Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Every Season Tries to be the Last

         The original introduction to this update was going to be much more introspective. There is a reason why I've held on this sport as long as I have. I opted not to go into detail because it would take a lot to do properly and it's almost Christmas.  The reason for considering such an intro is due to the fact that my biathlon career is at an all time low. At first, my insurrection back into the world cup points was delayed a month and now it's out of the question. Realistically, I unloaded a lot of dwindling resources last week in Canmore only to end my biathlon career.
          Did I not play my cards well? Putting the headlamp on at 5:30 in morning to train before school when you're in the eighth grade simply felt like the right thing to do. It wasn't always easy, but if I was going to make it to the top then I was going to have train before school even when my class schedule wasn't in favor of it. Taking the plunge and dodging an education after high school or finding a part time job always made me a little nervous, but if you're going to commit to something then you should really commit to it, right? It was an investment and a risk, but in the questionable chance that it paid off what an awesome story that would be, right? Now more than ever, I don't think we'll ever find out.
         For reasons uncertain, performance dropped off the deep end these past couple of weeks. Just in time for a last chance at a Euro race start in the 2015/16 season. I was fortunate to have what little support that did to make the trip happen at all. It was four races in five days at the Canmore Nordic Center in Alberta. Prone is historically my week point. While the prone shooting didn't improve last week my standing was the weaker of the two. Why? It's still unclear to me. Everything was unusually low. Preemptively checking the forecast, the temps looked to be manageable. Literally, as the first race started the air temperature plummeted. By the time I was gliding into the range my fingers might as well have been chopped off to save weight. The lack of sensation made for a dismal range time only to miss three of five targets. My best standing stage out of the four races had only two misses. To think, I almost forgot what my left leg feels like after turning right in the penalty loop four times in a row.

       Being sent home after the Olympics in 2014 instead of racing the last WC trimester was rough. The season after that started off with a good opportunity and proceeded to go downhill from there. I was burnt out and back in Stockholm before March. I wasn't named to the national team this training season. With MWSC's support being more limited than ever I remained loyal to my goals in the hope of climbing my way back up the ladder. Besides, at this point things could only go up right? Wrong. My success rate sank lower. Now more than ever, no team wants anything to do with me. In all fairness, it's justified. You can't argue with results and after 14 years the results suggest that I might have made the wrong career choice. There was point when my hard work and determination was coming to fruition. That made for some of the best days of my life. I so sorely want those days to occur more often than they are.
       At this point it only keeps going further down a road of self loathing. So on a more positive we have the rest of the season... Any suggestions?  I'm all ears. Should I go for the nordic half of biathlon? Should I pour everything into making the Birki happen? Should I simply drop everything and start a new life?  Technically, US Biathlon nationals are in Fort Kent this year and that does open up a nice opportunity, but for obvious reasons that's not high on my list right now. That being said, don't expect to see me around Presque Isle during the WC; might be the perfect weekend to live in a cave for me. Maybe what I should be asking is: what can I do to prevent my biography from turning into a dark humor?
       In the real world dreams can end on an awkward and bitter note. After watching so many films I assumed it would go out on a glorified hero's end. Nevertheless, this isn't an end by any official means. This is more of a half baked rant of frustration. It certainly wouldn't be the first time for those few of you who keep up with this blog. In an effort to resist divulging into a lot of detail, giving up on this sport would be as challenging to do as it is for me to achieve the results I want. So as the title implies, this season is trying harder than ever to put me into the retirement home and I'm still not convinced it's going to make it.

Sorry for another dismal one in the books folks,

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 7, 2015

A day in the life of the Fort Kent Outdoor Center

       The IBU A-licensed venue in Fort Kent, Maine, USA has been evolving for as long as I can remember. That's over 15 years, losely. When I was in middle school we did a "field trip" to the new venue and watched the Jr. Nationals for biathlon circa 2000. The place was half done and may or may not have had four walls yet. The amount of force it took to have the facility and trails up and running was asking for a lot. Today it still amazes me that how much dedication goes into maintaining and improving the place.
        There was a time when we didn't have a rollerski loop. When we finally did it was only a few minutes long. The fall that had the extension paved was a nice upgrade. If you were crafty enough you could stretch it out to 20 minutes. Those sort of additions make a huge difference when a large bulk of your job is spent on the less than exciting roller skis. The rest of the trail system isn't paved but is kept in great condition. The grass is mowed regularly. This actually makes a difference for early and late season skiing. For whatever reason people tend to stay on the pavement even when the grass is dry. It's unclear why, but apparently most people are less afraid of sharp pole tips and expensive gear than they are of... grass.
A slightly more foggy morning. 
          There is an undeniable dedication to grooming at the FKOC. Though not always spot on, when you see the building that was constructed strictly for the benefit of the groomer you can count on hard packed trails more often than not. It's unclear who was in charge on one not so great occasion, but it's impressive when you can do all the wrong things for trail grooming in one morning. After driving up for an important high intensity combo session I found myself dodging the groomer at around ten AM. Ten AM being the beginning of peak usage for the trails. I've actually had nightmares involving this situation. Needless to say it makes more sense to groom when the trail is more vacant. Also, the best time of day to set tracks is early morning. Right before the coldest part of the day. The late morning job of this day, with no exaggeration, actually made the conditions worse... To really cap off my rage the groomer proceeded to stop in the middle of the range while I was doing combos. Yes, the range flag was up. These workouts are key and take a lot of energy to do, so when you have to stare down the groomer in a fit of rage it doesn't help the cause. If you don't you want to see an expensive piece of equipment that isn't cheap to run put to bad use then don't repeat these events. End rant. The rest of the time the trails are top notch. Despite only a few centimeters of snow the trails were being rolled at two in the morning before training last Friday. During this time of year, those efforts are what really make the quality training sessions happen.

             At almost anytime of the year you can expect to see someone around working on a new project or fixing a door hinge if need be. The local athletes helped removed the excess brush when the stadium was being expanded this fall. During the height of this construction the roller loop would be covered with rocks and debris. Instead of leaving the mess there with no regard to the athletes that depend on the pavement the leaf blower was put to good use. In the end, the bulldozer and it's wrecking path were never in the way of training.
Sunday December 6th 
           The FKOC has been a fail safe option for years. I'm not going to divulge into what I think of other venues, but let's just say some venues seem to work against you. Perpetually locked doors, grass growing up to the targets, moldy roller loops, and an organizing committee that stays in hibernation most of the year.  To be fair a lot of venues meet this description. What it so great about the FKOC is that it fits the opposite of this. When you need a place for quality training you can count on the drive up to Fort Kent. If you're looking for a place that's providing a physically active opportunity for the public the FKOC club is doing there part ten fold. Though I'm still bitter about that one occasion back in March, making a point of the effort that goes into this place is the least I could do.