Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Europe Bound!

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were fantastic. I'm glad to finally be able to get a post up. I've tried several times during the last few days and for some reason blogger was having issues with posting from my account. But alas I think we're back up and running. I had a short break after the first early season competitions in Minnesota so I got to spend Christmas and New Years with my girlfriend and her family in Idaho. The last few weeks have been filled with travel, training, and racing and much has happened since my last entry. My last post left off before the rollerski races in Utah so I'll pick up there and provide a quick run-down of the more major events to date.

The roller ski races in Utah during our fall camp were a great opportunity for me to see how my training was stacking up against the National A Team and the rest of the top biathletes in the country. I had a couple of very solid races and was encouraged to see my progress compared to earlier races this year and, especially, against the same race series last year. My shooting was improved and my skiing was much better overall despite feeling a little tired due to the altitude.
Racing in Soldier Hollow, UT

At the conclusion of the camp in Utah I spent a few days doing lighter training in Idaho before heading back to Lake Placid to put in a two more focused weeks of training in preparation for the first on-snow camp and North American Cup races in West Yellowstone, Montana. Training proved to be a little tough in Lake Placid because we were dealing with fresh snow that was just deep enough to shut down rollerskiing and biking, but not quite deep enough to allow us to get out our skis. Suffice it to say, I spent lots of time running, riding a stationary bike, and doing intervals on the treadmill. While it's always a mental challenge to keep training focused during times of less than hospitable weather conditions, I think my years spent training and racing with the Dartmouth Ski Team served me well by conditioning me to get through the nasty transitions to snow that only the East seems to be able to consistently dish out.

We left Thanksgiving weekend for West Yellowstone to put in a week and a half of training on snow before the first races. Yellowstone 'always' has snow in late November, but this year was the exception. There was great skiing on forest service roads above 7500 feet, but we only got in a couple days of skiing before the forest service closed down the access roads from town. We were left with no other options except for running and shooting. The extended lack of snow forced an early change of venue to Grand Rapids, Minnesota where a second weekend of racing was already scheduled. Lots of man-made snow allowed for great skiing and better preparation for the first of two weekends of racing. While MN did have lots of snow, it also had lots of wind and cold.

The first race, a 10K sprint, took place in some of the nastiest weather conditions I've ever raced in. Fortunately for me, I hapen to like racing in tough conditions. During the race the wind was blowing and up to two inches of snow was falling each half hour so skiing and shooting were complicated. Eighty percent shooting and solid skiing netted me a first place finish, a fantastic way to start the season! The next two races, another 10K sprint and a 12.5K pursuit, were solid on the ski tracks, but I didn't shoot as well as I needed to get top points towards qualifying for the European Cup races in January. The last race, a 15K mass start, was run in temperatures that reached -30 degrees with windchill and saw wind gusts of 10-20 mph. I went into the race knowing that I had to win in order to guarantee that I would qualify to go to Europe. Everything went according to plan. I skied well but knew that only excellent shooting could keep me at the front of the race. I ended up hitting 18 of 20 targets and winning by nearly 40 seconds over the next competitor. The race netted enough points to put me in first place overall on the points lists.

Mass Start: Stage 3 shooting

Today, after a long day of travel and jumping several time zones, I arrived inFrankfurt, Germany. We're here in Europe to race in European Cup competitions in Germany and the Czech Republic. The two weeks of racing will be amazing international experience on their own, but I'll also be competing against two other American biathletes for one spot on the World Cup 6 Italy roster as well as the World Championships Team, which will travel to Korea in February. I'm very happy with how my training is progressing and I can't wait to get back on snow.
Training in Sun Valley, ID

Monday, October 13, 2008

NY, AK, & UT

The past few weeks were fantastic. The latter two weeks in August were spent putting in a block of intensity training as well as getting things ready to be away from the Training Center during September and October. I also completed a complete overhaul of my rifle stock so it now fits me much better and has a shiny new paint job. Check out the finished product...
My reworked rifle stock.

While in Lake Placid I had the opportunity to put in a few quality sessions on the brand new roller ski loop and rifle range at the Olympic Complex in Lake Placid. What a blast! The loop has a couple of screaming down hills and a tough steep uphill into the range. We now have the ability to do shooting with close to max heart rates, which is a huge asset for training. In my short tenure as a biathlete I’ve lacked consistent shooting with heart rates similar to those seen in races. That is now remedied.

Training on the new Lake Placid range.

At the beginning of September Sara and I flew to Alaska to spend a month with my family. It was a perfect time for a change of training venue and what better place than the mountains and trails of AK? The month we spent there was filled with numerous adventures starting with a short hunting trip a few hours north of Anchorage. Fall in Alaska is typically altogether too short, but this year was different. The aspen and birch were ablaze in hues of orange, yellow, and gold and were the perfect contrast to the red of blueberry bushes that carpet the North country and higher elevations.

Unfortunately the hunting trip only netted us pictures and no meat for the freezer, but it was a great time. Other notable AK moments were calling in a giant bull moose to within 15 feet while on a training run in the mountains and having a grey wolf eye check us out for several minutes from a ridge on the edge of the city.

The trip home to AK was a well needed break before the season starts getting really busy. It was fantastic to spend time with my family.

A walk with my niece & nephew

I'm in Heber City, Utah now for an altitude training camp and a series of rollerski races. Adjusting to the altitude has been tough, but I'm starting to feel better after a week of training. The races are this week so check back soon for an update.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

538 days until Vancouver 2010

This morning I had the opportunity to watch the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and what a spectacular show it was. With the extinguishing of the Flame came the realization that I have less than 538 days left to prepare for the upcoming Games and, as such, I must be focused on training to my fullest potential each day. As an athlete I've been inspired by the incredible performances of the past sixteen days and I hope that one day I'll also be in a position to inspire those who will come after me. Just as these Olympics have provided new energy to fire my goals, I find it remarkable that they have also given rise to new discussions regarding the future of our planet. I am amazed at the ability of the Olympic movement to transcend conflicts by displaying an image of global unity to which we as individuals and nations can aspire.

Much has happened in the past three weeks. At the conclusion of my last post I mentioned that we were headed to Jericho, VT to train on the roller loop there and to get in some racing. The weather, typically extreme, was actually fairly mild and allowed us to train in relative comfort. My training sessions were focused and I was able to get in valuable technique training with my two coaches. The two biathlon races, a sprint and pursuit, went well given the time of year. I was third the first day, missing only two shots. My shooting wasn't great during the pursuit, but I was very happy with my ski times. At the conclusion of the week and a half camp in Jericho I got to be part of a New England Nordic Ski Assoc. x-c race. I was tired from the prior two weeks of training, but managed to finish in 2nd place. Check out the video and picture below from the races.

From Jericho the team traveled to Jackson, N.H. to do a distance training camp in the White Mountains. Jackson is a special place for me because it is where I first competed in the Junior Olympics and where my dream of one day competing in the Olympics actually began to take shape. Jackson was also the site of the 2007 NCAA National Championships that Dartmouth won so the quaint little mountain village will always rank high on my list of great sites for training and racing.

Welcome to Jackson!

A friend of my coach set us up with a great place to stay and we spent the week biking and running. There were several epic adventures that week including a 105 mile bike ride that took us into Maine and over the shoulder of Mt. Washington. We also hiked Mt. Washington one morning and got to see the famed Tuckerman's Ravine where an unofficial skiing competition happens each year featuring the Dartmouth and Harvard alpine skiers and anyone else brave enough to hike the head wall and then point their tips straight down.

A huge upgrade from military barracks.

Bear Notch after a long ski.

At the conclusion of our distance camp in Jackson, I was more than ready for a little recovery time. Sara and I made the short trip to her aunt and uncle's home in Maine to spend a few days with them and had a very relaxing few days. The weather, which has been unpredictable at best this summer, continued to surprise us with huge thunder storms and one cloudburst that dropped quarter-sized hail for nearly half an hour. We did luck out with one beautiful day that coincided with a sea kayaking day trip. Sara's aunt and uncle took us out off the coast where we spent the afternoon paddling between granite islands and searching for shells on the beaches.

We made it back to Lake Placid in the middle of this past week in time to get back into the swing of things with training and some work on the golf course. The US Olympic Committee and the Olympic Regional Development Assoc. recently completed a new roller ski loop and four-point range here in Lake Placid at the Olympic Complex so we will be spending lots of time in the near future training at the new venue. We've lacked the ability in the past to do high intensity skiing and shooting and that has now been remedied.

The coming weeks are will be full of training. I have two weeks remaining here in Lake Placid and then I'll make a long overdue trip home to Alaska. I'll spend the month of September in Alaska training and spending time with my family and then will go directly to Utah to meet up with the teem for our last camp before the season gets underway. There is still much training to be done between now and then.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Quick update

Hello everybody. I haven't had time to download my pictures from the last week and a half so unfortunately I don't have any visual updates for you. Training and shooting has been going very well the last two weeks. I had an easier week of training last week and spent much of my down time in the shop at the Training Center making some much needed modifications to my rifle stock. It's still getting its final coats of paint so I don't have finished pictures of that yet, but I'll get some before and after shots up as soon as the last coat of paint sets up.

This past week was pretty tough. I had five days of intensity training, including two time trials and a couple of very hard interval workouts. I felt great throughout the week, but was most definitely ready for an off day today. I traveled to Jericho, VT on Wednesday after training for a week and a half long training camp. Nearly 40 athletes are here from all over the country to train on the rollerskiing trails built on the Ethan Allen Military Base. It's a great opportunity for coaches and athletes alike to work together and share ideas. We also have two biathlon races planned for the coming week and a rollerski race so there will be ample opportunity to see how our training is progressing and figure out what needs further tweaking in preparation for the coming race season. Jericho is always a grab bag for hot and wet weather and so far we've seen lots of both. We're hoping for somewhat normal days for racing, but it's not good to count on that happening here. I guess we'll see...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

July Fun & Training

Greetings from a very hot and humid Lake Placid. The last couple of weeks have been very busy so I'll try to provide the highlight real. Over the 4th of July weekend Sara and I drove down to the Massachusetts coast to spend a couple of days with her family and relatives. We had car trouble on the way down so the 5ish hour drive turned into 10+. Not the quickest trip, but everything worked out in the end. That week of training was pretty big so we were getting out the door quite a bit to train. We were in an area very similar to Cape Cod, but it lacked the traffic and crowds. We had a blast exploring the area on bike and foot during training sessions. Below is a picture of me with my new bike. My family, and specifically my brother Jamin, helped me get the bike this spring and it has been a fantastic training tool so far this season. It allows me to do 4-5 hour distance workouts without stressing my joints the way a run of that magnitude does.Last week was my biggest week of training ever. I logged 27 hours of biking, running, skiing, and strength plus several hours more of shooting. During such weeks there is hardly time to do anything except training, eating, and sleeping. Sometimes huge training blocks can start to feel a little monotonous, but the coaches have done a great job of keeping lots of variety in the training. I was EXHAUSTED at the end of the week. All I could think about towards the end of the week was making it to Saturday afternoon and the start of my rest day. Even though I was dragging at the end of the week, I was really pleased at how well I handled the huge volume. Despite the physical load, I couldn't be happier because I know that when the training is toughest, I'm expanding my mental and physical capacity. Check out the video below. It was shot during an uphill interval set.

At the end of last week a group of kids from the New York Ski Education Foundation (NYSEF) were here at the Training Center for a junior camp and I had the opportunity to give a presentation to them on nutrition. I really enjoyed having the chance to pass on some of the information that I've amassed during my racing career. It's great to talk with young athletes who are genuinely interested in not only improving in their sport, but also in making healthy lifestyle choices. At a time when one in four Americans is obese and much of the population is suffering from maladies preventable with proper exercise and nutrition I think that it's critical to educate the younger generations so we can turn some of the negative trends around.

This week was a solid chunk of training, but it felt like a cake walk compared to last week. I scored some personal bests in shooting workouts so I was stoked to see improvement in that aspect of my training. I've got to do some major work on my rifle stock this coming week to make it fit better and I'm hoping that will be a key to making more improvement in the coming weeks. I've also been working very hard on some new ski technique ideas with my coaches, which are starting to pay off. We've done a lot of video analysis in recent weeks and the work I've been putting in is paying dividends.

I have an easy week coming up and I'm going to kick it off by watching the Lake Placid Iron Man Triathlon. Over 2,000 entrants have converged on the town for the annual suffer fest. I'll get some pictures up next week.

Friday, June 27, 2008

An Easy Week

This week has been a recovery week following the conclusion of our most recent training camp with the National A Team. During last year's training camp in June it was all I could do to survive the high training hours and intensity. This year has been completely different so far. Last year's huge increase in training hours is paying off. Rather than struggling to just make it through the camp this year I was able to focus on getting the most out of strength, technique, and shooting sessions.

At the conclusion of last week Sara and I drove over to Dartmouth's Mt. Moosilauke Ravine Lodge for the wedding of two good friends from college. The rustic lodge sits about halfway up Moosilauke Mountain and serves as the end point for Dartmouth's first-year wilderness trips each fall and the start of the famed Moosilauke Ski Team time trial (a brutal 3.6 mile run to the summit) among other things. We attended the outdoor ceremony and then hiked with the bride and groom and a large group to the summit before returning to the lodge for dinner and dancing. Getting away from the Training Center for a couple of days was a fantastic way to start the easy week.

Sara and me at the summit of Moosilauke

Sara and I returned to Lake Placid Sunday evening. A friend had asked us to take care of his parent's home while they were out of town for a couple of days so Sara and I got to look after two great dogs and utilize their yard and kitchen. Both Sara and I share one room doubles at the OTC so it was a blast cheffing it up and kicking back on a porch with a great view for a couple of afternoons. Monday evening we were treated to a fantastic lightning storm that played itself out over the distant mountains. The following evening another storm rolled through and left a beautiful rainbow, which we enjoyed while cooking up gluten free crepes with fresh mint and strawberry yogurt fillings and a spinach salad with fresh strawberries from a small farm in VT. It's not often that we are able to slow down enough from training to take the time to cook so we really enjoyed the opportunity.

Storm remnants

Gluten free gourmet

I got back into the training routine for the second half of this week. There isn't much more to report other than that I'll begin a big block of training starting Monday morning. I'll be in Jericho, VT for the early part of next week training at the Ethan Allen Biathlon Range. A rollerskiing loop with a small firing range is being built here in Lake Placid, but until it's completion we'll probably make the trip to VT every week or two in order to do rollerski combos.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Camp - Week II

Today wrapped up the second week of a pretty intense camp with the National A Team and all of the coaching staff. We've been going non-stop now for nearly two weeks and it's time for a few days of rest. This week was a little lower in hours than last week, but the workload was still very high. Perhaps the most interesting and definitely the most painful workout was a max VO2 test on the treadmill.
During the test.
A VO2 max test, for those of you who aren't familiar with this terminology, is fairly simple. A lab technician hooks you up to a head apparatus that has a mouthpiece not unlike that of a snorkel and your nose is plugged so you can only breathe out of your mouth. With this setup the physiologist is able to analyze the air that is exhaled during exercise for oxygen content. This information along with other data collected at the same time can then be used to provide important information about how training is progressing and what, if anything, needs to be changed in order to maximize the potential for performing well later in the season. For the athlete, the max test is pretty simple - go until you can't go anymore. The speed on the treadmill is increased at regular intervals and at some point your muscles give out and you either get spit off the back of the treadmill or you grab the bar that's at the front of the treadmill. Check out the pictures for a little better idea of what the setup looks like.

Trying to breath right after the test.

Last week featured one of the toughest interval workouts I've ever done. I didn't have pictures or video for my last post, but you can check out a video by clicking on the link below. In this particular video I'm the skier at the front of the line.

This weekend Sara and I are driving over to the Dartmouth Outing Club's Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, a rustic lodge and cabins situated on the side of Mt. Moosilauke in the mountains of New Hampshire. Friends of ours from college are getting married so we're looking forward to getting away from the Training Center for a couple of days and helping our friends celebrate a special day. Next week is a much needed easy week so I'll spend a fair amount of time resting and will also get some hours in working on the traps at the golf course. Should be a blast.

Friday, June 13, 2008

National Team Camp

Tomorrow concludes the first week of our two-week National Team Camp. All of the coaches are here in Lake Placid to work with the National A and B Teams as well as the Junior National and Development groups. It is a great opportunity to train as a group and lets those of us here see how well our training is progressing this season. This past week has been challenging for sure, but I'm very happy with my training and preparation so far and feel like I'm on track to have another stellar season.

This past week has included a plethora of tough workouts, several of which were made even tougher by less than favorable weather conditions. Monday and Tuesday were exceptionally hot and it was all any of us could do to just stay marginally hydrated. In Monday's afternoon workout the combination of high temperatures and humidity was especially hard to handle because we were rollerskiing on a section of road that was in the direct sunlight and there was not a hint of wind. I had downed nearly a gallon of liquids in the first 45 minutes and was still overheating. Another of the guys on the team who suffered heat stroke last year in a similar situation spent a fair percentage of the workout running down to a nearby creek to dunk his head and wet his clothes in an effort to get through the drills. By the end of the session most of the team was making laps to the creek. Wednesday's workout, as I mentioned in my last post, was a 7+ hour combined run and bike ride and Thursday featured one of the toughest interval workouts of my career.
Strength Training in the OTC Weight Room

Despite the exhausting days that usually accompany training camps, I love being surrounded by a group of like minded athletes because we are able to push each other to achieve levels of performance that are often unattainable when training alone. It is our ability to train together that will allow us to continue building towards our goal of winning an Olympic medal in 2010. I was reminded today by the team Psychologist that the Olympic Games are only 20 months away. That seems like a long time, but it will go oh so quickly. There is much work to be done between now and then. Tomorrow promises to be another long day starting with dry-fire drills before 7 am with the coaches. That's less than 8 hours away so I've got to wrap this post up for now.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

07/08 Season Wrap Up & 08/09 Preview

After a few week hiatus I'm back at the keyboard. My blogging was a bit more sporadic this past season than I would have liked so I'm going to make a concerted effort to post at least once a week throughout the coming season. Look for new pictures, videos, and updates to hit the web each Saturday morning. To those of you who checked in throughout the past season, thank you. I sincerely appreciate your interest and support!

This past season was awesome. I made big strides in my skiing and shooting and it showed in the racing. All told I was on the podium seven times in North American Cup races, one of which was a second place in the US National Championships pursuit race.
Out of the start in Vancouver
My race season concluded in Vancouver, B.C., site of the 2010 Winter Olympics so I had opportunity to compete on the recently completed Olympic trails while squeezing in more valuable race experience. All told this past season I put in about 40% more training and wrapped up the season in 2nd place overall on the North American Cup points list, just a few points out of 1st. Apparently I succeeded in turning some heads with my progress because I've been named to the National B Team for the coming season.
The new season got off to a great start at the end of April. That is the earliest I've ever started back to focused training, but I was well rested after a short vacation on the Oregon coast and in Boise, ID. I'm working with two new coaches this year and am already excited by the progress I'm seeing with both my skiing and shooting technique. I laid the foundation last year with hours of training and shooting and I'm expecting to build on that this year.

Shipwreck on the coast

The Oregon Coast

Although training is always the focus of my day to day planning, I do occasionally have easier blocks of training that allow me to catch up on chores and get in a few hours of work on the side either as a trap keeper on the Lake Placid Club golf course or doing other odd jobs that I'm able to scrounge. On one of my recent easier weeks my girlfriend and I spent the week painting her grandfather's home in Providence, RI. Suffice it to say, the 'easy' week didn't end up being especially easy, but it was a great experience and a nice change of pace and scenery. We even managed to slip out one evening after work to see Strauss's Die Fledermaus at the Providence Opera. We always jump at the chance to wear something other than training clothes.
Off to the Opera

This past Monday was the beginning of a two week training camp with all of the teams in attendance. This week's focus is on high volume and has thus far been high-lighted by a 7+ hour run/bike workout. I made it through in one piece, but that's one of the longest days at the office that I can remember. The rest of the camp will include several shooting competitions, a mini-triathlon, and VO2 max test on the treadmill. Be sure to check back this weekend for an update and more pictures.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

US Nationals & North American Cup Recap

My first year as a full-time biathlete is quickly winding down. The races in Minnesota last week that served as both the US National Championships and North American Championships wrapped up on Saturday with a 15K mass start competition. We had three races in as many days to finish the weekend with 37.5K (about 24 miles) total of racing. I ended the race series with a 4th place in the sprint, 2nd place in the pursuit, & 6th place in the mass start. Equally as exciting, I secured 2nd place on the overall NorAm Cup points list.
Heading out of the range

Catching my breath after the mass start

Sunday I traveled to the Squamish Valley, a short drive from Vancouver, B.C. I'm here with the rest of the Development Team, the National Team, and many junior athletes for the Canadian National Championships on the recently completed 2010 Olympic trails near Whistler. Because we're so close to the coast there is an abundance of snow making for excellent skiing conditions.

The newly completed range

The competitions open tomorrow with a 20K individual race. Friday is a day off and then we race a 10k sprint Saturday and conclude the weekend with a relay race Sunday. These races will be my last of the season before taking a few days to put down the rifle and skis for a little vacation time. More on that though after the races. Check back soon for updates and pictures.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

US Nat'l Championships - Grand Rapids, MN

Hello from Minnesota. This will be just a quick update since I'm heading out the door in a few minutes for the third and final race of the North American and US National Championships Biathlon series. The week has gone very well so far. The courses here at Mt. Itasca are very challenging - just the type of venue that is excellent for a year-end race series. Race organizers stockpiled snow early in the season and have done an excellent job of grooming and keeping everything in top shape. On Thursday we raced a 10k Sprint. I didn't shoot exceptionally well, missing four of ten shots, but I still skied into fifth place. Yesterday we skied a 12.5K pursuit. There was a fair amount of gusting wind so shooting conditions were challenging throughout the day. I finally found a groove with my shooting and missed 1,0,1, & 1 in each of the four stages to tie with one other man for the best shooting of the day. Great shooting and solid skiing moved me into second place in the US National Championships race. I couldn't be happier with my progress so far this year! I've posted a picture below from Monday's race. I'm heading out for a 15k mass start so check back soon and I'll have more pictures posted and more details up. Happy Easter weekend!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Val Cartier, Quebec - NorAm Cup 7

Hello again. I'm busy taking advantage of a day off from training to get caught up on some chores after another hard weekend of racing. We traveled to Quebec City on Friday for the races on Saturday and Sunday. There was well over three feet of snow on the ground when we arrived Friday and by race time on Saturday another several inches had fallen. The tracks were consequently soft and made for some very tough skiing.
The Stadium in Val Cartier
After a disappointing weekend in La Patrie a week ago I knew that I needed to have good races this weekend in order to qualify to race in the Canadian National Championships at the end of March in Vancouver, British Colombia. I skied well in the sprint race on Saturday and recorded no penalties in my prone shooting. In standing I had hit three for three when a piece of snow got stuck in my rear sight. I was forced to break position to get the snow out and then missed my last two shots. I left everything on the trails in the final lap, narrowly capturing second place overall (first US racer).
A view of the range
Sunday morning dawned clear and sunny. We arrived at 9 am in plenty of time for the 11am start only to find that the race start was moved to 10am. Race officials had failed to notify a couple of coaches, ours being among the unlucky few. Needless to say, we had a very stressful hour run-up to race time but still managed to get our rifles adequately zeroed and the skies waxed. Sunday's race was a 12.5K pursuit with starters leaving every five seconds in the order of finish from the prior day. I skied hard throughout the race, recording 7 penalties for the day. Despite less than perfect shooting I shot better than most of the other competitors in the field and narrowly secured another second place finish.

A lot of snow - volunteers in a timing shack

My results from the weekend were good enough to comfortably qualify me to race in Vancouver later this month. I have about two weeks of training now before heading to Minnesota for the US National Championships and then on to Vancouver for the last races of the season.

Last week my teammates and I took the opportunity to visit the jumping complex near the Training Center. The pictures below were taken from the top and bottom of the K120 jump. I always knew that Nordic Combined skiers and Ski Jumpers were crazy, but after visiting the top of the jump I can confidently now say that they are certifiably loco.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

La Patrie, Quebec

This past weekend was spent in the small hamlet of La Patrie, Quebec, Canada. Just north of the New Hampshire and Maine borders is, quite literally, another world. It always surprises me how markedly different certain aspects of life are in the province of Quebec. When I think of Canada I generally think of my Canadian friends whose only differences are their affinity for calling hats 'tuques' and ending every sentence with 'eh.' Visiting Quebec, however, is a reminder that Canada is as diverse in its peoples and cultures as is the US. French is the language to know and although many people speak English fluently, there are just as many who speak little or no English. That really lent itself to a feeling of being much further away from home than the few short kilometers that actually separated us from the border.
We raced in the hills just outside of La Patrie at a venue that used a farming tractor as a groomer. Despite the odd choice of grooming equipment, the groomers know what they are doing and the trails were great. The weather couldn't have been better - sunny and around 20 degrees - so we had a perfect weekend for racing. The race organizers made sure to utilize every bit of uphill they could find so the courses were some of toughest I've seen all season. While my skiing was solid for both the sprint and pursuit races, I had a rough weekend on the range. I finished a disappointing 5th in both the sprint and pursuit races. I've been a little tired for the past week so I'm taking advantage of a light training week to rest and get geared up for the coming weekend of racing in Val Cartier, Quebec, a town just west of Quebec City.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lake Placid NorAms

Another successful weekend of racing. This past weekend the NorAm circuit made its way to Lake Placid for two days of great racing. Two weeks ago there was barely enough snow to train and it looked like the races would have to be shortened or even moved. Then, as often happens in the east, the weather changed and we got dumped on. By the middle of last week we were digging the van out of the snow bank every morning.

Saturday's race was a 10 kilometer sprint. When I woke a little after 6 am, the temperature was hovering somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees below zero. Races are canceled if the temperature dips below -4 degrees so we wondered if the race would even happen. Officials decided to run the races as planned so we zeroed our rifles at 8 and prepared to start at 9. I think the temperature probably was reading somewhere between -3.9 and -4 when I started because it took a while to work into the race. The body is similar to a car when it comes to really cold weather in that you have to warm both up for longer than usual. Despite the cold, I felt strong throughout the race and finished in 2nd place, a mere 6 seconds out of 1st. I missed one shot in the prone stage and two standing to finish the day with a 70% average. I was really excited to have put such a solid race together. The picture below was taken during the awards ceremony. On Sunday we raced a 15 kilometer mass start, which equates to five laps of 3 kilometers each and four shooting stages - two prone and two standing. This was the first mass start in my short career as a biathlete so I was excited to be mixing it up off the line with the whole pack. The temperature was much more cooperative than it had been on Saturday, but the wind kicked up early and by race time it was gusting somewhere between 30 and 60 miles per hour. That renders most outdoor endeavors challenging, but at times it made shooting seem nearly futile. I ended the day with 12 missed shots of 20, but still managed to finish on the podium. There were a few racers who shot better than 50%, but the majority counted themselves lucky to be in that ballpark. That was definitely one of the most challenging raced that I've competed in this year and it will go down as one of the most memorable of the season and perhaps of my career as a skier.

I'm spending the week training here in Lake Placid in preparation for more races this weekend in La Patrie, Quebec. We'll drive north on Friday and spend the weekend racing. Check back in a few days for a recap of the racing and in the meantime, get outside and have an adventure!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vermont North American Cup races

This past weekend was my third set of biathlon races this winter. I hadn't raced biathlon since the first two weekends of racing in late November so it was exciting to get in the start gate again with a rifle on. We were originally scheduled to race a 10k sprint and a 15k mass start, but the second race was changed to a 12.5k pursuit with 15 second interval starts. In Friday's sprint race I missed one shot prone and one standing to end the day with an 80% average, my best to date! Solid ski times and good shooting put me in 3rd place overall, just 17 seconds out of 1st place.
Saturday's race was exciting as well. In the first lap I made up time on both of the racers who started in front of me and I shot clean in the first prone stage. I gained more time in the second lap but went to the penalty loop with two missed targets. Fortunately for me, most of the other racers were also missing targets so I was able to stay in the mix. I missed two targes in each of the standing stages as well to end the day with a 70% average (14/20). The last lap was tightly contested with the top 6 positions fighting for every second. I finished 5th overall just one second behind 4th and only a handful from 3rd. So, the weekend netted one podium and a 5th place. This weekend we'll race here in Lake Placid on Saturday and Sunday. Nearly a foot of new snow has fallen in the past week so the races should come off without a hitch. I'm looking to keep hitting targets and skiing fast. Check back in a few days for a recap of the races. Until then, don't forget to get outside to enjoy the white fluffy stuff!

Monday, February 4, 2008

It's Race Time!

I've spent the past month training in Lake Placid in preparation for lots of racing in February and March. The weather has been variable to say the least, ranging from -20 to 55 degrees farenheit and throwing everything at us from torrential rainstorms to blizzard conditions. Becaue there were no biathlon races in January I was able to put in lots of hours training and shooting. I supplemented my training with three Nordic races over the past two weeks, which was a great opportunity to mix it up with other athletes while continuing to work on technique and speed. I got to ski in the St. Lawrence University Carnival 10K skate race as a guest racer and finished tenth. It was exciting to be back on the trails with the Dartmouth team as they commandingly won their second carnival of the year. Two days later I entered a NY state 7.5K race and ended up in first place. Last weekend I traveled to Rumford, ME for an Eastern Cup 15k skate race. The weather was beautiful for the race, we had awesome skis, and I ended up in third place after a solid effort. The video clip below was taken by my coach during that race and the picture is from the awards ceremony.

I took this weekend off from racing to rest in preparation for the coming weeks of biathlon racing. I can't tell you how excited I am to finally get to put a rifle on and race again. As you can see from the schedule on the right of this page I'll be racing in Vermont this week, Lake Placid next week, and then I'll spend two weeks in Quebec. During march I'll head to MN with the team for the US National Championships and I hope to ski well enough there to qualify for the Canadian National Championships in Vancouver at the end of the month. Stay tuned in as I'll be posting updates and pictures now that I will have some races to tell you about.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy New Year!

Much has happened since my last post. I was really excited to get to spend a couple of week in Alaska. Since I only make it home two or three times a year I savour every moment I get to spend with my family and friends.

Despite a thin snow cover in the Anchorage area, I was able to ski on the hillside trails just outside of Anchorage. In the picture below you can see downtown Anchorage with the hillsides as a backdrop.

This next picture was taken from the Flattop ski area looking out over the City of Anchorage and the Cook Inlet. Although temperatures dipped pretty low on several occasions, it's hard to complain about the cold when you get great views like this.

I took this picture on my way home after a ski as the sun was setting about 3:45 in the afternoon. I don't recall if that was the shortest day of the year, but it was sometime around the 21st. For Alaskans, December 21st is the hump day. There aren't many hours of sunlight in the middle of the winter, but by Christmas the days are already getting longer again. For those of us who love the snow that just means more time to play outdoors and, for those that don't, there's at least a feeling that spring isn't too far away.

I got to spend Christmas at home on the Kenai Peninsula. There wasn't much snow there either, but my brother and I did manage to ski our 'sectret' trail from the house out to the bluff overlooking the Cook Inlet and the mountains on the other side. If you look closely an ice flow is visible behind the tug in the foreground. The Inlet is home to numerous gas platforms and tugs like the one pictured are always plying the waters in case of an oil spill.
Well, that's it on pictures for now, but I'll post more soon. I'm back in Lake Placid until the first week in February when the bulk of my race season kicks off. I'll race almost every week during February and March. In February I race in Vermont, New York, and two different locations in Quebec. An in March I'll race in the National Championships in Minnesota followed by the Canadian National Championships in Vancouver, B.C. This month I have plans to race cross country races in the Lake Placid area, but we're experiencing extremely warm temperatures right now that might wipe out the snow. I'm crossing my fingers that doesn't happen, but in the East you never can tell.