December 26, 2009

Austria-Slovenia-USA-Germany

Sounds like a whirlwind, doesn't it? So far, it has been, but it's also been a great trip. Currently, I'm home for the Holidays, but only briefly. I arrived late Monday night and leave Sunday afternoon. It's been so nice to be home to re-charge before trials; but I'm getting ahead of myself-let's rewind back to World Cup 2 in Hochfilzen.

Hochfilzen was an interesting, if short, race series for the US women. With slushy, slow conditions on race day, it was one of the toughest races I have done. Though I had the top US result, it was not good enough to make the pursuit. Putting that aside, I hoped to make Pokljuka and the final pre-Christmas World Cup better.

The women's relay in Hochfilzen with fans lining the course.

Conditions in Slovenia were much better than Austria. Though it was cold, and at times fairly windy, the snow was pretty fast and hard, so I was looking forward to three good races. In the individual, things went pretty well-right up until the last stage. I had one miss in my first standing stage, and then added three more in my final stage. Even with a pretty fast ski time and an excellent last loop, four misses (and subsequently 4 minutes of added time) were too many. It was slightly heart breaking to see that if I had been able to hold it togther for that final stage, I would have been top 30. But I still had the sprint to think about, so I moved on. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards for me there either. With a very rough prone shooting stage, I put all my effort into simply finishing the race and skiing well. I had a solid ski time, which was a small silver lining, but the week overall was disappointing. Luckily, I had home and a week of down time to look forward to, and to help me get ready for Olympic Trials.

Which brings us back to the present. Being home has been great. I've been able to mentally move forward from tough races in the last two World Cups, and am feeling ready and excited for trials. Sunday I will travel to Germany for a week long camp in Ruhpolding with some of the other trials qualifiers. Then we travel to Altenberg for a time trial and two IBU Cup races that will decide the Olympic Team. Team naming happens on January 11-just over two weeks from today! It's crazy that all the preparation and all the hard work is finally culminating in this. So, here's keeping my fingers crossed for the results I know I am capable of. Keep checking back, I'll be sure to update as often as internet access allows! Happy Winter!

Haley Johnson looking out onto the town of Bled, Slovenia from the castle above.

A view from Bled (the town we stayed in-about a 30min drive from the venue in Pokljuka).

December 5, 2009

World Cup 1

Hello from the World Cup!

The first weekend of World Cup racing is over for me, and it was a solid start to the season. I was the top US finisher in both the Individual and Sprint, and had respectable placings, finishing 60th in the Individual and 59th in the Sprint. With over 110 finishers, I am pleased with the outcome and looking forward to improving on those results next week.

There was some real excitement for the US team here in Ostersund, though. Tim Burke placed on the podium in both races: 2nd in the Individual and 3rd in the Sprint. It was awesome, and extremely motivating to see. I think the whole team is riding a high seeing what Tim has been able to accomplish in just the first two races of the season. It's giving us confidence going into the season...it's a very exciting time to be involved in US Biathlon!

Monday we leave for Hochfilzen, Austria. A new course and a new weekend will be welcomed by all. We hope some sun is also in the forecast for Austria...though I'm sure it can't be as bad as 3pm sunset! Internet can be spotty in Hochfilzen, so I may not be able to update my blog, but you can follow the action on biathlonworld.com. With a couple more World Cups under my belt, I'm feeling stronger and more confident as we head into the next races.

Prepping the stadium and race courses for the Races.

Stadium and shooting range during the men's relay.

November 23, 2009

Välkommen till Sverige!

I have arrived in Östersund, Sweden! Aside from needing to get a bit more snow, things are going well. Not all the trails are open here, but what is open is pretty good. So far, I like the course, and the area is beautiful. I haven't had a chance to take any pictures yet (it is getting dark around 3pm!), but I'll be sure to post some soon. We have one week of training here before we move away from the venue into town and settle in for racing. I'm so glad to be on snow, and really looking forward to starting to race. Until then, I'll be staying focused and relaxed, and trying to simply enjoy my time here in Sweden!

November 17, 2009

Almost Winter

At the end of the week, the team will be scattering throughout the world in search of snow. I will be off to Sweden for a week long camp before the first World Cups. While many skiers find it imperative to be on snow in early November, I have been having great, focused dry-land training here in Lake Placid for the last couple weeks. The temperature has been dropping, but the sun has continued to shine and make rollerskiing fantastic. Those of us here have counted ourselves lucky that even though there hasn't been any snow, the pavement has stayed dry and clean for us to continue rollerskiing. This time of year, skiers can often be relegated to running and indoor workouts because of the weather, so we really have had a good situation.

Making the best of some inclement (but short lived) weather last week.

Even so, I'm looking forward to getting on snow. The next couple days will be spent getting ready to head over seas and packing, and then I'll be off! I've never been to Sweden, so definitely excited to see some new places. As always, I'll be sure to keep you updated! Think Snow!

October 29, 2009

Les Bois, Les Bois!

Fall in Boise

I'm back home for a brief visit in beautiful Boise after a tough three week camp in Utah. It was a great training camp, with some solid races, but it's so nice to be relaxing at home now. There's really no better place to be on an off week than at your true home where you can be with family and really enjoy doing nothing. This is my favorite time of year in Boise, when the trees are changing colors and losing all their leaves. I'm especially looking forward to Halloween, since my house always gets tons of trick-or-treaters.

As you know, an off week for me does not mean completely down. I took a couple days at the beginning of the week to catch up on sleep and truly relax, but I do have a couple workouts to keep myself in shape. Today I joined in the Idaho Nordic practice for some plyos and strength. It was fun to connect with such a motivated group of local skiers, and it was a great workout! It was one of the harder strength workouts I've done recently, and certainly better than going out for a jog and doing strength alone! Thanks for letting me join you guys!

I'll be finishing out this week at home and then diving back into training for the last dry-land block before the World Cup in December. It's crazy that Sunday will be November, but I'm feeling fit and ready for the season. November is when skiers start to search the sky for flurries, but it's important to stay focused and get in quality workouts regardless of the weather. So while I'm looking forward to snow, I'll be putting my head down and focusing on the work at hand. But still, THINK SNOW!

Zach and I on a bike ride in Utah.

View down into the Heber Valley, our October home.

October 17, 2009

Utah Fall Camp!


The women's team is all together for one last dry-land camp in Utah. We've been training at the beautiful Soldier Hollow venue (site of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Nordic events). It's been great to be all together again, but unfortunately the internet at our house is spotty at best, so I've been unable to get a post up until now.

Today we had our first "test" of the camp with and 15K Individual time trial. It was a good race for me. I felt I skied strong and shot well, with only 2 penalties (out of 20 shots). I ended up 3rd, and feel I'm just where I want to be at this time of year. The last couple weeks of fall are going to be important, but I'm already getting psyched for snow!

Racing at Soldier Hollow

Since there are no World Cup trials spots up for grabs this year for the women, everyone seems much more relaxed than last year, and I feel I've been able to focus more on getting in one last big push of training. We will have a Sprint time trial on Monday and then one more week of training before we all scatter. I'll be home in Boise for a week before heading back to Lake Placid for a couple weeks of training and then off to Sweden for the pre-World Cup camp and racing.
Soldier Hollow Panorama
It's been great to be out here with (mostly) beautiful western fall weather while our friends out east contend with not enough snow to ski on, but too much to rollerski with. Everyone is eager to get this season rolling, but we'll have to stay focused on training for just a few more weeks before we can switch to race mode.

September 17, 2009

Fall, Briefly

The temperature is dropping and the leaves are changing here in Lake Placid. Despite the almost unbearable heat and humidity of the August camp, September has left us with no doubt that it is truly fall. However, on Sunday I'll be headed out west (home to Boise for a couple weeks, then off to Utah for our fall camp) until early November. As I write this (6pm mountain time), it is 83 degrees in Boise. So, it will be back to summer for a little while, which I don't mind at all. Though fall is wonderful, and there's nothing like red leaves and the crisp scent the air gets here in the east, dry western summer weather will be welcome before I'm ready to really welcome the chilly weather and snow that will soon follow.

Training has been continuing as usual, and as the weather turns, the attitude is starting to get a bit more serious. The upcoming season is creeping up on us quickly, and it is important to make these last couple of dry-land training blocks very high quality in order to get the most out of the quick transition to snow and racing. I have been making some huge strides this summer in technique and shooting, and so am very happy with where I am right now.

I've posted a couple video below from the last couple training sessions at our roller loop at the Lake Placid ski jumps. The shooting video (sorry it's so small!) was shot with our new "EyeOn Performance" video technology that shoots video from four different locations simultaneously. It's a pretty neat tool for us to have, and we have only begun to scratch the surface of what it can help us with.

Next update will be from west of the Mississippi. Enjoy the beginning of fall or the end of your summer...depending on your location!

video

video

August 5, 2009

Quick Update

We've just begun our second (and last!) camp of the summer. All the women are back together in Jericho, VT for two weeks (including two races this weekend) and then we'll be off to Bethel, Maine for a week long distance camp. For these first two weeks we are staying on the Ethan Allen National Guard base, which of course means-barracks! That's right, the women's B and Development Teams, the entire Junior National group, a small contingency from Minnesota, some athletes from both the Northern and Southern Maine MWSC groups, and the Gunstock, NH Nordic team all together in two big bays in the army barracks (men on one side, women on the other). It's quite the party! And though it may sounds crowded, it's a great opportunity for us older women to get to know the young ladies just coming up into biathlon and stay in touch with that group.

I always remember being so excited at camps to meet the older girls and get to talk to them, so it has continued to be important for me to get to know the young girls when we have a chance (which, unfortunately, is rare). This week is the perfect time. Not to mention, the young girls always seem to have the best collections of DVD's and card games to keep us busy on an otherwise isolated army base! We're soaking up the occasional chaos, because come next week, it will be just the older women and a few MWSC girls left.

So, between bonding time, races, and getting in some quality training all together, it's going to be a busy three weeks. We're already into August, and so it's getting close to crunch time for all of us. I'll be using this camp to continue with solid training and getting ready for fall. Keep checking back and I'll try and keep things updated!

(And finally, some pictures from the June camp and off time with my family!)

Post-mud run in Fort Kent (you can't see it to well, but we were MUDDY!)

The magical place in Westport, MA. A fun time in a beautiful location with my family!

They had a kitchen, which is a novelty for me, living in the dorms at the OTC! I took full advantage of it and (along with much help) made some delicious pizzas one night!

"How does this thing go together again?" Grilling at a Dartmouth-owned cabin in New Hampshire.

July 7, 2009

Women's Camp Wrap-Up

The first women's Team camp of the year is over, and, minus the weather, it was a great success. After spending a slightly rainy week in Lake Placid with heavy emphasis on hard intervals, we headed to Fort Kent, Maine for two weeks of focused combo work (skiing and shooting combination workouts). Unfortunately, the rain followed us, and we spent two weeks with only fleeting glimpses of the sun and clothing that would never dry. Despite that, though, we had a great camp: we got some real quality workouts done on the range/roller loop and some great team bonding over traditional Aroostook ploys (buckwheat pancakes) and chicken stew and Taco Tuesday on Thursday night. (BIG thanks to all the local families that cooked for us!)

In our first week in Maine, we had a time trial, which happened to fall on the one day that was full of sun and extreme heat and humidity. Dealing with the elements is just another part of the job. It was made a little better by the fact that the local sports reporter came out that day to check out what we were doing. Below is a link the video story, complete with some good rollerski footage:

http://www.wagmtv.com/newssource8/story/2009-06-29-olympic-dreams

It was a tough three-week block of training, but well worth it. I am now enjoying some well-earned relaxation at the Massachusetts coast with my family. I'll be heading up to Dartmouth's Moosilauke Ravine Lodge this weekend for the lodge's 70th birthday, and then it will be back to the grind in Lake Placid. More pictures to come once I get back to Lake Placid and get them downloaded! Check back soon!

8x4min uphill intervals in Lake Placid...plus our four-legged friends who joined us mid-way through!

June 23, 2009

Mourning One of Our Own

At this point, many of you have heard of the tragedy that recently befell the XC Skiing, Biathlon and Maine Winter Sports Communities. Willie Neal, a young, talented skier/biathlete and extraordinary young man, was killed Sunday while rollerskiing in Northern Maine. I will leave out the details, but you can find more information at fasterskier.com, in a blog from the editor and a press release.

This tragedy is a reminder to all of us that sometimes life is terribly short, and suddenly taken away for no reason at all. While there were a few factors that perhaps could have helped the situation, I am prone to believe that this was simply an unfortunate incident of a smart young man being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As you go about your life in the coming days and months, please remember the Neal family as they grieve. Also, as you head out rollerskiing or biking, please remember to be safe: stay on the correct side of the road, wear bright colors, use roads with good shoulders and avoid high traffic areas, and always wear a helmet! One tragedy for our small community is one too many.

RIP Willie. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

June 15, 2009

Women's National Team Camp

The women's team camp is getting underway here in Lake Placid, and day one was a interesting one. The weather here has been nothing if not interesting, so it was no surprise that the light drizzle that started after our morning workout quickly became a downpour that continued all afternoon. That made for a wet afternoon ski, but luckily it has been warm, so no one got too cold or miserable. Hopefully things only calm down from here...

Almost all the women who will be competing for spots on the Vancouver 2010 team are here this week training together. It's a great group, and a fantastic opportunity for us all to catch up. Skiing and shooting together as a big group is a great learning experience, and helps push us all to improve.

The plan is to be in Lake Placid until Sunday and then head up to Fort Kent, Maine for two more weeks of training on their roller loop and range. I've never been to Ft. Kent in summer, so it will be a nice change of scenery. It's going to be a tough few weeks, but as usual, I'm sure it will go by in a flash.

Scat work: dry-firing with a laser so you can get instant feedback.

Shooting at the "new" range by the ski jumps...new as in last August.

Mid-workout firing pin replacement.

Skiing in the rain...we've had a lot of these already this year.

May 21, 2009

Overdue Update

Hello!

Wow, what a whirl-wind season it's been! It's already May and things are in full swing again for the coming Olympic season. Before we get rolling on that, though, let's get caught up.

Many of you know by now that my World Cup debut was very successful. I had a 38th place in the sprint race with clean shooting-scoring 3 world cup points and posting the second best US women's World Cup result of the entire year. It was a great way to start my World Cup career and has made me very excited about next year when the Olympics will be held on the same courses.

Heading to the finish in Vancouver.

From Vancouver I headed to Fort Kent, Maine for US National Championships. I definitely felt like I was coming off a high, but put together a decent race the first day. I was really looking forward to the pursuit competition on day two, but right before the race, disaster struck. I fell coming into the range for zero on an icy corner and broke my stock. I was still able to pull off an ok race with a borrowed rifle. I finished the series with a 4th place in the Mass Start, which I was happy with considering the circumstances.

Rifle in two pieces; not good.

The next week was Canadian Nationals in Valcartier, Quebec, Canada. It was a tough week for me, as I was both mentally and physically exhausted. The weather was ridiculous, with warm weather making for slushy, slow skiing conditions and three exhausting races in a row. Luckily, they were the last three of the season, and I had a nice vacation trip to look forward to at the end.

After taking a couple weeks off to travel and get some good relaxation in, I'm back at the training center getting ready for the summer. We already had a small camp here with a few of the B team women, and we'll have our first big camp starting the second week in June.

It's hard to believe that May is half over and the Olympics are just about 9 months away. It's going to be a whirlwind, but I'm ready and looking forward to it!

Heading out of the range in Fort Kent.

The men's mass start in Ft. Kent.

March 2, 2009

News

I recently learned that instead of staying in Lake Placid and training until US Nationals in two weeks in Ft. Kent, Maine, I would be traveling to compete in the World Cup in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I have never raced in a World Cup, and to have my first be at the 2010 Olympic venue makes this opportunity extra special. I am more than ready to race at this level and see what I can do. I feel like this is the perfect time and place to make something happen. I can't wait!

Hopefully my success on the same courses last year transfers to the World Cup.

February 15, 2009

Back "home"

Out on a ski in the mountains (Alps) above the Antholz venue.

The IBU Cup and World Championship Team trials are over, and though I had some great results in Europe, I just missed making the World Champ Team. I was upset not to make the team, but my results proved that I had made a huge jump since last year, and being so close to making the team made me feel really good about where I am.

After the IBU Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, I was able to go to the Antholz, Italy World Cup as an alternate. I was not able to race, but it was an invaluable experience to see a World Cup live. I got to see how things run and what the stadium is really like on race day, which was fantastic. I feel that now when I get the chance to compete in a World Cup, I will not be as surprised on unprepared as I would have been having never seen one.

The view from our hotel in Antholz.

Looking back into the stadium from out on course in Antholz.

I then headed back "home" to Lake Placid. It was nearly three weeks from when I got back until the next North American Cup race, so it was a good chance to put in some solid training. The snow has been fantastic, so we were able to have some very high quality workouts. We also competed in the Cross Country SuperTour race in Stowe, VT last weekend, which was a fun and different break from biathlon racing. It was definitely interesting going back to a Nordic race, having not done one for over a year, but I enjoyed it, and the biathlon group did well. Susan Dunklee was 7th, I was 9th, Bethann Chamberlain was 10th and Jen Wygant was 17th in a field of 173 skiers.

This weekend was the Lake Placid NorAm Cup race, but things didn't go off as planned. Though we've had great snow until now, the weather picked this week to start being uncooperative. With warm temperatures Sunday through Wednesday, and rain Tuesday night and Wednesday, the race organizers decided to cancel the NorAm as scheduled. Despite the range being completely gone (it was a big puddle on Wednesday that turned into an ice sheet on Friday), they were able to pull off a club race. The courses were a bit modified, but with lots of shoveling by volunteers, the range and course ended up in fairly decent shape.

I had decent races, finishing third both days. In the sprint on Saturday, I felt a little flat skiing, like I hadn't raced in a while. Then in the pursuit format today (Sunday), my skiing came together, but my shooting was off. It was a good weekend to get things back on track and get back into that race mode.

Next weekend it's off to Presque Isle for the NorAm there. It sounds like there's plenty of snow up there, so hopefully the weather cooperates and we can hold the NorAm this week!

video
A video from the Antholz World Cup sprint race of Andrea Henkel (GER) shooting. She cleans: the crowd loves it!

**Update: This post was supposed to go up a week ago, I'm not sure what happened. Anyway, the Presque Isle races went well, despite the small number of racers. I was 1st in the sprint race on Saturday and 2nd in the mass start on Sunday. I'm now in Fort Kent training for the week and then will be heading back to Lake Placid for another round of training. More details to come, stay tuned! ~Sara

January 12, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

Hello!
It's been a while since I've written. A lot has happened, so I'll try and do a quick catch-up of the last couple months.

November

After returning to the training center after the October camp, training continued as usual. We didn't have any snow and abundant rain and sand on the roads that made rollerskiing difficult. It was a lot of running and treadmill rollerski interval workouts before we finally left for West Yellowstone after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, West Yellowstone did not have any snow in town either. After successfully driving up to the plateau for a couple days of great skiing, the road was closed by the Forest Service and we were in a tight spot. There was much diliberation amongst the USBA coaches as to what to do. Move the NorAm's? Wait for snow? Try to make it work for a few more days? In the end, the NorAm's were moved, and we were out of there a week early. I love skiing in West, and so was sad to leave, but hiking the 3.5 hour round-trip up the the plateau to ski just wasn't worth it. In the end, it was a good thing we left because they didn't end up getting significant snow until mid-December.

December

Once we arrived in Minnesota for what was now to be two weekends of racing (5 races total), we encountered an entirely different problem-cold. Though we were thankful for the great snow and got some really good training in during the first week we were there, it was freezing! The first race (a 7.5km Sprint race) went off despite a short delay due to temperatures and an ever increasing blizzard, but the second race was cancelled due to forcasted friggid weather. When we awoke that morning, it was -30F, so no one was complaining about not having to go outside. Temperatures warmed a little, but the next three races were still pretty cold. We ended up having one more delay, but things went pretty smoothly consudering the adverse conditions. I had a couple of good races, my best being the third race-a Pursuit style, which I won by a margin of 50 seconds. Zach also had some good results, winning the first Sprint race as well as the final race-a windy and cold Mass Start. Because of our results in Minnesota, both Zach and I qualified for the IBU Cup Team and began to get psyched for racing in Germany and the Czech Republic in January.

A cold late afternoon ski out on a lake in Minnesota. (photo: Zachary Hall)

Carolyn Bramante and I on the podium at the Mt. Itasca Sprint race.

We spent a little over a week in Boise for Christmas. It was nice to have a break from focusing so intensly on biathlon, not to mention how nice it was to finally see double digit temperatures! But it was a short break, and soon we were headed back to Lake Placid for three days and then off to Germany!

Getting ready for our big Christmas Eve Smorgasbord.

My brother and I enjoying the snow in Sun Valley.

January

So here we are in Altenberg, Germany, finally caught up! We just finished the first weekend of racing here, and though I had some ups and some downs, I have been learning a ton from racing here, and really enjoying the whole experience. The level of racing here at the IBU (International Biathlon Union) Cups is so much higher than anything we have in the US. It is really good to see this level in order to get a better idea of just how fast I have to be in order to be competitive. I definitely have some work to do, but it's not impossible.

The stadium in Altenberg-what a crowd! (photo: Zachary Hall)

Heading to the finish in Altenberg. (photo: Gary Colliander)

After the races in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic next weekend, they will name three women and one man to the World Championship Team that will head to World Cup #6 in Antholz, Italy and then on to Pyeong Chang, South Korea. I need to have a couple more good races in order to qualify, so I'll be working on making every second and every shot count. Wish me luck!

Auf Wiedersehen!