Friday, August 21, 2015

A Weekend In Jericho, VT

       August wouldn't feel the same without a few days at the Ethan Allen guard base in Jericho, Vt. At first glance it would seem that Jericho has a great roller loop and is within striking distance of Burlington, but nothing more. To be completely fair, to this day the best sandwich wrap I've ever had came from the Jericho center general store. So, it has at least three high points going for it.
     
         This year we were only around for a quick three day trial situation. It was the exact same formula as the previous year. That is, a sprint format on Saturday and a mass start style on Sunday. Gone are the days of moldy downhill corners and multi colored grades of pavement. The redone roller ski loop is much easier to work with. The mostly functional internet in the barracks was a break though that I never thought I would live to see.
       
        Not all has changed, however. The overbearing heat and humidity this place is know for lived up to it's reputation. To put it another way, (hypothetically) if there was a race to be held strictly in a sauna I would be better prepared for it after that weekend. Saturday's sprint was much warmer than anticipated. Some athletes can handle hot days pretty well. Others, not so much. I'm in the later category. I've raced tired and I've raced out of shape. This was neither. It's a strange feeling to be at max capacity in these sorts of conditions. Rather than just becoming overly dizzy and pass out I tend to ski just slower than I would on a cooler day. This was the case as ski speed was not what I expected in the sprint. It wasn't bad and as always it's fair to point out that it's August. Still, an extra 40 seconds faster would feel more accurate. On the plus side there was one miss to be had in prone and none in standing. 90% shooting was a nice advantage to what could have been a much worse day. In the end I concluded that it was a solid race and not worth worrying about.

       The mass start was slightly better in some ways and still off expectations in others, yet still better than it could have been. It was a few degrees cooler and as a result skiing felt a few seconds faster. The overall feeling was still below expectations. Some of my technique on the climbs wasn't as dynamic as I've been trying to force it into being. Excuses aside, the effort was there and I used whatever drafts I could.  Of the four shooting stages, one was brilliant and the other three were missed opportunities. There were two misses in each prone stage. All of which were pretty much "head case misses" as I described after. There was no wind, just some breeze in my head I guess. Cleaning the first standing stage was a nice confidence boost and put me with in striking distance of the podium. Since this sport has a way of kicking you in the teeth I unfortunately missed anther three in the last stage. Despite some lack luster ski speed and one too many poor stages I wasn't too far out.
     
      That's about as much as I know for now. The next weekend of trials is in October. It's a best three of four system, plus some other confusing parts in the mix. Naturally, the best move is to stay focused on the process and train well. That being said, the races were great from the experience side. That's the conclusion that's going further better results. I have a lot of feed back to work with in training now. There is a brief camp in Lake Placid on the schedule. The rest is in the county. So if you see a short little idiot flailing expensive equipment around it's probably just be me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer 2015

        There has not been much content in the blog lately. The reasoning is simple: nothing out of this world has been happening. This indicates that everything has been going smoothly. Summer is the heaviest training season of the year. If there really was something to update it about it would most likely mean training is not going well. As you can see from my update frequency training is going great.
        It's nice to not have the stress of travel and racing enveloping you most days. That's the advantage summer has over the racing season. Instead, it's the perpetual fatigue that accompanies you this time of year. The difference in the spring in your step when comparing July to January is staggering. But this nothing new. I've made it clear more than once that this is out normal.
       Here are few pictures of how summer has been wrapping up.
Music festival in New Sweden

A cloudy day at the office

Did I mention I'm officially the owner of a truck?

The powerbar that keeps on giving after the mix is used up.

The end is near for these over used shafts 

It took half a dozen eggs but it was worth the muffin mountain.

Derailleur bit the dust for the second time this summer. Taken down by one renegade stick.
       Aside from the four plus hour rides, Stockholm Mt repeats, and about four too five hundred rounds a week this could be the summer of baking and equipment shenanigans. The garden has been great, and the truck runs well, but I sure wish the mt bike would last more than a month at a time. The first round of trials in Jericho are this weekend. It won't be anything I haven't down before but it should warrant something worth writing about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Summer Grind

            Welcome to the summer portion of the year. If you’re in the northern Maine area, enjoy it because we typically have about two weeks of actual summer.  The longer the days are the longer the training sessions are. There is not very much for news and that may be a good thing. Training has been going well. Each week has an objective to it; one that always ends with fatigue. It’s just a matter of how you get that point.
            The bulk of my training is just volume and distance. In some ways, these are the easiest sessions. This is only true until it’s the last hour of a five hour ride at the end of 23 hour week. The real trick to this sort of day is giving yourself a goal. In the spring the goal was to find moose antlers.  Despite not having any success it was enough to occupy me. The woods roads around here are endless as I have yet to chart the whole thing. At the rate of one flat bike tire week it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
At least he's not on the roller loop. 
            This week is a high intensity week. What that translates into is less overall training, but more training in the race zone effort. The goal is to cram as many hard efforts into a five or six day span that you can. The extra time compared to a volume that these weeks grant me is a fair trade off. The catch is that if I’m not on my hands and knees by the end of at least two training sessions it’s not considered a success. While this kind of training is not my favorite, if done correctly, it’s the most effective towards race season.
You don't need a world class range to have decent grouping.
            Last week was for recovery. The normal cycle is three weeks on and one week off. Without some time dedicated towards rest the effect of training is lost. Naturally this sort of thing varies per athlete. By the end of the three weeks I’m usually clinging to the railing when walking upstairs to offload the use of my legs. At that point, you can understand why a seven day stretch to relax physically and mental is needed.
You looking at some exercise nerd stuff from a hard day on the treadmill.
            That was just a small piece of some of the training ideas that biathletes use. You can spend a lot of time mulling over what a training plan should look like. This is important, and in my opinion, more of a limiting factor than natural talent. Nevertheless, talking about training doesn’t actually make you any faster. Doing the training, is what moves you up the result list. That’s why I did nine two by two minute running intervals this morning at max effort. It was good quality and the best part was when it was done. Aside from a bit windy and rainy the summer has been entertaining. I’m happy to be done with an online class. Lately it seems, there is never a dull weekend. While training is very plentiful and fatiguing it’s there is always a reason to stay motivated. 

Rhubarb! It's not just for stacking! 

No flat tires that day! What a convenience. 
The wind is down! There is no rain! Quickly everyone go outside!

Good old range flag. Always there to soak up 20 seconds for the first one to show up to morning training. 








Saturday, May 30, 2015

An Update

        Hello fatigue my old friend. There is no denying that this update is long over due. The reason for the lower rate of post is pretty simple: Training season is in full force and with that comes an arsenal of other task that ultimately push the post frequency down. I thought I was busy in April and as it turns out I was completely wrong.  April did not have an online class, 20 + hour training weeks, slow fire sessions, or the always favorite 40 minute drive. The grind is in full force again for another year. Some parts will stay more the same than ever and some parts are going to be a little tricky.
       
        One online class is nothing to complain about. Intro to Reading and Writing isn't brain breaking, but I do find it obnoxious. According to what I've learned so far my writing is terrible and I should probably apologizes to the literary world. But this isn't a graded assignment. So don't be surprised if you see a stream of conscious style update just to smite the system. Not everything should repeat the same run of the mills formula. Pretty sure that last one was a fragment and I started a sentence with "but," so there!

      Physical training is going well. Some weeks, the goal is to be outside and moving. The volume weeks have two harder sessions at most and the rest is longer distance sessions. Some weeks are focused more on faster speed. These weeks have fewer hours but more high intensity effort sessions. Other weeks are a mix version of the two and some weeks, such as this last one, are for recovery. After a short ride on the mountain bike this morning I'll come in shy of ten hours for the week. Next week is on pace for 23 hours. After that it's an intensity week.  We used a similar system last year. While it's nothing new it's never too easy. By the end of the week I'm opting for the lighter loose fitting clothing after training because it takes less energy to walk around in. Just biathlon things, I guess.
       Shooting is still on the top of the "to fix" list. Every shooting session has a desired focus going into it. Sometimes the goal is to work on trigger pressure, or my position set up, or maybe it's just simply aiming.  For the past few weeks the objective has to been to work with the basic skills. The outcome being a tight and consistent group on paper. Once that skill is reinforced the shooting sessions will migrate towards handing higher stress situations. Neither precision shooting or under pressure situations are my strong point so you can see why they are in the plan. The groups on paper have been getting better. Proving this has been difficult with the perpetual wind. Yesterday was one of the few calmer days and sure enough the shots were closer together. That is, until the blanket of black flies swarmed in. If it's not cold, it's windy, and if the wind dies down then the bugs take over.
       Training will be based out of nothern Maine for the bulk of the summer. First confirmed departure is not until mid August for the usual Jericho time trial festivities. Beyond that is unknown. What is known, is what's on training plan for next week. That much I can control. Team naming and allotted resources are technically at an all time low, but do you really think that's going to stop me? I actually have fond memories of Pyeong Chang and would like to visit South Korea again in a few years down the road. The core of the effort is as good as ever. The two venues are in fine shape. The targets still fall down when you hit them correctly. All the attention and resources in the world still need a motivated athlete to revolve around.
       
          The situation isn't overly impossible this year, rather a little more tricky. If solid training is still possible then attaining higher team status is still possible. In which case... problem solved, or at least one step closer. The last time I did a four stage time trial I shot 95%. While the past three years have been sub expectations I still can't accept thinking there isn't more room in the tank. Looking ahead, let's not forget the world cup in Presque Isle. The thought of having a great performance at that venue next season is more than enough to push my sad pathetic legs though another five hour ride on the bike.

          Enjoy the summer while it last. It may as well be our shortest season for nothern Mainers. For a brief time I thought nature was going to skip right into October. Calm and sunny days are sparse so enjoy the outside world when you can.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring

         In case you haven't noticed the update frequency has been on the low end as of late. This is due to the fact that it was April. In the world of winter sports this is typically the time of year when most athletes pretend they are not athletes. It can occasionally make for some pretty entertaining stories. I used to despise this time of year. The weather could never make up it's mind. Now I have immense respect for it. Coaches don't expect anything from you and actually encourage a full spectrum break.

  The atmosphere resembles the fall but with out any hunting and the days are actually becoming longer. Instead of gearing up for an expedition with warm clothes when the temps sink to just above freezing we wear t-shirts and assume it must be pushing 70.  Eventually the air has that fresh spring smell in it, but with northern Maine's occasional second or third winter cycles there is no way of telling when spring really begins.
         My spring wasn't too bad. Nothing exciting report. My goal was to just relax and let everyday organize itself. Nothing was confined to a scheduled that I didn't think of on the spot. If I can finish the month feeling board then I've accomplished enough as far as I'm concerned.  The past few weeks have been full of the things I enjoy doing in my spare time. Catching up with old friends, movies, baking attempts, spring skiing, and taking naps are random points in the day. What a rebel right?
       
          One of the exclusive highlights to this time of year is the skiing opportunities. While there is no guarantee of it crust cruising still remains the best form of XC skiing there is in my opinion. It's the golden standard. If I retire and drop the training load by 97% the remaining 3% will be crust skiing. Those elusive mornings when the humid snow from the warmer spring temps the day before freeze into a hard crust overnight turning the whole landscape into a ski trail are worth going to bed early.
   
       For all of the great memories of crust skiing they will have to remain memories for now. There was very little to no crust skiing this year. Some years it's great and others, well they just don't pass the test. The test consist of stepping outside before breakfast with a ski pole in hand. If you can punch through the surface then the skiing isn't going to be great. If you can walk around on the snow bank and jab the snow all you want with out breaking through then the skiing is good to go.  Most mornings this year I just ended up with little pole plant craters in the yard. Thankfully the afternoon classic ski sessions were a nice compensation.

        Since there is a lot to be said about what's ahead for me I'll leave it for another update. Despite the good, the bad, and the still unclear everything is still functioning. Last week was a warm up for the training season. With a couple of higher intensity sessions and about 17 hours of volume the system is starting to wake up for another run through the summer gauntlet.

     
The things you find on the ski trails these days.

2nd winter


May or may not have made this jump.




The Icarus effect. 

Almost made it.
And then shut down.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

In Pictures 2014/15 Season

Here are some of the better photos from this racing season. There actually in chronological order for a change. Hope you like them.


This is how it started. In Sjusjoen, Norway. One of the few non New England places to have winter. 
First WC in Ostersund, SWE 
The first trimester WC team
I guess we were all focused on the beard.


Given the amount of time we spend on our laptops this time of year I thought this one was worthy. 

Now this is what I call a real breakfast. 
Did I mention the lack of snow in Europe?

From the hotel in the morning in Bled, Slovenia for the third WC.

An afternoon run in Duszinki, Poland. 

Again with the lack of snow department. 

Just Euro travel things. 

Another year of racing in Ridnaun, ITA











Heading up the pass in Antolze, ITA

Racing in Otepeaa, Estonia

Which was my first glimpse of actual winter since Sjusjoen. 
And finally back home for some attempts at baking. 
Familiar trails 2015!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Where Winter Is

        Everything was on pace for US Biathlon Nationals. Among all the indecision making of February I eventually landed on a solid plan. One that involved a lot of trips to the shooting range and some back to back race pace sessions. And yet with the first race on schedual for tomorrow in Truckee, CA I'm just sitting here in Northern Maine waxing my race skis for a marathon. The logistics of the past six weeks has been about as stable as playing with quick silver. To summarize, here is why I'm not out west and what I've been doing and plan on doing instead.
   
        US nationals were supposed to be an opportunity to get back into the sport and make a case for the next training season. Some of that was a success. I had several successful combos sessions. Last week had four race pace sessions crammed into five days. This included a time trial. I chose the one day when the weather seemed like it would be functional. That is, less gale force winds, and temps above the legal limit. This mostly came true. It rained on the way up to Fort Kent, but held off for the rest of the morning. The snow was a little slow to say the least. This was slower than the snow in Nove Mesto, CZ. I may have well have been racing on Elmers kind of slow. It made for a not so fast 10km. The point was to have a race like situation. Which was a success. I missed one target in the first stage and proceed to clean the last three. This is good news, but where was that 95% shooting back in December on the WC?

         With some high intensity sessions under the belt I was back into race shape. Physically anyways. When I heard the the snow conditions in Truckee were on a downward slope and the threat of cancellation was brought up I was't as frustrated as normal. A part of me still cringed at the thought of  checking in for a flight. Even if it was out of Presque Isle. After being so committed to making the trip happen I pulled the plug on it at the last minute. With just over 24 hours before my flight I made the call and decided not to race US Nationals. I'll never know for sure, but the thought of a ten day trip for three races that may or may not happen on a 1.5km loop of snow just wasn't appealing enough. There was little to no snow in Europe this year and even less in the western US. So where is winter 2014/15?
           This is where staying home and racing in the east became a foreseeable option. The Sugarloaf marathon is this weekend. This is the same marathon I raced last year. It's a nice closed in course with a slightly unique profile. More than anything it's with driving distance and there's no lack of snow issue to be dealt with. The physical shape is a little unknown right now, but that's okay. These races are just fun to show up to at the last minute and suffer through. Some old friends will be around which adds to the weekend.
            Other than that I would like to complain about the wind. Seems most everyday this past month in Northern Maine has been wind blasted. It's intimidating when you're trying to start a work out and you can't even here yourself  think. Much less trying to zero. It's a good thing it's not roller ski season otherwise we would be dealing with tornadoes (fact: wind always blows against you when on roller skis). The cold temps are okay. The trick is load on the extra layers and keep moving.
             Racing has been at a  minimum since January. I did the 21km double pole race in Limestone and par took in the infamous Stockholm Winter Carnival. I don't want to brag, but I took two wins in the 100yd and 220 yard ski dashes. It was fun to see so many people skiing and using the school trails. And slightly less nerve racking for the racing side as it was back in 1992.
             
              Realistically the racing season was over after Euro Champs in late January. Officially it will be over after the 44km race this Saturday. The WC field is finishing up the season in Siberia right now. I wish I was there to be a part of the scene, but in all fairness this was not the season to do so. I could go on but that will have to wait for another day. This could be a good spring for crust skiing provided the wind hasn't blown all of the snow off the fields.

P.S.
Will try to have some more pictures up by the weekend.