Thursday, January 30, 2014

Paintings from Italy

As my month (!) in Italy wraps up, I figured I should post a few paintings from my time here in Sudtirol.  Neither of these are really my favorite paintings ever, but they were still fun to work on, and they show what its like over here.

This one is the view down the pedestrian street in Sterzing, which is a town near Ridnaun, where we had Olympic trials.  Every town here in Sudtirol has a German name and an Italian name, and sometimes they're really similar, and sometimes they're really different.  The Italian name for Sterzing is Vipiteno.  I have no idea where that comes from!
The buildings in Sterzing are so colorful and tall and the streets are narrow, and I decided that it warranted a slightly less realistic style of painting.  I worked on this one during Olympic trials--painting is a great way for me to calm my nerves and keep a good mental focus.

This painting of is the mountains here in Antholz.  I had an idea for this painting in my head, and it seemed really cool, but I'm not that happy with the outcome.  Its sort of boring.  But I can't be happy with every painting.  And it shows what the view out my window looks like!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

(Not) racing, and other adventures in Antholz

You can almost make out where the targets are supposed to be visible through the fog behind us.  
photo: Erik Lewish

In my last blog post, the Antholz world cup was already shaping up to be a dud for me.  I had a cold, and then broke my rifle and stopped the sprint after one lap.  But after that happened, I was psyched to have a few more days of getting better before we had a relay on Sunday.  I really love biathlon relays, and so far this year, they've always been my best races.  My coach Armin got my rifle fixed overnight by his friend and stock-maker Rudi, and my rifle was reinforced and ready to go.

Now it doesn't even look like it was broken!
I was still feeling a bit congested on Sunday, but I didn't care--I was ready to race!  But when I got to the range to zero my rifle, there was quite a scene.  The fog in the range was so thick that the targets were almost imperceptible.  If you can hardly see the target without looking through the peep sights on a biathlon rifle, then you're definitely not going to see it through the sights, since the sights let less light through to your eye and make subtle changes in tone hard to detect.  The coaches had all moved their scopes down right on to the firing line, to get closer in order to attempt to see where our shots were going.  But no one was really shooting anyways--we were just waiting for the fog to clear a bit.  But then suddenly it did clear some, and we could see the targets again and we all zeroed quickly right before the start of the race, and then the races started.  Susan skied a really solid first leg and tagged off to Annelies, who had a great prone shooting and came it to shoot standing in 5th position.  That is an awesome place for our team!  But when she came in to the range, none of the women in front of her were shooting.  The fog had come back in again, at least as thick as before.  One girl made an attempt to shoot at a target, and missed.  No one could see the targets.  And the race was cancelled.  I was going to be skiing the last leg, and had just finished my on-skis warmup and was coming up to the stadium when I heard the news.  And with that, my total dud of an Antholz world cup was complete.

Mom and Dad watching the men's relay.  

I felt especially bad about my lack of racing because my parents had come to Antholz to watch me.  Luckily, there were still races for them to watch, and this is a pretty cool place to come for a little ski vacation anyways.  They were here for a few more days after the racing was over, and the fog finally burned off a bit so we could enjoy some real Sudtirolean sunny weather!

It has been a great week of recovering, training, and spending some time with friends and family.  My parents won't be coming to Sochi, and I'm glad that they came here instead because they got to ski and see me a lot, both things they wouldn't be able to do in Sochi.  Now I have just five more days of training here before we head to US Olympic Team "processing" in Munich, and then on to Sochi from there!

After a foggy, cloudy weekend, the clouds finally lifted and mom, dad and I went for a nice little walk overlooking the dolomites.  

And then the next day there was fog in the valley, but we skied up out of it, to the top of Staller Pass, which is the border with Austria.  It was sunny and beautiful and we got cappuccinos and hot chocolates at the Alm at the top.  

And we found a pizza place that made gluten-free pizza!!  The smoked-salmon and brie pizza was my favorite. 

Susan and I met up with Ida, Pepa, and Liz Guiney for a ski at Platzwiese, high in the Dolomites.  It was a Craftsbury reunion!  They were training in nearby Toblach, before going to Sochi (Ida) and U-23 Champs (Liz).  

Platzwiese is one of my favorites places to ski.  Sun, amazing view of dolomites, perfect trails, friends and family--who could ask for more?

The Craftsbury Elementary 3rd and 4th grade students wrote Ida, Susan and I the nicest cards, and drew us some awesome pictures.  Here we are, standing in the same order as the illustration, with our hats on.
 Its so cool to have so much community enthusiasm and support!!  Thank you Craftsbury Elementary!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

If you haven't already...

you can check out my latest post to the Craftsbury Green Racing Project blog here:

Its a blast from the past, with old pictures from my Craftsbury Nordic BKL and Junior days, along with my fellow Sochi Olympians Ida Sargent and Susan Dunklee.  Its pretty fun to think about how far we've come together!!

More gems like this can be found in the linked blog.  I'm in the middle with the sunglasses!  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Exciting News and more Rollercoaster-riding

I went for a run in Ridnaun on the morning before the last trials race, and it was sunny and sparkly out and found this beautiful barn.  I knew that my first three trials races had gone well, and that my last race probably didn't even matter, but I was psyched for another opportunity to try to have a good race.  So many things have to come together in Biathlon for a good race to happen--you have to ski well, which is incredibly complicated in and of itself, and then you have to shoot well in every shooting stage as well.  Sometimes it feels like a quest for an elusive holy grail--that race in which you not only hit all of your targets, but you ski you best as well.  So every race is an opportunity to achieve that elusive goal.  My other sub-goal for the day was to get a top-10 ski time.  If I could combine that with good shooting, I knew a podium was in reach.  But alas, it was not to be.  I felt great skiing, and had only one miss in prone, but then in standing I fell apart and missed my last three shots--what a frustrating feeling!  But I went hard all the way to the finish and met my goal of a top-10 ski time, getting 9th!  So at least one piece of the puzzle went well!  And trials was over!!  Slowly, it started to sink into my brain that I was going to the Olympics.  Yippeee!!!  This is me being happy that I am going to Sochi!

And now I am in another beautiful Northern Italian valley--Antholz!  There is a world cup going on here right now, and then we stay here for the next two weeks to train.  Below is the view from just outside out hotel here.  Antholz was the very first world cup that I went to (just last year!), and its just such a beautiful place, with such a fun crowd atmosphere--I think it will always feel magical to me!

But of course the rollercoaster goes up but then it must come down again.  I've come down with a cold.  After spending all morning yesterday being indecisive about whether I should race in the afternoon despite having a cold (spoiler alert--I shouldn't have!), I decided to race anyways.  I felt OK but not great skiing the first loop, but then near the end of it I fell and when I stood up I could tell that my rifle was broken.  Sure enough, when I came in to shoot, I found that the stock of my rifle was totally broken in two, and I wasn't going to be able to shoot with it.  So I raised my hand and yelled "spare!" and an official brought over our team spare rifle.  Which I then realized had never been zeroed for me.  So I didn't adjust the sights at all, and decided to just shoot, and sure enough I missed all 5 targets.  I decided that this was a message from the biathlon gods--I was simply not meant to race today.  There was no point racing when I was sick if I already had 5 penalty loops and was using the spare rifle.  So I stopped.  I think its the first time I've ever not finished a biathlon race.  

But on the upside my Craftsbury teammate Susan was 4th, which is totally amazing, and I even got to cheer her across the finish line, so that was good to have something positive in the day!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Abenteuer in Sudtirol

Scenery along the ski trail in Ridnauntal

It seems as though I'm never good enough at keeping my blog updated.  Its tricky when I feel like I have to have a painting to put up every time I make a post!  Since I've last written, I had two races in France--one really good race (a relay) in which I hit all of my targets (wahoo! thats fun!), and one not-so-good race, in which I missed 4 out of 10 and didn't qualify for the pursuit the next day.  And the biathlon rollercoaster kept on rolling...

Then I spent 2 weeks at home in Vermont, where I was shocked to discover that everyone spoke English!  Its funny how weird that sounds when you get used to foreign languages all the time.  In Vermont I spent time with my family, got overwhelmed by the number people to see and talk to, and enjoyed lots of delicious home-cooked holiday food.  Since its Vermont, I also experienced every type of weather imaginable--snow, rain, sun, below 0F temps, 40F temps, and a whopper of an ice storm that put us out of power for 5 days, and coated everything in sight with almost an inch of ice.  It was beautiful and made a huge mess of the trees, trails, roads, powerlines...pretty much everything.  But there was still some awesome skiing to be had!  All of our team's rifles got lost on our flight home from Geneva, and after over a week of phone calls and frustration with US customs, we managed to get them back and I even got to do some good biathlon training on our little rustic biathlon range.

And then before I knew it my time at home was over and I was back in Europe, this time in Ridnaun, Sudtirol, Italy.  Here in Ridnaun we have two weekends of IBU cup races, which are also the final round of Olympic trials for the US team.   Its funny how hard it can be to push something like that out of your mind and relax and enjoy being in a beautiful place.  I tried, but I was still incredibly nervous before the first race.  I had two solid races in the first weekend of racing, placing 15th and 13th--1st and 2nd American respectively.  With each race, I can feel myself relax a bit more, and once those first races were over, the sun came out and I enjoyed some beautiful skis around the Ridnaun valley.  I think northern Italy might be the most beautiful place I get to go in Europe.  Incidentally it also has the worst internet.  If I manage to get this blog post published, it'll be a miracle!

Sunny weather + beautiful place + perfect ski trails = Happy Hannah!

In two more days, the races will be over, and no matter what happens, it will be a big relief!