Trimester two of the World Cup season is a wrap! Over the last three weeks we raced in Oberhof, Germany; Ruhpolding, Germany; and Antholz, Italy. Now my teammates and I will remain in Antholz for two more weeks where we can soak in the benefits of high elevation and sunshine. Then, it’s onto World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria.
Fans in Ruhpolding, Germany
I raced twice in Ruhpolding and felt horrible both times. The physiological definition of “feeling horrible” is working harder and going slower. My maximum heart rate of 193 during the 7.5k sprint was the highest I’ve seen in cold weather in at least a year, yet my ski time rank of 62nd was my slowest this winter. Everyone has those kinds of days (right…??); figuring out how to minimize and work through them is one of the great challenges of being an elite athlete. At least in biathlon you can self-rescue by doing a flawless job on the range. (In this particular case I did not, so I got 77th place.) I don’t have any secrets, but I do have a lot of experience. Two of the most important lessons are: 1) how you feel during your warm up has absolutely no bearing on how you might feel in your race, and 2) how you feel one day has absolutely no bearing on how you might feel the next.
In fact, less than a week after suffering through my races in Ruhpolding, I felt great racing the 15k Individual in Antholz. And my wax techs gave me the fastest skis I’ve ever skied on in my life! But I mishandled the blustery wind on my second stage, foiling any chance at a good result (1,4,0,1).
Antholz Biathlon Stadium, 2 hours before race start
Then, in Sunday’s 4x6k relay, I finally put together one of my best races of the season! I skied the first leg, starting from the last row of the mass start in bib 22 out of 23 teams. I wasn’t able to gain too much ground on the first loop as I was stuck in traffic, but with clean shooting on my prone stage I moved up to 4th place, just 3 seconds off the front. I held onto the lead pack for a strenuous second loop, then used just one spare round to clear my standing targets. I had the 4th fastest time on the last loop and tagged off in 9th place, just 21 seconds out of 1st!
(In the relay in Ruhpolding I also shot 9/10, but then I panicked and it took me all three spare rounds and a whole lot of time to clear the last target. This week I prepared myself mentally for better execution of shooting my spares and it paid off.)
Susan went next and expertly brought us up to 2nd. Joanne cleaned her prone and was sitting in 5th, still only 21 seconds back! Then she did what I’ve done many times and struggled with standing, dropping back to 13th. Standing is so unforgiving! Maddie anchored our team, shooting extremely fast and well and holding onto 13th. This strong performance hinted at the top result our team is capable of, despite being extremely young (in biathlon experience).
The best part of the week was that my boyfriend, his parents, and my parents were all in attendance. I miss them already! Now it’s back to the training grind, as we sharpen our shooting skills and ski speed for World Championships.