Wow that was a busy weekend! I had plenty of confidence going into the Kontiolaht races, but I didn't expect it to pan out the way it did. For the most part, I mean that in a good way. That indisputably satisfied feeling that I had after the sprint race in Nove Mesto... Well it came back for another day. A very cold and surreal day.
When I woke up Friday morning with an unusual feeling in my stomach I shrugged it off and tried to go back to sleep. I could not go back to sleep and finally admitted to myself that I was officially sick. The mixed relay was not going to happen. This was the only part of the weekend I didn't like. I consumed what little food I could and mopped around my hotel room for most of the day. Thankfully my absence did not hinder the US's relay with there sixth place!
I went to the pre race meeting later on that night. I was feeling better and optimistic. My plan was to just wake up 100% the next morning and have a solid race. This was almost true. I felt much better. Maybe not 100%, but the ambition was all there, legs felt springy, and I didn't want to wait three weeks for my next chance at racing. I made the call my self and raced.
The goal was to stay in the top 40. With the way my stomach was feeling just making the top 60 for the pursuit was a new goal. The wind was up, but consistent. I didn't have to take any clicks in prone. As if cleaning the stage wasn't enough, the work Armin and I did the week prior cut off an extra few seconds off my range time. Skipping that penalty loop will always feel good. Ski speed was feeling good, but also a little uncertain. I didn't have as much info or other racers on the course to get a good idea of how I was going. I broke the course down into increments. Racing one part of the race at a time feels easier than knowing you have a lot more ahead of you to go. Standing made for the climax of surrealism. I skied onto the mat, took the rifle off, loading my one remaining clip, closed the bolt, and the next thing I knew the last target was down. I don't even know what the penalty loop looked like that day. I still didn't think I was on par for another great one. That changed when sure enough, as I round the corner I hear Grant yell the words "top eight"! The splits from Jonne after that only got better and better. I put in one hard push over the last climb and then held on for dear life over the flat before the finish.
When you're an early starter you have to take your "results at finish" with modest consideration because the whole field hasn't gone through yet. When you're the third to last guy out there's a good chance you don't have to do that. As if the first time wasn't enough I was in the top six again. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the second time. I wasn't flooded with as much attention this time, but none of that mattered. I was going to have to go to another awards ceremony anyway.
The glory of the day was far from over. Turns out this was the best day the US mens team had ever had in US biathlon history. I didn't even have our top result. Lowell was fifth, Tim was 12th, and Jay 16th! We had so many compliments from every one on what a great day it was for our team.
Alright, so I moved down some in the pursuit. On the other hand I had my best four stage range time, highest rank ski time, and 23rd in world cup is still a great day for me. I would have liked to have a few more hits in standing, but I wasn't the only with an extra miss or two that day. It was a good day for our whole team again.
Over all I think this weekend represents how hard our team has worked in years past. We're not training any less or worse than the other teams. There is no reason not to have more weekends like this one. The organization as a whole is a well oiled machine. The athletes, coaches and staff were only doing what we've been training to do all summer. From a process standpoint this was just another day at the office for team USA.
Sunday was an epic day. There is so much detail I could go into, but these updates are time consuming. Let's just say the Finnish don't mess around with their saunas, the dance clubs don't close until three in the morning, and try not to listen to yourself when your singing karaoke. I hope you enjoyed reading. I know my grammar isn't always spot on, but right now this blog is the only thing keeping it functional. As always, thanks for the support!