December 17, 2010

Best Yet, Take 2

Beautiful Bled!

Hello from Slovenia! We arrived in Bled Monday afternoon and have been enjoying some sun and great skiing up at the venue in Pokljuka. Things got underway for the final pre-Christmas World Cup yesterday with the Individual races. Watching the men's race before we left the hotel left me a little nervous. Many of the best men in the field had terrible days on the range. Our men were no exception, with the best shooting coming from Lowell Bailey with 5 penalties-not what you normally see in an Individual style race were each miss adds one minute to your time. The wind had been switching around a lot, and though some athletes were lucky enough to best the conditions and walk away with only a few penalties, not one man hit all 20 targets-nearly unheard of for this caliber field in this type of race.

Luckily, when we arrived at the stadium (a windy 30 minute drive from our hotel- thank you Bogus Basin for preparing me well to deal with winding roads to races and training!) the wind had settled a bit and was more consistent. There was still some gusting, though, and some swirling wind you had to be aware of especially in prone. I went off early with the top group of starters, which meant I had some great people to try and stick with and was able to see the level of where I need to be to win medals. It was tough to be passed by these girls, but I looked at it as motivating to see how long I could stay with them and where they would gain time on me-letting me know what I needed to work on. But the Individual race is usually won and lost on the range, and I was confident about my ability. With only one penalty, coming in the third stage in prone position, I knew I could have a solid day. As is my usual style, I had a great last loop after cleaning my final standing stage, and ended up placing 21st.

In less than a week I've managed two personal bests with two top-30 results. It's really motivating to be shooting so well and see my skiing improve each week. And the Pokljuka venue is beautiful, so no better place to have some solid results!

In the ski room post-race, and very happy with my 21st!

This weekend is the final two races before we break for the holidays. Sprint race on Saturday and a Mixed Relay on Sunday (featuring 2 women and 2 men it's a really fun event). I'm looking forward to the races; knowing we have a nice break afterward allows you to really push through the weekend. Then I'll be off to Italy for some relaxation, training and sun! I'm already heading in to Christmas with more World Cup points than my total from all previous years, which makes me very excited for the rest of the season...things have hardly begun!

December 11, 2010

Best Yet

Attempting a jog on the snowy running path.

Greetings from SNOWY Hochfilzen! It's been snowing here almost non-stop since Wednesday, which made for some tough conditions in yesterday's sprint race. The women's race was snowy right from the get-go, so conditions were tough but fair. Going into this weekend I was looking forward to having a good race, but nervous since last week had been so rough. I knew I was feeling good, but in biathlon anything can happen, so you can never count on results, especially in this kind of weather.

I must admit I was a little nervous the morning of the race, but kept myself calm enough to execute my race strategy. I focused on staying calm and not letting my skiing get too short and choppy, and having a good range approach. The range here can be tough, with a long flat section and an uphill right into point 30. My plan worked out well for me, as I cleaned (hit 5 for 5) both my standing and my prone. Leaving the range after standing shooting, I was psyched. Shooting clean is a tall order, and some biathletes never have a clean race. This was my second clean World Cup, and it couldn't have come at a better time to boost my confidence. I received a split on my last loop saying I was just out of 20th position, and though I knew there were still some fast women behind me, I knew I could hold on for a good finish. When all the racers were in, I was left in 26th place, a career best finish! I am more than pleased with my comeback from Swedish parasites-clean shooting and a top-30 result.

The best part is possibly that we have a pursuit race tomorrow, so I'll have the chance to improve and score a few more World Cup points. Both Laura Spector and I qualified for the pursuit, so we're psyched to have another chance to race well. Laura had 3 penalties yesterday, but skied exceptionally, giving her a great shot at moving up in the pursuit. We're both very excited to have good results already this season, and feel this is a sign that the US women are headed in the right direction. Now we just need to get a few more over here so we can field a relay team!

Pursuit race tomorrow, most likely in the snow as it shows no sign of letting up. Should be a good fight, and a fun race. Having a career best finish this early in the season is great, but I'll continue to call it the "best yet" and save my "best ever" for another time. It's nice to feel good again, and see all my hard work paying off...hopefully this is just the beginning!

Laura and me, enjoying the snow!

December 5, 2010

Adjö Sverige, Guten Tag Österreich!

The final score here in Sweden left the parasite up two-nothing after not quite having the legs or shooting for a good enough sprint to move me on to the pursuit. Tomorrow we're off to Hochfilzen, Austria and I for one am looking forward to re-starting the World Cup season. It's been a rough week here in Östersund, but after talking to my coaches I've decided to take these races as practice and nothing more. I'm finally feeling normal while training and am confident the parasite will not follow me on to Austria.

Internet is sometimes tricky in Hochfilzen, so in case I can't update, you can follow the team on our website or at Wish me luck!

Getting ready for the COLD sprint race. Hopefully Hochfilzen is a bit warmer...

December 2, 2010

Ready, Set, World Cup!

Sunset over the biathlon venue with Östersund's lake in the background from our room.

With the Östersund individual race over, the World Cup season has officially begun. For me, it was a decent race, all things considered, though certainly not the way I had envisioned beginning the season.

As you may have heard by now, the town of Östersund is having some trouble with their water supply. Since before we arrived, there has apparently been a parasite (Cryptosporidium) contaminating the drinking water and many of the athletes, including myself and several teammates, have been unlucky enough to contract the bug. For me it has meant several days of upset stomach, some throwing up, and general weakness and feeling drained from not being able to eat much. I didn't train much in the days leading up to the race, so simply being able to start and have a couple of solid laps was great. I was pretty happy with my shooting and proud of myself for fighting through a less than perfect situation.

Bottled and boiled water...

I'm definitely on the mend now, though my appetite is not 100% and neither is my feeling. However, I am confident that I can have a great sprint race regardless. My shooting is solid right now and I know I am in great shape, so as soon as I can get this bug completely kicked out of my system, I'll be ready to rock.

The day was not a complete bust, though, as my teammate Laura Spector had a fantastic race. She shot 19/20 and skied great, ending up in 25th place! It was her first World Cup points ever, so congratulations to her! I think it's a great indicator of where the US women can be this year.

The men begin their season tonight with the 20km Individual. A few of the men are recovering from Crypto symptoms as well, but hopefully we'll all be back to 100% in a few days. Off we go!

The sun DOES come to Sweden, and yesterday we saw it! What a nice sight!