Sunday, November 16, 2014

In Limbo

           There is a lot to be said about early and late fall, the whole season just brings up a lot of bittersweet memories. It has been a little different this year with a few minor tweaks in the itinerary. Still, the old days, good and bad, find a way into the week. Since I can't do this topic justice with just words I thought I would attempt to do so with some pictures. To say that work has been "In Limbo" has a lot to do with the war on weather conditions. An all to limiting factor in this line of work.

What a great year for fruits and vegetables. Craving apples meant going outside and picking them. No purchase necessary. 
         Some success was had on the hunting front. I might have more luck if I had the disposable amount of free time that I wish I had. So far only a few birds, and no deer. I'll be here for a few more days so the deer count is still technically pending. The roomers of a more than one buck in the area is enough to warrant some early morning outside sitting.
The sun having a hard time prevailing through the overcast month.
         Training has had it's ups and downs. This was going to be the last solid push for volume before racing season. After the last round of trials it was important to bring the confidence in shooting back up to previous levels. This was difficult with some persistently tricky winds in Fort Kent. That range is different from most. I've shot there more than any other range and why I can't figure it out is beyond me. The wind that you feel skiing into the stadium, the wind you feel setting up on the mat, and the wind indicated by the range flags are three different messages to comprehend. Do you see why this frustrating? It was nice to have one day last week when the wind was a non factor. In a solo time trial I managed to shoot 90%. With that and a lot of hours working on basic dryfire skills behind me the confidence is back and ready to go.

         Fitness wise? Who knows. Some of the biathlon world is already racing out in Canmore, AB. Some are racing in Sjusjion, Norway. The US team will be there next week. I was looking forward to the roller ski race in on North Haven Island last week. As far as roller ski racing goes this is as about as grand as it gets. As luck would have it a cold and sore throat crept in just in time. Given the events that were planned for the weekend on top of the 15km race and the five hour drive in van with everyone else it was out of the question if I should come or not. On the plus side it was a relaxing couple of days.
In other news: After hours of frustration and lack of professional tools I successfully changed a firing pin.

        Once the cold was gone and energy levels back to 100% I was ready to nail down a few quality training sessions. This time of year it's all about the key sessions that are going to make the differnce. If you can get some on snow time that's nice. If you can get some high intensity sessions on the shooting range that's also nice. If you can find groomed trails leading to an A licensed range that's great! I was never able to time that one just right. The grooming here in Stockholm was hard to complain about. I certainly wasn't the only one using that "hidden field" track but I claimed about 100+ km on it.
         The downside to this training option is that lack of 30 point ranges kicking around. To combat this I always head north for a couple of days and really focus on quality shooting  sessions. This has worked out fine most of the fall. The roller loop at the 10mt Lodge in FK is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately the stadium pavement soaks up the sun very well. Making it difficult to ski on snow. The other shady parts of the loop are practically an ice factory. Thus removing the roller ski option. Since it's too cold to go mt. biking this leaves us with lots of running. It's not this best, nor most exciting way to train. Worst of all, if you're like me, running has a finite amount that you can handle before injury becomes an issue. I survived 45 minutes of intensity on Thursday. The goal was log another 30 on Friday. After about 20 there was no chance of that happening.
Just Stockholm things.

            Any experienced coach or athlete could tell you that that's how it works this time of year. The conditions are unpredictable. A degree lower can make all the difference. I do recall one work out involving the cold rain a few weeks back. My least favorite training condition, by the way. Soon my daily living quarters will be in Europe where there is confirmed snow and 30 point ranges. In the meantime I'll have to hang out in limbo. Somewhere between driving, packing, hunting, skiing, roller skiing, running, and... more packing.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Trials Round Two

Does this look like the face of someone who doesn't
train hard enough?
       It's snowing outside and if I had to update about something that interest me it would how much I appreciate this time of year. I could go on, but this is a brief summary of how this years December team naming panned out for me. The combined four races  (best three of four, point wise) would be used to name the world cup team for December. The alternative racing option for December makes me cringe with cold repressed memories. With out any IBU cup racing opportunities this year it was an all or nothing situation. I so dearly wanted to be in Europe when the racing season kicked off this year. Well, this is what happened.
         Round numero uno was held back in August in Jericho. Round two, not unlike past years was in October. Since we had an early Utah training camp this year the races were held in Jericho again, instead of the normal Solider Hollow slip n'slide roller loop. Think super smooth sealed pavement with large cracks around every corner. Think perpetually dull pole tips. While the weather in Jericho can't hold a candle to an average day in Midway, UT the functional roller ski track at the National Guard base makes up for it.
The racing scene. 
         The post Utah training was up and down. After a couple of days off I was back at it. No mini vacation from roller skiing or the rifle. I was back into it with a three hour ski. The legs felt a little heavy. I assumed this was due to the travel and rest days. But as the week went on my the energy was still low. When I talked to the other guys later on they all had similar experiences. By the following Monday I felt a lot better. This carried through for a couple of mini time trials. Shooting was good and everything seemed to be on good pace.

The December WC team: Tim, Lowell, Leif and myself. 
At least my eyes are open in this one. 
       When I say "good pace" I mean it was normal. At least for this year is was normal. Since the start of the training season the goal was to break some thresholds on the shooting front. This has been the goal for several years now. But with the start of a n ew Olympic cycle it was good time to take more chances. This meant being more open to advise. In the end we made some minor changes in prone. It took a solid two months before any of the changes has a positive result. This, coupled with the normal search for better technique, training quality, and what not made a change for the better. Hit percentage was better when it mattered but what excited me the most was seeing the improved range times. A sub two minute cumulative total for a four stage time trial was the norm.

No ultra cold Canmore this year. 
             That last part was worth mentioning, because I suspect it played a key role in the final team selection. The races that weekend did not go very well. Ski speed was strong. That much worked out fine. Technique was better than it was in August and overall fitness came in very handy. The real clutch was the age old problem of spending too much time in the penalty loop. I'm not making any excuses. All the misses were operator error, but it was out of the normal tendency I had set in the months prior. After all the these years you never truly feel immune to the set backs. It's not unlike training or racing. The more fit you are the faster you go. The last loop still hurts as much now as it did when I was 14. I did my best to hold it together. Since the MWSC team was there as a group I didn't have to drive myself home. This was great, as I hate driving, but it also gave me a lot of time to sit around think about just how bad the weekend was.
             Monday was filled with the usual gauntlet of busy task. No training, just laundry, ebay stuff, emails, stoking the fire, so on and so forth. After some thought the best perspective I could conjure up was trying to see this as a chance to train a little more through December. As if my season were delayed. There was the usual Canmore and Minnesota trips, but to me it was a delay on the real racing front. The thought of the cozy little rooms in Ostersund from two years ago overlooking the race course vs the racing scene in Colerain, MN was too bi-polar to dwell on.

          So... I was out in the woods looking for a bird before it was too dark. My phone vibrated. When I saw the quick view it was an email titled "WC." "Oh great" I thought. "This is the famed end all email". With no hesitation I put my head down and waited for the ax to fall by opening up my email account. There in glorified times new roman text was the words "you will go to the dec WCs." I didn't mean to over dramatized this part, but I was so excited I thought it deserved some gravity. I never did get a bird that afternoon, but I did get named to the first trimester team of the 14/15 season.
          The details are still somewhat unknown. Still waiting for that plane ticket, for example. I'm in the county for a few more weeks before heading over to Norway for brief prep camp. Then it's off to Ostersund, Sweden for the opening races. Good news or not I can still carry out the quality training I need, but admittedly training last week was much easier to do after that email.
Finding bright colors in the darkest time of the year. 
           The next update will have some better pictures. Maybe some pertaining to this time of year. Realistically I didn't think I would make it in after having back to back 50% shooting days, but for one of the rare occasions optimism won over. Training is still somewhat heavy. Training and the stress of keeping everything organized will wind down once I head over. For now I have to go look for my snow baskets to swap out the roller ski tips with. It will be gone by Wednesday so might as well see what I can do with this few inches of fresh snow while I can.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

UTAH 2014

       This one needs to be dated to differentiate it from all the other years. The Utah camp really has become an annualized trip. This year the camp made for nice little extension of summer. Of all training conditions, the cold rain of fall in northern Maine is the best to avoid like the plague. The timing of this years camp wasn't the most convenient in all regards. It pretty much forced me out of potential hunting opportunities. Conversely it made for some great training opportunities. I always leave these focused camps with something gained to work on before the next one ramps up. The 2014 Utah survival camp was no exception.
Not Utah
       To be fair the three week suffer cycle started a week before flying left for a couple of time zones. Unlike the other years this Utah camp was a little earlier than usual. Last year after three weeks we were back home for November training. This time, it has only been two weeks and we're not even in mid October yet. That's where the summer extension comes from. It was fall when I left the county. Which is something to appreciate for plenty of obvious reasons if you've ever spent some time in the east (right) this time of year. The deal with training out here is that it's close to perfect all the time. Blue skies and dry across the board. It's been around or just below freezing every morning. By the time we start the core part of the morning session it's all 60s with a t-shirt. It feels even better when you remember what it's like trying to load clips when your hands are so cold and wet that you have to mash the fifth round in with your knuckle because your thumb is too numb. Yeah. Those days will make you appreciate nice weather. When I retire what ever I move onto will have no weather grounded limitations.

Extremely Utah
        Travel wasn't too bad. My flight actually made it as planned. Which is seemingly unusual these days. Unfortunately the ride to our house in Midway didn't go planned. The other coaches and athletes were delayed. The coaches didn't make in till after the rental agency closed. It took some shenanigans to procure the rental car before 1:30 AM. Everything after 12 in the morning is blur. I remember waking up occasionally when the coaches needed to know where I parked the rental. I guess it was nice to be able to just close my eyes at the SLC airport and open them to our place in Midway. After finding a bed to sleep in at three in the morning I decided that skate combos at 8:30 were not going to happen.
         Once travel was out of the way is back to the grind. The second round of trials were not at Soldier Hollow this year. With no pending races there was no excuse to not train at full bore. With out any classic roller skis or bike it was down to skating, double pole, running, and the few weight room stops. The problem with this came down to how much running my legs could take. It wasn't easy, but I was able to make it out with any serious injuries. A four plus hour run / hike  with a hefty amount of downhill running will demolish your legs. Skating and biking will make your legs tired, Running will make them sore and tired. I planned my massages  accordingly. That coupled with some good stretching was enough to make the difference. Energy levels always have a different pacing at altitude. With all the eggs, spinach, iron supplements, and wild game consumed in the past month there was no excuse for lack of iron to hold me back. The first week was the hardest. The dead feeling in my legs on the first Thursday suggested that there was no chance of making it through this camp alive. Sure enough Friday was slightly easier. With Sunday off Monday was much better. By the time we were doing easy skate combos on Wednesday I felt considerable better that I had six days prior. Altitude is strange like that. With one more day to go I'm somewhere in the middle. Tired from training and feeling better with acclimatization.      
          There wasn't much for long workouts. No one got lost or hit by a train. Shooting has also been fairly repetitive and boring. There were few wake up call sessions. Shooting at altitude tends to add a new element. It's hard to switch up the pattern and take that extra breath after the first shot. Still things are heading in the right direction. When I look back on it there was never a terrible shooting day. A couple of them were great and the rest were mediocre but never abysmal. Consistency in shooting is more precious than gold. If you can shoot at a high level on a consistent bases you're at least bound to do well in the overall.

         Aside from the roller loop in Soldier Hollow continuing it's downward spiral in quality it's not so bad out here. I managed to get in one meal of some real Mexican food. Goose season may have taken the blunt end of the camp timing but for the first time in years I'll be home for Halloween. So at least there is that for non business related events to look forward to. Before that however, is the second round of December team trials back in Jericho, VT. Let's see if I can make the most of the time spent home leading up to those races.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time Spent in the Suffer Zone

      Our stay in Lake Placid is winding down. Coaches and athletes are on there way out today. It's been a delight to stay in one room for more than five days at a time. In the last few weeks the team has been run through the full gauntlet of training ideas. Ranging from five hour rides, time trials, shooting test, all the way to sprinting through speed traps. Some results missed expectations, but for the most part progress is still a thing. I appreciate the resources of  Lake Placid. I don't see much reason to hate on it. Nevertheless I've made plenty of good use out of my time here and that being said I'm looking forward to heading back the home for brief time.
        On my last update I was attempting the last week of a three week cycle. This is never an easy task. One of which I've described more than once. This last week was different though. This one ended with the infamous Climb to the Castle. You can drive up the road to the top of the White Face alpine hill. On this early Saturday morning it was a mass of skinny granola eating dudes in spandex and rollerskis suffering it out to reach the top first. I hope you like the occasional dark humor because to me these kinds of races make me think of what it would be like trying to drown yourself in a puddle. You see, this race has no rest, no downhills. Whatever fatigue you put on yourself in the first five minutes is going to be with you the whole race. You're always in that hypoxic oxygen deprived suffer zone. This is not a life or death situation. In theory I could have stopped as soon as I decided I had had enough. Realistically this isn't going to happen. No matter how little rain water is in that puddle you're going to give it your best shot. Tim lead out of the start. Shortly later Welly Ramsey took over and strung the pack out. When Tim took back over it didn't last very long. He soon pulled over, looked at me and said "I'm not going to pull the whole thing". I lead for an X amount of time. When I thought I had done my fair share I backed off and hoped to survive in the draft. When I moved back I realized it was done to about three or four of us. Then it was just Tim and I. It wasn't long after when I cracked and watched Tim get a lead that I couldn't compete with. Tim's not an idiot so I didn't expect his pace to fade much. The goal from here on was to stay in second. While most of the field had a heavy use of V2 I found it easier to work with my V1 better when I was alone. It didn't seem to be any slower. There are still some technique issues to work out with uphill V2. It was foggy at the top. As soon as the road turned for the last 200 meters it was also windy. And we're not talking about a tail wind here. It was debatable whether or not a narrow double pole would have better than skating at this point. After almost 40 minutes of an unending climb there was no hope for a strong finishing sprint. It was down to one grinding gear and the hope that the end was close.
           At the end of the day I was second overall. Tim took the lead and Welly was third. I was pleased and suspect everyone else good race or not was just glad to say it was over and done with. We had one more session that afternoon and it was still dark and rainy out. Hearing the beep your watch makes when you stop it for the last time at the end of long week is feeling of relief I'll always remember.
            The following Sunday brought more competition. It was not in the endurance sport form however. I can't go into too much detail and still keep this blog casual. I will say it took us about nine plus hours to do 18 holes of golf. My team didn't win (I've never actually done the golf thing) but we had an exiting day trying to. We had two more easy days after that. Both of which were dearly needed in the name of super compensation.
         This is where the the "USBA test week" technically began. It kicked off with some shooting test. After some meetings with coaches we concluded that trying to push precision points and range times at this point in the season was futile. Shooting has been going well lately and the primary focus from here on out is to keep that trend going. I have a good system for prone and standing and the goal is to keep reconfirming it. For the record the shooting test that day went well. Event the point scoring and timed drill were not that bad. Admittedly the second round yesterday wasn't as good, but that's how shooting works most of the time.
          The time trial we did last week was also a success. For the start of a training period I was more tired than I wanted to be. I'm pretty sure I may have gone too hard during the prior day's session. The blood lactates were low and I really didn't have that extra gear. Shooting was solid. Total range time was under two minutes. Something I wasn't trying to push. There were three misses in prone and clean in standing (85%). Ski speed was better than I thought. It was nothing special but a good time trial overall.
           After an easy day of skiing on the treadmill and a 90 minute run we had another hard effort. This time there was no shooting. It was mostly uphill, but not as steep as the previous climb. I was tired and it showed. The result was solid, but it felt stale. The training was starting to catch up with me. We did the time trial twice. I had less energy for the second round, but better tactics. Maybe next time I'll get the best of both in one.
          Two days later we had another climb up White Face. This time from a different angle and on foot. We ran up the actual alpine hill. A few of the athletes had done this race a couple of weeks earlier. Being one of them I was not looking forward to thwarting this hill again. It's another shot of pure suffer. While only 14 or less minutes it's not as taxing as the Climb to the Castle but it's a great test for engine power. Something that steep doesn't favor top end speed. It's short enough to prevent any pacing, but long enough to utilize full engine use. It wasn't even the half way point that I recall telling myself "The faster you go, the sooner you don't have to do this anymore." That's how you know you're pacing appropriately. The final stretch didn't seem like it was going to end soon enough or at all for that matter. When I crawled over to my coach after the finish we took a lactate sample and I put up a 13.1. Which might be the high for the season and my finish time was 17 seconds faster than the first time.
            The uphill race was the last positive test of the week for me. We had one more day left. This time we were testing our top end sprint speed, and upper and lower body power. These kinds of efforts are not my strong point. The 100 meter sprint test made this obvious. The speed trap the coaches set up in the parking lot proved it fair and square. The other test consisted of measuring the distance we could go with 20 double pole cycles and then again with legs only. Aside from not being much for sprinting when you're only 5'6'' (168cm) there isn't much you can do to defend yourself in double poling.
Try to imagine that cold and damp feeling coupled with an obnoxious head wind. 
              At this point we were all pretty tired. It wasn't a lot of training and it wasn't even two weeks. Nevertheless the next few days will be light. There was more on the plan, but with the Utah camp looming around the corner it would be nice to have some more energy stored up. Overall progress was made the in last six weeks since I left the county. Summer is nowhere to be found in upstate NY anymore. From what I hear it's not around back home either. This the best time of year. Or at least until it's cold enough to rain, but not enough to snow. Aside from that Fall is best. With the progressive trend and the next three week cycle soon to start up again there's still time to leverage it. Sitting in a car and navigating my way back home for nine hours sounds like a good way to start.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Familiar Places

     There isn't much new to report. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened. This is a good thing for the most part. The down side is that my updates are less entertaining as a result. This isn't even a full post to be fair. If anything I'm pretty much just checking in to let you know I still have internet access fast enough to post JPEGs. 

The whole team is settled down in Lake Placid at the moment. Training is going well. Shooting is still on an upward swing. Prone feels more consistent than ever. Energy isn't necessarily through the roof. If is was I would just train more and go back to being tired again. 

Hiking today. No joke, I almost went the wrong way again setting myself on another 7 hour death hike. 

Recovery and fear training DO mix.

         I have a few more days left in the current training cycle. This week is going to go out with a bang. After all these years I will finally have the opportunity to race in the Climb to the Castle roller ski race. Won't that be fun? It's going to hurt like hell, but overall it probably will be entertaining. From there it's a brief rest period and then back to work. 

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.