Friday, January 31, 2014

Ciao Anterselva !

The running trails are groomed, but it's a little
more naturally occurring. 

       This is the US team packing up for our eventual departure to Sochi. Even with the charter and relatively short drive to Munich it's still going to be a long weekend. That's why we made extra sure to nail down some quality peak training this week. Even with sub par weather Antolze doesn't leave much room for excuses to not train adequately. Unfortunately some food poisoning and a persistent cold had it's way with most of the team. Even with those barriers it was a successful pre Olympic camp and everyone is in good spirits.

      I was one of the few that was able to make it through the world cup with out having to duck out over a cold. A lot were not able to say the same. I really thought I was safe after the first wave. What ever it was it was stealthy enough to catch me towards the end of our low weak. It was never all that bad. The normal sore throat to accompany it wasn't a part of it. Come Monday of the official training camp I was ready to get back into it. We had a couple of upper end sessions, one new double pole workout, and the rest was low volume recovery training.
Yes, I will have the roast duck.
      The first hard session started out with a few low end race zone intervals. Antholze has one of the hardest range approaches on the circuit. These intervals were great for building confidence in shooting. The second part of the session was a ladder of max intervals. Each one was longer than the last. The first one only being a 15 second sprint and the last one at two minutes of hanging on for dear life. My lungs, heart, capillaries, nerves, and mitochondria were not liking this treatment one bit. That is, of course the whole point. You have to send the message to adapt with authority sometimes.
Life's rough. 
      Yesterday was a time trial. Next to a full blown race, time trials are always the best source for learning experiences. The coaches and I were pleased with the effort. 1,2,0,1 was the shooting. Range time wasn't pretty, but after some rational thinking it actually isn't anything to worry about. Ski speed was just fine. With out all the additions of a race day situation it's hard to draw any conclusions on ski speed. On the plus side there wasn't much to suggest that it was slow. Leif and I were under orders not to go full gas on the last loop. This was harder to do than I thought it would be. We were glad we didn't though. The gauntlet of max end ladder intervals after the the TT more than compensated for that easy fifth loop.
Can't help but wonder where my dinner originated. 
This counts as work. 
        There was a brief bout of food poisoning. That is, depending on who you ask. If you ask almost anyone on our team, or the Czech women's team they will tell you it was some article of food we were served the night before. If you ask the cook, you'll get an enraged answer revolving
around having nothing to do with him, but rather an Antolze flu (that only hit the See House hotel). It was short lived and didn't impede training at all. Still, a couple of days later we had to return our fish dinner that smelled like aged cheese. This all helped to further compliment the chaos of room shuffling. The US and Swedes had to take turns on more than one occasion staying at the Hotel down the road. The room real estate wasn't enough to fit everyone. "Everyone" being the athletes that had rooms booked months in advance. If yellow page reviews were a limiting factor over here it would not be a good day for the old See Haus.

         To be fair, there is still plenty to love about this place. The juicer at breakfast everyday is a selling point within it's self. In fact this place has one of the best Euro breakfast options I've seen. That happens to be a very competitive field by the way. The groomed ski tracks out the door and general view out of the window are pretty decent to. When you spend three weeks in one place you get to know the staff a little . The guys here are working extra hard to keep things a float for us. Plus the Hungarian waiter happens to be full of insightful information.
        Today was just another relaxed classic ski with some quality shooting at the beginning. Tomorrow we head for Munich. Team processing will supposedly soak up most of the afternoon. The charter flight leaves early Sunday morning. Historically speaking it wouldn't seem likely if everything went smoothly trying to get into our accommodations in Russia. This time the situation is slightly more high caliber. Hard to say if that's good thing or not. I know the USOC has been on the ball keeping the logistics machine well oiled. Either way the next few days will be very entertaining. In the mean time it's been a nice afternoon in Antolze. I'll even go as far to say the past three weeks went better than anticipated.
US mens team: "We're really supportive of each other" 

There is very good chance that my next update will have something to do with the Olympics.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Euro Living Quarters

        Over the past few years the US team has spent enough time in the Anterselva valley to warrant it a second home or sorts. While not racing or at training camps I claim Lake Placid and Stockholm  as sort of a dual residents. When we're in Europe the See Hause Hotel just up from the race venue in Antolze is probably where we spend more time than anywhere else while in Europe.

        I'm too burnt out on typing up long updates about life at the moment. Just pick up most any Maine based news paper and there's probably mention of me. The training has been nice enough to to snag some good pictures.

If you follow the pass up the valley it will take you into Austria where there is a restaurant and about five or so kilometers of groomed trail. 

If I recall from the summer camp back in 2010 the hiking here isn't too bad either. 

Sochi has nothing on our altitude training camp. 
This is what it feels like when you take your glasses off for the first time on a sunny day. 
Add caption

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yet another Winter Carnival

Grade Five Stockholm Winter Carnival. 10km. 2nd overall.
I just couldn't resist putting this one in. 
        I've always wondered how this update would go. Now, sitting here in Antholze with a brief moment of silence before breakfast I can not even conjure up a deep and clever title. Maybe "Results round 3"? Maybe something less original, but accurate such as "The Olympics" or "Sochi Bound" It doesn't really matter, because leaving the blog un-updated wouldn't be a very nice thing to give the overwhelming amount of support that has been pouring in since (and even before) the team naming. This is my best attempt at summarizing the past couple of weeks. There's not enough time to go into detail about the last 12 years, but they played a role in the last two weeks here in Northern, Italy.

         Not making it to the December IBU or WC team was big let down for me. What it spelled out was that I was going to have to take the long road to making the Olympic team; if at all. I was going to have to play the last minute card to secure a spot. What you can take from that is that there was still a chance. A chance to turn everything around and make the season a success. Whether the odds are in your favor or not it's still a chance. With any amount of chance there is reason for a full bore effort. After racing well enough in Minnesota I was discretioned onto the January IBU cup team. So then it was the four of us trying to claim the last two spots on the US team.
Yet another nice morning.
          The deciding races were held in Ridnaun, Italy. Which happens to be one of the better places on earth to compete at. We were looking at two sprints back to back one weekend and an individual and sprint back to back again the following weekend. Seemed fair enough. The first race was not an accurate representation of the warm and perfect sunny days we've come to expect from Ridnaun. Instead we raced in a blizzard. Admittedly it wasn't that windy, but it had been snowing heavenly since the morning of the day before. This meant that the trail was soft and unstable. Technique went out the door as I struggled to maintain balance in the soft, but still glazed trail. The visibility on the down hills was non existent. You had to get a brief look in of what direction to expect and then put you head down and really commit to the memory of the trail. Yeah... it wasn't the most pretty race to watch. Since it snowed all race it was actually somewhat fair. Shooting was slow, but I had my best of the year so far with 90%. Skiing was okay enough to get me in the top US spot and 25th overall.
          The following day's sprint was the least eventful of the four races. I took on two penalties in both stages. 60% isn't great, but it just barley gave me a second US finisher spot. Roughly 50 seconds behind Sean Doherty and four seconds up on Jeremy Teela.
           After that we packed up all of our possessions and moved up the valley. We were now only a few hundred meters from the trails. We were not technically residing at the infamous four start Schneberg, but our new accommodations were pretty slick. The perfect weather made training that week somewhat mellow. Or at least it did until the last round of Olympic trials drew near. The legs felt good the day before and shooting was also good during my pre-race session. Everything was in place. It was just a matter of waiting to try it out. I hate the waiting part before races. Sometimes the best part of the day is just getting out of the starting gate. At that point you at least have the chance to control the results.
        The third race was the individual. 20kms of races, four stages of shooting and a healthy one minute penalty per miss. Individuals are not my specialty. Given the high stakes at hand I wasn't about to let that get into my head. I focused on the task at hand as best I could. Even then I have never been that nervous about a few shots as I was coming into each one of those shooting stages. In the end I had four misses total out of twenty. 80% to help maintain the seemingly 80% of the IBU cup level. If you look at the break down of the race my range time was abysmal. This isn't necessarily anything new, but I did put in a lot of effort to bring those times down this year. The truth is, I was playing the safe card. The goal was to qualify. Shooting faster would increase the chances of a great results while also increasing the chances of a terrible result. So I took my time and did what I had to. Skiing was not so slow, on the other hand. I was able to muster up the sixth fastest course time. There was a two plus minute gap from me to the next US finisher. Even though it was a longer race in general, the points and chances of me making the Olympics were looking pretty good.
The leg sticker from the race that made
 the turning point in trials
         There was no real reason to be excited just yet. We had one more race to go. With only 24 hours to rest it was easy to stay in the focus zone and go for it one last time. I played it safe again and had a couple of rather slow range times. Ski speed was decent but only the 18th fastest on the day. I was the top American again and had unofficially claimed one of the last two spots. Casey had a good race with another clean shooting. Try as I may I couldn't wipe the grin off my face while cooling down.
         Team naming was done over a fractional skype call. I was in through points. It was a little unknown who would take the discretion card between Jeremy and Sean. In the end Sean was named in the fifth spot. Yeah, it was good evening. Even for all of the athletes in valley.
       The next day brought a sunny and warm morning with a quiet breakfast. It all just help compliment the mood. The world cup team made there way from Ruhpolding to our place. After lunch and packing we were off to Antholz. It was basically one beautiful northern Italian valley to the next. When I jumped my phone onto the hotel wifi it proceeded to chime and vibrate for about five minutes with congratulatory updates from home. Each of which I read. So thanks!
          Some of us on the team were fighting just to be here while others will be fighting for the first USBA medal. I try not to take anything for granite. That being said I have easy combos later on today and a pre race session tomorrow before Friday's WC sprint race. The pre Sochi training camp will stay right here in Antholz. No one is complaining about that one.
           The truth is, the Olympics are just another race series. It's the same bunch of dudes battling it out that you see in the world cup. The range isn't any further. The sprint race will still be ten kilometers. The difference is the amount of respect and hysteria that revolves around the greatest winter carnival earth has to offer. When you're young you don't dream about world champs. You dream about the Olympics. As just mentioned there is no literal difference, but good luck trying to feel that way after watching the opening ceremonies.
          Well there, the update I've been waiting to post for long time is done. The first winter carnival that I competed in was at the Stockholm School some decades back. The spectator count may be grander for this next one, but the competitive effort never changes.
Yeah I don't know.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Freezing Thresholds

My hands were so cold after taking this shot that only took about 15 seconds.
          Have you ever been so cold it was hard to breath even though you have no history of asthma? Or have your fingers lose all sensation. Add precision shooting to that one. To be fair I've never breached the limits of what cold temps can do to someone, but I've gone well beyond the point of what's considered healthy. After venturing into those cold and unhealthy regions last December I thought it would be worth going into some detail about what can be done to deal with low temps and what happens when you don't

The rest of the pictures have less to do with the article and more to do with home life over Christmas.
         When I first made it to Canmore in November I was optimistic. For the most this was the right feeling as it was pretty warm for the middle section of the trip. The first and last few days were not so much. On top of that when 30+ snow guns are dishing it out it acts as an outdoor humidifier. That way it makes feel even colder than it actually is... At one point we were doing race pace intervals. I was unable to settle in for shooting. It wasn't the excessive amount of clothing, it had more do to with the lack of feeling in my fingers. Last year I missed all five of first stage for the opening world cup in Ostersund. Similar to the intervals that day it was due to having do go from an exposed finger setting on a sharp bladed trigger too nudging what might have well have been a piece of dead wood towards what I guessed was the trigger. You could say it felt like using and old flint lock black power rifle. This is not ideal and Seth recommended that just stick with skiing that day. I kept the shooting effort up only because I knew it could be cold later on when the shooting really mattered. Turns out I was onto something.
           Before leaving Canmore I would like to mention that my feet got pretty cold to. The thing is when you face turns white you can run inside and warm it up in a matter of minutes. If you hands get cold you can spin them around in circles. This pushes the warmer blood in you arms out towards your fingers. It must also look very entertaining from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know that move. When your hands are that cold you pretty much stop caring how you look around others. When you toes get cold there is less immediate action available. This normally isn't much of problem because as long as it fills out the toe box of your ski boot it works. This can be done with a frozen block of wood if need be. On the other hand there is a limit to how cold the toes can become. When we were in Canmore I froze my toes so badly that when I came inside to room temperature they swelled up and hurt. This didn't fade away in five minutes like your hands do. This went on all night. After about four in the morning when I had given up at trying to sleep I just opened the door and stuck my toes in the fresh snow. Ironically this helps... a lot. The cold snow reduced the inflammation and let me sleep for an hour or so. Who said exercise had to be healthy?
         The cold front that plagued Alberta pretty much followed us right into Minnesota for trials. What are the odds huh? With out any snow guns -25 Celsius felt almost balmy. “Almost” because at this point I had froze the skin on face so badly that I had to lather on duct tape and kinesio tape. It wasn't that bad but I wanted to prevent any life altering facial surgery. Thankfully, there is this thing call “legal race temperature” It's -20 Celsius or -4 Fahrenheit. Because of this one race was postponed and the others held at the warmest part of the day. If push comes to shove officials have been know to place the thermometer over the heater to fake a legal race start.
            To give you an idea of what I did to combat the cold whether here is what I was wearing during the races. One long underwear top that stretches out your palm, the normal race top, the warmer insulated race bottoms, my thickest pair of socks, overboot covers, the warmest USBA race hat, a buff, the thicker USBA gloves, sunglasses, an additional long underwear piece down my right arm, duct tape and kinesio tape was all over my cheeks and nose, and even my race bib counted as extra warmth. I also used and over mitt for my right had on the first loop. I don't normally like this because it can mess up the rhythm skiing. But after some rough shooting with cold hands it wasn't worth the risk. This may not even seem like very much to you, but with an average heart rate 180 how much should you need?

Nothing says you're home in the Currier family like a deer rib cage in the sink. 

           Yeah it was cold. Surprisingly I dealt with it better than I have before. It helps to look at it as an advantage. My barrel hold up amazing well in cold temps. I had a top ten on the world cup in cold conditions. It's something that can be done, but crikey is it ever painful. Hands and feet will recover in matter of minutes, but what's going to happen to my lungs when I'm older after inhaling cold dry air at max capacity for so many years? As much as I despise the cold weather it sure does feel nice when it's all said and done. When you're curled up in bed for an afternoon nap and all that's left is the memory of how cold it was it really helps amplify the enjoyment of being warm. Try achieving that with just sub freezing temps.

Groomed classic track from the house to the trails, just like old times. Thanks for the Xmass present Snowy Mt Trails!