February 28th, 2014
As you have read from my prior posts Sochi didn’t start off as I had hoped, the Sprint and Individual were tough on me mentally and physically. After those races my confidence was shot and I had to fight really hard to stay focused and motivated. Motivation is not something I normally struggle with but I just felt so gutted. After the Individual I chose to take a break from my rifle for 3 or 4 days, at the insistence from my coach I tried to shoot one day in there but I couldn’t finish the shooting session. When I was shot I even hated hitting targets because I didn’t understand why I could hit them now. Hating hitting your targets is not a good head space so I just packed up my rifle and went skiing. For those days I just skied and it allowed me to clear my head, sometimes it took a entire 2 hrs of skiing for my mind to come to peace. I knew that I still had lots of time to prepare for the Men’s Relay and felt that I would have lots of time to focus on shooting once I found the right head space.
Just as I was starting to ramp up my physical and mental preparation for the Men’s relay I was told I would be starting the Mixed Relay. First I wanted to make sure the other guys were sure they didn’t want to race, they had earned the right and I didn’t want any decisions to be made for the wrong reasons. The past two weeks had been long and the conditions tough, because the other guys were racing so much they decided to pass on the mixed relay to rest up and be in top form for the final race the Men’s 4 * 7.5km relay.
Getting another opportunity at the Olympics and racing along teammates who had already shown they were strong was more than enough motivation for me. An added bonus was that it was going to be great preparation for me in the Men’s relay as it had been getting close to a week since I had last raced. As everyone knows by now we finished 11th, which was far from our potential but a great experience no less and more importantly I felt some level of confidence was coming back and I could feel that my body was not far behind. I enjoy racing individually as much as the next athlete but there is something really special to me about hitting the start line with your teammates.
Next was the men’s relay. If there was only one race I had circled on my calendar this season it would be the Olympic Men’s relay. Relays are crazy as any biathlete knows, a top result in a relay is hard to come by as it takes all 4 athletes to have good races in order to get a great relay result. One bad leg and everyone suffers. The solidarity on our Men’s team is incredible, we have been racing side by side for so long that we trust each other will give their best. More than that though we have each others backs, if one of us a bad day we can be secure in knowing the others will not be critical as we have all been there before.
I’m not sure why I like Relay’s as much as I do, maybe it has to do with my background in team sports from my youth or maybe it is the added element of having teammates counting on you but either way over the years I have some of my favourite biathlon memories coming from the relay races.
I knew that even though our team had never been on a relay podium I knew it was possible, if you looked at the results from any of the races during the Olympics you would see that not many teams had more guys near the top of the results page than we did. Over the final week of the games this was where I found my motivation and focus. As I said before, in order to have a great relay result you only need 4 good individual races, I didn’t need an amazing result I just needed to play a strong supporting role to the team of super stars I was racing with.
In the end there were 19 teams and we finished 7th! Which is our best Olympic relay result to date and even though we realized we had more potential it was something we could all be proud of as a team. Equally important to me, I had my best relay leg of the year. Out of the 19 guys I raced in my leg I was 3rd. To bring my best relay performance of the year to the Olympic relay was exactly what I needed.
With the last race complete we could now decompress and what better way to do exactly that than find out you have tickets to the gold medal hockey game, Canada vs Sweden no less and from there on to the closing ceremonies.
February 20th, 2014
Since my last post I have been busy in Sochi. At the time I was gearing up for the 20k Individual which had to be an improvement on my Olympic opener the 10km Sprint.
The ski conditions for the 20k were variable but certainly better than last year and something I felt I managed quite well, the uphills were in pretty good shape and even though the downhills could have been better they were manageable if your legs were going to cooperate. This 4k course which we were going to do 5 times in the race is one of the toughest I have ever had to race, tough courses are something I normally enjoy and this day would be no different. I wasn’t in my normal shape but I still enjoyed climbing and the overall challenge of the course.
Now the shooting conditions in the 20k were much less challenging than the course, they were as the Laura Biathlon range has pretty much been since we have been here, calm and consistent and it showed with 23 athletes shooting 1 miss or less out of 20. Much to my dismay I was in the 4 miss category, which regardless of my ski speed wasn’t going to be good enough and is actually the worst I have shot in a World Championships 20k in this entire Olympic quadrennial cycle. It seems that some athletes can focus on their shooting when their ski form is not at its best, for whatever reason it seems for me that when one component of the sport is going well the other going to match it.
The result in the 20k was again disappointing but didn’t nearly carry the shock of the 10k. Even though the shock is less I think the worst part is that I can never foresee ever looking back on these two races with anything other than disappointment.
After the 20k I had to get out of the Endurance Village where we have been living since arriving in Sochi. I wanted to go down to the coast spend some time with my family and check out the vibe at some of the other venues.
It takes around 90 minutes to get from the EVL to Olympic Park which is why none of us had been down yet. Olympic Park is where the hockey, curling, speed skating and figure skating arenas all reside. Not to forget the Olympic stadium, Olympic Cauldron and Canada Olympic House. It was obvious that I was no longer in the mountains as it was +20 degrees and sunny outside, my first thought was that the IOC could actually have the Summer and Winter Olympics at the same time in the same location. Of course no location in the world could possible house so many athletes, staff, volunteers or family and friends.
The highlight of the day was going to the the Canada Vs Austria men’s hockey game with my family. I had never even been to a NHL game before but have always enjoyed the dynamics of hockey. It was really awesome to see so many superstars on the ice at the same time. To top it off I bumped into both Saskatchewan Roughrider-Chris Getzlaf and Boston Bruin-Tukka Rask and I was finally the one asking for a photo.
So there it is, I think that is just how the Olympics are for many it has its ebbs and flows and if you can just go with the flow you’re are going to meet some great people, set some solid bonds and form some memories that will last a lifetime.
Now that I am back in the EVL it is back to business and usual, I am focused on getting myself in the best physical and mental shape possible for the Men’s 4 * 7.5k relay. These teammates of mine are in amazing shape and if I can get mine closer to where it can be then we are going to have a blast on February 22nd.
edit: I raced the mixed relay last night, more posts to come.
February 11th, 2014
If I had dedicated the last ten years of my life to writing instead of Biathlon I still wouldn’t be a good enough writer to truly share the Olympic experience with you but technically I wouldn’t be at the Olympics either.
I think I am a pretty sensible athlete, possibly even too pragmatic at times. You’re not likely to see me whimsically happy or shattered in tears. I just love my job and can smile through most all of it, but if I am truly sincere even I must admit the Olympic Sprint was one of the toughest days of my career.
It started like any other race day, I woke up headed to breakfast with the boys and started up the good old routine. It is a routine designed for consistency and performance and I expected nothing less than exactly that when the race rolled around in the evening. The last few days had been busy and packed with things I wasn’t used to, commitments that weren’t part of my usual routine but as the race got closer I felt I was getting closer to my comfort level and everything was going to go just as I hoped, dreamed and imagined.
But the time the race actually rolled around in the final hours I didn’t feel as hoped and even thought I might be coming down with something. But I had a plan and I was going to give it everything I had.
In many ways the race just felt like any World Cup or World Championships race, there is a zero, ski testing, warm up and a start. I don’t think I even realized how important the race was to me until it started to fall apart. Within the first 500 meters I knew it wasn’t going to be my day, my body had betrayed me or I it, regardless it wasn’t there. I stayed focused on the plan, just execute and it will be what it will be.
Looking back I can’t find anything truly discernible that I would change in my approach to the race. I would have come to Sochi a few days earlier as most teams did but that was hardly the difference between what could have been and what was.
The Sprint race at any World Cup, World Championships is often the most important and this Olympic sprint race was no different. It qualifies you for the Pursuit and possibly the Mass Start and if you do as I did and you qualify for neither.
As the race came to a close the disappointment came in fragments, at times it felt like a disappointing World Cup result and I’ll have better luck next weekend but when my eyes would close I could still see what the day was supposed to look like, again in fragments the successes I had imagined were being replaced by the reality that was.
Somehow I managed to combine my worst shooting and skiing of the season on the same day, and that day happened to be the most important race of the year. I just wanted to open my eyes and realize it was just a nightmare and the race is still to come.
You would imagine that this was the complete low of the day but it got lower, because I was unsure of my health status I would be shipped out of the Endurance Village and down to Sochi to ensure everyone stayed healthy. *edit – I managed to stay healthy.
Now that concludes the lowest point of this blog, of the day and of 2014. Some how the day still managed to be the high point of 2014, I had just finished my first Olympic race! and when I caught up with my family afterwards who had watched the whole race from the stands it was as though they hadn’t even seen the missed targets or the pedestrian like skiing around the course they were just beaming with pride.
So just like that you can both love and hate your job in the same day, minute and second.
February 3rd, 2014
As of February 3rd our Sochi training camp will come to an end, for some on the team this will be the last training camp of their career. We are a pretty tight group and it has been a pretty decent camp. The camp started off in Antholz with a day or two of recovery after WC #6, at this point we had already spent a week in Antholz for the World Cup but we moved further up the hill this time for a little extra altitude exposure. The week was intended to be a balance between training and recovery, because we had already been around for a week it was easy to find the trails a bit monotonous but for a change of pace we could always head of to Staller Sattle 2052m which is a mountain pass just behind the World Cup venue and offered another 10km of trails.
The week in Antholz ok, I was hoping to get some good rest and shake any fatigue that was lingering. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t sleeping well and with some illness around the team it was a bit harder to just relax and just enjoy the training. The training conditions were great though and it made up for any negatives to the week.
Next we were off to Seefeld Austria, home to the YOG-2012. I had only ever skied in Seefeld once and was interested in getting a more thorough taste of the area. Seefeld offers amazing variety of ski trails and they are all well marked and groomed regularly. Unfortunately it is hard to cover all of the 250km of trails because you are always skiing the same trails at the beginning and end of the ski.
We concluded our camp with a time trial which went well for some and not so for others, most importantly I think everyone learned a little of what each will need to focus for the races in Sochi. I Initially thought the pre-Olympic camp was going to be a simple one really just trying to connect the dots to the xmas training block and connecting those the training season but it was not as simple as I hoped and was filled with ups and downs.
LastIy will put on the Olympic kit to enter in to Sochi, since receiving on January 2nd at the Olympic nomination ceremony I haven’t put it back on. It just didn’t feel right there was so much work left to do but now it is here and I’m ready to take it all in.
January 24th, 2014
Phase two of the lead up to Sochi was World Cup #6 in Antholz, Italy. It would be our last chance to race at a high level before the 10km Sprint in Sochi.
Following our races in Ruhpolding I felt like I needed to get some rest, I felt good in Ruhpolding but between jet lag and the 1-2 punch that was the 20km Individual and 12.5km Pursuit on back to back days I thought it would be a good idea to take a couple days off. The first day off was just a travel day to Antholz the second was a truer day off with only a light run in the afternoon to stretch the body and get some blood flowing. This is something I felt was important to hold my energy through the weekend which was going to be 3 days back to back and give my body the best chance of staying healthy and just a good sense of well being.
This left just enough time to get a day of intensity/race prep in and a easier day of skiing before the Sprint. On the day of the Sprint I was still feeling a little fatigue but nothing crazy for this time of year. I have had trouble in the past with the shooting range in Antholz, I am not sure what it is but the targets always seem unmanageably low. I started my race off conservatively with this and the altitude in mind. Shooting was slow and tricky again, I was gasping for air and was never able to shake the conservative pace. To add to the difficult day the track was a mess of fresh snow that left me off balance for almost the entire 30 minutes. I ended up shooting 1-2 and skiing a moderate rank which placed me out of the pursuit. Sadly Saturday was going to be a day off.
After a easy Saturday the Men’s 4 * 7.5km relay was next. Our starting order was Jp, Me, Brendan and Nathan. Earlier in the day the women’s event was cancelled due to fog which rolled into the shooting range for the 4th shooting. We feared this might happen in our but if the race can be held the IBU will make sure it goes. The rifle zeroing was chaotic as it had to kept being pushed back further and further was fog had again rolled in and we could not see the targets. Then the zero was postponed and most athletes descended below the range where warm change rooms allow us rest until the fate of the race was decided. After 20minutes we were back on the range for zero, zero was condensed and almost rushed. And that was only our zero.
As the gun went off the 10-15,000 fans that had so patiently wait through it all erupted in cheer. Jp was off and in fine form snaking his way through the field. Jp had a great day on the range and left standing in 1st which got me nice and warm as I had started to cool down with all the changing weather. Jp made it to the tag zone in 4th and off I was trying to chase down the lea pack. Even I was pretty much flat out I could only maintain my distance behind the lead. I arrive in prone in good form and oddly the shooting felt easy, I still needed a spare round as the tried to pick up the speed too much when I realized I felt recovered for shooting. The middle loop was pretty much the same as the first, I was a little closer to the lead pack but not close enough to get a free ride back to the range. Arriving on the range was almost eery, being just behind the lead pack meant the crowd would go quiet as I entered the range, waiting for that first shot. When the crowed erupted with the first shots from the lead pack it felt like a normal race again, I got on my mat as the leaders were finishing up their final shots. Quickly, faster then you can read this sentence I missed my first three shots. This almost brought back up the tiramisu from the night before. I realized I had control and again just got excited at the prospect the shooting felt good, I had just put my shots high. After a quick chat with my brain I began to put down the targets using each of my spares as though my life depended on it. At last I was out of the range and on course, because Germany had a penalty loop I was currently in 3rd. As I raced past a coach on course I had the biggest smile of my life, not because we were in 3rd and not because I thought I did an amazing job but because the exhilaration of hitting that last target and the silliness of it all and keeping my tiramisu down was more than I could handle and smiling was the only reaction my body could give considering I was still racing along at full gas. In my final lap it started to puke snow again and near the end the German caught me and seemed like he would leave me behind but anytime we climbed I could keep pace and knowing it was only polite to tag Brendan within contact of the lead I fought as hard as I could.
Brendan and Nathan were 3rd and 4th, both keeping pace within their races. Unfortunately the week caught up with Nathan in his final standing and he suffered two penalty loops but he wasn’t the only one and we hung on for our first top 6th relay finish ever!
And with that phase two was complete with the completion of the prize ceremony. Now there was only one phase left in the lead up to Sochi a two week training block before flying into the Sochi.
January 18th, 2014
I guess in a way everything for the last 4 years has been the lead of to Sochi. The last four years have been filled with training and racing that I will draw upon to allow myself to perform my best in Sochi. Every season has a World Championships and 9 World Cups, qualifying to compete at those events and then my goals on the international stage has provided the challenge and motivation necessary to get to where I sit today.
Where I am now and where I was only months ago is significantly different. When the season started only a couple of months ago I was fresh out of the training season and excited to see what my training over the past 8 months would net me. I was starting the season qualified for the Olympic team but not nominated, a position I was grateful for but certainly not content with. I wanted more, I was looking to race myself into the best confidence and shape of my career.
Unfortunately the first three World Cups didn’t go as planned, I had trouble finding a connection with my rifle, the kind of connection where everything movement feels planned and you literally race to the range eager to clean your targets. Our HPD even asked my coach and I what we could do in order to improve the shooting for the better half of the season, I wish we had had more to offer than blank stares but in a way we had tried everything in our arsenal already. In a way though the tools needed are already there, I just have to allow myself to trust process I have established over the last four years
Upon returning home I jumped into training the best I could, trying to balance the recovery needed from the travel and racing while working on the finer points in my skiing and shooting. This training block went exactly as I hoped, because it was the xmas break and I knew what I wanted to work on I drew up a plan and tackled it knowing that Sochi was just around the corner. I had confidence in what I was doing, was able to spend tons of time with my girlfriend and closed out the training block by being named to the 2014 Olympic Team, it was perfect!
I arrived in Ruhpolding, Germany for World Cup #5 again excited to see if the hard work I put in over the 17 days at hime would pay off. WC 5 started with a relay and the tone was set early on when JP tagged me within 18 seconds of the leaders. Despite my hard work on shooting over the break shooting still wasn’t feeling natural and I ended up needing 2 spares in both prone and standing. Luckily it seemed jet lag was no bother for me on the skis and I posted some of my best skiing yet. Brendan and Nathan wrapped their legs in quick order and we matched our personal best relay result from last season in 8th. We showed everyone but more importantly ourselves there is more yet to come.
Next was the 20km Individual, the last 20km before the start of the Olympics. I was excited to see if my fitness held and see what I could do on the range. By the end of the race it felt to me like I was beginning to suffer from the jet lag a bit and maybe some wet ski conditions took me out of what I hoped was going to be a top 30 performance. 36th was ok but I would be lying if I said I didn’t come to Ruhpolding expecting for more. The exciting part though was that I shot 0,0,2,0 not a great shooting percentage in itself but I was finally starting to have clean shooting bouts something I struggled with earlier in the season.
Rounding out the weekend was a Pursuit, it was the first pursuit in my career to be based off a 20km. They are normally based off the 10km Sprint. My energy was good again and I was hoping to climb up the field in search of a result north of 30. Similar to the relay my skiing was on par but my shooting held me back from my potential. I finished the day in 35th.
Ruhpolding was complete and it was phase one leading into my final Sochi preparation. I was satisfied with my skiing, motivated to work on my shooting and excited to take on phase two – Antholz.
October 11th, 2013
or Park City as it is more commonly known is nestled in the Wasatch Back Region in the Rocky Mountains sitting at the cautious elevation of 2100 meters. In 2008 it was voted by Forbes Magazine as one of the “prettiest towns” in the U.S.A. and more recently voted by Outside Magazine as the countries best place to live a healthy lifestyle. For these reasons and it’s proximity to the Soldier Hollow is why it was chosen by my team and myself for our Fall training camp. After spending a week in PC I prefer the more affectionate name of Park Silly as I am convinced the thin air is the only way to explain some conversations our apartment walls would have heard this week.
Originally I was slated to go to the Oberhof – Dachstein – Ruhpolding training camp with the A – team guys but after a frustrating August it was decided that it would be better for me to stay closer to home where I could more easily focus on energy management and getting the most out of the remaining days leading into the season. I had been to both venues for training camps and when it came down to it they were both great options but I had to go with my gut, I felt this was the easiest way to get me to buy into the training for the remainder of the year.
The week of training was exactly what I needed, a different venue but not far from home. It allowed the challenge of training and sleeping at altitude something that even though my experience is limited it is something I feel I respond well to and something to help stimulate some positive changes at this point in my career and season. The only thing I would change, I would stay longer. Between the challenging climbs we tackled in SLC and the high mountain passes we climbed on LSD days we challenged our mind and bodies in different ways from day to day. Some of our team even took the challenge of driving from Alberta – Utah, something I hope to take on this Spring on my way down to Moab.
September 19th, 2013
It has been a long time since I blogged anything. It’s not that I haven’t tried, I have started more than a few blog posts this summer but most have been DNF’s. Better here than on the race course I suppose.
When I write I usually aim for a few objectives, I may try to motivate through my experiences or create a opportunity for reflection for my readers. I also try to stick to the rule that “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” No one wants to read depressing drab and I don’t even like to write it but I feel that a few drafts this year were heading in that direction.
This season will likely be the biggest of my career, thanks to some solid performances last season I have already met my Olympic criteria for the 2014 OWG’s. But I don’t know many champions to rest on their laurels and I had no plan to do so myself.
I feel I started off the year in possibly the best shape ever for the Spring, through the month off I feel I maintained a good balance of strength, skiing and rest. But since then I haven’t seen where I could objectively show my hard work. Throughout the year we have field testing and lab testing and I have struggled to show any pb’s, more importantly I am not performing at the level I expected or the level which I find motivating to train for. There were times where I felt that I was strong, but never on a day where it counted or even mattered. I kept thinking theres still time.
I guess I was probably walking a fine line, in August we went to Jericho, VT as a team for the North American Biathlon Championships. I personally would have never went, Jericho is fine but it was foreign to me in the training sense and felt I had the best options for this time of year right in Canmore. But I went because sometimes going against the grain just isn’t worth it, inside of that week I feel that I may have peaked and crashed all in seven days. We had some workouts where I felt good and strong but by the weekend I had little energy to put into the races and very soon after I came down with the plague, an illness I have been trying to shake ever since. It’s not like I am walking around sick and snotty but there have been a few times since where my body reminds me that it’s still there waiting if you push it. And if you can’t push yourself what are you really doing?
In the end there is only one person that is accountable for my results and that person is sitting behind a keyboard because his afternoon workout for the day has been cut. Sometimes I end up just sitting reflecting how to get myself out of this predicament? And how could I avoid ending up here in the future. The funny thing is, not haha funny just smirky funny is that I feel the answer lies in a previous post, you probably don’t remember it because it was eons ago but it was about communication. To get myself out of this funk I am going to have to be able to communicate on the most honest level with my coaches even more so than before about how everything is going so that everything can start to fall into place. And communication should have been able to keep me out of this mess in the first place, had I better explained that I didn’t buy into the idea that Jericho was the place for me to go I may still be looking at a dream of a training season.
The point is the same as the last post but different because now you have something to reflect on. Your spring and summer training, maybe something has not fallen into place the way you expected, do you feel you could benefit from doing a bit more of your intensity ski specific this Fall? Or maybe everything has went according to plan but you just need a couple days off to travel home and see your Family and friends. Whatever it is your coaches won’t know unless you communicate, trust me I have worked with a lot of awesome coaches and never met one that could read minds, although sometimes my facial expressions. Or you could end up like me writing a blog post in the middle of the afternoon when you would rather be out kickin’ and glidin’.
June 18th, 2013
Probably anyone familiar with amateur sport is familiar with sacrifice. But I feel the quote above by Mia Hamm really says it all.
I can’t speak for everyone but I know that I have personally become accustomed to sacrificing many things throughout the years. When I think back over the years it seems crazy when you begin to add up all the missed weddings, stags, funerals, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries it becomes unimaginable and kind of sad.
I guess that is why we are taught to set both near and distant goals. I feel this allows us to strive after something right infront of our noses day after day. For me it lead to a head down approach often in an almost selfish way, but in return I progressed and improved day after day and achieved some things I’m not sure I ever could have imagined somewhere nearing a decade ago.
This year is not much different than others in regards to my approach to training or even the racing but obviously for many of the nordic elite the focus is going to be Sochi 2014. It is my dedication to becoming an Olympian that allowed me to sacrifice a passion of mine and sell my motorcycle. I could not justify the risk or the cost of owning and riding such a machine. In regards to risk, I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I ended up having to stay at home in February because of something as silly as a slick road or a gravel patch. And well the money is going to a good cause, I think… it will cover a portion of my National Team fee of $6500.
I think the moment that sacrifice becomes too much it’s time, time to hang up the boards and fold out the classifieds in search of another two wheeled ride.
p.s. my girlfriend thinks the first thing I may want to look for in the classifieds might be a job.
May 21st, 2013
I imagine by this time of year most athletes are back to full time training or are working their way up to full time training. Personally I chose to keep skiing and training a bit after the season because the skiing was really good in Canmore and decided to take a late April break from training. I find the older I get the less I am able to step away from training in the offseason, otherwise I will lose the gains I worked so hard for. For that reason I also spent some time in the gym over the offseason. I am not even sure why I am referring to 4 weeks as a offseason but lets move on.
Naturally athletes start to make goals this time of year for the upcoming training and racing season. It can be a long year and goals can keep you focused when you are on your umpteenth interval of the week. I was asked a few weeks ago what could I do that will allow me to perform when it counts this season, hopefully in Sochi. After lots of thought I decided the “Difference that will make the difference” this year will be communication. I am someone who likes to make goals which can easily be quantified but this year I really want to work on communication, it’s actually really easy and will likely allow for a more enjoyable work environment. I will turn to a quote for some help, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. To me this means that everyone needs to be aware of who they are talking to and how it is being received. I have personally seen to many meetings in my career where everyone is agreeing in the moment only to hear their true opinions later. This is when communication becomes difficult, it can be hard to disagree when training and performance is something everyone is taking seriously or when you feel you are not being listened too.
If you use this post as a example you can easily see my communication skills are far from perfect, in fact you may have little to no idea what I am trying to say but if you ask and we start a dialogue maybe you will get a better understanding and we will get closer to understanding each other. Yay another run on sentence.
So yeah I am using my little place on the internet to encourage you to get out there and communicate. Maybe there is something you haven’t said to your coach that is still bothering you from last year, maybe it’s bothering him or her. Maybe you have been meaning to tell a sponsor how much you appreciate their support for another season. Whatever it is say it.
I have always liked quotes as I find they say what I cannot, so I will leave you with this.
“Effective questioning brings insite, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.” Chip Bell