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Author Archive

Biathlon Season Review

15.Mar.2017 by Alex Howe

I don’t post enough, I’ll be the first one to admit that. But, here it is. The whole season.

We started our winter season with a GRP pre-trials training camp in Canmore, Alberta.  Canmore is an awesome place to start the season because they do an amazing job preparing an early season loop.

Team training in Canmore.

The training center in Canmore saves snow all summer, then in early November they spread it on one of their smaller loops including the biathlon range. Teams from all over North America head out to take advantage of getting on some early snow before the racing season starts.

Emily training in Canmore.

We got in some good training with a bunch of volume and several good interval sessions. The last weekend of our camp we raced in the NORAM Cup, which is a great way to work out all the kinks and remember what racing feels like.

 

After the Canmore camp, the team traveled to Grand Rapids, Minnesota for trials. Coach Sam found us an awesome house on the lake just south of town and we settled in for some cold temperatures (which I have heard is pretty common out there). I had also heard plenty of stories about racing at Mt. Itasca, and let me tell you, they are all true.

Mass start at Mt. Itasca.

It is cold. Fleet supply is awesome. It is cold. There is a staircase on the course. It is cold. And you do change into your ski boots in a trailer.

All bundled up racing in Mt. Itasca.

Mother nature did not disappoint. It was cold. We ended up racing 3 of the 4 races that were scheduled because there was a forecasted high somewhere near -6 with wind chills around -18. The rest of the days we dealt with near zero temperatures, a little wind, and frozen fingers and toes. In the evenings we would jog to the end of the road with our down jackets on, quickly turn around, and sprint home. At the end of the week we were all very excited to be heading home to warmer weather and the holidays!

 

Shortly after the holiday break (which is one day according to Pepa), Emily, Hallie, and I left for the IBU Cup in Italy. The first weekend was being held up the valley from the tiny town of Martell.

View from the hotel in Martell.

The town is in the Sudtirol area of northern Italy, located just west of Bolzano. It is a narrow valley with hillside farms covering the steep walls on both sides. The farms are mostly small dairy farms, with a couple apple and strawberry growers mixed in. Each farm had a main barn connected to the house, with the livestock living under the hay mow. Even with the limited amount of sun that reached the valley each day, I was very excited to be surrounded by farms.

Biathlon range and stadium in Martell.

The venue was a 15 minute drive up the valley from our hotel, situated with the range against one side of the valley and a small ribbon of snow winding around through brown fields. Luckily the venue has snow making capabilities! The range had a river flowing through between the shooting points and the targets, and because it was at the end of the valley had some pretty strong winds that seemed to blow the whole time we were there.

Above the town of Martell, Italy.

The IBU Cup is very different from racing in North America, which was the only biathlon racing I had done up to that point. There are rigid guidelines of what you can wear, how many stickers you can have on your rifle, how big those stickers can be, and who can get into the ‘family club’ for free food. Racing at the IBU Cup has some major differences as well. There are far more racers, everyone is fast, everyone shoots fast, and everyone shoots well.

 

After getting rid of the butterflies in Martell, I traveled with the team to Arber, Germany. Bodenmais, the town we stayed in, is located in the Bavarian Forest in southeastern Germany.

Emily racing in Arber, Germany.

The venue was the first place where we raced on only natural snow, and it was snowy and windy the week we spent there. We were supposed to do an individual and a mixed relay, but due to gusting winds they canceled the relay.

Then we turned around and headed back to Italy for a week of training in Toblach. Right as we drove in we were excited to find that the skiing world cup was happening right there in town. We stopped by and got to see Ida, and watch the finals. Toblach is an amazing skiing town. They had almost no natural snow, but continuously were spreading man-made snow on 40+ kilometers of trail. There were ski trails through bare fields that went from town to town, covering miles of empty cow pastures in the process.

Watching the IBU World Cup in Antholz, Italy.

Once we were all well rested and had gotten some good training hours in, we packed up and took the long drive north to Poland for the Open European Championships. Duszniki, Poland is a spa town and attracts tourists from around the world. The town burns predominantly coal as a source of heat, which was a smell I had never really experienced before (Not a good smell). It also has one of the most well put together venues I have ever been to.

Racing the pursuit in Duszniki.

Everything from their wax rooms, to the course and range seemed new and well maintained.  We did another individual, a sprint, a pursuit, and a mixed relay.

After a fun week with lots of racing, we headed south to Slovakia for the last weekend of IBU races during the trip. Osrblie is a very small town that had a cluster of houses and a venue resembling a smaller version of Soldier Hollow.

Emily racing the pursuit in Osrblie, Slovakia.

Five weeks after we left, we arrived back home with more racing on the schedule. We had our next sets of trials in Jericho, and the following week in Lake Placid. Emily, Hallie, and myself qualified for two more weekends of racing in Finland and Estonia.

Kontiolahti, Finland was our first stop, just north of the city of Joensuu. Then venue is set on a plateau above a large lake. The race trails descend down off the edge of the plateau toward the lake before looping around and climbing several steep “walls” back into the range.

Kontiolahti stadium and range.

Emily racing up the “wall” in the pursuit.

Once we had climbed enough steep hills, we traveled south with all the other teams to Otepaa, Estonia for the last weekend of racing for the season. We finished the IBU season off with two relay races and two sprint races.

Otepaa, Estonia stadium.

Biathlon is a totally different game in Europe. Its amazing, frustrating, fast, and very accurate. I can’t wait to get back to training so next year I can get back over there and keep going toe to toe with those fast Euros!

 

Dachstein Mountain Tour

17.Sep.2015 by Alex Howe
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When there is no skiing in Austria the only thing that makes sense to me is to go hiking! We planned out what we thought would be a good 5-6 hour hike and started into the mountains.

 

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The group was Emily, Ethan, Caitlin, and myself for the first section. Then Caitlin was going to join Nick for some Kletterstieg once we put some miles in.

 

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We decided to take an out and back over a pass to get a view from them top. The pass had some unexpected Kletterstieg in it, but we scrambled up anyways.

 

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Caitlin was stoked to be in the mountains. She bought some new climbing equipment so she and Nick could venture up some tougher ascents.

 

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This is the group coming down the second pass. After this we ran along some scree fields and were supposed to meet Pepa at the Sudwandhutte, which sits below the tram to the glacier.

 

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Here you can see the scree fields to the left. The trail took us across those before heading up some steep switchbacks.

 

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Bathroom break at the Sudwandhutte. Pepa was nowhere in sight.

 

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Above the Sudwandhutte. The bottom tram station is in the distance to the left of the roof.

 

We didn’t find Pepa, but we found Nick waiting for us in a patch of grass on the side of the trail. This trail took us up and over our third pass of the day.

 

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Looking back out of the valley.

 

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Further up the valley. In the distance you can see the trail that we were taking. Caitlin and Nick took a trail that left the valley to the left and scrambled up the scree field before starting the rock ascent.

 

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Emily doing some climbing.

 

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Further up the valley.

 

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This trail took us along the rim of the valley we had just come up. The valley is to the right in this picture.

 

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Our trail from above.

 

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The coolest part of the hike was the knife edge that we took along the top of the valley.

 

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There were a couple short technical parts but mostly nice running!

 

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Looking back towards the mountain. Just on the other side was where we were doing our skiing earlier in the week.

 

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Heading toward the Guttenberg Haus. From here we were heading toward that little pass in the mountains just above Emily’s head.

 

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Cresting the last pass of the day. Down below you can see Ramsau and Schladming behind it.

 

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The last section before we hit the Guttenberg was awesome running. There were also sheep grazing in the mountains just below us.

 

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First sighting of the Guttenberg Haus. We were all pretty bonked by this point so it was a very welcome sight. 6 hours and 37 minutes to get there.

 

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Enjoying some Austrian bratwurst and kaiserschmarrn. After our late afternoon lunch we still had another hour run back down to the GRP headquarters. All downhill. Very worth it though!

Alberta to Idaho

23.Mar.2015 by Alex Howe

 

On March 9th, Emily, Mike, Miro, and I traveled to Hinton, Alberta for the Canadian Biathlon Nationals.  Ethan met us there after competing in the IBU Cup races in Canmore, Alberta the week before.  Hinton is on the eastern front of the Canadian Rockies.

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Here is Mike, looking stoked about the upcoming races. In the background you can see the pulp mill which was built in the 1950’s.

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Running through one of the many industrial drives in Hinton.

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Cleaning our shoes off on the last patch of snow in town. We had to drive about 20 minutes to the venue which had great snow considering the weather.

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With all the warm weather haircuts were a life saver. We also found that the roof of the hotel was the best place because we didn’t have to clean anything up after.

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Hinton’s population seemed to be extremely proud of their over-sized and muddy trucks! (I won’t put all the photos I took of them on here)

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I have seen a boat on top of a truck, but never one on a trailer on top of a truck!

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This is the pulp mill in Hinton, which made the whole town smell pretty foul. Luckily the venue was far enough away that we didn’t need to smell it while racing.

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Looks like they could make some pretty awesome ski trails pretty easily!

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We found a hunting store in Hinton called High Calibre Sports. It was an awesome store that we could have spent a long time in!

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On our day off we drove up to Jasper which is located right in the middle of the Rockies.

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In Jasper we went for a run, but were warned by signs about the bears in the area!

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Running on the trails outside Jasper. Even Miro decided to come for the adventure!

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Our run took us through a couple different lakes.

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Heading back down into Jasper from the lakes.

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Found a spot looking out over the town of Jasper.

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After our run we got burgers in town. The restaurant had balcony seating overlooking the town.

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On our way home we ran into these guys right next to the road.

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We also stopped at this lake on the way back to Hinton. The lake drains during the winter and fills up during the summer.

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This is the monster sled that they did all the grooming with for the race. The racing went well but I need to do a lot more shooting this summer!

After the racing was over in Hinton, Emily and I traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho to meet up with the rest of the team for Super Tour Finals.  Mike split off and headed to US Biathlon Nationals in Truckee, and Ethan and Miro headed back home to Craftsbury.

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Our view from the plane. You can see Mt. Baker which is just north of Seattle.

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Looking out over the town of Ketchum, Idaho. Its been sunny and in the 50’s and 60’s almost every day!

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Pepa is a big fan of the owner of our rental house. Here she is planning out her relay team, which will be racing tomorrow!!

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A look at the stadium at Galena Lodge. Pretty amazing considering there is no snow down in town!

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Here is some of the team sitting on the tailgate of our rental truck! Some pretty good sun burns happening so far!

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Galena Lodge, which has awesome snow even when Ketchum has very little!

 

Turkeys!

9.May.2014 by Alex Howe
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The turkeys arrived yesterday from Hoffman Hatchery!

 

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For the first few weeks they live above the garage in the sign storage room.

 

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For the first couple days they are very susceptible to the cold so we keep two work lights on to keep them warm!

 

They love to peck anything shiny like Emily’s hair tie and fingernail polish!