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.  

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