It’s a week later and a new stop on the biathlon circus and I woke up this morning not being able to sleep. Usually when that happens, it means I need to write. Either because I am excited, or because I have finally been able to process the things that have been rumbling around in my head.
Sometimes in sport, you feel great and everything falls into place and sometimes it is really difficult to put all the pieces together and you have to work really hard to build your confidence back up. Not doing well is an important part of the game even if it is painful and frustrating. The Ostresund world cup week was a wild and difficult week for me. I left feeling disappointed but hungry for more opportunities to get it right.
The major defining characteristic was that of high prevailing winds that created extra challenges for everyone. There will be a day in my life, when I don’t wake up in the morning and listen to see how strong the wind is. In Ostresund the wind was inescapable. It was the kind that blows in through the buildings and rattles doors and cupboards. The kind that you feel like you need to hide from, yet it still finds you. I’ve never really like strong wind. For some people it is exhilarating, but sometimes I find the constant barrage unsettling.
The mixed relay was the first competition of the season for me and I was very nervous. Even though no one on a team puts any pressure on you, it is impossible to not put pressure on yourself and I very badly wanted to start things off right for my teammates. While I cleaned prone and had a good start, I was afflicted by both wind and nerves and had 3 standing penalties, putting me far in the back of the field. Luckily my team was able to slowly crawl their way out of the hole I put them in and finish in 12th.
Regrouping for the Individual took a couple of days. It takes some time to build your own confidence back up after you have such a tough time shooting. When it came time to race, the winds were howling around us. Luckily, down at the range it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Athletes all around us were complaining and grumbling about the absurdity of the wind but our team felt really motivated and psyched to rise to the challenge. We were excited for the opportunity that crazy weather provides. But at about 15 minutes to my start, I was out in the woods warming up and the wind became frightingly strong. The animal instinct to hide was pretty strong and I was nervous that trees would blow down on us. It was good they cancelled the race.
The next day we raced the rescheduled Individual and it was quite a difficult race. With a change in weather, the ski tracks became very glazed. I have been having some problems with tight shins and calves and these were some of the worst conditions for me. I felt a lot like Bambi on skis. But with biathlon there is always something good to look back on and I was really happy with how standing shooting went in the race. It seems like the pieces of biathlon were going to come one at a time. I placed 50th with 5 penalties.
The next day we raced the Sprint and finally the conditions were good. I felt excited and was focused to have a strong biathlon race. It was a classic day where I felt happy about my race until I saw the results and then was really disappointed. After a really strong last year, my expectations for myself have been raised considerably and I was not skiing as competitively as I wanted. With two misses, I placed 55th.
There was nothing to do, but keep my chin up and get ready for another chance to improve. The last race of the World Cup was the Pursuit. This was one of the most interesting and absurd races I have ever been in. It was so windy that when I came into the range in place 55th for the first prone and was one of the only people to do so, I bypassed the penalty loop and about 30 competitors who were in it. That was bizarre! There were so many people in there at one time, that you could only go one speed around the loop. I went from being in the back of the pack to being in 25th. I pretty much maintained my position until standing. After getting on the mat, the wind was blowing so hard that my entire body was moving. I was so determined to hit my targets that I just stood there and stood there. I heard some other girls shooting, but then it all got pretty quiet. Somehow I assumed they were just waiting as I was. I hit one and then settled in to wait some more. In retrospect, I should have just tried to quickly shoot five shots and then head into the penalty loop. But my legs were bothering me so much with the snow conditions of the day that I was afraid to ski more than I absolutely had to. It wasn’t until my teammate Susan came up to me and tapped me on the back to tell me that the race was cancelled that I realized I had been the only one standing in the range at all. I was totally focused. The team and coaches had a good laugh at that.
Now that I am in Hochfilzen in Austria, I somehow feel much more centered and relaxed. I went on a beautiful classic ski on rolling terrain with perfect kick and it was amazing how the difference it made for me in my head. Even though the races in Ostresund were difficult for me, I have to keep believing in myself and that there will come improvements soon.
On a more positive side, I did a LOT of cool projects. Thanks to a Swedish Athlete Bettan Hogberg’s generosity, I was loaned a sewing machine to keep me entertained for almost two weeks. I stayed in this little cabin right next to the course with my teammate Hannah and we were totally consumed by crafty projects. Among them included, screen printing t-shirts, sewing quilts, sewing neck warmers, fixing clothes, and felting… it was awesome!