2010 Vancouver Olympics

2010 Vancouver Olympics
Welcome! It is here I hope to keep all of my sponsors and supporters up to date about my everyday life as a full time Biathlete. I will post regular updates about how my training and race season is progressing, which will hopefully provide a little insight as to exactly what my life is all about. With the Sochi 2014 Olympics fast approaching, I invite you to join me on my journey as I pursue my dreams...

Friday, January 29, 2010

I love Anthlolz!

At the moment I’m in Bavaria, staying in a small town near Garmisch, where I’m winding down and resting up after an amazing week of racing on the World Cup!

The tour first started out in Germany, where we raced World Cup #5 in Ruhpolding. Biathlon in Germany is extremely popular and the fan base is enormous. With it being the most popular sport in the country, the German athletes are huge icons. This was my first time racing at a World Cup in Germany and it was quite the experience. All of our competitions took place at night under bright lights, and racing in front of 25 000 intense fans made for a pretty cool vibe and some fun racing. You know it’s going to be an epic day with the fans when you arrive at the venue to the smell of beer and Bratwurst thick in the air. The smell of beer I can deal with, but my lungs definitely did not enjoy the cigar smoke that wafted over parts of the course, causing you to be short of breathe for the few seconds it took to pass through. If you were ever skiing near or shooting at the same time as a German athlete, good luck being able to hear anything. The roar from the fans was so intense that you could feel the sound resonate through your body! As for our performances during this World Cup, most of the team had a bit of a frustrating week finding our form, myself included. I was skiing well, but it doesn’t matter how fast you ski because when the shooting isn’t there, the good results won’t be either.

Racing the Relay in Ruhpolding.

From Germany we drove three hours to Antholz, Italy, where World Cup #6 would be taking place four days later. Situated in a mountain valley, Antholz is home to one of my favorite venues on the World Cup circuit. The stadium is awesome, the trails have nice flow, good snow is always a guarantee, the weather is amazing with sun most days, and the cuisine is stellar with four course meals!

The racing here went extremely well for me and I finally had the results I’ve been waiting for. While training during the week I put a lot of focus into my shooting and was able to sort things out on the range. The other aspects of my training felt pretty good as well and I was looking forward to racing. The competition kicked off last Thursday with a 20km Individual race. The race went awesome. I felt relaxed on my skis and skied at a fast yet comfortable pace that I was able to maintain for the duration of the 20km. In the range I felt focused and confident. The shooting conditions were tricky with inconsistent wind, but I managed to stay assertive while shooting and ended the day in 19th place, my best result ever on the World Cup! Placing in the top 20 was a huge result for me and I proved to myself that I am able to compete and put up a fight with the best athletes when things are going well for me.

Racing in Antholz - Photo courtesy of Michel van Balkum

Saturday’s 10km Sprint race also went quite well. I woke up feeling a little low on energy and tired, but as the day progressed I gradually began to feel more awake. I was skiing well, shot clean in my first prone bout and was having a great race, but two penalties in standing dropped me back to 34th at the finish. All things considered it was a very respectable race for me. I was happy with my result and looking forward to Sunday's Pursuit race.

Leading into Sunday’s race things felt normal. I had a routine Zero and my warm-up for the race felt typical – nothing special, just OK. Because it was a Pursuit race the start is based off of the previous days Sprint race results. The winner from the previous day starts first and all the other athletes’ start according to what their time behind the winner was. I was starting the race in the 34th place, 1:25 behind the lead.

Training in Italy - Photo courtesy of Michel van Balkum

As soon as I left the start gate I found myself in a pack with three or four other guys. The pace was fast but I was feeling awesome, and thanks to our wax techs, my skis were bombing. I cleaned my first two prone bouts and was steadily working my way up the field. When I came in to shoot my first standing I was in 20th place and had 1 miss. My skiing was strong though and I continued to move up in the rankings. When I came into the range for my final bout of shooting I was in 13th place. Normally in a situation like this I would begin to feel very stressed, but today this was not the case. I felt extremely relaxed. I came into the range, stepped onto lane 13 and noticed that almost everyone ahead of me was still in the range. I dropped my poles, took my rifle off my back, and then my mind shut off. I left the range with one more miss standing. I cruised around the penalty loop and then once on course I lay the hammer down. I knew it was a tight race and that there was a pack of guys in hot pursuit of me. I didn’t want to be leading these guys so I did my best to put a bit of a gap early on in the loop and began to push the pace as much as my body would allow. It hurt like hell but I didn’t care. I was too focused on my skiing to think about the pain. For the rest of the loop I was slowly gaining on a pack ahead of me, and with about 400m to go I was caught by a Russian. We sprinted to the finish and just caught up to the back of the pack that was ahead of us as we lunged at the line. I looked up at the scoreboard to see that I had made up 20 places and finished in 14th!!! By far my best race on the World Cup to date! I also posted the second fastest ski time of the day which was an awesome bonus… 3 seconds off of the lead pace!

The Grande stand in Antholz.

It was an amazing race. I felt like a machine while skiing, but felt very focused and relaxed on the range. I’ve trained hard this year while working a lot on all aspects of my training, so to have it pay off with a result like this is an incredible feeling and an experience I will never forget. Antholz was also the last World Cup stop before the Olympics; so to have my three best results at this World Cup is definitely a confidence booster heading into the Games!



Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm back! - Life from September to December...

I’m back! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more regularly, so here’s my attempt at keeping that resolution. I suppose I’m a bit late but I haven’t had much down time lately!

Since the end of September I’ve been on the road with only a few short breaks back in Canmore to re-energize in-between training camps or racing tours. Three weeks in the Fall were spent training on the Dachstein glacier in Austria. Here we were able to put in a solid amount of high volume days skiing at altitude while being able to roller ski and do intensity at a lower elevation in the town of Ramsau, where we also stayed.

Skiing on the Dachstein glacier... it was a bad summer for snow but the track held up alright most days.
Ramsau seemed to be the land of miniature animals. A pony chillin' halfway up a mountain that I came across during a run.

The view from a Tea House during a run.

After a big few weeks of laying down some solid training hours it was back to Canmore for a high intensity block. Almost all of these hard sessions took place on the roller ski treadmill at the University of Calgary. We’ve done a similar format of max intervals over the last two years, which seem to produce a positive response from my body, although these workouts are always guaranteed to be some of the most grueling training sessions of the year. Mentally being able to deal with the pain that you know you’re about to endure on the treadmill is half the battle.
Upon our return from Austria we were also able to continue our skiing on snow at the Canmore Nordic Centre. During some abnormally cold weather in October, enough man-made snow was blown to form a small training loop (about 700m if you skied it in a figure 8) in the cross-country stadium.

Grindin' away on the treadmill.

I spent my birthday at the beginning of November packing to leave the following day for what turned out to be an epic training camp in Silver Star, BC. They received some early snow that made for absolutely wicked skiing. While most athletes were training on the mind numbing hamster loop back in Canmore, our team was able to take advantage of over 50km of perfectly groomed trails that we could ski at our leisure just a few steps from our hotel. During our time here our schedule literally consisted of training, eating, and sleeping. The camp quickly became nick named the high-high-high camp, because of the volume of hours, the amount of intensity, and the altitude at which we were training. I was feeling pretty wicked all week with the exception of the last two days where all of a sudden I hit a wall and felt pretty cooked. I backed off on the intensity for the last two days and was able to recover a bit before heading back to Canmore. In the last 7 days we trained 25 hrs and averaged one hard intensity session a day ranging from ski strength, to time trials, to 20km of sub race pace. I left Silver Star feeling pretty bagged but happy with the training I was able to complete and the level of quality and focus in which I was able to accomplish it.

Scott's body starting to let him down after a tough week of training! (The photo was actually staged... as usual Scott trained like an animal during our stay in Silver Star.)

After a short break back in Canmore to unpack, do laundry, and repack, I was on the road again, this time to Sweden were we would kick off our World Cup season. The travel as usual was long, but when we arrived at our final destination in Brusksvallarna, we were greeted with lots of snow and pretty sweet conditions. We trained here for about a week before driving to Ostersund a couple of days before our first race. After three races in Sweden we flew to Munich and then drove to Hochfillzen, Austria for World Cup #2. I got sick with a cold the day after our arrival in Austria which I was pretty bummed out about. I had a couple days to take it easy before our next races and I did my best to recover as much as possible in that given time. We had to race three days in a row, which is punishing on the body, but I managed to do all right despite feeling pretty terrible and low on energy the whole week. On top of racing sick which is never any fun, it didn’t help that conditions were tough and slow with either fresh snow or rain during our races and training. Our last World Cup stop on tour before Christmas was in Pokljuka, Slovenia. It was my first time in Slovenia which was fun and despite feeling tired from all the racing I was finally more or less over my cold which I was stoked about. I was feeling good about the week and had some decent performances in the cold temperatures and strong wind, which made the racing tricky.

The veiv from our hotel room window in Bled, Slovenia.

Boats along the lake.

After 30 days on tour and 9 races in 18 days, I was in big need of some rest and recovery and was soon on a plane back to Canada for Christmas! I was tired, of course from all of the racing, but also in large part I think due to jetlag. In all my years of travel I have never experienced it this bad. In the first ten days of tour I averaged maybe four hours of sleep a night. I felt like a Zombie. I started sleeping a little better after about two weeks but my body never seemed to really adjust throughout the whole duration of the tour. I didn’t have one solid sleep during the entire 30 days and nothing I did seemed to make a difference. I pulled out all the stops… Melatonin, Litebook, sleeping pills, and deep relaxation breathing but nothing really helped. Not seeing the sun most days in Sweden definitely didn’t help the situation, but I was sure that things would improve once we arrived in central Europe where we would see more sun. Guess I was wrong!

Travel home was hectic and stressful as it always is during Christmas but it was nice to get back to Canada and relax, even if I didn’t get my bags until 5 days after I arrived. For the first time I decided to spend Christmas in Canmore away from family. It was a tough decision to make but I think it was the right one with the Olympics not far away. This way I was able to minimize travel and get in some solid training during the short break I had. Christmas turned out to actually be pretty busy and I was not lonely at all thanks to the amazing generosity of friends in Canmore!

In reflecting upon my pre-Christmas tour, I am satisfied with how things went. These were the last three World Cups that would fall within our Olympic qualification time period, so it was obviously a very stressful tour to say the least. The men were fighting hard for one of the four Olympic spots by either trying to maintain and add to previously met criteria, or by trying to finish off partially met criteria. There were some extremely stressful moments but there were also some great results produced from the team. For myself, I didn’t have any really amazing performances, but I was consistent which is a good thing. I started in all nine races, was consistently placing within the top 60 with my top result being 46th, and I qualified for both pursuit races. With Olympic qualification on everyone’s mind, I think I was able to stay focused and raced respectable given the circumstances.

Adjusting my visor during the Sprint in Hochfillzen... It iced up and got pretty hard to see during the race. Photo credit - Christian Manzoni.

Racing World Cup #2 in Hochfillzen. Photo credit - Christian Manzoni.

I am now in Europe again and just finished yesterday racing at the ‘Super Bowl’ of biathlon, World Cup #5 in Ruhpolding, Germany. More to come on that later though because I’m starting to feel carsick… At the moment I am sitting in the back of our van driving over the Brenner Pass on our way to Antholz, Italy, for World Cup #6, which will start on Thursday with a 20km Individual race for the men.