Friday, November 30, 2012

The Full Spectrum

       Strangely enough, as I type this one up there is a full spectrum lamp blasting into the corner of my eye. The days are a little short right now, but that hasn't stopped me from artificially recreating July. The real reason why "The Full Spectrum" is an appropriate title is because Wednesday's individual had a little bit of everything.
       That first race of the season always takes a lot out of you. This is increased when the first starter doesn't go out until 5:30 in the evening. I'm not much for sleeping in, so I had all day to mull those 20 kilometers over. That's the other part of the stress. Tomorrow's sprint is half the distance of the individual. 20 is just the right amount of distance to really push it before you can't sustain that hard race effort. The best part of the day wasn't finishing the race. The best relief came when I left the starting gate. Just having the opportunity to finally do the things you've been thinking about all day is a good feeling.
        Putting your intentions to action is the hard part. I didn't really plan on taking five for five penalties in the first stage. The temperature decided to drop significantly on race day. Cold enough to remove all sensation from my hands. I know for a fact that my trigger squeeze is world class and I've been working to make it even better this past fall. All that work goes out the door when your hands feel indifferent from the wood the stock is made from. Try going from a trigger that almost responds to the subconscious thought of shooting, to using an old rusted black powder rifle. I over held the sight picture while waiting for the shot to go off. The point is, I missed five before my first standing and that's a surreal way to start the second loop.
       While prone was a let down and a half standing was better than ever. Seriously this might have been my first full clean standing in a four stage race! After prone, there wasn't much to loose. "Just don't squeeze the trigger until you're on the target" I thought. Sure enough, if you keep it simple and follow the equation the targets will go down.
        The hands were functional shortly after the first stage. This is common trend by the way. There were other minor reasons for the first stage catastrophe. I knew where the trigger was on the second prone stage and that didn't stop me from taking on another three minutes. I don't have the energy to go into these minor reasons, but can promise that I'm tweaking them out of the way.
       And then there is the other half of the sport. Ski speed was decent. Maybe towards the better end rather than the slow side. I went with a pair of skis from last year. Per and I went over the course the day before and found a few corners that were worth timing better than I typically do. The coaches managed to compile a lot of video. Not just of our guys, but other countries as well. After watching myself ski I could that my arms and shoulders could use some improvement. Ski rank was 42nd. Almost within two minutes of XC world champion Lars Berger, whom I suspect is at a minor peak.
           So as you can see, I successfully crammed a dirty, two cleans, decent skiing, some flaring shoulders, and a threefer all in one race! Based off of race one it's evident that the mens field isn't any less competitive than last year. It was tight! When breaking down the results I was glad I took the corners better. I've already started experimenting with warmer gloves. This weekend is on pace for the Ostersund or "Coldersund" that we all remember. It's also snowing. In retro spec I take back what I said about the snow and temperature problems in the last post.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow is another opportunity.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Closing the Bolt

        Finally. The circus is back in town. After today's mixed relay training there is no doubt in my mind that racing season is back in full swing. Seeing all of the other teams cluster into a four km loop was more than enough to remember what it was like last February. Technically we have not had a world cup yet and the question of everyone's shape is still an unknown. As for me, I guess it depends on how you look at it. I'm pushing for the better point of view and hope to confirm that on Wednesday.
Can you tell me what's wrong with this picture?
       When the US team set out on the trail about a week and a half ago there were only a few other teams to share it with. The Canidain XC team, Russians, and Japanese to be more specific. Truth is, the trail probable can't handle any more athletes for that amount of time. It was below freezing once last week and has rained twice. This is not the Ostersund I've come to remember. The bulk of the snow came from the annual pile the organizers stock up in the spring. This ribbon of snow snaking through the woods still has wood chips in it from said pile. With or with out the winter spirit, it's not roller skiing, so who am I to complain.
Proof that I'm in Ostersund!

          It's nice to finally start in on that race season taper. Work outs are becoming shorter, and the legs are starting to feel anxious.  Lowell and I did some intervals yesterday. I didn't feel great and I didn't feel awful. If I did an intensity like this in July I would have give a better review. If this session was in February before world champs I would be a little concerned. There is more than one reason to feel confident in the shape right now. Especially considering that we're still working our way through November in a race season that stretches to March.
Woke up in a dark cloud this morning. 
         The real multi perspective part comes down to the shooting range. I would like to be able to leave this sport saying that my shooting is as strong as my skiing. That is, of course assuming that my skiing is fast and competitive at that distant point. Unfortunately, as of now you could argue that Russell Currier is still not a talented shooter. You could also argue that Russell has plenty of chance at success and has made clear progress on the shooting front. I am choosing to defend the second option. Since our arrival here, I can only recall three combo workouts that I've been pleased with. The rest have ended with frustrations and confusion as to why the percentages are not where they should be.
"Look you can see the mountains!"
"Per, I think those are just more clouds"

       For every problem there is a solution.  It's just a matter of finding that solution  Historically, when the shooting is in the gutter the coaches and I try something new. Afterwords, more often than not the percentages go up and all is well again. Three too four weeks later the touch wears off and I'm back where I started again. After a while with no success we try another change. And so the cycle continues. I suspect that this might just be a confidence issue more than anything mechanical, but what difference dose it make? The trimesters are only three weeks long. If there is any value to my theory than I should be fine for the next three world cup series. On Wednesday I gave this a lot of thought and talked the coaches into letting me use a larger sight ring. That, coupled with some self assuring confidence talk should be enough to do the trick... Right?

        The mixed relay is on Sunday. I will be watching from the TV, streaming internet, and the window behind my couch.  I'll probable do an easy classic distance in the morning on an 800 meter loop until I get dizzy and opt for some dry land running. The individual on Wednesday is just another day at the office. This isn't triathlon where a race season can be done in over in a single seven hour effort. This sport's season has about 30 or so 30 minute efforts. The opportunities will keep coming. Over stressing one day won't do much good. Never-the-less I expect you all to be tuning in on the 28th at 17:30 central euro time. That's 11:30 in the morning if you're in the county.
It's hard not to overdo the water tower pics when it's the most abundant source of color around. 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Going Right

      Less than two weeks ago I was roller skiing through wide open terrain on over sized roads or sealed pavement. After enough travel I was back in the east. First in LP then back home in Stockholm. Yesterday I was in the original Stockholm for a brief time before our final connection to where I am now which is Ostersund. Here is the run down of life since the last update. I may not have a lot of time on my hands these days, but I sure do have a lot of ticket stubs and receipts.
       We left the house in Midway around nine Sunday morning. It was about 1:30 in the morning when we rolled into the OTC. I was pretty certain I was going to go for and make the trek early Monday for Maine. One thing led to another and before I knew it it was two in the afternoon. The plan was push forward 24 hours. And that's how spend three days getting home.
       I only had a narrow window of time to catch up with everyone, tackle some hunting, and start in on a race season semi peak. I did get to spend some time with the family. We had a pirate themed early Thanksgiving for my sister's birthday... Just don't ask. It was a fun time had by all. Try as I may hunting was not as successful. Due to photographic evidence (which I forgot to copy to my HDD) I can not deny that there was no deer in the specified kill zone. There was just simply no deer there when I was in the stand. One of these year the stars are going to line up and I'll claim my own venison! just not this year.

        It was a somewhat mellow week of training. There was only two key workouts. The workouts that require careful planing to accommodate weather and travel. The first one was supposed to be a rollerski session. Due to too much snow to rollerski, but not enough to ski on it ended up being a long running interval session. Half an hour of running threshold around the stadium in Fort Kent doing 1st shot drills followed by 6x4 minutes of race pace. My legs held up better than I thought they would and good thing to because I was intent on doing the Mars Hill climb the following day.
Still waiting. 
       I've been running up that mess of suffer since I was 14. It's changed slightly since then and I've brought the time down some but, the desperate burning feeling in my lungs remains pretty consistent. This time was actually a little different from the rest. Snow was not meant to be run in. Even more so when you're going up hill. The coaches estimated at least a minute could be subtracted to get a better idea of your time. I wasn't too concerned with setting a PR (with a minute off I would have though), but more so just getting in a top end level effort before heading further right.
       Traveling to Ostersund, Sweden ended up being pretty smooth. All of our gear made it over on time and unscathed. So far so good. The last time I was here it was brutally cold and snow was plentiful. That's one good thing and one bad thing. This time it's mild and there's only snow where there has to be snow. Again, that's one good thing and one bad thing, but slightly different from past experience.
Training options are minimized when mother nature is in limbo... And yes after taking this picture I proceeded to act like a seven year old and stamp my feet on the ice crystals for the fun of it.       
No racing updates till the end of the month. It's hard to believe we're this close to another season already.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Roller Skiing in the Snow.

        I was looking forward to the annual Utah training camp this year. This was a late one. Those few weeks where it's almost cold enough to snow, but doesn't and rains instead. Yeah those ones, are not an issue in the wild west. That might be my most favorite part of this training camp,because we pretty much dodge those few weeks every year. There were some questionable mornings this time around, but for the most part I was right to look forward to this three week camp. Nothing to crazy occurred in that past three weeks. For the most part everything is on good pace.
Dry much? 
        First week was a solid 24 hours. By the time we hit the first Saturday I think we were a little nervous. The altitude wasn't helping and we weren't even half way through. Strangely enough I didn't feel any worse as the following week continued. The legs felt surprisingly fresh for the three hour ride on the second Saturday and for the first time in three week training camp history I can say I felt the best on the third week. Acclimatization can go a long way even after a large training load. Low and behold scrapping away at a cast iron pan for scrambled eggs every morning was starting to pay off. I usually don't hold iron well, so maybe this is a good sign.
Up through the pass to Park City.
        We had a couple of time trials. Two sprint formats to use for December team naming. I'm prequalified this year, so I ended up training right through them. Either way time trials are always a great way to gauge your current level. Both races pretty much confirmed what I already knew. Standing was solid, ski speed is doing fine and prone was a little shaky. Similar to last year the coaches and I sat down, looked through some video and gave it some thought. Unlike last year we didn't make any major changes to the prone process. Only a few minor tweaks. Thus far they have helped. The last week had the best shooting to.
       The camp ran on into November. There was almost a cancel for the second race because the snow wasn't melting off the pavement enough to roller ski. In other words the trail wasn't groomed. By the time I left the starting arm it was almost warm enough to wear a t-shirt. Gotta love training in a desert.
         It took me three days to get home. First to Albany, a day in LP, and then the ten plus hour drive to the county. I had to go through the states because my shiny new passport was mailed to my Stockholm address. I came into the camp with the motivation to work on a few issues and sure enough the coaches and I are feeling pretty good about the post camp level.

Cold mornings were plentiful. 

And now to go look for a deer.