Our week in the Czech is now over and we are all happily situated in Antholz, Italy! Italy is my favorite place to race just because the chances of seeing the sun are much higher than all of the other places we get to race. It’s been tough to have such windy, snowy conditions every day. It gets mentally exhausting to look out the window and see the trees just waving back and forth and hear the wind whipping around. Someday, I will be so excited to not care how windy it is again. Plus in Italy the food is AWESOME!!! I had to do a little happy dance yesterday when we got dinner because of the beautiful choices of food; yummy salad and antipasta. I am eating pizza for lunch today and that equals happiness. Of course, my stomach is too small to hold all of the Italian food right now, so I have to slowly stretch it out to fit more in it. I wouldn’t say the Czech culture is known for it’s cuisine.
The pursuit race in Czech was an interesting one for me. The drastic weather changes in the sprint caused a huge spread in times from the winner to 60th place. This means that the winner has a 3-minute plus head start on those of us farther back in the race. With a short and fast loop, the chances of getting lapped are a bit scary. So I found myself feeling really jittery on Sunday and hoping I could do well enough to finish. It’s mentally difficult and humiliating to get lapped. I started off well and moved ahead quite a bit but perhaps I was skiing too hard and after the first stage, I really struggled in the shooting range. I feel like I was skiing well but my focus shooting just wasn’t there. So I just kept going around the penalty loop! Luckily, I made it into the range before the winners finished, so I was able to do the entire race. I went for it. I was amazed at all the people who cheered for me by name even though I was the last person (not getting lapped) to finish. It’s pretty amazing how excited the fans are for all of the athletes. Next time I need to hit some targets because there are so many opportunities to succeed in a pursuit and it is my favorite race. I haven’t capitalized on that yet.
Besides racing, I found where we were in Czech to be an interesting juxtaposition of soviet era concrete buildings, exquisite religious relics, and modern art. I was lucky enough to get to check out a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a beautiful Pilgrimage Church built in 1721 at Zelena Hora (Green Hill), a shrine to St. John a local martyr. Ancient architecture like this just isn’t to be had in the U.S., so it is always cool to see it here. You can just feel the history of these places. There was also pretty cool graffiti all around the parks in the city. I’m not sure if it would be a place I would want to live, but I could see how beautiful it might be in the summertime when the fields were green and the tree lined avenues are in bloom.