Monday, December 31, 2012

Here We Go Again.

        Round two of three is coming up this week. First trimester didn't go as planed, but I like to think it made for a good warm up.
same face / new lens
still need a hair cut
I guess it will just make any good results from here on look that much better. The trek home for Christmas was pretty smooth and worth it. There was some snow to work which was a nice plus. This year I left a little early to get a head start on preparation for Oberhof. A couple of our other guys and I are in Ruhpolding at the moment.
       It was snowing when I landed in Presque Isle and was snowing even harder when I left. I take full responsibility for bringing winter to the county. So... you're welcome. I did three hard sessions as I said I would. A couple of strength sessions and few good classic days on the Stockholm trails were in there to. Only one of the hard sessions had shooting in it. That was a convenient change. The first two were back to back days with a focus on tolerance. The last one was more of an effort to expand that top end speed zone. I did the strength sessions at what used to be the Stockholm school. First grade, second grade and some easy maintenance strength all in the same room. I guess times change. I do love classic skiing in Stockholm. I made sure to get in a nice four hour distance in before packing up.
        Unlike my teammates the flight back over was pretty uneventful. Ruhpholding has plenty of snow at the venue. It felt nice to put the rifle back together. It felt even better to see some great shooting. I finished today with a minor one miss in prone for the whole workout. Maybe that time away / confidence building paid off. We will get a confirmation on that later on this week. First race in Oberhof is a relay. The weather forecast doesn't look very appealing, but when has it ever in Fogerhof?
Honey comb taste better with actual honey.
        Christmas was nice. Had a lot of good food. Procured some nice gifts. I got some games, some almond butter, the sister got engaged, and a pair of socks! Also, happy new year! A couple of our wax techs are having a party. We were told to pick up some fire works. That shouldn't be too difficult. Stay tuned, because 2013 could be an interesting one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From the Hotel Balcony.

**There is an actually update below all of these. It's was just easier to just separate them.**
guten Morgen.

Am starting to like the pencil sketch option. 

Water seemed pretty clear that day. 

Probably not the safest bike rout this time of year.

Pokljuka is also home to my most favorite biathlon venue on the circuit. 

Ahh shucks! but can I at least put my hair dryer in it? 

If the bridge isn't brook don't fix it.

From the Hotel Balcony

Better Luck Next Year

         While my personal results were nothing to write home about, there isn't much else to complain about regarding Pokljuka, Slovenia. As nice as everything was, the highlight of the week was Tim's performance in the Mass Start. I was really hoping to leave the first trimester with some better memories. Unfortunately I'm back to playing the problem solving game.
        The trails and venue are in Pokljuka. Most of the teams stay in Bled. Bled may be a solid 30 mins down from the trails, but that's nothing I'm not used to. In fact, Bled might be a hidden gem. I haven't done much eastern Euro tourist trips, but I suspect that this place might be underrated. The run around the lake is worth the 40 minutes. Storming the castle makes for a good afternoon recovery. We found out there are some nice restaurants and a full blown casino on the weekend. We were the only team at our four star hotel, which might be a first. The staff was always glad to see us and the internet was blazing fast! As a I said there isn't much to complain about. There's a reason why Pokljuka is one of the better respected WCs. Aside from the crowd numbers I don't understand why this place doesn't have an annual stake in the IBU calender.
         I was hoping the good feeling of being in the area would carry over into the sprint race last Thursday. The course fits my style and the snow was about as perfect as groomed snow can be. So what happened? Not much happened on the first lap. I paced myself well. I had a plan for the whole loop. There was a lot of places that to be lazy on and I wasn't going to give up time in those parts. Prone went well. One miss isn't clean, but four for five in 37 seconds is solid for me. Confidence was high on the second loop. I knew the standing had been going pretty well this year and wasn't about to be head case. In the end it really didn't matter if I had my head screwed on right or not. When the wind picks up enough, there's not too much you can do to defend yourself. At that point you're gambling and I'm pretty much a wild card as it is, so the wind gust that came in almost exclusively for my standing help put me in the penalty loop three times too many. I did what I could but the damage was done. I would not be racing in the pursuit; much less the mass start. To add more salt to the wound ski speed mediocre  I felt good and had a smooth but aggressive approach and couldn't still didn't muster up a sub 90 seconds from Svendens fastest ski time.
         I was initial overwhelmed with frustration. There was absolutely no solution to this problem. I was going to have to sit it out and watch the rest of the field race on Saturday. The more I thought about the past month of racing the more confused I became. I wasn't expecting perfection, but a point or two at the very least. I wasn't tired or sick this time. It was obvious that the field was tight this year, but there no reason why I shouldn't have been contributing to that high standard a little more than I did.
        I came up with a whole bunch of possible solutions. Per and I had a good meeting and shared our thoughts. We both agreed that the bulk of my slow start to the season was in my head. I went on the explain that I knew better, it was more a matter of convincing my subconscious to have a little more confidence in my ability  This might sound strange, but that's just how it works for me. Anyone can tell you that staying clam and focused on the process is the best way to go, but when you want something that badly it's hard not to get swept up in the fear of failure. Unfortunately this kind of thinking (conscious or subconscious) tends to lead to failure. We debated whether or not bring home the rifle was worth it. The goal is to resettle and come back to Europe with a better focus. I don't think 800 rounds in seven days will do the trick, but not having any rifle time isn't realistic either. I'll have access to my rifle when I'm home if I so choose.
       Per thought that the lack of satisfaction in ski speed might also be a head case issue. I'm more inclined to think it's a matter of early season racing. I've had some decent races in December before, but more often than not I'm slow to start. Even when I'm feeling good, the very top end zone is lacking. What I also know from experience is there's always the "January reboot" turn around. Maybe it's the Christmas break or maybe it just takes a month or so of racing for me to warm up, but ski speed almost always comes around after December. I'll do a couple of hard sessions at the red line before heading back over the Atlantic pond. That should do the trick.
       With only one race to participate in I was feeling like dead weight. This was compensated by offering my service to the wax techs. I'm not much for choosing skis, but I when Gara tells me to ski nine km in two pairs of skis, it's pretty simple. It was basically just distance training with race skis. The rain on Saturday was a bit of a turn off and a half. Enough cold rain and I'll reach my breaking point. Once my second pair of gloves were soaked I was at my threshold. Tim and Lowell help justify the cold hands with some solid racing. It was a good feeling for the whole team to see Tim land one on the podium the following day. He was in the lead group the whole race and held off Emil and Martin on the last loop. That's never an easy task. Tim has had decent edge on me all season, but never really out of striking distance. If he can do what we all want to do, then I should at least be able to make the mass start. Or at least that's how I see it. I guess Oberhof can't come soon enough.
       Conversely, it feels pretty grand to be home for the holidays right now. It's snowing outside. With out much to do at the moment I couldn't ask for better weather. I'll be around for the Stockholm caroling party for the first time in years. After Christmas it's off to Ruhpolding. As usual my new year's resolution will probably having something to do with this crazy sport that I find myself in day after day. Thanks for keeping up with this blog for the December shenanigan.

P.S. Tom: Stop reading this and go groom the trails... please.

Monday, December 10, 2012


       Behold the internet in all it's glory! Das Interweb auf Hochfilzen was almost nowhere to be found. It's 2012! Wireless ins't in diapers anymore. What I'm trying to say is that I haven't been able to update the old blog due to poor connections speeds. This is me trying to play catch up on my adventures in "Snow"filzen, Austria.
Left the flash on and it turned out alright.
        The travel day from Ostersund to Hochfilzen wasn't all that bad. Most of our bags made it and there wasn't too much for shenanigans in general. Somehow, through all this success I managed to get sick. Not sure where or how, but there is simply no escape from the common cold. I could feel it coming on Tuesday morning. By mid afternoon I was in full blown lock down mode. I ran through the normal battery of methods to bum rush the cold out. Don't ask me what these were. Let's just say I was the annoying one with a thermos looking for hot water at every meal. If I can muster up the motivation someday, I'll list the details on dealing with being sick. The point is, I wasn't going to let this set back get in the way of the sprint race on Friday.
        Friday was overcast and somewhat cold. I say it was cold, but my fingers maintained enough circulation to feel the trigger. So by that logic is wasn't really cold at all. The plan was to focus on good trigger squeeze. If I think about that perfect text book trigger pressure progression leading up to the shot then I won't have the time to focus on the pressure of trying to hit the targets. Makes sense right? The legs felt fine and mostly unphased from being sick. My face still had that congealed knot feeling but those fight or flight beta endorphins can go a long way when they need to. While I made it out of prone with no more than one penalty I might have as well missed another one with my range time. My normally slick bolt was sticky and lead me over eject a round. I went into my spare rounds to hit that last target. I was determined to keep my head screwed on straight for standing. The goal was successful if you only count the first four shots. Unfortunately I folded and took another penalty on the last shot of the day. Ski speed wasn't stellar, but was decent. Two penalties ins't terrible but my range time sure was. At the end of the day I was tied with 56th, narrowly making it into the pursuit.
       Despite a race the day prior I woke up feeling slightly better for the pursuit. I was one step closer to being done and over with the obnoxious cold. It was supposed to snow that day like it always does at least once in Hochfilzen. Surprisingly it held off and was even warmer than the day before. Pursuits, relays and mass starts are a different race from the ski speed side. If you're in a group and there isn't anyone ahead of you for a ways, don't bother leaving the group. More likely than not it will only make it worse. I hate having to hold back, but I hate bad results even more. Some parts felt like sprinting while others had me standing up to break wind. Overall ski speed was the best it could have been that day. Not great, but in the mix for where I was. Shooting was much better. After taking two in the first stage I came back with a clean. From there I had one miss in each standing stage. 80% isn't as great as it used to be, but it's a step in the right direction after Ostersund. I moved up a spot or two and was generally please with the result. On another note Lowell managed to work his way into the top 10!
       I was stoked to find that I would be the third leg in the relay on Sunday. I hadn't done a relay since U26s in 2011. Relays tend to favor fast shooters so you can see why I'm not always the top pick. It was cold and dry when we tested skis. We all went with a cold grind. My cold grind was undoubtedly the faster ski in my choices, but the flex was a little on the soft end. Gara and I decided the four grind was the best choice even if it was on the soft end. Tim tagged off to me in no mans land. There was one athlete a ways up and one not too far behind, but with no draft it was a lone race. Missing your first shot in prone isn't easy to cope with, but I was able to hit the last four and only use one extra. Standing was a different story. Instead of missing my first shot I missed the last one... again. This is worse than missing the first. It took me two extra to knock it down. Some better focus going into that potential five for five clean could have made the difference  Instead, I made the classic mistake of thinking about the result. I gave the team behind me enough room to stay ahead of me on the last loop. It wasn't a great day for the US team, but a decent one for me. For the first time in my relay history I had the best shooting on the team! Lowell had to tag out due what we found out to be a broken toe. Thankfully Jay was able take up the last leg.

Hochfilzen: Where renegade shooting ranges show up in the back country fields  
       Overall it was much better weekend than my time in Ostersund. The speed wasn't on top. On the other hand, I did race semi sick in the middle of December. World champs are in February, so the racing season is still in diapers. Aside from the Wednesday training day there wasn't much for the Snowfilzen blizzard. A fair race is usually hard to come by around there. The rooms were nice, and the food was great. Internet, not so much. The fresh honey comb for breakfast every morning help compensate though. Now I'm in my room in Bled, Slovenia with the wireless router blazing right in front of me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Gloves Didn't Work

       Well that sucked. It was a bad race on all fronts. I'm not a fan of sugar coating the bad days and not don't have much respect for those who do. Some days are off. Some decades are just off. It's easy to spot the bad days, but the past ten plus years are questionable.
        I had positive thoughts all morning. I went out of my way to convince myself that it was going to be a good day. Ski speed was in a good place, and contrary to popular belief shooting was to. I so badly wanted to prove that. It's was a cold one today. The temp was only -8 Celsius, but with the humidity you could call it close to -20. I went with a thicker pair of gloves today. I'm very specific about how my gloves and pole grips feel when I racing. These one's were not optimal, but I wasn't going to take any chances.
       Despite all efforts, there was only minor feeling in my trigger finger. The first shot didn't even make it on the target box. I was doomed to the penalty loop before I was even aiming at the target. I took another miss. Standing had high hopes that didn't hold up. I missed another two targets. I could tell that range times were slow, even for me. That's not good. The coaches weren't giving much for positive feedback which kind of hinted that I wasn't even skiing well.
        Maybe I should have spent more than an hour dry firing every day when I was a junior? Maybe a 780 hours a year training plan isn't enough? I've done my homework and studied and still fail the exam. Should I take a page from today's winner and go on a tropical vacation in the middle of June? I guess I've never had the time (or money for that matter) to do that because I've always been too busy TRAINING! In terms of "things I've done wrong" I'm pretty sure "lack of effort" can be removed from the list. It's days (or decades rather) like these that scare me. They make me think that it all comes down to genetics and dumb luck. How can a country of 300+ million not have a medal in this sport while others with a fraction of our population dish out one generation after another of world champions? Positive thoughts and hard work have failed me and now I play the waiting game. Next chance is in Hochfilzen.

This is what happens when I post updates shortly after a race.