Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Duszniki Zdroj

I need to apologize in advance for the lack of pictures. The internet here in Ridnaun is not good enough to upload photos.

Our time here in Poland has come to a close. Unfortunately my results were not good enough to qualify me to compete in the pursuit, but it ended up not mattering after they cancelled the pursuit due to lack of snow. My teammate Wynn and I ran to the venue the morning the races were scheduled and it was sad to see how little snow was left after the rain (ironically, it happened to snow 6 inches the morning after). Langdorf was also hit with rain and could not hold the next set of IBU races - they have been moved to Ridnaun, Italy. My only experience in Italy has been hiking the Mont Blanc trail with my mom many years ago so I am excited to see what it has in store for us. Now for an update on the past six days… (Note, this next part was written during the races.)
Most of our team arrived bleary-eyed to Europe early Tuesday morning; save for Sean Doherty who missed the flight to Munich after his connecting flight to DC was delayed. Coincidentally we also were on the same trans-Atlantic flight with the women’s WC team and the Alpen-Cup trip athletes (the same club trip that I was a part of last year). It was nice to spend a little time with everyone before going our separate ways in Munich. Those of us going to Poland had the longest travel day out of the three groups, so we quickly packed up our rental vans for the 6-hour drive to Duszniki Zdroj. I wasn’t surprised to see that central Europe does not have very much snow, similar to my experience racing here last year. We arrived that evening and I was pleased to discover that Duszniki is a cute polish town in the Eagle Mountains, close to the northern Czech Republic border. It’s famous for its mineral water - said to have healing properties that even the famous composer Chopin came to use, as well as for its paper mill (which we have yet to locate on our afternoon jogs). Our hotel is comfortable and the food is way above expectations.

The biathlon venue here is very impressive and I’m sure would have been even more so if they hadn’t been suffering from such a lack of snow. Both races (but especially the one we just finished today) have been held on thin inches of snow over pavement and mud. Today the course was so dirty that there were chunks of mud showing through. I made the mistake of picking skis with too much structure (that being the depth of the grind on the base of the ski) and suffered slow skis toward the end of my race as they picked up lots of dirt from the course. Dealing with dirty snow is all part of the gig here in Europe. I should have had known better for these races. Dirty snow is a lesson that I had already come to terms with last year in a Czech Cup in Nove Mesto.

Racing here continues to be a process of growth for me as well as a lesson in dealing with disappointment. I struggled in the range and shot 50% both days. We all know that 50% is much to low to expect to be successful in races here and I know that I am very capable of doing better. Hopefully things will come around next weekend and I will continue to work on my deficits this next week before the races in Langdorf. As always, biathlon is a process of balancing confidence, focus and mechanics to have a successful race.

In the meantime, we have been enjoying our time so far here in Europe. With limited Internet access and communication skills (a.k.a none of us can speak a lick of polish) we have had quite the adventure. Some of the highlights include;
  • Becoming well versed in the rules of darts, as it is the sport most commonly being shown on Eurosport between the hours of 8 and 10, along with snooker.
  • Trying to communicate the desire to purchase pretzels at the local market.
  • Playing exorbitant amounts of cards
  • Going on fun recovery jogs and getting a taste of the local community, as well as encountering the occasional crazy woman.
  • Realizing it is not socially required to say hello to everyone on the street, a glaring insight into my small town roots.

Here is a small video by the IBU TV crew about Duszniki Zdroj.

 This next week we will be training in Ridnaun, a spectacular venue in the mountains along the Swiss/Austrian borders. Updates to come.  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year and other rambles...

IBU Trials at Mt. Itasca, mass start. Photo cred Jakob Ellingson
IBU Trials at Mt Itasca. Foggy sprint race on day 2.
Photo Cred Mikael Ellingson
As most of us are getting ready to say goodbye to 2014 I finally decided to sit down and write a little bit about the last month or so. I’ve been meaning to send out an update sooner, but I’ve had few words to describe the surrealism of the past few weeks. That or more likely I’ve just had a serious case of procrastination - a conundrum many of you can probably relate to.

I spent more time chasing small tigers around then writing blog posts...whoops!

Today marked the final race for me of 2014, the Methow Valley Ski Rodeo (sponsored generously by the amazing Nordic Ultratune!). I decided to jump in fairly last minute and use the 10k as prep for my upcoming races in Europe (more on that later).  I think it is safe to say that this race has become one of the more meaningful races of my life, a realization I never would have guessed this morning over my standard bowl of oatmeal. I’ve been racing in the Rodeo since I was a rosy cheeked, rolly-poly J6 that wanted nothing more than to sit and eat snow on the side of the trail. I was perpetually last in all things and not too motivated to try and keep up with my faster peers. As I got older I fell more and more into a love of skiing that was driven mostly by my close friends also on the team. Slowly I started gaining momentum - doing better in races and feeling more and more of a hunger to succeed.  By the time I was a J2 I became more of a fully functioning member of the team and then in later years I took more steps to further feed my competitive fire.

Today I was 4th overall (2nd woman) in this fun citizen’s race and trucked across that finish line right on the heels of my former coach and local hero, Laura McCabe. This was the first time in my life that I was able to significantly look back and see how far I have come. Laura has always been superhuman to me, so amazingly fit and athletic that even the strong and fast boys on our team could hardly touch her. During high school she had a habit of cheerfully burying us during workouts, encouraging us to go faster and faster, while not appearing to be working hard in the slightest. Her and my other coach (now head coach of MVNT) Leslie Hall were a dynamic duo and always a great example of how it didn’t matter where you were in life – there was always time to kick ass and ski fast (pardon my French). I would have never dreamed that one day I would be able to stick with Laura in a race and hold on, at least until she decided to put the hammer down and drop me in the final kilometers (showing I still have a ways to go). Over the past couple days I have been caught up in a whirlwind of excitement and occasionally nervous anticipation after learning that I would be traveling to Europe to compete in my first IBU Cups in Poland and Germany. It’s not hard to sometimes feel like a little fish in a big pond. But what I learned today is that regardless of anything going forward, I’ve come a great distance from that little round-faced girl putzing around the 2.5k. I feel more prepared now then I did at trials in Minnesota and I can’t wait to go and race in Europe.

My two inspirational Olympian coaches! Leslie Hall, Laura McCabe, and myself.
            The last few months have been a myriad of ups and downs, good races and not-so-good races, mistakes and moments of clarity. I’ve been sick, bounced back and managed to put it all together at just the right time to earn myself a place on the team traveling to Duszniki, Poland and Langdorf, Germany for IBU Cups 4 and 5.  From there, only time will tell.

Started IBU Trials out with a first place, clean shooting.

In the meantime I have been making the most of my time at home, putting in good quality training sessions on the amazing trails we have here in the Methow.  It’s getting to the point that I’ve had to force myself stop skiing a couple times, because I would just as soon as go until the stars come out and I can’t see my own two feet. The skiing here is just that amazing. Thank you Methow Trails for the ski pass and the amazing grooming. It makes a huge difference being able to come here and put in the time to feel well prepared before making the jump over the pond. I would also like to extend and huge thank you to MV Biathlon coach Betsy Devin Smith, for making it possible to use the range, and her husband, Skip, for letting me take up all her time. These two have done an amazing amount for the sport of biathlon here in the West. I definitely wouldn’t be here without them. Also I would like to give a big shout to Mark Waechter at Nordic Ultratune for putting up with all the visits and questions about my awesome skis while I've been in town and of course my wonderful parents for being my biggest supporters! Thanks!

            As for the rest, I hope that you all have a fantastic New Year. Here’s to plenty of snow, good skiing and clear skies for 2015! Scroll down for more photos from the last month!

Getting some camera time with Jakob Ellingson. 

So grateful for the teammates I've had this year. I wouldn't have made it without this kid! 

Some of the group in Canmore hanging out at Lake Louise after a chilly ski!

Racing in Canmore. Photo cred Jakob Ellingson

Multiple podium sweeps with these awesome girls at IBU Trials. Go MWSC!

Skis and guns, what more could you ask for?! A normal scene at the Smith household post youth biathlon practice.

One of the amazing views from the Methow Trails

Great to catch up with family over the holidays! This kid just finished his first semester of college! 

More great views from the valley floor.

Top of Thompson Ridge, an amazing ski

Stunning views from Thompson Ridge on a solo OD ski

Catching up with old friends!

I am so lucky to have these friends.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Canmore Update

Beautiful Canmore!!!!
Shooting has been feeling good!

I’m excited to be writing this from Canmore, Alberta, where the MWSC biathletes have switched from wheels to snow in our first on-snow training camp of the season! We have arrived on the tail end of Frozen Thunder, an event where the Canmore Nordic Center pushes snow saved from last year out onto the trails to have some of the earliest season skiing in North America. They have been busy making fresh snow for us to ski on and every couple days they open more awesome trail.

I've been testing my new Rossi skis with some great grinds from Nordic Ultratune.
I'm currently running the XC02, RDG and R214 grinds!
First, I am happy to announce (abet, belatedly) that I have been officially named to the US Biathlon National Development Team! It’s been a long summer of hard work that has finally paid off. I’ve been invited to join the National Team while I am here in Canmore for an on-snow camp and then following that for IBU trials in Minnesota where I will be working with Head of Development coach Jean Paquet. This is an amazing opportunity and fantastic recognition, but I will still remain a MWSC athlete and travel with the MWSC ODT for all of my time not with the National team. I am not the only MWSC athlete to also be part of the national team. Casey Smith and Russel Currier are members of the National B-team, Maddie Phaneuf is on the X-Team and Brian Halligan is also on the Development Team.
I know I haven’t updated since halfway through our Utah camp, so I’ll take a moment to sum up what I’ve been doing since then. After returning from Utah we had a short stint in Fort Kent before heading down to Jericho, VT for the second set of World Cup trials races. I had two very different races that weekend. The first aligned similarly with my poor shooting trend from the first set of races, and even my fast skiing didn’t place me very high on the results. The second day I managed to turn things around and shoot 1-1, placing 6th overall (results HERE ). Although these races were not incredibly important in my season they were still a very good experience and a lesson in turning things around after poor performances.

Coach Hubbard leading a drill in our Youth Biathlon Camp
Had a fun day pressing apple cider with Welly!

After Jericho we returned to the County for a couple weeks of more training before Canmore. Other than getting the first substantial snow of the year, it was fairly uneventful.  However shortly before we left for Canmore we headed south to Portland, ME for a MWSC PG/ODT fundraising Gala and 15k rollerski race on New Haven Island off the coast of ME. Due to having to take some time off due to low energy after Jericho I decided to do the race on a fast pair of skis so that I could participate, but not overexert myself. The course was an awesome tour of the island with amazing views of the ocean. Due to the fast skis I ended up doing the 15k under 40 minutes and was 11th overall. After that we headed back to the County and shipped out to Canmore a couple days later.

The New Haven ferry after the Lobster Roll
Our travel to Canmore was a good lesson in patience. Kat, Seth and I had an unsuccessful first attempt to get off the ground in Portland and we were forced to drive to Boston the next day to take a flight to Chicago and then Calgary. We thought we weren’t going to make it out of Chicago when we finally arrived and ended up spending hours waiting for delays (even sitting on the tarmac for over an hour before the plane could take off). Eventually, we arrived in the beautiful town of Canmore with gorgeous, sweeping views of the surrounding Rockies. Any athlete that does a substantial amount of traveling will tell you their own horror stories getting to races; it’s all just part of the game.

Brian Halligan posing with all of our gear on the way 
The skiing has been amazing, especially after it began warming up. We’ve been treated to beautiful sunny skies and good snow conditions. The Canmore Nordic Center has been doing an amazing job with the snow that they have currently and there is natural snow in the forecast so we are crossing our fingers and hoping for more skiing. I’ve been taking a little different approach to this camp and focusing on putting in lots of base training before we start ramping up to the races. This is due to a variety of factors, but I am happy to say that everything is feeling great and I can’t wait for the first set of NorAm races this next weekend! 

Totally loving my new Rossi classic boots!
Treated to a nice sunset on one of our afternoon skis.

Prone shooting in Canmore
More updates to come.

Welly pondering life on a recovery run with a fantastic view

Friday, October 10, 2014

Utah Update

Jumping for joy in Utah!
Photo cred: Kat Howe

We were treated to spectacular views on our afternoon runs.
Photo cred: Kat Howe

As we head into our last week of training here in Utah, I thought I would do an off-day update in an effort to seem slightly more productive as I sit here with my feet up on the couch in the throes of post-race exhaustion. So far this camp has been full of valuable experiences that I am excited to have under my belt as we head toward our next set of trials races. I was worried that the onset of fall would bring a developmental plateau in my training. I’ve done so much work this summer that I didn’t know if the trajectory of my improvement would keep increasing as much as it has so far. If you had asked me a year ago where I thought I would be, I couldn’t have ever foreseen the opportunities that I have had this summer. Every week has been a new experience; from the great training program with MWSC up in Fort Kent to being invited to Lake Placid to train with the new USBA development group. I know I probably sound a bit like a broken record – but I cannot stress how fortunate I am that things have worked out this way.

Preparing fish for dinner
Photo cred: Kat Howe
Park City, Utah is a fantastic training venue. It’s gorgeous, for one, but is also home to the 2002 Olympic venue that features a full range and paved loops for skiing. These past two weeks have been host to many great shooting/skiing combination workouts. The highlight of these definitely had to be a joint head-to-head workout with both the US National team and the Canadian National team. After some more small adjustments on my rifle my shooting has made a comeback and I’m feeling much more confident. It was fun to be in the mix with a fantastic group of athletes. The workout consisted of a ‘mock’ mass start and then a relay shortly thereafter. The loops were much shorter than standard race distances, but with normal penalty loops. This meant that missing targets would set you very far back against the field (given the penalty loop was close to half the distance of the race loop). I was by no means near the front, but it was fun nonetheless.

This camp happens to also be the farthest west I will find myself for a while. Because of this, my parents decided to make the most of it and come visit for a couple days the first weekend we were here. We haven’t all been together since our trip to Scotland this spring so it was nice to see them and spend some quality time together. I was actually born here in Utah and lived in Park City when I was younger before we moved to Winthrop. It’s always been a sort of home away from home for me.
Aside from training at the venue in Soldier Hollow, the small MWSC contingent of Kat, Seth and myself have gone on plenty of other fantastic adventures. We hiked Mt. Timpanogos the first week, the second highest mountain in Utah’s Wasatch Range. It was a fun climb to almost 12,000ft in elevation. Next we classic skied to the top of Guardsman Pass where we were treated to a dusting of snow (insert excited dancing here)!  This week Katrina and I went for a gorgeous 19-mile run along the mid-mountain trail that connects many of the ski resorts in the area. 

Hiking Timp
Photo cred: Kat Howe
Happy campers at the windy summit of Timp
Photo cred: Kat Howe

Working our way up Guardsman
Photo cred: Kat Howe

Kat and I looking happy to see snow at the top of Guardsman
Photo cred: Kat Howe

Admiring the fall colors
Photo cred: Kat Howe

Kat and I close to the end of our awesome 19 mile run
Photo cred: Kat Howe
Probably the most exciting and memorable part of the week for me was the half-marathon that I raced as part of the North Face Endurance Challenge here at PCMR. We had signed up on a whim and I don’t think I completely realized what I had gotten myself into, but my heart insisted that there was no good reason not to jump into a half-marathon on these beautiful trails!

Seth and myself looking very optimistic before we started the half.
Photo cred: Kat Howe
Now probably the biggest gap in my judgment centered on the word race in this whole idea, having never done a foot race longer than 5k in my life. I’ve also never been much of a runner, so it was definitely a new experience to throw myself into. I’ve run plenty of long distances, but always at self-described ‘skier pace’ (a.k.a slow).  This summer it’s been a definite goal of mine to become a better runner to help my training. This resulted in jumping into many more running events, the most recent being the Tim Burke uphill run on Whiteface Mt. Needless to say, I survived the half (or at least enough to sit here and write a blog post about it the next day) and managed to have a ton of fun (I understand why people say these events are addicting now).  Katrina and Seth also ran and both did very well in their races. Kat ran the 10k and placed first in her age category, 6th overall. Seth also ran the half and was 7th overall, 2nd in his age category. I managed to also squeak out 2nd in my age group, but was not as high overall. All in all it was very fun. Maybe we will have an opportunity to race it again next year!

Seth and myself in the midst of an intense scrabble game
Photo cred: Kat Howe

We have one more week here before heading back to Fort Kent for a brief stint. It will be nice to return to the county, but I’m going to definitely make the most of the time we have left. Until then!
Admiring the view from the top of Timpanogos
Photo cred: Kat Howe

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Summer Rundown (and our journey to the Wild West)

Hello everyone! I know its been a long time since I last checked in, so I thought I would give you all a summer update as we head into fall training. This summer has definitely been one for the books; both in the quality of training and the number of great adventures I was fortunate enough to be included in.  I’ve definitely grown as a biathlete and a person during these past months and I’m looking forward to what this next block of training has in store as we head into my other favorite season (aside from winter) – FALL!
But before I get ahead of myself, lets look back on some of the highlights from my summer.  After Sugarloaf camp (which seems like years ago at this point) I spent a good chunk of time training out of Fort Kent and only going on the occasional weekend trip to train in Presque Isle or Canada. This was a great time to work on building volume in both training and shooting. These long hot summer weeks are crucial for building the base that will sustain my racing fitness during the winter months. Historically these weeks have never been the most exciting, but this summer I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful team to train with that pushed and supported me during the highs and lows. Thanks guys!
Sport climbing in Kamouraska, Quebec
Working on a lead climb in Kamouraska, Quebec

The MWSC crew had a great weekend up in Kamouraska, Quebec just a couple weeks after Sugarloaf. It was a good chance for both the MWSC Cross-Country and Biathlon teams to do some team bonding because we don’t normally get to see much of each other.

Celebrating with a Moxie and a brownie cake made by Kat!
A very happy birthday girl!
I celebrated my 21st birthday this summer! We celebrated with a fun BBQ games, and an awesome brownie cake made by Katrina!

Getting ready for the 6-hour Nordic Trails Festival Race in Presque Isle, ME

The next weekend a good contingent of MWSC athletes competed at the Nordic Trails Festival in Presque Isle. I ran the 6-hour race on a team with Katrina, Mikayla and one of our younger girls Sarah.  We scraped out the win over a team composed of coach Will, his wife Sarah and a couple others.

In the beginning of August we had our first trials races of the season in Jericho, Vermont. My goal for the races was to add to my small, but ever-growing pool of experience as I prepare for other trials races later this year. I was happy to see that my ski speed was much faster against the rest of the field over past performances. However, I did struggle on the range and accumulated too many penalty laps to be in contention for much against the other girls. We have our second set of trials (also in Jericho) coming up at the end of October.

 Pushing hard in the Uphill Run on Whiteface for the third time this summer
Photo by Alex Kochon
Getting some support from National Team Woman's Coach Jonne after the race
Photo by Alex Kochon
After Jericho I was back in Maine for less than a week before heading down to the lovely state of New York. This spring I was invited to USBA’s Talent Identification camp with a group of other athletes. At the end of August I had the fortune to be invited back to the follow-up ‘Talent Group Camp’. This was a fantastic opportunity to work more with the USBA coaching staff, as well as with new Development Coach Jean Paquet. I was introduced to many new shooting and skiing drills and I think it is safe to say that they have made a definite impact on my training and skill set moving forward. 
USBA Talent Group Camp

'XC All-Star Jam Session' hosted by Clare Egan for both USST and USBA skiers at the Lake Placid OTC

We had a rest week after the TG Camp and I took the chance to go visit some friends in Duluth. It was nice to reconnect with the team and everyone on campus at CSS. I might be taking a reprieve from classes at the present moment, but I still felt just as much a part of the community during my trip.

Visiting friends in Duluth
After going to MN I did a couple hikes in the Adirondacks. Fellow MWSC teammate
Welly Ramsey joined me for a great hike up Mt. Marcy
At the summit of Mt. Marcy
After Minnesota I moved back into the OTC to start another two weeks of training with the development crew in Lake Placid. We were there during the National Team’s ‘test week’. This provided a great opportunity to jump in on many physical and shooting tests (including revisiting my favorite test, the Uphill Climb on Whiteface).  It was a great couple weeks with a great group of people and I hope to see more of them in the future.

Well that’s about it folks for the quick summer rundown. We arrived late last night to our house in Park City, where we will be basing out of for the next couple weeks. The goal of this camp is to do a solid block of training at altitude before we start getting into the next set of trials races and then finally (hopefully)…. SNOW! I’ve already started my snow dances and the oncoming cold and colors of fall are a good indication that it is just around the corner.

Until next time!

Lake Placid ski jumps