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!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The first pancake is lumpy" and pictures of life in this "Russian village"

Harry How/Getty Images

Well, I competed in my very first Olympic race!  In the end, it wasn't my best performance and I was left feeling frustrated.  Biathlon can be a very fickle sport (I've probably overused the term "rollercoaster" by now to describe it).  But with one bad standing shooting stage, with three missed targets, I finished just out of the top-60 qualifying cutoff for the pursuit race, which happens tonight.  I have a curse when it comes to qualifying for pursuits.  I let myself be frustrated and bummed for a little while, but now I am forcing myself to stop replaying in my head exactly what I did wrong, and what I should have done differently. The race is over, and there were so many good parts of it!!   I was happy with how I skied--with my pacing and my technique.  My prone shooting--1 miss--wasn't too bad.  And then of course there was the fact that I was racing at the Olympics!!!  I have to pinch myself sometimes to remind myself where I am.  The atmosphere was awesome, and I didn't even really get nervous before the race--I was sort of nervous, but it was a happy, excited sort of nervous and it felt good.  The russian crowd was loud and festive, and before I had even started I got to watch one of my teammates, Susan, complete the best Olympic finish for a U.S. woman biathlete ever.  So though I am disappointed in my first race here, there is a whole lot to be happy about!  I read a quote from one of the Russian biathletes, Ekaterina Shumilova, who had fallen in the sprint and broken her rifle.  She said that there is a saying in Russian that "the first pancake is lumpy."  I thought that was brilliant.  I am really learning to appreciate Russian culture while I'm here!

The internet and news has been flooded with pictures of unfinished hotel rooms and other negative things about Sochi, but I have to say that up here in the Endurance Village everything is pretty darn nice.  Here's a little taste of life up here.

The walk from our chalet to dinner looks like this:  

This is our team's chalet.  Its very spacious and nice.  There's some odd/cheap construction on the inside, but I think thats how it goes in Russia!

The bed have quilts with the colorful patchwork "Sochi" design!

In the main community building where the dining hall is, there's also a huge arcade room.

And there's a nightclub/disco-tek!  I don't think its gotten much use yet...but maybe later in the games!

We've mostly had sunny weather so far, but sometimes fog rolls in at night, and the village looks pretty cool.  When its foggy, it never gets dark outside because the stadium lights are on all night and light the place up like its daytime.

The powerade has biathletes on it!!

The biathlon stadium is huge and beautiful, an the views are unbeatable, especially when we train during the sunset!

Gara is the wax tech that I work with.  He helps me test skis to make sure I have the fastest ones possible, and he and the other techs do all of our ski waxing.  They're great!  A-hoy Gara!  (A-hoy is how you say hi and bye in Czech). 

Jonne is the women's coach and Sean is our team psychologist.  They're both great!  Here they are in the range, watching our shooting and showing us where the shots went. 

I didn't get to go to opening ceremonies, but I dressed up in my funny outfit, complete with the big clunky boots and watched on tv with my teammates.  It looked like an amazing show!

Modeling our "ugly christmas sweater" opening ceremonies outfits!

Here I am with three of my teammates in the range.  We were really lucky to get support this year from the Women's Sports Foundation, so we took a picture with a sign for them!  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

So what exactly is biathlon, anyway?

I am being spoiled in so many ways right now.  One of those ways is that I, like every other member of the U.S. Olympics team, got a free Samsung smartphone courtesy of the USOC, Samsung, and AT&T.   I can't believe how lucky I am just to be here, and I get awesome things like that to boot!  It has a huge screen, and it came with a stylus, so of course my first thought when I saw that was "drawing!!"   I downloaded a drawing/painting app, and decided to do a little illustrated explanation of biathlon to share.  I made this a few days ago, and since then the Huffington Post has done a more entertaining sort of intro to biathlon here, but I've decided I should post mine anyways!  Sorry if my handwriting is barely legible at times...