Fitness was feeling good, shooting was coming back into place and a potential spot back on the world cup team was up for grabs. All I had to do was keep my whit and train well. With most of the national team present for the training camp there was plenty of reference to gauge my performance with. This was the warmest Canmore has ever been with the I've time spent there. It was seldom below freezing for the two and a half week training camp. Nevertheless, we were able to train on snow. It was only a 2.5km loop, but to be snow while wrapped around a 360 degree mountain view made the training camp a good time. The racing was tough, but the performance was there and my 2016/17 season has a good chance now.
Training was pretty straight forward. As long as you knew what time we were leaving in the morning and what time zero opened it was difficult to botch the session. On some days the conditions turned into a slush fest. Other days it was not unlike the bullet proof conditions we're used to in New England. Most everyday however, the loop was crowded. It was always an awkward operation to carry out the high intensity sessions. Once you were in an efficient rush to get around the loop the slower athletes turned into moving traffic cones. We were not necessarily in Canmore to go hiking. Still, skiing everyday would have been troublesome for the training quality. Some of the best sessions were the ones spent soaking up the scenery on a long hike.
I knew shooting was on the verge of something professional. Up until the last week it wasn't quite showing when it needed to. The changes I made a month or so back had shown promise. Unfortunately, not everything was ironed out and the hits weren't there under pressure. It took about a week into the camp to figure out that my zeroing should be on the top of the prone ring. Whenever I came in to shoot with a high heart rate the grouping would move to the center. The base for better shooting was in place, the final tweaks are still in the works. Yesterday was our last day of on snow combos. The first four stages were all clean with tight groups. Range time is still a ways off from professinol, but that's not the goal at the moment. In other words, hitting five in a row in 40+ seconds is better than hitting two or three in under 30 seconds.
We had two time trials back to back last week. Officially, they were both sprint formats that used the same course. However, this was not the perceived case. It never came close to freezing the night before the first race. With the sun hitting the snow in full force we were stuck racing in midday spring like conditions. After talking with some of the other athletes post race, I wasn't the only one counting down the number of times remaining to ski up a certain climb. It was a slow and debilitating race for only a 10km. The wind changed from where is was during zero. I wasn't able to compensate for this and had two misses in each stage. Since I wasn't the only to have difficulty with the wind, 60% was about the average for the day.
24 hours later we were warming up for the same format on the same loop. This time it had been close to freezing the night before. The snow was holding it's own and it felt like a good old fashion well groomed trail from the days when winter was a yearly feature. With firm conditions the average race time dropped about five minutes. Once again I wasn't able to master the change in wind flags from zero to the race. I took clicks on my rear sight, but it wasn't enough to match the new wind direction. That's where I took four misses. Conversely, I was able to clean standing. The ski speed was solid. I was somewhat glad to hear my group was decent for second day in row. It simply wasn't sitting in center. Had the wind been more consistent, the prone results might have been better.
The next day my inbox had an email informing me that I was selected for the world cups one through three. That's Ostersund, Sweden, Poklijuka, Slovenia and, Nove Mesto, Czech Rep. All places, that I'm not unfamiliar with. Since I didn't race on the WC last season I am technically required to requalify at an IBU cup. This mean the first stop is actually Beitostolen, Norway before Ostersund. Another process that's been done before.
The season hasn't even started yet, but when your team qualification process starts as early as August and ends mid November you have to be carefully on the ball. Fast enough to make a team, but training enough to race well in February. This year I have a chance from the the very start of the race season to have a successful one. From that perspective it's been a better year than last year was before it's even started, oddly enough. After about 36 hours of travel I should be back in the north of Maine area. In about a week the ski and rifle case need to be packed again for an Oslo airport arrival.
Thanks for the well wishes regarding team naming and overall support this year!
Pictures to follow later on in the week.