Saturday, January 28, 2017

Less Text More Pixels

Why don't we start with some color and work our way down from there. The first few are from Antholze. The rest are from an afternoon run in Duszniki Poland. Enjoy.

A very Bavarian structure.

The Antholz WC might just have the best Y-club food.
I wonder if they planned this walk way when these trees were planted.

Buildings appear to be taken down only by natural causes.
Oh how nice! The coal riddled grey sky cleared for a day. 

The window outside our hotel.

black and white! Aren't I special!

More info on the racing this week and the itinerary to come. Don't expect a super positive one. At the very least, it's honest. The finer details are still pending.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Out of the Starting Gate

       It's all about racing. The focal point behind every training session whether it's the pre-race session that I have planned tomorrow or the hill bounding intervals I did on the path leading up too the fire tower in Stockholm last July. Ever training session directly or indirectly revolves around the racing shape from December too March. That's why I'm here in Duszniki, Poland. This is an opportunity to get out of the starting gate. I was in Antholz last week with the goal of having a few solid races followed by a brief relax period before a pre-world champs training camp. But when does life go completely as your goals dictate?

        Antholz is always such a relief. There is a reason we call it Suntholz. Hard packed conditions, fresh air, great coffee and that warm glow that creeps down the mountain behind the range and hits the range around 10:30. Still, I was in the business of racing again. Rupholding wasn't anything special and I wanted to prove otherwise. This time around we actually had more athletes than start spots. The opposite of our team depth in December. If the race was a sprint format the team line up might have been different. I ended up not racing at all last week. Everything was feeling ready to go, but the whole point behind being in Antholz this time of year wasn't fulfilled. 

        The plan took more shifting from there. The whole men's team did extremely well in the individual and my spot on the world champs team is now up for debate. Packing up for the nine hour drive to Poland for European champs was a certainty. Admittedly, I was strongly considering the races for previously mentioned reasons. Not only do I have the competitive environment of the Euro racing scene, but once again the element of team naming is present. Something I have dealt with on more than one occasion. 

        Dusniki, Poland is not a foreign race venue for me. I competed here a couple of years ago for an IBU cup. I remember the cold rain, lack of snow and lack of confidence in my ability to compete. Today the landscape was sunny and covered in snow. It's not my style of course; one decent climb was found and it's only in the 2.5km loop. The rest is rolling / gradual terrain. The first race is on for Thursday. While European champs isn't popular enough to be televised on the level of competition isn't much of a step down from the world cup. Naturally, I won't make any prediction as anything can happen.  

Pictures are in the works, but the internet at our hotel is not the business of functioning very often. If this text makes it on the blog it will be a hard days work for this router in Poland.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Shame Hour in Ruhpolding

          Last week was the fifth world cup series of the season. Not unlike past years the staple that is Ruhpolding was the site of a relay, sprint, and pursuit. Winter was in full force. Snow fell in thick flakes for about five of the seven days the circuit was there. In the end, the upward trend I set in Oberhof took a dive with one too many trips to the penalty loop. Hopes are still high and theses days any start spot on the world cup is a learning experience. Good results or not so good are helpful in building to the next race.

        My one and only start was the sprint race. With a full team of five men I was the reserve for the relay. Relay's tend to favor fast and accurate shooters which is not my strong point yet. For the first time in my (world cup) racing career I was bib number one. It's technically random, but the coaches put me in the first seed, thus giving me the chance of drawing bib one. The crowd was about what I expected from Ruhpolding. This means large and energetic. Still, after the WC in Nove Mesto the energy in the stadium hasn't been the same. It's much more calm by comparison. The first three shots in prone felt like hits and were. The last two slipped out of my focus and didn't go down. Standing was a repeat story. I knew how to hit the targets, but wasn't able to execute it five times in a row. Biathlon showed it's cruel side yet again. 60% shooting on a day that demanded 90% or better was plenty to put me out of the glory zone.
        Not all was a loss. As I said, the first three shots in prone felt like hits and were. In the past I've had stages that ended in with a question mark over my head. The feeling behind each shot would be unknown, regardless of whether or not it was a hit. In this most recent race, I can recall the hits feeling solid and and the misses feeling like poorly timed mistakes. I deserved the results of my shooting that day.  The Ruhpolding course profile isn't the best for my style. The conditions were hard packed and it's not devoid of steep climbs. However, the flat stretches and broken up climbs make it a challenge for me. Oberhof was great, with the brutal unforgiving hill right out of the stadium and simple downhills. If you could stack the two hills in Ruhpolding's 3.3km loop one on top of the other I would be ready to go. With that in mind, I was pleased with the ski effort on the day.

      When you don't make the pursuit you're left to ensure that you'll be ready for the next race. In this case, it's next Friday. Just because you don't have a race effort in the mix for Sunday doesn't mean you get to sit in the hotel room and bide your time. No, you pack up your gear and get ready for a workout hard enough to replace the race you're not competing in. The women and men both had the their pursuit on Sunday. This meant leaving from the hotel early. The real let down in this session is that it's obvious what you're up to. You didn't make the pursuit and now you have to weave through the wax techs to make up for it. I've been in this slot so many times before, I've started calling it "shame training."

       With the penalty loop and loss of a pursuit start behind me I can move on to the next opportunity. Currently, the team is in Antholze. At the the SeeHause. This hotel restaurant is about a five minute ski up from the venue. I'm anxious for a another start. The energy in the legs is feeling good; better than it was in December. It's never fun to have a poor result and have to wait it out for another week to prove otherwise, but compared to past years that's a significantly reduced wait time.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winds Of Opportunity

Extra blue classic skiing. Great Success!
      I can't remember a time when racing in Oberhof didn't involve challenge weather conditions. While it was great to have plenty of hard packed snow last week, the wind and bitter cold temps made the racing difficult. Other years it has been rain or fog during the op

ening WC of the second trimester. That being said, I would rather deal with a cold wind over a damp drizzle. Not unlike weather in Oberhof, I've had plenty of demoralizing results there. That's why last week was boon for the old confidence.
      I can seldom warm up in the USBA down jacket without overheating. This was one of those seldom occasions. None of the athletes were in a rush to line up in their lanes at the start of the pursuit. It didn't help that so much of the course and stadium was vulnerable to wind chill. Still, no one was going to give up and the race started without a hitch. For whatever reason the bulk of the field does not take it easy on the first loop. I prefer to pace myself, but in this case it's best to find a good draft and keep up. I couldn't feel my fingers for the first prone and had two misses. With a couple of penalty laps I move down a few places. I took a few clicks before the second prone stage and cleaned. Range time was nothing special but it would have to do.
      Going through the stadium on my third loop I could see a lot of athletes in front of me cycling through the penalty loop. Was it that windy? Yes, yes it was. I almost made it out of my first standing with clean shooting. The last target didn't follow the others, unfortunately. I could see that 4/5 wasn't too bad on the day as I was in 35th on my fourth loop. My hands were still too cold to fully feel the trigger and I was loosing time just trying to load the mags into the chamber. I missed two in my last standing, after really hoping for a clean. Spirits were lifted after I glanced at the the racer shooting next to me. We were leaving at the same time, but his target had four penalties. Apparently it really was windy. The legs weren't feeling too springy on the last loop, but I was able to hold onto 34th place.

      We're only two races into the second series bout. Both of which, looked good, but I would like to keep the trend going. This is much easier said than done. Last week's races were great for me because it's the best result on the world cup circuit I've had in years. Not only that, but the top 40 score WC points. The relay in Rupholding is today. I'm the reserve man, but will have a race bib for Friday's sprint. The conditions are nice, the course profile ins't my favorite, and the crowd is very loud. Stay tuned for more updates.

Friday, January 6, 2017


       There are a few things that come to mind when I hear the word "Oberhof." One is spectator count, one is the climb right out of the stadium, and of course the wind, rain, and fog are safely in the mix. Unlike past years, this year brought us enough snow and it doesn't look like it's going to rain while we're here. The wind has made it's presence felt every day so far. Instead of rain we've trained and almost raced in heavy snow fall. As always, this made for a "could have been better, and could have been worse" kind of result.
         The men's sprint race was yesterday. It was snowing sideways for the majority of zero and warm up. The coach and I had to screwdriver the ice bits off my bolt to let the firing pin work consistently. All ten shots left the barrel without a glitch. I didn't have take clicks in prone, but had one miss in a mediocre 45 second range time. Standing had a slight breeze. Enough to acknowledge, but not enough to blame two misses on (let's go with one miss and call it even). My rear sight had some snow in them and I had to blow it out. This, coupled with some off timing cost me two misses and a less then capable range time. Still, I wasn't the only one with a few too many misses and ski speed was feeling good. The lack of snow falling from the sky at the start of the race only favored the later starters. It's rare when this happens, but every once in a while an early start isn't the advantage. I was pleased to have the 25th fasted ski time. 46th overall on the day, safely in the pursuit and within striking distance of WC points.

       I was very pleased with the outcome of the sprint. I wasn't expecting to be named to WC4, so just having a start was a plus. While the conditions did favor me, the spring in the legs was better today than it has been so far this season. Shooting has room for improvement and lately the chance to improve feels more plausible than it has in the past. With so many parts that could go wrong it's hard to believe a perfect race could happen, but this applies to everyone. The women race their sprint today and both pursuits are tomorrow.  Feel free to tune in.