Monday, March 26, 2012

The Current Situation

       Sure does feel nice to be home. What doesn't feel nice is the lack of snow. It's not even April yet and I'm already clinging to the edges of the fields for what's left of spring skiing. When I was driving home at three in the morning last Tuesday I actually had to turn the AC on. That's never a good sign. As much as I want to go into full on spring hibernation (that doesn't sound right)  I still have one more race to go. And that's not all. The past few days have been relentless on the shenanigans scale.
        Alright so when I was in Khanty the Kamchatsky (don't bother trying to pronounce that) trip was mentioned to me. I had no idea what this was and needed some more details before making the effort. The deal is you go to Kamchatsky, Russia. It's in the far east of Russia and looks like a pretty cool place. Look it up on google maps if you don't believe me. Apparently there is just enough snow to hose a couple of races. It's been going on every April for a while now. Simon Fourcade has won the prize Lexus for the past couple of years. Anyways the organizers are paying to have athletes compete. So at the very least if I can make this trip happen I'll churn a profit. Making this trip happen is not as easy as most of my trips are. Most of my trips are not that easy at all in there own respect by the way. I need to get a Visa and buy my own ticket to Munich. Both are foreign projects for me. Seriously, I've never bought a plane ticket. The ticket will be reimbursed when I get there, but I need a Visa to get there and I'm not sure if my Visa is on good pace or not. I think I'm waiting for the application, but not really sure what I should be doing right now...? That's one project.
This picture was not taken anytime recent. 
       I'm making an attempt at some spring cleaning. I do this every year and throw out a little bit of the junk. By the end of the I've accumulated more junk than I've discarded... So the problem only gets worse. This is a pending issue that I'm going to ignore as long as I can. The point is it's very time consuming. I unloaded the better part of the day on the project yesterday and made little to no head way.
       Then there's the 50km down in Craftsbury, VT next weekend. Prep has been difficult for obvious reasons.  I did some threshold training down the road on the Snowy Mt trails this morning. The conditions were rutty and hard to work with. This was a good chance to learn how to work with the less desired snow conditions. Ideally you should have good ski technique no matter what the conditions. Bjorndalen is probably the best example of this. From the sounds of it the trails in Craftsbury are not going to be S class corduroy. I'm impressed that the race is still on at all.
          In other news buying a new computer is harder that I thought, my PlayStation died, the possession I was looking forward to more than any other for three months, and I dive into taxes. Last year I'm pretty sure I paid more in taxes than I made in income. Not sure how that works, but this year I think I'll take the charge on this one. 

          So things have been interesting and they are going get more interesting in the weeks to come. I'm still stoked to be home. The internet is fast and plentiful, maple syrup is awesome, and the TV shows are in English, but the're still crap. Wish me luck!
Crust skiing is the best way to ski of all. Sadly we're denied of it this year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

World Cup Finals

        I had to ask myself where I was this morning. It was the second time that day the clocks read nine. The weekend was long and a lot happened. I've never made it to the WC finals in Khanty. The racing was a good experience. There was a highlight or two in there while some parts I would rather forget. Just because the field is tired and ready for a break doesn't mean the season won't end with a bang. With the right kind of athletes even the far reaches of Siberia can make for a great time.
       The sprint race was a decent one. Racing at 4:30 in the afternoon almost brought back some memories of high school racing back. I missed my first target in prone. This didn't make the last four hits easy victories, but they went down. Ski speed was a little better on the second loop. I jumped in a good draft behind  German team athlete Benadict Doll. I told myself not to let standing get away from me. For the past month I've been killing it in standing during training and then letting it crash in the races. I took my time and logged a 37 second range time... That's not a good time. I almost made it out with a clean till I missed the last shot... How original. The best part of the race was the last loop. According to the split I got from Armin I was in 48th leaving the stadium. I was with Doll again. We were both passing other racers and I wasn't about to take the lead over too early. I didn't make a move until the second to last climb. It was roughly 800 meters to go. Most of the time I put in on the field was in that last 800 meters. I finish 37th on the day. Just inside the points.
         The pursuit race was a bad race, to make a long story short. The only highlight was the my first prone stage. Clean in 35 is probably my best prone stage this year. After that I went on to miss two in the next two stages. I was moving down, but was still with a group worth racing with. I was certain that I took another two misses in that last stage. So, I naturally did two penalty  loops. The targets in Khanty are technically electronic, but they function similar to a mechanical one. I was off the mat and getting my poles on before the last target went down. I didn't know this and was not thrilled when I found out. On the other hand a 75% day is better for the seasonal average than a 70%. There was nothing great about ski speed and number of factors to blame for it. With the two mediocre races there was no chance of making the mass start on Sunday. For the most part (depending on the snow situation in Craftsbury) my season was over when I crossed the finish line.
         We were limited on staff for this trip and our wax tech told me that I could hang out at the disco as long as I wanted provided I was at the wax cabin my 12:30 the next day. Our wax techs are always claiming that they have it pretty rough. In Gara'a defense it wasn't that easy. I logged about two hours of skiing around on the three km loop. We would switch skis from foot to foot or trade one ski for the other every few minutes. The first round was to find the right grind, the second for wax, and the last was the individual tests with Tim and Lowell. In conclusion there is admittedly a lot of organised effort that goes into the skis you race on that day.
Architecture much? 
         The closing ceremony was nice. They honored the overall point leaders and then put on an impressive display of acrobatics and dancing. The whole field migrated to the disco afterwords. It was nice to have a chance to chat with the other teams while everyone just wined down. That care free "season is over" feeling was ominous at the party. I didn't bother with a cab and ran back to the hotel at five in the morning. A structured sleep schedule is useless in this situation. With the jet lag that was ahead of us it simply doesn't matter when you sleep. Most of the team had flight out of Munich later on that morning. We were optimistic in thinking that we might have a chance at making it. Those chances were shut down before the plane even landed. It's currently 4:30 AM  in Munich as I finish up this article. Lowell and I are both up. I won't have internet for a while so why not?

           I'm so sorely looking forward to being back home in Stockholm. This season has broke a lot of records. One of them being the most time spent on the road. In the back of my head, I was starting to miss home by the end of January but didn't admit it to myself because I wanted to keep the focus on racing well. Now all I can think about is maple syrup and peanut butter on waffles. With in 24 hours from now I'll be back in the 04783 zip code. Awake or asleep is questionable.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


       Day two here in Siberia and so far all is well. Despite everything that I heard I still wasn't sure just what to expect. I wasn't expecting a smooth and easy trip over. I wasn't expecting mildly warm temperatures and I certainly wasn't expecting half decent internet. Some parts have lived up to their reputation. Others had no warning. Overall I'm feeling good about tomorrow's race.
       We left Ruhpolding at 7:30. The airport had a special charter flight for the athletes. This was a nice perk because the airport staff knew what to expect and everything worked smoothly for a change. The plane was an actual plane. I had heard horror stories about this particular flight. I was expecting some old rusted Russian MIG and instead I got a whole row of seats to myself! Going through customs was easy and all of our bags were there waiting for us. Excluding our rifles which were to be delivered to the venue apparently.
       Hotel rooms are fine. I don't think our floor has been cleaned in a while. I don't really mind things like that, but it is a little different from the standards set by other places. Also, don't drink the water! The food... works. Butter seems to be the main ingredient in most meals. There's minimal exaggeration on that one by the way. All three meals are buffet style. This is the best part. No longer do I have to sit away  an hour and a half of my life waiting for part three of my dinner. What you see is what you get and you can eat it as fast as you want. 
         The Khanty-Mansiysk venue is the biathlon version of the Scheeberg hotel in Ridnaun. It's a clockwork of hallways and gates. No one warned me about this one. The athlete entrance is a little path around a corner of some random building. Not sure how that one came into play. There is security all over the place. You couldn't even sneak onto the course if you tried. It is essentially an impenetrable fortress with out your credentials. I unwillingly familiarized myself with the maze yesterday trying to find the room with everyone's rifle. Once found, I realized I didn't have the key to my rifle case. 20 minutes later I'm opening the case and remembering that I had broken my firing pin just before I left Germany. Hats off to Armin for changing a firing pin on the range while zeroing the other guys at the same time.
         The part about this place that I really value so far is the course. This might be my favorite race course yet. There are no tight downhill corners. The snow holds up and doesn't turn to knee deep sugar like certain other Bavarian places. Most of it is in the woods giving it that cozy feeling of skiing back home. One part even takes you over a bridge overlooking the stadium. There's a good balance of terrain that suits my style. Once you know how to get yourself around, this place is down right fine. I would like to be able to bring my rifle back with me to the hotel room, but it's always a five minute walk away.
        I would also like to note that we are now five hours ahead of central Euro time. Here I was thinking that I would get closer to my native time zone as the season comes to an end. That said it's anything but over. Training felt very good yesterday. I'm looking forward to racing this weekend. I don't know what my start number is tomorrow but the mens race start at four in the afternoon. So... 11 in the morning if you live in Europe and five AM if you're from the county.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ruhpolding: Over

      Alright so this year's World Champs was a dud. I had one start and didn't exactly light it up. I didn't get a start in the individual or relay and with out a an individual opportunity I can't squeeze my way into tomorrow's mass start. This is how it goes sometimes. I've seen worse happen to others. WCHs might be over but the season is not. I did intervals this morning for a reason for a good reason.
Afternoon run much?
      It has only rained once so far here in Rainpolding. This is a wonderful surprise. Ironically I wanted it to rain at least once so as that I don't lose a certain bet. It's been warm enough to make me feel like I should be spring skiing. The thought of spring skiing in all it's glory is to distracting right now. When I'm on the trip back from Craftsbury, VT I'll concern myself with the details spring skiing. This morning was different. I had to create the racing feeling of Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. I did six by six minutes of skating threshold. Tomorrow I will do some easy distance. Shooting was very good today. I had one bad stage with three misses. The rest were clean stages. In that past few days I have not had one miss in standing. I wish I could say the same thing about my shooting in the sprint race, but thankfully I still have a chance at redemption.

       That's what Russia is for. Though I have never been to Russia, I have heard an adequate amount of stories. Some good, a lot not so much. What I have heard is that the course is suited to my liking and the conditions will be normal. That's more than Ruhpolding can say for it's self. There are three races. A sprint, pursuit, and a mass start. I have the capability to compete in all of them and that is the goal. After that it is an epic trip home and then the focus lies on a potential XC race to finish off the season- no official confirmation on that last one yet.
       World champs may have been a flake, but I'm here and I'm on the team. This has been by best season yet and for the sake of team funding I don't technically have to prove anything more. However, until I'm winning the overall world cup there will always be room for improvement. I've been in Europe for a long time now and if I'm going to be here a little longer I might as well make the most of it. The first step to a successful finish is to make it to Khanty in one piece- seriously a safe plane ride over is an accomplishment in it's self.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Death March.

       Yesterday was the sprint race for world championships here in Rupholding. It certainly wasn't my best race yet- that one is getting hard to compete with. Unfortunately it wasn't even close. On the other hand atleast I know how it turned out rather than having to sit it out and only wonder how it could have gone. With the way I felt a few days prior sitting out seemed pretty likely.
       I still don't know what I came down with. The results should be done by now, but everyone has been so busy we haven't had the time to discuss them. I was pretty much immobilized for four days. I was only able to stomach some cookies and orange juice in between laying helplessly on my bed. It was not looking good or at least not until Thursday. I'm not sure what went right for a change but it sure did the trick. I woke up ready to go. If this is a virus I'm glad it decided to take a break let me get on with my life just in time for the parts that matter.
        The last time I raceed in Rupolding was back in 2008. I thought this would good enough for the sake of familiarity. I was wrong. This is pretty much a new venue. It may look nice on TV, but make no mistake this is not my favorite place to race. I don't much care for the layout. It isn't terrible, but it's not the best I've ever seen. I had a hard time finding my way around and everything feels crammed, oh and our wax room is way too small for this caliber on event. These are of course only minor complaints. The real clutch is the course. How can so many things
go wrong in only 3.3 km? The weather is warm. Too warm if you can believe it. This destroys any chance of a groomed shape retention for the snow. If they had a few more trees along the trail  there might have been enough shade to at least help the problem. The profile isn't to my liking either. There is no gradual for those of us who like a little uphill V2 in our race. Everything is either a steep medium sized hill or flat. Oh and then there is the S turns. The ones everyone complained about last year. Apparently the organizers didn't care about the athletes opinion  and kept to corner the way it was. On a last note I would like to mention that one of the "new" electronic targets malfunctioned during the mixed relay forcing Bjoerndalen into the penalty loop.
        Aside from that last part, none of this makes for a justified excuse for a mediocre result. Which is exactly what I had. You see when the snow is soft and deep you can't really push as hard because you'll loose energy into the snow. Conversely, you can't really up the turn over because  you'll waste energy digging your skis out of the slush. Solution? I don't really know. Maybe that is why I had such  a poor ski time yesterday. I told the coaches afterwords that this is something we need to work on. The hard pack conditions are fine, but not the spring time racing conditions need some improvement. Shooting was nothing special. I missed my first target in prone. I'm stoked to say I hit the last four, because nothing's harder than trying to recover after a first shot miss. Standing was just bad focus. Someday's you're on and other days not so much. If you're Ricco Gross you were always on but that's not the case for me yet.
       Only the top 60 race in the pursuit. I was 63rd. Tim was 10th and Lowell was 20th. I don't know if I will race the individual or not. I've always stressed that this sport in viscous and inconsistent. I was simply on the bad side of the coin yesterday. The best thing to do now is gear up for the next potential shot at redemption. If nothing else I can still appreciate the luxury of everyday food now.