Because I was just out of the Pursuit, I had a free day on Sunday to do what I liked. Luckily for me, I had a special surprise the next day to distract me from being sad; my close friend Sara Schwieger came to visit me! Being away from home for three months plus is not easy. Most other teams can go home between World Cups and see their families and have space to mentally take a break. I have to rely on my teammates and coaches to be my family for the time being. We take care of each other as best as we can. Having people around to support us on a personal level has a significant impact on surviving these months on the road.
There are so many threads of connection that tie people together and I am constantly reminded of that even though I am so far from home. I know it shouldn’t surprise me because after all, the ski community is only so big. Wonderful people have been finding me all winter long! Throughout the seasonI have been so fortunate to see my awesome Norwegian friend Ingvild at various world cups. Another sweet surprise was when I was standing near the start line in Oslo and the guy helping to get snow out of our boots was a super nice Norwegian guy that I used to know from the Univeristy of Montana. It felt like being at home in a local race, not a world cup far away from home. And seeing my friend Sara on the day of the pursuit when I couldn’t race was a saving grace. It was the best thing to see her. I was so bummed to sit out but because of her, I was able to think about other things and have the best day! We went for a classic ski together and she can still kick my butt. I tried to learn as much classic technique from her when I was on the Utah ski team (she skis beautifully) but I was still skiing behind her thinking “oh jeez…I’m tired, but I can’t say anything!” Seeing these people whom I wouldn’t otherwise get to see and having the realization that we can always pick up right where we left is so special.
Sara’s father, Andreas Schwieger, also came to visit me because he was invited to a reunion day at World Championships. I had known that he was a good German biathlete in his time, but I hadn’t realized the extent of it. He was 3rd in the very first Ruhpolding World Cup and in the top 10 at the first World Championships here back in the early 80’s. When he was younger, he would stay at the same hotel that now only the Americans are allowed to stay in. Most of our German wax techs used to race with Sara and his other children and our High performance director shared the same regional coach as Sara. Andreas Schwieger also knew my Italian coach Armin as a young child because he is really good friends with Armin’s father and these kind of connections go on and on. Even though it isn’t that big of a deal, it makes being in Europe seem less like being away from home. We all have these pieces that tie us together with people from our homelands, but to start finding them in other places resonates strongly within me.
The atmosphere of the people here cheering for us and my teammates and friends who keep popping up right when I need them is for sure one of the biggest motivating factors for me. Without it, I would have a much bigger struggle to stay excited and happy all winter. Even so, I can’t wait to be home and see my family! Thank goodness for Skype. My poor mother, who moved to the United States when she was my age had to wait for letters to arrive in order to hear from her family and I think I spent almost every day eating breakfast with Patrick over skype last week!