After such a nice warm winter we have all very much become sissies when it comes to the cold. But we finally got the chance to recalibrate here in Finland and I am grateful to all those brutally cold races we had in Minnesota and Lake Placid for preparing me mentally to deal with it. PLUS! I got a pair of these awesome gloves that I am really in love with and probably starting to annoy people by being so into them…
What happens in biathlon when it is cold? That is a good question. First off, everyone brings out the Physio tape and you get to see all sorts of face covering contraptions. We are like a bunch of clowns and mimes getting ready to race. Second of all, everyone gets really worried about how to keep hands warm. Shooting sucks when it is below a certain temperature and it adds a significant amount of stress trying to keep hands warm so you can feel what you are doing. But I feel really proud of our team this week because we were some of the most positive groups ready to deal with the challenges posed by -20 degrees and it showed in how things went!
I was really pumped to get onto the podium for the first time on Friday. After not actually believing we were going to race, it was on! I wouldn’t say my race was anything spectacular, but it was solid. I was amazed on the last loop how hard I bonked because it was just a 6 k. But it was like BAM- a huge wall- and it was all I could do to survive to the finish. I think when it is this cold, it is harder for the body to get the oxygen in needs and it feels like racing at altitude. I wasn’t even thinking about making the podium after my finish but when Jay tagged off to Tim in 6th, I started to get so nervous and excited about it all. I just wanted him to get it so badly! And then when he came in, both Sara and I weren’t really sure what to do. When do we put our bibs on, do we wear our rifles up there, do we use our cases???? I definitely felt like a total rookie, but it was awesome.
Today was also a good one and I was happy to be back in the points again! However, the best part of the day was definitely getting to the range. An entire group of us ladies totally arrived in style! With some unforeseen difficulties on the way to the venue, the tour bus dropping us off got stuck in a crazy traffic jam. There is about a 5km back road to the venue that was completely packed with spectators. It was nuts trying to go anywhere. We inched a long slowly and I quickly realized that I was desperately having to go pee. I wouldn’t have minded the traffic jam, except I was about ready to burst and I was starting to panic because at this point we were still creeping with 3k to go. The spectators had all given up and just left their vehicles on the side of the road, which left only a small lane of traffic with stubborn people trying to go both directions on it. This as you might guess, does not work. There was a serious standstill and it was getting pretty ridiculous. I gave up and asked the bus drive to let me out. I didn’t care if I got left behind because whatever happened if I didn’t get out and pee, I would pee my pants. Much to the enjoyment of all the bus passengers and probably lots of fans, I got out and peed behind someone’s car. I just didn’t look, pretending if I couldn’t see anyone, they couldn’t see me either. I think a good bunch of people had a nice shot of my bum. And lucky for me the bus didn’t move either! So I got to climb back in to a rousing round of applause… And then we all walked 2k to the venue anyways. After the race, I went through the Mixed Zone (this is where reporters can do interviews and also where no one is ever interested in talking to me) and I got stopped. Someone wanted to hear how the American girls had to walk to the venue and what I thought of that. He beat around the bush for a while and then finally asked if it was true that one American girl had to get off the bus for a pitstop…and of course we all know whom that was! I am glad to know that my moment of Stardom came from a truly entertaining moment.
And that concludes the cold week in Finland!