Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dear 4th grade: Hochfilzen, Austria and Race Preparation

My second week of racing was spent in Hochfilzen, Austria. We stayed in a hotel at the bottom of the valley beneath tall mountains such as this one shown below.

The venue is up at the top of the valley, and when it poured rain down below it snowed wet, big, heavy flakes on the ski trails.
This is the view of the orange "start" house, next to the shooting range. The stands rise just to the left of this photo in this very spectator friendly venue. All of the trails are out in the open and weave throughout numerous spectator sections.

Race day begins right here at the start. First, I need to zero my rifle. Do you remember the paper targets that I showed you during my visits? In the photo below, you can see the target numbers and 10 black dots below - those are the paper targets I brought in. On the left you can see a scope, which a coach uses to watch each athletes shots. We check our rifles each day we shoot to adjust for wind, light and a new range. It is very important to be as accurate as possible.

Next, skis are tested. We have a staff of wax technicians who test our skis and the best ski wax for the day. Usually, our skis are quite fast and that makes racing quite fun. Just as we need to be accurate with shooting, we also need to pay close attention to how accurate our skis are for the day. There are many different snow conditions that we can encounter during the race season. For each condition we have a certain pair of skis; one for wet snowball snow, one for dry new snow, for example. Our wax technicians help us determine the best pair for race day.

After ski testing and zero, it is time to warm up my body and mind. I spend one or two more loops inspecting the course so that I know which technique to use where, or where to ski hard and where to relax. I make a mental check of what I want to focus on during the race, make sure I have my race bib on and head to the start.

Inspecting even means noticing the unique scenes along the course; someone had fun building this cheering snowman.

The crowd too is getting excited and ready for the start, flags wave and horns are blown.

On Sunday, I got to watch the women's relay. Here is a photo just before the start, as the 23 teams leading woman prepares to get into the starting line-up.

Here, spectators line the hill on the course and cheer exuberantly as the racers go by.

I had to head back down for lunch, so I didn't get to see the first shooting stage. It was an exciting race to watch because the leaders continued to change with each leg. In the relay there are 4 legs, each skiing 6km and shooting twice. The bonus of a relay is that you get three extra rounds for each shooting stage. So, if you miss you get a few extra chances. For the men's relay, they also have 4 legs, but they ski 7.5km each.

I competed in the Sprint race this week (, 2 shooting stages, penalty loops for missed shots) and was happy with some better shooting. I skied the course well, but still do not feel like I am up to my race speed yet. But, that's okay. I have three more races in Slovenia in the following week.

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