May 18th, 2014
After a month of getting in some pretty good spring skiing in Canmore and working at getting my body ready for the weight room work this summer I finally took a week off and headed home to Saskatchewan for some down time.
Although my time at home was pretty much free of training it was still as busy as ever.
I started my time in Saskatchewan by attending a coaching conference that was put on by the CAS (Coaches Association of Saskatchewan). I was slated to the be lunch speaker. It was going to be a pretty simple format. Mike Ciona from CTV Saskatoon would be asking me questions about my career and my experience in Sochi. I am always pretty nervous anytime I have to speak in front of a large group and I quickly got a bit more nervous when I realized that the room was filled with many familiar faces. The nerves showed at the start but slowly I got more comfortable and was able to provide clear honest answers. It was great to catch up with some people I had not seen in ages.
Next on the agenda was an event put on by the Saskatchewan Legislative. It was awesome to meet all the Saskatchewan Olympians and Paralympians and to hear their stories, the most notable probably being Mark Mc Morris the first Canadian medalist of 2014. The event was recognizing all the athletes and coaches that represented Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Team. I learned that while Saskatchewan has only 3% of the Canadian population we made up 7% of the Olympic team!
Kicking off the event were remarks by our Premier Brad Wall followed by leader of the opposition Cam Broten. Next was me, what!!!!!!!!!! I knew that I would be giving some remarks but I thought that all the athletes would be giving their thanks for the support we have received throughout our careers. But no, I would be speaking on behalf of the Saskatchewan Olympians and Brittany Hudak would be speaking on behalf of our Paralympians.
Once the event started I had about 10 minutes until I was going to be called up to speak, those were the fastest/slowest minutes of my life. It was the first time that I wasn’t training that I wished I had my heart rate strap on. My heart rate was through the roof. I thought who could be better than a Biathlete at getting their heart rate to drop, no matter it stayed high. I couldn’t believe the level of stress, if I was a fainter or a puker it would have happened then. I took a few last deep breaths and started my remarks, it was only 60 seconds but took more out of me than any race. I was told it was good and when it was over I realized I was happy for the challenge.
It was an awesome event and we received some amazing gifts from the Province and Sask Sport.
The next day we would be visiting some Regina schools. This would be my first ever visit to a school as an Olympian. I would be visiting Sacred Heart Community School. I did my best to bring my Sochi experience and a positive message to the students in attendance. Unfortunately attendance is a problem for Sacred Heart and many of the schools visited by us that day. As I tried to relay my experiences in a manner the kids could relate to but struggled to relate to the obstacles they have every day of their lives. The kids were amazing and I was grateful for their attention.
The next day was a visit to Saskatoon. Today I would be starting the day off with a visit to Pleasant Hill Community School. A detail I forgot to share was that in both Regina and Saskatoon I would have a police escort to the schools. This was awesome because if I was caught up talking to a small group of kids the police officer was chatting up the others. I was gaining momentum and maybe even a little confidence, I got through the presentation without hitting 180 heart beats per minute. The kids at Pleasant Hill had the same struggles as those at Sacret Heart from the day before. I have always felt fortunate for the opportunities I have had but speaking to these schools helped me appreciate the magnitude of the experiences and opportunities I have had. Probably that most reading this blog have had.
Next up was a Biathlon Saskatchewan windup. This was going to easy by comparison, these people know Biathlon and get most of my jokes I walked everyone through the Olympic men’s relay, what It was like to be there and magnitude of the event and what it meant to be a part of it.
While at home one of the most interesting questions I was asked was this. What is it like competing for Saskatchewan and what advantages did it have for you?
After thinking about it for a while my answer was this. No Saskatchewan does not have the facilities of Canmore, Alberta. Whistler, British Columbia or Valcartier, Quebec. But we have many amazing volunteers and amazingly supportive organizations like Sask Ski, Biathlon Sask and Sask Sport that work great together to get athletes the services and support they need. More significantly we weren’t such a big organization that I fell through the cracks. At the age of 19 I decided I was going to train full time for Biathlon and didn’t return to university that Fall. I was going to give everything I could in hopes that I could qualify for the Saskatchewan 2003 Canada Winter Games team. I believe in many provinces I would have been pushed to the side because I was undeveloped and “too old” to be starting a career in a endurance based sport with little to no prior endurance training. However in Saskatchewan my decision to dedicate myself to Biathlon was welcomed with open arms and I received the support needed to progress. We were measuring my personal improvements and not concerned with how I compared to others that had been nordic racing since their preteen years. Before I knew it, I was standing on the podium at those CWG’s when really my focus was to qualify. The following year I was representing Saskatchewan at Canadian Champs and squeaked out another medal, another opportunity I may not have had if I originated from one of the more powerful nordic provinces. I have been building on these experiences ever since and believe they are the foundation for any success I have found since.
The reason I am sharing this is because I want people to realize is that no matter which province, state, city or town you come from there will be advantages to each that another may not have. So find them and use them for as long as you can.
If you can’t tell already, I love Saskatchewan and Mark McMorris says it perfectly. “I love where I am from and I think it made me what I am today.”
April 24th, 2014
I have been thinking about writing this post since the beginning of April, I actually had it written only to find out it wasn’t saved and I was going to have to start from the very beginning.
Anyone who has been reading my last few posts knows that my last big races of the season were in Sochi. From there I went onto Canadian Champs and Saskatchewan Provincials and if you read the previous posts it is also easy to see that I had a really good time competing amongst my Canadian peers and bringing back the Sochi experience to everyone back home.
Before I could settle down in Canmore for the month of April I had to make one last trip, it has been a trip I have wanted to do since first skiing in Silver Star in 2009. My girlfriend and I packed up our car and headed 7 hrs to Silver Star/Sovereign Lakes. The ski conditions were great, the trails nearly empty and the sun high in the sky. It was amazing and after 2 1/2 and a 160+ kms we were pooped and ready to come home, even then it was hard to quit skiing as there are 105 km of trails and the sun was shining.
After returning home there were things I couldn’t avoid any longer. As usual there is a bit of procrastination during the race season, your focus narrows and you push things that aren’t pressing to the side. But when the season is over it is time to take those things back on, one of those things and the one I had been avoiding the most was a season debrief.
A season debrief is pretty simple, you recall your season and think about what was good and what went bad and what you will do differently in the future. However when you aren’t really satisfied with your results it is not so enjoyable to relive the season in your mind.
I had some really good races this season, most of which took place in a relay events. I am not complaining as you always want to bring your best when your teammates are counting on you but I struggled to crack the top 30 for the first time in a few years. I may have improved in certain areas but it wasn’t enough and not as much as the rest of the world. The first two races at the Olympics were the real exclamation point, everything went wrong and I needed an answer.
I don’t know if there is a right or wrong place to start when you begin a debrief of your season, maybe the start of the training season? the race season? or just moments within the year? I started with a few of the disappointing moments. These were moments where my coach had already suggested possible factors, so I revisited those first. I wanted to try to find a reason for any struggles I had.
The first was when I was told I would not start at World Cup #2, it was not a great feeling but something that happened. I remember discussing my slow start to the season with my coach, I didn’t understand. His suggestion was that “maybe because I was already qualified for the Olympics I wasn’t fighting as hard as I could. As I didn’t have to.” At the time I quickly dismissed it but now it was time to revisit it. I thought about it long and hard but again dismissed it, I fought hard all training year and understood what was on the line every moment of every training session. Summed up I still wanted it and wanted it bad.
The next moment I revisited was over the Christmas training break. We were putting in a training block in Canmore before returning to the pre Olympic World Cups. I suggested staying at home for a longer training block and heading into the Olympic better trained and rested than most would have the luxury of. Out of frustration my coach again asked “Do you even want to race in Sochi?” I was even quicker to dismiss this suggestion, Sochi is what I had been dedicated to for the last 4 years if not the last 8. It was the reason I regularly tried to go the extra mile. I didn’t really have to revisit this but it was a moment of disappoointment. Coincidently it was the relay in the final World Cup before the Olympics which inspired another post I am writing now titled “The best moment of the year”.
The final moment was back at home in Canmore. While sitting in my coaches office we lightly discussed the year, next year and the short comings at the Olympics. I was still confused as to what had happened in Sochi. This time my coach had suggested that maybe “because my family and friends were in Sochi it added a extra stress that I failed to manage.” Now this had the hamster spinning. Of course I have read or heard of times when family or friends created unnecessary or unwanted distractions leading into major events. Was this the case for me? So I started to recall the days leading into the first race in Sochi. I was pretty tired the first few days in Sochi but by the final training session felt quite good. And even though my family was in Sochi I hadn’t talked to any of them before the start of the first race. During the race, I executed just like any other race and after the race it was absolutely relieving to see that my family was grinning regardless of the result. Something I am not sure I would have believed had I not saw if for myself. If it was stress related it surely would have struggled in the men’s relay a week later. The situation of struggling for the first week and the other 3 men showing great form put me the most stressful situation of my career. I had to find confidence where there was none to be had, in the end I responded which felt great and allowed me to dismiss that stress was a significant factor in my poor Olympic opener.
After considering those three moments I was disappointed that I failed to identify the reasons for these disappointing moments and why I failed to have the year I had trained for. I started the year fully qualified and naturally was more enthusiastic than ever to turn over every stone for the tiniest advantage.
So next in my ever pleasant debrief was to back track to the beginning of the training season, all the way back to April.
Last April when returning home from the World Cup finals I arrived to find a fresh and energetic Brendan Green. Brendan had been in recovery from back surgery but had enough kilometres in his system that he was back to good form. I joined Brendan for many of his April training sessions a few of which were pretty hard intensity, for me anyways. So I thought, had I over done it before the season even started? I was in great shape for May but maybe there was a element of recovery missing? Although unsure I dediced I had mentally and physically recovered as I spent the latter part of April in Maui catching rays of sun and reading books on the beach.
I know this is getting long so bear with me, imagine writing this behemoth twice.
Next was the training year, May – November. And there are a million questions you can begin to ask yourself. Did I train enough? Was it specific enough? Did I recover enough? Did I focus on the right things in technique? Shooting? Did I dry fire enough? Live fire? Was the work that I did high enough quality? Did I strike enough of a balance in my days, weeks and months?
I am not going to answer each and every of those in this blog as it would be tedious and you have already probably checked Facebook once in the time you have been reading this post. The answer is that probably 90% of the time I was doing the right things with the right focus. I worked hard and had great teammates to work at it with. It is the 10% that bothers me though, little mistakes that shouldn’t have been made.
It is disappointing that I don’t have a concrete conclusion, I could tell you there are some things I will change next year but I won’t know if they work out until next February. Just like my first couple races at the Olympics I have to accept I may never know what happened. Even after skiing 160km in Silver Star my legs felt better than when I was supposed to be peaking in Sochi.
The most daunting moment of the entire debrief though is realizing the dream is gone. I imagine many Olympians have this moment and it is part of the struggles some have when they retire from sport. I trained every day for the last 4 years believing that I could stand on a Olympic podium. Not that I necessarily would but that I could. That with excellent training, great skis, top form and a little luck I could be there, it is something you dream of when you are out on your roller skis for dozens of kilometres everyday or dry firing in your garage after a day of hard double training, but not anymore. In realizing one dream, which was making the Olympic team I lost another.
As cliche as it sounds if there is one thing that allows me to accept success or more significantly failure it is having given it my all, to have truly tested myself.
After failing to make the Olympic team in 2010 I knew it was 4 more years of training, now though I will take it year to year. I look to a quote from Oprah to explain why. ” I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if I enjoyed the process.” Enough talk about failure The reason I am going to continue pursing my Biathlon aspirations is because I love the process and I still believe I can improve. I learned a lot this past season and will use every lesson to my advantage.
Looking foward though I am looking at the 2015 World Championships Finland, 2016 World Championships Olso and contributing to having 5 start spots at the 2016 Biathlon World Cup in Canmore, Alberta.
March 27th, 2014
This past weekend I headed to North Battleford, Saskatchewan to take part in Sask Biathlon Provincials. When I returned home from Sochi and saw that I was going to be able to take part in our provincial competitions and I was excited for many reasons. I hadn’t been to a provincial competition in a long time and it is at events like these I first found my love of skiing and shooting. I also felt it was important to bring my Sochi experience back to my home province, after all these are my people. It was a amazing experience.
To be honest I was a little nervous for the first competition, I am not normally a nervous person and it quickly dissipated but I didn’t know if I would meet everyones expectations of what a Olympian skis and shoots like. If people had high expectations I wanted to be able to reach the bar. I wanted to shoot 10 on 10 but it was not to be. That being said with my season being essentially over and my guard down and I wanted to make myself available. I did my best to meet the Olympian image outside of the competitions, signing everything possible, taking photos and answering any questions that I could shed some light on. I was even asked if I “make a substantial amount of money” I side stepped that answer as I wanted to keep the young athletes motivated.
Although I would have loved to compete at the last World Cups this season I also really wanted to be at Provincials and promote my sport, lifestyle and share my experiences. By the end of the day I had completed my second Q & A of the year and hopefully passed on the message that with hard work anything is possible. Many people thanked me for my attendance but truly I had to thank them for their excitement and energy, it was endearing and motivating to see so much excitement.
The message I really wanted to get out there was that Olympians are just like everyone else. The big difference is that we found our passion and worked hard at it, but we eat, breath and laugh just like everyone else. I am just an ordinary person that was able to accomplish something special because I was able to combine and focus the support, encouragement and efforts of so many people. The list of people that have been part my journey to become an Olympian is longer than any blog I have ever written I would scared to leave anyone out.
This season has broadened my perspective, I hope to write a blog in the next week summarizing my season, my thoughts and outlook for the future. But that will take a few comes of coffee and clear mind.
Now get outside and ski, there are great cross country ski conditions throughout our vast country.
March 19th, 2014
Anyone that was in Charlo, New Brunswick knows what I am talking about. The weather wreaked havoc on the course, the roads and most noticeably the shooting range.
After returning home from Sochi I booked my plane ticket for Canadian Championships, the last time I was at Canadian Champs it was also in Charlo. Unfortunately because the World Cup schedule often conflicts with Canadian Championships we cannot make it. Charlo has a fun history for me, it was the venue of the 2003 CWG’s where I claimed my first podium finish at the national level. Also the last time I was at Canadian Champs in Charlo was 2011 where Brendan and I travelled through snow storms and layovers from Oslo to arrive just in time for the start of the race. I surprisingly I claimed the top spot that day but faded soon after.
This time around I felt the top spot was likely out of reach, I had a cold after arriving back from Sochi and assuming JP was still in Olympic form I felt he would be untouchable. But Charlo has a funny way of flipping things around. Just like last time in Charlo I arrived just in time for the first race. But this time I was prepared, I took a look at the Weather Network and made a guess at what my best pair of skis would be for the day. I then waxed, scraped and brushed them out in Canmore then wrapped them in a blanket ready to roll out race morning. Much to the amusement of others I even had to watch a video on how to apply and remove fluoro powder. I don’t know if it worked but the wind worked in my favour and I claimed my first Canadian title since 2011.
The next day was a Pursuit and seeing that I was starting first I was prepared to have a little fun, but the weather gods had a different idea and the races were cancelled due to too much snow! The parking lot of our hotel had to be cleared three times and all I wanted to do was rent a snowmobile. Instead I only ended up going for a easy ski which was not so easy due to constantly breaking through the trail even when tucked on a downhill. It was pretty fascinating to see so much powder though.
Finally the morning of the rest day which was now the Pursuit day the snow slowed to something manageable for the trail groomers. It was another chaotic day in the range with there being just as many misses as there were hits I was glad when the race was over and that I found myself in 2nd.
Next on the agenda was a Pizza & Pasta night with Q & A with 2014 Olympians – Jean-Philippe LeGuellec and Scott Perras. Public speaking is unnerving for me and I would be more comfortable standing on a shooting mat in podium position in the Olympic Relay down to my last spare round than I was on stage in front of my peers and young impressionable athletes. I embarrassingly messed up before I even got on stage by getting some of the spaghetti my white shirt Luckily Jp was a seasoned pro and after a few blunders by me we got on a roll. Overall I think the night was a success and something I would like to see every Canadian Championships with members of the National Team doing the Q & A.
The following night was the official banquet and although banquets are typically very similar one another this one had a different vibe as it was Jp’s last banquet as a athlete and as such his farewell.
Since the Olympics I have received an enormous amount of support and it has really opened my eyes how many people are watching and inspired by what I do. I can’t even imagine the amount of people Jp has inspired to strive for their goals, believe in their dreams and wake up in the pre dawn hours to watch some the Biathlon World Cup coverage on their computers Jean-Philippe LeGuellec will undoubtedly be missed but it was truly special to watch a athlete move on when they are at the top of their game but ready to move on and not forced by injury, illness or whatever afflictions have put athletes out before their time.
I had to race back to the hotel after the banquet to prepare for the Mass Start the following day, I wish I could tell you that it was the first sunny calm day of the week but it wasn’t it was equally miserable if not more so than any of the prior race days. I wish I could tell you I prevailed and drilled my targets but the truth is it became a ski race and the less time you spent in the range probably the better off you were. Jp like a true champ led his final race from start to finish. I ended up in a fun battle with Marc-Andre on the final lap, however in the final downhill and sprint to the finish he bested me leaving me with a medal of each colour for the week.
To sum it up the week in Charlo was fun. My performances weren’t amazing but I get the impression that results weren’t the most important part of my week in Charlo. I feel the most important part for us was to bring as much of our experiences in Sochi back to the Canadian biathlon community. It was inspiring to compete at the Olympics but just as inspiring to receive so much amazing feedback during my time in Charlo, it looks like the future of Biathlon in Canada is promising.
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.