I need to apologize in advance for the lack of pictures. The internet here in Ridnaun is not good enough to upload photos.
Our time here in Poland has come to a close. Unfortunately my results were not good enough to qualify me to compete in the pursuit, but it ended up not mattering after they cancelled the pursuit due to lack of snow. My teammate Wynn and I ran to the venue the morning the races were scheduled and it was sad to see how little snow was left after the rain (ironically, it happened to snow 6 inches the morning after). Langdorf was also hit with rain and could not hold the next set of IBU races - they have been moved to Ridnaun, Italy. My only experience in Italy has been hiking the Mont Blanc trail with my mom many years ago so I am excited to see what it has in store for us. Now for an update on the past six days… (Note, this next part was written during the races.)
Most of our team arrived bleary-eyed to Europe early Tuesday morning; save for Sean Doherty who missed the flight to Munich after his connecting flight to DC was delayed. Coincidentally we also were on the same trans-Atlantic flight with the women’s WC team and the Alpen-Cup trip athletes (the same club trip that I was a part of last year). It was nice to spend a little time with everyone before going our separate ways in Munich. Those of us going to Poland had the longest travel day out of the three groups, so we quickly packed up our rental vans for the 6-hour drive to Duszniki Zdroj. I wasn’t surprised to see that central Europe does not have very much snow, similar to my experience racing here last year. We arrived that evening and I was pleased to discover that Duszniki is a cute polish town in the Eagle Mountains, close to the northern Czech Republic border. It’s famous for its mineral water - said to have healing properties that even the famous composer Chopin came to use, as well as for its paper mill (which we have yet to locate on our afternoon jogs). Our hotel is comfortable and the food is way above expectations.
The biathlon venue here is very impressive and I’m sure would have been even more so if they hadn’t been suffering from such a lack of snow. Both races (but especially the one we just finished today) have been held on thin inches of snow over pavement and mud. Today the course was so dirty that there were chunks of mud showing through. I made the mistake of picking skis with too much structure (that being the depth of the grind on the base of the ski) and suffered slow skis toward the end of my race as they picked up lots of dirt from the course. Dealing with dirty snow is all part of the gig here in Europe. I should have had known better for these races. Dirty snow is a lesson that I had already come to terms with last year in a Czech Cup in Nove Mesto.
Racing here continues to be a process of growth for me as well as a lesson in dealing with disappointment. I struggled in the range and shot 50% both days. We all know that 50% is much to low to expect to be successful in races here and I know that I am very capable of doing better. Hopefully things will come around next weekend and I will continue to work on my deficits this next week before the races in Langdorf. As always, biathlon is a process of balancing confidence, focus and mechanics to have a successful race.
In the meantime, we have been enjoying our time so far here in Europe. With limited Internet access and communication skills (a.k.a none of us can speak a lick of polish) we have had quite the adventure. Some of the highlights include;
- Becoming well versed in the rules of darts, as it is the sport most commonly being shown on Eurosport between the hours of 8 and 10, along with snooker.
- Trying to communicate the desire to purchase pretzels at the local market.
- Playing exorbitant amounts of cards
- Going on fun recovery jogs and getting a taste of the local community, as well as encountering the occasional crazy woman.
- Realizing it is not socially required to say hello to everyone on the street, a glaring insight into my small town roots.
Here is a small video by the IBU TV crew about Duszniki Zdroj.
This next week we will be training in Ridnaun, a spectacular venue in the mountains along the Swiss/Austrian borders. Updates to come.