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The IBU Cups in Altenberg, Germany, and Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, were a blast to participate in and gave me the experience of seeing and competing with some of the best in the sport—something I’ve definitely been getting a taste of in Norway, but not in the shear number of competitors that were present at these races. This was also a fun time to connect again with athletes from home that I hadn’t seen in a while.

The US IBU cup team with our hosts in Altenberg–from bottom left: Tracy Barnes, Laura Spector, Carolyn Bramante, Russel Currier, Mark Johnson–back row from left: Sara Studebaker, Susan Dunklee, Zach Hall, Gary Colliander

The competition venue in Altenberg was definitely my favorite. It was nestled in a small valley well away from the nearest highway, which did present some problems of transportation. Nevertheless, the trail system was great fun to ski. There were some good climbs and technical aspects that offered considerable variety, which made me think of the trails in Altenberg as a feel good trail system.

The weather conditions for the races were excellent—cold in the morning followed by sun and temperatures in the lower 20s during the day. For me, the races turned out to be solid performances, nothing amazing, but consistent. I felt reasonably well skiing and my shooting remained at an acceptable 80% hits. Placing in the upper forties and lower fifties in the field of 120 was definitely satisfactory, but of course I was hoping for better.

Besides the competitions, the most memorable part of our time in Altenberg was the great food and spa at the hotel we were staying at. Nothing makes me more happen than getting some good food and relaxing after a race series.

The Nove Mesto IBU cup was located at a bigger and more accessible venue a short distance from the center of Nove Mesto. The trail system is quite different from that of Altenberg and offered several long climbs of the same pitch, which was right in between a powerful V1 and a light and quick V2 technique. This deceivingly challenging course proved to be especially difficult for me when combined with a poor choice of skis and a low energy level. For both of the races in Nove Mesto I was able to keep shooting at 80%, which is OK, but not optimal considering the competitiveness in this field of competitors. However, it is very satisfying to know that even though I wasn’t having great races, I still had the ability to finish in the top half of the field.

I would like to thank US biathlon for giving me the chance to compete in the January IBU Cups as well as thank the hard work of the coaches and wax techs who provided us athletes with the ability to focus solely on quality racing.

Well, I now find myself in Beitostølen with Team Statkraft Lillehammer for a training camp, which is the same place in Norway where I had the opening races of this season. It feels great to be back!