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Archive for January, 2013

After competing in Schalke, I traveled to Oberhof, Germany, site of our next World Cup biathlon races and also a stop on the cross country Tour de Ski circuit. I arrived in town on December 30th, about an hour before the Tour de Ski classic pursuit race was scheduled to start. Perfect! I put on some warm clothes and joined the stream of people walking up to the stadium. Every now and then it is a lot of fun to be a spectator.

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I saw one American flag in the entire stadium.

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I was curious who owned it, so I introduced myself and made friends with Meiko, Antje and Johanna, a German family. Meiko spent a few years living and ski racing in Salt Lake and they are big fans of the US Ski Team.

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Kikkan ready to start

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Holly and Liz started near each other and stayed together the entire race- awesome teamwork!

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Jessie across the finish

We watched the men’s race from the famous Bergsteig climb.

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The lack of snow made it very difficult to see over the sponsor banners, so we had so build ourselves a rock platform to watch from while little Johanna got to watch ski boots fly by at eye level.

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Norwegian fans living it up at the top of the Bergsteig

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Noah

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Andy

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Kris

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Hanging out with Holly and Liz for a few moments post race. They had a long night of recovering, packing and driving ahead of them to get to the next Tour stop. What a rare treat to watch and cheer for the XC team! Our paths almost never cross during the winter race season.

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Imagine a 50,000 roaring fans enclosed into a soccer stadium roaring at their favorite biathletes competing below. Wait, what??? A biathlon race inside a soccer stadium? With snow, skis, and a real shooting range? Yep that’s right. On Dec 29th, Tim Burke and I were invited to compete as a team in the World Team Challenge held in the Schalke soccer arena in Germany.

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Tim and myself

We participated in three different competitions: a shoot out (a shooting race to clean four stages, with spares if needed) and two relays: a mass start and a pursuit with 1.5 hr break in between. The relay ski course consisted of over 1 km of trucked-in snow that zigzagged around inside the stadium and threaded through tunnels that added an outside section. The shooting range was inside, had 10 points, and was protected by bulletproof glass. Each team member completed four legs of skiing and shooting for each race.

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A view of part of the course. One of the tunnels to the outside can be seen in the back wall.

What was it like? Loud, very very loud. And wild. I have never experienced anything remotely like it. All the jet lag and exhaustion from 2 days of travel melted away as soon as I entered the arena. I think bigger crowds actually help me focus in on my own race better: it is like having tunnel vision. Rather than seeing hundreds of individuals in the stadium, I heard only a background roar. I saw only the racecourse and the targets.

I approached the event with two goals- to enjoy the experience and to use it as a learning opportunity. It was great training for dealing with the pressure of head-to-head shooting in front of hordes of spectators. I learned more about how my shooting responds to physical stress: as more lactic acid accumulated in my system, my shooting groups crept higher. I also got in some good relay practice loading spare rounds during the shoot out. The best way to get better at shooting in high pressure competitions is to practice in high pressure settings. Schalke was great practice for the World Cup.

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Our wonderful waxing/zeroing crew and family: Kathrin, Christian, Lenia and Toni.

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The scene during the shoot out competition

Flying to Germany in time for Schalke was one of the more complicated travel experiences I have had thanks to Vermont’s biggest snowstorm in 2 years. Many thanks to John Madigan, the Schultz family, and my dad and brother for braving snow and freezing rain to help me get there. I made it and even had a few hours to spare!

Read more about the Schalke race in this FasterSkier article

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