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.