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Author Archive

New Year, New Socks

4.Jun.2014 by Clare Egan

The “new year” is upon us.  I did my first roller-ski intervals yesterday, and a running time trial today.  Ah, that moment when you realize that the 2-mile loop you did at 5:45/mile pace was actually only 1.7 miles and you were running 6:45’s.  ‘Tis the training season.

There are three reasons for celebration at this time. That’s saying a lot for someone who hates training season almost as much as running up mountains in the heat of July while others are barbecuing (oh, wait…). The first cause for celebration is that I replaced all of my socks.

Now when I say all, I mean the 5.5 pairs of socks that have been with me every day for the last three summers of roller-skiing, running, hiking, and biking, rain or shine, blood, sweat and tears. How eleven out of twelve of my original crew sock crew– purchased while en route to Craftsbury with the hope of making my introduction to roller-skiing less painful– survived marathons upon marathons of physical wear and abuse is a mystery.

The second cause for celebration is that I am at my first training camp with the US biathlon team. This spring I was nominated to their new “development group”, which gives me the opportunity to work with the national team coaches and participate in some of the team’s camps this summer. I am still based in Craftsbury and I train with the GRP as often as I can when I’m there, but my training plan is now biathlon-focussed and is written by the US biathlon team coaches. It is a very exciting development for me because it is what I need in order to become a better biathlete.

I also bought a new rifle. It has tiger stripes.

Czeching in

15.Feb.2014 by Clare Egan

I flew to Slovenia on February 4th for my first European biathlon racing experience. On our schedule we had two races in Pokljuka, Slovenia, and two races in Rosenau, Austria. Upon our arrival in Pokljuka, we discovered that the races there had been canceled due to too much snow. With no other race options within reasonable travel distance, we decided to stay put and train in Pokljuka.

[SPOILER ALERT Olympic men’s Hockey] –We interrupt this blogpost to notify you of Team USA men’s hockey victory in 7 shootouts over Russia.–

The staff at the venue in Pokljuka were very accommodating, and excavated (half of) their range from under the snowbank for us. It snowed over 3′ the day before we arrived and then averaged about 1.5′ per day while we were there. The snow removal operation was something to behold: imagine snow-blowing a strip of your driveway, turning around and starting from scratch. Now imagine snow so deep that you have to hoist the snow-blower onto the pile of snow and blow the top half of the snow off before you can get to the bottom layer. Last Saturday we thew together a race with some Slovenians, Russians and Australians, and then we did a time trial amongst ourselves Sunday.

Our travel group (L-R): Katrina Howe, Raleigh Goessling, Mike Gibson, Kelsey Dickinson, me, Ethan Dreissigacker. Missing from photo: Casey Smith and coaches Seth Hubbard and Betsy Smith.

 

The beautiful Alpine snow in Pokljuka, Slovenia.

 

Enjoying the Pokljuka powder!

 

The most snow I’ve ever seen.

 

Our hotel at the venue had views of the range from each room.

 

Due to a weather phenomenon that is perhaps uniquely European, the Slovenian races were canceled due to too much snow, and then the Austrian races about 150 miles (270km) away were canceled due to no snow. Hence our re-route to Nove Mesto, Czech, where we just wrapped up the first of two Czech Cup races. Nove Mesto does not have any natural snow either, but they have a very solid man-made loop on which they have held a World Cup and U-26 European Championships this winter.

Biathlon stadium bleachers.

 

Nove Mesto sells out during Word Cup biathlon races.

 

Downtown Nove Mesto.

 

Artwork on the side of the church in the central town square.

 

Nove Mesto train station.

 

My race today in the 12.5k mass start was characterized by wet, warm, SLOW snow, wind, and bad shooting. I shot (2p, 3p, 3s, 1s). I was disappointed in the prone shooting because I know I can do much better than that, but for some reason I was wobbly today. Maybe my position, or maybe the wind. Tomorrow I am doing a 15k individual, which is the race format with a one-minute time penalty added for each miss instead of penalty laps. I am relieved to not have to enter the penalty lap after I skied almost 14k in today’s 12.5k, but a MINUTE penalty for each miss is much more brutal!

I fly directly to Minneapolis on Monday morning in anticipation of the Birkie 50k just one week from today.

UVM Carnival/Eastern Cup

5.Feb.2014 by Clare Egan

This weekend I competed at the UVM College Carnival/NENSA Eastern Cup at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT. As usual, this annual event was a sunny and bustling celebration of New England skiing.

It was by far the biggest race I’ve done this year, with over 220 women competing! I was so psyched to be in a big, competitive field after enduring several lonely one- or two-woman biathlon races. Of course, this was a cross-country ski race (not biathlon) so I didn’t get to shoot any targets, but that also means I did not have to carry that heavy rifle. What a relief!!!

On Saturday we did a classic sprint. I was nervous for two reasons: 1) it was my first classic race of the year (biathlon is always skate), and 2) it was my first time this year going up against some of the best cross-country skiers in the country. Having raced mostly against myself or one other biathlete, I was not sure how I would fare.

 I did not quite have my classic legs under me in the qualifier–or enough kick wax!– and I struggled on the uphill and finished 24th. I started :15 seconds behind Leah Brams, a U-16 skier from Cambridge Sports Union, and although I almost caught her by the bottom of the long downhill on the first half of the course, she then proceeded to kick my butt up the steep climb and beat be to the finish line. Luckily I was in the top 30 and qualified for the heats. If I had skied just 2 seconds slower I would not have made it!

Here I am in the qualifier, getting dropped by Leah Brams.

In the heats I was determined to improve upon my 24th-place seed, and improve I did! Only the top two finishers in each quarterfinal automatically advance to the semifinals, so I went for it and won my quarterfinal!

Leading my quarterfinal- against some much lower bib #’s!

 

Tongue out, guns out!

The lineup in my semifinal was pretty intense, including the reigning classic sprint national champion. As we started around the course I found myself in the surprise position of the lead, and then as we came into the finish I had a moment of college racing deja-vu as two Dartmouth women (one current- Annie Hart, and one former- Rosie Brennen) closed in around me on either side and blew by me in the double-pole finish. Another great classic sprinter, Lauren Fritz, appeared in my peripheral vision but I held her off and qualified for the A-Final!

In the A-Final I moved everywhere from first to last over the course of the heat, but ended up taking 4th behind Caitlin Patterson, Rosie Brennen, and Heidi Halverson (in that order). I was very pleased to have moved up from my 24th place in the qualifier!!!

A-Final about 200m from the finish.

On Sunday, we did a 5k skate. The course at Trapps has a long history of getting the best of me about 1km from the finish line, so this time I was determined to make it to the end without totally blowing up. The course only takes about 14 minutes, but the last 5 are all uphill which makes for an interesting strategic challenge. It is such a short race but you also have to save something for that last climb.

About 2km into the race, trying not to push too much…or too little.

Much to my delight, I made it all the way to the finish line and I got 3rd. My teammate Caitlin won for the second day in a row, and it is always great to have a teammate on the podium! Erika Flower was second.

Skate 5k Podium

 Two more photos for your entertainment:  

Hopefully this tongue thing does not become a habit!

NOT what skate skiing should look like!

Cleaning, Dirtying & Technical Difficulties

27.Jan.2014 by Clare Egan

On Sunday we wrapped up the North American Biathlon Championships in Jericho, VT. After winning the sprint race on Friday by just three seconds, I knew I had hard work ahead if I wanted to stay on top for the remaining two races. (Check out my personal blog for a race recap from Friday’s sprint!)

In Saturday’s pursuit start 10k, I started off very strong, shooting [1, 0] for the first two prone stages. It was only the second time I have ever “cleaned” in a race. Hitting all five targets (recorded as 0 misses) is called “cleaning” because when you hit each black circle target, a white pedal swings up to cover the black, so when you hit all five you are left with a clean white target.

18960474-biathlon-target

Target with Echo and Delta hit.

With fast skiing and 9/10 prone shooting, I was well ahead of my competitors at the midway point of the race…but then came the standing shooting. In small part due to gusty wind, and in larger part due to my inexperience and nervousness, I shot [3, 4] in standing, meaning I had to ski seven penalty laps in the second half of the race.

My main competition, Katrina, caught me after the final standing stage as I skied my fourth and she skied her only penalty lap. Then we set out on course together for the final 2.5km loop before the finish. I knew she was right behind me and knew that I needed to beat her by 15 seconds in order to win, having started 15 seconds ahead of her. So I really motored to the finish and ended up winning by 9 seconds. Another close race!

2014_01_28-Dump1 008

Saturday’s pursuit podium.

On Sunday, I was very much looking to a mass start format, during which I could race Katrina and the other women head-to-head. I had a good warm up despite the barely-legal -4F thermometer reading, and toed the line with high hopes. I came into the range after the first loop about 10 seconds ahead of the others, got into position, and could not see a thing through my site. Some snow had gotten in there and frozen completely so I had no visibility whatsoever. I spent probably over two minutes on the range blowing hot air through the site trying to clear it out. Finally I shot and missed 4. Still, I set out from there thinking that if I skied fast and hit every target for the rest of the race, I could still win!

When I came into shoot the second time, my eye cup– a rubber cylinder through which you view the site– fell right off, probably from having been wrestled with during the ice fiasco, and though it is not actually fundamental to the rifle’s zero, it makes using the site much easier.

eye cup

Rear site with eye cup, shown just above thumb.

rear site

Rear site without eye cup. See that tiny hole? Yeah me neither.

Long story short: I maintained a positive attitude about getting in a good skiing workout, but the shooting went to shambles and skied 15 penalty laps, five of which resulted from my first (AND HOPEFULLY ONLY) time “dirtying” the target. By my calculations I skied almost 15k for what should have been a 12.5k race. Needless to say I do not have a podium photo from Sunday! I’m glad I have that behind me as I head to Europe a week from tomorrow.