Tuesday, December 18, 2007

From Montana to Alaska

My week training in West Yellowstone, Montana was great. With two feet of snow on the ground and very few people on the trails, skiing was amazing. I was tired following the races in Canmore so I took the days leading up to the second set of NorAm's pretty easy. As a team we did some technique work and spent the rest of the training time testing skis and doing easy distance skiing. In the sprint race on the 1st of December I had four penalties and skied well considering having slept poorly the night prior to the race. The highlight of that race was finishing just one tenth of a second behind a 2006 Olympic team member. In the pursuit the following day I shot well, hitting 70% of my targets. I didn’t ski as fast as I had hoped going into the NorAm competitions, but it’s early in the season and those were my first two weekends of biathlon racing ever. I just missed qualifying for the European Cup Team so I’ll be racing domestically in January rather than overseas. I don’t yet have a competition schedule nailed down, but that information should be up within the next few days.

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

North American Cup Races

Hello everybody (y hola a mi familia en Costa Rica - gracias por visitando mi pagina). I had my first races of the season this past weekend. Consequently, they were also my first biathlon races on snow ever. The temperatures stayed very cold throughout the week and on the morning of the first race were hovering around the cut-off temperature of -20 degrees C or -4 degrees F. The 10 K sprint start was delayed one hour in order to let the temperatures warm a degree or two, but other than that the day came off without a hitch. My race was yet another learning experience and definitely had some high and low points. I skied well but my range times were slower than many of the other racers and I missed 7 of 10 shots. Each penalty loop is roughly 150 meters so I spent a substantial amount of time going in circles. Regardless though, I finished 9th and learned some important lessons.

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

Training in the Canadian Rockies

It's been a week since my last post and I've got a few great pictures and a quick update for you. I just finished a 23-hour week of training that has left me pretty tired. We did take a day off for a Thanksgiving feast. Everyone on the team pitched in and cooked up their specialties. I hope each of you had a fantastic Turkey day as well. This week's training hours will be significantly reduced in preparation for the NorAm Cup races this weekend.

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

Snowy Canmore

Training has been great over the last few days despite having only one kilometer of open trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre, site of the 1988 Olympic Nordic and Biathlon races. There has been very little natural snow to date and because of warm temperatures the race organizers have been unable to make much snow. Fortunately for us, the temperature plunged two days ago and at least fifteen snow guns are being used around the clock to blow artificial snow on the trails. I took the picture below from the deck of our house this morning. You can see the venue's location across the valley by the cloud of snow created by the snow-making machines. The process for making snow is pretty simple. In the picture below is a typical machine that is being used to make snow in the biathlon range. Water is forced at high pressure through nozzles that create a fine spray and a giant fan blows the atomized water up in the air where it freezes and becomes snow. In a typical day one of these machines can create a 50 square foot pile of snow that is several feet deep and can then be evened out on the trails. In the second and third photos are machines in use and piles of snow that were made in the last 24 to 36 hours.Shooting with skis on is taking a little getting used to, but it's awesome to finally be on snow. We've been skiing and shooting in the mornings in Canmore and have also taken two afternoon trips to Lake Louise in the Banff National Park to classic ski on a beautifully groomed road that climbs to an alpine lake. On our trip out there yesterday afternoon we chanced to see a black wolf in hot pursuit of a coyote. They were parallelling the highway and the wolf was only inches from dinner. The coyote led the chase onto the road immediately in front of us. I slammed on the breaks and missed both of the animals by just inches. Lucky for the coyote our van made the wolf turn back and, we hoped, gave the poor little guy enough of a lead that it lived to see another day. Talk about survival of the fittest!

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

I skied Today!

Today was fantastic. I got to legitimately ski this morning! Talk about a great feeling. The first day on snow after a hard summer and fall of dry-land training is hard to describe. If you're a skier, you know what I'm talking about and if you're not, just think about anything seasonal you really look forward to for weeks or months and then think about how great you feel when that thing finally happens. I don't care if it's golf, hunting, berry picking or spying the first buds on trees in the spring, we all have one or several things we routinely look forward to. Getting on snow for the first time, for those of you who haven't already guessed, just so happens to be one of my favorites.

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

An easy week in Boise

In the last post I mentioned doing intervals with Tim Burke. If you follow the link below you can watch video from a portion of one of those intervals.


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

Fall Camp Update

I'm only two days away from finishing one of the toughest blocks of training I can remember and I couldn't be happier with how things have gone.

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!
This week has been great so far. We're all getting tired and starting to feel the strain of nearly three weeks of training, but thoughts of racing next month are helping us stay focused. Today we did one of the toughest workouts I can remember that consisted of 12 uphill intervals that we skied as hard as possible. I got to ski with National Team member Tim Burke, which was a great opportunity to mimic some of his technique. I've been working with the coaches on some new skating techniques and trying to match one of the fastest biathletes in the world stride for stride is one of the best ways to learn. I got dropped a few times, but I was able to hang more often than not, so I'm stoked.

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

Fall is here and racing is just around the corner...

Hello from Heber City, Utah. The last few weeks have been busy as ever as the start of the competition season looms. I’m excited to get the season underway so I can try my new wings as a biathlete. Below I’ll try to fill you in on some of the happenings from the last few weeks.

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.

So, we arrived at the beginning of last week and got settled in a house the team rented for the week. Check out the fantastic views we had right from the back porch.We spent the whole week doing lower-intensity training to allow our bodies to acclimate to the change in elevation. Trying to do really hard training in the first few days at altitude is almost futile because it stresses the system too much, so we are very careful to monitor our heart rates and how we feel to make sure we don’t go too hard initially. If an athlete does go too hard in the first couple of days at altitude, it can sometimes result in sickness and/or fatigue that, if not properly monitored, can turn into an extended problem. That’s not to say that these same problems don’t happen at lower elevations, but rather that it’s easier to over stress the body initially when going up to elevation to train. One of the workouts we did was a long 3-hour hike/run up Mt Timpanogos, which towers over the small town of Sundance where the famous film festival happens annually. What an absolutely gorgeous day! The aspen were in full fall colors and above 7,000 ft we got into over a foot of snow. We also ran into two moose on the way up so I was feeling right at home.

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

Fall has arrived...

My last post may have been a little tedious, so I'll try to keep this shorter and on the lighter side. Since it's fall, two things are happening that I really love - the leaves are changing and the apple orchards are beginning to provide one of the most delicious foods ever created. On Monday of this week Sara and I took a trip over to Peru, NY to pick apples. Much to our surprise nobody else was at the orchard when we arrived and it stayed that way. We ended up meandering through several acres of trees tasting and picking at will until we had filled our two half-bushel baskets. We picked several varieties of apples including Macintosh, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Gala and Honeycrisp and I think I ate at least two of each kind while we picked. You're probably thinking that a bushel of apples is a whole lot and that's correct. However, you've probably never seen Sara or me put away apples. I must point out that fresh-picked apples go down so much easier than the often two-year old, wax-covered apples you'll find at the store. In my 'expert' opinion, eating three fresh apples is actually much easier than eating one apple from the store.

If you've looked at the picture below you're probably wondering why anybody in their right mind would be carrying a jar of peanut butter in an apple orchard. Let's just say that there are few things more delicious than slathering a big spoonful of all-natural peanut butter onto an apple that is still on the tree and then picking said apple and quickly devouring it. If you've never tried it, I suggest you do the next time you find yourself in an orchard. I promise you won't be disappointed.

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

An Overview of My Training

Today I'm going attempt to provide you with an idea of what my training actually looks like on a given day, over the course of a week, and even over the course of a month. This will probably be most informative to those of you not familiar with the methods of training for any sort of distance sports. Regardless though, training for biathlon presents challenges unique to the sport so there should be something interesting for everyone.
One of the first things to know about training is that workouts are grouped by week, month, and even two to three month sections of the year. We usually refer to this as periodization. The year is set up in one-month blocks. The National Team trains three weeks hard in a row and one week easy because that mimics the World Cup circuit where athletes race 2-4 times per week for three weeks and then they get an off-week to recover and travel to the next race venues. Because the Development Team's purpose is to train athlete's who have the potential of being on the National Team at some point in the future, the coaches feel it is important that our training mimics that of the National Team as closely as possible.

Each of the three hard weeks in a typical one-month block consists of an average of 18-19 hours of dedicated training, which includes 2-3 strength workouts, 2-3 high-intensity (interval) workouts, 1-2 specific strength workouts (done on rollerskis or in another medium that mimics the motions of skiing), and several distance workouts for a total of 9-14 workouts. In a weekly block we train six days and take one day off to recover, similar in principle to how we train in our monthly blocks where we train hard for three weeks and then use the fourth as an easy/recovery week. This pattern can also be seen in our yearly schedule, but we won't focus on that aspect of the training in this post. In order to give you an idea of what training actually looks like on a typical week, below is a copy of my training plan from last week:

AM - Shooting drills (we don't count this as "training" time because this drill wasn't
mixed with any aerobic training like running or rollerskiing.
PM - (120 min) Skate rollerski technique drills + 8 Combos alternating no pole & double
pole techniques

AM - (120 min) 8 Skate Roller ski combo intervals @ lev 3* w/ 2 minutes of rest
between each.
PM - (120 min) 10 easy Classic rollerski combos

AM - (180 min) Distance Skate rollerski
PM - Off

AM - (65 min) Running Time Trial w/ 4 shooting stages - this TT was in the same
format as a pursuit** biathlon race so we did 5 x ~5 min of running between
levels 4 & 5*. I missed 2 shots of 20 - a very encouraging shooting score
PM - (100 min) Strength workout - Power lifting & core exercises.
AM - (170 min) Distance run
PM - Off

AM - (115 min) Skate rollerski intervals (3 x 20 min. w/ 4 min. rest between each) at
level 3*
PM - (125 min) 60 min Classic rollerski + 65 min strength (Power lifting and core

Sunday - Off

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.

The top picture is of me in prone shooting position. In the distance (50 meters away) you can see the 5 targets at which I'm shooting. The bottom picture is a close-up of the targets with the first, third, & fifth targets hit and the second and fourth missed.

The two pictures below show both prone and standing positions.

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

Travel, HOT weather, & lots of combos

Greetings from Lake Placid. I’m back here for the remainder of the week after spending Monday and Tuesday in Jericho, VT where we put in three great combo workouts. Last week was fun although the 24+ hour trip back from Alaska on Monday was long. Even that though went as smoothly as can be expected and I wasn’t overly exhausted when I made it back to Lake Placid. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent training in Lake Placid and then Friday morning we left early and traveled the two hours over to Burlington, VT and the Ethan Allen Firing Range where we would spend both Friday and Saturday training.

Friday proved to be one of the hottest days of the summer at close to 90 degrees with nearly 100% humidity. We had three hard drills on Friday that were brutal given the oppressive heat. I made it through two and a half of the three combined hard skiing and shooting drills and unfortunately broke one of my roller-skis so I had to put running shoes on to finish the workout. Saturday was another hot day and we had a 12 Km cross country roller-ski time trial. The New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) put the race on as part of a series they sponsored this summer. V2 rollerskis provided a batch of matched-speed skis. The speed of rollerskis varies greatly from brand to brand and even from batch to batch of the same make and model of skis, so matched skis level the playing field. The time trial went very well given the hot conditions. I finished in fourth place, one minute and five seconds out of first place, a time posted by Andrew Johnson, a 2006 Olympian in cross-country. That was an encouraging result. Check out video from the race by clicking on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G_1CNP5c7I . Saturday afternoon we had another combo workout and then headed back to Lake Placid to spend Sunday, our rest day, at the Olympic Training Center (OTC).

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.

This morning Sara and I did a three-hour bike ride. Fall is finally here! The weather was crisp and blustery and the leaves have finally started changing. Apple trees are starting to drop there delicious bounty all over the back roads and deer are becoming more prevalent on the roads and trails. As the foliage hits its prime I'll do my best to get a few good shots posted for those of you on the west coast who don't have quite as much color out your back door. Tomorrow is a hard running time trial with four shooting stages so I had better wrap this post up for now and head to bed.
Keep checking back. There's lots more to come...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Wedding, the AK State Fair, & More Training in AK

Last week, my second in Alaska, was busy. My girlfriend, Sara, who is also a member of the US Biathlon Development Team, flew in on Monday just in time for a salmon bake with my family. Picture a steaming tray of fresh Alaskan salmon hot out of the oven with all the fixings and complement that with my sister's yummy, gooey Gluten Free peanut butter cookies for dessert - now that's what I'm talking about. That party set the stage for a great week not soon to be forgotten.

Sara and I got to train Tuesday on the paved coastal trail that winds its way through the forest following the coastline from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park. It's not uncommon to see a moose or two on the trail and we lucked out and saw two large bull moose with 50+ inch antler spreads. While the picture included here isn't of those specific bulls, it is of a similarly-sized animal I photographed last fall near Flattop Mountain in Anchorage. The training in Anchorage and the Matsu Valley proved to be fantastic for the whole week. We trained 16+ hours during the week, which was pretty substantial given the fact that we were helping get ready for my brother's wedding. As always, training rarely stops.

So now for the wedding. My brother and his fiance chose to be married in a small outdoor ceremony on a grass landing strip that is situated at the base of the Chugach Mountain range. Beautiful sunny weather graced us on the big day and the ceremony came off beautifully. Check out the picture below of my brother, his new wife, and the rest of the crew. The reception was fantastic as well and, for many like myself, was highlighted by a great DJ that kept the party hopping for hours.

The week wrapped up with a trip to the Alaska State Fair. One of the biggest attractions is the tent housing all of the award-winning, home-grown vegetables from all over the state. There was an 89 lb cabbage, a 109 lb kale plant, and, on the record books from last year's harvest, a 1019 lb pumpkin from my hometown. The Alaska Grown brand lives on in style.

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!

Training in VT & an Easy Week in AK

Training in Jericho, VT during the week of August 13th went very well. We spend time training there because it is the nearest facility that has a paved rollerski loop and firing range. That becomes especially important this time of the year as we start integrating more 'combo' workouts into our training that better mimick on-snow biathlon. A typical workout includes eight or ten combos, each of which consists of a 5-10 minute loop and then one shooting stage (five shots). This training can be done slow or fast depending on what our focus is for the workout. During this particular week our training included one easy combo workout in level 1/2 (on a scale of 5), one level 3 workout, and two time trials that were done in levels 4 & 5. Lest you get too confused by the numbering system, let me quickly explain. (This is important only if you care to know a little more about how we structure our daily training - if you don't care, skip down to the next section). Levels 1 and 2 are done at a sufficiently easy pace and low heart-rate so as to allow the athlete to comfortably talk to his/her training partner. If I can't talk because I'm breathing too hard, I know I'm at least in level 3. Level 3 workouts are done at a 'marathon' pace. That's to say, you're going hard, but you could theoretically do that pace for a couple hours if required. Level 4 workouts equate to a 10K race pace so they are done very hard, but not all out. Level 5 is done at an all-out effort and usually will only be seen in sprint situations - 100 meter sprints are good examples of an all-out, level 5 effort.

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

The Last Few Months - Part III

A couple of days after being part of a stellar Cords performance at Fenway I flew to Oklahoma to spend a few days with relatives at a family reunion. Mind you, this was no ordinary reunion. Indeed not. At last count, over two hundred relatives were in attendance. The craziest part? That's not even half of the family members. Try remembering that many names and then figuring out the branches of the family tree. Good luck.

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.

The Last Few Months - Part II

I returned stateside after six weeks in Central America and headed to Alaska for three weeks to spend some time with my family and see Christopher, my younger brother, graduate. It was awesome to train in the mountains and eating momma's home cooking for a few weeks. One thing is for sure - it's hard to beat fresh Alaskan salmon and rhubarb crisp. Wow!

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.

The Last Few Months - Part I

I want to take a moment to say hello and welcome to those of you visiting my blog for the first time. Thanks for stopping by and please, don't be a stranger in the future.

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.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Welcome to The Perfect Shot!

Thanks for visiting. Please check back regularly as I get my first blog up and running in the days to come.