LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — As seven US Biathlon Team members repeated loops around the stadium during trail-running intervals at Mt. Van Hoevenberg on Friday, each had their own things going on, their own focus.
A-Team athlete Susan Dunklee, a Craftsbury Green Racing Project skier who tied the best U.S. women’s result of fifth at Biathlon World Championships last year, warmed up and cooled down on her mountain bike to remedy tendonitis in her knee. But for the first time in about a year, she completed the running-intensity workout on foot. After, she was happy she did so.
On the men’s side of the range, Tim Burke, Lowell Bailey and Leif Nordgren all ran together. Ages 30 and older, Burke and Bailey stood as two of the most competitive men on the A-team, and at 23, Nordgren was the youngest. Asked about the season, their specific objectives differed. Ultimately, however, most fed off the energy captured by the men’s and women’s teams last season in an effort to do better in 2012-2013.
FasterSkier snagged interviews with Bailey, Nordgren, Dunklee and Corrine Malcolm, a 22-year-old B-team member, to see how training was going.
“I’ve had knee issues for the past year or so and I’ve been working through that and getting it fixed, but it’s been kind of a chronic thing so mostly I’ve been biking instead of running this past year. This is the first time I’ve done any sort of running intensity in over a year so that was kind of exciting. It was OK, nothing too bad. It’s like a little tendonitis while I’m running, something like that. … I love training because we do so much different stuff, rollerskiing, biking and hiking, canoeing sometimes, rowing.”
FasterSkier: What are some of your goals for this season?
“I try to not too goal-focused, just try to work on the process of things and put it all to work and just see where it lands me. I believe I can be up there and I’m going to go into it expecting to be up there. I don’t know, I guess that way I won’t be surprised if I have good results, but yeah, just take it as it comes.”
How do your breakout results from last year affect you?
“It puts me on the radar and there’s a little more expectation and stuff, but I’m really excited. I really like chasing down people who are faster and trying to keep up with the big dogs. [Belarusian biathlete Darya] Domracheva is such a good skier and I really want to get in behind her and see if I can figure out what she’s doing. There’s a bunch of people out there who are pretty good. It’s a long-term sort of sport so it’s just a year, really.”
Have you been trail running a lot?
“I went and did the race [US Mountain Running Championships] that Morgan [Arritola] won at Loon Mountain [in New Hampshire]. I was in the elite women’s field of like 25 of us, which was insane because they all have serious running credentials and I just thought it was fun. [She placed 20th.] And then I went and did the 25 k at Jay Peak at the trail running festival there [Sept. 2. and was the second female]. I’ve been doing a lot of running, but that just kind of makes me happy.
“I started as a runner. I didn’t start skiing until late in high school so for me, running’s always been my go-to. And I hurt my shoulder really badly last year so I did a lot of running this past 12 months or so. I think having run so much, it’s kind of allowed me to have the coaches be OK with me jumping into a couple running races, that I wasn’t going to get hurt, that it was something I was capable of doing and adding to training in a good way.”
How are you feeling now?
“I think we’re in a really good spot. We did a blood draw before our trials racing in Jericho [Vt.] and for my normal levels, I’m really anemic so I’ve been on iron pills now for five weeks or something, just trying to get those levels back. There was a while there through August that was really hard just because I didn’t feel good, but starting to feel more normal. Compared to these women, I’m the youngest of the group and the least experienced of the group and I just get thrown into stuff all the time. I think it’s good for us at this point in the season to look at how the training makes me feel, maybe I can’t do everything that they do or the same that they do.
“It’s great because I have a good training group when everyone’s around. A lot of them skied collegiately … so they have a really good background so for me to ski with them and train with them is good.”
How’s your shoulder injury?
“It’s actually been interesting. I don’t ski aggressively enough with my upper body or my core so we’ve been trying to do more of that and, like, immediately started to get really sore and tired where I got hurt last year. I think as long as we get on snow in the next six weeks I’ll be fine, but it’s kind of trying to manage the shoulder between now and then so I don’t really bust it up again. Hopefully, fingers crossed.
What are your goals for this season?
“Part of me is scared that I’m just getting set up for the same thing as last year, which is really irrational. It’s easy to forget that last year went like it did because I was hurt and because I was really sick. It’s easy to forget why things went so poorly and remember that things went poorly, but I think ideally, I feel well enough and I do well enough that I get over to Europe sooner than later. I would like to race the IBU Cup. If I could go over and do all the IBU Cup races I would be totally fine with that.
“I don’t think that really think that I should or need to go to the World Cup right now. I don’t need to go and get my butt kicked every weekend, I’d rather just go to Europe and race really high-level races since this is my third year. I have a little time left to kind of play catch up and I think that having a chance to go over and do those development-level races would be awesome. So hopefully some IBU Cup racing and hopefully European Championships if we send a group over there, but who knows at this point.”
Where are you at with training?
“At this point, it’s all about the best means to be as prepared as you can by the time we start the World Cup. That means a lot of ski-specific stuff right now. We’ve done in the spring typically a little bit less specific training, more running and biking and stuff like that, but now it’s pretty much all rollerskiiing except for a few recovery workouts.”
How has your training plan changed from last year?
“We retained all the core, fundamental aspects of our training plan that we’ve had really for the last six or seven years training under [U.S. head coach] Per Nilsson’s plan. But every year we try to learn from the World Cup, from the international field, we’re always looking at what other teams are doing, especially the top guys. We kind of try to steal the best parts of every program and use it to our benefit.”
After two career-best IBU World Cup results of fifth last season, what are you aiming toward this winter?
“My goals after Vancouver have really centered around the quality of what I’m doing and trying not to emphasize specific results. That being said, you always have to have goals so my goals are to maintain and hopefully improve my ski speed from last year and then to have shooting percentages close to 90 percent on the World Cup average. … Honestly it seems like the season just ended, and it seems like we’re just staring again. It’s crazy.”
“I’ve been focusing a lot on longer Level 3 for pretty much the whole summer. Now as we get closer to the season I definitely try to push, have a little more Level 4, shorter faster intensity, to just kind of slowly work my way into the race season and we’ll be here for a couple weeks and we head out to Utah for most of October to get some high-altitude training in before the season.
What are some of your goals?
“I’m definitely the younger guy, I’ve only been on the World Cup for a couple years so for sure, I think one of my biggest focuses is the relay, to be a strong fourth guy for the relay. As far as individual results go, I just try to have a good race and show that I train hard and that I can keep up with these guys sometimes. I’m not strong enough to be there the whole season yet so I kind of have to pick my races here and there, but yeah, for sure the relay is one of the biggest things I focus on.”
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.