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.