Friday, January 1, 2010

Minnesota, Alaska, & Germany

The last month has been a blur. From our on-snow training camp in Canmore I traveled to Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Now, I'm sure MN is a great place to live, but I seem to have the worst luck when 'visiting' for races. Last year during the IBU Cup trials races we had extremely cold weather that canceled one of the five races and made the other four less than comfy.
This year, as luck would have it, we had a nearly identical repeat save for the fact that we were able to race all five scheduled events. We raced a 10 and 15km the first weekend and then a 10, 12.5, and another 10km the following weekend. The entire race series was a lot of fun, but that much racing is taxing, especially when the temps hover around or below zero degrees. Anticipating the cold weather I was amply prepared with all the cold weather gear I could get in my luggage and that saved me - for the most part.
This year's MN race series was the first round of the US Olympic Trials process. Of the five races, each athlete's best three of five races were scored and added and the top four male and female athletes at the end of the series earned a trip to Germany to race in the final round of trials to determine who will fill the remaining Olympic slots. In the first 10K sprint race I finished third. The 15K Mass Start was a tough and very cold race. I shot well and skied even better and came out with a narrow win. I mentioned earlier that I nearly made it through the races unscathed. That's because the 15km proved to be colder than the other four races. I came out with frostnip on two fingers and an ear. Not too bad all things considered.
In the second weekend of racing I was again able to post some solid results. In the 3rd race, another 10km sprint, I finished in second place. The 12.5km pursuit was another good day and I landed on the podium again with 3rd place. The final race of the series, yet another 10km sprint, I narrowly beat out another athlete for 3rd place making it five for five on the podium. I was the only athlete to podium in all five races and also had one of the best shooting percentages for the series with 80%. Having only been in biathlon for two and a half years I was very pleased to ski and shoot so well and am especially excited to have qualified to race in Germany.

Following the trials in MN I traveled home to Alaska to spend a few very quick days with my family. I don't get to be home very often and I haven't been with my family for Christmas in three years so it was very special to spend the holidays in AK. Early this week I flew from Anchorage to Munich, Germany to get back to training. I've been training in the Bavarian town of Ruhpolding, home to one of the most well known biathlon venues in the world. We arrived to spring-like conditions. There has been plenty of snow at the venue thanks to lots of early snow-making and stockpiling by the organizers, but the training was pretty slushy for a few days. After Minnesota's ridiculously cold weather, having a few days at 40 degrees was a welcome change. Seeing green grass in the fields, although a little weird at this time of year, was also pretty cool.
Ruhpolding's Chiemgau Biathlon Stadium

Training here has been a lot of fun. Several of the German and Norwegian national team athletes are here as well and busloads of people have been showing up just to watch training. It's somewhat comical that at times there are more spectators watching training here than come to our races in the states. Hopefully with the positive trajectory the US Team is on that will start changing this year.

My training this week has been more fine-tuning. I put in some good volume and made sure to get in speed and strength as well. A pretty typical week for the most part. As of today it's less than one week now to the first race. I haven't raced in about two weeks so I'm really looking forward to getting back in the start pen. There was rumor that a lack of snow in Alternberg, Germany might force a change of venue to Austria, but the rumors were never realized. Snow has been thin in most parts of Germany for a while now but a huge storm rolled in last night and we woke this morning to several inches of fresh snow and as of this evening had accumulated around 6 inches and counting. Spring to full-on winter in less than 24 hours!

Of course, one of the benefits to racing in Europe is the occasional opportunity to check out the beautiful architecture and fun cultural novelties. The cute little inn where we're staying this week opened its doors in 1414 and it appears that many of the other structures in the town may date from a similar time period. Coming from a state where there are very few structures older than 100 it's neat to see buildings over 500 years old that are still functional. New Year's Eve was pretty chill for us athletes. I had every intention of getting to sleep relatively early. However, the townspeople in the area had a very different idea. At midnight I woke to strobe like flashes on the ceiling and explosions everywhere. It's customary in the states for towns to have firework displays on New Year's Eve and for some citizens to even light off a few bottle rockets. This was truly unlike anything I've ever seen. I contemplated pulling a pillow over my head to drown out the noise and lights, but then decided that I had to go see what was going on. From a small balcony a couple of my friends and I watched the most amazing fireworks display I've ever seen. Just as a side note, I watched a New Year's fireworks display from the roof of the Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas that culminated with the implosion of the entire complex at midnight and I've seen several other similar displays since then. But, the displays here came from every hill and street in and around the town. I've never seen anything like it. People everywhere were shooting off rockets and the sky was filled with a huge simultaneous display that lasted nearly half an hour. To add to the beautiful colors was the fact that safety seemed to be only marginally important. Nobody got hurt that we heard about but one misdirected rocket ricocheted off our hotel and went off next to our team bus full of all the skis. Another rogue rocket bounced off a couple of buildings before exploding beautifully a few feet above the river across the street. I saw some huge rainbow trout in there a few days ago and have to wonder if any of them were stunned by the explosion. Regardless, the colors were amazing and I'd come for New Years in a heart beat. The fuzzy picture below will give you a taste of the craziness
Tomorrow we head to Altenberg via the Autobahn. Speaking of which - sure would like to have an Audi Quattro for a day to zip around on the Autobahn (I should probably focus on finding some basic wheels though before I dream too much about an Audi). A guy can dream though, right? :) Anyway, the trip is only a couple of hours so we'll be settled in by late afternoon. Early next week is a little more fine-tuning on the range and tracks and then racing gets underway on Thursday. We'll race a 10km on Thursday, another 10km on Saturday, and a 12.5km pursuit on Sunday. Monday the 11th the remaining spots on the team will be named. Stay tuned in the coming days for more pictures and updates. Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

Hola Zach,
We are soaking up the sun in Buenos Aires and sending good vibes. Shoot straight and ski like Sarah Palin's chasing you. Ciao! Larry & Allan

Anonymous said...


ewjf g % ym 75

Ryan Crumpacker said...

Happy New Year Zach! Good luck tomorrow in Germany we're cheering for you!!