The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Ugly

As a form of training, biathletes and cross country skiers do an activity called roller skiing.  Roller skiing allows us to train very sport specific during those few months we are not chasing snow.  Roller skiing is essentially skiing with wheels.   In the Biathlon world this has now developed into a second competitive season.  Summer Biathlon.  With a full World Cup schedule and World Championships, this sport may one day become as popular as its older brother.  North America has its own Summer Biathlon tour and it concluded two weeks ago here in Canmore.  The North American Summer Biathlon Championships were held at the Nordic Centre, September 11-12.  I was doing the races as a warm up for the Roller Ski trials for biathlon that were coming up the week after.  I was finishing a volume block in my training and was going to use the races as a way to bring back my speed.  The Saturday was a Sprint which had the distinct ‘first race of the season’ feel to it.  Shooting was good but not solid and I felt sluggish with no real snap in the legs.  Overall pleased with the day’s effort but had more for plenty of improvement.  Sunday was a Pursuit race.  This race gave me a confident start.  A teammate and I were the best shooters of the day, missing only two shots.  It was a great feeling to get the shooting dialed in.  I really could see the improvement from the work I put in over the summer months.

The following weekend the Canmore Nordic Centre hosted the Roller Ski trials that would serve as team selections for Biathlon Canada.  I was using these races as an opportunity to compete against the best biathletes in Canada to just to see where I stack up.  The races also allowed me to gain more race experience with my biathlon arm as the winter competitive season is only around the corner.  The trials consisted of three races, a Mass start (on Friday), Sprint (on Sunday) and Pursuit (on Monday).  After each race, percentages were calculated based on time behind the winner.  The best two out of three percentages were what Biathlon Canada were going to use to determine team selection.   I was back at school so I didn’t want to miss both Friday and Monday classes.  I decided to go to school on Friday and would race Sunday and Monday.  After the races the weekend before, I had found some snap again in my legs.  Sunday’s Sprint race was one of my better races.  I was relaxed, calm and focused on the little things in the race and not the race itself.  I skied really well, and shot even better.  I shot clean.  With that kind of race, it was a little disappointing that I would finish 15th.  I thought it was not bad for a one-arm guy.

Monday’s race was the Pursuit.  This is the ugly part.  With the success of the past three races, I wanted to continue that.  My shooting was some of the most impressive in the field.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to shoot well again and translate that into a strong race.  I began to think about it, and I knew then it was over.  I struggled in my shooting throughout the race.  I was close, but close doesn’t knock down targets.  I skied technically well and had a strong finishing lap.  That race taught me a lot in regards to my mental race.  As my coach put it ‘that race was a step in learning how to perform on demand’.   I’m getting to the point in my career where as I step to the start line I need to be able to flick the switch between ‘racing’ and ‘performing’.  The latter being: performing to my full potential whether that is a top-3, a podium or a victory.  The good, the bad and the ugly are all part of developing as an athlete.  If you avoid failing you can never succeed.

With the snowflakes already flying here in Canmore (no joke), selection criteria being published and the Fall volume camps about to begin, these are all signs that winter is upon us.  Equipment orders are being confirmed and final preparations are in full swing for the competitive season.  Here are some of the facts:

–          snow has begun to fall in the mountains (Sunshine Village received 20+cms yesterday alone and predicts a November 11 opening day)

–          10 weeks left before the first competition

–          94 days until Santa Claus pays a visit

–          16 weeks before the first IPC World Cup

–          6 months before the 2011 IPC World Championships

–          1263 days until the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Paralympics

Most skiers are now entering their final major blocks of training before the racing season starts.  The intensity will be increased and the volume will be increased, as we get our bodies ready to perform on the World stage for another season.

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