Saturday, March 12, 2016

25 Life Lessons that I've Learned from Biathlon

1.  I thrive on challenges and working towards goals.  

2.  Hard work usually pays off, but not always when or in the way that I was expecting.

3.  To be truly your best at something, it has to be all-consuming.  There will be little time for anything else. 

4.  To be truly great at something, you not only have to be at your very best but also your best has to be great.  This takes luck.  

5.  Sometimes you just get lucky.

6.  Sometimes you just get unlucky.

7.  Sometimes trying harder isn't the solution.  You have to try in the right way.  One of the hardest things to do is to try not to try too hard.  

8.  Believing in yourself is a very powerful positive force.  Don't underestimate it. 

9.  Be confident but not cocky.  

10.  Set reasonable expectations, but don't be afraid to dream big.  Both are important.  

11.  Sometimes you have to do things that aren't fun in order to have even more fun later.

11.  Being serious and having fun are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, in my experience life is best when they are combined.  

13.  Everything is better with teammates and friends.  Don't isolate yourself or take your friends for granted.    

14.  Everyone is different, and that is wonderful.  My teammates, like my siblings, can sometimes be annoying and weird and do things that I wouldn't...but when you know people well enough you love them anyways.  Small grudges and annoyances are not worth holding onto.  

15.  There is always something else that you're missing out on.  But it doesn't matter.  Don't think about it.  Be here now.  

16.  Playing the "what if" and "if only" games are not productive for either biathlon or life. There is always something that you could have done better. 

17.  I am a competitive person.  This can be good and bad.  I will have to get better turning it off after this.  

18.   I am happiest when my life is simple but busy.

19.  I am happiest in beautiful places.

20.  I am also quite capable of being miserable in beautiful places, and happy in dull little hotel rooms.  I have the power to make myself either miserable or happy.  

21.  I am not consistently happy when my life is out of balance and being consumed by only one thing.     

22.  If you have a great shooting position, a great hold, a perfect zero, there's no wind, and your trigger squeeze is perfect but you still miss, it might be because you weren't aiming at the center of the target.  Sometimes the answer is right in plain sight.  

23.  In this world, some people have higher VO2max's than yours, some people are better at focusing, some people have faster skis than you and way bigger waxing budgets, and some people get paid way more than you to do the same thing.  Some of them also cheat.  But in the end, all you can affect is yourself.   

24.  Almost anything can seem all-important when you take it seriously and surround yourself in it.  Even a sport that combines two other random sports and is virtually unknown in much of the world.  But like so many of the other silly things we take to be all-important, its only as important as you make it.  

25.  That said, biathlon is an AWESOME sport...the best in fact.  It combines a physical and a mental challenge to make for an entertaining and exciting competition that is dramatic and inspirational and heartbreaking all at the same time.  You can be winning a race but miss your last shot and just miss the podium.  You can miss your first shot but then not give up and hit the rest and win.  You might not be the fastest skier, but there is always hope for a good race if you shoot well.  And you can be the fastest skier in the world but lose your cool every time on the shooting range and never win a race.  I may be moving on from my own biathlon career but I will always be a biathlon fan.  

And last but not least, !'m sure I will say this again, but I can't say it enough times: 
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who has helped me along the way in my biathlon adventures. Vielen Dank, Kiitos, Děkuji, Tack, Grazie, Merci, Благодаря,  Спасибо, Ďakujem!!!  This was a hard decision to make and I will miss you all.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Racing and painting (and having fun doing it!)

Well, I'm a bit late again with the update, but better late than never, right?  This time I'll stick with mostly pictures.  Its been a really fun last few weeks of biathlon racing.  I've been sticking with my goal of getting "excited" before races instead of "nervous".  So far it has been working well for both my my enjoyment and my performance.  It's sort of a chicken and the egg thing though...what comes first, racing well or having fun doing it?  

In Canmore I gained a lot of confidence when I got 28th in the sprint despite 2 misses.  It was a windy crazy day and I got a bit lucky, but it gave me a lot of hope that I could still be good at biathlon.
photo: NordicFocus
The mixed relay in Canmore was one of the more fun biathlon races I've ever done.  Susan handed off to me in 5th place, right with Norway.  I had a perfect person to ski behind!  I always ski better and more efficiently behind people.  I felt in control, and came into the race both times knowing that I could hit the targets.  I cleaned prone and left the range in 3rd!  I tagged off to Tim in 4th, right behind 3rd.  Tim kept us in 4th, and Lowell came from behind to come within seconds of catching Norway, who took third.  It was our best mixed relay result ever!  And it was such a fun race, both skiing and cheering afterwards.  

Smiles and sunshine after the race!
photo: Susan Dunklee 

In Presque Isle I went into the races with more confidence than I'd had all season, and I had my two best individual results of the year, improving upon my sprint in Canmore.  Biathlon is fun when you hit targets!  Its also fun when you have home-crowd fans cheering for you the whole way, especially when they're your friends and family!  The atmosphere reminded me of racing Dartmouth Carnival during college skiing.
photo: NordicFocus

My face is a bit frozen but I'm SO happy to have my best friend Courtney at the races cheering me on along with her husband Warren and her nephew and inlaws.  

My parents and aunt Carlie came to cheer and watch too!  

During these last few weeks I've been painting too!  My friend Corinne (Rin) and I have started an art challenge.  Each week we have a theme and we have to make a painting that fits the theme.  We're calling it the RinHan Art Challenge.  Its been really fun and motivating for me.  For week #1 the theme was to paint a picture from last summer.  This is one of the pigs that my sister raised last summer.  

For week #2, the theme was a self-portrait.  This is a painting of the selfie that I took on top of Heaven Hill in Lake Placid. 

For week three the theme was to make a bright and colorful painting.  I broke out my ink (since I was at home with all of my art supplies available) because ink makes for the most vibrant colors!  This is the view from Craftsbury looking toward the wind farm on the Lowell Range.  I swear the real sunset was this vibrant!

Now I'm finishing up my week at home in Vermont and getting ready to head back across the atlantic to Norway.  I officially managed to turn my season around in time to go to World Champs in Oslo, and I am ecstatic about that!  We'll have a one week training camp in Sjusjoen, Norway before heading to Oslo where the real excitement will begin!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Cheesy Blog about Believing in Myself

Disclaimer: This blog post has lots of writing. I just have lots of things to write about and some of them feel a bit cheesy or dramatic, but too bad--its going to be good for me to write about them so you can always just look at the pictures if you want to. 

Since my last blog, I've had some lows and some highs.  I always like to describe biathlon as a rollercoaster ride, with great highs and crushing lows that often seem to alternate randomly.  But that analogy really falls apart in one key way; on a rollercoaster, whether you're going up or down, you're having fun the whole time.  In my experience it isn't the same in biathlon.  When you put so much of your time and effort into a sport and then feel like its not paying off--when you know what you are capable of and then don't live up to those expectations--it can be really hard to enjoy it.  Even if you know you're really lucky to be racing in beautiful places all around Europe with an excellent support staff and great teammates.  This year I felt like instead of the usual biathlon ups and downs, my rollercoaster just never got going, no matter how hard I was pushing it.  It was an uphill battle and I
wasn't winning.

This is a small painting of a really cool old wood-fired bread oven that I found near the bed and breakfast we were staying at in Ridnaun.

This is the barn next to our bed and breakfast in Ridnaun.  Sudtirol has the most beautiful buildings in the world. (In my opinion).

I wrote my last blog post when I was in Ridnaun, Italy and shortly after that I hit what felt like the emotional rock bottom of my biathlon career.  I hadn't had a good race all year, and I kept trying to psych myself up for the next one, but it was getting harder and harder.  I had hoped to only race one weekend on the IBU cup and then be back on the World Cup, but for two weekends in a row, I hadn't put together a single race that would give anyone a reason to move me back up, and I knew that.  I was missing the World Cup in Antholz, which was where I went to my very first world cup race, and also my favorite of all the places that we go in Europe.  When I found out that I definitely wasn't going to Antholz, I was also told that I was not going to the Canmore world cup and that therefore it was best to not go visit my boyfriend in Colorado for the off week before Canmore, which had been the one thing I was really looking forward to.  At this point, I will be honest with you, I almost decided to quit biathlon then and there.  Well, I probably would have done the IBU cup races in Arbor as my last races.  But I really came very close to just throwing in the towel and giving up on all of the trying and failing.  I figured that I could just fly to Colorado like I was planning on and then stay there indefinitely.  (Note to my blog readers: I am planning to retire from biathlon after this season.  This is something I decided last spring, and I will discuss it more in a later blog post.  But since it sort of got made public last weekend, I figured I'd make it public here too).

My sister Emily.  Its not the best likeness, but working on his painting helped to distract me and keep me happier when I was really struggling.  And being with Em also really helped distract me and keep me happy.
I'm smiling but really I feel like crying, and I'm debating whether or not to quit biathlon immediately.
But after sleeping on it, I realized that I had to keep trying.  Not for my coaches or my team or my family or my pride, but just for me.  I had put way too much into this sport to just give up if there was a chance that I could turn my season around and end on a good note.  But most of all I wanted to believe in myself again.  I felt that I owed that to myself.

Because as coach Jean Paquet had told me, "it was clear that I just didn't believe that I could do it, and that was my only problem".  It was true, I didn't believe that I was fast at skiing, and I would come in to standing shooting and just not believe that I could hit the targets.  So then of course I wouldn't hit them.  Confidence is a very cyclical thing in biathlon.  When you do well, you have confidence.  But you also need confidence to do well.  So when you have a bad race--or a lot of bad races--you need to try not to lose confidence (which is really hard) so that you can get back to having good races.  So I set about trying to fake some confidence.  I decided that I would fake it until I could make it.

And miraculously, that worked.  I faked confidence at first, but pretty quickly it started to turn into small pieces of real confidence.  I started to shoot better in practice, and had more confidence going into the sprint races that weekend, and lo and behold I shot clean, and skied pretty well too!  I was really happy after a biathlon race for the first time all year!  My other two races that weekend had some good parts and some bad parts, but I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders--I hadn't gotten super nervous before the races. I hadn't felt pressure and expectation dragging me down like an anchor.  I had raced for myself. This was a turning point for me.

Em and I were both very happy after the sprint race in Arber.  I was 10th and she qualified for her first international pursuit race!  

Arber was beautiful and wintery.
After the racing in Arber I found out that I was going to the Canmore world cup after all!  But alas, I was not going to visit my Nils in Colorado for a week.  I went straight to the OTC in Lake Placid for a week of focused biathlon training and good recovery.  This is not really my idea of a good time, but I decided to make the most of it.  I worked hard, relaxed, and did lots of laundry.  And then at the end of the week I went on a few of my best skis of the year.  I went for a long adventure ski up to Avalanche Lake with Annelies and Clare and a couple other friends.  It felt so nice to just ski through the woods for hours, to cruise down narrow twisting hiking trails dodging rocks, on the edge of control, and to chat with friends.  It reminded me that I love to ski.  The next day I was supposed to take the day off but I couldn't resist the chance to ski out the door of the OTC up to the top of Heaven Hill, one of my favorite places in Lake Placid.  It felt like spring, and the hill is covered with maple trees, so it felt like sugaring season at home and it made me happy. 

Girls ski to Avalanche Lake.

Happy on Heaven Hill.

And then I went to Canmore and it was beautiful and I felt happy.  During both of the races in Canmore I told myself "I can do this.  I don't even need to do anything special, I just need to do what I know how to do."  And the craziest thing happened--it worked!!  I had two of the best races of my year to date, including being part of our 4th place mixed-relay team. It felt like a dream, and I was very very glad that I didn't quit.

I think this blog post is long enough now, so I'll have to write more later.

The course in Canmore has a pretty decent view.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bernie and other inspiring things

Sometimes I start to get a bit negative, and I have trouble seeing all of the great things about what I'm doing, and about the world around me.  This can be a bit of a negative cycle.  And the negativity can be about my biathlon experiences, my surroundings, or other things like American politics or global warming.  These negative feelings definitely make me less inspired to paint, race biathlon, or try to make the world a better place.  So I'm trying to focus more on the positives.

But here are some of the things that have inspired me lately in a few paintings and a few photos!

1.  First of all...Bernie!  I made this painting a little while ago.  I hadn't painted in a long time.  I think I was bored of landscapes and feeling uninspired, until I realized that I just had to look for inspiration in other places!  The Bernie painting is also the start of my revived interest in portraits.

Bernie gives me hope for American politics, and the enthusiasm for Bernie gives me hope for Americans.

2.  Great teammates!  I've decided to start a series of portraits of my biathlon teammates.  I am surrounded by really great, beautiful teammates who make my life on the road fun and rewarding.  I also want to get better at painting likenesses.  Its hard!
This is Maddie Phaneuf, the youngest member of our US Biathlon Women's team.  Maddie is one of the most mature and level-headed 20-year olds I know.  This isn't quite Maddie...but its close!  I will have to keep practicing. 

Me, Em, and Maddie.  I am on the same team as my sister, Emily!!!  This is the first time that this has happened since high school.  Em started doing biathlon this spring and has picked up shooting so fast, its really cool to see.   

3.  Beauty everywhere!  I just spent a week in Žďár nad Sázavou, in the Czech Republic.  It was foggy for most of the time we were there and Žďár is a bit of an industrial town with smokestacks and lots of concrete apartment buildings.  Not the most beautiful place in the world.  But it is also home to the Zelena Hora pilgrimage church, which is a UNESCO heritage site, and an absolutely beautiful building.  This is the third year I've been to Žďár and I make sure to make a pilgrimage to the church each time.

4.  Being in Ridnaun, Italy!  Ridnaun is definitely in my top 5 favorite biathlon venues. And we arrived to freshly falling snow!

The buildings here are all so beautiful and well-built.  Even the barns. 

I found a cool old outdoor wood-fired oven near our hotel.  I wish I could see it in use!

Friday, January 1, 2016


When I started this blog, I meant it to be something that would encourage me to do more art.  I figured I'd post often and that it would inspire me to keep making art, even quick little experimental, "imperfect" things.  Since then I've gone through phases of doing more and less art, more and less blogging of the art, and also more and less blogging about biathlon.  But I also started to be too much of a perfectionist about both art and blogging.  And as anyone who was trying to follow my blog over the last year could see...that became paralyzing!

But since I've made a New Years resolution to do more art, this seems like a good time to try to start posting more to my blog.  I did a little art experiment today, and it didn't go very least, not as I'd planned.  I'm not that happy with the outcome, but it was still fun and also quite fitting since so far my biathlon season hasn't gone as planned.  After an up and down but good year last year, with three different personal bests throughout the season, I had high hopes going into this season.
But then I dislocated my kneecap in our preseason training camp.  I got back into racing quickly, but my knee hurt and I shot badly and struggled to get my body into race gear.  In the last two races before Christmas I finally shot better, but still struggled to go fast on the skis.  Then I got a cold over Christmas and now I'm still feeling behind on the intensity training and just sort of slow...not how I wanted to be feeling right now!  But in the end I have to just enjoy the process and keep on trying.  I know I am still capable of better.  I will have to make another attempt at this painting-print idea too.  Today I tried painting on rubber with acrylic paint and then using that to print on paper.  But the acrylic dried too quickly and that made for lots of holes in the color on the print and also made me rush more than I'd like to to try to paint it before it dried, to no avail.  You get a better idea of the image from the rubber block itself.  I was trying to capture in some way the color and action of all the hundreds of skiers I saw today in Craftsbury, especially the kids.  I will have to keep trying to find a good way to capture that, its a cool scene.

Monday, February 23, 2015


I made this painting a while ago, during a week off of racing that we spent in Inzell, Germany.  We happened to be in Inzell at the same time as a Heißluftballon festival, and combined with fresh snow and sunny days it made for some very picturesque skiing.  I promise a more substantial and biathlon-related blog post soon!  

Friday, January 23, 2015

25 Crazy Things that Happen to you on the Biathlon World Cup

My very first experience on the Biathlon World Cup was exactly 2 years ago here in Antholz, Italy.  Back then, everything was new and exciting and I was not taking any of it for granted.  I was SO excited about the nice hotel we stayed at close to the stadium, the awesome breakfast buffet and salad bar, the massages we got to help us prepare for and recover from races, the fans lining the course, the famous biathletes skiing around next to me at practice...I could go on and on and on!  And back then I never thought that it would happen...but I've realized this winter that I've pretty much gotten used to it all.  Maybe too much.  I want to be able to keep seeing the excitement and fun of it all, as well as the absurdity and sometimes the downsides too.  Basically, I don't want to start taking myself too seriously and in the process take this whole crazy experience for granted.  And so for the past week or so, I've been trying to make a mental list of all of the awesome, wacky, abnormal things that happen when you travel around with the Biathlon Circus.

1. You get to go to places that look like THIS as part of your job!!!

2.  People don't even know your name, but they want your "autograph".  Yesterday I got to autograph one guy's 10-kilo, huge, wooden, spinning noise-maker.  I hope he doesn't spin that thing while he's in the stands, or he would probably kill someone.

3. Even crazier is that some fans DO know your name and yell at you even while you're just out training.

4. You get fan mail from people in places like Poland and Russia who want you to send autographed cards.
this is a real letter

5. 15,000 Germans stand outside in the rain and snow for hours to watch your race, wearing ridiculous things and drinking lots and lots of beer.

6.  You now have a made-for-tv video clip "Hannah" who turns to look at the camera and smiles...if you ever do well and they show you on TV, that will show up along with your name to show who you are.  (sorry, I don't have a copy of it...)

7.  You walk by a wax truck that looks like this.  The text on the truck says (no joke): "From the forests of the north comes a new breed.  Harder. Faster. Stronger.  Let the battle begin."

8.  Girls race with hairdo's like this and lots of makeup, and it starts to look normal to you.

9.  You get free food and beer right at the venue, in every place you go, in what they call a "family club".
Hansa, Gara, and Toni (from L to R), three of our wax techs, enjoying the family club fare. 

10.  Your team (USA) includes staff from Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic and Canada...and occasionally the USA.

11.  Words from many languages become a part of your everyday vocabulary.  "Ahoj!" (Czech), "Moi" (Finnish), "grüss dich", "servus", and "habe die ehre" (all Bavarian/German) are all common greetings, "malzeit!" starts most of your meals, and "Ciao!" is a common goodbye.

12.  Need new ski boots?  Just go ask your sponsor rep and you get some for free. (Thanks Salomon!)

13.  You have about 10 pairs of skate skis.  Actually, you might have a lot more than that.  Most of them you don't even touch except to test every now and then, and then to race on them.  (We have awesome wax techs who are constantly testing and waxing and make our skis as fast as possible)

14.  Its totally normal for you to be skiing behind two heterosexual men in full spandex and watch them hold hands as they go down the hill.  (many wax techs do this to get themselves going the same speed, before letting go to see whose skis go faster).

15.  In an average day, you change clothing 7-8 times.

16. Getting massages becomes normal for you.  (we are so spoiled!)  But they really do help a lot with recovery and injury prevention.

17.  A funny result of getting a massage is "massage face."  Its common for you to show up at dinner with your face all covered with lines and dents from lying with your face in the hole of the massage table.  They can take a long time to go away!

18.  When you say "I cleaned today!!", its a really good thing, not just something to check off of your chore to-do list.

19.  You spend one week in each of about 12 different places all over Europe...mostly places where other people go for vacation.

20.  You don't go home for 3 months straight.   (alright, so a few of these are not particularly positive...)

21.  You share a bed with your teammate/roommate for more nights out of the year than your boyfriend.

22.  After one or two races, your tights have big sticky patches that don't wash out from the leg stickers you race in, and they stick to themselves and look like this:

23.  You regularly get to fill your afternoons with watching your teammates race on TV

24.  No snow? No problem.  Its now become totally normal to do all of our training and racing on a 2.5k loop of manmade snow, surrounded by brown.  (this is sad)

25.  0.1 seconds can decide whether you get to race again the next day or not.  But today, I came out on the right side of that one!  Tomorrow I'll be the last starter in the pursuit...but I am just psyched to be starting another race in my favorite of all the world cup venues.