul to fly out.

       No racing was had by me. It was close for the relay when one of our guys was sick only a few days prior. My job was to be the reserve. This meant being ready in case any of the other four guys were not. It's a long trip over to Korea and if someone isn't feeling well it would be a shame not to fill the whole quota. Not to mention the risk of not having a spare athlete for the relay. I never let up on training and made sure to be in peak shape in case I did wind up on the start list.

        For the most part, everything ran smoothly. Something as large as the Olympic games is a logistical nightmare. For everything to function at all requires a level of organizations I can't even imagine.  That's not an excuse for problems, but it's reason to complain less when the transport buses don't have enough space. Some of the elaborate steps needed to do just about anything felt obnoxious to me, but by the end of the three weeks I had most of it figured out.

       The truth is, we were obligated not to complain even if we wanted to. The impression that I got from the presentation at the start was to stick with your run of the mills generic neutral answers to any media interviews. If you've ever wondered why so many athletes come off as bland and lacking personality, this might explain why (although some could give that impression anytime of the year). While I'm at it, we were also told that the Olympics were supposed to be sponsor free and "for the athletes" or some slogan like that, more than they were for the commercial effect. I found this odd given the amount of Nike and Ralph Lauren apparel we were instructed to wear properly. Maybe, by "sponsor free," they were only referring to help that might go directly back to the athlete. Wouldn't want that to happen, now would we?

         The month as a whole was worth it. Despite my bitterness towards the corporate side of the Olympics, or the time spent in the elevator, or the puzzle that it was trying to go anywhere outside of our apartment, all of it was worth the time and effort it took to get there. I was never able to compete and the US biathlon team didn't have the results that we wanted, but at the very least I know that we did everything we could. Biathlon just isn't the sport to promise medals in. If you want to do that, choose one of the other sports that typically has less than 20 athletes competing on a world cup level. Long story short: Some results weigh more than others. This is why I have to say hats off to Kikkan Randal and Jessie Diggins for winning the team sprint in XC. That was a long time coming and what a way to break the medal threshold. We weren't watching the race in person, but we were all cheering during the live coverage.

          The rest of the season was unclear to me. I was the fifth man. Unlike the Olympics the US mens team can race up to five guys in a world cup. The hope was to get back into some high level racing during March at the world cup seven and eight. Unfortunately, I wasn't named to the last two WCs. You could argue that I was qualified to, but USBA has their reasons and ultimately there is nothing I can do about it. So after all the stress of not knowing, now that I do know where I'm not going I don't know where I should go in place of. Currently I home and trying to keep a low profile while I can. US nationals for Biathlon are in the works, but that doesn't fill the void between now and late March. To be honest, I'm slightly exhausted and might just stay home and train.

        It was nice to see so much snow on the ground when I made back to the north of Maine. It was a long trip home and coming back to another false winter with trace amounts of snow was not what I wanted. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. There is a local race this Saturday at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle. I plan on trying to beat my sub 20 min 10km time there from a couple of years ago. I don't think the snow will be as fast, but it's worth a try. If you would like an inside gossip perspective on life in the athlete village feel free to show up and just ask.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Pyeong Chang ! Presented To You In Color!

Alright! Here we go! This time we have some photographic evidence of a life in the Pyeong Chang life from the athlete's view. Hope you enjoy. 

The lighting was not taken lightly. 

Walking back from dinner at 11pm.

The USA masses waiting to march during the opening ceremonies. 

Add caption

They don't put much effort into hiding which country is based out of which building. 

So much time spent in this elevator trying to get to the 15th floor. 

An afternoon classic ski on the XC course. 

The dinning dome. 

Walking up to the Alpensia biathlon Venue. 

A view of the XC stadium from the biathlon stadium. 

This place comes in handy. 

Last hill before meandering into the stadium and range. 

Lower level wax cabins.

Watching the sun go down waiting for the bus back. 

The sort of captures the inconvenience of logistic during the games. 

Walking back view from the other direction. 

I really like the bright and colorful lights that keep you ever awake on the buses.