Monday, August 31, 2009

Time to move on

My two weeks in Sweden has come to a close. I am happily tired and as this lifestyle breeds, I am also looking forward to moving on to a new place. Tomorrow I head to Rupholding, Germany for my final week.
I knew this training camp would be intense, detailed, transformative, challenging and a great opportunity. Each session has lived up to that, and then some. After a spending a lot of super saturated training session at the range and on the World Cup courses with drills and structured focus we ended the week with a relaxing ski and run in the mountains just west of Ostersund, on the Norwegian border.

Below are some views running in the mountain valleys from Storulvån, a classic Scandinavian outpost lodge with rooms, restaurant, saunas, communal kitchen, and lots of space to relax and soak in a good weekend's hike. I am camera-less these days, so these are my teammate Lowell's photos. Running in these wide open valleys and high alpine tundra felt great, well my legs were quite tired, but it was good for the spirits. And seeing some reindeer was a plus.

Board walks covered the wetter, marsh areas, but otherwise you follow some well hiked paths. The hiking trails are intertwined with red-cross marked trails that rise well above the snowpack in the winter to provide guidance for ski touring.

Altogether, this place most typified northern Scandinavia for me.

We have been living in comfortable apartments right next to the rollerski tracks, and lots of blueberries. On off days, when it is time to relax and to get away from biathlon, I took to baking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Racing and Herring

Phew, I am glad I made it through the first week. As I've mentioned before, I've been spending some extra time with my shooting and I set out for this camp to be a working period. After a full summer of training this is the time to retune my skiing and shooting techniques before I head into a pre-competition phase of training later in the fall. It is quite a transformative time and I will be happy to emerge from it at the end of this camp. Needless to say my races were an important part, not necessarily to race, but to work on an improved shooting process at a high intensity . I would have liked to have done well here, as I did last year, but this time my focus and goals were different. And after a thorough analysis of the races I closed the week and moved on to the next.

After the races were over our team was pleasantly suprised; expecting to take a "boat ride" on the Storsjön, we instead got to take jet skis out to an island and Swedish castle. It couldn't have been a better evening to be out on the lake: the sunset was big, wide, and spectacular and the lake was (uncharacteristically) calm and quiet. Once out to the island we were greeted by the folks who run a small hotel in an old 1800's swedish castle. After a tour of the Swedish countryside and lake, we returned back to the city and to a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord dinner. It was quite the spread of different types of herring, sauces, and meats that you pile on top of your boiled potato. Smothered in mustard sauce, I could actually eat the herring.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Every Second Counts: typical slowfire shooting session

This morning I spent some time on the range doing 1-shot prone drills.

Taking only one shot at a time narrows the focus to just the set up process (getting into position), my breathing to the first shot (kind of like yoga, you have to breathe with every movement) and the 1st shot (a combination of breathing, a short hold on the target just before the shot, and the subtle pull of the trigger and the hit of the target). Per kept time throughout each shot giving me by-the-second updates throughout each shot of the process with the goal of reaching the optimal speed in all parts. This doesn't necessarily mean the quickest speed, but rather moving in the most efficient way. Getting into position is relatively quick - 10 seconds or so - and the time to the next shot can take almost half or the same amount of time depending on how hard I was just skiing beforehand and how well I can control my breathing. Fast forward to racing this winter - save 4 seconds per stage in a Sprint (prone and standing) that amounts to 8 free seconds. This does not seem like a lot, but the women's field is competitive and 1st to 60th is often only different by a few minutes. Every second counts.

On any given day there are three ways of shooting: dryfire (without live rounds, usually done at the OTC gym in the morning, with the purpose of working on the process of shooting and visualization) slowfire (shooting at the range without a heart rate, a wide variety of drills that accentuate different parts of shooting and enable a shooter to focus on and improve speed, accuracy, position and precision) and combo (done either running, but mostly skiing with low to high heart rate). Tomorrow - an easy combo workout before this weekend's races.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Tjenar" from Sweden!

I just got back from picking blueberries; they are right out our door and the forest is filled with them. Tomorrow is our day off and pancakes (American style) are for breakfast.

It is great to be back in Sweden, and not just because of the blueberries. We've been here since Saturday and have put in a few days of solid training on Ostersund's rollerski loop and biathlon range. This is the same venue that I have, and will, race at later in December at the start of this winter's World Cup season. Thus, familiarity with the hills and range is a plus. And there is no better way to really learn about a venue than to race on it. This coming weekend is full of it with a cross-country race Friday evening, a Sprint on Saturday and a Pursuit on Sunday. In addition to our team, there will also be the Swedish National Team, a junior Norwegian squad, and some local athletes.

Its also great to be back at a camp with the rest of our team and coaching staff. We're a small group this time; an environment which will lend itself to a lot of individual coaching. This is quite an advantageous opportunity, and one in which I have been looking forward to because I have had a difficult summer of shooting. In the grander scheme of shooting, I have learned a lot in the past two years, so am patient with these ups and downs in shooting performance. But lately, I've been at a loss for how to figure out what is wrong with my shooting. Until, I got to Sweden. Each shooting session so far has been super saturated with advice, ideas, suggestions, ways of doing a number of things better, more efficient, quicker and new drills that have helped me to evolve out of the rut I was in. I am not there yet, but finally have, and feel, the moments of brilliance in shooting that give the confidence, affirm your process and urge you to continue.

Our training schedule is rather normal, even with the transatlantic flight this weekend. Monday started with shooting drills and technique specific combo session, followed that afternoon with a run and then SCATT (laser shooting computer program). We are living in small apartments, Camp Sodergren, right at the venue. It takes just a few minutes to roll down to the range in the morning, and only moments after the training ends you can get in a snack, shower and stretch. This is the first big international camp of the year so it is also good to get back into the routine of traveling, being in a foreign country, and at a training camp. Not to mention, remembering the key items that keep one sane on long trips like enough books and projects. I brought a long some baking supplies this time and thanks to my friend Jen some good muffin recipes too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can you recycle #5 plastics? YES!

Earlier this summer when I was looking into my new sponsor, Mix1, I also spent the time figuring out what I would then do with all of the empty bottles. The bottles, cloudy white in color, are your typical #5 plastic, or polypropylene. Unfortunately, in my area, we don't recycle this type of plastic. Until I found Cortland, NY's Preserve Products company and their Gimme 5 program. They collect #5 plastic and recycle it into new and nifty products like razors, toothbrushes and kitchen utensils.

#5 plastic is a common material - think yogurt cups and cottage cheese containers - and it is often chosen over #1 or 2 because it is light-weight and costs less to manufacture and transport. However, it is not easier to recycle, especially in a rural area like the Adirondacks. The Gimme 5 Program offers a way for consumers to recycle their #5's either by dropping them off at a participating Whole Foods or mailing them into the company - like I plan to do.

My efforts to revamp the Olympic Training Center's (OTC) approach to recycling paralleled my sponsorship work this summer and through Mix1 I was able to combine my efforts. I've teamed up with our Sports Med to provide a place for our athletes to recycle their recovery drink bottles, instead of letting them fill up our trash. It is in its beginning stages, but I am optimistic that it will be successful.

We all use a variety of sports drinks, recovery drinks, and bar products; double check which number the are. #1, 2 and 5 plastics spend an estimated 450 years in the landfill. In a much shorter time, I will turn my tangerine flavored Mix 1 drink bottles into a new usable product.

Take a minute to think about how you recycle and consider this new option. It may take some time to change our habits, but know you have the choice to take more responsibility for where your "stuff" goes.

*This company even takes Brita filters!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Send someone a card . . .

I just dropped off a new batch of Snowfall Cards at the Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid. Check them out if you are in town...