Former biathlete, current coach….all round nordic enthusiast!

An elite athlete competing in the sport of biathlon: nordic ski racing combined with marksmanship

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thawing Thunder

My last post started with how incredibly rough my transition from fall to winter was so this one has to start with how warm it got right after I wrote that last post. I spent much of the last week training without warmups and even had a few workouts where I was too warm to bother with a ski suit, going with just race tights and a lightweight long underwear top. I feel like acknowledging this might jinx us and spend the temperatures spiraling back below zero. Which could be tough for training though it would mean Canmore Nordic Centre (CNC) would start making snow again….

The ski development display at the CNC. Pretty cool to see how far our skis have come!

Frozen Thunder, the loop of saved snow they spread back in October, has held up remarkably well considering how long it's been skied on without being refreshed by natural snowfall. That said, it has gotten "less nice" over the last two or three days. I don't say "worse" because looking at the gray pictures from rainy Maine tells me that what we have cannot be considered bad. "Less nice" means that I stopped using my race skis over the weekend and may have added a new scratch or too on the bases of the skis that have now been designated as this year's training pair.

I took this photo a week ago on my last day off….perfect and incredibly cold tracks. Now they're still perfect but the snow is much stickier after a week of warmer weather. 

Thus we come to our "across the hallway" debate. Casey and I have been sharing the forecasts we're following over the past couple of days. Mine calls for fresh snow starting tonight (Monday) right through Wednesday with a total around 10-12 inches. His calls for a whopping 2 centimeters. We have yet to see which website is more accurate but because I love snow, I think that regardless of the results I'll probably go on believing whichever site calls for more snow. My fingers are crossed….fresh snow would mean I can confidently break out my race skis again and that the CNC would probably get some of their non-competition terrain further from the stadiums open. Those trails are really fun for easy distance classic skiing so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have a chance to ski them before we leave.

My new race skis along with my training pair (far left). 

This coming week is the start of our race season as we'll be doing the first NorAm Cup being held here in Canmore. It should be a good chance to test the legs and the work I've done over the offseason on the range as the women that are heading to IBU Cup for Canada will all be racing too. This week we'll do more speed than we've done in recent weeks. For now, here are some photos from the past week in Canmore.

The railroad tracks that are just across the street from our condos. The train traffic has been fairly heavy every day that we've been here and at night they just fly through town. If I happen to wake up from the sound, I can feel the building vibrating! 

Late morning sun creating shadows on the trail. 

A frozen pond in town with the Rockies in the background. I'm pretty sure there's nowhere in town where you can't see the mountains. It's great. 

Another shot of my skis. 

The Bow River as seen on one of my runs up to the venue. 

I just love this bridge….it looks so different with changes in the sunlight and weather that I've now got a handful of shots taken in various conditions and I love them all! 

Looking down on the biathlon stadium from some new terrain that opened over the weekend. They've been pushing out fresh man-made snow on the nordic race trails and this one had quite a bit of climbing involved. 

We spent one afternoon at a local tea shop called Communitea. I was pretty excited about their colorful display of tea spices, though Brian was completely annoyed that they were close to, but not IN rainbow order. 

Shooting on a warm day….standing. 

Shooting prone the same day. 

Another run up to the venue…this one earlier in the morning after the sun had just crested the distant mountains to the south of Canmore. 

A riverside trail on my way back to the hotel. Those mountains you see are on the opposite side of the valley from CNC. 

The bridge again…different light and from the other end. 

A view on my down the hill from CNC looking east across the Bow River Valley. 

Brian and I went on an afternoon running adventure up the ridge to the east of the valley and our hotel. I showed him the Hoodoos….yes, that's what these things are called. 

There are three Hoodoos up there. If you drive up into Banff National Park there are a lot more but we haven't been up there yet. 

The Three Sisters…Brian informed me that they are called Faith, Hope, and Charity, though I'm not sure which was which. 

Looking down off the ridge we ran along toward our hotel and town. The white spot closest to the middle of that far ridge is where CNC is. 

A view of the Bow River from a different trail. The water, which I'm sure is super cold at this point, was crystal clear and looked almost green from the right angle. 

And finally, some shots of my actually training! It's hard to get pictures of me skiing when Seth is busy coaching and everyone else is training with me. These shots were frozen frames from some technique videos he took one morning. We were shooting and alternating one pole, V2, double pole and no pole skiing on the ski loops between shootings. Here I'm using just my left pole…something I've never felt particularly strong at, but I'm getting better. 


Check back in a week for an update with results from our first weekend racing and my reflection on how it went! Wish me luck! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

50 to subzero

Today is our first day off since arriving here in Canmore on Thursday so I've finally got some down time to upload pictures and put together an update.

Eva rolling around on the floor while watching us pack. I'm going to miss those little fluff balls!

Shortly before leaving Maine I joined the technologically advanced and got an iPhone. I've had great fun playing with it and have captured some great photos so far. If you had an iPhone and like taking pictures, download the Camera+ app. It's worth the three dollars. Most of the photos in this blog came off my phone.

My trip out (with Seth and Kelsey) turned into quite the extended and frustrating adventure. We left Fort Kent on Tuesday and made the 5 hour drive to Portland for a morning flight on Wednesday. Wednesday dawned calm and incredibly foggy, yielding a couple hours worth of delays before they finally canceled our flight down to Newark. Turns out it was canceled due to combination of a pilot who didn't have enough experience landing on only instruments and a plane with a guidance system not accurate enough to (be guaranteed to) find the runway in such conditions. Maybe I'm glad they canceled it….

After much hassle trying to reclaim our checked bags (all nine of them) we rebooked out of Boston for Thursday morning and got a hotel for the night. The trip to Boston (via bus from Portland) was smooth and easy. They bring you right to the gate and you don't have to hassle with parking or navigating that lovely morning rush hour traffic that we don't have in Fort Kent. Our flight from Boston went out right on time, putting us into Chicago for a scheduled four hour layover that turned into six before we finally boarded for our final leg to Calgary.

LLBean in Freeport….a great place to go chill out for a while when your flights get canceled! 

Artsy shot from the Chicago airport.

Chicago has a hydroponic garden upstairs that made for a sunny spot to sit on a cloudy day. 

After a half hour or so of waiting they finally shoved us off from the gate and toward the runway. Then we sat. And sat. And sat. And when we finally moved it was a 180 degree turn back toward the gate to get de-iced since we'd sat too long on the tarmac allowing a brief snow squall to stick flakes on the wings.

When we made the 180 back to the gate….Kelsey wasn't psyched. 

Another half hour at the gate and we FINALLY left Chicago for a smooth (I hate flying so this was a relief) and dark flight up to Calgary. Once in Calgary we had an hour long wait for our shuttle to Canmore, then an hour drive between us and a bed. A long, long travel day (or two, or three if you count the drive from Fort Kent).

When we got up in Canmore on Friday….quite the transition to winter!

We knew it was going to be cold in Canada but leaving the airport building in Calgary was a bit of a shock. Unsure of the accuracy of our iPhones, there's still a debate about how cold it actually was, but my phone said -17F on Friday morning when we got up here in Canmore. Quite the shock from the 50 degrees we had last weekend for the Lobster Roll race on North Haven Island. Needless to say, I had almost all of my clothes on for our first ski that day. Thankfully the sun has been incredibly consistent so the temps have been manageable for the most part. Today, tomorrow and Wednesday we're actually supposed to have really warm weather (35-40 F) but I'm sitting in the nordic center (their internet is much more consistent that at our hotel) right now and the people skiing by outside are bundled right up so I'm guess it's not that warm yet!

In Canmore you can store your frozen turkey in the back of your truck…

So far training has gone really well. My first day I did one session classic in the morning and then took to my skate stuff in the afternoon. My new Alpina boots are awesome…no having to adjust them this year. Perfect right out of the box! I've only skied once on my new skis since we had them stone ground so we're (and by "we" I mean Seth) are getting them saturated before i use them too much. They were great although two of the three pairs are for warmer temperatures than we have had so far. Maybe they'll feel nicer tomorrow!

Snowmaking on a clear (COLD) sunny day at the Canmore Nordic Center. They have upwards of 60 snow guns here so when it's cold they absolutely churn out the snow. From my view in the lodge today I can already see new terrain that wasn't open when we trained yesterday…can't wait to ski tomorrow!

The first day we were here Casey jumped in with the Canadians for his second race of the season and third day on snow. He drove a family truck up from his home in Washington so he's been here two days long than me. 

Brian and I were psyched with the sun and snow….can you tell? 

Casey taking a turn on the penalty loop. He shot (1,1 - two total misses out of ten shots taken) in his second race…pretty strong start to the season! 

Camera+ at work: the top shot (out our bedroom window in Fort Kent) hasn't been played with. The bottom shot was after I toyed with it in Camera+. Fun, huh? 

A hat I made for myself right before we left Maine. Rumor has it that our new MWSC suits from Borah will have some pink on the women's version so I added pink with the blues to make it MWSC colors! 

One had underway already here in Canmore...

Seth testing out a sample suit from Borah in the kitchen (he did ski in it before dinner)…dinner was aerodynamically efficient! 

I am the proud owner of a season's pass here at CNC….and I've been renamed. 

The Inukshuk right outside our hotel in town. These supposedly line the coast in the far north as  safety beacons to boats offshore. It was also a kind of symbol for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. You can't tell from this photo, but this guy is probably about 12 feet tall! 

My favorite bridge in Canmore…I'm pretty sure I take 10-15 photos of this thing every time I come here. 

A panorama taken from inside the nordic center.

A stairway connecting segments of the public walking trails to the biking and ski trails.

The Bow River. 

Looking South from the gorgeous bridge. 

The local kids love playing on the piles of manmade snow before the groomers push them out at night. 

Looking southeast before morning training. 

Brian atop one of the snow piles after training yesterday.

The biathlon range with the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the background. 

Yesterday we did strength at a gym in town…turns out it's quite the hotspot for indoor climbing. 

Yesterday was a busy day on Frozen Thunder (their name for the early season trail made from snow saved over the summer months). On the weekends the trail is open all day to the public so our first set of intervals involved some dodging of moving obstacles! 

Stay tuned for more updates! 

I've been posting pictures on twitter (@KatrinaMHowe) and instagram (katreeenamarie) daily. 
Check there for more regular news!