Thursday, September 10, 2009

Training, Racing, and a Trip Home to Alaska

The past several weeks have seen lots more training, a little racing, and a fair bit of travel. During the first week of August I had some downtime thanks to a muscle spasm in my back. I've been focusing most of the summer on a few technique changes that, for whatever reason, seemed to precipitate me being laid up for a few days. As unfortunate as forced breaks typically seem, there is usually a silver lining. This time was no exception. I was able to get a few projects finished up and at the same time I rested more than would have been possible otherwise. August 8th and 9th were the US Biathlon Summer National Championships so I was doing everything possible to be ready to race. While still not yet 100%, I was able to race and posted very good ski times. My shooting was less than stellar, but taking into account the events leading up to the races, I was very pleased with my races.
Shooting Prone in the Sprint Race.

Headed for the Finish.

The day after Summer Nationals concluded in Jericho, VT, I got on a plane bound for Alaska. The last time I was home was in September of 2008 so it had been almost a full year since the last time I saw my family. I am very appreciative of all that the US Biathlon Development program offers for athletes in Lake Placid, but I wish there was some way to spend more time training in Alaska. The state has so much to offer its distance athletes and we even have a brand new world class biathlon range sitting in the middle of Kincaid park (unfortunately no roller loop yet). For better or worse though, my coaches are in Lake Placid, the US Olympic Committee provides room and board at the Olympic Training Center, and we have one of the best combined rollerski loops and shooting ranges in the country so the current situation has been great. Anyway, I'll get back on topic. I spent a full three weeks at home. While in Anchorage I got to spend lots of time with my family and was able to do great training in the mountains and on the trails that are both in and surrounding Anchorage. Talk about a well set up trail system. It is possible to get from one side of Anchorage to the other without having to deal with traffic. No cars and no lights to contend with. Just great multi-use trails that support the thriving outdoors community. An added benefit too, if you're lucky, is the chance run-in with a moose or bear. No worries though. They are far more interested in what's to eat off the trail than, in the case of the bears, the spindly-legged runners with PowerBars sticking out of their pockets. Speaking of animals, check out the beautiful bull moose that I nearly ran over while doing intervals on the Coastal Trail in Kincaid Park.

Share the trails!

Downtown Anchorage from the Coastal Trail.

While in Alaska I had opportunity to do a few great hikes in the mountains. One of the hikes was a 15 mile epic that I did with my dad and brother. We thought we were headed to a high mountain lake to fish for grayling and trout. Unbeknownst to us though, we had directions to the wrong trail head. We had a beautiful hike instead that took us up a long valley towards a huge glacier. No fish, but the scenery was fantastic and the weather couldn't have been better. Check out the picture below of Eagle River and the Eagle River glacier in the background.

Exploring the AK Backcountry with my Dad.

To top off a great visit home, my family planned a weekend camping trip in the Matanuska Valley. We took canoes, bikes, dogs, and, if my recollection serves me, a kitchen sink or two as well. :) It's one thing to eat freeze-dried meals on a backpacking trip, but 'road' camping with my family is a happening - complete with eggs and bacon, gluten free muffins, and other tasty treats. Beautiful weather graced us until the last day of the trip so we had plenty of opportunity to wear ourselves out. Between training sessions in the mornings, chasing my niece and nephew around all day, and hanging out around the fire, my 'vacation' was nearly more than I could handle. It's a rare treat to spend so much quality time at home.

The Hall kids!

I've been back in Lake Placid now for a couple of weeks. Training is going well and I feel on track to have a great season. I set a personal record last week in a shooting test and another PR today in a time trial so I'm feeling good going into the fall training. Of course, the leaves have already begun to change and the air is crisp in the mornings, two key ingredients that hint at the snow and racing that will be coming in the not too distant future. I'll be leaving in a week to spend a little time training in Boise with Sara before heading to Heber City, Utah - host of the 2002 Nordic and Biathlon Olympic races - for the fall National Team camp. While there I'll have two races that will help decide the 5th man to be named to the December World Cup team. I'm looking forward to the coming weeks of training and the challenges that they will bring. I'll do my best to keep you updated with all of the nitty gritty. Until next time...get out there and enjoy the fall.

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