While my personal results were nothing to write home about, there isn't much else to complain about regarding Pokljuka, Slovenia. As nice as everything was, the highlight of the week was Tim's performance in the Mass Start. I was really hoping to leave the first trimester with some better memories. Unfortunately I'm back to playing the problem solving game.
The trails and venue are in Pokljuka. Most of the teams stay in Bled. Bled may be a solid 30 mins down from the trails, but that's nothing I'm not used to. In fact, Bled might be a hidden gem. I haven't done much eastern Euro tourist trips, but I suspect that this place might be underrated. The run around the lake is worth the 40 minutes. Storming the castle makes for a good afternoon recovery. We found out there are some nice restaurants and a full blown casino on the weekend. We were the only team at our four star hotel, which might be a first. The staff was always glad to see us and the internet was blazing fast! As a I said there isn't much to complain about. There's a reason why Pokljuka is one of the better respected WCs. Aside from the crowd numbers I don't understand why this place doesn't have an annual stake in the IBU calender.
I was hoping the good feeling of being in the area would carry over into the sprint race last Thursday. The course fits my style and the snow was about as perfect as groomed snow can be. So what happened? Not much happened on the first lap. I paced myself well. I had a plan for the whole loop. There was a lot of places that to be lazy on and I wasn't going to give up time in those parts. Prone went well. One miss isn't clean, but four for five in 37 seconds is solid for me. Confidence was high on the second loop. I knew the standing had been going pretty well this year and wasn't about to be head case. In the end it really didn't matter if I had my head screwed on right or not. When the wind picks up enough, there's not too much you can do to defend yourself. At that point you're gambling and I'm pretty much a wild card as it is, so the wind gust that came in almost exclusively for my standing help put me in the penalty loop three times too many. I did what I could but the damage was done. I would not be racing in the pursuit; much less the mass start. To add more salt to the wound ski speed mediocre I felt good and had a smooth but aggressive approach and couldn't still didn't muster up a sub 90 seconds from Svendens fastest ski time.
I was initial overwhelmed with frustration. There was absolutely no solution to this problem. I was going to have to sit it out and watch the rest of the field race on Saturday. The more I thought about the past month of racing the more confused I became. I wasn't expecting perfection, but a point or two at the very least. I wasn't tired or sick this time. It was obvious that the field was tight this year, but there no reason why I shouldn't have been contributing to that high standard a little more than I did.
I came up with a whole bunch of possible solutions. Per and I had a good meeting and shared our thoughts. We both agreed that the bulk of my slow start to the season was in my head. I went on the explain that I knew better, it was more a matter of convincing my subconscious to have a little more confidence in my ability This might sound strange, but that's just how it works for me. Anyone can tell you that staying clam and focused on the process is the best way to go, but when you want something that badly it's hard not to get swept up in the fear of failure. Unfortunately this kind of thinking (conscious or subconscious) tends to lead to failure. We debated whether or not bring home the rifle was worth it. The goal is to resettle and come back to Europe with a better focus. I don't think 800 rounds in seven days will do the trick, but not having any rifle time isn't realistic either. I'll have access to my rifle when I'm home if I so choose.
Per thought that the lack of satisfaction in ski speed might also be a head case issue. I'm more inclined to think it's a matter of early season racing. I've had some decent races in December before, but more often than not I'm slow to start. Even when I'm feeling good, the very top end zone is lacking. What I also know from experience is there's always the "January reboot" turn around. Maybe it's the Christmas break or maybe it just takes a month or so of racing for me to warm up, but ski speed almost always comes around after December. I'll do a couple of hard sessions at the red line before heading back over the Atlantic pond. That should do the trick.
With only one race to participate in I was feeling like dead weight. This was compensated by offering my service to the wax techs. I'm not much for choosing skis, but I when Gara tells me to ski nine km in two pairs of skis, it's pretty simple. It was basically just distance training with race skis. The rain on Saturday was a bit of a turn off and a half. Enough cold rain and I'll reach my breaking point. Once my second pair of gloves were soaked I was at my threshold. Tim and Lowell help justify the cold hands with some solid racing. It was a good feeling for the whole team to see Tim land one on the podium the following day. He was in the lead group the whole race and held off Emil and Martin on the last loop. That's never an easy task. Tim has had decent edge on me all season, but never really out of striking distance. If he can do what we all want to do, then I should at least be able to make the mass start. Or at least that's how I see it. I guess Oberhof can't come soon enough.
Conversely, it feels pretty grand to be home for the holidays right now. It's snowing outside. With out much to do at the moment I couldn't ask for better weather. I'll be around for the Stockholm caroling party for the first time in years. After Christmas it's off to Ruhpolding. As usual my new year's resolution will probably having something to do with this crazy sport that I find myself in day after day. Thanks for keeping up with this blog for the December shenanigan.
P.S. Tom: Stop reading this and go groom the trails... please.