Wednesday, March 20, 2013


  Once again the traveling circus finds it's self back in Siberia for the last hard effort before the hotly anticipated end of the season comes. To give you a reference of where Khanty it try looking it up on Google maps. ( ) For me it was one last chance to prove myself. And though that didn't happen I made the most out of the opportunity that I could  and have a little more WC experience under me.
The bridge under the Arch is part of the course. The square building in the middle is where we ate and I stayed on the fourth floor of the large building. 
        Khanty isn't know for it's warm and balmy weather. It hasn't been even remotely cold since the races Pojulka, Slovenia. Ostersund was the only racing that brought temperatures low enough to be an issue. That was back in December. After Olso and most of Sochi anything below -6 Celsius was going to feel cold. It was -18 for our first day of training. You can bet that my hands were cold and I was not enjoying this. All the racing and training was in the evening. I made it a point to stay up till at least 1:30 every night and sleep in as late as I could while still making it to breakfast. It made the racing feel more like an afternoon race.
       With enough glove liners I was able to fight off the numb finger problem that I always succumb to. I was the last man out in the sprint. The course was firm and wasn't falling apart. In fact when it gets that cold and dry it pretty much feels like skiing on styrofoam. There was no wind and lot of people were cleaning the race. I was hell bent on hitting those targets. They all went down in prone and I thought I was on to something. I wasn't about to play the wing it card for standing. I had to resettle more than once, but each one of those targets went down. You can bet this felt good. I did a double take just to make sure I didn't cross fire. The conditions were perfect, and Khanty is for sure in my personal top three for course profiles. I really thought it might finally be that good day I've been waiting for. Well... I thought wrong. I finishing 43rd with no mistakes. Where did I lose the time? Some of it was in ski speed. That's been the case all year sadly, but I lost most of the time on the range. Not in the penalty loop, but in trying to get the rounds down range. The time from when I land on the mat to when my poles are on and I'm back in the course was a significant factor. It was downright embarrassing. I knew I had taken my time, I always do, but come on! If I had shot 33 seconds in prone and 27 in standing (about average) then I could have skied off to penalty loops in the time it actually took me to hit all ten that day.  So there's another example of just how competitive this sport has become.

       The pursuit was nothing special. I didn't shoot very well and moved down because of it. It was snowing all day and seemed to start snowing even harder as the race progressed. Maybe I was just getting tired? I wasn't pleased with the race, but there was a minor sense of satisfaction crossing the finish line for the last time this season.
       The mass start was exciting to watch. Tim narrowly missed the podium. For the record he had been using my glove liners for these races. Just saying... All of the athletes and coaches were late to the closing ceremonies, because what do you expect when we all have to pack after a race that started at 6:30 in the evening. Nevertheless everyone made it and it was an entertaining evening. Now I'm sitting on a charter flight to Munich typing this one up. There is a lot of shenanigans that have to happen before I'm back on Donworth street, but compared to a few months ago I'm closer than ever. There was no such luck to be had in Khanty. I can't say I didn't try. Good results or not it's over and now I have a whole year to figure the sport out. Maybe I'll do a year in review later, for now I think our flight is going to land any hour now.

This is what the IBU does in it's spare time.!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

From Russia with Snickers

Really wish I could take credit for this one. 

       One day you're back home walking the same old loop with a shot gun, looking for any bird that might cross you. Some days you find your self alone in a gondola at one in the morning heading up a mountain just north of the Black Sea. Just when I thought life was becoming repetitive.
        Turns out there's a reason why host venues host world cup events the year prior to an Olympics. Sochi has a lot going for it, but it's not with out it's room for improvement. Aside from the less than optimistic travel expectations I think everyone was a excited to see what the new venue looks like. It's not very often that the field goes anywheres out side of the normal tour spots. As for the racing it's self, I wish could be more positive, but there isn't much to take from those three races. The best part was when they were over and the promise of a new day took over.
       The venue and stadium are beautiful. It's has a large and almost futuristic look to it. The whole complex was no where near as confusing as I thought it would be. Everything is enveloped in a mountain range. Turns out we weren't that far from Georgia. The way the sun settled on our first day of training was something to see. Naturally I didn't have my camera on hand. And yes even the internet was fast and dependable.
      This update can't go with out the cons of the Laura Ski and Biathlon complex. The food at the dinning hall was actually down right decent. Unfortunately this only applies to when the food was actually available. The food at the Y club won the worst Y club food food of the year award by a landslide. The transportation had a lot effort that shouldn't go unnoticed, but I can't help but think it shouldn't have been that necessary in the first place. If certain structures were built closer to each other or if the cabins had some kitchen elements to them it would have made a huge difference. Instead we were looking at a 20 minute investment just to get too and from our meals. If the driver didn't understand you there was no guarantee you were going to get dropped off at your intended location. One morning I ended up at the stadium when all I wanted to do was eat breakfast. The distance between the warm up area and the starting pen is also well beyond my comfort zone (this is not the only place to make this mistake) and I still haven't mentioned the daily security shenanigans or the treacherous course.
      Our flight into Sochi wasn't too bad. Charter flights can be convenient like that. The waiting game that ensued once we landed wasn't very convenient at all. The gondola was less than two hours away, but our departure had to tack on an extra two hours of waiting at the airport for what ever unknown reason before we could leave. We went through about a half dozen security check points before we were allowed into our cabins. It's Russia so don't even think of keeping you rifle with you. There's no doubt in my mind that all of the serial numbers on my paper work match up with each other. After the past week there's no way any of them could be off. We were in the rifle packing room for about two plus hours on the last day waiting for them to find the papers for us to sign. I even heard a horror story of ammo being counted one round at a time to for the sake of confirming how much was packed!
      The racing was not my best. In fact I decided that the individual was my worst race of the 2013 season. The course will hopefully undergo some changes before next year. The rumor was that one of the German coaches counted upwards of 25 crashes in that race. The uphills are long, steep and tend to get chewed up pretty easily if you're in the last start seed. The downhills are packed with corners and tend to get glazed over. This eliminates any chance of recovery before you get back to seemingly endless ascents.  The course is already difficult enough with the altitude. At first I thought this was great. The downhills were naturally easy and smooth during training and the climbs were so big they would surely favor the well trained athletes such as myself right?
       After the individual I wasn't sure if I had trained at all this past  summer. Seriously, that's how felt! The contrast between my training log the result list made me cringe and question my ability in this sport. There was not a trace of positive feed back to take from that race. I contemplated banging my head against the wall until I forgot about my evening.
       As bad as the sprint race was it was also somehow better than the individual. Ski speed was slow and pathetic, but it was functional compared to the other day. I didn't have my head in the right place for rookie like reasons and missed four in prone. At least I stayed on my feet this time. Almost forgot to mention that I fell in the individual. I was a part of the crash count.
      The relay was another sign of progress. Lowell had a good first leg and Tim did well too. This put us with the lead group. I narrowly escaped a crash at the tag zone. The tag off is something few teams if not none have figured out, including us... I went for some good drafts where ever I could. I was a pair of Tim's skies that were crazy fast. These were the fastest skis I've had all season. My legs felt tired during the warm up, but I had to think that I wasn't the only one. That and the fast skis made ski speed less of a factor for a change. The problem with shooting for me in  getting to that first shot. If the field around me uses two extras and I clean with five, then I'm safe and can with leave with or ahead of the pack. The last time I did a relay I did just that. This time I had one extra in prone. Even then with good ski speed we were still in the lead group. Unfortunately I was off in standing. I narrowly escaped the penalty loop by using all three of my extras. The time it took me to safely dodge the penalty loop was enough to put us out of the lead group. In the end it was a decent race, but not what we were hoping for.

In case you were wondering it was the Snickers buffet that inspired me.
       I had a good time in Sochi. Now I can say I know what the course looks like and how the flow works around the venue. I would be lying if I didn't say I was looking forward to a season end. On the other hand with out much for noteworthy results I'm glad there's still more to go. The most professional thing I did all week was bounce back from the set backs in a commanding fashion. And that's what Khanty-Mansiysk is for. Once again that one will have to wait for a later date.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sunshine and Brown Cheese


           Oslo you're not so bad. I was told Olso was a one of the nicer WC host and sure enough there was plenty of ground to back that up. I didn't have tI'm still on that good result verge. It's just a matter of getting to the better side. It may be the most expensive city in the world,
but that money doesn't go to waist.
        I don't have much at my disposal to complain about. The snow caked on to the bottom of my boots like no other. This put the panic levels higher than normal when the first starter went off in the pursuit and I'm picking at the bottoms of my boot in hopes of maybe clipping into my skis before my departure time. The distance between the start and the warmup loop was too far, I guess my room was too small... Yeah so there really isn't much to complain about.
       The list of "things done right" goes on. The food was by far the best of the season. Good variety, good quality, ready available buffet style, no sitting assignments, all the key factors were in place. Brown cheese is a Scandinavian mixture of cow and goat I believe. The weather was perfect, as in everyday. It was just above freezing during training and racing while well below enough at night to keep the snow conditions perfect. The sun was out the whole time. The view from the hotel entrance added nice touch. All this makes the down time and training uber convenient, but in terms of competitions the trail was also a gem. The profile had an appreciable feel to it. The hills were just the right pitch for me to race full bore in my comfort zone and the fast corners never posed a threat. And then there are the little things. They may seem meaningless to you but I can't help but notice them. The smell of waffles in the athlete cabins before the race almost made it hard to leave for zero. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who truly appreciated the theme to not only Ghost Busters but also Jurassic Park before the sprint race. I think Gladiator might have been in there somewhere to.
        Nevertheless we were not there for vocationally purposes.  The sprint race was an interesting one for more than one reason. With a sub 100 start list I was not mentally prepared to not make the pursuit. Don't worry, this didn't happen. I had a plan for prone and it almost worked. The folding targets of the Holmenkolen rage put up a a good fight against an incoming split bullet. The electronic targets of Antholz are a different story. I had two misses in prone and they were both on the edge low. In fact I distinctly remember hearing the first miss sound precisely the way a hit would sound. Was this bad luck? I took another miss in standing and wasn't feeling too good about my skiing.
       This is where things started going down the strange road. Despite the subtle wind, down hill approach, and clear sky the field as a whole took a drop off in shooting. Tim missed four and still scored WC points. Fourcade almost won with two misses. The last time I saw this happen was the relay in Antholz, but that had the fall back of excess fog on the range. This day in Olso was just unusual. The out come results for us were also unlikely. Lowell, Leif, and I all finished  with in three seconds of each other. 50, 51, and 52? There was going to be a US train out there on the course for the pursuit. Skiing was stronger than I thought. I lost the bulk of my time in prone. Range times can do a number on you if you're late to the first shot.
and again
       The pursuit was a better race. Still not as good as I would have liked, but despite slow range times and six misses I still managed to move up a few spots. Skiing was stronger. I didn't expect this because the tactics were not very smooth for most of the race. Either way, I was out there and getting the experience. That world class racing atmosphere is better than any time trial will ever be for progress.
Last morning before charter flight. 
       Since there was no mass start for me I took the opportunity to ski the traditional Holmenkolen 16.75km loop. This was a nice ending note to an already perfect week of skiing. In the afternoon we watched Tim make a come back in the last loop of the mass start to finish fourth.
Oslo also has the only venue I've seen that actually makes it feel more exciting to watch the races there than on TV.
      With neither good nor bad results I was left anxious for the next onslaught of races. It's the last trimester and everyone is looking forward to the end of the season. As soon as World Champs is over the whole circuit tends to relax and the mood is a lot easier going. It's been hard making this update because the focus has been in Sochi for the past couple of days. But that will have to wait for another update.

**Sorry for the lack of quality on the picture front. Not sure why that is, maybe I uploaded the file too small...?**