A month after the rest of the GRP left for Finland, I finally found myself on a plane getting ready to start my biathlon race season. A week ago, I arrived in Ostersund, Sweden for US Biathlon’s first on-snow camp of the winter. With temperatures in the 40s (Farenheit), rain pouring down, and more of the same in the forecast, we felt very lucky that the Ostersund staff had the foresight to stockpile a tremendous amount of snow last spring (under a thick layer of sawdust). They saved enough to cover a 4 km race trail 6 m wide and still have some in reserve. Tomorrow, Sunday, we will compete in our first race of the season: an IBU Cup sprint. Following that, some of us will remain in Ostersund for the first World Cup next weekend, and some of us will travel to IBU races in Austria and Italy
This is my first visit to Scandanavia and my biggest adjustment has been adapting to the short amount of daylight. Although it gets light around 8:00, we don’t get that soft golden yellow light that I typically associate with early morning until around 10:30. The sun starts to set around 2:30 and by 3:30, it feels like nighttime. One of my favorite moments so far came one evening as I was walking through town under some street lamps. I was feeling a little bummed about the darkness until I noticed tiny ice crystals on the sidewalk catching the light just right and sparkling in the dark. As I walked, I felt like I was passing through a shimmering tunnel.
We are staying in some cabins at the race venue, along with the French and Japanese. We share a common dinning room where we are served buffet style. During meals, there is often a giant projection screen set-up with Eurosport TV. We’ve been able to watch XC World Cups (including Kikkan’s 4th place finish in the classic sprint) and our Lake Placid luge friends competing in Innsbruck.