December World-Cup Wrapup
I know it has been quite some time since I last posted, partially due to an inability to get online for long enough while in Hochfilzen…so here’s a recap of December including what worked well for me and what didn’t:
Starting the season off with a 15k individual was definitely a challenge for my body. I’d been battling fatigue constantly and generally needed an extra day to recover from an intensity session. I approached this race more conservatively to ensure that I wouldn’t hit the wall partway through the race. This strategy worked but my ski splits were not at the level I’d like to see them. After the individual we had a one-day break before the sprint race. I did only a short session on the rest day so that my legs could recover maximally. Starting the sprint race, I felt like I had finally gotten the warmup I needed—in the form of the individual two days earlier. I was able to go out with a much higher tempo and avoid most of the muscular pain I experienced in many of the recent intensity sessions. Nonetheless, I did not manage to make top-60 in order to qualify for the pursuit. Instead, I went for an overdistance ski the next day in order to rebuild the skating musculature I lost when I had to take time off to recover from my injuries.
I must say that despite the disappointment in my actual results, racing on the world cup is an invaluable—and dare I say necessary—experience. The timing system that is used gives splits for every part of the course, including range times, shooting times, and raw ski times. This analysis is very important because it shows me how many seconds I’m losing to my competition in the shooting portion alone—more than one minute over four stages! I’ve also learned how much every superfluous movement matters over the course of a shorter 7.5k sprint race. Up until now I considered a 7.5k more of a middle distance race but here you have to be going full throttle from the start and slip-ups can be detrimental.
The course in Austria does not have the long steep hills characteristic of Ostersund; rather, there are a number of relatively flat sections and many, many transitions that you must learn to ski well in order not to lose time. I think the biathlon fan base was the best part of racing in Hochfilzen. Training itself draws a large crowd and the races, an even larger one. Spectators lining the course have start lists with them or are simply hardcore biathlon fans that know many of the athletes by name, so it’s not unusual to hear people with whom you’re unacquainted cheering for you by first name on all sections of the course. Based on this year’s start spot allotment rules, many of the top teams have more start spots than previously and are cycling in junior athletes or young seniors, many of whom I raced against at Junior World Championships and Europa Cups throughout my short career as a biathlete. It’s cool to be one of those girls who have “graduated” to this higher level of competition and to be able to mark my progress in comparison to theirs. It’s often their results I look to on the analysis sheet to determine whether or not I had a good personal race.
While making the transition from Sweden to Austria I experimented with different blinders—large patches to block the light over the non-aiming eye and, if desired, to block light from the side toward the aiming eye. In Ostersund I found it necessary to block out light coming from both sides as the artificial light in the range was brighter than daylight, but in Hochfilzen I put back in my old blinder because raced in the middle of the day and the only light comes from the sun on one side.
With each race in Hochfilzen I began to feel stronger and stronger. Finally my splits were starting to improve and my shooting speed as well—both methods to take time off over the course of a race. I was even finding time to keep up my training volume with longer (2hr) skis on Monday or Tuesday of each week. Midweek we had shooting-intensive training to work on shooting cadence and, of course, accuracy. We had two relays in Hochfilzen, one each weekend. Despite some setbacks in the first leg, we all managed to turn in solid performances in our respective legs, showing that if all the cards fall right we can expect a very good performance in the future. I consider it a personal achievement that, while in Hochfilzen, I had a clean stage in all but one race.
Now I’m back in Lake Placid until my next departure for Europe on January 4. I’ll be going to the IBU Cup (formerly Europa Cup) in Altenberg, Germany to race against other American biathletes for a spot on the world championship team. During these two weeks at home it’s important to get in high-quality training in order to maintain a high level of fitness for the duration of the season. This means a full week of training at a “normal” volume and intensity load—about 20 hours with 3 intensity sessions. It’s a bit of a challenge to do this after spending four weeks at a tapered training load. Fortunately, my energy level has returned to normal and I know how important it is to put in these hours now so I can see returns not only at the end of this season but over the next few years as well. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to get creative because warm temperatures and rain have wiped out almost all of our snow here.