Hello from Austria!
I have not been able to get online as much since I have been here in Austria. I’ve written this post ahead of time, and am now standing on a sidewalk in the sun, computer perched on a mailbox, stealing wirelss internet (along with other athletes J ) from a near by business. Its about 3:30 am your time - hopefully you are all fast asleep.
Anyways, another week and another set of World Cups have gone by. These races were a bit more challenging than in Sweden and I did not fair as well in the results as I had hoped. In the first Sprint race, I was very nervous and had to spend a lot of the race trying to stay relaxed. I missed one target in prone and 3 more in standing. Hochfilzen’s range is new to me, and I have not quite adjusted to the uphill approach and the tricky wind. Despite my shooting, I was happier with my skiing on a course that is very technical. What that means is that in order to smoothly transition from the flats to the hills, you really need to pay attention to the change in snow conditions, grade of the hill, which direction the trail is turning, and whether the trail is canted to the left or right and then respond with the correct technique* that will carry your speed and momentum through the different sections of the course. *There are 3 main skate techniques: V2 for gradual uphills and flat terrain, V2 alternate for flat terrain and V1 for uphills. I really like being able to “read” the trail and making the very important decisions about which technique, variation or combinations of, that will be the most efficient way to travel over the snow.
Looking up to the main uphill on the 2km relay course, you can see a skier from Kazakstan in the V1 technique on the spectator lined trail.
The second race of the week was the Women’s 4x6km Relay. Each leg shoots twice, prone and standing. The catch is that you get three extra bullets (which are stored in a special place on everyone’s rifle) to be able to hit all of your shots. I lead the US’s relay team and came into the first shooting stage in 8th place (out of 20). Unfortunately, I was not able to adapt to a tricky wind and missed three targets. I felt much better skiing, and confident that I can ski with this elite level of women. However, there is a bit of magic to a relay; it is not jus about one person, it is about all four of us representing the US. With altruism mixed in, you can find that extra bit of strength that will help you get up a hill faster and push beyond your limits, because if you do, you give your teammate a better postion to start in. On the final uphill I pushed as best as I could towards the exchange zone where I tagged off to my teammate, Lanny Barnes, who is one of the best shooters on the entire World Cup. My team skied and shot well, and brought our result back up to 16th place. We are excited, because on Sunday we will be able to do it again, but with a better understanding of the course, the range and what we need to do together as a team to reach a better result for US women.
Ukraine entering the tunnel towards the range and a cheerful and exhuberant crowd abher. The fans are into it here. They stand with flags, bells and start lists in hand, cheering genuinely for every racer, no matter which country. They even look for your name on the start list - I was quite suprised to being skiing uphill and have a spectator yell, 'Go Haley Go' - in perfect English!
Looking ahead to this week, I will race an Individual on Thursday, a Sprint on Saturday and the Relay on Sunday. All race times are at 2:15pm my time. I fly back to Lake Placid on the 22nd. Below is a shot from one of my morning runs in the valley. The mountains here are gorgeous! And after being in a dark and norther Scandinavia, the sunny Alps have been quite nice:)
I have been thinking about all of you and hope all is well. You must be on Christmas break soon? I hear that there is some snow in Placid, and I am really looking forward to skiing at Mt. Van Hoe. I will be in Vermont over the holidays, but will definitely be out skiing when I am back on the 30th...so maybe I willl see some of you out there. I will return back to Europe on January 4th. I will update you soon with my schedule, and definitely on this week's racing. And I will have lots more photos to share. My aunt and uncle, and three cousins are coming to watch this weekend, and my aunt is a great family photographer. Hopefully they you will get to see a better picture of this crfazy European racing scene.
Hope all is well and Happy Holidays!
(oh - Nina - hope the hat is going well:)