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Archive for November, 2014

Biathletes Abroad

30.Nov.2014 by Mike Gibson

Canmore: Week 1

Ethan and I have been in Canmore, Alberta for just over a week now.  The skiing has been quite nice, though the biathlon trails were starting to get a little rocky.  Our training here has been really beneficial.  Maine Winter Sports Center is here and has been helping us out tremendously.  We got to jump into some fun relays, and also hammer out some race pace intervals with Casey Smith and Patrick Johnson.  All 20 of the Americans up here (CGRP, MWSC, Johnson, National Guard, and a contingent from Minnesota) gathered for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner.  Eth and I contributed just over 10 lbs of cheesy garlic mashed potatoes.  There were no leftovers, or pictures taken, apparently.

Since here, my HR monitor watch will no longer turn on, and both Eth and I have broken the firing pins to our rifles. What’s a firing pin?  A firing pin is a STUPID piece of metal inside the bolt of a rifle, without it, the rifle will not shoot.  Ask Bob Lee Swagger, he swaps all his firing pins before he leaves his house.


Most people know Canmore for the amazing mountains, and they would be correct.  Distractingly gorgeous. Apple was probably thinking about Canmore when they introduced the pano setting on your iPhone. Here is the view from our hotel room just after sunset.


This is looking down onto the biathlon range and stadium.



This is the opposite direction as the picture above: in the biathlon stadium, looking up. The billowing clouds are from Canmore’s extensive snow-making operation.



What people don’t realize is that it isn’t always like that. Training on Friday was a little raw.  -2 F and 30 mph winds.  Photo by Skip Smith


Our race Saturday was canceled because of this:


So we decided to get a late start, bundle up like Randy in A Christmas Story, and go classic skiing.



All smiles.  Cold, swaddled in all the merino wool clothing I own, and not racing, but smiling. Thanks, Kat Howe, for the picture.

Sunday rolled around, and we were optimistic for a race start.  I’ll admit, the forecast I saw probably didn’t warrant optimism.  The high was -3 and it quickly dropped again after that.


Our truck’s thermometer on the drive to the race venue (in C not F).  On a scale of Casey to Kat, my facial expression was probably closer to Kat. Photo: Kelsey Dickinson.


The race was delayed an hour, but we kept ourselves busy.  Heads Up! is an iPhone game modeled after Charades.  It’s frustrating to feel good and be excited to start the racing season, only to be held back by the weather. I was headed down a morose path, but pulled back by a solid hour of this game.

(Video from Betsy Smith)

The race was eventually cancelled. I again found myself dawning every article of clothing I packed, clipping into my bindings, and hoping I wouldn’t get irreparable frostbite.

It is a few days after Thanksgiving, but I still have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for the support of the GRP, Craftsbury, Concept 2, and my family.  I am thankful firing pins can be replaced.  I am thankful for the frostbite fighting powers of Dermatone.

This next week is supposed to get warmer, and we have two more races scheduled this weekend.  Wish us luck (that the races will be held)!

Race Day Routines

28.Nov.2014 by Susan Dunklee

This weekend marks the start of World Cup racing. On Sunday, we will put on the red, white and blue and represent the USA in the season’s first mixed relay in Östersund, Sweden. Over the winter, we race in about 30 competitions around 10 different countries, but our race day routines always looks the same. Here’s how I approach a race:

The Evening Before

We have a short team meeting to go over race day logistics and discuss strategy. Afterwards I write myself out a detailed schedule for the next day. Among other things, it includes when I plan to wake up in the morning, when I will eat meals, what time I must leave for the venue and when I should start warming up. Having a plan to follow simplifies race day preparations for me. It takes away extra stress, allowing me to focus on only one task at a time. It gives me confidence that I will fit in everything I need to do for the race.

Race Day

First thing in the morning, I go for short walk or jog outside to help the body wake up and to get a feel for the weather.


Sunrise over the biathlon range in Sjusjøen, Norway

I eat a hearty breakfast (and lunch if the race happens to be in the late afternoon or evening).


One of my staple breakfast combinations: Yogurt, museli, almonds, banana and blueberries.

An hour before I have to leave I pack a backpack with everything I’ll need, including some dry clothes and a snack for after the race. I warm up the nervous system for shooting by doing some dryfire drills (indoor shooting practice without any bullets).


You can often tell if a biathlete has been living somewhere if there are rows of little black dots (targets) taped to the wall.

Upon arrival at our team wax cabins I put on my ski boots and race bib and head to the course. I may need to meet up with one of our wax technicians to do a final test of my skis and choose the fastest pair for the given conditions.


Christian, our newest wax technician comes from Lillehammer.

Rifle zeroing opens an hour before race time. On my way I stop at equipment inspection to get my rifle’s trigger weight checked to make sure it is not too light. I then shoot some magazines on paper to check that my rifle’s sights are accurate. My coach looks at the bullets’ grouping through a scope and gives me corrections if needed.


Coach Jonne helps zero my teammate Annelies.

I finish with a “confirmation,” a hard loop skied around the stadium followed by shooting one more magazine to make sure my grouping stays centered with a higher heart rate. Then I load my magazines for the race and bring my rifle to the starting pen.

During the remainder of my time, I warm up skiing around the course. I use the opportunity to inspect the day’s snow conditions and I adapt my race plan and strategy if needed. 25 minutes or so before my start time, I do three minutes of race-pace effort and several short full speed pickups. 10 minutes before race time I report to the starting pen. I receive my race skis from our staff and bring them to equipment inspection to get marked. I pick up transponder timing chips that must be worn around my ankles.


With less than five minutes to go, after some last minute jogging to stay loose, I shed my warm-up clothes. I triple check that I loaded all my magazines. Then it is time to line up at the start gate. The race is on! As soon as I am on course, the pre-race nerves go away.


Lining up for the start during a small race last weekend with the German team in Sjusjøen, Norway.

Our World Cup race season begins this Sunday with a mixed relay in Östersund, Sweden (9:30 am EST in the US). Like all our World Cup races, you can stream it live.

Arctic Training

24.Nov.2014 by Ida Sargent

Sunrise today was at 10:21am and a mere three hours and forty-one minutes later at 2:02pm, the sun officially set.  And between those times there was not a lot of daylight as the sun barely rises above the horizon and never shines over the mountain behind the ski area.  Muonio is over 250km north of the Arctic Circle in Finland and close to the Swedish border.  The darkness could sound depressing but it hasn’t felt that way yet.  Just as a rainy day can makes a sunny day feel extra special, the darkness enhances the light here.  Sunrises last all day, slowly morphing into a sunset which eases out over the hours of dusk.  This is my fourth trip to Muonio and I’m probably in the minority for skiers, but I really like it here.  The GRP has trained here a few times which was when I first came here and the USST also often starts their season here.  It’s simple and relaxing.  We stay in cabins on the ski trails and just a short walk from meals.  There isn’t anything to do but ski, eat and sleep so it’s the perfect place to recover from the jetlag of international travel and prepare for the upcoming ski season.  Despite the darkness it is surprisingly beautiful here, the Arctic light reflecting on the snow in a unique way.  There isn’t a lot of natural snow but there are 6km of manmade tracks which have been excellent, providing more than enough terrain for great training.  Tomorrow we are driving to Ruka, Finland and the World Cup season opens this weekend.  

Muonio on the map.  Head north and keep going!

Arctic light

Sunrise or sunset?

An ice fog settled in and we even got some new snow this morning.  This photo almost looks like it is taken in black and white but it’s full color today

Northern lights over our condos one evening.  It was incredible!  (Matt Whitcomb photo)

Kikkan is psyched to go back to school!  We visited the Muonio elementary school which was a tradition started by Clare when the GRP was in Muonio for almost a month.  We shared videos of our team training and racing and the kids were excited to meet us.  Finnish school seemed pretty similar to American except everyone takes off their shoes before coming inside.

The beginning of the season means lots of new skis to test.  Here is my fleet of Fischers as well as Matt’s coat rack.  On top of being the women’s team coach, Matt is my wax tech.  He has done an awesome job preparing skis, cleaning skis and helping me test.  It’s important to have skis for every snow condition and course profile but too many skis can be overwhelming so we have put in a lot of work testing and getting to know the different skis in the fleet.  Thanks Matt!


Skiing and Wreath Making

22.Nov.2014 by Kaitlynn Miller

This past week we’ve been partaking in some fun activities like early season skiing and wreath making. We’ve received enough natural snow over the past few days to make many of the trails skiable (with rock skis). My morning ski a few days ago was simply stunning with cold temps, fresh powder, and a clear sky. I felt like I was skiing through a winter wonderland!

Great skiing even on un-groomed trails

Great skiing even on un-groomed trails

In addition to the natural snow, we have plenty of man-made snow. A few days ago we were able to do 30-second intervals along a short stretch of trail. Now, thanks to a lot of hard work, we have deep cover on a full 1.5K loop which enables us to test some of our new race skis.

Blowing snow in the upper soccer field

Blowing snow in the upper soccer field


The pile of man-made snow in the lower soccer field

The pile of man-made snow in the lower soccer field

The piston bully spreading the man-made snow

The PistenBully spreading freshly blown snow

This morning we did a skate sprint time trial in preparation for the SuperTour in West Yellowstone. We were joined by some of the Craftsbury juniors, GRP rowers, and Dublin High School skiers. We did a qualifier followed by four rounds of heats in which everyone took part. There were three people in each heat and the first finisher moved up a heat bracket while the third finisher moved down. It was an exciting format because we ended up racing against different people in almost every heat. Tomorrow we’ll be doing a 10/15K classic time trial.

In between our workouts on Wednesday many GRP athletes and staff made wreaths for the Center under the guidance of wreath making pros, Pam and Amy. There was plenty of balsam, spruce, and cedar to choose from as well as a variety of decorations so each wreath was a unique work of art. It’s harder than it might seem to create a decent-looking wreath. The wreath making process involves grouping bunches of greenery and attaching them every few inches with wire to a circular metal frame. I started off making rather dense greenery bundles for the relative size of my frame and had to do some adjusting so that my wreath didn’t turn into a circular green blob!

Pam, Maggie (in the background), and Caitlin making wreaths

Pam and Caitlin making wreaths

Caitlin's wreath

Caitlin’s wreath

Liz modeling my wreath

Liz modeling my wreath

Well, that’s all for now. The GRP skiers are off to West Yellowstone on Tuesday for the first races of the season and the biathletes have already left for Canmore. We’re excited for the season to start!