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, 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!


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