Beijing Olympics Report #2- Sprint, Pursuit, Relay, Closing Ceremonies

After the Individual race did not go as I had hoped, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well in the Sprint. I was skiing fast so I knew that anything was possible. I was a bit shaken up by randomly missing three in prone in the Individual, but I felt confident in my standing shooting, because I hit 14/15 of my targets in the first two races. I went into the Sprint with high hopes.

Zeroing for the Sprint race. Photo: Manzoni/NordicFocus.

But the Sprint ended up being an absolute nightmare– the kind that makes you beg to wake up. Much to my dismay the nightmare was real and there was no waking up, just facing the reality that I repeated my performance from the Pyeongchang Olympics Sprint– the same bad shooting, major crash, and everything! This time I even broke my rifle.

Racing in the Beijing Olympics Sprint. Photo: Manzoni/NordicFocus.

I missed one in prone but kept fighting, knowing I could still shoot well in standing and have a great race. But then I missed my last two shots in standing. Without any time to sulk or analyze, I skied my two penalty laps and raced towards the finish, believing I might still have a chance to qualify in the top 60 for the Pursuit, and knowing that fighting to the line is the one thing you can always be proud of even when nothing else goes your way.

Standing shooting in the Sprint. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images.
View of the downhill before the finish (see athletes tucking in lower left). The finish line is just out of sight, below the right side of this frame. Photo: Manzoni/NordicFocus.

The last kilometer of the course in Beijing featured a one-minute-long uphill with a harsh headwind, followed by a long, sweeping downhill curve which propelled athletes into a gradual uphill finish corridor at high speed. I gave it my all on the last uphill, knowing that I would basically glide from there to the finish. But soon after cresting the hill and feeling the relief of settling into my downhill tuck, I caught an edge and wiped out, sliding down most of the hill to a stop at the very bottom. What should have been 30 seconds of resting in a tuck followed by 10 seconds of sprinting at high speed ended up being 5 seconds of resting followed by 45 seconds of “sprinting” from a stand-still at the bottom of the hill to the finish line. With no gas left in the tank, it felt so long and hard. When I crossed the finish line and saw that I was more than two and half minutes back, I thought for sure I would miss the pursuit again, like I had at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where I finished 61st by less than one second.

Collapsing in the finish area. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

As I cooled down, I wondered where everything had gone so wrong (a question I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer). The 1-2-crash playbook from the 2018 Olympics Sprint was not something I ever expected to relive. To put things in perspective, the last time I crashed like I did in the Sprint in Beijing was four years ago in the Sprint in Pyeongchang. When I finally went to check the results, I found myself hoping that I would be way out of the Pursuit, so at least I wouldn’t have to experience the sting of finishing 61st again. It turned out that due to the altitude and windy range, the time gaps were huge and so even being more than two minutes back I finished 46th. Without the crash I would have been in the early 30’s. I was glad to have a chance at my first Olympics Pursuit, but at that point I knew my hopes for a good individual result were over.

It wasn’t until after the race that I noticed the butt of my rifle stock was broken in two pieces from the impact of falling. I am so lucky that my coach brought some spare parts for my modular stock, and was simply able to switch out my broken butt plate for a new one!!!

So… what happened after that? I took a long, hot shower. (The water, though non-potable, odorous, and gray in color, was hot and there was good water pressure.) I had two more races and I needed to turn around and get ready for them. My sports psychologist proved more critical than ever. But I was not in a good place so basic things were difficult.

This is a photo of my sport psychologist holding a bag that says “Daily Nuts” and pointing to my coach.

I just tried to put one foot in front of the other. I worked hard to get enough food and water, to stay warm both outside and inside my drafty apartment, and to maintain a stable level of mental health.

China was hard for a lot of people.

The nutrition was a major challenge. Every morning I ate microwaveable Annie’s macaroni and cheese plus a microwaveable Kodiak Cakes chocolate muffin. For lunch I ate a dehydrated camping meal. THANK GOD the US Olympic Committee shipped this food over ahead of time. For dinner I ventured to the dining hall and alternated between a KFC fried chicken sandwich with fries and a side salad, or a plate of rice, cucumbers, smoked salmon, and soy sauce with a side of cabbage with chili peppers. I should mention that this food was ok and I did have the option of eating it three meals a day but I was having a hard time doing that (especially before training or competition) which is why I stuck to the pre-packaged food options. The smoked salmon and soy sauce also only showed up during the third week. I did enjoy the steamed buns with bean paste.

KFC was a hot item in the dining hall. I also enjoyed the steamed buns with bean paste (left plate).

I did ok in the pursuit, moving up from 46th to 38th or something like that. I shot 0,0,2,2. My shooting in the women’s relay was a disaster; I missed in prone and had a penalty loop in standing, though I continued to feel good skiing and moved the team up a couple of places. For both races, I managed to get myself to the starting line with a positive outlook and I fought hard to the finish. Those two things alone don’t get you good performances or results but without them you will for sure get neither.

Snowy Pursuit race. Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images.
Loading a spare round in the relay. Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images.
Skiing in the relay with the ski jumps visible in the background. Photo: Manzoni/NordicFocus.
Sunny and cold relay day. Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images.

Finally, the racing was over. But I couldn’t leave China for another five days, as my charter departure flight was not changeable. So I made the most of my time there by doing quite a bit of training, with my eyes on the three remaining World Cups of the season. One of my best workouts was 4×10 minutes at anaerobic threshold pace with my former Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammate, Caitlin Patterson. She had a very difficult Olympics because she was selected as part of the US cross-country ski team but then was not offered any race starts. (Squandering opportunities like I did is very painful, but not having them in the first place is worse.) I also went for a long ski at the cross-country racing venue, which abutted the actual GREAT WALL OF CHINA. And I attended several IBU functions, which was a welcome opportunity to leave the village and see a new set of faces. And finally I cheered for the athletes in the mass start races, which was inspiring but bittersweet because I so wished to have qualified myself.

Out on course, cheering for the Mass Start, wearing 4 layers of pants and at least 5 on top. Photo: Manzoni/NordicFocus.
This is a photo of me skiing ON THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA.

On our second to last night, it was discovered that the Canadians had a bottomless supply of Molson Ice, thanks to a sponsorship agreement. I am not a big beer drinker but after three weeks in China, I was not saying no to a free Molson. My Canadian biathlon friends were probably the biggest bright spot in my Olympic experience. I ate most of my meals with them and they were a constant source of laughter. Their men’s team had an outstanding Games, which was fun to watch, and Emma Lunder’s experience was more like mine, so we found support in each other’s company.

Scott Gow (CAN), 5th Place finisher in the men’s Individual and deliverer of Molson Ice.

I attended the Closing Ceremonies before flying out, and for a fleeting moment as I stood in the middle of the Bird’s Nest, I was able to see before me all the things I have achieved rather than the few that I didn’t.

Beijing 2022 Olympics Report #1: from Arrival to Mixed Relay and Individual competitions

We arrived on Sunday, January 30th in Zhangjiakou Olympic village after about 30 hours of travel from Italy. Everything went as smoothly as expected for a large group with firearms traveling to China during a pandemic for a mega-event in a closed-loop.

When we boarded our Air China charter flight (after paying 3400 Euros in surprise baggage fees), we got our first glimpse of the Olympics volunteers who wear haz-mat gear: full-body disposable textile suits paired with rubber gloves, textile shoe covers, N95 mask, safety goggles and face shield. I wonder if we, in our street clothes and “just” a KN95 mask, look as weird to them as they look to us.

When we landed, all the biathletes on the plane were separated from the other passengers and held in a special waiting area. Then we moved collectively through a security process that involved the normal COVID screening (including a PCR test which went up the nostril and then back down around into the throat) plus rifle importation. After about three hours at the airport, we finally boarded buses to Zhangjiakou.

We drove for about an hour and then stopped for 30-40 minutes for a “bathroom break” and then repeated this process twice more. While we drove, a volunteer in haz-mat gear walked up and down the aisle of the bus checking our Olympics credentials and passport information over and over. When we asked her why she was doing it, she said, “I don’t know; they told me to do this.” She was out of sorts when my teammates started tossing a football in the rest-stop parking lot. For the Italians, Canadians, and Americans on the bus it was a funny welcome! After the long day of travel, I felt more than ever like we are all in this adventure together.

2022 Olympics Biathlon venue in Zhangjiakou. (Photo by Matthias Hangst)

On Monday the 31st we skied for the first time at the venue. The course has a nice flow to it and offers a more gradual and rolling terrain than some of our other World Cup courses. It is still really difficult though! We are at over 5,000ft of elevation here and the climbs are long, if not terribly steep. So far the weather has been as expected: sunny and very cold with heavy wind. All of the snow is artificial.

Zhangjiakou stadium under the lights. (Photo by Matthias Hangst)
(Photo by David Ramos/Getty images)

Most athletes use face tape to protect exposed skin from wind and frost bite in these conditions. For the mixed relay it was -16 Celcius (3 degrees F) with wind speed 5m/s (11mph).

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Although it was very cold I was comfortable in my layers! I had two long-underwear pants under my race suit bottoms, and on top I had a merino wool sports bra, merino wool t-shirt, thick long underwear turtleneck, and a wind-stopper tank top under my race top. I wore glove liners under my race gloves, with a hand warmer pouch sandwiched in between the two glove layers. On my head I wore a headband under my hat and then the pink buff. My toes froze but I’m so used to it I don’t notice it anymore.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

During zero (when we can practice shooting before the race and adjust our sights for the wind) the wind was so strong that I wondered if the race would be cancelled or postponed.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Shooting in the standing position in heavy wind requires a stable position and taking up as much trigger as possible (pulling on the trigger) without firing the shot, so that if you catch a glimpse of the target you are ready and you only have to pull one more micro-millimeter. The standing target is about the size of a CD (the 4 ring on a 10-ring scoring target), and we don’t adjust sights for standing shooting. The prone target is only the size of an Oreo (the 8 ring on a 10-ring scoring target) so setting your sights for the wind during zero, and then making the necessary adjustments for any change in wind during the race is extremely important.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Luckily, during the race, the wind calmed down, but it was still challenging, as you can tell by the number of penalty loops on the final results. But I had a great day on the shooting range with just one spare needed in prone and a clean standing bout!

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I moved our team up from 11th to 4th. I think it was one of my best relay legs!

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Our skis were really fast. Our wax technicians made two trips to China in advance of the Games to do research on the snow, and it has paid off. In the mixed relay, we raced on a grind (micro-structure pattern on the base of the skis) which they engineered fresh on the morning of the race. With solid performances all around, our team finished 7th, tying the best US mixed-relay Olympic finish.

(Photo by Manzoni/NordicFocus)

After a day off, I competed again in the 15km Individual. Our skis were fast again and I am finally feeling good (i.e. normal) when I race so I was excited to get on the starting line for this race.

(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Things started off well enough, with just 1 miss in my first stage and 0 in the next. But then I missed 3 on my second prone stage. It was the first time I have done that in years and we will probably never know what happened. I had two center hits and then three misses in the same spot at 10 o’clock. That’s 3 minutes of time penalty which ended my chances for a good result. With 1 more miss in my last standing bout I had a total of 5 minutes of time penalty. Meanwhile, my teammate Deedra hit 19/20 and took 7th, improving her previous personal-best by almost 30 places and setting the top result for an American at the Olympics.

(Photo by Manzoni/NordicFocus)

I am really proud of how I continued to give everything on skis until the finish, in spite of all the misses. I was able to squeeze into the “points” (top 40) with 39th place thanks to fast skiing. The Olympics don’t award World Cup points, but these points will be used to decide who qualifies for the mass start. If I have good sprint and pursuit, plus the two points I earned from this 39th, I could still make it.

(Photo by Manzoni/NordicFocus)

After two hard races it is time for a day off! We can’t leave the Village so I am just catching up on things like laundry… and this blog. Our sprint is Friday! Thanks for following.

2021 in Review

As it’s been almost a year since I last updated you, I think it’s high time for a slideshow of the year in review!

I post regular updates with photos on my Instagram account so make sure you follow me there for more frequent updates.

On Tour in 2020-21

The US Biathlon Team in Vuokatti, Finland wearing our new Maloja uniforms for 2020-2021

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!

Birthday party was a real rager this year!

I celebrated my 33rd birthday in Vuokatti, with party hats of course!

Approaching the shooting range in Kontiolahti, wearing number 2 in the first race of the 2020-21 season.

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.

Late afternoon before the first races in Hochfilzen, Austria. First time seeing sun after 4 dark weeks in Finland!

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.

Graham and me in Aubonne, Switzerland on Christmas morning.

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.

Christmas in Aubonne
Skiing in Im Fang, Switzerland with Anne, Sophie, and Jeanne.

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.

Skiing in Seefeld, Austria with Caitlin Patterson.

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!

Quiet day on the shooting range in in Antholz

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.

My Ford Puma from Auto Eder!

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.

Lisa, Armin and me on New Year’s eve

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!

View from the Staller Sattel/Passo Stalle

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.

Relay day in Oberhof

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.

Verona Arena

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!

Training Season 2020

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.

Jet lag sunrise, March 12, from my balcony in Lake Placid

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.

Big Slide Mountain in late April

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.

San Antonio River Walk totally empty except for my brother

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.

An early success on the range in June: 5x 10!

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.

Big Slide mountain in mid June
Lake Placid training partners: L-R: Maddie, Chloe, me, program director Danika, and coaching intern Annika

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.

Not every day is perfect; some hikes end in the clouds.

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.

Watkin’s Glen, New York
Seneca Lake with Erik

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.

Many hours on the trails
Keeping a balance between work and play

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!

Deedra’s smile saying it all when we finally were able to get together for the first time since Winter.

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.

Not in the Adirondack’s anymore! Hiking near Antholz, Italy.

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.

Hiking in the Dolomites with Mari, Armin, and some locals
I drove to Lago di Garda/Lake Garda on my day off and it was a paradise

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.

Dachstein Glacier, 2,700 meters, Styria, Austria

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!

Traveling light from training camp to board meeting to biathlon race

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!

Back with my friend Mari again at the Wiesbaden City Biathlon competition.
I thought was about to slip and crash the whole time, which is why I was laughing.
First time winning a giant bottle of Champagne. Hope the hotel housekeeping staff enjoyed it.

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.

Atlantic coast, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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.

Fall foliage past peak on October 3rd in Lake Placid

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!

First and only training session of the year with Susan: October 13.

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.

Big Slide Mountain in late October with Erik

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!!!

Ready for ski season!!!

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!

Behind the Scenes 2019-2020

I like to share some of my favorite moments and candid captures from the season. Unfortunately last year I ended on a rough note, getting sick and flying home early (oh yeah, and there was this pandemic??) and I wasn’t in the mood to re-hash what had been a tough season. But now that I have some perspective I picked out some highlights. Enjoy!

The Bed Blog 2019-2020

As I prepare to embark on a competition season unlike any other, here’s a look back at my May 2019-May 2020 travels, bed by bed.

My bedroom, Lake Placid, New York
Hanover, New Hampshire
Auchentaller family home, Antholz, Italy
Munich, Germany
Los Angeles, California
Palm Springs, California
Joshua Tree National Park, California
San Diego, California
Bend, Oregon
My childhood bedroom, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Lyon, France
Corrençon-en-vercors, France
Antholz, Italy
Bologna, Italy
Forte dei Marmi, Italy, with my friend Mike!
Crafford family home, Washington, D.C.
Lewish family home, Rochester, N.Y.
Burlington, Vermont
Craftsbury, Vermont
Munich, Germany
Montreal, Canada
Catskills, New York
Heber, Utah
Lake Placid, New York
Montreal-Munich (2019, before masks were cool)
Obertilliach, Austria
Obertilliach, Austria
Ostersund, Sweden
Leogang, Austria
Le Grand Bornand, France
Lausanne, Switzerland
Antholz, Italy
Oberhof, Germany
Ruhpolding, Germany
Bled, Slovenia
Trieste, Italy
Braies, Italy
Martell, Italy
Antholz, Italy
Annelies and Robert’s apartment, Bad Tölz, Germany
Siegsdorf, Germany
Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic
Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic
Guy’s apartment, San Antonio, Texas
New Orleans, Louisiana
Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
West Virginia
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Not pictured:
Lucca, Italy
Port Arthur, Texas

A Quick Look Back Before the Long Winter Ahead

With the last camp of the training season behind me, I’m taking one final look backwards before turning my focus to winter. As always, I can’t wait for the racing to begin!

Our June national team training camp was in Lake Placid, as seen here from Whiteface Mountain.

We use a rollerski treadmill for technique work, because you can easily tell which techniques are more efficient or faster when you keep the treadmill at a constant speed.

In addition to many hours of long-distance skiing and running, we do jumps (plyometrics) to train our muscles to be fast and powerful. This set of stairs at Lake Placid’s 1980 Olympic ski jumps provides more than enough steps.

In July our women’s team headed to Europe for three weeks. We kicked off the camp in Corrençon-en-Vercors, France with Finnish biathlon superstar Kaisa Makarainen. (L-R: Chloe, Susan, Clare, Kaisa, Hallie, coach Mike).

For the first time ever, the US Biathlon Team has a vehicle sponsor!!! Thank Auto Eder for the car and Maloja for the design. Coach Armin approves.

After 10 days in France we drove to Armin’s hometown of Antholz, Italy. There we found snow above 3000 meters;

…and green grass in the valley;

…and Aperol Spritzes at the end of the hike by the lake!

We did a lot of spectacular hiking. These cows enjoy great scenery.

The Drei Zinnen (3 summits) near Dobbiaco, Italy, is a popular Dolomite hike for good reason.

Back in the States in August, we had our annual summer rollerski biathlon races in Jericho, Vermont. I didn’t feel great skiing but I shot well and came away with a gold and a silver.

From Jericho we drove to Craftsbury, Vermont for a week-long training camp. Lake Willoughby in Barton, VT, seen here from Mount Pisgah, is one of the most scenic local attractions.

For my “days off” in August, I traveled to Munich, Germany for a long-weekend of IBU Executive Board Meetings. Here I am with my fellow board members.

Our September camp in Lake Placid was well-timed for fall foliage.

Also in September, I had the privilege of joining the US Ski Team for a few workouts while they were in town for a camp. I learned a lot doing skate sprints with Jessie Diggins and Sophie Caldwell, shown here.

In October we traveled west for our final training camp. We did three rollerski races to determine our World Cup team for December. I only competed in two due to fatigue but came away with a win in the mass start (pictured above).

By the end of our Utah camp there was snow on the ground and it dropped below 0 Fahrenheit. And I think I have a standing position I like!

Susan Dunklee, Joanne Reid, Emily Dreissigacker and I will once again be representing US Biathlon in December’s World Cups. You can read the full team naming, including the men’s team and IBU Cup (2nd tier) team here. Last winter, our women’s team only had three World Cup start spots for non-relay events, but thanks to our good results we will be able to start four women in every race for the 2019-2020 season!

Overall I think this has been my best training season. I did deal with some minor issues: a neck (trapezius) spasm in June required eight days of rest and meant I couldn’t shoot normally for a month; I had a random flare-up of peroneal tendonitis (maybe) in September that required a walking boot cast for 2.5 weeks but which didn’t prevent me from rollerskiing; and I had a hard time eating enough calories in Utah to keep up with the training volume plus the added stress of high altitude which resulted in fatigue and as a consequence, skipping a race and some workouts. But these things are all trivial to an elite athlete in the grand scheme of things.

Since May I’ve had 22 rest days, 12 travel days, and 3 sick days. I’ve shot over 9,000 rounds, rollerskied for almost 200 hours and run for 100. In past years I’ve always had at least one whole month when I felt horrible, but not this year! I’ve felt mostly good, most of the time, and that’s all I can ask for.

I fly to Austria on November 9th. My return flight is on March 24th. Wish me luck!

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.”


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.

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.

Then I flew back to Europe, where I saw the first green grass of spring!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

We got tacos and had a picnic on Sunset Cliffs.

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.

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.

Back on skis in Bend, Oregon.

Following Armin to the end of the Earth. Later that same day we went sunbathing at the river beach. #lifegoals

Regarding the decision to continue with biathlon, Susan and I agreed that we are definitely committed to “doing this camp!”

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!

2019 World Cup Highlight Reel

Surprise! I was one of the fastest skiers at World Cup 1 in Slovenia!

After finishing 15th in the sprint, I made my first Flower Ceremony (6th) in the pursuit.

This is what satisfaction looks like!

I’ll never forget my first flowers!

One week later at World Cup 2 in Austria I got 65th in the sprint! But my brother Graham was there to cheer me up. And I redeemed myself in the women’s relay.

Riding in style from Austria to Czech with our ski technicians, Gara (Left) and Federico.

At World Cup 3 in Czech I had three more good races and qualified for the mass start. It was the first time I was ranked in the top-25 of the overall score, where I would stay the whole season. 

I spent Christmas with my brother in Switzerland and then resumed training in Antholz, Italy.

The man behind the magic! Coach Armin.

At World Cup 4 in Oberhof, we had 2 women in the top-15 for the first time ever!

In the relay, I was leading the race and then had a total meltdown. Bummer.

I got myself back in a good mood for World Cup 5, and then had another total meltdown.

So I went to the “wax tech party” and exorcised my demons by singing “Don’t Stop Believin.”

And then I had a fabulous time racing in Antholz at World Cup 6!

Then I got sick and raced in -4F in Canada.

Then I got healthy and raced in 45F in the USA!!

My boyfriend was in the audience, along with almost 40 other friends and family members.

The first annual Athletes’ Committee Valentine’s Day Flower Sale: we sold 200 carnations and used the money to buy each team a bottle of champagne. Season Highlight!!!

2019 World Championships had ups and downs.

I kicked things off with my best sprint result: 11th place. But later I mistakenly skied an extra penalty loop IN TWO DIFFERENT RACES, and had to put Rifey in timeout.

A historic relay day: Our team was in 2nd place until the very end. I shot clean and tagged in 1st! We eventually finished 9th, the best World’s finish ever for American women.

Finally! In the last race of the season I set out to get on the podium and voila, bronze in Oslo.

I knew I could do it.

This pretty much sums it up!