Thursday was the Individual race here in Vancouver. I’d had some shaky performances on the range in shooting the previous two days, so I needed to sort that out first and foremost, as an Individual is heavily weighted toward the superior shooter. I spent a little bit of time doing SCATT laser training with my coaches on Wednesday night and used the remaining time during zero on Thursday morning to shoot a few extra clips, just to make the mechanics smooth. The day was sunny and a warm one inside our one-piece powerweb racing suits, so I was grateful it was also the one race in which we’re allowed feeds. With temperatures dropping a little lower at night during the past week, the tracks held up surprisingly well even when the sun came out. They probably became just a little slower as the snow was churned up and the top layer turned to water. At least we started in the morning instead of the after the men.
Archive for February, 2010
I was actually not feeling nearly as fresh as I could have hoped to be. But although it wasn’t the strongest race of the year for me, the experience was something that’s never been equaled for me before. I started in bib number 9 as the first North American, so when the crowd heard that over the loudspeaker they went crazy. I’ve never before seen the crowd cheer so loudly for a North American, and it made me truly grateful to have a huge group of family and friends out there supporting me at the biggest event of my career. It’s great to have the races so close to home this year because it makes their trip out more manageable.
Once I made it out of the stadium and past all the noise I had to figuratively pinch myself and remember the race at hand. I came through the first lap feeling as though I had paced well, and looking back at the analysis, I actually skied a decent time. As most of you have probably already read, the organizers put fertilizer down on the course to help compact the snow, as warm temperatures and rain had caused it to become deep and slushy. This made a huge difference and the course was actually somewhat fast in many places, not to mention that our wax techs turned out some excellent skis considering the variability in conditions throughout the course. Our team of technicians has been doing considerable research over the past four years at this venue to turn out some Bauer grinds designed especially for these conditions.
The crowd was cheering wildly as I approached the range, but I realized to my relief that it was for a Canadian just leaving the start, so I convinced myself that I was all alone on the shooting range. I missed my last shot and it was when I got up off the mat that I realized how beat my legs were. They started to burn on the first uphill after the stadium and when I tried to jump-skate the next big hill, simply didn’t want to respond. It was disappointing and tough to face the fact that I was going into one of the most important races ever on the tired side. The training has been so focused yet minimal this past week, but it seems that it just wasn’t enough of a taper for me this time. In the end, I missed one target each in prone and standing but finished out of the top 60, so I won’t be starting the pursuit on Tuesday. Instead, I’ll use the next four days to get the rest I need in order to start the Individual on Thursday, our longest race at 15 kilometers, refreshed.
I have to keep track of my credentials and room key everywhere I go. We’ve been told that we have no master key to open our rooms if we get locked out, and there will be consequences if we lose our accreditation. We are like walking mannequins, all dressed in the same line of Ralph Lauren and Nike clothing. It just takes a few hours to get used to identifying your teammates in fashionable wool hats, sweaters, and high top shoes instead of polypro half-zips and over-boots.
We flew back into Vancouver from the small regional airport in Comox (on Vancouver Island) at the end of our training camp. Vancouver Island, or Mount Washington rather (as there was no snow once you got off the mountain), provided us with a non-stop flurry of wet, wind-driven snow. The weather conditions made for slow tracks but I could see the course being great fun for racing. We spent one afternoon in Vancouver going through team processing. This included being outfitted with Team USA Nike and Ralph Lauren apparel, followed by a team picture and a briefing from some of our Olympic ambassadors the following morning. After that, it was off to the Whistler Olympic Village.
We arrived at the outer gates with all of our luggage, including rifles, and after some minor confusion about how to get the rifles past the metal detectors, presented them for inspection to the police and checked them into lockers. Our bus driver took us the long way through the village to our building, which happens to be right across from the one entrance we use most frequently, but we got the tour nonetheless. We had time to settle into our rooms and unpack before a team briefing, after which I spent some time trying to tape over all the Adidas stripes on my backpack and non-team issue gloves and hats, and the names on my rifle case and drinkbelt.
This morning, before the sun really showed up, we were back in the Callaghan Valley at Whistler Olympic Park, doing a time trial on the Olympic course. It’s nice to be back and even better to be here because we’ve raced on this course several times in the past and already know it well. You have to work this entire course. Even though it’s a little more rolling than most courses, none of the downhills follow straight lines so the legs and back are constantly under stress as you work the corners. The stadium is built up but not nearly as big as any of those in Europe—I hear they’ve limited the spectators to 4,000. Nevertheless, this is the Olympics, and cresting the last hill into that stadium on race day is going to feel like something very special.
I left the OTC at 3:30am Sunday morning with teammate Sara Studebaker to begin the trip to Vancouver. It had been a cold couple of days in Lake Placid but I braved the weather anyway, figuring that if I had survived Minnesota in December, I could take on anything. That’s not to say I went unprepared: handwarmers, toewarmers, balaclava and windproof outer layers were all a part of my ensemble. The good news is that Lake Placid received a bunch of snow after the rainstorm early in the week and with the trail maintenance crew working hard to clear off debris, the trails are in great condition. Red glide wax and sub-0F temperatures is not the ideal combination for an easy, relaxed ski, but I managed to knock out a set of level 2/3 intervals where most of the hard work went into pushing my ski forward beyond its contact point with the snow just enough to barely keep me moving up the hill.