Tuesday, February 28, 2012

That which is not Fun.

       I've said before that getting sick and having to sit out on the sport is in fact, a crucial part of the sport whether you like it or not. That said, I still dislike being sick as much now as I did when I was 14. I'm not completely sure what it is I have this time. Is it bacterial, viral, a continuation of what ever it was I picked up in Finland, or something new from the Scheeburg? Regardless, I want the bad stuff out of the system and the good happy feeling back on top priority.
       After Finaland the team went back to Antholz for a semi easy week. Energy levels were fine and all was well, except for the fact that I was sleeping more than usual. This may not sound like a bad thing, but it was out of the ordinary for me. Since this was a minor issue at best I let it slide and didn't think much of it.
Desert buffet anyone?
        And then came Ridnaun. Ridnaun is a yet another gorgeous valley in northern Italy and the Scheeburg hotel only complements the place even more. The first day we were there I noticed my legs felt a little more heavy than I expected. There were multiple explanations for this and I figured a nice massage would fix all. The next day my legs were very sore and made it feel like I was working with rusted steel cables instead of the normal coiled springs that I strive for. Nevertheless ski speed was still strong and the coaches seemed pleased. We did an Italian cup on Saturday. This was after two fairly easy days of training. I cleaned prone, but missed three in standing. I was not discourage but this that much. I'm still confident about standing and was glad to have put five shots in the nine and ten ring for prone. What concerned me was how bad I felt on the skis. We had no wax techs and were limited on ski selection, but I knew something didn't feel right. I told the coaches and once again they said everything looked great from there perspective. I checked the result list and sure enough it wasn't that bad of race after all. So untimely how much did it matter if I didn't feel optimum? If the ski speed was there what more did I need?
        Turns out I wasn't crazy. The next day I woke up with an upset stomach. I had little difficultly getting down my normal breakfast... That was the last full meal I've had since then. Nutella doesn't even sound appetizing anymore. That's when you really know something's wrong. I feel drained and constantly have an upset stomach. On one occasion I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. The head rush was so bad that all I remember was holding onto the door frame and breathing, next thing I knew I was on the floor, wondering why my perceived bed felt so different.
        So as you can see I'm not doing so well at the moment. Thankfully I still have enough time to rid myself of this malevolent intruder before the first race in Rupholding. But, the sooner I can recover the better. I'm on some pro-biotics coupled with the usual battery of vitamins. It seems to be going in the right direction- slowly but surely. Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Things I Think About

           Here's a thought. The other day I asked Lowell a question. It was "do you remember that last night in Korea back in 09 when we ended up in the German's room and we all had Kaiserschmarrn (German pancakes) at three or four in the morning?"
The hazy memories of karaoke at World Champs in South Korea
           From there I started to wonder what it would be like to go back in time to when I was ten years old and  tell ten year old Russell that exact same sentence. Nothing more, just that one random excerpt from age 24. How would somebody interpret that? It could have endless meanings. Now, I know it was just one of the shenanigans from the last night of world champs in 2009. Back then in 1997, who knew what to think of something like that?... Strange.

...Maybe it's a good thing I can't go back in time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sure Why Not

     Wow that was a busy weekend! I had plenty of confidence going into the Kontiolaht races, but I didn't expect it to pan out the way it did. For the most part, I mean that in a good way. That indisputably satisfied feeling that I had after the sprint race in Nove Mesto... Well it came back for another day. A very cold and surreal day.
       When I woke up Friday morning with an unusual feeling in my stomach I shrugged it off and  tried to go back to sleep. I could not go back to sleep and finally admitted to myself that I was officially sick. The mixed relay was not going to happen. This was the only part of the weekend I didn't like. I consumed what little food I could and mopped around my hotel room for most of the day. Thankfully my absence did not hinder the US's relay with there sixth place!
        I went to the pre race meeting later on that night. I was feeling better and optimistic. My plan was to just wake up 100% the next morning and have a solid race. This was almost true. I felt much better. Maybe not 100%, but the ambition was all there, legs felt springy, and I didn't want to wait three weeks for my next chance at racing. I made the call my self and raced.
        The goal was to stay in the top 40. With the way my stomach was feeling just making the top 60 for the pursuit was a new goal. The wind was up, but consistent. I didn't have to take any clicks in prone. As if cleaning the stage wasn't enough, the work Armin and I did the week prior cut off an extra few seconds off my range time. Skipping that penalty loop will always feel good. Ski speed was feeling good, but also a little uncertain. I didn't have as much info or other racers on the course to get a good idea of how I was going. I broke the course down into increments. Racing one part of the race at a time feels easier than knowing you have a lot more ahead of you to go. Standing made for the climax of surrealism. I skied onto the mat, took the rifle off, loading my one remaining clip, closed the bolt, and the next thing I knew the last target was down. I don't even know what the penalty loop looked like that day. I still didn't think I was on par for another great one. That changed when sure enough, as I round the corner I hear Grant yell the words "top eight"! The splits from Jonne after that only got better and better. I put in one hard push over the last climb and then held on for dear life over the flat before the finish.
       When you're an early starter you have to take your "results at finish" with modest consideration because the whole field hasn't gone through yet. When you're the third to last guy out there's a good chance you don't have to do that. As if the first time wasn't enough I was in the top six again. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the second time. I wasn't flooded with as much attention this time, but none of that mattered. I was going to have to go to another awards ceremony anyway.
        The glory of the day was far from over. Turns out this was the best day the US mens team had ever had in US biathlon history. I didn't even have our top result. Lowell was fifth, Tim was 12th, and Jay 16th! We had so many compliments from every one on what a great day it was for our team.
post race

         Alright, so I moved down some in the pursuit. On the other hand I had my best four stage range time, highest rank ski time, and 23rd in world cup is still a great day for me. I would have liked to have a few more hits in standing, but I wasn't the only with an extra miss or two that day. It was a good day for our whole team again.
        Over all I think this weekend represents how hard our team has worked in years past. We're not training any less or worse than the other teams. There is no reason not to have more weekends like this one.  The organization as a whole is a well oiled machine. The athletes, coaches and staff were only doing what we've been training to do all summer. From a process standpoint this was just another day at the office for team USA.
         Sunday was an epic day. There is so much detail I could go into, but these updates are time consuming. Let's just say the Finnish don't mess around with their saunas, the dance clubs don't close until three in the morning, and try not to listen to yourself when your singing karaoke. I hope you enjoyed reading. I know my grammar isn't always spot on, but right now this blog is the only thing keeping it functional. As always, thanks for the support!


Thursday, February 9, 2012


          Limited sunlight, cold temperatures, and repetitive trees, could we be any more in Finland? Kontilahti got the bid for a world cup and world juniors this this year. Here's a quick run down of my impressions of the host for the 2015 World Championships. I haven't been here in a long time but the nostalgia is undeniable. I just can't remember it being this cold out.
Since when did seven years go by?
          The last time I was here was for world juniors back in 05. I still think it's creepy that the year two thousand and five is considered a long time ago... Anyways, The scenery hasn't changed much. The trees still look like they were strategically planted. There is lots of snow and I don't see how there couldn't be. Every sign has a loopy word on that would make you giggle if you heard a Finn pronounce it. Suomi means Finland by the way. The side walks are still maintained better than the roads are and the locals seem to keep to them selves.
          The current theme is temperature. We're pushing the point where Kelvins might be a more efficient way to measure the outdoor temp. I've been throwing on layers of clothing I didn't think I would have to use this season. If you're getting strange looks from other athletes while training it probably means that there are white spots on your face. I know this from experience from this morning. My cheeks are still sore. We were supposed to have the sprint race tomorrow. Since it was looking to be cold they decided to have the mixed relay instead. Now it's looking to be so cold that the word “cancellation” has been tossed around. We'll see how this one pans out.
Maybe some forest just grow in grids? 
          For the most part I'm still very content to be here. When ever I go for an afternoon run people are always out walking or riding a bike. That last part was not a type-o mind you. And unlike Antholz or most of central Europe people here won't completely stop what they are doing and stare blankly at you as you run by. This may sound absurd to you but trust me the euro stare is a common phenomenon. Thankfully not so much around here. The food is good, at least in my opinion. Breakfast is the best yet. I've been purposefully eating a light dinner so that I can fully enjoy the glory trip that is my morning meal. Internet is almost out of the question... No surprises there. The showers are warm and modern. That's more than other places can say.
          So far so cold, but still good. I can't believe they decided to host a WC during the coldest time of the year. I sure hope world champs in 2015 is held in March. Then again, it'll probably warmer this time of year by then anyway. I'm on the last leg of the mixed relay tomorrow assuming they still have the race in the first place. Saturday is a sprint and Sunday is the following pursuit. For those of you interested in watching it back home you should know Finland is seven hours ahead of Eastern standard time, not six anymore.  

If you were needing further verification of my presence in Finland here it is.  

No mixed relay for me. Can't say I'm enjoying this right now. Should I take back all the nice things I said about the food? And to think I was having a good feeling about this weekends racing. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Really short stores: Russell Drives a Standard

      The automatic transmission is hard to come by around these parts. If there are two things that Europe doesn't  embrace it's peanut butter and an automatic vehicle. The BMW Xdrive that I got escorted in earlier this season is an exception, but other than that I can not think of one euro auto that didn't come with a clutch. I knew sooner or later this day would come. It was just a matter of time. I guess I just thought I would have more of a break in time then I did yesterday on our way from Munich to Antholz.
      There were a couple of attempts to teach me prior to yesterday. One of them involved our team VW van. This was back in 2009 while we were training in Ridnaun. I did "okay", but this only took place on an old dirt road with no traffic. The other occasion took place in what I think was 2006. The reason I can't remember it well is probably because it's a represses memory. Long story short I did not master the clutch on that lesson. 
       So with those two occasions behind me what chance did I have to drive the rental car from Munich to Brixen, Italy? I had no idea how to get there, am not a fan of euro traffic, and obviously it was a standard. Thankfully I had "Leif Nordgren's school of driving success" to fix all. The plan was to give it a half hour try and see if was bad enough to warrant plan B. Plan B was to have Patrick drive it down while Seth followed to then drive Pat back to Munich while Leif and I took the VW to Antholz. The problem with this plan was that it involved me feeling ashamed about my abilities for the rest of the week.  There was simply no room for failure. It was either do or die... Literally I suppose.
      After bumming around the streets surrounding the hotel and making a few swings through the airport I  was ready for the long haul. Or so I assured everyone. I had a cup of rather strong coffee. I very seldom drink coffee. I figured the trembling hands were a sign of alertness. The plan was to follow Leif who knew the way. My cell phone does not work in Europe so I really needed to not loose sight of the VW. I always had the GPS as a back up, but would have rather not have to use it. 
      Most of the trip was on the Autobahn. It wasn't dark and the traffic wasn't through the roof so for the most part the first hour was pretty easy. And then the coffee started to show it's ugly face. I had use the bathroom so bad and had no way of informing Leif. I tried my hazard lights and high beams, but as we drove by rest sign after rest sign it was obvious that I wasn't getting through. Since I knew I was getting better mileage in my small car than he was then surly I could just weight it out until he needed to make a gas stop?
       Turns out the gas stop didn't come fast enough. After a while it started to semi rain. I'm not really sure what it was doing out side mainly because I couldn't see anything. Who would have thought that the rental car didn't have enough windshield wiper fluid in it to make a two hour drive through the crappy and somewhat typical weather of central Europe?  I was driving almost blind for about 40 minutes. The bladder issue was now in second place to the visibility issue. At about 140kmph I could barley confirm that Leif was still in front of me. This was getting old very fast. When I had an open stretch I pulled up along side the VW and made motion with my hand to Leif that I needed to get the hell off the road.  
       As we pull over and I remember that I'm driving a standard and almost stall it in the exit to the rest stop. You can't stay in fifth gear for ever. When I got out of the car I realized that my heart rate was high enough to be considered low end training. I joyfully make way to the bathroom as Leif pops the hood for a refill. Naturally I stall the car on the way out because I forget to take the e-break off. I cursed the mud and grime on the window as I watch it wash away with the power of anti freeze. There were a few glitches here and there trying to pay the tolls as we crossed into Austria and Italy but it was never anything detrimental.
      I didn't enjoy driving through Brixen traffic, but I didn't look like too much of an idiot and that fact of the matter is myself and the rental made it to the Avis in one piece. There were some moments in there where I could understand the fun in driving a standard, but at the end of the day I still don't like driving regardless of the transmission. If nothing else it's a good skill to have in the US and an essential skill to have in a sport like biathlon. How I made it this far before the experience of yesterday is actually astounding. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Moving Forward

     Currently life is about to get very busy. This is just a quick rundown of what the next few days are going to look like. Also, the individual didn't go as well as I wanted it to, but it's still a step in the right direction.
      The team splits up this afternoon. Most of us will stay in Munich tonight. Tomorrow morning Leif and I will head to Armin's place back in Antholz. We'll have about four days of light volume and some shooting. Then it's back to Munich where I fly to Helsinki, Finland. After a night in Helsinki the rest of my flight continues to Kontiolahti. The rest of the WC field will be there from the last WC in Oslo, Norway. After the Kontiolahti
 races the whole team has a short rest week in Antholz. Then we head over to Ridnaun, Italy for the pre world champs camp. There's a lot of movement in there, but there is also a lot of down time in between the trips.
       U26s are pretty much done for the US team. Casey Smith has an individual later on today that we're going to cheer for. Goals were not met. I've been optimistic this whole time for good reasons though. None of the three races were a major set back. Yesterday I had the third fastest ski time. My second stage was simply unprofessional. I could not for the life of me get a first shot off and when I did I missed. I ended the stage with and additional miss to salt the wound. I used all of the four km loop to resettle myself and it work with a very solid clean prone. The first and last stage had one miss each and were mediocre.
         Mediocre just about sums up the last three races, but Finland is a new day. For the first time in years the primary focus of the season is world champs in Ruhpolding. Every new race is a new opportunity and this season still has plenty of opportunities left in it.