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!