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

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