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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Season 13/14

          Once again the racing season is over. It's hard to think of everything that has happened since late November. The crazy part is that this is nothing out of the ordinary. Any NorthAmerican biathlete can expect to spend at least three months away from home, four or more if you skip out on Christmas. While this is pretty consistent, some of the racing was different this year. Namely the Olympics. That race series only comes in four year cycles. The base goal for the season was to secure a spot on that team. That wasn't the only goal in mind, but considering where I started from I knew it wasn't going to be an easy season. Some goals were met with flying colors and others left unfulfilled.
           There was no travailing to Ostersund for the opening WC. There wasn't even an IBU cup in my reach for December. In fact, I had to head in the opposite direction. If I wanted to meet base line goals I would have to be Mt. Itaska, Minnesota around mid December. Thanks to some dependable backing from the MWSC I was able to not only attend the trial races, but also secure some frostbite in Canmore, Alberta the two weeks prior. Canmore was cold on arrival, then delightfully warm and finally back to dangerously cold again before we left. Aside from some on snow training there was also a couple of NorAms. I needed these races to work out the cobwebs before taking any risk in MN. Turns our there was more cobwebs than I thought. Shooting was still in the hole and ski speed wasn't where I had trained it to be. I was starting to get nervous.
           Race one at Mt Itaska left me even more nervous. It also left everyone cold. Despite jumping a time zone over the bitterly cold followed us. After the four trial races were done I was safely in the top two. In the end I had to take the discretion card to make it to the next round. After MN it was Christmas time. Being able to relax and have a conformed spot on the Olympic team would have helped with the Christmas spirit, but it was still a good time.
           The next round of trials was in Ridnaun, Italy. Ridnaun happens to one of the better places on the Euro race circuit. With four races stretched over two weekends the stress levels never dropped much. I did my very best to suppress the fears and horrors of not making the team. Usually it's all blue sky perfect in Ridnaun. For the most part these two weeks were no different. Strangely enough though, the first IBU cup race was held in a blizzard. Visibility was down to a critical distance. It wasn't a pretty race, but I was able to work with it and come out as top American. I didn't do as well the following day when conditions were better, but it was still nice to have the races one after the other. Once that second race was over it was a week of waiting before the last two. This gives you enough time to prepare or recover if you are sick, but it can also give you enough time to stress over racing. This is a very involuntary move on my subconsciousness's part obviously. Thankfully the weekend came and with good weather this time. The individual isn't my strong point and in retro spec others may have been worried about this situation and others delighted at the opportunity move up in points. Either way I took my time in the range. More so than usual. On that day I was not there to win. I was there to qualify. In  other words a great result would have needed more risks, but the OWG's team naming meant not taking any risk. It paid off with slow, but decent shooting and the fifth fastest loop time on the day. I was the top American again by two minutes. The following race went well enough. After a while it was it was clear that my goal was going to be met.
            After that it was off to Antolze. The last WC of the second trimester. This time around the atmosphere was different. It was better. It was better because there was no more team naming to be had. Stress levels were the lowest of the season. I can't say I like prolonging dinner over a two hour span but a better mood still. I was interested to see what racing was like with out the pressure load. Unfortunately I still missed three in my first stage of the sprint and another in standing. On the plus side ski speed was good that day and I still made the pursuit with a 60th result. The pursuit was decent race. It wasn't great, but it was a good sign.
             Training in Antolze went pretty well over the next three weeks, but not without some glitches. Almost everyone was sick at some point. There was some questionable food issues here and there. Most of the team had to spend a day or two at a different hotel.  The See Hause is still great, but after this season I think the yellow page review might go down a notch if there were such a website for the S├╝dtirol region. It wasn't the normal training camp we do in the summer. This was the peak training camp. We weren't trying anything new. Just some fine tuning training before the most important races of the year. There were a few really hard efforts and a time trial to make sure everything was in order before heading over to Sochi
             The Olympic experience was very exciting. I didn't even make it to the opening ceremonies and it was still an over the top experience. This was not your typical run of the mills world champs. At least not in presentation. The endurance village was a non stop post card picture. That's excluding the days when the fog roles in and limits visibility to two meters.  Team processing alone made it clear that this was going to be different. The grandest difference may have been the Olympic biathlon venue. Normally you'll see one or two large buildings for storage and office work. Plus some stands and a line of small wax cabins. Our racing site had a large smooth and sleek building. It looked even better when the sun started to go down just over the mountains. The sky would glow orange as the temperature dropped from spring back to winter.
             Not everything was a glorious change. Some things hung around to plague me. My best finish was 50th in the individual. The top 60 in the sprint race in the pursuit... I was 61st. Someone has to do it and it just happened to be me. As always I was immensely frustrated at first and gradually got over it. Besides a bad prone stage everything was there. I had high hopes for the individual. Shooting during training had been at an all time high. All I had to do was keep it together and let the fitness and shouting do the rest. In the end it was another mediocre race. Not bad, but not beyond the threshold. There was two misses in the first two stages. That really isn't too bad, but these days it's more of a perfection or nothing scenario.
           From a non racing perspective the biggest complaint was the obnoxious amount of effort it took to get from point A too point B. Point B wasn't far off. But when you're in peak shape and don't want to spend 90 plus minutes a day walking it gets old very quickly. It was always a gamble to wait for a shuttle or not. Sometimes you would stand outside for five minutes, other times they would never drive by. As far as I could tell most of the shuttle drivers took 40 minute nap/smoking breaks all the time. In our smoke free village no less. It was almost not worth trying to visit either of the other two villages. If you knew where to go (and most of the volunteers didn't) you could make it to the Coastal village in under three hours. And don't even think of leaving the house with out your credentials. Do that and you're as good as dog food around those parts. I could go on, but the truth is the shenanigans and lack luster results didn't overshadow the grand experience of a first time Olympics. If you want to know why my reply to "How was it" is always "busy" that would be why. In the words of Lowell it was "a dedication to inefficiency."
        The greatest disappointment was no one's fault but my own. The memory of the relay still haunts me. In truth that level of shooting has happened dozens of times during training and past races, but when you're in fourth and it's being broadcasted across the world it really adds a new element of debilitating frustration.
        The closing ceremonies reminded me about the plus side of just making the team. I have faint memories of the last few hours before we made it to Inzell, Germany for our brief off week. No one had more than a few hours of sleep that weekend and the packing the van at six AM on Monday is just a blur now.
        Since this update has rambled on too long once again I'll leave the last article to explain the remainder of the season. It picks up where this one left off. If nothing else just make sure you don't leave the starting gate on the wrong pair of skies. I'm still waiting to look back on that one with laughter. Any day now.
       
          I told myself that not traveling would do just fine for an April break. But when the chance to go our nation's capital and shake hands with the president was being offered it's hard to not start packing. Besides, this travel is a lot easier without two awkward bags and an fire arm. That being said I was exhausted when it was over. It was a great time, but it felt like a full week crammed into three days. I caught up with some old highschool friends and had a nice tour of the capital building and part of the senate office.  I was glad to have a quick visit with our state senators. This wasn't easy to fit in on such a short notice so I was grateful for the brief chat that we had. Trust me, Susan Collins and Angus King are busy much more often than not. Afterwords I was able to squeeze in a visit to the National Air and Space Museum. That evening was the team USA best of awards show. NBC was broadcasting it so it had that high end production value. When that was all done and over I met up some other friends who just so happened to living in DC. It's amazing how many people I know that live in the area.
           On Thursday all of the USA Olympic and Par-Olympic athletes were sent through a gauntlet of security before we started the White House tour. Turns out it's a pretty nice living quarters. We didn't find any secret door in the library but some of the other sport athlete sure did want to try. Everything had the authentic historical feel that you would expect. Still, it's always better to see it first hand. After a lot of waiting all 400 or so of us lined up. The biathlon team was in no rush to make it to the front of the line so we were last group of people the president and first lady saw. We shook hands had a quick chat and moved on. I tried to take some good pictures of the speech, but when you're in the very back at a peak of 5'6'' most of them aren't going to come out very well, but it was a nice speech. Most of the athletes left that afternoon. Since I had another night in DC I visited with an old friend again before an early flight out of Dulles. Most of the money on the food card the USOC granted us was spent on cab fairs.
           

               It was a good season. Let's put it that way. Not great, but a long ways off from being terrible. It could have been a lot worse. I didn't have to swallow the disappointment of being denied all over after Vancouver. I had to take the long road to the Olympics. In December few people considered me as a contender. I had little no mention in ski articles... Guess they were wrong. The week that followed team naming was the best week of the season. The support rolled in almost non stop for a while. It still does. I couldn't even make the flight into Presque Isle with out being congratulated. There are letters and emails from people I haven't seen in years too state Senators too middle school teachers and coaches. Not only did I get a lengthy shout out on the Senate floor I even had the chance to meet the people that did the fact checking for it. I told every one that Sochi was great in part because it was so different from our normal routine. Part of that difference was seeing my parents over there. Never mind my email account the support that came through for there trip over was amazing. Naturally given Russian logistics only one short visit attempt was successful. The last month of racing was a disappointment, but I've had worse. The white house visit was exciting. It also reminded me how small of a world it is and what a difference good connections can make. There is always someone you know not far.
            In a grander conclusion, no matter how good or bad the results are I can always fall back on the effort card. There's no doubt that I didn't try to win the race long before I showed up for it. That's something certain others (with better results) can not claim. So if you're looking for a good lesson on loyalty and hard work, try competing at a world class level in one of the most competitive and physically and mentally demanding sports in the world. Trust me you'll learn a lot.


And yes, pictures to come later.
       

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Last Trimester

         The last trimester of the season that I did and the one that the world cup circuit did were not one in the same. I was really hoping that it would be. That extra chance to pull out a good result helped keep the focus together after a long and busy Olympics. Unfortunately this is another less than positive update. It's hard to score WC points after you've been put out to pasture for the season. That isn't to say I don't have any other news besides that. Home two weeks earlier than planned yes, but completely done with racing: no.
          After the Olympics we had an easy week in Inzell, Germany. This was a strange place and time to be. On most days it felt warmer then in February than it did in August when we were there for a summer training camp. There was no snow and walking around in t-shirts out side was an option. Last year at this time we were going for easy classic distance from the doorstep. It hasn't been a great winter for this region. Strangely enough a forty minute drive from Inzell and maybe a couple hundred meters of climb brought us to some of the best skiing we had seen all year. So training was there when we wanted it and a late spring for the rest of time.

          I at least made it to the Pokljuka, Slovenia WC. This is the place that is always popular among the athletes and coaches. The crowds are not massive, so I'm not sure how much the IBU sponsors and TV crews like the place. In case you missed the earlier update the racing didn't go so well. It had good potential, but when you choose grab the wrong skis on a day that favored good skis it dons't go over very well with the result list. I was pretty bummed and down right embarrassed for pulling one of the dumbest moves I've ever done. Which happens to be a very competitive category.
       
            Sometimes I think I can feel the storm coming. Maybe it's just pessimism, maybe it was actually somewhat obvious, but I had a growing fear that I wouldn't be on the team for the last two WCs. I denied all negative thoughts and tried to keep it together. To my dismay the preemptive fear was spot on. I would be the only athlete on the team to be flying home and not to Finland the following week. Due to some ironic nation cup point needs I was the short straw out. It wasn't unfair from the mens team side. Only your team's top three score points and we had three good athletes on pace to keep us in a sage place. I was just disappointed for myself. This was my last chance to justify the training put in this year and year's prior. In one dreadful meeting all that hope went down the drain.

             Like most every athlete in the field at that point in the season I had been looking forward to going home for a while and yet as I packed for the transcontinental flight home there was no excitement to be had. Kontiolahti and Oslo are two great places for racing. There wasn't much for other racing available that interested me, and the thought of ending the season in early March just didn't feel right. It didn't really matter, all I knew was that I needed something to cling to. Something to think about during training. A reason to keep up with the vitamin

D and grab door nobs with my sleeve instead of hand. After some research (e-mailing) the best race itinerary was a 15km skate race in Vermont and a marathon in Sugarloaf.

           It was cold and snowy in Craftsbury, Vermont. It was nice just be able to drive down on day that wasn't storming. Long story short the race was fun, but not fast enough. I could list all sorts of little reasons, but I hate excuses and believe in results. So in all fairness let's just leave it at that. I will say that racing on what was most likely bronchitis did not help. What ever it is, it's still lingering now a week and half later. I was pretty frustrated with the day, but at that point I was close to my terminal frustration. In other words, what did I have to lose?
In all fairness that last flight into PQI has never looked better.
          I took two days off in a row. The legs felt fresh and ready to go again. I was still coughing up death out my my lungs every morning, but close enough for one last race right? I had never been to the Sugarloaf Outdoor Nordic Center. There are a lot of trails to explore. The bulk of them are all the same and lack variety, but there's not much wrong with gradual rolling terrain on a narrow trail through the Maine woods. I actually put in some effort into waxing my race skis for the marathon. I didn't know how the competition was, but that wasn't the point. The logic was that the faster the skis the shorter the race. Breaking a pole didn't help, but it didn't really destroy the race for either. It just forced about seven km of one pole skiing. Thankfully the UVM coach spotted me an extra pole which helped me get to my spare pole catch. By the second loop it was just the three MWSC athletes in front. Welly, Raleigh, and I had a solid 20 to 30 second lead. Eventually we split up, but the podium stayed in the MWSC.
          Ending the racing season in western Maine isn't what I envisioned but it was a nice means to an end. It has been a while since I actually won a race. Admittedly I put in a solid effort to keep my presence in the county under raps. With the two races in mind and lot of busy work to plow through I didn't have the time to catch up with the masses. The race season theme was still a go even after I landed in Presque Isle. Now that Saturday's race is over that subconscious contract is up. That was a run down of the post Sochi section of the 2013/2014 season. Next time I'll try to wrap up the November to March stretch. Aside from a White house visit there isn't a whole lot in place for April. That's a vacation with in it's self.

So as of now Maine's lone Olympian is both physically and officially back home in Stockholm.