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.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Catch-up Photo Collage

Sjusjøen, Norway


 


Well, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to correctly format and move pictures around in this blogger form.  Argh!  But like other frustrations in life, I am trying to just adapt--its not working to start typing in front of the first picture, so I'll start typing here!  So this will be a real haphazard collage of pictures and writing.   First, we were in Sjusjøen, Norway for a training camp before the season started.  I was sick at first, and there wasn't too much snow either.  But then I got better, and it snowed a bunch and then it got sunny!!  The best ski I've had all year is still the long classic ski we did from Sjusjøen up towards the Birkebeiner trail.  There wasn't much daylight but our cabins were cozy and ate lots of smoked salmon and brown cheese (not together though).


Östersund, Sweden


Highlights of Östersund included the awesome sunsets, the excitement of starting the first race of the season, and going to the Christmas Market which was full of little booths of cheese, hand-knit things, and everything in between.   Low points included having two really terrible races, not much daylight, and not particularly inspiring food.


Hochfilzen, Austria
 


 

Highlights of Hochfilzen included the great food, seeing the SUN and feeling its warmth, a cool run/hike up to an Alm (hut) that Susan and I did when on our first day there, comforters folded like hearts, an awesome sauna with a cold pool outside to jump into, and seeing all the crazy biathlon fans again.  Low points:  Another bad sprint race...and no relay team for us, so I only raced once.



Pokljuka, Slovenia (we stayed in Bled)
 




 

As you can see, I took a lot of pictures in Slovenia.  As you can also see, there wasn't much snow, especially down by Lake Bled where our hotel was.  But it was beautiful as usual...like a fairy-tale land with castles and mountains.  In fact...Slovenia was almost all highlights...cool old hotel, awesome gourmet food (I am SO spoiled), nice weather, and I had my best race ever!!!  I achieved two of my goals for the season:  to clean a sprint race, and to get a top-20 (I was 17th).  Man, hitting all of the targets in a biathlon race is a GOOD feeling.  Then I got to race the pursuit (my second world cup pursuit ever), and well...I guess that was the one low point of Slovenia.  I shot badly, but also somehow forgot to ski enough penalty loops...which is a TERRIBLE feeling.  I didn't realize until the coaches told me after the race.  Ugg.  That was a real rollercoaster of a few days.


Somewhere in Bavaria
Then before we flew home we had a team Bavarian Christmas dinner.  I borrowed a dirndl so that I could match Annelies and Susan.  



Home in VT!!
 




It was great to get to be home for two whole weeks, and to have some of the best snow of the winter (except for maybe the last few days in Norway...)  I got to spend time with my family, eat lots of yummy Christmas food, do some great long skis all over the trails in Craftsbury with my friends, and see the new Touring Center building in action.  I got to help some with the process of designing the building and modeling the energy use, and so it was really cool to see the building filled with hundreds of happy people.  There were SO many people skiing in Craftsbury in the week after Christmas...it was a truly heartwarming sight.  

Oberhof, Germany
 
And then the break was over and I was back on plane across the Atlantic.  I had never been to the Oberhof World Cup before, so it was exciting to be in a new place.  When we first got to Oberhof, it was snowy and wintery and even slightly sunny.  But then it promptly started raining and blowing and generally "Oberhof-ing".  The races were windy and rainy and wild.  But really huge crowds of German fans come to watch, and they line the course all the way up the biggest hill.  Its a great festive atmosphere.  I had a decent sprint race--cleaning prone, and then two misses in standing which I was happy with given the wind.  I was 37th, so I scored some world cup points!  But there wasn't a pursuit in Oberhof, and after a few more days of heavy rain I had to train in the ski tunnel there.  I don't like ski tunnels even in the summer, and skiing in one in January was just downright depressing.  So I was happy that this morning we left Oberhof and drove to Ruhpolding, Germany--back in Bavaria!  The food here is great, and we will have a relay team this week, so things are looking up!  And now I'm all caught up.  Hopefully now I will be better about blogging more regularly and about more recent or specific things.  There's still not much snow here either though...so if you're reading this somewhere that is snowy, go enjoy a nice long ski for me on trails that aren't a 2.5-k loop!



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Circle Game

Well, another season has come around and the biathlon racing season has already begun and I am also one year older!  EEK!!  I'm not sure how it happened so fast...
I've been trying to write a blog post for the last 3 weeks, but since I hadn't written one in so long, I felt like it needed to be a big catch-up, life-update, meaningful, important blog post and that seemed very daunting, so I kept putting it off, which meant that then I kept accumulating more different things to talk about and so then it kept getting more daunting.  It was starting to snowball out of control and I almost decided to never write a blog post again!





Haha, just kidding. But it did seem daunting.   But then I started drawing some cartoons.  Some of them came out really negative.  But...whatever...here they are anyways, in roughly the order that I made them.  

First I started out with a little update about how my summer training went:






yeah...so that was pretty negative.  But to be honest, it did feel like sort of a rough summer of training.  There were a lot of good parts, but also a lot of injuries and problems.  So my confidence was not at its highest coming into the season.  But at the same time, the injuries helped me work on some weaknesses of mine, like no-pole skiing and standing shooting.  I felt like it was still a solid summer of training.  Then we flew to Sjusjoen Norway for our preseason training camp, and I got sick as soon as I got there.  But then I got better, and got to go on a realllly nice ski on a sunny day after a snowstorm:  



After Sjusjøen, we went to Östersund, Sweden for the first world cups.   In Östersund it was quite dark but there were lots of pretty sunsets and its fun to ski under the bright lights:



Next I wrote a few cartoons about life back on the road in Europe:  



And then we raced, and I didn't want to write a blog post because I didn't want to make it too negative:




But a few days of perspective, talking to my coaches, and looking ahead put me in a better place.  (And a little change of scenery and food never hurt either):


And that brings you, via cartoons, to the present!  I'm in Austria now for the Hochfilzen world cup.   There's not really snow here but it is sunny and beautiful and it was nice to go for a little hike this morning.   I had some bad races in Östersund, but when I look back, I have bad races every year at this time.  Every year its tough mentally, but after more racing I get faster and remember how to race again and because of that it gets more and more fun.  So that is what I'll do this year too!  After all, biathlon is just a funny game of skiing around loops and shooting at circles in cool places all over Europe.