An Unpredictable Sport (12/20/13)

BY TIM BURKE


Race course in France

Winter in Austria

Sunset in Austria

After a busy few weeks of racing in Sweden, Austria and France, I am finally getting a little time to recover in Italy during the holidays. Once I have fully recovered from the first period of racing, I will start up again with a big training block to prepare for the next round of world cup races.

All in all, I am pretty happy with how things went in the first world cup period. I had some good races, some mediocre races and a few bad races. This is simply the way the competition seasons goes for most biathletes. Competing in a sport that has so many variables, and so many athletes capable of winning, you have to be OK with the ups and downs that you are bound to experience throughout the season. Learning to better cope with these fluctuations has perhaps been the biggest improvement that I have made over the past few seasons.

My first week back on the world cup was no exceptions to these swings in performance. During our first individual competition of the season I simply felt a little off. I made a few too many mistakes on the shooting range, was not terribly fast on the skis and finished with a 60th place. This was definitely my worst start to the season in quite a few years. Luckily, I know how biathlon works and how fast things can change from one day to the next. The next race could not have been more different for me. I felt much better on my skis, had great focus on the shooting range and finished with a third place. This race was a great confirmation that all of my hard work during the off-season had paid off. Normally, we were supposed to have a pursuit race based off the results of the previous race, meaning I would start in third place with an advantage on all but two of my competitors. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans and high winds caused the race to be cancelled. This was the first world cup race in my career that ever had to be cancelled and it was a huge disappointment to me. I guess I will just have to try and secure another top start spot for a pursuit later on in the year!

After spending nearly three weeks in Sweden, where the sun never gets too high, it was a welcomed change to travel to Austria for the second world cup stop. We were greeted in Austria with sunny skies and perfect mid-winter conditions. My races in Austria went pretty well but I lacked the perfect shooting that got me to the podium the week before. Although I did not end up with a top result, I did feel that my skiing was getting better with each race. Coming into the season we really emphasized building ski form throughout the first world cup period and I feel like we definitely accomplished that.

After a quick three races in Austria we headed to Le Grand Bornand, France, for the third and final world cup stop in period one. This was the first time that I had ever competed in Le Grand Bornand and it turned out to be a great venue. The venue is located right in the middle of town, which makes for a different feel than most world cup stops. Adding to the ambiance was a boisterous French crowd, which made for an exciting racing environment all week. Much like Austria, my races in France were solid, but not quite what I was looking for. I had one of my best races of the season so far in the pursuit race, but I was starting a little too far back to have the result I was looking for. Once again, though, my skiing picked up with each race and I was very satisfied with my ski time in the last race. Hopefully I can carry that form to the next world cup stops.

After the last race in France, the rest of the U.S. team flew home, but I opted to stay in Europe for the holidays. I made the eight-hour drive from Le Grand Bornand to Antholz, Italy, which will be my training base for the next few weeks. I have spent a lot of time training in Antholz over that past few years and have always enjoyed my time here. Besides near perfect training conditions, Antholz is also situated at altitude, which I hope will help me optimally prepare for Sochi. Of course I miss being home with my family and friends for the holidays, but I want to do everything I can in my preparation towards Sochi. Don't feel too bad for me though — this is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the food is not so bad either!

My home for Christmas