At the end of winter 2019-2020, I took a long break from biathlon, and an even longer break from this blog! If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you probably have a sense of what I’ve been up to, but here’s a more in-depth look at my last 8 months.
After arriving back in Lake Placid in March, I came down with a mild case of what turned out to be Influenza B, not COVID! But since I had been tested for COVID, I was quarantined for 14 days and my boyfriend was evicted from our apartment by the New York State Department of Health and quarantined separately in a motel. It was not the homecoming we were looking forward to!
By the time we got out of the quarantine, things in New York had pretty much shut down anyway, so like everybody else, we got into a new routine of sitting around at home. April in Lake Placid is a most dreadful time, but we got outdoors any time it wasn’t 35 degrees and raining.
On May 1, as soon as it was legally possible, I flew to San Antonio, Texas, where my brother, Guy, lives. After a sunny and funny visit with him, I drove back to Lake Placid in a car which I have inherited from him. On my way out of San Antonio I bought my first mountain bike, and proceeded to ride it around Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. I wasn’t sure how I would like doing a solo road trip, but it was great and I highly recommend.
Once I got back to Lake Placid, I gradually started working out in a more biathlon-oriented way. But I didn’t start following a training plan until the second week of June, when we were first allowed to use the shooting range. I think having most of March, April and May off was really good for my body and definitely my mind.
Training this summer was really weird. Usually our National Team convenes for several weeks each month, but this year we didn’t have any training camps! I was lucky to have a couple of local training partners: my teammates Maddie and Chloe, my friend and former UNH Ski Team teammate Elizabeth, and my boyfriend Erik. I communicated with my coach, Armin, who lives in Italy, almost every day either by phone or text. I had to be more self-motivated and self-disciplined than ever before.
There were many days this summer when I was extremely jealous of my competitors. To my knowledge, our national team was the only biathlon team in the world which was not able to hold regular training camps with athletes and coaches for the majority of the training season. I wanted so badly to see my coach, to get help with shooting and ski technique, and to push myself against skiers who are faster than me.
Sometimes I felt disadvantaged and sorry for myself, but in those moments I tried to remind myself that I could still do all my training. It often looked different– for example I lifted weights outside until October– but I knew that if I was motivated and disciplined enough, I could do every single thing on my plan, with or without my coach and teammates. I also know they were there for me, even if not physically present.
In July, I was able to get away for one long weekend with my boyfriend. We went to visit his family in Rochester, New York, where we celebrated his niece’s first birthday. Then we explored another in-state treasure: the finger lakes. My favorite place was Watkin’s Glen.
Summer is always a heavy training phase for me, and this year it seemed especially so. Without the possibility to do many of our normal “time off” activities such as visiting friends, going to concerts, and eating at restaurants, it was hard to keep a good balance. But Erik got into making specialty cocktails at home, and sometimes we rotated our dining room table and called it “The Restaurant” and then put on cute outfits and went to it.
On August 19th my team reached a big milestone when some of us were finally able to get together for a time trial! The Craftsbury Outdoor Center (my former home!) made their state-of-the-art new roller-ski loop, shooting range, and overnight lodging available to us as long as we could comply with state and Outdoor Center quarantine and safety rules. I was very happy to finally see my other teammates, if only for one day!
In August I started to scheme about making a solo trip to to Europe to train with my coach. I serve on the Executive Board of the International Biathlon Union as the athlete representative, and as we were scheduled to meet in-person in September, I thought I could use the paperwork for that meeting to gain entry to the European Union. After doing a very deep dive in the customs and border control websites for Germany, Austria, and Italy, I bought a plan ticket and set off into the unknown– masked, of course.
It worked! I spent three weeks in September in Antholz, Italy, where Armin lives. Within the first few days, I felt my trip was already worth it. Armin helped me fix several technical shooting issues that I’d been struggling to figure out on my own all summer. I was so happy to train at a world class venue, work out in a gym, and most importantly be coached again! I had fast training partners the whole time including Mari Eder of Finland, some members of the Italian development team, and the Estonian women’s National Team. The jet lag/altitude combo really killed me the first few days, but week by week I felt physically stronger, technically sharper, and mentally more confident. I did some test races that were really promising.
Having my own apartment and car during this camp made a big difference for my wellbeing. Often at raining camps I lose energy because I feel cloistered in a hotel, but with independence and autonomy I never got tired at this camp, even though it lasted a full month and I trained a ton.
For the fourth week of the camp, Armin and I drove to Ramsau, Austria, where our men’s National Team coach, Vegard, lives. Each morning we took a cable car up almost 3,000 meters to the Dachstein Glacier to ski on natural snow! It was my first time skiing outside in the summer time.
While I was in Ramsau, the event organizer from the Wiesbaden City Biathlon competition contacted me to offer me a last-minute spot in the elite, 9-woman race that coming Sunday. I was tired from four weeks of hard training and was facing an already-complicated weekend of logistics for my IBU board meeting, but I decided to jump on the opportunity to do a race with some top-level competitors. On Thursday during the last workout of the camp, I almost cried because I was so exhausted, and then once I finished the workout I did cry (tears of joy) because I was so relieved to be done. The next morning I hit the road to Munich for my meeting!
As you’ll see from the photos below, I made a great decision to race in Wiesbaden. It was a wild and fun event, with great athletes and spectators. Coming from an exhausting camp, a full day of meetings on Saturday and a four-hour drive on Saturday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my body on Sunday morning for the race, but I went for the podium and came away with the bronze! I was especially pleased with my shooting (0,1,1,0,0– an unusual 5-stage race–prone, prone, standing standing, standing).
In Ramsau, Vegard had been impressed by improvements I’ve made since last in my shooting, and he told me, “you don’t need to do any better, you just need to do this.” It was a great reminder that for my races I don’t need to do anything special, just repeat the work I’ve done in training. And it worked in Wiesbaden!
After the race I drove to a law office in Frankfurt, from which I called into an important afternoon session of the still-ongoing IBU meeting. My Board colleagues told me they had paused the meeting to watch my race and were glad I had added some excitement to the meeting! I’m glad they support me being an athlete first.
The next morning I flew home to Maine, where I rested, ate, and quarantined in the cottage next to my parents’ house for several days before getting a negative COVID test and heading back to Lake Placid. This trip home wasn’t originally planned, but it made the most sense in terms of trying to be COVID-safe. (Silver linings of COVID!) I was able to visit with my parents and even see my 92-year-old grandmother, if only through her window.
And then suddenly it was fall! When I got back to my apartment in Lake Placid, I only had 5 weeks until my flight back to Europe for the winter competition season. Those last weeks at home always pass quickly, and this year was no different.
In mid-October we had our first and only training camp of the year (without Vegard and Armin who were stuck in Europe). Once again, Craftsbury hosted. I only stayed for four days, long enough to do two races. In the first race I did mediocre shooting but exceptional skiing. In the second race I did the opposite; I shot 0000– only the second time in my career! It was another great confirmation that the work I did this summer was good in spite of the challenges. Crazy fact: in the end, I did exactly one training session with my teammate Susan this year!
I returned to Lake Placid with about two weeks to go before “take-off.” If this season goes as planned, I will be gone from November 8 until end of March. I’m simultaneously trying to plan for that, and trying to not plan for anything because there is so much uncertainty. All I know right now is that I am doing my best to enjoy my remaining time with Erik in Lake Placid.
In the last few days it has snowed almost a foot in Lake Placid. As predicted, we have reached the point where there is too much snow for roller-skiing, not enough snow for skiing, and it’s also kind of dangerous to run. Time for the training season to end!!!
And with that I am counting down the last few workouts before travel. I am hoping for a healthy race season. I predict mental health will be as big a challenge for me this year as physical health, with the safety bubble in place for IBU events limiting that personal freedom I so value for balancing out the biathlon. But if I can stay healthy, I know I will have fun and do great this winter. Even though my preparation was weird, I think it was better than ever. So keep wearing that a mask and get ready to watch biathlon!