Caitlin Compton races for the CXC Elite Team. She won the overall SuperTour title in 2006/2007, is a two-time National Champion – winning the 5km freestyle in 2008 and the team sprint in 2007, and finished 37th in the Individual 15km at the 2008 Biathlon World Championships. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Caitlin graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2004. She races on Salomon skis and boots, and rollerskis from FinnSisu.
FasterSkier: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us Caitlin!
Your ski career has taken some interesting turns over the past few years. You won the overall SuperTour in 2006/2007, switched to biathlon and skied to a top 40 result at the Biathlon World Championships. Now we hear that you are heading back to Nordic.
Coming off an extremely successful 06/07 season when you won the SuperTour, what motivated your initial shift to biathlon?
Caitlin Compton: I trained with Piotr Bednarski in 2005/2006, while living in Minneapolis, prior to joining CXC. Piotr was a big advocate for the sport of Biathlon. The US Biathlon Association has great opportunities to race at an international level, even in their development programs. After a season of mostly domestic racing I decided that the next step was to get more international experience training and racing. I have generally been a stronger skate skier as well, which lends well for biathlon.
FS: What were the biggest challenges of the switch? How did you handle them?
CC: Biathlon is the most difficult sport I have ever competed in and extremely humbling at this point in my athletic career. The racing strategies are different and the entire mentality while on the shooting range was to be very calm and focused. Generally I am never calm, nor focused ever, so this made every â€œcomboâ€ (training and shooting together) workout a challenge. After a while I began to really enjoy the shift in focus while on the range and I began to really look forward to seeing how quickly I could transition from hard training to relaxed focus. I realized very quickly that this is an art that is incredible to witness first hand but takes years to master.
FS: You raced in the Biathlon World Championships and had an excellent result — especially considering that it was your first season competing in the sport. What was that experience like?
CC: Yeah, I couldn’t believe where I was racing after such a short introduction into the sport! I learned a lot about how much over-thinking about shooting can affect your race. I remember telling everyone that I was just going to see how fast I could be on the ski splits because this was only my second 15K Individual race ever and at a 1 minute penalty for every missed shot I was a bit nervous about what that could end up totaling after 20 shots! So I went out and raced hard and followed the girl ahead of me into the range every time. I was relaxed on the range and not â€œtrying too hardâ€ that was a breakthrough for me in my Biathlon career. I hit 16 of 20 targets and finished with the greatest feeling ever! Biathlon is a bit addicting when you actually hit the targets!
FS: You gained quite a bit of experience racing internationally at the highest level last season. How do you see that helping you moving forward?
CC: I had the opportunity to travel extensively last winter. This was crucial to my development as an athlete looking to compete more on an international level. I spent quite a few days without snow or access to my rifle which is the reality when you are on the move almost every week. USBA has an extremely well organized support team that travels with them and no detail is overlooked.
FS: You also won a US National title in cross-country. Did you take and extra satisfaction winning as a biathlete?
CC: I think I was more excited about winning in the UP! I was in Marquette for 5 years and spent quite a bit of time training and racing on those trails. Having Nationals in the Mid-West was an awesome opportunity again and I couldn’t pass it up. I think Biathlon was excited to see what kind of level I was capable of racing at since there are only a few athletes that race both the XC and Biathlon races. I have to say that getting the opportunity to train and race with CXC was a major component of my success that week!
FS: Have you officially switched back to Nordic?
CC: Yes, I spent a lot of time looking at all the racing and training schedules for Biathlon and XC and realized that I couldn’t combine them like I did last year. I put a great deal of thought into my plan leading up to 2010 and trying to qualify for the Team and decided that I wanted to pursue XC now and maybe Biathlon again at another time.
FS: You seemed quite excited about Biathlon this winter — and there was talk about your progression and hopes for 2010. What precipitated the switch?
CC: Biathlon is such a great sport and the entire USBA is extremely professional. I have no doubt that they will be producing potential medal winning athletes by 2010. I just realized that I missed training with my old teammates and friends in the Mid-West while working with CXC and that my heart and passion are still in Nordic Racing. Like I said before I am still considering the possibility of competing in Biathlon in the future after 2010.
FS: What are your goals for this season?
CC: I am really looking forward to trying to make the Whistler World Cup Team! I had the opportunity to train on the Olympic courses last May and absolutely loved them. Since I missed Canadian Nationals there last year I would be psyched to ski them this January. I would also like to try to get over to Europe to race some Europa Cups and possibly a part of the Spring World Cup circuit.
FS: What are your long-term goals?
CC: My goals are qualifying and racing my best at the 2010 Olympics. I don’t feel like I am ready to retire anytime soon, but I do want to go back to school and getting a newer car would be nice.
FS: You are back training full time with CXC — how important has that organization been to your development and success as a skier?
CC: Yes I am back with CXC full-time! CXC like USBA is doing a great job with their program. Both Bryan Fish and Yuriy Gusev are extremely responsible for all of the athletes’ success. I have made huge strides since working with CXC and I see the programs depth growing more and more every year. I would not be near where I am today without CXC and I look forward to working with Bryan, Yuriy, and all of the CXC Team members through 2010.
FS: How has your summer training been going?
CC: Great! I had a bad fall this past spring that left my back and neck a bit weak and stiff but after a lot of PT and a slow progression back to strength, everything is coming along well. I am really excited about working with the CXC women’s team this year. We have an extremely talented and hard working group of women that are the best I have ever trained with. There isn’t a single workout that I am not being pushed or beaten by these other girls! It’s awesome.
FS: Have you made any significant changes to your training? Are you focusing on a specific area?
CC: I would say that the Biathlon and CXC programs are quite different so yes. I am still looking to race both the sprints and distance events so I will be an â€œall-arounderâ€ but I am always focusing on being quicker and more dynamic. I heard that the courses in Fairbanks are â€œkillerâ€ so I want to be really fit and ready for those races at the end of the season!
FS: You are in the unusual position of having raced at an elite level as both a biathlete and in cross-country. Comparing the two, what was the best part of being a biathlete? The hardest? The best part of racing straight cross-country? The hardest?
CC: The best part of being a biathlete is the fans and excitement at the races! It’s incredible. The formats are so dialed in for spectating and TV that it is an incredible feeling having the crowds roaring behind you on the course and range. I know I shouldn’t be focusing on that while racing but I can’t help it! I would say as a rookie I wanted a lot of time to get comfortable shooting but we didn’t always have access to our rifles or a range while traveling so that was hard.
In XC the best part was the courses. They were so difficult it was incredible. I would say that the courses are much more difficult than the Biathlon courses or any course I have raced in the US.
FS: What keeps you motivated to compete at such a high level? Do you ever go through periods where you have considered hanging up the skis?
CC: The training and racing are the easy part for me. I love to compete and I like training and pushing myself on a daily basis. The reason I love living and training in Minneapolis is because I have found that the people I train with and the ski community here keep me motivated! There are so many great training partners every day that it is always fun. Like many athletes in the XC world trying to make it to the next level, finances seem to be the ultimate factor that will determine whether or not I can continue beyond 2010.
FS: Where are your top three places to ski?
Blueberry Lake and Ole’s XC Center: Warren, VT
Caftsbury Outdoor Center: Craftsbury, VT
FS: What is your favorite summer workout?
CC: We have a great hill in Afton, MN that I love to do L-4 Intervals up. It’s a solid 4 minute climb which is pretty pathetic for most of the country but a gem here in Minneapolis! I usually do between 6- 10 intervals and get a quick ride down in between. My car doesn’t have a back seat anymore so I fit up to four people in the back for an awesome hill workout together!
Thanks again for the opportunity to talk with FasterSkier!
FS: Thank you Caitlin – good luck this season!
Racing at the Biathlon World Championships in Ostersund, Sweden (Photo Credit: USBA)