Tuesday, December 18, 2007
After the races in Montana, I hopped a plane to Alaska to visit my family and I’ve been working odd jobs and training in Anchorage since I arrived on the 10th. The snow conditions are pretty dismal everywhere except on the hillside at higher elevations. Unfortunately that will limit my ability to shoot and do combo training – probably until I get to the peninsula - and that also means my running shoes have gotten quite a bit of attention this past week. While not a perfect situation, things could definitely be worse. I’ll be here in Anchorage until this coming weekend when I’ll head south to spend Christmas at my parent’s home on the Kenai Peninsula.
This afternoon I biked out on the Coastal Trail and the photo below is one of the images I captured. In the foreground are small icebergs thrown up on the beach.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Sunday was a 12.5 K pursuit format race where we skied five 2.5K loops and shot twice prone and twice standing. I recorded seven penalties out of twenty, which was an improvement over Saturday's sprint. I stayed in 9th place in the pursuit. Overall I was happy with how the first weekend of racing played itself out.
Monday of this week I traveled with the team to Bozeman, Montana and then from there to West Yellowstone, MT. We arrived in a white-out snowstorm and were happy to find nearly two feet of snow on the ground and substantially warmer temperatures. We race tomorrow and Saturday so I'm excited to get in the start gate again.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Last week we spent several hours skiing in Banff National Park near Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, the latter of which has a huge lodge on its shore. Such a beautiful location. Words don't do the scenery justice but perhaps the pictures below will.
This last shot is of the full moon coming over the mountains behind the team's condo. Not that it really has much to do with biathlon, but I think it's cool.
Monday, November 19, 2007
It looks like we have a time trial on Friday or Saturday of this week so I'm looking forward to that first test run on snow. I view each time trial as a chance to master techniques on skis and in the range. With this being my first season racing with a rifle, I'm glad to have at least one time trial on snow before the NorAm Cup races on the 1st and 2nd of December.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Last week was chock full of training and packing in preparation for traveling to Canada for the first on-snow camp of the season. I put in a solid 17-hour week of training and a couple of good shooting sessions and spent the remainder of the time getting all of my winter gear together and my summer equipment ready for storage. The Olympic Training Center was alive with activity as the staff prepared to host the first Luge World Cup of the season. Teams from all over the world were already in residence and more athletes kept trickling in. As always, the mingling of winter sport athletes is fun and interesting. We biathletes think lugers are crazy because they routinely hit speeds of over 80 miles per hour while riding down an ice chute on a little tiny sled. They, on the other hand, can't imagine ski racing for several miles with a rifle. In the end, what all of this amounts to is a whole lot of respect being shared between the various sports and some semblance of camaraderie that comes primarily from our love of snow and ice.
This past week has been a busy one. With a five-week trip looming I was doing my best to get everything packed while also trying desperately to stay under weight with my bags so I wouldn't have to pay overage fees. That turned out to be a bigger challenge than I originally thought, but I somehow managed to make it work. I finished packing late Wednesday night and woke up a short two hours later to drive to the Albany airport. We left the OTC at 2 am and didn't arrive in Calgary, Alberta until 1 pm. We left the airport after 3 and made it to Canmore, Alberta sometime after 5 pm. James, my coach, hadn't slept in over 35 hours and I was operating on only three hours of sleep in about a 40-hour block. Needless to say, travel days are by far one of the toughest obstacles to overcome as an athlete. They throw a monkey wrench in the training plan, screw up sleeping and eating schedules, and potentially expose you to lots of germs. Regardless though, the long hours of travel are very worth it when they end on a freshly groomed corduroy trail.
Canmore is a small ski town nestled in the Canadian Rockies about about 115 kilometers west of Calgary. It was the site of the 1988 Olympic Biathlon and Nordic races so the venue is fantastic. I'm here training with the Development Team for the next two weeks in preparation for our first two races. We'll race a 10 K Sprint on Dec. 1st and a 12.5 k Pursuit on the 2nd. We're staying in an awesome condo that's only a short drive from the venue and so long as the weather cooperates and more snow falls this will be a great camp. Right now the snow is pretty thin because temperatures have been unseasonably warm, but there is colder weather in the forecast, which will allow the race organizers to make lots of snow. I unfortunately only have one picture to post today, but I'll definitely be posting several more soon.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The camp in Heber City ended on a high note with a few more quality workouts, the last of which was a hard interval set that left us all on nearly empty. That night we went out for Mexican food and fruity drinks. It was all most of us could do to keep from falling asleep in our tacos.
(So, a little aside - this picture probably should have been included with my last post, but I overlooked it. One of the last mornings in Heber I lucked out and captured the full moon dropping behind the mountains as the sun was just coming up and starting to illuminate the hillsides. I've never seen anything quite like it.)
On Sunday I drove with Sara and her parents to Boise. Game four of the World Series was unfolding for a good portion of the trip so we spent the evening trying to keep it tuned in as we drove across the desert. The highways were quiet save for all the guys who were on their way either to or from deer hunting. The truck stops were overrun with people sporting blaze orange and camo. Speaking of which, I've never quite figured out why deer hunters go to the trouble of wearing camo pants when they top it off with an orange shirt and hat. Any thoughts?
Anyway, I spent last week in Boise. Monday and Tuesday were off days and then Sara and I got back into training. The weather was cool and dry so we were able to get some great sessions in that included an awesome mountain bike ride in the foothills, a couple of high-end interval sessions, and a long ski up into the mountains where we climbed nearly 3000 ft in 3 hours.
Lest you think we spent the whole easy week training, I'll assure you that we did plenty of relaxing. We had the opportunity to help coach the Bogus Basin Nordic Ski team on a couple of different days and, of course, got dressed up for Halloween to hand out candy to the kiddies coming to the door.
I arrived back in Lake Placid yesterday morning at 1 am after flying all day from Boise and I'm back into another big block of training. We skied on the treadmill this morning and did a classic rollerski this afternoon. It snowed a couple of inches here yesterday so everything is white. We may try to ski on the golf course tomorrow if it stays cold through the night. Saturday and Sunday I get to train with the Dartmouth Team in Hanover and then I'll back to Lake Placid for a couple of days before leaving for Alberta to get on snow. Sweet!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Last week we moved houses to a place closer to the training venue. It's not quite the palace from the first week, but it's really comfortable. We've got a really friendly barn cat that sits at the back door, several horses that are all too eager to take carrots or apple cores off our hands, and one group of about 15 deer that walks by the house every morning and evening. The two pictures below were taken from the house - and yes, that is snow you're seeing in the second picture. We woke two different mornings last week to a couple of inches on the ground. It melted pretty fast both times, but it was just enough to get us psyched about getting on snow next month in Canada.
Last week was a solid 18 hours of training that included lot of speed work and two time trials. I raced against a few juniors on Wednesday in a 12.5K pursuit and shot well enough to win. Saturday was a 15K mass start time trial with the National Team and National Guard athletes. We raced five laps of a really challenging course and had to deal with gusty wind conditions. I led for the whole of the first lap, but skied too hard and was subsequently sucking wind when I came in to shoot the first stage. From there, things went south. I ended up missing 11 of 20 targets (one more than National Team member Jeremy Teela), which unfortunately had me in the penalty loop for a long time. Despite missing lots of targets, the time trial was a great learning experience and goes down as a success in my book. I'm making positive progress as long as I can learn from every time trial and race and I'm confident things are going to come together during the race season.
The picture below was taken on the range at Soldier Hollow one morning last week before all the snow melted off. Winter isn't far away!
I took the picture below while on a run on the hillsides above Soldier Hollow, the Olympic complex, where we do most of our training. In the foreground is the stadium and barely visible on the hillside are the trails. What a fantastic place to train.
Tomorrow is an easy day and then Saturday is one last hard interval set that will wrap up the camp. I'm headed to Boise, ID on Sunday with Sara and her parents to spend a few days and then I'll fly back to Lake Placid where I'll spend about a week training and getting packed up in preparation for traveling to Calgary for our first on-snow camp and the first set of North American Cup races. The races aren't that far away and I'm getting antsy to get things rolling.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Just over three weeks ago, beginning on the 24th of September, I started a ten-day block of hard training that culminated on the 3rd of October. We got in three level-4 intervals sets during the first week and then a couple of solid level 3 efforts during the last few days. One of the first hard interval sessions was done on a giant treadmill at the Training Center. Rather than try to explain what roller skiing on a treadmill actually looks like, I’ve attached a video clip below that will hopefully make a little more sense for those of you not familiar with this form of training.
In case you weren't able to view the video and/or as a means of explanation, we do some intervals on the treadmill because it allows us to control the speed and incline of the surface. This is great because sometimes it’s hard to find a hill long enough on which to do six 4-minute uphill intervals and it also is a great tool for assuring that a constant velocity is maintained during hard workouts. In short, NO slacking. Another of the treadmill’s advantages is that a coach is always present throughout the workout to give technique tips and, if necessary, to check blood lactate levels to make sure we are working our bodies at the correct exertion level.
Following the end of that block of training I got packed up to leave the Training Center for a three-week camp with the National Team. Sara’s parents were visiting the east from Boise, ID so I got to travel with them down to New Haven, CT to visit her younger brother who is a freshman this year at Yale University. We spent two days in New Haven seeing the sites and reminding ourselves of why we don’t particularly like gigantic cities. Even though trapped in suburbia, it was fun to check out Yale’s campus and see where so much history has been made and so many great and not-so-great leaders of our country have made their starts. We attended a Dartmouth vs. Yale football game on the weekend and Sara and I unfortunately had to watch as our Alma Mater got punished. Regardless though, it was a fun (and HOT) day none-the-less. With temperatures hitting nearly 90 degrees on the weekend, walking on the beach was more reminiscent of being in Central America than October on the east coast. On Sunday we celebrated Sara’s birthday with a breakfast on the beach near the hotel and I got to wrap up the meal by helping a local fisherman release a sea gull that he somehow caught while casting from the beach. That afternoon we drove to Providence, RI and had dinner with some of Sara's relatives and then got packed up to leave the next morning.
Both Sara and I flew out Monday, Oct. 8, for Salt Lake City. I arrived nearly 24 hours later in Heber City, a smallish city located near Park City. Heber City is a great location for Biathlon training because it was the site of Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic Nordic and Biathlon races. It offers world-class roller skiing loops and a fantastic biathlon range so we are able to do very specific training. Another of the great benefits of the venue and one of the primary reasons for training here is that Heber sits at an elevation of roughly 5,500 ft, which is perfect for altitude training. Distance athletes try to train at altitude several times throughout the year in order to naturally boost the oxygen-carrying capacity of their blood, which in turn allows them to go faster in competitions.
We wrapped up the week with a 20K level 3/4 interval combo workout. It was a great opportunity to ski behind a couple of the National Team members and try to pick up a few more technique tips. Shooting wasn't great, but that's how it goes sometimes. That's all for now. Check back in the next day or two - I'll have more pictures up. Cheers
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Because our training schedule this week only called for around 9 hours, that left lots of time for taking pictures and enjoying the fall colors. On Tuesday Sara and I hiked about a mile in to a lake near Whiteface Mountain. We built a raging fire and then ate dinner while the sun went down, casting soft light on the hillsides. Sunset and sunrise really bring out the best in fall colors.
Thursday morning we did a run up Cobble Hill, a small mountain that overlooks Lake Placid. There are few places to get an unobstructed view of the town so it was fun to get a better idea of how everything fits together.
This last picture is something I snapped on the edge of one of the highways. Shrouded in haze as they were, the ski jumps reminded me of some sort of giant Star Wars era machines rather than something feather-weight kids use to pretend they are Superman. But what do I know?
Thursday, September 13, 2007
mixed with any aerobic training like running or rollerskiing.
PM - Off
format as a pursuit** biathlon race so we did 5 x ~5 min of running between
PM - (100 min) Strength workout - Power lifting & core exercises.
PM - (125 min) 60 min Classic rollerski + 65 min strength (Power lifting and core
So, I trained a total of 18.6 hours in 9 sessions, including 3 interval sessions, 2 strength sessions, 3 distance sessions, and 1 distance session that included ski-specific strength exercises.
*see my last post from Sept. 4 for an overview of how we categorize the intensity of our workouts into 5 levels - http://zhall-biathlete.blogspot.com/2007/09/training.html
**There are four different formats for a biathlon race. They will be outlined later in this post.
I hope you're not overly confused at this point. I'm including all this info for anyone that is super interested in the details of my new "job." Many people don't understand how I can be so busy just doing "some skiing and shooting." It's primarily for them that I've included an overview of what an average training day looks like. We wake before seven most mornings and start the day with dry-fire drills, which consists of going through the motions of shooting our rifles. The only difference is that we don't have bullets in the gun and we're 'shooting' at black dots on the wall. This helps us train all the muscles to know proper body positioning and breathing, both being requisite for shooting quickly and accurately. Between 7 and 7:30 we make it to breakfast where we choose foods to fuel the first workout of the day. If the workout is going to be long I eat quite a bit more than if the workout is either short or a hard interval session. The last thing I want to see in an interval session is my breakfast all over the side of the road. After the morning's workout we return to the OTC in time to shower and make it to lunch where the process starts all over again. At lunch we are focused on refueling our bodies quickly so we'll have as much time as possible to recover before the afternoon workout. After lunch we usually take a short nap that helps the muscles regenerate and also keeps the mind fresh so we can focus on the details of the coming workout. Following the afternoon workout we again shower and then head straight to dinner to refuel. By this time it is usually 6 or 7 in the evening and it's time to do a little more dry-firing, watch some biathlon videos to study technique, or simply read a book or focus on something other than biathlon for 2-3 hours before going to bed. The training does get monotonous at times. One key to keeping things exciting lies in good music, good books, and a vivid imagination. My iPod accompanies me on most long workouts so I'm able to do a little 'grooving' on the trails. When I'm in my room recovering I can often be found redesigning the energy-efficient house I'd love to build someday or going through one of the books that I've collected over the last several years. Enough on that though.
I promised earlier that I'd explain the different race formats, so I'll attempt to do that here. I've also included some photos that will hopefully help to illustrate some of the details.
Relay - 4 X 7.5 km; Each skier skies three laps of 2.5 km each and shoots once prone (8 shots for 5 targets) after the first lap and once standing (8 shots for 5 targets) after the second lap.
Sprint - 10 km; This is an individual race that consists of three 3.3 km loops. Skiers start in 30-second intervals and shoot once in prone position (5 shots for 5 targets) after the first lap and once standing (5 shots for five targets) after the second lap. For every missed target skiers are required to ski a 150 meter penalty loop. It pays to shoot well.
Pursuit - 12.5 km; The start order of this race is based on the final times from the sprint race. If, for example, skier X was 1st in the sprint and skier Y was 2nd just six seconds later, then skier X will start six seconds in front of skier Y. In order to win, skier Y must catch skier X and pass him. This makes for an exciting race because both racers and spectators know exactly what position every skier is in. The race consists of five 2.5 km laps with skiers shooting after every lap except for the last (the order of shootings is prone, prone, standing, & standing and racers get 5 shots for 5 targets in each shooting stage). Missing a target in this race gets skiers the same penalty as in sprint races.
Individual - 20 km; This is the original biathlon race. It consists of five loops of 4 km each and racers shoot after every loop except the last. The order of shootings in this format is prone, standing, prone, & then standing. Like the other two individual races, skiers get 5 bullets to hit 5 targets in each stage. Unlike the other two races however, every missed shot automatically adds one minute to the final time of an athlete. So, if you ski as fast as one guy but manage to miss 10 of 20 targets your final time will be 10 minutes slower than his. If this should happen, you definitely won't be taking in hardware home. On the World Cup, hitting 90% of targets is average for many biathletes. That is my goal.
I've got a really hard workout in the morning so I'm going to try to wrap up this post. Last week, as you saw above, was a busy one for training. This week has been fairly easy comparatively with only about 9 hours of training. I had an encouraging shooting test on Wednesday, besting my last test substantially. There's still quite a ways to go until I'll have a chance against the likes of National Team members Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey, but it's exciting to see some of the pieces falling in to place. Below is a picture of one of my prone targets from the test. If you click on the picture you'll get a close-up in another window. There are six shots there, all that would score as prone hits. For size reference, since I haven't covered it before, the prone targets are roughly the diameter of the 8-ring and the standing targets are the diameter of the black area on this sheet of paper. When shooting prone, biathletes see the entire large circle, but they must shoot the center of the target for an electronic mechanism to score a hit.
I'm really going now. Don't worry, I'll be back. When I do I'll post some pictures from a recent apple-picking excursion, and several hikes in the Adirondacks that have netted some beautiful shots of foliage that is starting to near its prime. Until the next time, be safe and find some time to get out and breath the crisp fall air. Adios.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Sunday was a much needed rest day. We are usually pretty tired at the end of a hard week so we spend our rest days doing very little activity in order to recover adequately in preparation for the next week of training. We do use our rest days for catching up on chores and other things that a regular training schedule often doesn’t allow, so even sitting around can be very productive.
The past three days have seen more great training. We drove back over to Jericho, VT Monday morning for more combo training Monday and Tuesday. The weather was much more cooperative. Monday we had a shooting workout in the morning and then some easy combos in the afternoon. Tuesday morning we had a level 3 interval workout that consisted of roughly 70 minutes of on-time (8 x 8.5 minutes). Shooting during these workouts is difficult because of the elevated heart rate, but this is especially necessary now that we are less than three months away from the start of the competitive season. It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m confident I’ll be ready when the first races in Canmore, B.C. roll around in early December. Tuesday afternoon we did an easy combo workout and then loaded up and headed back to Lake Placid. We drove most of the way back in pouring rain and lots of lightning. The rain was coming down so forcefully at some points in the trip that most vehicles pulled off the roadways to wait it out. I love storms and that was impressive.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
That's it for now, but keep checking back for some more biathlon-specific info. In the works for future posts are discussions and explanations of what biathlon is for those of you who are still curious, a look at the rifles we use in the sport, and a discussion of what it's like being a gluten-free athlete. Of course, if you have any questions you'd like answered about the sport or my training, feel free to send me an email and I'll address them in upcoming posts. Thanks for reading. Until next time, cheers!
The training and time-trials were just what I needed. We were on the range twice a day for almost a week so we got lots of focused shooting instruction and I finally started feeling more comfortable with combining skiing with shooting. I didn't win either of the time trials, but I wasn't very far out on the skiing times, which was encouraging for my first and second ever biathlon races. I shot around 60% both days, which isn't too bad considering. It's by no means the 80-90% being shot by the best World Cup skiers, but I'm confident that my percentages will get better in the next three months of training before racing starts.
At the end of the last block of training I flew to Alaska to spend time with my family and celebrate one of my brother's weddings. The first week home was a much needed off-week. I took advantage of the down time to do some focused dry-fire work with my rife and also spent some time doing absolutely nothing. I didn't completely veg out, but that was high on the list of priorities for a few days. I was able to help my parents out by doing projects around the house in preparation for fall and the snow that will be on the way in a couple of months and I also got out in the mountains one morning for an early fall ptarmigan hunt with my dad and a neighbor. What a beautiful day that was!
Stay tuned for more exciting, perhaps random, but always interesting posts from yours truly.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Of course, during all of my hopping around, training goes on. City streets or Kansas corn fields, the daily workouts are top priority. This year I finally have the luxury of prioritizing training as number one and that is going to be the key to success this year.
I returned from the Midwest and got settled into my room at the Olympic Training Center. Almost immediately those of us on the Development Team got thrown into a two-week camp with the U.S. National Team. The National Team coaches were here from Sweden and the Team's High Performance Director flew in from Munich, Germany. We spent time learning new strength and balance exercises, did lots of shooting drills and, of course, got to do most of the interval and distance workouts right alongside the National Team. That was definitely one of the most intense two weeks of training I've ever been through. We continued with high-volume training for another two weeks after the National Team camp ended, racking up almost 75 hours of training in the four-week block. To put that number into perspective for you - last year I trained roughly 525 hours. Getting adequate rest and nutrition has been paramount for me being able to absorb the jump in training. I'm excited to see where I can go in the coming seasons.
At the end of our last block of training I got to fly out to Boise, ID to spend a week with Sara and her family. I should mention that Sara is also on the Development Team, so our schedules coincide pretty closely most of the time. Anyway, back to Boise... I spent three days backpacking in the beautiful Sawtooth mountains of Idaho and a wonderful few days at a cabin on a lake in McCall. It was a much needed rest before jumping back into another big block of training. With that, we're almost caught up. Yesterday I finished my biggest week of the year - 22.5 hours. I was exhausted, but with a full rest day under my belt I'm looking forward to jumping back into training tomorrow for the last week of this block. We're here in Lake Placid tomorrow and head to Jericho, VT Tuesday to take advantage of the roller skiing loop and firing range there. We have two time trials on Friday and Saturday so I'm excited to see how my shooting and skiing are coming together. There probably won't be internet available since we're staying on a military base, so I'll update you the next chance I get. Until then...cheers.
I returned to the East Coast at the end of May to take the first step towards becoming a biathlete. June was a busy month. I spent the first week and a half at a camp in Lake Placid learning the basics of shooting and getting in some solid training hours and then bussed to Hanover to see Sara, my girlfriend, graduate from Dartmouth. A day later I met up with the Dartmouth Cords (www.dartmouth.edu/~cords) in Boston to sing the National Anthem for a Boston Red Sox game. What a cool night.
We got to stand right behind home plate and sing for a crowd of 37,000. If you care to check out a video, head over to YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Lcjokn5rh8 . There is a chance that the Cords will sing at a Red Sox playoff game, so keep your eyes peeled if you happen to be watching the Sox.
Since this will be my first real post I'm going to take a little time to catch you up on events from the past few months. It has been an exciting year. Since much has happened in recent months, catching you up will probably take a couple of posts. Hopefully I can hit all the major things without putting anybody to sleep.
I'll pick things up with my return to Dartmouth in late December for a final quarter of studying and my last season of collegiate competition on the Nordic ski team. I had a fantastic fall of training and was excited to get the season started. Despite thin snow cover for training in Hanover, the team was extremely focused thanks to great leadership from the older guys. Poor training conditions can easily become a psychological stumbling block for athletes, but that was never an issue this year. We hit the trails in high speed and never slowed down, winning all six of the regular season carnivals and qualifying five Nordic men and four Nordic women for the NCAA National Championships. I qualified for the first time, but unfortunately didn't get to compete since only a team's top three qualifiers can race. No matter though, the NCAA team went on to perform brilliantly, bringing home our first NCAA National Team Title in over thirty years. Perhaps most amazing was the fact that we achieved so much without European imports. Being part of making Big Green skiing history will always be a highlight of my career at Dartmouth. I wrapped the ski season up with the Rangeley Lakes Loppet 50k Marathon. Lots of fresh snow made for challenging conditions, but I was able to capitalize on an early lead and turn it into a win by nearly two minutes.
I finished my coursework at Dartmouth in early March and received a B.A. in Psychology & Brain Sciences. About the same time I decided to apply for the U.S. Biathlon Development Team program and left on a six week backpacking adventure in Central America. Jamin, my older brother, met me on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and together we traveled south through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. What an adventure and a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with Jamin while also seeing another part of the world and practicing my Spanish.
Towards the end of the trip in Central America I found out I was named to the U.S. Biathlon Development Team and would be moving to Lake Placid, NY to live at the Olympic Training Center. (For those of you not familiar with Biathlon, it is a sport that combines competitive Nordic ski racing with precision target shooting with .22 calibre rifles). That was an exciting notification! I think Jamin and I ate an extra pineapple and bag of mangoes that night in celebration.