Friday, January 31, 2014

I have a fever.


...BIRKIE FEVER!!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

PSA

Do NOT book flights through the Netherlands if you intend to travel with a rifle.
That is all.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

GRP Biathletes on WCAX News

A Vermont news station, WCAX, interviewed me on Saturday in Jericho at the NorAm championships. There are two videos on their website, both featuring me and my teammate, Ethan. Sort of silly, but nice to see biathlon on the news!

Watch both videos on WCAX.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cleaning, Dirtying, and Technical Difficulties!

On Sunday we wrapped up the North American Biathlon Championships in Jericho, VT. After winning the sprint race on Friday by just three seconds, I knew I had hard work ahead if I wanted to stay on top for the remaining two races.

In Saturday's pursuit start 10k, I started off very strong, shooting [1, 0] for the first two prone stages. It was only the second time I have ever "cleaned" in a race. Hitting all five targets (recorded as 0 misses) is called "cleaning" because when you hit each black circle target, a white pedal swings up to cover the black, so when you hit all five you are left with a clean white target.
Target with Echo and Delta hit.
With fast skiing and 9/10 prone shooting, I was well ahead of my competitors at the midway point of the race...but then came the standing shooting. In small part due to gusty wind, and in larger part due to my inexperience and nervousness, I shot [3, 4] in standing, meaning I had to ski seven penalty laps in the second half of the race.

My main competition, Katrina, caught me after the final standing stage as I skied my fourth and she skied her only penalty lap. Then we set out on course together for the final 2.5km loop before the finish. I knew she was right behind me and knew that I needed to beat her by 15 seconds in order to win, having started 15 seconds ahead of her. So I really motored to the finish and ended up winning by 9 seconds. Another close race!
Saturday's pursuit podium
On Sunday, I was very much looking to a mass start format, during which I could race Katrina and the other women head-to-head. I had a good warm up despite the barely-legal -4F thermometer reading, and toed the line with high hopes. I came into the range after the first loop about 10 seconds ahead of the others, got into position, and could not see a thing through my site. Some snow had gotten in there and frozen completely so I had no visibility whatsoever. I spent probably over two minutes on the range blowing hot air through the site trying to clear it out. Finally I shot and missed 4. Still, I set out from there thinking that if I skied fast and hit every target for the rest of the race, I could still win!

When I came into shoot the second time, my eye cup-- a rubber cylinder through which you view the site-- fell right off, probably from having been wrestled with during the ice fiasco, and though it is not actually fundamental to the rifle's zero, it makes using the site much easier. 
Rear site without eye cup. See that tiny hole? Yeah me neither.

Rear site with eye cup (shown just above the thumb).
Long story short: I maintained a positive attitude about getting in a good skiing workout, but the shooting went to shambles and skied 15 penalty laps, five of which resulted from my first (AND HOPEFULLY ONLY) time "dirtying" the target. By my calculations I skied almost 15k for what should have been a 12.5k race. Needless to say I do not have a podium photo from Sunday! I'm glad I have that behind me as I head to Europe a week from tomorrow.

Friday, January 24, 2014

First NorAm Win

It was freezing (actually well below!!!) today in Jericho for the opening day of NorAm Championships. I finished first in the 7.5k sprint, just three seconds ahead of Katrina Howe of Maine Winter Sports Center. Katrina will also be on the biathlon development trip to Europe in February so I am looking forward to many more close races with her over the next month. She started several minutes ahead of me today, so I had no idea how close we were.

I did not shoot as well as I had hoped to today, missing three in prone and two in standing, so I did not think I would be on top of the podium. But I kept pushing hard against the very loud and abrasive cold snow, and managed to ski just fast enough, I guess! I am working on speeding up my range procedure (see video) and finished my prone in 35 seconds. That is a good time for me, but might also explain why I missed three shots!

NorAm Champs Sprint Podium
Tomorrow we have a pursuit race (10k; 2 prone followed by 2 standing). I will be the first starter, followed very closely by Katrina. I hope tomorrow I will be able to post another picture like this after the pursuit! 

Proof that there were actual people at the biathlon race

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Range Procudure Video

Here is a video of me practicing "range procedure" in Craftsbury last week. The best shooters in the world do this whole thing in under twenty-five seconds [i.e. are much faster at this than me!] AND hit all the targets.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

January Thaw is OVER: Report from Quebec & Exciting News!

After racing in IBU Cup Trials and the Eastern Cup Opener in December, I have enjoyed (?) a long "training block." This means I did not have any races on the calendar, so I increased my training volume and intensity for about three weeks. While nothing beats actual racing in terms of getting "up to speed," there are benefits to a training block. Without races on the schedule, you can do much longer workouts, heavier lifting, and harder interval sessions. So that's what I've been doing in January... 

Until now! This weekend, Mike, Ethan and I (GRP Team Biathlon!) made the trip up to Quebec City. It is about a 3.5 hour drive, not including requisite stops at the border, the gas station/d├ępanneur, and Subway, of course. We competed in two "NorAm Cup" biathlon races at the Valcartier military base just north of the city. This was great practice for the NorAm Championships which will be held next weekend in Jericho, VT.

On Saturday we had our first race, which was a 7.5km sprint for me (sprint means one prone and one standing stage). Despite shooting prone on a very bumpy in steeply inclined point, I was pleased to miss only two, and then I miraculously missed only two in standing as well, bringing my total to four misses. Unfortunately I was the only woman in the 21+ category so I was basically doing a time-trial against myself, but it still beats the training block!!!

Today (Sunday) we did a pursuit start based on Saturday's results, so I started first-- and last-- for women. It was a 12.5k race with four shooting stages. I was on a roll, missing only one target on each of my prone stages, and then disaster struck and I missed four on the first standing! Standing is much harder for me; when I have an elevated heart rate and I'm shaky and out of breath, my barrel does not like to settle on the target but rather bounce all around. I have just recently gotten to the point where I can at least hit the targets at low/moderate exertion in practice, so when I came in for my second standing, I thought to myself, "I can do this if I just let the rifle settle."  So I took some more time on the range and managed to hit four, which was a relief. 

The not-so-fun part about this weekend was being the only person in my races. After a long month of training alone, I was really looking forward to having someone else to compete with. I can only push myself so hard. And I do this sport because I like to race. Believe it or not I do not enjoy suffering on my own accord. 

So this brings me to the good news! Last week, the Director of USBA, Max Cobb, announced that there is going to be a biathlon development trip to Europe in February! Ethan, Mike and I are all going, along with three athletes from the Maine Winter Sports Center biathlon team. We will race in Slovenia and Austria over the course of two weeks. We already bought the tickets so there is no looking back! I can't wait to go get my butt kicked by some people who actually know what they are doing... even if I get last at least I won't be the only one in the race.

Here is a video of me going up the last hill in one of the races at IBU Cup Trials. You will hear my coach Algis cheering me on.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Letter to the Editor

The Wall Street Journal ran an article on December 6th titled, "A Venture Capitalist Invests in His Olympic Dream." (Click here to see article text...highly recommended.) To summarize it in one sentence: When Paul Bragiel, a 36-year-old technology entrepreneur, had a hungover revelation that he should quit his job and try to do something he was scared of, he set his sites on finding "the easiest way" into the Olympics, and subsequently hired a Finnish cross-country ski coach, learned to ski, became a Colombian citizen in order to take advantage of their less rigorous qualification standards, trained like a pro skier for nine months, and though his first races of the season were well off qualification pace and his coach only gave him a 1% chance of success, Bragiel professed to the author of the article, "I believe I will make it."

The Journal never published my letter, so I'll share it here. For the record I have no personal ill will towards Mr. Bragiel; on the contrary, my position is strictly limited to, "Go for it, dude." My intention was to take issue with a number of principles that the publication of this article endorsed, including, but not limited to the fallacy that a person can start from scratch and qualify for the Olympics in cross-country skiing in less than one year. Mr. Bragiel learned that the hard way.
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To the Editor:

Paul Bragiel should stick to venture capital; Olympic cross-country skiing is more like a treasury bond, minus the payout.

The cross-country skiing community is very welcoming, and as a member of it, I am pleased my sport helped engender a healthy lifestyle change for Paul Bragiel, who gave up being a "chunky and out of shape nerd" in exchange for being a super fit, spandex-clad nerd, at least for a year. However, the Olympic community should look less favorably on Mr. Bragiel.

First and foremost, Mr. Bragiel makes a joke of Olympic athletes with his nine-month commitment to a dream that genuine hopefuls pursue over the course of ten to twenty years, or more. I admire his "irrational optimism," but Olympic dreams-come-true are built on more than just wishful thinking. Mr. Bragiel would have seen a better return on his $50,000 if he had invested in the Olympic dreams of athletes who are truly dedicated, many of whom are desperate for financial support.

Second, Mr. Bragiel makes a joke of the Olympic spirit. The special qualification standard for citizens of countries without a tradition in cross-country skiing was not intended for an American venture capitalist on a gap year, whose personal connection with a foreign president afforded him alternative citizenship. His abuse of this standard is the political version of doping. Worst of all, he makes a joke of those whose only dream is a better life in a different country.

Mr. Bragiel is right about one thing: the Olympics do "represent one of the awesomest things about humanity." But that is precisely because of athletes unlike him, who devote several decades of their lives to pushing the physical and mental limits of humankind. Throug honest work, they earn the right to march proudly in the opening ceremony, to represent their countries, and to engage in the ultimate global gathering of peaceful competition. The bottom line is, if you set out to find "the easiest way," you will never end up at the Olympic Games.
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