Circling Around

Soon after my competition season ended on March 31, I set off for a two-week business school program followed by a month-long trip that took me to four countries across nine time zones. It wasn’t a particularly restful break, but as you may recall I was not planning a break but rather a retirement!

I put the planning on hold in November so I could focus on the present. In my experience it’s almost impossible to simultaneously succeed at your job and evaluate whether or not to continue doing it. I wanted to give myself the greatest chance for success in my final season of biathlon.

Before I knew it, my “one more year just for fun” was over and I was back in Lake Placid quietly going through withdrawal, coming off a winter-long high. Everything had gone way better than I expected! The first seven years of my professional athletic career were so tedious that I had lost touch with the fun that motivated me to pursue it in the first place. “One more year just for fun” was such an unlikely aspiration that I never even considered what I would do if it actually was fun.

This year showed me that you can’t plan for everything. I did not expect to be one of the most-improved athletes on the World Cup, or to earn enough money to call this a “real job.” My body did incredible things for me every week that I didn’t know were possible. My work on the IBU Athletes’ Committee and Executive Board gave me the outlet for altruism I had longed for in this selfish pursuit, while introducing me to new friends who became the support community I previously lacked on the road. With my new coach, I learned and laughed every day. Our team environment was more inclusive and supportive than before, and our women’s program thrived as a result. I had great results last winter but more importantly I had a blast. When I think about all that, I am more motivated than ever to continue my biathlon career.

That being said, I was very much at peace with my decision to move on. Remember when I threw my rollerskis in the trashcan in November? It felt so good. I said goodbye to a lot of things last year that I am reluctant to greet again. Perhaps my greatest source of distress is the incompatibility between my biathlon career and my relationship. Opting for 250 travel days is a choice that gets harder to make every year.

But if I think about next winter… about snowflakes starting to fall in late October, packing my suitcase in the darkness of November, feeling my body sharpen into form, filling my lungs with cold air, wearing a USA uniform, waiting at the starting line, hitting targets, flying on skis, waving to fans… I am so, so, so excited. 

Our team’s sports psychologist offers a great analogy for how to approach retirement: it’s like landing a plane. You have to plan ahead– you don’t want to just drop out of the sky– but as you make your final approach, you can always pull up the landing gear and circle around again.

Last year when I was wavering, I took my brother Graham’s advice which was, “Real life is the pits; you gotta keep the dream alive!” As I contemplated a transition to “real life” this spring, I thought to myself, “I want a job where I can be active and outside, where every day is different, I can use my language skills to connect with people from around the world, represent my country, travel, work as part of a team… and as a bonus I would like to do some kind of live performance.”

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It’s a good feeling to know you are doing exactly what you should be doing! This year Graham said, “Make them claw your ski career from your dead hands.” I don’t know if I’ll go that far, but for now I am circling around.

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Spring is not really a thing in Lake Placid, New York. (More on that later.) Here’s Mirror Lake on April 5th. It finally melted out about a month later. I didn’t stick around.
Next Step April 2019 Spirit Day (1)
I spent the first two weeks of April attending an intensive business school program at Dartmouth College called Tuck Next Step, for elite athletes and military veterans. I was deeply humbled by the achievements and service of my classmates. We had class every day from 9-6, including on the weekend! I learned a lot, including that I am not ready for any occupation that requires me to be seated indoors from 9-6 every day.
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Then I flew back to Europe, where I saw the first green grass of spring!
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I went ski touring in Antholz, Italy. Basically you walk up the mountain on skis and then ski down. The equipment is similar to what you use for normal downhill skiing, except lighter, and the heel can detach for walking up. On the way up you put this thin carpet-like thing under your ski so you don’t slip backwards. It was scary but very cool, and I was happy to be surrounded by snow again.
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My reason for flying back to Europe after only a few weeks at home was that I needed to attend a 3-day meeting of the International Biathlon Union Executive Board in Munich, Germany. (I threw in the ski touring in Antholz to sweeten the deal for myself.) It is extremely important for an athlete representative to participate in these meetings!
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Finally, VACATION! I flew from Munich to Los Angeles and settled into a lovely poolside hotel room in Palm Springs, California, with my boyfriend. Neither of us had ever been to southern California.
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We went camping for two nights in Joshua Tree, National Park. I’m grateful for any chance I get to see a new landscape, and this was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
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From Joshua Tree, we drove over some mountains and out of the desert to coastal San Diego, where it’s sunny and beautiful every day. This photo was taken in Balboa Park.
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We got tacos and had a picnic on Sunset Cliffs.
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Piña Colada time after surfing at Pacific Beach! We also rode electric scooters on the boardwalk that day, which I was better at than surfing.
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Next I flew to Bend, Oregon for my first… training camp. I wasn’t really ready for it mentally, but luckily training in Bend is pretty much as close to vacationing as you can get while still calling it training.
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Back on skis in Bend, Oregon.
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Following Armin to the end of the Earth. Later that same day we went sunbathing at the river beach. #lifegoals
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Regarding the decision to continue with biathlon, Susan and I agreed that we are definitely committed to “doing this camp!”
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Back in Lake Placid just in time for rainbow season: the thing that happens between winter and summer here, from late May to late June. Here’s Mirror Lake on May 19.

Happy rainbow season to everyone. Don’t give up!

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