Tuesday, February 25, 2014

OWGs: Done and Over

       We never heard the Olympics be officially announced during openings, but at least the US biathletes had the chance to hear the games be officially closed. These Olympics are over and soon everyone will be anticipating the Summer games in Rio, while we'll all be training and racing like we do every year waiting for the attention to ramp up for 2018 Pyeongchang. However, it's safe to say that these Olympics will have a lasting memory for me well after they are done and over.
        I wish I could say that they are all fond memories. That is far from the case. There are some situations that I can't wait to forget about and others that left simply left a permanent scar to be brutally honest. I'm not going to miss the lack of transportation. This was addressed in an earlier update. It never really got any better. Most of the shuttle drivers could be found parked at the center station either sleeping or outside smoking at the "smoke free" Olympic village. Complaining about the obnoxious, and unnecessary efforts it took to do... almost anything would take too long to recall. Let's just say the exit strategy set for the athletes made for a nice going away present from the Russian logistics department.
      In case you missed the relay it did not work out the way I imagined it would. We were not running at our best capacity from the start. Tim was and still is sick and is on antibiotics. Sean, as the team alternate took his place.  Leif was also sick and wouldn't have even trained in a different situation. So it was Lowell, then me, Sean, and Leif as out anchor leg. We were keeping optimistic about it. From the sounds of it we weren't the only team salvaging it up for the last race. Long story short I killed what ever chance we had. Lowell really went for it on the first leg. It worked out well. He tagged off to me in fourth. Less than ten seconds off of the lead. I snagged a great ride behind the Russian team for the first lap. All was going well until I landed on the range mat for prone. This is where things start going down hill. I had three misses from the clip and proceeded to miss them all over again with my three extra rounds. One penalty in a relay is bad news. I had three. The other guys had decent races. Unfortunately they were fighting towards the back of the race. I was not in very comfortable mood after the race. I really just wanted to punch the whole world in the face. I didn't do any punching, because after all unless I can go back in time and redo that prone stage there isn't much point in doing anything spiteful.
The people that you meet. 
Team USA chalet. 
          The whole experience from the relay really help finalized the theme I had been going through for all of the racing at the OWGs. Close to something great, but never really there. It's that threshold that I've been trying to break for decade or so now. You can imagine how excited it was when I was told I would at least be in the Pokljuka WC team. The thought of leaving the racing season on such an awful note would not be easy to swallow. Now there is at least a chance to redeem myself.
           In the 48 hours that followed I logged loosely seven hours of sleep. It was mix of pandemonium and waiting. Yeah there was a lot of cram packing and paperwork, but there was also the closing ceremonies. I did my best to take some pictures. Hopefully you saw some of them on TV because there isn't much use in trying to describe it. It was an impressive display with a lot of variety to keep us from giving into the sleep deprivation. After that, the whole scene shifted to the coastal athlete village. We were meandering around on the bike until our bus left for the Sochi airport. I say airport, but the D-terminal was actually just a giant unheated tent full of semi alive athletes. We made it too our usual place in Inzell around nine in the morning. I took a brief three hour nap. Some of the others were breaking the six hour mark.
So long Endurance Village. Can't help but wonder what will become of this place down the road. 
         All of that is only a brief summary of the last weekend in Sochi. The Olympics may be over, but does it ever feel nice to have a dinning hall with in 30 seconds of my room. There's no need for credentials. Going into town is a five minute drive with no x-rays  along the way. As much negativity that I've mentioned the Olympics were still the Olympics. The goal of the season was to be there for them. That much is done. Some better performances while at the games sure would have been great and at age 26 I've come to expect more out of myself, but hey, it's in the past now and there isn't much I can do about it.

           Don't ask me when I'm going to be home. I don't know and wouldn't tell you if I did. When I do get home if someone would like to sell a mound of clothing on ebay for commission price that would be great. There is almost no snow in Inzell right now. We'll be in Slovenia next week and supposedly  they have three meters of snow. Maybe we'll get out of April and back into winter.
There is just so much to be said about this one. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Meanwhile In Mother Russia: Round 2

         Who would have thought the Olympics would have been this busy. To be fair, probably a lot of people. I don't know why I didn't see this one coming. The race itinerary for biathlon got off to fast start with the sprint and pursuit and only a couple of days rest before the individual. After that there was actually a brief rest period. I wasn't in the mixed relay and at the time wasn't even sure if I would be in the men's relay or not. Well now we've arrived at the 21st of February. Closing ceremonies are drawing near. Before we go through that experience we have one more suffer fest to dual out. Here is a brief run down of the past couple of weeks.
         The sprint race close to something great. Not in the medals but a season best by a lot. Unfortunately this cruel and vicious sport held it's cut throat standards. While skiing was solid with the 28th fastest time and standing was clean in about 26 seconds, the prone shots, though close together were all on the left side of the target. This granted me four healthy penalty loops. I was 17 seconds away from making the pursuit. I didn't think I had a chance. I gave it my best shot and was a narrow three seconds from 60th. I've never been 61st before. Someone has to do it. I wasn't too excited with the results, but the break down of the race was enough reason to stay positive.
         With no pursuit my next chance was the individual. The four kilometer course at Laura biathlon venue is brutal to be put lightly. Basically you start the loop out with a wall, then you have a couple of sharp corners all the way to the bottom of the course. These corners are not hard to handle if the conditions are normal. Either way, your legs are fried by the time you reach the bottom. After that you climb up just far enough to get run through another short series of corners. This brings you to the real climb of the loop. The hill is hard before you even start it. You still have another three minutes of ascending after you realize you're hurting. There is a long gradual stretch at the top of the course. It's actually the most dependable place to make up time. It holds up when the rest of the snow starts to fall apart. The downhill into the range is the only straight forward rest on the course. You can really generate a lot speed going into the range or finish.
          Long story short the individual was nothing great and nothing too bad. Ski speed was decent, despite not having the most favorable snow conditions. I missed two on the first stage and anther two in my second stage. With the level of competition of today's mens biathlon four is too many for anything special. Thankfully I was able to bring it together and do some damage control by cleaning the last two stages. Range time was the best it has been all year. Similar to the sprint race it felt like I was close to putting it together, but still not able to cross the threshold. On the other hand Lowell had a stellar performance. With one miss he was eighth! The rest of us were hoping for something better, but it was still great to see one us pushing the podium.
          With out a start in the mixed relay I was looking at a stretch with out any racing. I was able to have one full day off. As in an actual day off. There was no two hours of walking and no headaches caused by everyday Russian logistics. These days have been hard to come by lately. I was happy to manage one.
        Training went well, but was subjected to some changes due to weather. The men's mass start was postponed again and again. It wasn't until a the day after the women's mass start that the fog cleared for a long enough time to host the race. The visibility was around three meters for a most of  the day. I'm not exaggerating on that. For training that day I had to find an easy loop on the XC course with a classic track that I could follow closely.
        After about two and half weeks in the Endurance Village the guilt of not being able to say I left or did anything else was starting to build. To be positive I'm glad to say that I ventured out and put in the effort. I saw the Olympic Park and ate at the Coastal Village dinning hall. It wasn't very exciting and only helped to further prove how awful Russian logistics are. "The dedication to inefficiency" is an appropriate phrase. Still, managed to leave the EV. At least there is always that.
        In case you were wondering I will representing USA in the  relay tomorrow. We're not running at our best capacity. From the sounds of it a lot of team are in the same position. Just watching the women's relay you could see that some of the normal expectations were off. Tim is sick and will not be in the race. Lowell is our first leg, I'm second, Sean is third and even though Leif is sick he will be our anchor leg. It's not the best, but there is still reason to be positive. So that's the route I'm taking.
        That's the quick run down of my time up to now. The relay starts at 18:30 Sochi time. I think that's 9:30AM for anyone on EST. It's been a busy few weeks, but none of it for a bad reason. This weekend is going to be very exciting. Hopefully because of a good result. Not to mention being able to attend the Closing Ceremonies this time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Life in the Endurance Village

We spend a lot of time just walking back and forth to complete our day. This affords some chances to get in a picture or two.
Proof of Tim using a non iphone smart phone.

On the way to breakfast at the early hour of 11AM

Time spent waiting for the pseudo transport.

The gondola up day 1 
In case someone feels like swimming out side for a warm up option it's there.  

Yeah it crossed my mind.

Well at least the timing building has enough working space. 

From USA team cabin.

Yeah the clouds were out that day. 

Late evening in the endurance village. 

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Meanwhile in Mother Russia

      The team made it here. Now we always have that one going for us. There is actually a lot of good things going for us right now. Naturally there are a few pending issues at hand. I say naturally because it wouldn't seem right with out the frustrating glitches that come with every trip. This time around I'm a little inclined to be more harsh on the flaws. It's the Olympics. Shouldn't we be able to eat and train without having to walk two plus hours a day? I've always imagined that the Olympics would have different feel to them over a world cup or championships. That part has more than lived up to it's prediction.
         As far as I'm concerned we are dealing with the big three. The internet is temperamental. Sometimes it's blazing fast, while other days it doesn't even show up. For the record "blazing fast" refers to the average bandwidth speed of internet in North America. With a half dozen routers in our Olympic team cabin you would think (for the first time ever) that the wifi would be a non factor. But here we are yet again.
          We are under strict recommendations to wear the right brand of clothing at certain places. It's free game in our cabins, but once we leave we're supposed to wear either the Nike or Ralph Lauren clothing that we were fitted with. In the whole biathlon area we have to make the switch to the Olympic Adidas clothing. This is a whole new set of the Adidas gear from the WC, but with out logos. The problem with all of this is that we don't really have the clothing that we're supposed to wear. The Ralph Lauren gear came in a few days ago and the Nike stuff that we all really want right now is still in limbo. It was originally going to meet us at luggage claim day one. That was last Sunday.  Who's doing the logistics here, United Airlines?
           The last complaint I have is worth while. The USA house is the furthest from everything. Okay, so we're close to the laundry mat, but you can't exactly eat or train at the laundry mat. Monday was the first full day in the Endurance Village. We logged loosely two hours and fifteen minutes of walking. The last hill up to biathlon venue is steep and long enough to count as training. I've come to realize that the fitness too walking tolerance ratio of a full time endurance athlete is not proportional. For the amount of money and resources that when into the monumental village you would think keeping up with shuttle bus service would be cake walk. Well, here are. The initial schedule said "every five minutes" Was that a typo? Did they mean to say "hours"? This is, after all, The Olympics. If we're not training we're resting. Walking is a grey area and accomplishes little too nothing.
         Alright those are few complaints. The bright side of life is looking very bright right now. Yesterday was the first day to have a cloud in the sky. The temps are little colder than last year, but nothing inconvenient. The trip over here was surprisingly smooth. You could tell there was long list of logistics that went into the Saturday and Sunday of last week. Team processing was pretty much the way I though it would be. Which was awesome by the way. The accommodations are roomy. In my opinion the food is just fine. This list could go on. The overall mood is in a good place. I could go into the detail about the race course, but I'll save that one for another day. It should be noted that everything about that venue has a fresh foreign feel to it over the typical central Euro and Scandinavian atmosphere that we're accustomed to. And this is nice change.
         I'm even going to put off talking about training. Anything that has to do with racing can wait till Sunday once our sprint race is completed. I'll mess around with some pictures later on and put those up as well. For now it would be nice to just enjoy the easy recovery day with some easy classic. Also, I can't help but have to say thanks again for the support that I still keep receiving. Got to love that small town theme. From what I hear the fundraiser dinner back home was amazing!