Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This is Our Normal

      If there is one month of the year that can guarantee some summer weather and still find time to generate some pandemonium it would have to be August. August used to be that last chance to enjoy summer before school started back up. These days when someone mentions an August date all I can think of is the obnoxious humidity of racing in Jericho, VT. Officially, only once in the past ten years have I not been in Jericho for the annual summer races series. This year wasn't that one year. It was just like the other nine.
   
          Some of the training camp life had already started the week before the races. I opted out of this because it was rightfully a rest week. Since I had to be ready to go for the trial races on the weekend I needed to get in what ever rest week plans I had, done in about 36 hours. The only plan I followed through was sitting around and remaining motionless for a while. Once that was done it back to favorite regiment of packing and training. The time trials from the weekend before didn't have the best shooting and I was hoping to leave on a confident note. I did this with some 80% plus shooting in Fort Kent on the Wednesday before leave. It's hard to gauge ski speed very well when you're on your own, but it's still summer. How fast does it have to be?

           Ski speed has to be decent. These are the first round of trials for the December WC team. Saturday was your normal sprint format and Sunday was the glorified mass start style. I left the great north of Maine on Thursday of last week. The ride down was uneventful. The goal is to not have to look up the AAA phone number. I met up with the rest of the national team on Friday afternoon. Weather was looking surprisingly nice. The joke was that if there no overbearing heat and humidity then it's a cold rain. Otherwise, if the conditions are inviting, someone is going to have to be struck by lighting in order to balance out the universe.  

On a slightly different story the fruits and vegetables this year have been awesome! 
       On a more important note we have the actual races. Which went well. Saturday's sprint was decent. With two misses in prone it was up to standing to keep me in the race. Standing has been my go to this summer and sure enough it lived up the hype. Clean in 24 seconds was enough for a solid race. Loosely estimating it would safely put me in a WC pursuit.
         The mass start was the real boon for confidence this past weekend. I didn't sleep well the night before and it was the normal trek of waiting for the race to start. This is a lot for what is still a summer TT. Lest we forget big boy racing doesn't start til December. With the pressure of qualifying that logic seems to have a loop hole. So the only logical move is to focus on the process of a good race more than anything. It's sort of a way to manually override the fears of failure. Seems simple right? Well, it's not. In an effort to not digress any more lets get back to the race. It was raining. So the rule of a one time lightning strike was out? The first loop was all about staying close, but not leading, but also not overrunning the roller skies in front of you. It's delicate balance. The first shooting stage is fun to watch but difficult to do. Sure enough I dodged the penalty loop. Lowell and I skied the second loop together. This is where things really start to look up for me. Head to head shooting is something Lowell is one of the best in the world at. So I was excited to clean my second prone stage. For a whole lap I was in the lead of a mass start. “So this is what it feels like” I thought. Lowell proved himself as king by cleaning the next two standing stages. I missed two in my first and I very last shot in my second standing stage. 85% with solid ski speed was much better day for me. I can't remember the last time I made it out of two stages in row of clean prone shooting.  

        For a brief period it really did feel like racing season. This might explain the odd feeling that came with two hour ride the following day. Usually after racing and travel you have a morning of just moping around the hotel room. It wasn't actually two hours. I don't know the roads of Craftsbury very well and added 45 minutes. The B-team and development team are doing a short camp in Craftsbury, VT this week. It's been just fine thus far. The place is great and like any training zone has it's pros and cons. I refuse to go into detail. At the end of the week we head back to Jericho then it's up to LP. After that we actually have some time settle down in one place for more than 48 hours. So far the dorms at Craftsbury are officially the fifth place I've had to unpack for this month. Do you see how someone can grow to despise packing?
              Shooting is still in the lagging faze but has made progress since the start of the training year. That's something that hasn't been easy to do in past years. I presume ski speed is on the right track. Technique is little better rounded. The threshold zone is higher. We'll know for sure in a few months when it actually matters. For now it's the same old heavy leg feeling. I stopped bringing any heavy or baggy pants with me because it's too much to walk around in. And for the record that one year with out the Jericho time I was too busy tanning on the beach in Croatia or maybe we were doing an hour long TT uphill. Something in that mix. This is our normal.
Craftsburry shooting range. Not up the IBU A licensing yet, but better than nothing.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Boring and Repetitive

        My apologizes for the lack of updates as of late. Never mind being busy as always there simply isn't much to update about. With out any camps or real misadventures life boils down to few simple routines. On top of that these routine are not very exciting. Conversely, for me the average day is still a stretch from the real world. to be fair it's a lot closer that it has been the past couple of years, but the thought of taking back what had yesteryear is yet another source of drive. The kind of drive that comes in handy during this morning's four plus hour ride in which I bonked twice. Now I remember why I always bring food with me.

The Belgium waffle iron was a win birthday present. 

You can see my ol shooting range in this one. It functions well for running / standing only combos.
Transplanted my precious. Not really sure what kind of tree it is, so lets see if it can deal with northern Maine.

Almost made a perfect loop. There's always plenty of uncharted trails around these parts.


An afternoon on the hill of 2nd Ave.
We plowed right through the rain and made our 4th of July awesome.

The car is the least expensive item in the photo.

But I still think highly of my horseless buggy.  


                "Boring and repetitive" came from an old coach. It revolved around the way shooting should feel. Every shot should feel the same as the last. In other words good consistency in shooting should also feel boring and repetitive. In case you were wondering.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

From One End of the County to the Other

        24 hours are not enough. Can we all agree on that? This week has been a bit of a gauntlet of training and socializing. Broken only up with some failed sleeping attempts and whole lot of driving. I thought my "to do this week" list was pretty tame and yet here I am updating this blog on the last day of the week so I can finally cross it off. There are a few key objectives left to accomplish, but when I look back on last Sunday so much has happened.
         Let's start off with the important part of the week. That was the plan from the beginning. Knowing that the fourth was coming up I wanted to get the key workouts in before hand. This was a high intensity week. Monday kicked off with a 6x4min race pace effort. Not the most original work out but very effective. Did I mention it was hot out? Yeah this was day one of the 2014 summer meltdown. You know that feeling when you open the oven after you've been baking something for hours. Replace what ever homemade food that was in that oven with zeroing and a roller ski warm up and that's what it felt like.
          This level of heat didn't let up after one day and neither did the hard workouts. Tuesday was full blow time trial. About 15 km with four stages of shooting. Pacing held up surprisingly well. I could feel the sun pouring it on going up the last hill on the roller loop in Fort Kent. Shooting was solid with 80%. I'm still in the midst of trying to nail down a better prone system. It's getting there, but still a limiting factor.
           Even after some strength in the UMFK weight room/ sauna that afternoon the feeling in the legs was good enough to push the third intensity session on Wednesday. Cumulative total it was an hour of threshold effort. 15 minutes of one shot range loops. a 15 minute semi time trial, 15 minutes of no pole skiing and just to balance to universe out, anther 15 minutes of double poling. And yes, I think it goes with out saying that it was sweltering hot out again.
          Sleeping was a tricky endeavor. Naturally I didn't think to bring a fan up with me, so I had to innovate. If you take a cold shower before bed, maybe add in some melatonin, put an ice pack or two on your head and sleep as spread out as you can you should be able to make it to four in the morning. This is the kind of weather  happens all to often during the Jericho race series. The sooner you can learn to work with it the easier it will be race come August.
          Thursday was round four. It just so happened to be my least favorite workout. This is how you know it's effective. 3x8min 15/15sec L5 bounding. So basically you just pretend you skiing as fast as you can uphill for 15 seconds, stand around for 15 seconds. Do this for eight minutes, and repeat two more times. Try it some time. As annoying as those kinds of mornings are it sure does feel nice when it's over.
          This is where the week transitions from eat, sleep, and train to drive, smile, and say hello. I made my way down to Houlton to help out an old friend. I didn't run the Miracle Mile this year, but was glad to be around and help out. The turnout wasn't as large as expected, but everyone was in good spirits and the Houlton was packed.
           I made it back to Stockholm by six, had breakfast, took a nap and got ready for the parade. As of this year in Stockholm the fourth is referred to "Russell Currier day" I'm not complaining, but as soon as the parade started there was no amount of modesty to be had for the rest of the day. I didn't want to lead the parade alone and thankfully the bulk of the MWSC athletes came out to join me. There was a lot of smiling, waving and picture taking, but I have to say the most memorable part was the fall I took. Not sure if the wheel picked up a rock or hit a crack in the road, but the grand marshal Olympian went down in front of the masses.  Who doesn't enjoy some good irony now and then. The rain held off and everyone was having a good time, but when you're as introverted as me the sensory overload can be lot. I wanted to exit ASAP. A two hour nap and a two run was enough to recover. I spent some more time with old friends for the rest of the day.
           I didn't do much of anything on Saturday. The almost non stop rain was more than enough sign to take the day off. After all the overbearing heat the thought of starting a fire was amazingly tempting. I stayed inside all day and enjoyed every second of it.
          Sunday is usually the off day of the week for me, but all things considered shifting the rest day to yesterday was good move. Now it's between me and that to do list. I still have a short ride, some work on the rifle, some paper work, so and so fourth. As always there is nothing worth really complaining about, but the sense of accomplishment when it's done and over is something to go for.

           

Friday, June 13, 2014

Shut up legs! Do as you're told!

      All is well on the north eastern front. The summer training season has long since been underway. Lately the weather has caught up. That fresh summer feeling is still a nice feeling. The mosquitos are not helping preserve it, but the hot and sunny days have yet to deter me. After that cold and rainy day of slowfire back in May I'll take an overly hot day easily. For the most part this summer has not been much different from past years. This time around there is a lot more driving to be had and I spend a lot of spare time cleaning the kitchen. When you have dozens of obnoxious pet peeves the little things can really add up. I could go on but this update isn't about my first world problems. Instead, let's take a look at some of the good news. It's only June and nothing really matters until snow flies and sunlight diminishes, but in terms of current results it's looking somewhat good.
     
         Training has been plentiful. Especially this week. I was optimistic going into this one. The goal is 25 hours of mostly volume. With only a couple of harder sessions this should be no problem, right? The long over distance days are nothing to fear. All you have to do is keep it moving at a respectable pace and run out the clock. At this point in my career I strive to do these sessions by myself. I'm not exactly a fan of the hand holding, walk around the woods safety courses that seem to be the so called group distance workouts. So to kick the week off I decided to do a five hour roller ski. One of these years I'm going to procure a faster pair of roller skis to see if I can get in a whole century of kms crammed into five hours. This time I only made it to 84. The leaking water belt did not help the effort. Dehydration is seldom ever a problem. Because after all how hard is it to drink water? Am I the only not on crazy pills here? You would be surprised how often I see world class athletes succumb to this problem. On that day I guess I actually was on crazy pills, because despite refilling my water belt during the session I still did not have enough and should have sought out a belt that doesn't constantly drip during training. It's also fair to say that you should always anticipate a head wind while roller skiing. Even if you're doing an an out and back rout don't expect the head wind to disappear when you turn around. It will overcome the laws of nature and physics to ensure that it's always blasting you front side. These two flaws made the last two hours a death march. So that was hopefully the once a year dehydration training session being crossed off the list. The dual pole snap has already been used up so what else is there to go wrong?
             That was one day of this week. The week prior was a different story. Some weeks are about the hours and distance while others are geared towards the number of high intensity efforts. Last week I fit in four hard efforts into five days. It was a good old fashion 6x4 on Monday, an 8x1km track workout on Tuesday, and hour of threshold too race pace combos on Thursday, and DP intervals followed by a short running time trial on Friday. If you didn't understand some of that just ask any ski racer or biathlete and they can translate it. The week was a success. I was fried and glad to be on all fours after the last running TT. If one of the goals this year was to flesh out the upper end speed zones then last week was a direct effort towards it.
             And then there is the shooting half of the sport. Thus far all is looking well. Yes, you heard that right. If you can't argue with results then there is nothing to fear. In the last three "head to head shooting test" (or "HSS" as my training plan labels them) I've shot 90%, 80%, and 90%. Almost no misses in standing! The changes in position have taken some time to get used to but. Sometimes the group is pretty spread out and other times it's good but not centered. I wish I could say it's up to the world class standard that it needs to be at, but I can't confirm that one yet. We're making progress. I've seen a trend similar to this in past years. Usually right around this time of year. The difference this time there is the few mechanical changes. The slightest change in focus, or just moving the hand stop can do a lot. Let's hope the upward trend in shooting doesn't fade into the night like it has in years past.
             Most days are still busy as ever. Sunday is always an off day. I will go out of my way to make it an off day. It's not really a choice when you see it the way I do. If Russell doesn't have his precious rest day then Russell will go crazy. Or something along those lines. When the training is over it's over. I believe in keeping work productive the non productive time not productive. In short, the always on, but never really professional approach not my style.
            Working with Seth has been great. If I want the slightest change in my rifle I can count on it being ready to got the next day. In fact the rifle in general is starting to look more professional. Hopefully by the end of July everything will be finalized. The last week of this training cycle is a medium week in Lake Placid. I'm looking forward to seeing the other guys for a change. We'll all be glad to see the last week come to an end. The legs were pretty wiped out after those 85kms. After next week it's a few more days of classes, plus a dentist appointment somewhere in there, and I turn twenty something. The trick is to just assume that you're going to live forever. In which case birthdays are irrelevant.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Unlucky 13?

          It's time for training season twenty fourteen. The past couple of weeks have been a little interesting. A mix of bitterness and old time nostalgia with the occasional ray of hope in there. There is no A-team for me this year. That isn't to say all contact with USBA is lost, but there are a few gems I won't have at my disposal this year. In there absence we now have the old methods I used to work my way up the ladder. Regardless of training camp invites or living quarters the goal remains the same. I'm still somewhat young. With at least one more Olympic cycle in me. Most days revolve around piecing together this biathlon puzzle.This is a rundown of what my training season is going to look like and how I feel about it.

         I'll be listed in the national B-team until I prove otherwise. In all fairness I deserve the downgrade. I didn't do much for the result list last season. I didn't even score a WC point for the second year in a row. There is no one to blame but myself. The USBA staff has mentioned on more than one occasion that they are still invested in me. After all, you can't say "national B-team" without saying "national team" Still there is no denying the sense of abandonment. Finances will take a hit, no OTC living, grocery bill will take an increase, Bend, OR and Sweden camps are out, and you'll never know how nice a covered shooting range is til you're shivering in the cold rain during slowfire. For a while I thought I would never say this, but I'm actually going to miss training with the other guys in Lake Placid. In retro spec some of the best summer memories I've had have come from LP shenanigans
         
           Enough of the negative side of life. There must be a few things going for me right? Well for starters while I'll still be receiving a training plan from the national team coaches, I get to rearrange and mold that schedule to my liking. I'm on my own now, so to speak, so why shouldn't I?  This is essential when you're bouncing around Aroostook county all the time. The goal is to train primarily out of Fort Kent. I've almost set up shop here and hopefully by the end of the current training block I'll be fully situated. Lately Sundays and Mondays have been back home in Stockholm. This is nice because it's just enough time to appreciate home life, but not enough to go stir crazy. Mondays have been great for exploring the old woods roads and local fields. Those distance sessions never get old. The lack of group training could also be considered a boon. This allocates a lot of alone time to work out the flaws in my shooting mechanic. This was a little harder to come by in LP. Training on my own has never been a disadvantage. If anything that's one of the best parts of being here.
           To summarize what I gaining and loosing from this year verses last year it would have to the lack of streamline conveniences of OTC life verses the not stop driving and shenanigans of trying to make life smooth in the County. On the other hand, I can now work by self a lot more and get back to the old days I remember fondly. It should also be mentioned that I've been missing some of the old local festivities. This year, when everyone else was training in Bend, OR I was leisurely floating down the Madawaska River. A debatably prestigious event for Stockholm residents. I guess it's the little things that add up.
             From a more tangible result oriented perspective we have a few new training ideas and as always a heavy focus on shooting. Skis speed really came together last year when it needed to. Stale for December, faster in January and fastest in February. March held it's own to. We're not going to push the volume this year like we did the last post Olympic year. If anything this year plan has the least amount of hours in long time. Similar to last year I would like to expand on the upper end gears. In my semi old age there is less and less benefit to high volume training. If I can be more accustomed to the effort of racing and sprinting I can better use the base I've built over the years. In other words there should be a few more max efforts and speed work in the training plan.
              Oh yeah and then there is shooting. When you do the math is scary what a difference shooting can make. An 85% average for the season would have changed everything. I can't remember the exact numbers but I was down the low 70s range. If you want an easy way to shave off some time then I suggest missing one or two less targets. And how does one do this? Good question. I'm certainly putting in the effort to find it. Seth and I have been working closely to nail down some better fitting for my rifle stock. The stock is much better polished and one step closer to looking professional for a change. I'm trying to invest in a more relaxed shooting position. In a way, the rifle it's self should hold me instead of me holding the rifle. This has been difficult in prone so far, but there is reason to keep giving it the time of day. Standing is feeling better. There is some precision shooting on the plan later on this week. It will be interesting to see how these new shooting concepts pan out on paper. All in all the shooting side of the sport will be much more structured than past years. We all have a "shooting year plan" to go with the "training year plan" document on our hard drive this year.
            There was a few days of OTC life lasts week. We did a 6X4min double pole uphill session. A Franklin Falls interval session is always good for an effective hard effort. I broke two poles at once rollerskiing for the first time this year. After which I procured my spare set of poles for the year. Conveniently one of the new USBA coaches was in the area. I had a good shooting session with our new Jonnas. Jonnas, Seth and I exchanged some thoughts on shooting and what to work on in the coming months. And yes there was bonfire in the mix. That was another nice perk to living in Lake Placid. There was always bonfire party waiting for us at the end of a training week. As I packed up my stuff I said good by to room 239 and was back in the county before ten that Sunday night.
             Lately the lack of free time has been shock factor compared to last month. Basically I punch in at eight most mornings and clock out around nine in the evening. Meals take longer because I have to cook or buy them now. If I'm lucky I can cram in a 40 minute nap in there. The rest of the day is spent training, shooting, preparing for training, working on the rifle, driving, mini projects, plus what ever the shenanigan of the day is. Today it was seeing my keys lay innocently on the center console of my locked car. Also did I mention I'm taking a class. Turns out a college education is a real investment. By "investment" I mean time sponge, or stress factory. We're talking one online course and it's still all I can handle right now. In case you were wondering why this update was so long over due there you have it.
             
              I could go on and on with the ups and down of this year's outlook but what does it matter? I'm in it for results. Results don't care about where you train or how you feel about it. The race pace intervals in the cold rain yesterday were pretty low on the fun scale. Still it got the job done. You can make any situation play to your hand if you stay on top of things. I've seen the top ten before and I would so very much like to be back up there more often. In the mean time I'm going to keep getting lost in the Irving roads and doing slowfire in the never ending rain.
       
     

PS
I don't see very many people everyday, much less have the chance to work business with them so I thought this would be my best shot. If your interested in a potential Old Town Canoe this would be great chance. Just let me know. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Meanwhile in Stockholm


 
      There are a lot of potential adventures to choose from in the month of April. Across the board April is loosely the time of year when winter sport athletes take a break from the otherwise full time job of racing and training. For some this means the British Virgin Islands, or telly skiing out west. The list could go on. I'm convinced that one of these years I'm going to actually travel somewhere and do something that falls into the accepted vacation realm. The clutch is that anything the slightest bit out of my comfort zone turns into some sort of subconscious threat. There in eliminating the chances of a successful vacation. The solution? Don't leave your comfort zone. Stay home. Stay in the mother land. It's not perfect and the other guys are baffled that I do this every spring, but it's pretty much exactly what I did again this year. 
        Most of March resembled February more than anything. It was cold and the snow never stopped piling up. By the end of the month there was several feet of snow on the ground. This is the kind of weather you would want or expect in December. This was the second winter. I didn't mind. The race season was fresh from being over and every day had a sense of relief to it. There was no official training, no extra bag fees, no awkward Euro stairs, and best of all, I had every breakfast all to myself. Everything thing I did with my days during second winter were made by me and on the spot. 
          To be fair the White House trip shouldn't be left out. This was more proof of the difference between a world championships and an Olympics. As much fun as I had the airport and logistics involved were enough to reinforce my "do nothing" structured policy. When I got home I was anxious to get back into some training. Yeah it's April, but what can I say; I like being in shape. There's not much better than walking outside and skiing directly from the yard. If I retired tomorrow I would still seek out crust skiing. It's the best way to ski. I seldom actually enjoy training. Occasionally running and a good ride when the bike actual works can be nice, but no training mode can compete with crust skiing. When it hangs out above freezing during the day and drops below over night the surface of the snow hardens up so much that it can withstand a skinny pole plant. In other words grooming and designated trails are irelevent for a brief time of year. You can literally go anywhere that's white! Admittedly part of the fun comes with the relaxed time of year, but crust skiing is something no ski race should miss out on at least once a year. 
            It took a while for the skiing to get really good. Namely because we had too much snow. It wasn't cold enough during the day and it kept snowing  once or more a week. This was the point where everyone had shrugged off the unseasonably weather of second winter and welcomed normal spring. Little did we all know this was the beginning of third winter here in northern Maine. Aside from the accumulating snow fall I recall a couple of days of -7 celsius in the morning. The trick is to check the forecast several times a day to make sure you know what mornings are going to be good skiing and which ones to sleep in on. "Sleep in" is a figurative expression to me. I never actually "sleep in" in the conventional sense. There was some downright grand mornings to had. I covered every field and clearing in the Stockholm area I could get to. The rule was that I wasn't allowed to drive to the skiing. It had to be out of  the dooryard*. I made sure to take some pictures to better illustrate the best form of exercise planet Earth has to offer. 
             I didn't spend all of third winter / spring break training. That's actually not recommended by most coaches. This is the time of the year for physical and mental rest. Afternoons were littered with bread baking, long naps, video games, and some soup can target practice. It was nice to see some old friends and take a page from the old days for a change. Despite the lack of travel there never a dull moment. Afterall it is 2014! There's no excuse to be not busy. 


             The coaches assured us not to think about biathlon anymore than we absolutely had to. Training was to not officially begin before May 1st. The training season is still in the process solidifying itself. There is enough on that topic to be pushed to another update. The goal now is to break the threshold into some better results. Compared to previous month that's some decent contrast. In the back of my mind the goal was to finally be bored with what was in front of me. Seems that's becoming more and more difficult to do these days. We're not looking at a tropical paradise story here, but I sure was content with my average day for my off season. 

* Is dooryard actually a word?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Three Days in DC

Let's kick this off with Washington's assent into heaven. 

Want to see what a lot of diamonds look like? 



It's actually spring time here.


Look familiar?

Because real libraries are equipped with swords.





I was in the back and this was the best I could do.