Canmore Biathlon Races

This past weekend marked the start of my race season with two NorAm biathlon races in Canmore. As these were not only my first races of the season, but also my first ever biathlon races, I definitely had some nerves running through me heading into the weekend!

One of the new things I’m having to get used to in biathlon is the additional tasks you have to add your pre-race routine. In normal nordic races, I usually head out of the lodge about 45 minutes before my start for warmup, ski a few intervals, grab my race skis and head to the start. In biathlon however, you have to also zero your rifle, so your sights are aligned with the target, and go through equipment check, where race officials inspect your rifle. These definitely required some extra time this weekend! In fact, this meant I had to start my warmup an hour and a half before my race, far earlier than I’m used to, but something that is often the norm in biathlon races. These were some of the largest ever biathlon races in North America, with nearly 300 competitors, which meant that both equipment check and zeroing was very busy on race morning- the line for equipment check was almost 30 minutes long!

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Waiting for zero. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

Fortunately I planned my morning with enough time for these added tasks, and before I knew it I was in the start gate. Saturday started out with a 10km sprint, where we shot twice, once prone, and once standing. For each missed shot, we had to ski a 150m penalty loop. I ended up making it through the day with four misses- two prone, two standing. While I am definitely working towards better accuracy and faster shooting times, I was satisfied with this for my first race. On the skiing side of things, I felt like my speed was at a pretty good level… which showed up on the results page, as despite my misses I ended up in a solid 5th place! Overall I was pretty happy with the race!

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On the hunt. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

Sunday was a 15km mass start, where we skied a 3km loop five times and shot four times, twice prone, twice standing. Once again we would be skiing 150m penalty loops. New this year in the biathlon world is the skating start to mass starts. Instead of a double pole start, which is normal in mass start cross country races, biathlon now lets racers skate from the start of the race, by having fewer start lanes. The race was seeded of our results from Saturday, and because a couple of the Canadians in front of me in the sprint had headed off to Europe, I was in the front row of the start. I definitely liked the new format… though maybe my opinion would change if I were further back…

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The new mass start format. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

As this race had relatively more shooting than skiing, compared to the sprint, I knew that I had to improve my shooting percentage if I wanted a similar result. Unfortunately, that didn’t happened, and my shooting percentages took a step backward from Saturday. I ended up skiing 10 penalties, which means I had to ski an extra 1500m throughout the race. Not only does this add extra time, it adds extra fatigue which slows you down on the rest of the course. Naturally, I fell a little further down the results sheet. While it was a bit of a let down, this was only my second race, so I did my best not to be too dissapointed. And on the brighter side, my ski speed once again felt pretty good, so if I can just improve my shooting a bit, I know I will be headed back up the results!

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Another trip around that pesky penalty loop. Photo by Jakob Ellingson.

We’ve continued training in Canmore the past few days, and tomorrow we’re headed off to northern Minnesota for our next races. We’ll be racing four times in five days, so I’ll be stacking up the biathlon experience pretty quickly!

Canmore!

While the rest of the Elite Team headed off to West Yellowstone for Thanksgiving, I missed out on the festival for the first time in a number of years and instead headed up to Canmore, Alberta, for a camp with the US Biathlon development team. While it was a little bittersweet to miss out on the friends and familiar faces of West Yellowstone, it has been exciting to get into the biathlon scene up here, at one of the most spectacular Nordic venues in North America. Canmore hosted the Nordic events at the 1988 Olympics and is towered over by peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

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When I first got up here, there was little to no natural snow off the trail, but the snow making efforts from Frozen Thunder had already opened up most of the biathlon and nordic World Cup trails. While the first few days up here were relatively warm, pretty soon a blizzard came through bringing high winds, heavy snow and cold temperatures. This presented a great introduction to me about how cold of a sport biathlon is. While I’ve faced cold temperatures plenty of times before, it is an added challenge trying to stay warm with the constant stopping for shooting and reloading that biathlon requires. Plus, when you’re shooting, you’re usually supposed to wear your race suit and thin gloves, since extra layers can alter your aim and accuracy. Luckily I made it through the cold snap with all limbs and digits intact, and I now have a better idea of how I need to dress to survive in those sub zero temperatures that are common during winter in places other than California…

Unfortunately, the cold weather also forced the cancellation of our first weekend of races. Although it was  disappointing not to make my biathlon debut, I was also a little bit happy that I didn’t have to have my first race experience at -4F. Temperatures have now warmed up, and our first races should be this weekend. While biathlon is generally a pretty small sport in North America, there are nearly 300 competitors this weekend, which organizers are saying might be the largest ever biathlon competition in North America. Since these are my first races, I don’t have super high expectations, and I’m mainly looking at them as a chance to put a bib on and finally see how this sport really works!

While we’ve mostly been training here in Canmore, a couple of days ago we headed into Banff National Park for a beautiful ski near Lake Louise. Here are a few photos… definitely a place I’d like to get back to for some more exploration in the future.

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Shake it off

I might not be feeling 22 anymore but Taylor Swift still gets it right.

Friday’s sprint qualifier felt like your typical first race: Too short, too fast and all over the place. At least, I thought, it was only going to get better from there. Stupid sprints, I told myself, after the quarter final didn’t go as I had hoped either. But when I finished the distance race on Saturday way below my expectations too, I couldn’t help feeling like a total idiot.

Hadn’t I been working towards these first races since May? Wasn’t this my job now? Wasn’t I stronger and fitter and skiing technically better than I ever have? How could this have gone so wrong??

I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Thing is, bad races happen. They happen when you are a little beginner skier, a college skier, a hobby skier, or a professional skier. They don’t make you a bad skier and they don’t mean that the next races are going to be bad. And they definelty don’t make you a bad person.

After being a completely spoiled brat when it comes to results as a college racer (5th at NCAAs was my worst result in a college race last year) I think I’m just relearning this.

Luckily, we still have the whole season ahead of us. I love skiing and I love ski racing and I’m super excited for more of both to come!

I’m not sure if it is still appropriate to joke about Nordic crashes (after Callum Watson, Scott Patterson and Noah Hoffman getting seriously injured) but check out Annie’s or Annie’s blog for a little crash video that made my morning. Their posts are pretty smart as well, and definelty both worth a read.
https://anniespokorner.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/6-ways-to-totally-blow-it-on-race-day/
http://www.annie-hart.com/starts/

Thank you Brian Gregg for this little confidence boost. No idea how you made the Olympics if that’s true, but I’m going to go ahead and believe you.
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Miss you all here in rainy Germany but it’s really good to be home for the first time in a whole year!

And we’re off!

Well, it’s winter and the ski season has started! For the past week, we’ve were camped out (not literally, thank goodness) in the small town of West Yellowstone, Montana, enjoying everything from our first day on skis to our first intensity session on skis to our first two races on skis.

This whirlwind week has reminded me of several things: 1) skiing is harder than roller skiing; 2) skiing is more fun than roller skiing; 3) skiing makes you tired; and 4) ski racing makes you REALLY tired. But most importantly: 5) skiing is AWESOME. Thanksgiving reminded me how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be a ski racer. It doesn’t always feel easy, but at the end of the day, what a life I get to live!

West Yellowstone is a tricky beast because we’re trying to put in as much time on skis as possible, while also trying to ski fast in the first races of the season. Some of us Elite Teamers accomplished this better than others. I knew that I was very tired going into the week, and so I tried to keep my expectations low and treat the races more like time trials. I didn’t expect to race super fast, and I didn’t race super fast. (Sometime this ski racing thing is not rocket science.) It wasn’t the most exciting start to the season, but I skied technically better than I have in the past and there were some good signs to show that my fitness will be there once I’ve had time to rest.

A couple of the other Elite Teamers put together some more exciting results. In Friday’s skate sprint, Anja qualified for the heats on a very short, very fast, very transitiony course. Spencer placed 31st in the prelims, a mere .34 seconds out of qualifying for the heats. It’s always a bummer to be THAT close, but as confirmation that he’s fit, he placed 33rd in Saturday’s grinding 15k skate. Together, these make up the best results Spencer’s ever had in November, which bodes well for the rest of his season. Anja was feeling strong in the women’s 10k skate, but ended up being hampered by some ski selection issues that cost her some serious time on the downhills. She ended the day in 33rd and is eager to show us all what she’s got when all the pieces fall into place. I trained with (or behind) her all fall, so watch out world.

Like me, Sabra and Wyatt were feeling the fatigue and even some mild sickness by the time the races rolled around, so we are all eager for a second shot. Luckily, the next opportunity is right around the corner! Sabe, Spencer and I are now in chilly (0 F) Bozeman, enjoying the new snow and getting psyched for the next weekend of SuperTour races. We’ll keep you posted!

Turkey Trot

Saturday was the famous Donner Lake Turkey Trot. I was third in the 7-mile running race around Donner Lake, the top skier behind some speedy high school runners. Spencer was the next nordie in 5th, and Anja won the women’s race to claim the huge frozen Turkey for her first place prize! It was a beautiful day and a tough workout for us skiers who, at this time of year, focus more on rollerksiing than running!

Thanks to all who came out to compete in this fun even that’s also an Auburn Ski Club fundraiser. There were 200 or so racers with the Turkey Trot, Mashed potato mile, and walkers divisions This is one of three main fundraisers for Auburn Ski Club, the others being the Squaw Mountain Run and the Firecracker Mile in downtown Truckee.

Turkey Trotting

Turkey Trotting

Is it really 90% looks?

October 31st, time trail this morning and snow in the forecast. It smells like racing season!

I’m in the middle of our last volume week at home in Truckee. Next up is a recovery week, then low altitude camp, another recovery week and after that, it is already time to head to WEST YELLOWSTONE. Four weeks from today, we are going to be racing! Maybe this is a good time to blog about some of the little things that can help us get faster.

I like to claim that racing is 90% looks. Glitter, ribbons, hairdo and team tattoo are especially important because if you look good, you feel good and if you feel good, you race fast.

Since it is Halloween I tried the cat look this morning for the time trail, with ears stuck to my helmet. We left our house at 6.15am this morning, so that’s why I look a little sleepy. Emmy improved my makeup a little after the first picture was taken:

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According to the look-good, feel-good, race-fast logic, psychology must play into racing. My roommates are pretty awesome. Here is how they help my confidence:

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Speaking of my roommates, they are also great teammates and I am convinced being part of an awesome team and having a good support network makes the difference. Check out this delicious BLT Emmy and Spence delivered to me on the couch the other day. Yummy. Thanks guys!

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I want to give a little shout out to all my other friends too. Thanks for snapping, texting and poking me every once in a while. Virtual hugs can do wonders!

Let’s not forget about training. It really helps. Look what Chris Mallory wrote on my log. It’s really nice to know that he is still having an eye on me and it’s also kind of cool to know that I have stepped up my game from last year!

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With all this good training behind us, I plan to do lots of this before the first races:

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I’m a big fan of early bed time and sleep and rest are very important to get into racing shape. So is eating well! And every once in a while, desert does really good things to you – just like these delicious pastries Wilson made for us:

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At this point, we also want to thank all our sponsors – You can most definitely ski a whole lot faster with good equipment!

I think this could also help:
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Or how about the cat café? (all credit for finding this goes to Emmy)
www.bustle.com/articles/46103-americas-first-cat-cafe-opens-in-oakland-but-come-on-one-is-not-enough

If you have any secret tips that I don’t know about, make sure you send me a message or a smoke sign. And get excited for the next Far West Elite Team post, probably about real skiing… Maybe as soon as tomorrow??

Oh, so is it really 90% looks? I have no idea!

Happy Halloween! Saftey first!

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Winter Summit Sunday

Most Sundays we do an over-distance workout to help rack up the training hours. The goal of these workouts it to spend a while (2-4 hours) working out at a relatively easy pace, which among other things helps build more capillaries in our muscles.

This past Sunday we woke up to a nice snowy surprise and decided to roller ski up Donner Pass then run the Mt. Judah Loop. Maybe it’s our skiing bias, but everything looked especially beautiful with a fresh blanket of snow. Here’s Wyatt and Emily laying down some fresh tracks.

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If you haven’t already heard of Summit Sunday  (http://summitsunday.blogspot.com/ started by a current ASC coach) it’s a movement to get out and climb a summit on Sundays. Here is Emily demonstrating proper #summitsunday technique

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How to avoid a cold…

Winter is coming! It’s inevitable, and I’m excited! In short, every nordic skier this time of year is switching to power based explosive strength, are fine tuning their weaknesses, and are logging serious ski-specific hours. That’s a given, so let’s talk about something else!

 

I was sick with the typical change of season cold last week, as many of you I’m sure are experiencing. My sister, Lea Davison, a London Olympian and Specialized Global athlete, was asked to write up some of her tips for getting over this change of season cold. I followed them religiously last week, and guess what… they worked wonders.   Have a read below!!

 

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My sister came to visit me in Tahoe City. It’s been amazing to have my favorite person in the world meet the elite team and see my new stomping grounds. Lea and I used to race and train together every day, as we were both perusing careers as professional cyclists. Now that I’m focusing on nordic, we use each other’s sports to get each other fit in the off season. So naturally, Lea and I have reunited and made single-track exploration our main business. We also rounded up a few of our friends on Team Luna to ride help show us some of the best trails.   I have to say one of the crowning achievements from the week was not training related, it was learning how to make maple marshmallows.   They are incredible, and you should make them immediately!

 

Best,

Sabra

 

How to Avoid a Cold: Top Tips from XC Mtb Rider Lea Davison

Out smart the common cold by following Lea Davison’s top tips

 

Totalwomenscycling.com

2 weeks ago  Heather Irvine

Lea Davison is XC Mountain Biker who rides for the Specialized Global team. She just took third place at the World Championships and is an expert at avoiding illness. As we head into winter, we are surrounded by coughs and sneezes so why not follow Lea’s top tips to see if you can become as talented as she is at avoiding a pesky cold:

“If your friend’s second cousin has a cold or if someone coughs 10 rows back on the airplane you go into full cold fighting mechanics, full on assault. Here are my top tips to avoiding a cold:

  • Garlic – some people roast a whole bulb and go for it. But I usually do raw as I think it is more powerful. You don’t make any friends but at least you are not sick. I chop it up, put oil and salt on it and dip bread into it.
  • Ginger – I juice ginger and have a straight up ginger shot which is a little tough to take, it is very similar to a normal shot of alcohol, it burns in the same way but it’s good. Sometimes I combine it with apple cider but straight up if you are fighting a cold.
  • Zicam – I always have Zicam with me which is a zinc formula or just zinc tablets. I take that very frequently. You take it one every four hours until the symptoms reside but I will sometimes take two at once.
  • Probiotic – If I am really coming down with something that I need to fight off, I’ll take a pro-biotic.
  • Steam – If I am starting to come down with a cold I will steam my face so it is better for breathing and pop in some Olbas oil in there too. I have also heard a sauna is good to sweat it out.
  • Rest – If I have a cold, I just go for an hour light spin if I am feeling a little energetic but otherwise you are better not train and  just sleep it off. I used to freak out about taking three days off, but then I had hip surgery, took four months off the bike and I was fine, so taking a couple of days off won’t make a difference. It is way better to get quality training and take a day off and get rest than it is to run yourself into the ground. When you are ill, it is your body telling you that you are too tired. You get a cold because you need to rest.”

We also have it on good authority that Vicks First Defence is another must have for the winter season. The British riders never fly without it, and also bring along Strepsil throat lozenges and hand sanitizer when they are travelling.

 

Read more at http://totalwomenscycling.com/fitness/avoid-cold-top-tips-xc-mtb-rider-lea-davison-34975/#MJGCUgXYzSW7HB7B.99

Specific Strength

Specific strength workouts pretty much have to involve either skiing or rollerskiing. That’s why it’s specific. But there’s still plenty of room for diversity in these workouts. Try pulling a tire. Hint: start with the smallest tire you can find (like a honda insight tire) and use a roughly ten’ bungee chord.

US Biathlon National Team Camp in Soldier Hollow

My third biathlon camp of the year is in the books, and I’m back in Truckee after two weeks of hard, focused training at Soldier Hollow in Utah. While the first two camps were built around those of us in USBA’s Talent Identification program, and focused on teaching us the fundamentals of the sport, this camp was our opportunity to join with the national team and get our introduction to the training required to become a world-class biathlete/ This camp included the entire national team, including the likes of World Cup podiumers Tim Burke, Lowell Bailey, and Susan Dunklee. And despite being only four months into my biathlon career, my training plan for the camp was essentially the same as theirs. What this meant was lots of hours, lots of intensity, and lots of combination shooting- at this camp, except for when you zeroed, almost all of the shooting was with a pulse- often a high one.

3rd time up Soldier Hollow's legendary Hermod's Hill in the middle of 6*7' L4, with each interval ending in shooting

3rd time up Soldier Hollow’s legendary Hermod’s Hill in the middle of 6*7′ L4, with each interval ending in shooting

 

 

For someone as new to biathlon as myself, this certainly meant this camp was going to be a challenging one. For example, on top of having limited experience shooting with a very high pulse, I also had barely ever combined rollerskiing with shooting before, which makes the task of getting on the mat to shoot considerably more complicated than when you are running/walking, as you have to find a way to quickly cut your speed (not a simple task, as anyone who’s been on rollerskis knows…), before, in my case, crash landing onto the mat. And hopefully this crash landing results in your body lying/standing in the same position every time, since the key to shooting well is doing it exactly the same every single time. While you are doing this, you of course have the coaching staff standing behind you, all of whom have experience working with Olympic medalists and World Cup Champions, watching every move and every shot, and recording it into a book.

But of course, this process, this trial by fire, as you might call it, is great experience for building the mental strength required to be a successful for biathlete. While the goal is to hit every shot, even the pros still have misses, and when the target doesn’t fall you can’t get flustered, you simply have to move your focus on to the next target or the next shooting bout. This whole camp was a great opportunity to work on the mental fortitude and focus required to be a shooter. There would be times that I’d ski into the range behind Tim Burke and take the point adjacent to his, and while it’s exciting and inspiring to see how fast and accurate a World Cup biathlete shoots, I wasn’t there to be a spectator, I was there with the hopes of one day being able to shoot like Tim. So in those instances I’d find a way to focus on my own task at hand, forget who I was shooting next to, and work solely on making those targets down my lane turn white.

After two weeks of hard training like this, I’m happy to say my shooting took some significant steps forward. On top of that, on the penultimate day of camp, I got the exciting news: I was being named to USBA’s Development Team! Before I know it I’ll be back on the road, first in West Yellowstone, followed by my next D-Team camp in Canmore, Alberta, and then it will be on to Mt. Itasca and the IBU cup trials.

Also for those who haven’t seen it, fasterskier.com posted an article about my biathlon endeavors here. I’m also doing some fundraising through RallyMe to help pay for some of my biathlon costs, you can find my page here.