Getting Ready

Every year the same thing happens: it’s summer and then suddenly I’m racing tomorrow. In the annual cycle of biathlon, fall is the season of acceleration. We literally increase our speed in training as the days flip by, each one shorter than the last. Now, on the eve of the World Cup opener, there’s a palpable break in that momentum, a pause for one last deep breath. Here’s a reflection on the final months of preparation.

In September my dad and I both rode 50 miles for the Kelly Brush Foundation. I did so in a new biking jersey from our team sponsor, Maloja. He did so with a new hip!
We had a 2-week training camp in Lake Placid in September, which meant I got to sleep in my own bed, and wake up each day to this view: Mirror Lake, 7am, living up to its name.
Erik and I celebrated the end of my training camp with our favorite fall tradition: afternoon apple-picking excursion followed by Sunday Night Football at Buffalo Wild Wings in the big city of Plattsburgh, NY.
In the end of September I had “holiday week” written on my training plan! I went on a solo vacation to Montreal and visited 3 spas in 3 days. 100% would recommend and will do again.
The second half of my holiday week was well-spent with my friends Maura and Kenny at a campsite in the Catskills.
Fall arrived in Lake Placid on schedule, with peak foliage by September 21.
Fall in the northeast = daily training in the rain = daily cleaning the rifle.

In October, I escaped the rainy northeast for a month of altitude training in the sunny west. My cousin got married in Truckee, CA just one week before our team training camp was scheduled to begin in Utah. I was able to attend her wedding, spend a week training in a cool place, and then visit some friends in the Bay Area on my days off before flying to the camp. It was one of those rare moments when my training schedule aligned with my personal life in such a way that enabled me to fully commit to both.

My travel day started at dawn with a drive to Vermont, followed by a roller-ski time trial, and then a curbside pack job (including a firearm) at the Burlington airport.
Tahoe Rim Trail. Add it to your list!
Hard to beat the scenery and weather that the Lake Tahoe area has to offer.
Thanks to Auburn Ski Club in Truckee, CA for hosting me for a week of training!
This is why people move to California: October weather in Berkeley! After a week of training in Truckee, I headed to the Bay Area for a few days off before our team camp.

In mid-October, My teammates and I settled in for our last tough camp of the year. In eight years of full-time training, I have never (I repeat, NEVER) emerged psychologically sound from a three-week camp. Usually I get depressed. It’s the combination of severe physical fatigue, social isolation, and lack of life-balance that gets me. I even warned my new coach, Armin, ahead of time that I might need to leave early. But I am so happy to report that I not only survived this camp, but I really thrived. We did a lot of fun things.

This was the first camp in memory where the women and men lived all together in one big house (coincidentally the same rental house I stayed at in 2013 with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project!). I really enjoyed living all together. Sean and Susan (above) have a lot of shared interests including woodworking, freshwater ecology, and NFL stats.

Paul and I shared a bathroom for three weeks. The teammates that brush together…

Pumpkin painting, organized by Joanne!!!
Judging by the look on my face, I may actually have had more fun at this camp than anyone else…or maybe just more glühwein.
Susan and I are studying Russian and enjoyed doing so together in the Utah sun.
Sometimes at training camps I need a reason to celebrate. Hence the Ofrenda (alter) for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead.) I lit it up on November 1st so my dead ancestors could cross over into the world of the living. My teammates are used to this kind of shenanigan by now.
These bro’s… can you imagine the collective caloric intake? I especially enjoyed getting to know Vasek (front right) who is more than 10 years younger than me and was at his first National Team camp. Sean (thumbs up in the back) was happy too– after many years, he is no longer the youngest!
Olympic Champion Michel Greis, as Mickey Mouse, on his first American Halloween.
Mike Gibson and I shared the role of some promiscuous lady named Tiara at the Halloween murder mystery dinner. Yes I am wearing a physiotherapy band as a tie.
Despite what my photos so far imply, we actually did a lot of training at this camp. Here’s a pic of Suz and me rollin’ up Guardsman’s pass among the aspen trees towards Park City.
After three long weeks of camp, we emptied our energy tanks with three roller-ski races. I felt strong skiing in all the races. As for the shooting, I had two great ones and one inexplicably terrible one. Biathlon!
After a terrible second race, I reset for the final Mass Start race with a winning attitude. I haven’t won a race in years but I won this one in convincing fashion. It was a great way to finish the camp and start the transition to the racing season.
I returned to Lake Placid for one week after the Utah camp. The weather was terrible, as expected. I love my Salomon boots and thank Finnsisu store for the Marwe roller-skis. But there comes a time, after several years of daily use and one final excruciating week of rolling in inclement weather, that it is right and proper to deposit them directly into the trash can. AND BOY DOES IT FEEL GOOD.
I flew to Europe about a week before my teammates, foreseeing that my tolerance for November roller-skiing would be exceptionally low (see above). On my birthday, November 19th, my teammates and I reconvened at the Munich headquarters of our new apparel sponsor, Maloja. We are SO LUCKY. Our clothes look awesome and are super high quality. All the other teams are so jealous.
In my first on-snow race of the year, I shot 10/10 and reached my first international podium. This was a great way to start the season!
This is the training bib that I will wear every day of the season. It is my trail pass, and one of my more precious biathlon souvenirs. This is #5 for me. 

And suddenly, it’s here: the culmination of millions of heartbeats, countless exhausting workouts, weeks upon weeks of training, and three long seasons of preparation. Winter starts tomorrow. It’s go time. Snow time! Show time.

I’m in great shape. The shooting feels easy. I’m healthy and strong. I’m confident and happy. It’s in stark contrast to last year, when my pre-race blog post was about how it’s impossible to know if you are in good form. When you know, you know.

I have Armin to thank for this year. I’ve only had a few truly great coaches in my life, and he is one of them. The relationship between coach and athlete is so complicated, and only becomes more nuanced as the athlete advances and the two become increasingly intertwined in work and life. I feel lucky to have experienced this relationship in all its complexity. It’s something most adults will never know. No matter what happens tomorrow, or during the rest of the upcoming season, I will always remember this year fondly. I made the right choice to stick around.