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 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.
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.
Paul and I shared a bathroom for three weeks. The teammates that brush together…
Paul and I shared a bathroom for 3 weeks.
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.