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Archive for October, 2011

When I woke up today, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.  I wanted to rush around the house and wake everybody up and show them the beautiful snow outside.  Unfortunately, there was no one to wake up except Emily, a rower, and I figured she’d appreciate being able to sleep in on her day off.  The first thing I did instead was to email out to the Craftsbury junior skiers to cancel morning rollerski practice and replace it with ski practice on the Center’s fields.

We convinced Lisa Schlenker (one of the Center's rowing coaches) to put on some skis and join in the fun.

These apples still taste amazing

A game of "cut the pie" (a type of tag) on the upper soccer field

No need for kick wax

We ditched the skis for a short game of snow soccer

By late afternoon, the snow was already beginning to disappear

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The end of the Utah camp ended on a high note for me.  First of all, I’m going to Sweden!  The Utah rollerski races, along with the Jericho races back in August, served as qualifiers for the first international races of the year.  I saved my best race for the last qualifier and hit 90% of my targets.  I was named to the team with 5 other US women.  Once we get on snow in Sweden during late November, we’ll be divided into different groups- a World Cup team and an IBU Cup team (IBU Cup is the race circuit just below the World Cup).  Either way, I’ll be racing in various places in Europe until Christmas.

Our last day of training in Utah was another reason I flew back east with a smile. We got to hike Mt. Timpanogos- one of my (many) favorite mountains.  Timpanogos’s snow covered peak looms teasingly over Solider Hollow.  The first few times I went to the Heber Valley, I would gaze longingly at it’s ridgelines but I didn’t get the chance to climb it.  It often has too much snow in October.  Last year, we finally had the chance to hike part of it, but we had an easy workout on our training plan, and our coaches only let us go to the first saddle.  I can’t say I successfully summited this year either, but Laura Spector and I made a valiant effort to run further up.  We were within sight of the final ridge climb and then decided to turn around so that our teammates (who turned around at the first saddle again) wouldn’t have to wait for hours in the parking lot.  The elusiveness of that summit is intensifying my desire to get there.  So next year…  Still, it was a spectacular day in the mountains, the type of day that fuels your soul and makes you feel psyched to be alive.

The lower slopes ablaze with color

Ah, the life of a mountain goat. They live in the best places on Earth.

Snow fields at higher elevations

YEEESSS!!!!

Another reason we had to turn around early is that we had been invited by the US Speedskating team to have dinner with a bunch of the long track athletes and then watch a World Cup (short track) in Salt Lake.  Our coaches have been talking a lot lately, so perhaps in the future, we’ll have some training collaboration between our sports.  The World Cup was fascinating to watch.  I hadn’t realized how short the short track loop actually is and how nearly impossible it is to pass your competitors.  No wonder there are a lot of crashes.

The biathlete cheering contingent

The art of cornering

I flew back to Vermont early the next morning and got to see my Craftsbury GRP teammates for a few hours before they departed for a month of skiing in Finland.  The team house at Elinor’s is very quiet: Emily Dreissigacker (who is training for sculling races) and I are the only ones here right now.  I love the seasonal rhythms of life at Craftsbury.  With the colder weather and shorter days we are shifting into winter mode.  In between training sessions, I’m working on winterizing the house: pulling out all the screens, installing insulating plastic over the windows, cleaning up the flower beds and skirting the old foundation.   It doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day to get everything done.

As the race season approaches, I would like to invite all my Facebook savvy blog readers to “like” my athlete fan page “Susan Dunklee” on Facebook.  (This is something that US Biathlon recommended that we create, and it is separate from my personal private Facebook page.)  It’s relatively new and I already have 23 fans- hurray!  Basically it is an easy and centralized way for me to keep in touch with all of you and you can post stuff to the wall too.  This page will be the most comprehensive and updated resource for tracking my race season and travels.  I’ll try to post pictures, blog entries, links to results, and other various things.

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It’s October, which means I’m training in Utah’s Heber Valley for our biathlon team’s annual fall altitude camp.  Every day so far has been warm, sunny and beautiful on the valley floor.  The surrounding Wasatch mountains are capped with fresh snow; a promising reminder of the skiing soon to come.  Solider Hollow, the venue where we are training and the site of the 2002 Olympic games, sits at 5,500 feet.  The thinner air at this altitude makes it slightly more challenging to train and race.

The US Biathlon Association board members were in town last weekend for a meeting and banquet, as were the US Biathlon Foundation members.  We gave them some shooting instruction and then enjoyed a variety of activities together such as horseback riding, golf, and fly fishing.  At the banquet, I had the honor of sitting next to Bitsy Kelley who runs a west coast weekly radio show about everything outdoors.  We chatted about hunting, gardening, farming, and shared ideas for living self-sufficiently.

I went horseback riding with the board in the town of Sundance, home of Robert Redford. The scenery was beautiful with the aspens, oaks, and maples at the height of foliage season- almost as colorful as the Green Mountains back home. photo credit: Laura Spector

The first week of training was great.  We’ve shared the range with Maine Winter Sports Center, Twin Biathletes (the Barnes), the Junior National Team, and a contingent from Canmore.  A couple of times, we even saw our xc friends from the US Ski Team, Central XC and Sun Valley sprinting around the Soldier Hollow trails.  Although all these groups are on different training schedules, it is inspiring to train around them.  At the end of this week, we’ll also have the chance to meet some of the US speed skaters.  They invited us to watch their World Cup competition in Salt Lake.

Group training on the range. photo credit: Pat Coffey

Today was our first of two sprint races out here.  Racing at altitude tends to be very painful, the lack of oxygen makes it harder to recover.  My goal was to start at a relaxed pace and keep getting faster as the race went on.   I also applied a similar strategy on every uphill: ski at a controlled pace until the last few meters, when I would accelerate and carry more speed over the top.   It paid off- I had the fastest ski time of the American contingent (not by much), but I missed 3 out of 10 targets, while several of my teammates shot clean or only missed 1 or 2.

Standing shooting. Notice the new custom stock that I got a few months ago. photo credit: Jonne Kahkonen

To read more about our Utah training camp and see more pictures, check out this Fasterskier article

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Elinor's Field: The view from our front door in Craftsbury.

Misty mornings.  Waking up engulfed by a cloud.  Trees slowly materialize out of whiteness. Half an hour into our rollerski, the fog has completely burned off in the Black River Valley.  A perfect fall day.

King Farm Road looking towards Little Hosmer Pond

GRP teammate Dylan McGuffin works on building a sauna in the front yard out of scrap wood.

Many of my favorite memories from this fall involve food harvests.

Returning from a local orchard: 300 lbs of crisp fall apples are stacked, crammed, into the back of a red minivan.  They totter and shift precariously as we wind and rattle over dirt roads.  Parking behind the Craftsbury dining hall to unload, we open the trunk carefully in case they fall.  We carry them in waxed cardboard boxes, salvaged from the recycling, and the bottoms threaten to give out.  In the coming weeks there will be plenty of apple dishes on the menu.

Winter squash that we grew at Elinor's for the Craftsbury dining hall.

During an off day in Lake Placid, a few Olympic Training Center resident athletes decided to go apple picking. I found this interesting specimen, probably caused by an apple sawfly.

Pat and Annelies shared their new hobby with me on a recent hike. Foraging mushrooms is something that I'm cautiously embracing. These oyster mushrooms turned out pretty tasty sauteed in butter with salt.

Running on a forest trail, through a tunnel of blurry color.  Bright splotches of yellow and red leaves crunch underfoot.  Later in the week, it rains and they compress into muddy mats.

A hiking adventure with the biathletes

Fall near Paul Smiths in the Adirondacks. This area was a favorite haunt of former president Teddy Roosevelt during his teenage years and he documented almost 100 species of birds here.

I fall asleep to the rhythm of rain spilling off the roof and wailing gusts of wind surging against the windows.  It is cozy inside, warm and dry under a down comforter.  But it hasn’t let up by morning.  It is time to go out, to train, in the pouring rain, in ski boots still waterlogged from yesterday.   Following practice I’ll have an immediate date with my rifle cleaning supplies.  These are the hardest days to motivate.

Back in Vermont: Lifting up a heavy boulder in Elmore State Park.

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