It’s been a long time since I wrote anything for this blog but it is the classic case of waiting too long to write and then not knowing where to start. I have had a lot mulling around in my head for quite some time but my journal has getting the brunt of it. I also needed some time to process some of this crazy lifestyle and how it fits into who I am and what it means to me.
I have been thinking a lot and this is some of what I wrote in my journal. In the past few weeks, I got to do something that I have always wished I could do but never truly felt was actually possible until just recently, when I placed in the top 20 of a World Cup and (as you can only do in biathlon) if I had shot perfectly would have been in the top 10… It wasn’t even a real goal of mine, just a daydream mostly. What was even more strange was that I felt like I belonged in this position and it wasn’t just a totally lucky fluke.
Ever since I was a little kid, I always idolized and wanted to be like my older brother and sister, all of their friends, and my older teammates Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey. To me, these guys were the rock-stars of our town because they were so fast and so cool. Something inside of me wanted to be like that and feel like I could invoke the same admiration that they did. Even now as I write this, it makes me feel like a dorky little kid again. Well, I am still a dork but I’m not a little kid anymore. And I think that a seed was planted when I was first asked to try a biathlon camp because I had “potential”. Whatever that means at that age, it certainly made an impression on me. Mostly now, I think it means that you have the potential to be stubborn and stick with something for a long time.
This feeling that I had “potential” kept a little flame going inside of me even when I started to realize that I was never going to be an ultra talented and amazing athlete. There were so many girls out there that were so much faster and had so much more natural ability. But this silly little word kept me going for a long time even when I realized I was fairly mediocre. I would hear this word ringing in my head or spoken by a coach at just the right time. Supposedly I had it, so I always wanted to see how good I could get. There was a deep seeded belief in myself even as I had a real acceptance that I was mostly just going to be pretty okay and decent at racing, but never a super star. There are skiers that I look at and know that they have the special potential that I wish I had. My biggest feeling of excitement and satisfaction was in trying to ski well technically, doing my best, having fun, and trying to keep in perspective that in the end, racing is just a fun game.
But what happens to you as a kid can have such a profound affect on your entire life. This strange belief in myself whether or not it was real, kept me captivated. I kept plugging along for some reason- even my parents got worried and wondered if I should try something else with my life because they were nervous I was just going to get hurt and disappointed. There was plenty of that and I think their fears were valid. But once again, the right person believed in me and I kept on trying. When I finally got to race in my first world cup, it satisfied something deep inside of me because I finally got to feel a little bit like one of my idols growing up.
In my first year on the World Cup I made a few pursuits and in at least three of them, I was lapped by the leader and had to pull out. It’s an awful feeling. I remember so clearly when a Russian woman named Olga Zaitseva, passed me like I was standing still as she was on her finishing lap. I was just hoping I could make it into the shooting range before she passed me. NO CHANCE. A month ago, I passed her skiing and it felt great and strange at the same time. I was nervous to do it because it didn’t seem right. Granted, I think the Russians had really slow skis (I heard all of their wax techs were fired after that one) but regardless, it was pretty strange to have the feeling that she was going too slow for me. It was such an honor.
Two weeks ago I got to stand next to a bunch of my idols on the start line of the pursuit and I wasn’t worried at all about them passing me. I felt like I belonged. I am not exactly a young athlete anymore and it felt so special for me after all these years of stubbornly plugging away. It is something that I will always cherish especially because I also know that it is something that may never happen again. I hope it does, but you never know. Biathlon is a crazy sport and as our family joke is, “Biathlon giveth and it taketh away”.
I am so thankful to all the people who have worked hard to help me slowly get better and to the people who believed in me, or at least tricked me into believing in my own potential. I never really thought I would get to be in this position in my athletic career, but I am so happy that I get to try it out for some time. It’s also very important to me to make sure I can remember where I was last year and the year before in racing so that whatever happens I can still enjoy racing for what it is and not only for what position I end up in.