A great start to the season!

I was home in Lake Placid for about a week between our training camp in Canmore and our departure for World Cup 1 in Sweden. There, I celebrated my 29th birthday by doing a solo biathlon time trial on rollerskis followed by max-effort stair climbing intervals up the ski jump. It was 65 degrees and sunny! Here’s a video– Erik thought it would be fun to jump in behind me on my last one.

My day got a lot better from there; I got a massage, my neighbor surprised me with a Happy Birthday banner and beer, Erik took me out for a really nice dinner, and we met some of our friends for hot mulled wine afterwards. Then the temperature plummeted and it began to snow…and snow…and snow.

Fresh tracks at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid!
Birthday weekend weather: 65 and sunny followed by blizzard! Perfect!

My teammates and I flew to Ostersund, Sweden (Albany-Washington-Munich-Stockholm-Ostersund) on November 22nd. There is not very much daylight there at this time of year; dawn goes from 9-12 and dusk goes from 12-3. These extended sunrises and sunsets are very pretty and are the only plus side to having 18 hours of darkness.

Sunrise in Sweden.

Our World Cup season started out with a mixed relay (2 women and 2 men). It was my first time ever competing in this event, joining my teammates Susan, Tim and Lowell. All three of them have World Cup podium finishes to their name and I was a bit nervous. Susan tagged me in first place (!) so I led the lead pack for a while. It was a great feeling to be able to keep up with some of the top athletes comfortably. I shot clean in prone and hung onto a chase group, coming into the range for standing in 6th place. In standing, I let my nerves get to me, and that combined with the challenge of a windy range left me with two penalty laps even after using three spare rounds. Bummer! I really focussed on the positives from this race (good skiing and prone) and didn’t let the failures overshadow the successes. Maintaining a level head and positive outlook is one thing I am working on improving from last year.

The man behind the magic of my fast skis, Petr Garabik.

Next we had the 15k Individual, which is our longest race and the only format that replaces penalty loops with a 1:00 time penalty per miss. It was a crazy windy day! I saw some mid-race rankings on the big screen as I approached the range for the first stage, and saw that even the superstars were missing a ton. So when I missed one and then FOUR in the first two stages (prone, standing), I didn’t panic. I decided to adjust my normal shooting process and just wait out the wind for the next two stages. It paid off and I hit my last ten shots! With a total of 5 misses- that’s five minutes of time penalty- I finished 40th. Top 40 finishers score World Cup points so I scored 1 point!

Behind the scenes of the annual media photo session.
My teammate, Joanne, and I.

After the Individual, we had a much-anticipated day off, during which I enjoyed $hopping in Ostersund and several hours at our hotel spa. Then it was back to work! In the 7.5k Sprint I shot 0,2 and skied fast enough to finish 44th. I was so excited to qualify for the 10k Pursuit by finishing in the top 60. The next day in the pursuit, I started 44th based on my Sprint result, 2:04 after the leader. I was surrounded by a lot of athletes throughout the 10k race, so I had to fight the whole time to keep my place. I shot 0,0 in the prone and moved up to 24th place. One miss in the first standing stage was good enough to keep me in 24th, but then two misses in the final standing stage bumped me back to 31st, right with a huge pack of racers. I really fought on the last lap to get in the top-30 and won a sprint finish with four others to take 30th. I am very proud of this result!

Racing uphill in the Individual.
Out for a training ski with Joanne and Suz!

I felt SO depleted by the end of the week after traveling to Europe and doing four races. Believe it or not, one of the biggest challenges for me in a full race week like that is eating enough calories. Before a race I don’t have an appetite, right after a race I don’t have an appetite, and then once I do have an appetite, you can bet that the hotel meal hours have ended. It also doesn’t help when we race at 6pm (dinner?!) or 1pm (lunch?!), and with no regularity so my metabolism can’t get into a routine. So now I am in Slovenia, committing to what I call “food camp.”

Kazakh girls gave me chocolate in return for a tip on a secret laundry machine. Nice addition to the calorie stash.
View from Hotel Triglav in Bled, Slovenia.
Bled Castle on Lake Bled.
Church on the island in Lake Bled.
Christmas market in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

As you can see, Slovenia is beautiful. I highly recommend visiting Bled for a romantic getaway. On our day off I ventured to Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, to visit the Christmas market. It was my first time there and it is a beautiful city that has a mix of Austrian, Italian and Slavic influence. In other words, it’s clean, there’s good shoe shopping, sausages of many varieties, and ornately painted buildings.

The last few days have flown by and it is already time for a pre-race workout tomorrow. On Friday 12/9 we have a Sprint, followed by a Pursuit on Saturday 12/10. Our team does not have a full 4-person squad of men or women on the road right now, so we will not participate in Sunday’s relay.

Stay tuned for a race update from Pokljuka, Slovenia! And as always watch LIVE. (www.eurovisionsports.tv/ibu).