I meant to write about my first world cup right away when I was still really overwhelmed with the excitement of it. But then I didn’t, and now its been about a week. But it was exciting enough that I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting re-excited about it as I write!
So I left off my last blog after I’d arrived in Antholz, and decided that I was in heaven.
For the next few days, I trained on the world cup course that was a few minutes walk from the hotel, ate lots of delicious food, and watched in amazement as tourists arrived for the races. Even on training days, people would line parts of the course with their drinks in hand and cheer as we skied by. They were practicing for the races too! As we walked back to our hotel after skiing, people would stop us and ask for autographs or photos. I signed my “autograph” on lots of german flags, some guy’s jacket, picture-books of biathlon, programs from the races…you name it! I learned that if I was in a rush to get somewhere, I should just avert my eyes and keep walking–if you stop to give one autograph, or take a picture with someone, then usually others come up too. It was hilarious! I wanted to tell them that I wasn’t a famous biathlete, that in fact this was my first world cup ever, but I’m not sure they even would have cared. I told a few people it was my first world cup, and that just made them get more excited for me.
It stayed clouded in and snowy until the morning of the first race. Then suddenly the clouds cleared, the sun shone bright on huge sparkling white mountains all around, and the place was mobbed with people. It was seriously overwhelming! But I did my best to stay focused–I had to get my bib and leg numbers on, get my rifle checked, zero, warm up, get my skis checked and my timing chips put on, and get to the start on time. It was just like a normal biathlon race, right? Except when I went up to the start pen, on one side there were hundreds and hundreds of noisy fans in the stadium seats and on the other side there was a huge jumbotron TV screen showing the live footage of the race. I started watching the TV, and it was just like watching the race on TV anywhere in Europe…except that it was here…and I could watch in real life. Except that I couldn’t really watch because I was racing! I started 86th out of about 100 people, and by the time I started all of the top-ranked women had already finished.
Its exhilarating to race along a course lined with people like this!
For the first lap of the 3-lap sprint race, I was so exhilarated I couldn’t really tell if I was going slow or fast. I was trying to go out slow–I didn’t want to start too fast, especially at altitude. I came in the the range feeling pretty good, and before I knew it, I had hit all of my prone targets! I flew around the next lap feeling pretty pumped–I’d cleaned a stage in my first-ever world cup! I told myself that I was going to take my time on the standing shooting, not rush, and try to hit the targets. But once again the standing shooting happened before I really had time to think, but this time the results were not good–I missed 4 out of 5, which is pretty miserable shooting. I had to ski 4 penalty loops, and then motivate for the final lap. On this lap I tried to just enjoy being out there in front of so many people, in such a beautiful place. I got a split that I was in 72nd–well out of qualifying for the pursuit–but at least I could try to have fun.
I ended up 81st on the day–not a great result. I’d been in 30th after prone, and then the 4 misses in standing had really been a setback. And I hadn’t skied as fast as I knew I could either. I wanted to do better next time, and I wished I could have re-done the standing stage. But on the whole, I was just pumped!
Craftsbury biathletes in Europe! Susan and I in the stadium after the relay.
I didn’t get to race the pursuit, but I did get to race in the relay a few days later, and I was anchor. Despite some not-so-great shooting, we ended up 10th, which was the best US women’s relay result in a few years. I had fun skiing with girls from the other teams, and shooting with them head-to-head, and I was very relieved to not get any penalty loops, though I did use 5 spare bullets to hit all my targets. But once again, it left me wanting to do better!
After our relay we got to relax and cheer on the men and really take in the scene. I wish I had pictures of all of the spectators in crazy outfits, but there were just too many of them and I got overwhelmed. But here are a few more photos!
There were fans everywhere watching the races–including on any roof they could get on!
As athletes, we had credentials that let us go on the course to cheer. This was a popular place to watch the races, since there was a jumbotron nearby, and as we walked up the edge of the course to cheer on the men, fans would shove beers at us, or pens and things they wanted us to sign.
Annelies and I out cheering with some some of the Canadian women during the men’s relay.
After the relay, I poked my head in the party “tent” (more like a temporary building) to check out the scene–lots of people and lots of beer!
A view on the way up Staller Pass. The ski trail also doubles as a sledding trail, and lots of tourists hike up and sled all the way back down.
Its a beautiful 360 degree view from the top of the pass, which is also the border between Italy and Austria. And there are ski trails up there that are groomed to perfection! One day I skied up as the sun was setting, and then skied around on top of the world as the light faded, and then skied down in the dusk.
Now we’re training here in Antholz for a few weeks, before we head to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for the World Championships! I’m feeling very spoiled and lucky to be able to spend time in such a nice place, and I’m excited to try to improve upon my performances at World Champs!