Monday, January 28, 2013

In Random Fasion

1) First of all, congratulations to Sean Doherty for a full blown win at the youth world champs. It's in central Europe, so you can't play the "uncompetitive field" card. The other teams were there and Sean won... So yeah!

2) Had a low week of sub 18 hours. Now the official pre world champs camp starts. It should total about 13 hours... Some of the team took a short vacation. Some of us, not so much.

3) Antholz has the highest rate of euro stare. I want to know what the german equivalent to "euro stare" is so I can shout it at the locals. Calling them Dorftrottels isn't effective enough. I've tried the "Take a picture; it last longer" one, but I don't think they understood my message.

4) I'll have some pictures up before we head out for Nove Mesto. Antholz is one of the more beautiful places Earth has to offer. A lot of athletes like to post nice pictures of this area around this time of year. I'm going to through modesty aside and say that I can get you better than nice photos.

5) When you eat at an Italian restaurant in the US you might hear soft classical music in the background. Here (in Italy) we get to listen to the radio at a higher than soft volume. The local radio  station only has five songs to cycle through. This doesn't help the 90 minute long dinner sessions.

6) The support is appreciated but please don't ask for an autograph. I wouldn't do the same to you if it were the other way around. I would rather have the autograph signify something positive. When you corner me in the lobby to awkwardly sign a flag with Erdinger breath that signature is just a symbol of a annoyance and inconnivance to me.

7) The weather has been perfect in Suntholz. The snow is hard packed and stable. It's supposed to be pretty warm this week. It's too the point where this might actually not be good training for Nove Mesto.

8) The flowers from the relay in Oberhof are still holding strong in my window.

9) Our neighbors at the SeeHause make there presence felt 24/7. An obnoxious dog that barks at the slightest proximity of anything, a baby that seems to hate the overly long dinner sessions more than I do and unbelievably loud snoring throughout the night.

10) The internet is being European. We average about three minutes of slow bandwidth before it cuts out for ten minutes. The router is just outside our room...

11) No one is sick. That's nice. A clear nose is always worth the appreciation.

12) The US team is not the only ones utilizing the Antholz pre world champs opportunity  It looks like some of the Estonians, Russians, Ukraine  Bulgarians  Italians, Canadians, and occasionally Ole are also training here.

13) That's all I can think of for now. Antholz is alright!

***russell out***

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Relay

      I made it into the relay for the Antholz WC series. I was puzzled and pretty down on myself after the sprint race. I was honestly expecting more. As always, I was at least a little excited to have another chance at redemption  There has been a relay at each of the last three race series. While the first one was a success, the second one was not so much and the third...
      The weather was a factor for the race on Sunday. Admittedly, When is it not? Well on that day it was more so. The sun was out, snow was dry, and wax selected. After zero I made, yet another, trip to the toilet. Everything was as described before I did this. At some point before I got back a blizzard had occurred. The trail changed and was no longer the perfect hard pack that I've come to expect from Antholz. Despite a smaller budget and limited resources our wax team is consistently on the ball. I'm pretty sure the sudden change worked to our advantage.
      It was an interesting relay. Eight rounds per stage wasn't enough to keep a lot of teams out of the penalty loop. Unfortunately we were one of them. Theoretically, it shouldn't matter what the race situation is. Each athlete should race there own race and do the best job they can. This was the mentality I tried to get into. It didn't matter if I was getting tagged off in second or two minutes out. Tim was able to get me a good draft for the first loop. This comes in handy even if it is only 2.5km.

       Prone was decent. There was no wind. The first three went down as intended. I missed my last two, but was able to clean with only two extra. Not bad. I snagged another decent ride on the second loop. It was Arnd Peiffer and Johannes Boe if my memory serves me right. I'm proud to say that everything was in it's right place for standing. I murdered those targets in a commanding fashion of 27 seconds with no extras at a difficult range! I wish the legs were similar on the last loop, but I'm ashamed to say I let a couple of places get by me and didn't give Leif the draft that I should have. The conditions were not easy to work and ski speed has a ways to go yet.
These people that I know...
      It was a decent race for me and a step back in the right direction. No awards ceremony for the team USA, but we've had worse days. Overall it was a good weekend for the team. Lowell had a top ten in the sprint and Tim might have set a record for spots gained in a pursuit. I'm still confused about my performance, but I have some time and a good training plan to work with before World Champs ramps up.

Friday, January 18, 2013


      Maybe I should have titled this one "Better Luck Next Year". I did that in December because I thought things would get better in January. Looks like I wrong. It's getting pretty hard to keep the hopes up. The confusion level is through the roof. I'm running out of ideas. I'm starting to fear that there really are problems with no solution to them. The relay in Oberhof isn't enough. I didn't pour my full time effort for 10+ years for one decent result!
       I reworked my mental approach. I wasn't going to be a headcase today. The talent is all there. As usual the zero was perfect and a good confirmation of what I knew I could do. The conditions were perfect and this course suits my style. There wasn't much in the way of disadvantages.
       Low and behold I failed. I'm not even close to making the pursuit. I took my time and tried my best at prone. The slow range time was unjustified with three misses. I despised every last one of those trips around the penalty loop.
       I really pushed for some smart skiing. I was convinced that the    ski speed was going to be where I trained it to be! Standing was decent. I had my head on straight and it almost showed, with only one miss in a 33 second range time. I put everything behind me and went for a hard last loop no matter what the results. After all Antholz is an extremely difficult range to deal with. I couldn't possible be the only one with poor shooting, right?
       I felt decent on skis and did everything right... I skied slow. 69th fastest! This is the top source of confusion right now. Why?! Why is it not there? When it was all said and done, I was not in a good mode. I so sorely want good results! That's what I after more than anything else right now. Shouldn't I be able to look back and say "well I guess hard work and dedication do pay off"? So far no, I can not say that. Two six places isn't enough for my career. I refuse to go out with only a couple of decent days.
      While ski speed really cut to the core of me I can say that shooting was not as bad as it looked. After checking in with the coach I learned that the prone misses were all on the edge. The hits were center. If only...
      Since I'm here and the skiing is perfect there isn't much I can complain about. Hopefully I will be in the relay and can expose today as a fluke. I'm not quitting and I hate grey areas so the only other option is give it full gas. I didn't pay for the flight over or my room and dinner, so who am I to give anything less than 100%. And yes this is in fact yet another post race rant. These articles are becoming a dime a dozen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


      Still trying to find that race form. Everything seems to be in place  That is, right up until the last moment when it matters the most. In case you haven't already guessed Ruhpolding was pretty demoralizing. No progress on ski speed and shooting is still in the hole that I dug in Oberhof. I'm relieved that this trimester isn't done yet. There is still plenty of time to fix this this mess.

       The conditions in the sprint were a ten fold improvement from the relay. I felt considerably better. Unfortunately "considerably better" wasn't enough. I was more than 90 seconds in ski time from the lead in a very tight race. This worries me, as there isn't a lot I can do fix this right now. On the other hand "isn't a lot" implies that there might a little chance. The conditions are even better for me here in Antholz and there is still a lot to be gained from some minor technique upgrades. A good course scan the day prior can go a long way to.
       Somehow, after making the same mistake over and over on the range I managed to make the same mistake yet again. The grouping of my five shots told me everything I needed to know. Three shots in one place and the other two in another. This three/two double group has been a reoccurring theme for years now. Focus on the trigger was solid, but the follow through was off and thus we have three shots in the same place... out of the eight ring. Standing was decent. One miss in a sub 30 second time. Not great, but better.
       I was pretty let down and a downright confused about these results. Why am I not skiing faster, and how can I blatantly see the solutions in shooting, but be rendered defenseless when the time comes. The best course of action for me right now is get back on the starting wand and give it another go. If biathlon is anything like gambling (which it is... very much so!) then I, a wild card, am bound to clean house one of these days. The more days there is the better the chances.  So here's to Antholze!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

So Far So Bad

I'm not going to bother with an introduction or anything like that. This is border line stream of conscious writing. Most people don't think I can even read, so what have I got to lose. While our first two legs did a pretty bang up job I wasn't able to keep it going this time. I know what went wrong. I knew how to prevent it from happening and yet I did it anyways. How does that work? Skiing was slow to. These aren't my best conditions, but why can't they be? I worked on dealing with slushy conditions. Shouldn't I be better now? Nope. Ski speed was awful. I'd say I'm getting slower based off of today. I haven't really had a good ski day this season yet. Last week's relay was nice. Really nice. I felt that feeling of overjoyed pride and accomplishment. I had almost forgotten what that feels like. Today was just another set back day. Try as I may, I haven't been able to forget that one. I'm very much looking forward to Saturday's sprint. I hate having to wait around for the next opportunity.

 Even more so I wish I could just cash in on the efforts I've put into this sport and start shooting and skiing like the rest of the world does with as much or less effort. If you round off I'm already 30... That's not really helping my mood right now.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


        With no exaggeration what so ever we have not seen the sun since Ruhpolding. Large crowd numbers make for good trump card; Good enough to override the least favorable weather conditions. I know the sun is there somewhere. We're not in northern Europe anymore. I think you can find the sun a few km up and out of the perpetual cloud. Somethings never change while some things do. Sometimes they get intertwined and you get days like the past few.
      The Oberhof WC brings the largest crowds. Ruhpolding is the only one that can compete. I've come to notice that the smaller the spectator count the better run the event is. I know first hand that Fort Kent, and Presque Isle do everything they can to ensure a flawless WC. Pokljuka is another good example. When the organizers know the IBU will give them there week unconditionally the motivation seems less. This is a poor year for snow in Oberhof. I know they have a ski tunnel full of snow year round and yet the 200 meter warm up loop was reduced, due to lack of snow? I'm trying to break in a new pair of boots and thanks to the rocks, mud, pavement, and poorly structured venue design the bottoms are wearing thin. It's gets worse. Yesterday there was not one but two mud and rock strips on the 3.3 loop. Canada's top racer JP snagged a rock hard enough to go down. Tim nearly did the same. I know the weather isn't helping, and it takes a lot of work to stay on top of these things, but it's a WORLD CUP! Get your act together Oberhof!... End rant.
       In other news the USA mens team did what we knew we could do a busted out fifth in the relay. Lowell took up the first leg wearing bib 16... A couple good shooting stages and some good drafting put us into seventh. Tim proved to be very competitive again with only one extra and some strong skiing in the last km. This put us in the lead group after the lone Norwegian. For the first time in a decade neither Hakkinen or Teela was taking over. From there on it was up to Leif and I. I led out of the stadium and up the first climb. For the sake of good tactics I didn't want this to continue. The two behind be took over after a downhill. If you were watching it would appear that I almost went down at about that time. While true, I never felt complete out of control. I can honestly say I had my head in the right place for shooting that day. Aside from setting up on point four I had no idea what was going on in the race. I was in my own world. I missed the first two shots and I'm sure anyone back home watching this was biting there nails. I managed to hit with next five rounds and stayed even with the group. There was a brief moment of question coming into the stretch to the stadium. The wind is always up through this part and leading can be detrimental. The Russian slowed down and pulled off to the left to let me take the lead. I've made that mistake to many times to do it again. I stood up and stayed right behind him. I was willing to scrub any amount of time to prove my point. This is when Arnd took up the task and lead us into the range. It took an extra breath or two but I was able to get out of standing with only one extra. I was about ten seconds off the lead group when I tagged off to Leif. Leif held his own and solidified our top five with an impressive standing. The energy after the race was a relief to stress of a long day. The anti-doping testers "randomly" selected me which made it a little longer, but with a good race behind me I didn't mind the inconvenience.
      Naturally I had high hopes for the sprint race. After all performance had been looking up since last year. It was another late start. These races always take the most out of you. I'm not much for sleeping in and thus have a lot of time to not relax. It always feels nice to just get out of the starting gate. Less thinking, more doing. Conditions were much better than the day before (for the record that's ignoring the mud sections) and this allowed me to have better transitions. Ski speed felt under control. Good enough to keep the hope up even after two misses in prone. I needed a clean standing and was pretty well convinced I going to do just that. Ironically, the more I think about it the more I think this lead to my demise. There's no point in going into detail, but I took on another two penalties. I did everything I could on the last loop and just missed the pursuit. You can imagine how this made me feel.
I'm resisting the urge to put up any more pictures from Ruhpolding. Seems appropriate to wait for next week. 
      I did the math afterwords. There were a couple of races in December in which clean shooting would have just put me into the pursuit. Had I cleaned yesterday I would have made the top 15. So if you break it down, performance really is on good pace. We head for Ruhpolding tomorrow. That will be my next chance to put myself to good use. As I said earlier, the relay was a good example of what the team already knew we could do. Now it's just a matter of even more proving to the world and less secretly knowing.