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Archive for February, 2010

It is a very exciting time to be a biathlete now. The Olympics have started and the US fields one of the strongest teams in our history.  For those of us not in Vancouver, our race season is in full swing back east.  Last weekend we took a short road trip to the Ethan Allen Biathlon Range in Jericho, Vermont for a couple of NorAm races and this past weekend, Lake Placid hosted two more.  The Lake Placid NorAm is one of my favorite times of the year to be in Lake Placid because all the visiting biathletes liven up the Olympic Training Center (OTC) dorms.  These past two weekends of races served as the qualifiers for U-26 World Championships, which will be held  in Estonia in a couple weeks.  As I write, the U-26 team still hasn’t been announced, but hopefully it will be soon because the team leaves 10 days from now.

Coach Jimmy Upham and event organizer, Rick Costanza, working on the range at the start of the Lake Placid NorAms

Andrea Mayo, a competitor from Maine Winter Sports Center, shows some style before the race

Immediately after the Lake Placid NorAms, Tracy (left) flew out to Vancouver to cheer on her twin sister Lanny. BethAnn, Kat and I helped her decorate a banner to bring.

My roommate Kat Howe entertains herself in the dorms by doing lots of crafts projects. Lately she's taken to sewing and selling headbands.

My prize for winning the Craftsbury Marathon a couple weeks ago was one gallon of pure Vermont maple syrup.  Although I love maple syrup, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to use the entire gallon by myself.  I already had a large stockpile of it from Cornell’s maple research farm across road where I occasionally volunteer.  As an aside, the staff there jokingly call me the”Vermont Spy” because they have become obsessed with surpassing Vermont in state syrup production and they are afraid I’ll give away their strategy and trade secrets.  In the expert opinion of the Vermont Spy, Vermont has no reason to feel threatened by New York.  I’ll continue to keep a watchful eye on them,  just in case they try some funny business.

I decided to use some of my maple syrup to make sugar on snow to serve during the OTC’s Opening Ceremonies celebration.  In case you aren’t familiar with sugar on snow, it involves heating up maple syrup until it has a taffy consistency and drizzling it over a pan full of snow.  Once it cools for a minute it can be peeled off  and eaten with a fork.  Several of the OTC resident athletes and staff had never heard of sugar on snow before and I had to explain it to them, but the visiting Canadian biathletes knew exactly what I was talking about.  When I told them it was ready, they made a beeline for the cafeteria.  We spent the rest of the evening on a sugar high watching the Opening Ceremonies on TV.

Sugar on snow!

Alex Dumond, a Canadian biathlete visiting for the NorAms, bragged about how much maple syrup he eats every day for breakfast. Egged on by his friends, he bites into a little more maple than he can handle.

Watching the Opening Ceremonies from the cafeteria of the Lake Placid OTC

On Saturday afternoon, Lake Placid celebrated the start of the Olympics and the 30 year anniversary of Miracle on Ice with a town festival.   On the ice oval in the center of town they built a mini hockey rink, luge run, ski jumping hill, curling rink, and paintball biathlon range.  Hundreds of kids showed up with their families to try the various sports and they all were given race bibs to wear.  I wandered over with a couple teammates to check out the scene and help out with the paintball.

Four of the original torchbearers from the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics relit the town's official Olympic torch, as well as a smaller one shown here on the speed skating oval.

I must admit that an Olympic Training Center is not an easy place to live leading up to the Olympics.  The only residents left here are those who didn’t qualify and every time we see an Olympic logo (they are plastered all over the OTC walls) or hear the Olympics come up in conversation, we are reminded of what we missed. However, now that the  Olympics have begun, the disappointment is forgotten and replaced  by excitement as we sit glued to the TV cheering on Team USA.  I’m very proud of fellow OTC resident and Vermonter Hannah Kearney who dominated the moguls.  Yesterday the biathletes struggled with some nasty weather, but Jeremy Teela proved just how much depth the team has by posting the highest ever American finish (9th) while favored Tim Burke struggled in the sloppy new snow.  The day before, Sara Studebaker qualified for biathlon pursuit in her first ever Olympic race with a 45th place.   As my roommate Kat and I watched Johnny Spillane’s sprint finish in Nordic Combined, we jumped to our feet, yelling at the TV and jumping up and down.  It was history in the making- not only a silver medal, but also 2 other Americans in the top 10.   As I write, we are only two and a half days into the competitions with plenty more excitement to come.

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When I returned from Europe after a disappointing Olympic Trials in mid- January, my coach gave me a simple instruction: “Enjoy winter!”  So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I went home for several days to find adventures in northeastern Vermont.  I played “blob” tag with Bill Koch League kids (graded school age) and helped out at a paintball biathlon clinic that introduced kids (and kids at heart) to the sport of biathlon.  I spent some time with my family, which included an afternoon of ski bushwhacking around fields and woods with my father.  We found parts of town that I hadn’t known existed.  I also spent several days in Craftsbury with my friends Hannah and Chelsea and the rest of the Green Racing Project (GRP) team.  One afternoon, after a late strength workout with Hannah, I skied back to the GRP team house by moonlight.   The team lives in a beautiful old farmhouse right off the trails.  In all the years I’ve trained at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, I had never experienced any of the trails at night.  The moon shone through the woods, throwing dappled shadows over the ski tracks, and the air tasted still, cold and crisp.

An aspiring paintball biathlete takes aim.

Skiers of all ages came out for the paintball event.

My father and our dogs on our Tour de Barton exploration.

During our Barton bushwhack, we came across several interesting tracks in the fields. It looks like an owl or a hawk found some dinner.

Craftsbury Outdoor Center is well-known in the rowing community as well as the xc ski community. The GRP team and I cheer on some rowers doing a ski time trial for cross training.

One of the best parts of that first week back in the states was the sunny weather.  You can’t get better winter conditions to play in than 20 degrees with blue skies and lots of snow.  Unfortunately, a few days later it rained.  Hard.  By then I had returned to train in Lake Placid.  I have never seen so many trees down on a ski trail and the crew up at the Mt. Van Hovenberg trails spent two hard days running around with snowmobiles and chainsaws to clear them.  Luckily the rain turned the trails into a skating rink and didn’t melt all the snow.  Ice makes a solid base that prevents the grooming machines from churning up dirt and rocks.  With only a couple inches of fresh powder on top, icy trails make for beautiful skiing.

Last weekend I raced my first ski marathon at Craftsbury.  Ski marathons are usually 50 km long.  I don’t think I had ever raced more than 15 or 20 km before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I made sure to eat a lot the day before and during the race I paced myself and took a lot of feeds.  I felt really strong and had a lot of fun.  After several weeks off from biathlon racing, I am excited to tackle the rest of the season.  We have NorAm competitions in Jericho, VT this coming weekend and Lake Placid, NY the following weekend.  Through these races I hope to qualify for U-26 World Championships later this season in Estonia.

The night before the marathon I also competed in some Dash for Cash sprints. Here I am warming up. (Photo from http://www.nensa.net)

Before leaving Europe, I got to watch the men's biathlon World Cup relay in Ruhpolding. As you can see, the World Cup scene is very exciting. During my last race in Europe, an IBU Cup sprint in Nove Mesto, CZE, I placed 20th. It was my best international result to date and I look forward to making the next jump up to the World Cup level (hopefully by next year).

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