My teammates and I traveled to Finland in early November. We trained for two weeks in Vuokatti on a man-made snow loop of about 4km, with a 15-point shooting range. It was really busy with biathletes and cross-country skiers from Finland and abroad who came there in search of early season snow.
This was our first time traveling as a group and establishing our team “bubble.” We are tested about every four days for COVID. Even though we are traveling, our risk of exposure or transmission is very low because we have no close contacts except in some cases a roommate. We all wear masks at all times except while in our rooms or training outdoors. We eat dinner in a private room, alone at our own tables. And we don’t get out much…
When we are at World Cups, the IBU requires all event participants (teams, officials, volunteers, media, etc.) to follow the same testing and masking regimen. So we only interact with other people who are also following these same guidelines. Of course when we have breaks such as at Christmas, people scatter and there’s increased risk, but we all have to test negative before re-entering the IBU zone. Our system is working well, which allows me to focus on racing!
I celebrated my 33rd birthday in Vuokatti, with party hats of course!
After two weeks in Vuokatti we drove to Kontiolahti for the first World Cup races of the season. This year, to reduce travel, the IBU scheduled our World Cups in two-week blocks in one location. In the first two weeks of racing, I had great shooting but I skied way more slowly than I expected, so I was disappointed with my results. I’m still not sure why I was so slow.
And then voilà, when we moved to Hochfilzen, Austria for the next two weeks of racing, I skied really fast! I don’t know what happened. The improvement was really drastic– I had the 57th-ranked ski time in the sprint in Finland and the 10th in Hochfilzen. I scored a personal-best sprint result of 10th place, and then followed that up the next week with a 9th! It was the best I have felt skiing in two years! I ended the first trimester on a really high note.
For Christmas, I drove to Switzerland to visit my brother, Graham, who lives in Zurich. I was really happy to escape from the team bubble!!! We spent Christmas in Aubonne (near Lausanne) with his girlfriend, Maulde, and her family. I’m lucky could spend Christmas with them instead of alone in a hotel.
While I was in Switzerland I also got together with my friend Anne and her family, who I met in 2009 when I was an exchange student in Switzerland. We went skiing together on some trails which I vaguely remembered from 12 years ago, in a town called Im Fang.
After Christmas in Switzerland I drove to Antholz, Italy to train until the next World Cups. The drive took about 5 hours and I stopped on the way in Seefeld, Austria, where some members of the US cross-country ski team were training. I know a lot of the skiers on the team and was happy to meet up with my friend and Green Racing Project teammate, Caitlin Patterson, for a quick afternoon ski!
Training in Antholz for the next ten days was sunny and beautiful as usual! I did a lot of good work getting back to basics and focussing on shooting. In Hochfilzen my skiing was finally up to speed but I had lost some of my sharp focus on the range. It was good to be able to do some easy, no-pressure shooting.
I am so grateful that our team’s vehicle sponsor, Auto Eder, has continued to sponsor me personally this year by providing a car for me during breaks. Without the car I could not have visited my brother, skied with my Swiss friends or Caitlin, or stayed on my own in an apartment in Antholz. Having a car gives me some personal freedom which I really value when I’m on the road with my team for 5 months.
My coach Armin and his wife Lisa had me over for dinner on New Year’s eve! They have hosted me many times and it’s always great to get out of the “hotel life” and be in a real home with friends!
On New Year’s day I skied up (and down) the Staller Pass, which is a road in summer. The top of the pass is the border between Italy and Austria. This is the view from the top of the pass down into Italy to the Antholzersee (Lake Anterselva). My boyfriend Erik and I did this ski a few years ago on New Year’s day so I really missed him this year! I won’t see him for five months this winter.
In early January we headed to Oberhof, Germany for the second trimester of World Cups. Once again, I started out with slow skiing but perfect shooting, but it was good enough for another great result of 13th in the sprint. In my third race, which was a relay, I suddenly felt great and skied fast again!
And then for the next couple weeks I just got increasingly tired and slow. By the end of the trimester when we raced in Antholz, I was suffering through my races in survival mode. After all the good training I did in Antholz this year, it was really sad not to be able to race to my potential there! It has been hard to understand the extreme ups and downs in my ski speed this winter. But thankfully, in the last race, I felt a little better and even managed to catch five or six teams in our women’s relay during my anchor leg! It was good to go into our break before World Championships with a more optimistic feel.
Now I am spending a few days in Verona, Italy, where I am resting and recovering! Tomorrow I will head back to Antholz to train for World Championships. But “the hay is in the barn” so this is really a time to focus on recovery and “tune-up,” and not to worry about long hours of heavy training.
It has been a season of ups and downs, but if I look at the big picture it’s been my best one yet, or close to it. I have qualified for every race, have scored two top-10’s, two additional top-15’s, and have not finished outside the top 50. I have been ranked inside the top 25 of the overall World Cup standings for most of the season and right now I’m in 26th. I have had great skiing and great shooting, and at World’s I hope to put them together on the same day!