Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Season wrap-up in drawings, pictures and paintings.



I somehow managed to not take any pictures in Kantiolahti, Finland, where we had the second-to-last world cup, and where I had my best sprint race of the season, scored my first world cup points, and qualified for my first pursuit!  I guess maybe it was because Finland was the least photogenic of the places I've been this year.  It had some stiff competition though--I've gotten to go to some incredibly beautiful places.  But it was a great weekend of racing, and I had a lot of fun racing in my first World Cup pursuit, even though I didn't shoot that well in it.  After such a low point as far as racing was concerned in Pokljuka, Kontiolahti was sudden upturn!  But then I once again struggled with the shooting in the Oslo sprint, didn't qualify for the pursuit, and my spirits plummeted once again. Biathlon is always testing my ability to deal with ups and downs.  Maybe I'll write more of a real wrap-up later when I'm less jet-lagged, but for now I mostly want to post some more pictures and paintings.  Here they are!

Looking out over Oslo from Holmenkollen


Hotel Rica, where all of the teams stayed together for the final World Cup. 

This is one thing I will NOT miss about living on the road for 5 months--hand-washing laundry in the bath tub and then trying to ring it out as much as possible and then it still ends up dripping all over the bathroom.  But somehow it always dries faster than I think it will. 

Going for a ski on the Holmenkollen trails. 

Norwegian fans lining the course. 

My teammate Sara is retiring now, and Oslo was her last World Cup. We had fun cheering together during the mass start races on Sunday.  Congrats on being done, Sara...but we'll miss you!!


Our shooting coach Armin is also leaving our team, so I made him a painting of Antholz, which is where he's from. 

One of our wax techs, Mattias, is also leaving (so many people leaving, its sad!).   Mattias is a great wax tech and also a lot of fun to be around.  So of course I had to make him a painting too!

And then I flew home!!  I'd been scheming and looking forward to my first breakfast at home for a long time...gluten-free crepes!  With lots of homemade maple syrup, of course.   Yum!  


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Don't worry, I still paint

This is the view from the front porch of the cabin I stayed in at the Rauschbergblick in Inzell, Germany. We stayed in Inzell after the Olympics and the weather felt like May.  It was great for recovering from the Olympic excitement--I sat out on the porch in the sun.  Last year when we stayed in Inzell after World Champs, there was two feet of snow and we could ski all over the valley.  Quite the contrast!
Stefan and the rest of the Schwabl family have always been gracious hosts to our team when we've come in the winter and the summer, so I painted this for them. 

It once again felt like springtime when we were staying right next to Lake Bled in Slovenia.  On the lake, swans were swimming and rowers were rowing.  I'm not used to seeing swans, and it might be cliche, but I think they're beautiful!  I took lots of swan photos while I was in Slovenia.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

sLOVEnia and moving on

Slovenia, I've decided, is a really cool country.  I am sad to say that I am now no longer in Slovenia.  But I hope to go back there for several reasons:

1.  I need some vengeance on the Pokljuka biathlon range.
2.  I need to go to Slovenia sometime when I am not competing and ideally do all of the following things: backcountry ski, cross-country ski, mountain bike, road bike, hike, row...eat...probably some other things too that I'm not thinking of.  That might take more than one trip.  But actually, the amazing thing about Slovenia is that I could have done every one of those things during my short visit, given proper equipment.  Its just that cool of a place.

Some more interesting tidbits about Slovenia:
1. It's motto is "I feel Slovenia".  And I felt the love!
2.  Everyone in Slovenia seems to speak good english and be really friendly.
3.  It has beautiful forests, lakes and mountains
4. The people of Slovenia are very active.  It has one of the highest ratios of Olympic medals to population size.
5.  It also has a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea!

So, as you can probably tell I really liked Slovenia.  I think that my pictures below will help show you why.  But I also had my worst biathlon race ever on the World Cup in the Sprint race in Pokljuka. Well, maybe it was better than the one in Antholz that I didn't even finish...but to me it seemed worse because it was all my fault, and yet I still don't really know what happened or why it went so horribly.
I was skiing pretty well (the positive of the day was that I skied pretty well), and came in to shoot prone and missed my first shot.  Then I missed my second shot.  I thought maybe it was windier than I'd though, so I took some clicks into the wind.  Then I missed my last three shots as well.  Yup, I missed all 5 shots...thats what we call "dirtying" in biathlon.  And just as the name suggests, its shameful.  I did my 5 penalty loops with my tail between my legs.  I had another good ski loop, and came in for standing, and just somehow didn't get into the zone.  I shot, went to ski my two additional penalty loops, and knew that there was now way I was going to be qualifying for the pursuit.  I seem to have a curse when it comes to qualifying for pursuits.  I was so disappointed in myself, but also just confused by how it ha gone so badly, and then I finished and got even more bad news:  apparently I had actually missed 3 in standing.  And since I'd only done 2 penalty loops, I was given an additional 2-minute time penalty for my missed penalty loop.  Now I really felt ashamed of myself, and disappointed and frustrated ad dumb, all at once.  I cried a little.
But then I went for a cool-down ski out on a side trail that winds through a beautiful mature evergreen forest and then suddenly looks out over an awesome view of big snowy mountains.  It was beautiful, and soothing.  Which sounds cheesy.  But I really love being in beautiful places, and it makes me happy.
Sometimes biathlon feels incredibly brutal and merciless.  You feel like you're doing a good job, training is going well, you start to gain some confidence and get you hopes up, and then you race and the biathlon gods just rip it all out from under you.  But then there are other times when you go into a race with no expectations, just planning to fight for it and somehow it just falls together and its so rewarding.  I guess that the volatility of biathlon is what makes it so addicting to compete in, and so popular to watch.  Its dramatic and vicious and emotional.  In a biathlon race you can watch people's hopes be brutally dashed and you can also watch an underdog win in glorious fashion.  To be a biathlete, you have to be able to get tossed around and toyed with and not let it disrupt your focus and confidence.  Boy, can that be hard!! But luckily I got to spend some time in beautiful Slovenia moving on from the bad race.  And now I am on my way to Finland, where I will have more chances to race well.

We stayed in a really nice old hotel called Hotel Triglav, overlooking lake Bled.  Down by the lake, it was full-on springtime, with ducks and swans, flowers blooming, and people out for strolls.  

Sara bough each of us a cool mask for Carneval/Mardi Gras/Fasching, and we celebrated on tuesday night in Slovenia by wearing them to dinner.  This is a big holiday in most of Europe, with people out in costumes and lots of parties.  The food at Hotel Triglav was deeeelicious. Very gourmet and even the simplest things tasted amazing.  That was a definite highlight of the trip!

Swans!  I had fun trying to take pictures of them.

Lake Bled is about as picturesque as you can get.  Its got a castle on a cliff overlooking the lake, as well as a castle on an island in the lake!

I bought hot roasted chestnuts from a guy who was grilling them along the path by the lake.  I'd never had freshly roasted chestnuts before.  Yum!!  And I was wearing a t-shirt too!

But then when you drove up the mountain to the venue...there was SOOOO much snow!!  


And beautiful views.

Doesn't this look like a cool place?

Beautiful trees!!

The town of Bled is touristy, but with a cool funky vibe that I liked.  This little pizza shop had delicious gluten-free pizza!



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Too much to write about in one blog post

Well, I've realized that I just have too many things to fit into a reasonably concise blog post.  Thats because its been too long since I last wrote, but also because its just been very action-packed!  So bear with me as I cover some of the events of my last 10 days in roughly chronological order.  

First of all, there was more racing.  And it was exciting racing!  I raced in the mixed-gender relay with Susan, Tim and Lowell.  I had never been on the mixed relay team before, and I was excited about it but also nervous.  I felt that we had a good chance at doing really well if all of us could have good shooting.  So that would require me to have good shooting.  I put pressure on myself.  I dry-fired and visualized and made a plan of attack. I tried to be as prepared as I could be. 

A screenshot of the tag-off when we were in 4th place that my friend Courtney sent me.
Susan skied the first leg and had a great race and tagged off to me in 4th--just a few seconds behind the leaders.  Thats right A FEW SECONDS BEHIND THE LEADERS!!  At the Olympics!!  I knew that it was totally possible that I would be put in that position, and I'd tried to prepare myself for it mentally.  My plan was to not be intimidated, but to just be psyched and to think "good, this is exactly where I want to be."  You can of course never be prepared for something like that if you haven't experienced it before, and so I wasn't prepared...but I did enjoy it!  It was awesome!!  I sort of felt like I was floating for that whole lap.  I had a lot of fun.  I may have gone too hard.  And then I came it to shooting and tried to follow my plan for that too...
But biathlon is funny.  Sometimes you try hard and it works. Sometimes you just relax and go on autopilot and it works.  The targets fall.  But for me it seems that just as often, something is a little bit off and the targets don't fall.  Occasionally when this happens I can think back and say "well, I could have prepared better" or "I really didn't have a plan or a focus".  Thats when I'm disappointed in myself.  
But before the mixed relay, I really think that I prepared for the shooting as well as I could have. And something was still a bit off.  In that first prone stage I had 8 bullets to use to hit 5 targets, and I couldn't do it.  I had to go into the dreaded penalty loop.  All of my shots were going high for some reason, but of course I didn't know that until after the race.  So I was frustrated, but I also knew that I couldn't give myself too hard of a time--sometimes that just happens in biathlon.  I dropped our team from 4th back to 10th.  Out of medal contention.  It was not the performance that I was hoping for.  I definitely replayed the race a lot of times in my head afterwards, trying to make it go differently.  But in the end, I'd tried my best.  And I had also had that amazing experience of skiing with the leaders in an Olympic race.  It was so much fun, and I'm grateful for that experience.  

And then two days later I was in almost the exact same position again in the women's relay.  Susan once again tagged off to me in 4th place.  This time I felt a bit more prepared.  I could get used to starting my relay leg in 4th place!  The second time around still didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped for, but it was definitely better in a number of ways.  First, even though I used all 6 of my total spare round rounds, I didn't have to ski a penalty loop.  And second, I skied my own race and paced myself better.  I still lost us a few places and quite a bit of time because I had to use so many extra bullets, but my teammates shot and skied well and in the end we finished in 7th--our best-ever relay finish!!  It was slightly bittersweet because we could all taste how close we were to doing even better, but it was a great race and a great way to end the Olympics.  

And now for the non-racing part!
I spent a lot of my spare time at the Olympics working on a dance video to Pharrell Williams' "Happy" with my teammates.  It was the perfect project to keep us busy and having fun, and it was a cool way to connect with athletes from other teams, and even the Sochi volunteers.  If you haven't checked it out yet, here it is:

In the 3 weeks that I was at the Olympics, I spent almost every hour in the Endurance Village, which was on top of a mountain, quite a ways from the city of Sochi.  It was the day before the closing ceremonies, and I hadn't even seen an athlete from a sport other than Biathlon or Nordic Skiing.  So we decided we needed to get off the mountain and see the sights.  
Rosa Khutor.  This was a pristine river valley full of trees just a few years ago. 

Rosa Khutor in the day-time.  It had pedestrian streets on either side of the river, townhouse-style buildings with fancy shops and hotels and stuff.  It was a pretty surreal place, and crazy to see how much was built in such a short period of time.  It made me sad.  I'll be interested to see if tourist continue to come now that the Olympics are over.
We went to Adler, which is a city next to Sochi along the black sea, and went to the shore.  
Sochi had lots of palm trees, and had the feel of a summer resort.  It was so different from life up on top of the mountain, it was pretty crazy.


We found a great barbecue place right on the black sea and got platefuls of skewered-cooked meat and potatoes served with pickles, raw onions, and sauce.  So we ate yummy food while simultaneously watching the men's biathlon relay on TV and the sun setting over the Black Sea.  
I had an hour or two before the closing ceremony to check out the Olympic Park.  It felt like being on the set of a futuristic sci-fi movie. 

I should have swapped costumes with one of these girls!!  I saw them before the ceremonies as we were waiting to walk in.  If I'd seen them again after, I would have tried to trade. 

I had a MUCH better seat for the closing ceremonies than for opening.  Front row seats!  (My seat for Opening ceremonies was on the couch, in front of the TV).  

The show was SO COOL!  I loved the big moon and clouds, and the upside-down houses!

Here I am with Ida, Susan and Liz, in our funny costumes.  Northern VT was well represented!!
I was happy to have the warm wool sweater and wool peacoat.  But the boots were not comfortable and I walked barefoot on our way back.  


And now the Olympics are over.  In some ways I felt like I was in Sochi for a long time.  But in other ways I feel like I flew by way too quickly.  Its crazy to me that it will be another 4 years before that happens again.  Thats an awful lot of build-up for some races and ceremonies and stuff.  But then again, it was definitely more than just a few races.  I think that what made the Olympics the most special was just how much support and excitement and following I got from home.  It really just blew me away.  All of you are the best!  

And now I am recovered from all of the excitement, lack of sleep, travel, let-down, requisite head-cold...and I'm not back home yet!  The winter isn't over, and there are still three more weeks of World Cup races to come.  Tomorrow I head to Bled, Slovenia for my next adventure.  








Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Biathlon Relay Time: How exactly do biathlon relays work?!

Since the final three biathlon races of the Olympics are all relays, I figured this would be a good time to explain to you all how exactly biathlon relays work.  They're a bit different from other biathlon races!  And it will be more fun to watch if you understand what's going on.  











For more about the penalty loop, check out this nytimes article!




The mixed relay is on Wednesday the 19th, the women's relay is in Friday the 21st, and the men's relay is on Saturday the 22nd.  I will be racing in both the mixed relay and the women's relay.  Let the relays begin!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cheering, Sunshine and Redemption

This was my face after the sprint race, as I was looking at the results screen.  I was disappointed.  
But luckily its hard to stay unhappy for too long when you're at the Olympics and also when its sunny and beautiful every day.  (My mood is very dependent on the weather).  

Source: Harry How/Getty Images Europe 

How could you be unhappy when this is the view out your window?

photo: Sadie Bjornsen

Luckily I had some good races to watch and cheer on my friends in.  I got to cheer on Ida in her sprint heat, and then we got to cheer on Sophie in the final together.  I got decked out in all my most patriotic clothing and had a lot of fun cheering in the sun.

And then that same night I got to cheer on my teammates in the pursuit race.  Here are a bunch of fans (mostly Russian) lining the course.  

The stadium was packed for the pursuit, and the sky was beautiful as usual. 

The course was slushy and slow and it looked like a hard race.  But it was also really hard for me to watch it--I wanted to be in there racing!  It made me really hungry to race again.  

But I was able to channel my frustration into trying to have really good training sessions, and focussing on both my approach to shooting and my ski technique.  I made a plan for keeping myself a little more conscious and patient when I came into the shooting range, and I tried to practice shooting that way, and visualize doing it in a race.  I was really looking forward to getting to race again in the 15k Individual.  

Just another Sochi sunset.

A valentines day full moon!

Harry How/Getty Images Europe

And then came the Individual race!  I was more nervous than before the sprint, because I felt like it was my last chance to have a good race in an individual competition.  I really wanted to do well.  But I also felt good about my plan for shooting, as well as for pacing the hard race.  The Individual is the longest biathlon race.  You ski five 3k loops and you shoot four times.  The 3k course here in Sochi is super hilly and hard, and I definitely didn't want to go out too hard.  But I also knew that I didn't want to let it intimidate me!  

In the end, the race came together just as I'd planned and hope for.  I paced myself well and had my best skiing times of any race this year.  And I had 1 miss in the first shooting, then no misses in the second and third, and then 1 in the final shooting, for only two misses, which is really good for me!!  I skied as hard as I could, almost lost my balance going around the final turn of the race, and ended up in 23rd place.  That is my best placing in a world cup-level race ever...but at least 30 places.  I feel like I've been close to a good result for a long time, but it just kept evading me.  After I finished last night, I couldn't help thinking "Yes! Finally!!!". 

This is by far the highest that my biathlon rollercoaster ride has taken me.  And it was so much fun, and I hope to start making this sort of race my new norm!!

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe

Ida, Susan and I pose for a "Craftsbury girl" picture on the rings!!