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Archive for January, 2014

Antholz, Italy has been one of my favorite destinations on the World Cup since I first visited it a couple years ago. (Le Grand Bornand in France was pretty good this year too.) Sunshine, meters of fluffy snow, gorgeous mountains, quiet forests… what’s not to love? Unlike many of our race venues that are lacking in natural snow, Antholz has been a reliable winter paradise. The atmosphere is always festive too, with thousands of energetic fans filling the stadium and lining the ski track.

20140121-142757.jpgCraftsbury gals and now Olympic teammates- Me and Hannah skiing today at the Staller Pass above Antholz. Photo: Judy Geer

We had three races here last week beginning with the 7.5 km sprint. In both shooting bouts I hit all my targets, “cleaning” an individual World Cup race for the first time.

20140121-145645.jpg On course during the sprint. Photo: Andrei Ivanov Facebook

During the last loop, my coaches gave me splits saying that I could be on the podium. I fought hard. When I crossed the finish line, I was sitting in first place but was ultimately bumped down to fourth by some of the later starters. It was a career best result and I was only half a second off the podium! I was also very happy to see Anais Bescond of France win that day; it was her first World Cup victory and she is one of the nicest ladies on the circuit.

20140121-142901.jpgWaiting with Tora for the flower ceremony to begin. Photo: Erik Lewish

20140121-143242.jpgWhen I first got up on the awards stage, I was a little confused because I couldn’t remember where the 4th-6th places were supposed to stand. Luckily Andrea (2nd place) noticed and discretely nodded towards her left. Photo: Erik Lewish

The next race was a 10 km pursuit. In a pursuit, the winner from the previous day starts first and the other athletes start behind, handicapped by how far back they finished the day before. The first person to cross the finish line wins. I started fourth, only 11 seconds back and I was a little nervous being surrounded by such fast women who have proven themselves many times. I had to remind myself that starting near the front is exactly where I want to be. Before the race, I visualized being in the lead pack while skiing smartly and shooting relaxed, and that made me feel more comfortable.

20140121-154745.jpgA front row place on the pursuit start line! A very new experience. Photo: Grant Ernhart

20140121-160958.jpgIn pursuits, each athlete is responsible for starting themself. If they leave the start line early, there is a large time penalty added. Photo: Grant Ernhart

Unfortunately, despite staying relaxed and near the front for a couple of loops, I lost a lot of places by the end and finished in the 20s. Along the way I broke a pole and lost a couple of ammunition clips which cost me some time, but my biggest problem was missing 3 out of 5 targets in one of the standing shooting stages. It was still a great learning experience and I hope to have more chances like that in the future.

The week culminated with a team relay race. We were psyched to have our team back at full strength after having to sit out the last World Cup relay when half our members were away at Olympic try outs. Earlier this winter, we netted two top 8s in the relay event, one of our strongest years ever, and we couldn’t wait to keep that momentum going.

20140121-155325.jpgSara and Annelies warming up before the race with some standing holds and dryfire exercises.

The day started out very foggy and at times we couldn’t see the shooting targets 50 m away. During the warmup, we skied small circles around the stadium, ready to jump on our shooting mat and zero our rifles whenever there was a brief lightening of the fog. Normally zeroing takes me about 5 minutes but this time it took over 35. By the time I finished, I had just enough time to take off my warmups and get to the start line on time. I didn’t get a chance to do my usual skiing warmup or go to the bathroom one last time. However, one thing that racing has taught me about life is that sometimes you just need to be flexible. Luckily during my leg of the race, the fog held off and I could see the targets fine. I tagged off to Annelies for the second leg. She made it 2/3 of the way through her leg and we were sitting in 5th when the fog set in again and the targets disappeared. At that point, the officials decided to cancel the race. Sara and Hannah never even got to start.

20140121-145138.jpgOfficials calling off the race during the second leg’s standing shooting. It was the second time this year a World Cup has been cancelled mid race due to weather. Photo: Fasterskier

Now the races are finished and we have a couple weeks of break before traveling to Sochi for the Olympics. We are staying here in Antholz for a training camp at altitude. I love skiing the trails here and savoring the sight of the mountains.

20140121-145548.jpgThis morning I skied out of the fog to the top of the Staller Pass behind our hotel. This is view looking back down. The biathlon venue is just out of sight on the far side of the lake.

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On a quiet morning in late December, my teammate Hannah and I unrolled a couple of shooting mats and unfolded the legs of an old spotting scope. We were setting up for biathlon practice along the back edge of Craftsbury’s lower ski stadium. 50 meters away, through a tunnel of trees, four black and white metal targets perched on rustic cedar scaffolding. A grid of cables suspended their reset ropes above a gully. This is our home training grounds. Although we both race on the National Team now, we love spending time at home, at the venue where we got our start.
20140105-095447.jpgOur rustic shooting range. Photo: screenshot from WPTZ news.

After zeroing our rifles, we skied several loops around Lemon’s Haunt, a 2 km trail where I remember racing as early as six years old. During our interval workout, Hannah and I wove in and out around packs of local junior and youth skiers. We all wore matching uniforms of the Green Racing Project and Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club. We looked like one big team. As we pushed hard side-by-side to ski faster, we certainly felt like one unified team too.
20140105-094547.jpgCraftsbury’s up and coming skiers, sporting their snazzy new uniforms. Photo: Callie Young

Later for my afternoon workout, I left my rifle at home and savored the longer trails that took me far from the shooting range. I packed a headlamp in my waterbelt because I usually finished after dark. I tried to go as long as I could without turning it on. I enjoy the challenge of skiing in the dark; it helps improve balance. Besides, I like to think I can predict every dip and turn of Craftsbury’s trails.

In the two weeks I was home, I went through several sets of headlamp batteries, but not simply because of the night skiing. On the Sunday before Christmas, northern Vermont awoke to an ice storm. The forest was coated in thick ice and looked like a crystal palace! All day long, we heard the gunshot sound of tree trunks snapping and the broken glass shatter as branches tumbled to the ground. Our team house was without electricity for five days as utility companies scrambled to repair downed lines across the region. We made sure to keep our wood stove well stocked. It took the Outdoor Center’s staff, plus loads of volunteers, several days to clear debris off the ski trails.
20140105-094839.jpgView of the ice storm near my parents’ house in Barton. The storm and subsequent cold snap created perfect ice skating conditions on Crystal Lake for Christmas day. Photo: Stan Dunklee

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