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Author Archive

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.

Quebec Races & Exciting News!

19.Jan.2014 by Clare Egan

After racing in IBU Cup Trials and the Eastern Cup Opener in December, I have enjoyed (?) a long “training block.” This means I did not have any races on the calendar, so I increased my training volume and intensity for about three weeks. While nothing beats actual racing in terms of getting “up to speed,” there are benefits to a training block. Without races on the schedule, you can do much longer workouts, heavier lifting, and harder interval sessions. So that’s what I’ve been doing in January…

Until now! This weekend, Mike, Ethan and I (GRP Team Biathlon!) made the trip up to Quebec City. It is about a 3.5 hour drive, not including requisite stops at the border, the gas station/dépanneur, and Subway, of course. We competed in two “NorAm Cup” biathlon races at the Valcartier military base just north of the city. This was great practice for the NorAm Championships which will be held next weekend in Jericho, VT.

On Saturday we had our first race, which was a 7.5km sprint for me (sprint means one prone and one standing stage). Despite shooting prone on a very bumpy in steeply inclined point, I was pleased to miss only two, and then I miraculously missed only two in standing as well, bringing my total to four misses. Unfortunately I was the only woman in the 21+ category so I was basically doing a time-trial against myself, but it still beats the training block!!!

Ethan and Mike did a 10k sprint. They both had some trouble on the prone mat, but they skied really fast and took second and third place, respectively! Mike missed five total (3, 2) and Ethan missed four– all in prone (4, 0).

Today (Sunday) we did a pursuit start based on Saturday’s results, so I started first– and last– for women. It was a 12.5k race with four shooting stages. I was on a roll, missing only one target on each of my prone stages, and then disaster struck and I missed four on the first standing! Standing is much harder for me; when I have an elevated heart rate and I’m shaky and out of breath, my barrel does not like to settle on the target but rather bounce all around. I have just recently gotten to the point where I can at least hit the targets at low/moderate exertion in practice, so when I came in for my second standing, I thought to myself, “I can do this if I just let the rifle settle.”  So I took some more time on the range and managed to hit four, which was a relief. Ethan and Mike had better shooting today and skied fast again so they passed the leader of the pursuit and ended up first and second!

The three of us have some good news to share: last week, the Director of USBA, Max Cobb, announced that there is going to be a biathlon development trip to Europe in February! Ethan, Mike and I are all going, along with three athletes from the Maine Winter Sports Center biathlon team. We will race in Slovenia and Austria over the course of two weeks. We already bought the tickets so there is no looking back!

I can’t wait to go get my butt kicked by some people who actually know what they are doing… even if I get last at least I won’t be the only one in the race.