Room for Improvement: Windy Ostresund Recap

IMG_3913It’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.

1479468_609921352405984_691275896_n 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! IMG_3880 IMG_3881 IMG_3787 IMG_3790 IMG_3896 IMG_3897 IMG_3903 IMG_3915 IMG_3916

 

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And we’re off!

photoI wrote an article earlier this month for Maine Winter Sports Center about my preparation for the season and yesterday’s  Mixed Relay was the first day to test it out. I actually wanted to post the article to my blog earlier as a way to put it out there for myself  but I got distracted watching all the cross-country skiing on TV on sunday and dropped the ball.

Here it is:

These last few weeks in Utah have been really nice and really productive for training and shooting.  Almost the entire staff was here with all three national team coaches, the team director, our sport psychologist, our ski grinder, and our intern who helps with all the nitty-gritty biathlon details. There is only one American in the bunch so it feels like this hilarious international family with a lot of dad’s.

            Last year, I had my biggest jump in ski speed and had some breakthrough results, which were super motivating for the start of training this year. But it is difficult to keep making such big jumps in ski speed, especially as you get closer and closer in percentage back behind the leaders. My biggest weakness last year was definitely the shooting and it is incredibly painful to have a great shooting race, except for one stage where you mess things up. That happened too many times.  In my best race of the year, I was in 2nd place until the last shooting when I missed 3 and moved into 14th. I was pretty ecstatic to get my first top 15, but in biathlon you can always say- “oh man, what if”… and it would have been unbelievable to be on the podium.

            I really had to change the way that I approached shooting. For a long time, it was more important to me to have the fitness and the ski speed because that is the only way I could even hope to have a good race.  Working on ski technique has always been my favorite thing to do and it is a goal of mine to have some of the best technique on the world cup. After sitting down with my coach and sport psychologist, we were talking through everything for the upcoming training season and our psychologist asked me,  “why wouldn’t you want to try to have the best shooting on the world cup”. I had never even thought of it that way.

            I started to look at shooting as a really kinesthetic process so that I could work on it the same way that I work on ski technique. That has been a huge mental and physical breakthrough for me. Pulling apart every little piece in the set-up and approach has helped me to get a lot faster. And when you think about the simple math of shooting from 37 seconds to 27 seconds then you can gain a lot of time in each race. That is enormous. Last year, I was in 18th place and shared the same place with three people. That is how close the races are now. If I had been ten seconds faster, I would have had my first top 10.

            Finding all the little places in a race where you can make up 1-2 seconds every loop has been a really motivating approach, especially once you start to add up all these sneaky little seconds you can steal. Having so many different pieces in the puzzle is a really cool way that biathlon is unique. 

             Utah has been the last chance to work on all these pieces: the ski shape, the shooting percentages, the range approach and exit, and the mental pressure. Working on the mental aspect is the last segment of shooting that I have been focusing on. For example, I’ll pretend in my mind that I am really racing and that I am coming into the range in 7th place behind Soukalova and if I clean, then I will make my first top ten. And it’s crazy how once you think that kind of  thought it becomes immediately more difficult to hit all of your targets.  Working with our sports psychologist has definitely been the most important and useful tool for approaching shooting and he has helped me the most in this entire process. I am so thankful that I get to work with someone as good as him.

One of the things I am the most nervous about in starting the racing season, is finding out how I can handle the pressure of shooting well. I so hope that all of the work I have done will pay off and stick. It can be so easy to hit all of your targets when you are skiing around and shooting with just the coaches watching and nothing on the line, but as soon as the stakes are raised, it can be so much more difficult. I really hope that I have better prepared myself for this in the upcoming season. “

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Photo from US Biathlon Website and IBU Website

That’s what my mind-set was a few weeks ago – excitement and high expectations. It’s interesting how confidence can really play such a vital role in how you perform. This last Tuesday we did a hard interval workout and I felt like I was skiing with brakes on. On top of that, it has been really windy here and my shooting this week has been the worst it has been in a long time. It totally freaked me out.

I got really nervous about letting myself down. So doing this mixed relay became something more than it should have. This big test. One of my coaches noticed how I was getting tense and frustrated with standing shooting.  He told me that sometimes when he is watching he just wishes he could race too, reminding me about the privilege we have to race. I tried to keep that in mind and make that my approach for the day. But I think that deep down (or maybe not even that deep down) I was still super nervous.

Standing on the start line for the Mixed relay felt totally surreal. Almost like I wasn’t even there. The first loop of skiing felt like being in a fuzzy dream with a big line of skiers.  I tried to stay as relaxed as possible and when I came into shooting for prone, it was perfect and I skied the second lap exactly where I would have wanted to be.

When I came back in for standing it was just bad. I wish I could have said there was a hurricane blowing me around on my mat, but it wasn’t too bad. But I still had 3 misses and even with the extra rounds of the relay, I had 3 penalties. Ouch. That’s a lot of extra time.

Nothing prepares you for racing like racing does. It hurts so much more than intervals and there is nowhere to hide. You just have to remember that the pain is okay and that it is just going to hurt, but still it surprised me. After the race I was really sad – it is not a good feeling to tag off to your teammates and hope they can make the best of what you gave them. But that is biathlon sometimes.

So now I am sitting here two few days later and I feel so much more relaxed. My body feels better and so does my head.  I remembered that even though this is hard work and we have to be focused to do our job, it is still so fun to ski around and shoot at targets. It has been challenging to find a good rhythm in standing shooting with these difficult wind conditions, but I still have a really good summer of progress behind me and it still feels better than it would have last year. The pieces will come together and I am lucky I get to practice getting it right so many times. I can’t wait to race tomorrow.

Annelies

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In search of ever elusive BALANCE

IMG_3430IMG_3436IMG_3442We are in our second week of our August training camp in Germany and blogging season has once again begun. Starting this camp is always an adjustment because it makes me think about my two separate and distinct lives- home and biathlon. In this transition phase, I finally have time to sit back and reflect on all of the ideas that go through my mind during long summer workouts. One of my ongoing thoughts revolves around being able to do it all yet managing to have balance in my life.

Finding balance is challenging for me on many different levels because I like being busy and I hate to say no to anything, especially when I am home. Everyone has different needs and finding what fits me so that I can train hard, keep learning, be creative, invest in my community, spend time with people I care about and still find a way to take quiet time for myself is difficult. This is exasperated because I feel like I lead two very separate and distinct lives.

My on the road biathlon life includes my team and our staff. We are such a close-knit group that it is more like a family- with all the aspects of family life included. We have inside jokes, we can spend hours at a table talking about bull*^#&$^, we irritate and tease each other, we depend on each other, we lift each other up, and we share a bond that not many other people will be part of. It includes traveling every week to new places, living out of a suitcase, spending 24/7 with the same people, making friends with people from all over the world, and facing the ups and downs of competition life.  I know that I will miss this immensely when I retire someday. It is very special to feel connected to a group of people who understand what I am doing and whom are all working with me to get to somewhere.

IMG_3437That being said, every year we get back on the plane at the end of the season and I have a totally different life to jump back into. It is very important to me to be able to feel like I lead a somewhat normal life on top of the biathlon training that is my job.  I come home from my nomadic life and feel a strong urge to re-establish a stable place for myself. But I often drive myself crazy trying to do everything all at once especially because my friends and family are all active people and have many of the same outdoor interests as me

IMG_3429This isn’t always conducive to the perfect athlete model of working hard and then resting because I often skip the rest and keep on going from one thing to the next.  While this is something I need for my soul and I thrive on this type of energy, I tend to push it until I reach a tipping point of exhaustion. It is at this point that I absolutely have to step back and take time for myself to regenerate. I haven’t quite figured out how to walk this line perfectly.

Being here in Germany is a much- needed break from my normal summer routine. It is the best way to really focus and get into the nitty-gritty of biathlon like how exactly I want to put my poles on after I shoot. This can make up seconds in a race. Even though I am tired from training, it feels really relaxing to be here and I actually have the ability to chill out and take naps.  But while this is something I really need right now, I will also have to find a way to make all the down-time that we end up having during the racing season meaningful so that I don’t miss all the projects that I leave sitting at home once I get on that plane. So I keep coming back to this idea that balance is one of the most important things for me to stay happy and fulfilled.  Balance, Balance, Balance.

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The Time Between

IMG_2356From mid-november until mid-march team stays in Europe with only a week to ten days home for Christmas, and that is a long time to be away. This is my first year doing the full haul and at this point I have to say that I am getting pretty sick of all my clothes. Now that I am in Oslo it is hard to resist getting some new things to wear… too bad it is so expensive here! We don’t race every week and between the blocks of World Cups and World Championships I was very fortunate to go off on my own a bit and stay with family and friends. Looking back at photographs, I feel so lucky to have been in amazingly different places in such a short amount of time.

After the first set of World Cups we had a little break and I went on a train and airplane adventure to get myself to Amsterdam, where my Aunt lives. The best part of this day was that I had an entire train compartment to myself to sleep in and just be alone. It is a luxury to be alone when you are always surrounded by people.

My aunt’s apartment in Amsterdam feels like home to me. She was like my mom away from home for a few days and it was such a treat. She lives a block away from the biggest outdoor market in the city and it is my favorite place to wander around. You can buy anything there; from fish, to nuts, to clothes and shoes, flowers, chocolate delicacies, and Stroop Waffels. Nothing beats a Stroop Waffel hot off the grill.IMG_2065 IMG_2066When I was here, it was an unusually cold period and there was ice on the canals and rivers. Dutch people are crazy and whenever they get the chance to ice skate, there are out there even if the ice is only a few cm’s thick. The other thing Dutch people are crazy about is biking. Everyone bikes. Everyone bikes everywhere for everything. It’s awesome. I climbed on my aunt’s trusty old Pugeot that is older than me and biked out of the city and along the Amstel on this beautiful loop called the Ronde Hoop which goes around a Polder field. I had the best time even though my feet got colder than they have been all winter.IMG_1997IMG_2006IMG_2013IMG_2017IMG_2020 IMG_2052 IMG_2040 IMG_2038 IMG_2037 IMG_2036 IMG_2033 IMG_2031 IMG_2030 IMG_2025 IMG_2024

The other reason to go to the Netherlands is to see my Oma. Five years ago she had a stroke and she now starting to get very old.  It’s always so nice to see her because she is so sweet but it is sad too because I never know if I will see her again. She spent a lot of time with me as a child and I feel very close to her. I have so many questions for her about what her life was like when she was younger that I didnt’ know to ask when I was a child. I wish I could go back in time because I am so curious about her life. She has some really interesting stories to tell about being in the Dutch Resistance during the War and all I know are some vague details. I think she was a very brave woman but that it was also something she did just because she was there in that time. What I know is from a Dutch man who interviewed my Grandmother before her stroke. This is a translation of some of the stories he has.

The town of Wageningen, where my family is from, was completely bombed flat during the war because it was close to the important strategic city of Arnhem. Almost every house in the city was destroyed except the house that belonged to my Great-Grandfather.  A town close by called Arnhem, had a bridge over the Rheine river that both the allied forces and the Germans wanted control of. During Operation Market Garden the British and Polish air division were given the task of securing this brige but failed in the mission. Later in the war in 1945 the British fought around this same bridge and was finally able to liberate Arnhem.

Early in the war, the resistance  of Wageninen stole the registry out of the town hall and hid it in a farmhouse called Wolfswaard so that the identities of Jewish people and others were protected. In her early twenties, Ciny Ormel (my Oma) was a nurse in the hospital that held both British and German soldiers and also part of the resistance group called the Zwantje Bosman. This group was directed by the son of the farmer who owned Wolsfwaard and she would help them out when she was not busy nursing by carrying and intercepting letters of “suspicious people”, bringing nursing supplies for wounded British soldiers that were being hidden, and finding clothes to dress them in. In the Allied circles, the name of Wolswaard was well known as a place of refuge and pilots knew if they crashed they could seek protection at this farm.

In one instance, my Oma was asked to bring some clothes for a British pilot whose parachute had landed not far from Wolfswaard and who was being hidden by the resistance in a sailing dingy on the Rhein.  After delivering the clothes, she was spotted by two SS and instinctively wanted to dive down, but they had already seen her so she could only whisper to the others to hide. She pretended that nothing was strange and walked up to the SS officers. Unfortunately she had just been speaking in English and addressed the officers so. She explained that she spent all day switching back and forth from German to English as a Nurse and they let her go.  It was her nursing uniform that saved her life many times because the Germans had so much respect for someone who took care of their men. She carried letters of wounded German soldiers around with her to show how she helped them.  Another member of the resistance nearby, who had seen the interview had false papers as a Policeman and he led the officers in a different direction to help them find the parachute that had just fallen down.

She was also part of missions to bring  pilots that had crashed back to their command posts or back to the British army. It was very dangerous to ferry soldiers back and forth on the Rhein to the English line because the river was the war front.IMG_1992

After my short break to the Netherlands, I went back to Antholz, Italy for our Pre-world champs training camp. Nothing beats training in Italy where the food is good and the sun knows how to shine.  It was pretty amazing to be in such different landscapes all in the space of five days. The best workout in Antholz was an incredibly beautiful ski in a high valley of the Dolomites. It was perfect classic skiing. And it wasn’t too bad to sit in the sun and drink a beer afterwards either.IMG_2924 IMG_2920 IMG_2916 IMG_2082 IMG_2084 IMG_2891 IMG_2884

Our training week in Italy finished, we got in our van and drove to Nova Mesto, Czech where they held World Championships. It was a great couple of weeks, but that is a post for another time.

For the break between World Championships and the last period of world cups, the rest of the team went back to Germany where they stayed in Ruhpolding but I went onwards to Oslo where I stayed with one of my best friends from my University of Utah days. Once again, I found myself in another beautiful place that was completely different from where I had been before.IMG_2355

I had so much fun with Ingvild and it was so relaxing to stay somewhere that felt like a home. No matter how close you are to your team and how nice of a hotel you stay in, it is not relaxing in the same way home is. I always notice that the moment I spend one night in my own bed at home, I feel like a different person. IMG_0949Staying with a best friend in her house was as close to that feeling that I could get. We cooked a bunch of food- I had been craving a real hamburger for a long time, drank some wine, and went on some awesome skis. I also had to get a Russian Visa, which was a bit of an ordeal and I felt very relieved when that process was done and visa in hand.IMG_2295

Oslo is such a cool city because there are ski trails all over the place. About 200 meters from her front door was the start of a network of trails that you could ski on for hours and hours without doing the same things twice. Three kilometers uphill takes you to a trail head that branches out in so many different directions. It was so much fun to ski down at night in the dark. Ingvild used to compete in biathlon, so she took me to a biathlon range close to her house and was my “coach” for the week. She is a tough cookie and I couldn’t get away with anything! We also went ice bathing; something that seems a lot crazier than it really is because you wear warms socks and hat and don’t get your head wet and when you jump out, you change all your clothes right away. The blood rushes to your skin so you don’t ever really feel cold. But it was exciting neverthless and I felt absurdly nervous to go in. I had never jumped in ice water without it having been warm or having come out of a sauna.

IMG_0974 image IMG_0964 IMG_2292 IMG_2281I am very grateful to have such wonderful people in my life and so lucky that I have the opportunity to see them even though they live so far away from me. I do my best to take advantage of the fact that I have to stay in Europe for such a long time and take every opportunity that I can to branch out from the team and do something different or visit with people I love. Lucky me!

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Some Thoughts

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dewey Mt. On Steroids

Killer HillThursday, November 29th,

I am sitting on the couch in our little cabin by the Ostresund biathlon venue and I totally have a racer’s high right now. I don’t think I am going to be able to fall asleep for a bit. Luckily, I have a piece of carrot cake waiting for me, and maybe an episode of glee to watch before hitting my pillow.

Today was the first race on the World Cup for me and I was so psyched because I had so much fun. This course is a hard course to have fun on and it’s definitely not my style, so that is saying something.  I felt decent today and really focused on my goals of skiing technically well and in control so that I wouldn’t die a slow painful death out there and it really seemed to work. I was doing pretty well in shooting too, until the last stage where I thought… “Okay! Here is my chance!!” and then immediately after that thought, “Don’t think that way, don’t think that way, don’t think that way”. But it was too late and I missed two which added two more minutes to my ski time. No matter, I am still pleased with how it turned out, mostly because I see room to improve and work on all these types of things.

Maybe it is because of the racer’s high, but I have to say that tonight I kept comparing this venue to Dewey Mt. on steroids. With bib 99, I was pretty much alone at the finish and was lucky to have the opportunity to skiing for my cool down. It was so beautiful out there, all alone. The lights were still on, but some parts of the tracks are pretty dark and I skied around out there for a while, just enjoying that feeling of night skiing. It felt like Christmas. There was snow softly falling, and I had my big parka on so I felt nice and warm.  At one point, I snuck under a fence to get onto the normal trails for a big because they are mellow and flat. I had to lay on my stomach to get under it and of course the zipper on my water belt somehow caught the fibers of the fence so I was trapped there like a rabbit, feeling fairly foolish. Luckily no one saw me and after I got myself untangled, I skied back into the night to enjoy the winter evening. It was beautiful- such a contrast to all the racing energy and vibes and craziness- and a good reminder of the deep down reason why I love to ski. I’m so thankful that I will have Dewey Mt. to go back to someday, because there really isn’t anything quite so exhilarating as skiing down killer hill in the dark. Even the down hills here at night don’t quite compare.

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Not Facebook Perfect All The Time

When I first started this blog I asked myself how personal I was willing to be, and what kind of things I wanted to write about. I knew I wanted it to reflect my genuine feelings.  But there is a fine line to walk between being honest and respecting your own privacy. With all the social media that we deal with, it is really hard to show negative emotions without sounding whiny or annoying. But I think that facebook and blogs can be really misleading because people only show the awesomest and coolest parts of their lives without ever reflecting that most people feel lonely, sad, frustrated, and worried at times.  And most people grow and learn the most about themselves when they go through the hardest periods in their lives.

That being said, I struggled to write this summer and fall because I went through some major changes and they were too personal to write about. This was the first real challenge in my life. I have been blessed with a privileged life, a positive outlook, a cheerful disposition, and a lot of joy; it was shocking in many ways to feel so low. It just didn’t feel genuine to concoct enthusiastic blogs about how great training was and all the fun I was having because everything was really shadowed by my own sadness. Everything in my world as an athlete and a person was affected by this tumultuous change and I didn’t feel like I could move on and write honestly without acknowledging that.

There is this ideal that athletes are always super focused and that we live a life aimed only at reaching our competitive goals. I think this is true in some ways and there are those who can put their heads down and live in a cave for their sport. However, this has never been my style. I have come to terms with this I know when it is time for me to say no and make the right choices for training and when it is time for me to say “@$%#^” it and do something that is the right thing for my head. This was especially important for me this summer. I burned the candle at both ends for weeks at a time trying to be professional in training, while running around frantically to fill the void inside of me and ease the pain I was feeling.

Our job is our lifestyle; even though we all try to separate our professional and personal lives, it’s not totally possible. There is so much crossover that whatever happens in your personal life has an affect on your athletic career. And conversely, our athletic life is so consuming that we spend most of our free time with our teammates and coaches, especially during the winter competition season. The repercussions of my personal life certainly invaded my training atmosphere and though I did my best to be happy, many times I was absent and lost in my own thoughts. I felt like I couldn’t relate to my teammates and I was more edgy and easier to upset. Luckily, everyone was patient and caring. My coaches were also incredibly supportive and understanding and helped me navigate my personal life and training.

The stress I experienced also manifested in a huge surge of adrenaline. I was totally exhausted, yet I couldn’t sleep at night or take naps despite being tired from training.  I desperately didn’t want the upheaval in my life to ruin everything that I had worked so hard for and the good opportunities that I was finally able to take advantage of.  Yet oftentimes I couldn’t do more than one workout in a day, when we usually train twice.  Such strong emotions made me feel very tired. After I finally recovered a bit, I found that I started to feel really good. The pain from intensity workouts paled in comparison to the pain in my heart and training was a place of simplicity and focus.  That was a pretty cool feeling.

For the first time in my life I feel old, and I realize it sounds silly to say that. I’m only 28 but I get worried about what I am going to do when I am done with biathlon and how I am going to make it work. We don’t save money doing this sport in the U.S., we usually make just enough to keep going.  I absolutely love training and racing, but it can be difficult to make the time you are waiting to race meaningful. I tend to be a busy person when I am home, and on the road it is a very different life. Traveling all over and becoming friends with people from different countries is such an amazing experience but it too comes with it’s own challenges. At times I yearn to have my own home and feel settled somewhere.

However, I feel like I am slowly becoming myself again. I  am fortunate to live such a privileged life because I am able to pursue my dreams and it isn’t a struggle to simply make it. I never worry about if I am going to have enough food or if things go badly for me, that I won’t have a safe place to be. I live in a beautiful place and am surrounded by loving people. I have superheroes for parents. Even with the challenges that this summer brought, it was still filled with such fun adventures and people to share them with. My sister and I often joke about how we have “first world problems”.  However, they still felt very real to me and I know that without them I wouldn’t have learned so much about myself.

Now I am back on the racing circuit and I am really excited to race in my first World Cup on Thursday! I haven’t had the chance to compete here in Ostresund, Sweden and I think it is going to be hard but good! It’s been pretty warm here, but the snow is falling, it looks Christmasy outside, and it is cozy inside.  The food here has been great, although the other night we were served a hotdog the size of my shin. That is very large. I even took a picture of it.  I hope that I will be able to recount more of my training and racing adventures now that I have written about my summer a bit and gotten the elephant off my back.

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