Tuesday, December 23, 2014

All I Really Wanted for Christmas


       This must be what it feels like for college grads to finally obtain that degree and still fail to find a job with it. Maybe I've mentioned this earlier but I recall doing slowfire drills in the rain and snow in Fort Kent. It was May first and the coaches really wanted me to increase the volume of shooting this year. We don't have a covered range and it wasn't the best conditions that day, but hey goals are goals... and so is hypothermia. The point is, thus far that effort has been in vain. I also recall snapping the lenses out of my race glasses in frustration while I clenched the the sides of my head in the changing cabin. That was last week, post WC sprint race in Slovenia. What can I say I really like great results and don't bode well when things don't pan out the way I want them to. In a lot of cases this in understandable, but in this case the work was done and I was expecting better performance from my myself.

There are lot of grand pictures to be had from Bled Slovenia.
       Let's just keep the negative train going for little longer. After two racing series we all thought I had the cobwebs out and was primed for a better day. We had a plan that was simple enough to follow even during race. The conditions were not perfect, but with one of the hills salted it made a nice  chance for the late starters. By the way; not unlike the other two places we've been to this trimester Pokljuka, SLO was also struggling for snow. It doesn't feel like winter anywhere in central Europe at the moment. After patiently waiting for my bib (101) to leave it was finally my last chance of the year to justify being on the circuit. In case you haven't already guessed, prone was my downfall. Four misses and the race was virtually over. I told myself not to over hold on the aiming. Time and time again this year that was the problem. The timing and a small part in the set up have been the cause all the problems in prone it seems. Why did I do this? It's hard to take a shot any earlier than you want to. It's temping to take that extra 2/10ths of a second to double check the aiming. This works fine if you're shooting off a bench at a resting heartrate. I was around 180 bmp. The window of opportunity to have an eight ring or better is a narrow one. Ironically, it seems the more I want it the more I miss. See why I consider biathlon to be a cruel and viscous sport?

       Standing was also the worst of the month with another two misses. Normally the last lap is fight with your fitness level. On this day it was a struggle to keep it together mentally. I felt bad for the coaches and techs on side of the course that had to wait for me. Though I do appreciate the unconditional support. The other three guys had a solid day. We're on good pace in the nations cup points. Needless to say I wasn't in the best of moods. I was going to have to watch the pursuit on EuroSport for the third time this year.

If you want to see more you should hit up the google machine or the archives of this blog for more Bled, SLO  pics.
      And finally, I might as well mention that ski speed was also demoralizing. It has been the whole trimester. The energy level has been up and down, but more so down. That springy feeling in the legs is always a good indicator that you're recovered and ready to race. I can't say I've felt that way for most of the race starts. Not completely sure why. I've seen it happen to wide variety of athletes so there are countless reasons.

        Okay so where does this put Russell's 2015 racing season? First of all, staying calm under pressure may not be not my specialty, but neither is giving up. The contrast between a good day and bad day is staggering for me. Just ask the other guys. Seeing the leaders cross the finish line on TV reminds me how grand a successful day can be. I've invested too much into this to think that I can't be closer to the top. Let me put it another way. If (hypothetically) cutting off one of fingers meant having the results I want to have, then I would go through the rest of my life with nine fingers if it lead to successful racing career. Obviously it wouldn't be my trigger finger. Maybe my ring finger... That one isn't going to be useful anytime soon.

Just breakfast things.

        Lets get down to the point. If the third time is not a charm then maybe the fourth is. I have two key ideas to work with in shooting. Next week will have a brief amount of volume before Christmas. Followed by a full recovery. Resting is the most fail safe way to bring the energy levels back up and it's pretty easy to do this time of year. The week after Christmas will have some quality shooting sessions. All with a race pace effort. The goal is to flesh out the racing zone. It can take some time to get into top form. A few controlled high intensity sessions can do a lot to build on that. The more I can recreate a race like effort with shooting the more I can bring the progress from easy sessions to the higher pressures situations. In other words: I want to train in the “fail zone” so to be rid of it before the next important race.

Oh yeah. Now I remember why I sought out a "better than a cell phone camera" camera. 
      And yes there is more racing to be had. It's not even 2015 yet. I'll have more details on that one in another update. Think Poland for now. I mentioned in an interview back home a while back that I had made good progress in training all year; that shooting had good promise to it. This has been undeniable... during training. The days before the past world cups are usually around 90% shooting wise.

           It only takes one good race to start the catalyst of a great season. No promises. This isn't a sport to make promises. It's a sport of good probability. The plan to increase the probability is set out and as always I'll carry through with the plan the best that I can. Sorry for the less than positive updates lately, but hey “you can't argue with results”. 

Thanks for reading.

See also: Merry Christmas n'stuff.

Add caption

P.S. To add to the bad news: I'm pretty certain I need a root canal done. My insurance will not cover it and I don't have the time right now. It hurts like hell and often wakes me up in the middle of the night.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

And a Series of Unfortunate Events, again.

          Racing on a narrow ribbon of forced snow is becoming all too common these days. Unfortunately for my season thus far the lack luster results are on the same all too common pace. But hey if you want to win the race you have to pace yourself.  Leading into the finish is the important part. Everything before that isn't relevant. Hochfilzen has been good to us in some ways and believe me when I say I'm still happy to be here and have the chance to bang heads on the WC.  But the raw honey comb and sunshine doesn't compensate for the sprint result and unlucky relay. This is the run down of what happened during our week in Hochfilzen, Austria

          The flight from Ostersund was one the smoothest travel days in recent memory. Nothing went wrong. It was a charter flight so they didn't even bother giving us seat assignments. Everyone was offered a full meal and the flight attendant just so happened to look like a supermodel. The bus ride to the hotel wasn't even the usual four hour sauna trek. Our hotel is great. There is always a large wired box of raw honey comb for breakfast. This gold could be considered candy if candy was locally produced and surprisingly good for you. I've considered buying some from the hotel. The only motivation not to is due to the fact that the excess "stuff level" is overwhelming and with only 23kgs allowed for flying it's best not to add to the pile.
Last night's desert. 

           So anyways aside from that there is the racing portion this update. I had high hopes for the sprint race. What else can I have? Naturally I was in the last seed. The difference this time was that the conditions held up better than they did in Ostersund and the last starting seed wasn't being ignored by some top level biathletes.  Bjordalen and Fourcade were both around my start time. This is what eventually  made the race even more painful. I had my focus ingrained into my head. Stressed or relaxed it didn't matter. I refined the process down to a few key words and held on to those the best I could.  It helped, but wasn't enough to stop two rounds from missing the eight ring. With two penalties a clean standing would have to be in order. Of the 20 shots standing I've done this season I've only had three misses. The second stage of the sprint race had one of them. With three total on the day I knew it was going to be close if I wanted to make the pursuit. It was... The first split had me at seven seconds out of the top 60. The next one was two seconds out. Then two seconds in. With not much course left I should have been safe right? When I crossed I was listed as 59th. The clutch was that Ole and Simone Fourcade had not finished. Ole had shot the same as me but skied faster. I was ahead of Simone ski speed wise that day, but with his clean shooting he was going to be in the pursuit and I was not. The two knocked me down from 59th to 61st.
            It happened to me in an Oberhof race, at the Olympics, and last Friday for the third time. I wasn't feeling to well. The goal was a top 40 and there I was knowing that I would be left out of the pursuit. It wasn't a very happy post race cool down.

             The relay was a second chance. A good relay could do a lot. Well folks that was not the case. We have a very talented wax team. We're one of the most organised teams out there. We can expect to have skies as good as any other team despite not have the limitless resources that the bigger teams have. Only on the rarest occasions do we miss the mark. Saturday was one of them. There wasn't enough time to switch out the skies before Lowell's and Tim's leg. They both had solid races but when your skies are clinging to the snow you don't have a chance. Trust me I've tested this out by accident and it's close to hopeless. Leif and I were able to get on the corrected grind for the day. We both had fast skies, just like anyone else. Leif has been shooting well this year, but Saturday was an off day. No one is safe. It happens. There's no better way to describe it. With a few penalties it wasn't shaping up to be the day I envisioned. I was the last leg and was tagged off with the Belarus team. It made for a good draft the first loop. I thought we were going a little too hard, but I figured one of us would lose it on the last loop if that's what it came to. Prone went clean with two extras. The group around me had to have used at least this to get out, because I was ahead leaving the range. I came into standing pretty hot. With the range approach in Hochfilzen it's hard not to do this. Standing went well. One miss from the clip and only one extra to clean. I raced around the corner onto what I thought was my last loop. Instead I was met by IBU officials who were waiting for me and anyone else still racing with there arms waving in the air. The lead team had crossed the finish line before I left the range. Via IBU rules we were not allowed to finish. I was denied my last loop.
           This may have been the worst relay team USA has ever had. No one is really thinking about it. It was a lot of bad things crammed into one race. Even more there was no race to be had the following day. If only I had been two seconds faster. Place 60 didn't even race the pursuit, nor did Bjordalen. It was rough having to watch the men's pursuit on Eurovision yet again.

           As always, if there is ever a chance for success then it's reason enough for a full effort. The next chance lies in Pokljuka, Slovenia. The season is just getting started and the parts of slowly coming together. It only takes one good day to start a catalyst. If that's a possibility for me then I'm going to go for it. The hiking was good today. Tomorrow will be a semi rest day. Tuesday similar with some easy combos. The sprint race is on Friday.

         Some things never change. Some things need to change. Wish me luck in trying to break those thresholds next week by having a better day. Then I can relax and come home for Christmas. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as it's not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon. I like to keep anyone back home who's interested up to date. Maybe it would be enjoyable to write if I had better news.

Okay probably not.

Hochfilzen in June? No no. This is earlier today. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


         There wasn't much for success last week in Ostersund, Sweden. The only thing that kept me positive after the individual was the thought of proving otherwise in the sprint race two days after. The best way to cope with a bad race is to look forward to the next one. When the next race is only two days away it's easy to keep the spirits up. When the next race is in a flight and five days away it's not as easy. That was the case for me after a dismal sprint race last Saturday. A good result to have under the belt before the races in Austria would have made a convenient difference. Instead I'm left to keep the confidence up on my own without any undeniable results to back it up.

         The misses were low. There are endless amounts of reasons why those four misses in prone were low. Zeroing was a little strange that day. Perhaps my position was off. Was it the last tenth of a second aiming? That's been a crucial focus point this year. My standing stage was solid, but I did miss that last shot. Ski speed wasn't much to write home about either. The conditions were all over the place. Not unlike the individual they broke down as the race progressed. The deep and sugary snow covering a base of ice is far from my specialty. By the time the race was over I was unsure about myself and it was only the second race of the season.
          After some thought I came back to the conclusion that I always do. If there was ever a chance for success then there is no reason not to give 100% of your effort. So the coaches and I thought it through and next thing I know I'm outside a hotel in Hochfilzen, Austria doing double pole intervals on the C2 machine. For the past month shooting has been great when it doesn't matter. It's only been the race days that cause the percentage to drop. There were four clean prone stages in row during easy combos today. The ability to relax just isn't my strong point. There are a few things you can do about this. It's much easier said than done though. Since that's the case I'm going to wait for Friday to be over before I divulge any more details. For a sport that is monumentally physically demanding it also has a significant sport psychology side to it.
         Training was good yesterday and for a change the energy level carried through today. Shooting is back under control. The next race is this Friday. We're skiing on a mix of man made snow, snow from the closest glacier, and even trace amounts from the sky. Still, there isn't much that separates Hochfilzen's December from it's late April right now. The work is done and the pieces are there. All I have to do is put them in place for ten shots and ten kilometers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Moron Everyone!

        Only in Sweden can you call everyone a moron have them think you're just commenting on the time of day. It does give some strange looks in the afternoon though. To summarize the individual on Wednesday I'll put the details in to three categories.

What Couldn't be Controlled :
-- The conditions post bib 94. It was warm and the course was not holding up well. Some parts were manageable but most of it was a disadvantage for the last start seed. Also it was a tricky day on the range. As indicated by the unusual amount of misses from a WC field.

What I should have Controlled
-- Prone. Or the shot timing, for closer detail. It's hard to trust the sight picture when you want the hit badly. This lead to some over holding and ended with 40% prone shooting.

What I did control.
-- Standing was solid. 90%. The pre pressure on the trigger and sight reaction were spot on aside from the one miss.

          Unfortunately with seven misses at a minute each there isn't much you can do on the result list.  It's rough to think about the missed opportunity knowing how much better training and shooting has been this year. Conversely it's relieving to know there is another chance tomorrow. Not to mention several after that. I've not one to sugar coat the bad days, but I don't believe in basing an entire season off of one race either. I know some old coaches that would do just this, but lets just leave it at that.

        Shooting was good in training today. I don't think the conditions will hold well tomorrow, but with some better focus in prone there is still a good chance for a better day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Here We Go Again

             Guess what time of year it is? It's time for the 2014/2015 racing to be underway. First race is today.  The mens individual here in Ostersund, Sweden starts at 17:15. That's 11:15 in the AM for everyone back in New Stockholm. Since I'm in the last start seed 17:15 is bit earlier than my start time. It's two minutes past six for me. That's all the details for now. Maybe some more tomorrow when the race is done and over. For now here some pictures from the last week at the office.
If you look closely you can spot the skier on the perfectly groomed trail. 

Sunlight huh? Hope you brought some vitamin D and a headlamp.

Pandemonium  2014

Beards 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In Limbo

** http://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/index.cfm?auctionID=2823&viewType=1  **

Anything helps!

           There is a lot to be said about early and late fall, the whole season just brings up a lot of bittersweet memories. It has been a little different this year with a few minor tweaks in the itinerary. Still, the old days, good and bad, find a way into the week. Since I can't do this topic justice with just words I thought I would attempt to do so with some pictures. To say that work has been "In Limbo" has a lot to do with the war on weather conditions. An all to limiting factor in this line of work.

What a great year for fruits and vegetables. Craving apples meant going outside and picking them. No purchase necessary. 
         Some success was had on the hunting front. I might have more luck if I had the disposable amount of free time that I wish I had. So far only a few birds, and no deer. I'll be here for a few more days so the deer count is still technically pending. The roomers of a more than one buck in the area is enough to warrant some early morning outside sitting.
The sun having a hard time prevailing through the overcast month.
         Training has had it's ups and downs. This was going to be the last solid push for volume before racing season. After the last round of trials it was important to bring the confidence in shooting back up to previous levels. This was difficult with some persistently tricky winds in Fort Kent. That range is different from most. I've shot there more than any other range and why I can't figure it out is beyond me. The wind that you feel skiing into the stadium, the wind you feel setting up on the mat, and the wind indicated by the range flags are three different messages to comprehend. Do you see why this frustrating? It was nice to have one day last week when the wind was a non factor. In a solo time trial I managed to shoot 90%. With that and a lot of hours working on basic dryfire skills behind me the confidence is back and ready to go.

         Fitness wise? Who knows. Some of the biathlon world is already racing out in Canmore, AB. Some are racing in Sjusjion, Norway. The US team will be there next week. I was looking forward to the roller ski race in on North Haven Island last week. As far as roller ski racing goes this is as about as grand as it gets. As luck would have it a cold and sore throat crept in just in time. Given the events that were planned for the weekend on top of the 15km race and the five hour drive in van with everyone else it was out of the question if I should come or not. On the plus side it was a relaxing couple of days.
In other news: After hours of frustration and lack of professional tools I successfully changed a firing pin.

        Once the cold was gone and energy levels back to 100% I was ready to nail down a few quality training sessions. This time of year it's all about the key sessions that are going to make the differnce. If you can get some on snow time that's nice. If you can get some high intensity sessions on the shooting range that's also nice. If you can find groomed trails leading to an A licensed range that's great! I was never able to time that one just right. The grooming here in Stockholm was hard to complain about. I certainly wasn't the only one using that "hidden field" track but I claimed about 100+ km on it.
         The downside to this training option is that lack of 30 point ranges kicking around. To combat this I always head north for a couple of days and really focus on quality shooting  sessions. This has worked out fine most of the fall. The roller loop at the 10mt Lodge in FK is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately the stadium pavement soaks up the sun very well. Making it difficult to ski on snow. The other shady parts of the loop are practically an ice factory. Thus removing the roller ski option. Since it's too cold to go mt. biking this leaves us with lots of running. It's not this best, nor most exciting way to train. Worst of all, if you're like me, running has a finite amount that you can handle before injury becomes an issue. I survived 45 minutes of intensity on Thursday. The goal was log another 30 on Friday. After about 20 there was no chance of that happening.
Just Stockholm things.

            Any experienced coach or athlete could tell you that that's how it works this time of year. The conditions are unpredictable. A degree lower can make all the difference. I do recall one work out involving the cold rain a few weeks back. My least favorite training condition, by the way. Soon my daily living quarters will be in Europe where there is confirmed snow and 30 point ranges. In the meantime I'll have to hang out in limbo. Somewhere between driving, packing, hunting, skiing, roller skiing, running, and... more packing.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Trials Round Two

Does this look like the face of someone who doesn't
train hard enough?
       It's snowing outside and if I had to update about something that interest me it would how much I appreciate this time of year. I could go on, but this is a brief summary of how this years December team naming panned out for me. The combined four races  (best three of four, point wise) would be used to name the world cup team for December. The alternative racing option for December makes me cringe with cold repressed memories. With out any IBU cup racing opportunities this year it was an all or nothing situation. I so dearly wanted to be in Europe when the racing season kicked off this year. Well, this is what happened.
         Round numero uno was held back in August in Jericho. Round two, not unlike past years was in October. Since we had an early Utah training camp this year the races were held in Jericho again, instead of the normal Solider Hollow slip n'slide roller loop. Think super smooth sealed pavement with large cracks around every corner. Think perpetually dull pole tips. While the weather in Jericho can't hold a candle to an average day in Midway, UT the functional roller ski track at the National Guard base makes up for it.
The racing scene. 
         The post Utah training was up and down. After a couple of days off I was back at it. No mini vacation from roller skiing or the rifle. I was back into it with a three hour ski. The legs felt a little heavy. I assumed this was due to the travel and rest days. But as the week went on my the energy was still low. When I talked to the other guys later on they all had similar experiences. By the following Monday I felt a lot better. This carried through for a couple of mini time trials. Shooting was good and everything seemed to be on good pace.

The December WC team: Tim, Lowell, Leif and myself. 
At least my eyes are open in this one. 
       When I say "good pace" I mean it was normal. At least for this year is was normal. Since the start of the training season the goal was to break some thresholds on the shooting front. This has been the goal for several years now. But with the start of a n ew Olympic cycle it was good time to take more chances. This meant being more open to advise. In the end we made some minor changes in prone. It took a solid two months before any of the changes has a positive result. This, coupled with the normal search for better technique, training quality, and what not made a change for the better. Hit percentage was better when it mattered but what excited me the most was seeing the improved range times. A sub two minute cumulative total for a four stage time trial was the norm.

No ultra cold Canmore this year. 
             That last part was worth mentioning, because I suspect it played a key role in the final team selection. The races that weekend did not go very well. Ski speed was strong. That much worked out fine. Technique was better than it was in August and overall fitness came in very handy. The real clutch was the age old problem of spending too much time in the penalty loop. I'm not making any excuses. All the misses were operator error, but it was out of the normal tendency I had set in the months prior. After all the these years you never truly feel immune to the set backs. It's not unlike training or racing. The more fit you are the faster you go. The last loop still hurts as much now as it did when I was 14. I did my best to hold it together. Since the MWSC team was there as a group I didn't have to drive myself home. This was great, as I hate driving, but it also gave me a lot of time to sit around think about just how bad the weekend was.
             Monday was filled with the usual gauntlet of busy task. No training, just laundry, ebay stuff, emails, stoking the fire, so on and so forth. After some thought the best perspective I could conjure up was trying to see this as a chance to train a little more through December. As if my season were delayed. There was the usual Canmore and Minnesota trips, but to me it was a delay on the real racing front. The thought of the cozy little rooms in Ostersund from two years ago overlooking the race course vs the racing scene in Colerain, MN was too bi-polar to dwell on.

          So... I was out in the woods looking for a bird before it was too dark. My phone vibrated. When I saw the quick view it was an email titled "WC." "Oh great" I thought. "This is the famed end all email". With no hesitation I put my head down and waited for the ax to fall by opening up my email account. There in glorified times new roman text was the words "you will go to the dec WCs." I didn't mean to over dramatized this part, but I was so excited I thought it deserved some gravity. I never did get a bird that afternoon, but I did get named to the first trimester team of the 14/15 season.
          The details are still somewhat unknown. Still waiting for that plane ticket, for example. I'm in the county for a few more weeks before heading over to Norway for brief prep camp. Then it's off to Ostersund, Sweden for the opening races. Good news or not I can still carry out the quality training I need, but admittedly training last week was much easier to do after that email.
Finding bright colors in the darkest time of the year. 
           The next update will have some better pictures. Maybe some pertaining to this time of year. Realistically I didn't think I would make it in after having back to back 50% shooting days, but for one of the rare occasions optimism won over. Training is still somewhat heavy. Training and the stress of keeping everything organized will wind down once I head over. For now I have to go look for my snow baskets to swap out the roller ski tips with. It will be gone by Wednesday so might as well see what I can do with this few inches of fresh snow while I can.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

UTAH 2014

       This one needs to be dated to differentiate it from all the other years. The Utah camp really has become an annualized trip. This year the camp made for nice little extension of summer. Of all training conditions, the cold rain of fall in northern Maine is the best to avoid like the plague. The timing of this years camp wasn't the most convenient in all regards. It pretty much forced me out of potential hunting opportunities. Conversely it made for some great training opportunities. I always leave these focused camps with something gained to work on before the next one ramps up. The 2014 Utah survival camp was no exception.
Not Utah
       To be fair the three week suffer cycle started a week before flying left for a couple of time zones. Unlike the other years this Utah camp was a little earlier than usual. Last year after three weeks we were back home for November training. This time, it has only been two weeks and we're not even in mid October yet. That's where the summer extension comes from. It was fall when I left the county. Which is something to appreciate for plenty of obvious reasons if you've ever spent some time in the east (right) this time of year. The deal with training out here is that it's close to perfect all the time. Blue skies and dry across the board. It's been around or just below freezing every morning. By the time we start the core part of the morning session it's all 60s with a t-shirt. It feels even better when you remember what it's like trying to load clips when your hands are so cold and wet that you have to mash the fifth round in with your knuckle because your thumb is too numb. Yeah. Those days will make you appreciate nice weather. When I retire what ever I move onto will have no weather grounded limitations.

Extremely Utah
        Travel wasn't too bad. My flight actually made it as planned. Which is seemingly unusual these days. Unfortunately the ride to our house in Midway didn't go planned. The other coaches and athletes were delayed. The coaches didn't make in till after the rental agency closed. It took some shenanigans to procure the rental car before 1:30 AM. Everything after 12 in the morning is blur. I remember waking up occasionally when the coaches needed to know where I parked the rental. I guess it was nice to be able to just close my eyes at the SLC airport and open them to our place in Midway. After finding a bed to sleep in at three in the morning I decided that skate combos at 8:30 were not going to happen.
         Once travel was out of the way is back to the grind. The second round of trials were not at Soldier Hollow this year. With no pending races there was no excuse to not train at full bore. With out any classic roller skis or bike it was down to skating, double pole, running, and the few weight room stops. The problem with this came down to how much running my legs could take. It wasn't easy, but I was able to make it out with any serious injuries. A four plus hour run / hike  with a hefty amount of downhill running will demolish your legs. Skating and biking will make your legs tired, Running will make them sore and tired. I planned my massages  accordingly. That coupled with some good stretching was enough to make the difference. Energy levels always have a different pacing at altitude. With all the eggs, spinach, iron supplements, and wild game consumed in the past month there was no excuse for lack of iron to hold me back. The first week was the hardest. The dead feeling in my legs on the first Thursday suggested that there was no chance of making it through this camp alive. Sure enough Friday was slightly easier. With Sunday off Monday was much better. By the time we were doing easy skate combos on Wednesday I felt considerable better that I had six days prior. Altitude is strange like that. With one more day to go I'm somewhere in the middle. Tired from training and feeling better with acclimatization.      
          There wasn't much for long workouts. No one got lost or hit by a train. Shooting has also been fairly repetitive and boring. There were few wake up call sessions. Shooting at altitude tends to add a new element. It's hard to switch up the pattern and take that extra breath after the first shot. Still things are heading in the right direction. When I look back on it there was never a terrible shooting day. A couple of them were great and the rest were mediocre but never abysmal. Consistency in shooting is more precious than gold. If you can shoot at a high level on a consistent bases you're at least bound to do well in the overall.

         Aside from the roller loop in Soldier Hollow continuing it's downward spiral in quality it's not so bad out here. I managed to get in one meal of some real Mexican food. Goose season may have taken the blunt end of the camp timing but for the first time in years I'll be home for Halloween. So at least there is that for non business related events to look forward to. Before that however, is the second round of December team trials back in Jericho, VT. Let's see if I can make the most of the time spent home leading up to those races.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time Spent in the Suffer Zone

      Our stay in Lake Placid is winding down. Coaches and athletes are on there way out today. It's been a delight to stay in one room for more than five days at a time. In the last few weeks the team has been run through the full gauntlet of training ideas. Ranging from five hour rides, time trials, shooting test, all the way to sprinting through speed traps. Some results missed expectations, but for the most part progress is still a thing. I appreciate the resources of  Lake Placid. I don't see much reason to hate on it. Nevertheless I've made plenty of good use out of my time here and that being said I'm looking forward to heading back the home for brief time.
        On my last update I was attempting the last week of a three week cycle. This is never an easy task. One of which I've described more than once. This last week was different though. This one ended with the infamous Climb to the Castle. You can drive up the road to the top of the White Face alpine hill. On this early Saturday morning it was a mass of skinny granola eating dudes in spandex and rollerskis suffering it out to reach the top first. I hope you like the occasional dark humor because to me these kinds of races make me think of what it would be like trying to drown yourself in a puddle. You see, this race has no rest, no downhills. Whatever fatigue you put on yourself in the first five minutes is going to be with you the whole race. You're always in that hypoxic oxygen deprived suffer zone. This is not a life or death situation. In theory I could have stopped as soon as I decided I had had enough. Realistically this isn't going to happen. No matter how little rain water is in that puddle you're going to give it your best shot. Tim lead out of the start. Shortly later Welly Ramsey took over and strung the pack out. When Tim took back over it didn't last very long. He soon pulled over, looked at me and said "I'm not going to pull the whole thing". I lead for an X amount of time. When I thought I had done my fair share I backed off and hoped to survive in the draft. When I moved back I realized it was done to about three or four of us. Then it was just Tim and I. It wasn't long after when I cracked and watched Tim get a lead that I couldn't compete with. Tim's not an idiot so I didn't expect his pace to fade much. The goal from here on was to stay in second. While most of the field had a heavy use of V2 I found it easier to work with my V1 better when I was alone. It didn't seem to be any slower. There are still some technique issues to work out with uphill V2. It was foggy at the top. As soon as the road turned for the last 200 meters it was also windy. And we're not talking about a tail wind here. It was debatable whether or not a narrow double pole would have better than skating at this point. After almost 40 minutes of an unending climb there was no hope for a strong finishing sprint. It was down to one grinding gear and the hope that the end was close.
           At the end of the day I was second overall. Tim took the lead and Welly was third. I was pleased and suspect everyone else good race or not was just glad to say it was over and done with. We had one more session that afternoon and it was still dark and rainy out. Hearing the beep your watch makes when you stop it for the last time at the end of long week is feeling of relief I'll always remember.
            The following Sunday brought more competition. It was not in the endurance sport form however. I can't go into too much detail and still keep this blog casual. I will say it took us about nine plus hours to do 18 holes of golf. My team didn't win (I've never actually done the golf thing) but we had an exiting day trying to. We had two more easy days after that. Both of which were dearly needed in the name of super compensation.
         This is where the the "USBA test week" technically began. It kicked off with some shooting test. After some meetings with coaches we concluded that trying to push precision points and range times at this point in the season was futile. Shooting has been going well lately and the primary focus from here on out is to keep that trend going. I have a good system for prone and standing and the goal is to keep reconfirming it. For the record the shooting test that day went well. Event the point scoring and timed drill were not that bad. Admittedly the second round yesterday wasn't as good, but that's how shooting works most of the time.
          The time trial we did last week was also a success. For the start of a training period I was more tired than I wanted to be. I'm pretty sure I may have gone too hard during the prior day's session. The blood lactates were low and I really didn't have that extra gear. Shooting was solid. Total range time was under two minutes. Something I wasn't trying to push. There were three misses in prone and clean in standing (85%). Ski speed was better than I thought. It was nothing special but a good time trial overall.
           After an easy day of skiing on the treadmill and a 90 minute run we had another hard effort. This time there was no shooting. It was mostly uphill, but not as steep as the previous climb. I was tired and it showed. The result was solid, but it felt stale. The training was starting to catch up with me. We did the time trial twice. I had less energy for the second round, but better tactics. Maybe next time I'll get the best of both in one.
          Two days later we had another climb up White Face. This time from a different angle and on foot. We ran up the actual alpine hill. A few of the athletes had done this race a couple of weeks earlier. Being one of them I was not looking forward to thwarting this hill again. It's another shot of pure suffer. While only 14 or less minutes it's not as taxing as the Climb to the Castle but it's a great test for engine power. Something that steep doesn't favor top end speed. It's short enough to prevent any pacing, but long enough to utilize full engine use. It wasn't even the half way point that I recall telling myself "The faster you go, the sooner you don't have to do this anymore." That's how you know you're pacing appropriately. The final stretch didn't seem like it was going to end soon enough or at all for that matter. When I crawled over to my coach after the finish we took a lactate sample and I put up a 13.1. Which might be the high for the season and my finish time was 17 seconds faster than the first time.
            The uphill race was the last positive test of the week for me. We had one more day left. This time we were testing our top end sprint speed, and upper and lower body power. These kinds of efforts are not my strong point. The 100 meter sprint test made this obvious. The speed trap the coaches set up in the parking lot proved it fair and square. The other test consisted of measuring the distance we could go with 20 double pole cycles and then again with legs only. Aside from not being much for sprinting when you're only 5'6'' (168cm) there isn't much you can do to defend yourself in double poling.
Try to imagine that cold and damp feeling coupled with an obnoxious head wind. 
              At this point we were all pretty tired. It wasn't a lot of training and it wasn't even two weeks. Nevertheless the next few days will be light. There was more on the plan, but with the Utah camp looming around the corner it would be nice to have some more energy stored up. Overall progress was made the in last six weeks since I left the county. Summer is nowhere to be found in upstate NY anymore. From what I hear it's not around back home either. This the best time of year. Or at least until it's cold enough to rain, but not enough to snow. Aside from that Fall is best. With the progressive trend and the next three week cycle soon to start up again there's still time to leverage it. Sitting in a car and navigating my way back home for nine hours sounds like a good way to start.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Familiar Places

     There isn't much new to report. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened. This is a good thing for the most part. The down side is that my updates are less entertaining as a result. This isn't even a full post to be fair. If anything I'm pretty much just checking in to let you know I still have internet access fast enough to post JPEGs. 

The whole team is settled down in Lake Placid at the moment. Training is going well. Shooting is still on an upward swing. Prone feels more consistent than ever. Energy isn't necessarily through the roof. If is was I would just train more and go back to being tired again. 

Hiking today. No joke, I almost went the wrong way again setting myself on another 7 hour death hike. 

Recovery and fear training DO mix.

         I have a few more days left in the current training cycle. This week is going to go out with a bang. After all these years I will finally have the opportunity to race in the Climb to the Castle roller ski race. Won't that be fun? It's going to hurt like hell, but overall it probably will be entertaining. From there it's a brief rest period and then back to work.