Thursday, December 19, 2013

Results Round 2

      Well here we are again. Another update to summarize some racing. Unlike the last update these races mattered. I even went as far to refer to them as “life deciders” in an email. Thankfully unlike the rollerski races back in October this is much more positive update. This is what happened at the infamous Mt Itasca biathlon range in Colerain, MN. And yeah I'm not going to hide or beat around the bush about how this revolves around the looming winter carnival in Russia. I could rightfully complain about the cold weather, but after some reflection decided there is enough content on that cold front to just spend it on another update. Long story short though, it was cold!
       The original plan called for two sprints back to back, an off day, mass start, and then finishing up with another sprint. When you think it over this actually fair. Sprints races are crucial in this sport, and are always a good indicator of talent. Mass start races force the head to head atmosphere and are therefor good for exposing the head cases. The final points were based off of each athlete's best three of four races. Best man makes it the IBU cups in Italy next month plus one extra via the discretion card. Due to cold weather the second race and off day were switched. Also the snow conditions were VERY SLOW and Mt Itasca has one of the hardest courses on the circuit. What I'm trying to get at is: four races in five days was even harder than it sounds. Even with the low training volume and usual battery of post race of recovery strategies nothing can save you from the gauntlet that was the IBU cup trials.

          First race was far from professional. Windy or not 40% is not something to email home about. With two misses in prone I was optimistic. Last year I missed two in the prone at World Champs and was still able to clean standing and secure a spot in the pursuit. When I came in for standing this time around I wasn't settled and just didn't have it together, for lack of a better description. No excuses, it just wasn't a good shooting stage. I put up a good fight skiing off the four penalty loops and managed to finishing in third only twelve seconds out. Though not great, the majority of the field had one too many misses. In the end the points were virtually zeroed.
           After a nice off day classic ski at one of the local trails is was on to yet another sprint race. I wasn't nervous or bitter as much as I was anxious to just prove otherwise on my ability. While I ended up skiing better, and technically shooting better it was still not the world class level that I craved. Casey on the other hand had a world class day in the range with clean shooting. Unlike the first race someone now had the upper hand on points. I was in safer position for the discretion card. Nerves were starting to calm down.

          The mass start is always so much easier on the eyes than it is on the lungs. In other words, it may be the best spectator event, but one of the most nerve racking events for the athletes. In these conditions as describer earlier it was exceptional hard on the system over all. As it rightfully should, the first lap felt like a citizen pace. Though not the only one with a miss or two the three misses that I had in the first prone was more than the rest of the field and I had to drop the ski speed dominance card earlier than planed. I made it into the second prone close to the lead. After taking some corrections I mustered up a clean stage. Oh how I love clean stages. Wish there were more of them under the belt. By the time the first standing stage was coming up I safely had about one penalty loop worth of lead on. Good thing to because I had two misses. It was just Casey and I on the fourth loops before setting up for the last shooting stage. We were both clearly fried going up the long climb. Neither of us were going to make a move. Now I really wish I could have claimed another clean stage. It would have made life so much easier. Well, I can't say that, I missed another two when Casey pulled it together again with only one miss. It wasn't easy, but after skiing off the extra loop Casey and I were back where we started with a solid lead over the rest of the field. It took the full max V02 and hurt like hell, but it did the job and I finally claimed a win. That was the mass start race. It wasn't the last race of the series however.

         The last race was another sprint. Same course and same cold air. What was nice was the hard packed conditions. They weren’t fast, they were just normal. Compared to the first three races this was an improvement. Still bent on some better shooting there wasn't a lot of room to relax. Historically I'm good for one really hard effort and a few decent efforts on the energy side of things. The mass start was the hard effort of the four races. That being said, while ski speed was strong and helpful it wasn't as fast as the previous races. Thankfully after camping out on the shooting mat I made it out of both stages with only one miss. 80% with good ski speed will get you into pursuit. I garnered another win. After everything was done and over I knew I was on the IBU cup team and could finally relax for a bit. I was impressed with Casey. His shooting has always been solid and this past week was no different. With some better ski speed he was able to get the half of percentage point lead over me.

         So what does this mean from here? At the moment not much. It's home to the north of Maine for Christmas. I'm really looking forward to relaxing with some mellow training and holiday shenanigans. Casey and I will not be in the US for new years. It's off to Ridnaun, Italy for us. We'll meet up with some coaches, Jeremy Teela, and Sean Doherty. After some IBU cup races the top athlete will make the Olympic team, and one additional athlete will be selected via discretion to represent us in Sochi. That's the basis of the game. I could go into more detail, but it wouldn't help me sleep at night. I'll think about that department when I'm training or dryfiring. For now it's all about keeping my ski bag under 70 pounds. 50 is just a pipe dream now.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Canmore or less

      It looks like I'll have enough time to whip out a muchly needed update on my season thus far. In case you're not on Facebook the biathlon portion of MWSC has been based out of Canmore, Alberta the past couple of weeks.  While the temps are supposed to drop for our last week here they have been surprisingly warm for my expectations. And speaking of expectations I'm four races into the season and the out look? Good? Not so good? 
Some strange new oneways? 
      That answer depends on the perspective. I guess there's always the brutal truth. I'm not skiing very fast right now, and shooting is still in the hole. Long story short, this is frustrating for two reasons. One being that I didn't put biathlon as priority number one in my life for a dozen or so years for these kind of results. The other reason being that it's an Olympic year and some things you just want so badly that any lack of control leads to stress. That's the negative end of life in a paragraph.
      In terms of racing the base line goal was to rack up some experience before racing trials in MN. That much was achieved. The race day nerves are always at there peak for the first few races. NorAms or worlds cups I was plenty nervous on race day. The conditions were perfect and I had no excuse for bad technique. For the most part technique was good. This year I've really been trying to stand taller and ski more narrow in V2 and V1. USBA has high standards for technique. I don't know why other teams don't invest in this.
        Shooting always felt like it was close to something good. Aside from a couple good stages it never did ramp up. Range times have been a little slower but I suspect the altitude isn't helping. Grouping has been great during zero. Keeping that in mind helped with the confidence during the race. Yesterday's prone stage and the prone stage in the sprint the week before were reflective of this. Standing has always felt like the safe fall back for me, but so far it hasn't proven it's self useful yet. The individual on Saturday was embarrassing. With out an overwhelming ski speed dominance my shooting is going to have to be less embarrassing and more professional.
        It's not all gloom and doom as previously described. There is still plenty of reason for hope. These races were for experience. The races in Mt Itasca are for qualifying. I came into the NorAms with some volume and didn't feel too fresh. The official taper starts this week. If I play my cards right I should get a per km time boost just in time for MN. Skis haven't been great but there are a couple of new skis on the way from Europe for me to race on.
       You can't argue with results. That's a policy I'm fond of. By that logic recent shooting percentages are reason for concern. On the other hand it's not as bad as it may look. The wind was tricky for all four races. Prone is starting to come together and standing just needs some more confidence. This is all much easier said then done, but I have some time on my hands to figure it out.
       I wasn't doing so well after the race yesterday. A solid race would have been ideal and instead my confidence plummeted while my frustration sky rocketed. I hung out with some old friends and may consumed one too many ghost peppers. Those nights are always good for a mental reset. A mental reset is important right now because the season is only starting and there's not enough reason to give up. I've been around for a while now and I know how this sport works. On the occasion results will do a 180. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened to me. Tim Burke was 60th in the Ostersund individual and third in the sprint. I think that qualifies as a good example.

As you can see the local deer population would not thrive very well in Northern Maine.