Thursday, February 27, 2014

From Nove Mesto to Hayward

Our final race in Nove Mesto went much better for me. I skied faster than any of the other women, and had a better day on the range. In prone I shot (0, 1), which is only the second time I have ever "cleaned" (0 misses) in a race, and also reflects how I shoot prone in practice. In standing, I shot (4, 2). I was not confident or steady at all on my first stage and just shot poorly. But I really pulled it together for the second stage, and although I still missed two, I executed the process really well; they were five good shots, in a good cadence, with fast work on the range. The trip did not go as planned with our races getting canceled, but it was still a positive experience and another trip like that in the future, without insane weather, would be valuable.

After wrapping up the final race in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, I woke up at 4am and began my journey back to the US. I had a hop flight from Munich to Amsterdam, and then a larger "hop" from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. Upon arrival in the great Midwest, our GRP wax tech, Nick, picked me, my giant 63-pound ski bag, and my rifle up at the airport and delivered "us" to the lovely home of my teammate, Gordon, where the rest of my teammates had been based for the St. Paul SuperTour races. After refueling on yogurt, crunchy vegetables, vitamin C-rich fruits, and other such foods from which you are deprived during air travel, I went to bed immediately (at 7pm).

The next morning, the journey continued onto Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner ("Birkie") ski race.

Me, Caitlin and Maria all skiing together in the 2013 Birkie

The GRP's green suits are easy to spot in the 2013 elite men's start
In the days leading up to the Birkie I rested as much as possible in preparation for the 50k marathon, so when Saturday morning came around I was feeling restless and ready to go. It was about five degrees with gusting winds, which called for thick long-underwear layers and vaseline all over my face. I stayed with the lead pack of 8 women until a $500 sprint bonus pulled them ahead of me around 22k. Then I made a glory move and caught back up by about 28k! It may have put me a bit over my head though, because when the first men passed us at 31k and some of the top women caught their draft, I had no energy to even try and get on that train. So then I skied the next 18k by myself, getting slower and slower, until my teammate Caitlin made a heroic comeback and caught me on the windblown lake a little over 1km from the finish. She was going about twice my speed at that point and put 1:30 on me in the last kilometer!

I was so proud of myself after the race just to have finished. And I was happy with my 9th place result too. I don't know which felt longer--or worse on the legs--, Nove Mesto to Hayward or Cable to Hayward. But one was significantly more rewarding!!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Czech-ing In

I flew to Slovenia on February 4th for my first European biathlon racing experience. On our schedule we had two races in Pokljuka, Slovenia, and two races in Rosenau, Austria. Upon our arrival in Pokljuka, we discovered that the races there had been canceled due to too much snow. With no other race options within reasonable travel distance, we decided to stay put and train in Pokljuka.

[SPOILER ALERT Olympic men's Hockey] --We interrupt this blogpost to notify you of Team USA men's hockey victory in 7 shootouts over Russia.--

The staff at the venue in Pokljuka were very accommodating, and excavated (half of) their range from under the snowbank for us. It snowed over 3' the day before we arrived and then averaged about 1.5' per day while we were there. The snow removal operation was something to behold: imagine snow-blowing a strip of your driveway, turning around and starting from scratch. Now imagine snow so deep that you have to hoist the snow-blower onto the pile of snow and blow the top half of the snow off before you can get to the bottom layer. Last Saturday we thew together a race with some Slovenians, Russians and Australians, and then we did a time trial amongst ourselves Sunday.

Our travel group (L-R): Katrina Howe, Raleigh Goessling, Mike Gibson, Kelsey Dickinson, me, Ethan Dreissigacker. Missing from photo: Casey Smith and coaches Seth Hubbard and Betsy Smith. 

The beautiful Alpine snow in Pokljuka, Slovenia.

Enjoying the Pokljuka powder!

The most snow I've ever seen.

Our hotel at the venue had views of the range from each room.

Due to a weather phenomenon that is perhaps uniquely European, the Slovenian races were canceled due to too much snow, and then the Austrian races about 150 miles (270km) away were canceled due to no snow. Hence our re-route to Nove Mesto, Czech, where we just wrapped up the first of two Czech Cup races. Nove Mesto does not have any natural snow either, but they have a very solid man-made loop on which they have held a World Cup and U-26 European Championships this winter.

Biathlon stadium bleachers.

Nove Mesto sells out during Word Cup biathlon races.

Downtown Nove Mesto. 

Artwork on the side of the church in the central town square.

Nove Mesto train station.

My race today in the 12.5k mass start was characterized by wet, warm, SLOW snow, wind, and bad shooting. I shot (2p, 3p, 3s, 1s). I was disappointed in the prone shooting because I know I can do much better than that, but for some reason I was wobbly today. Maybe my position, or maybe the wind. Tomorrow I am doing a 15k individual, which is the race format with a one-minute time penalty added for each miss instead of penalty laps. I am relieved to not have to enter the penalty lap after I skied almost 14k in today's 12.5k, but a MINUTE penalty for each miss is much more brutal! 

I fly directly to Minneapolis on Monday morning in anticipation of the Birkie 50k just one week from today.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Craftsbury's Opening Ceremony

I was sad to miss this great party in honour of my Olympian teammates!

From WPTV news...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Quiz: who has the most Winter Games medals ever?

Here's a headline from NBC's Olympic site that most Europeans would scoff at! I highly recommend you read more!

So what exactly is biathlon, anyway?

Enjoy this wonderful step-by-step guide to biathlon, courtesy of my teammate, Hannah Dreissigacker, who is currently in Sochi, Russia at the 2014 Olympics, preparing for her first race to start in about an hour.

So, what exactly is biathlon anyway? Via Hannah's ARTVenture

Thursday, February 6, 2014

GRP Biathletes on VT Public Radio

Here is a cool little segment on the Green Racing Project biathletes, by Vermont Public Radio.

"Craftsbury Biathletes Set Sights On Olympics"

My first shooting picture! Photo: Herb Swenson

Ethan shooting standing. Photo: Herb Swenson

Mike skating along. Photo: Herb Swenson

Monday, February 3, 2014

UVM Carnival/Eastern Cup

This weekend I competed at the UVM College Carnival/NENSA Eastern Cup at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT. As usual, this annual event was a sunny and bustling celebration of New England skiing.

It was by far the biggest race I've done this year, with over 220 women competing! I was so psyched to be in a big, competitive field after enduring several lonely one- or two-woman biathlon races. Of course, this was a cross-country ski race (not biathlon) so I didn't get to shoot any targets, but that also means I did not have to carry that heavy rifle. What a relief!!!

On Saturday we did a classic sprint. I was nervous for two reasons: 1) it was my first classic race of the year (biathlon is always skate), and 2) it was my first time this year going up against some of the best cross-country skiers in the country. Having raced mostly against myself or one other biathlete, I was not sure how I would fare.

I did not quite have my classic legs under me in the qualifier--or enough kick wax!-- and I struggled on the uphill and finished 24th. I started :15 seconds behind Leah Brams, a U-16 skier from Cambridge Sports Union, and although I almost caught her by the bottom of the long downhill on the first half of the course, she then proceeded to kick my butt up the steep climb and beat be to the finish line. (Those darn CSU coaches and their solid waxing and excellent striding technique instruction!!!) Luckily I was in the top 30 and qualified for the heats. If I had skied just 2 seconds slower I would not have made it!

Here I am in the qualifier, getting dropped by Leah Brams.

In the heats I was determined to improve upon my 24th-place seed, and improve I did! Only the top two finishers in each quarterfinal automatically advance to the semifinals, so I went for it and won my quarterfinal.

On the line with my friends, including MISS CHLOE LEVINS on the far left.
Leading my quarterfinal- against some much lower bib #'s!
Tongue out, guns out!
The lineup in my semifinal was pretty intense, including the reigning classic sprint national champion. As we started around the course I found myself in the surprise position of the lead, and then as we came into the finish I had a moment of college racing deja-vu as two Dartmouth women (one current- Annie Hart, and one former- Rosie Brennen) closed in around me on either side and blew by me in the double-pole finish. Another great classic sprinter, Lauren Fritz, appeared in my peripheral vision but I held her off and qualified for the A-Final!
In the A-Final I moved everywhere from first to last over the course of the heat, but ended up taking 4th behind Caitlin Patterson, Rosie Brennen, and Heidi Halverson (in that order.) I was very pleased to have moved up from my 24th place in the qualifier!!!

A-Final about 200m from the finish.
On Sunday, we did a 5k skate. The course at Trapps has a long history of getting the best of me about 1km from the finish line, so this time I was determined to make it to the end without totally blowing up. The course only takes about 14 minutes, but the last 5 are all uphill which makes for an interesting strategic challenge. It is such a short race but you also have to save something for that last climb.

About 2km into the race, trying not to push too much...or too little.

Much to my delight, I made it all the way to the finish line and I got 3rd. My teammate Caitlin won for the second day in a row, and it is always great to have a teammate on the podium! Erika Flower was second.

Skate 5k Podium

Two more photos for your entertainment:

Hopefully this tongue thing does not become a habit!
NOT what skate skiing should look like!