This past week brought me to Soldier Hollow in Utah. This past week was also officially the last series of biathlon races of my career. The full details on that thought will come in another update. The full impact hasn't set in yet. This is just a quick break down of how the three day racing extravaganza played out. That, and how and why I'm not back in the far right end of the States.
We all expected much less from the trail conditions. The reports were coming in from Soldier Hollow were not so positive and we all thought it was heading for the back up venue in Casper Wyoming. This fear was gone when it was clear that the man made snow effort was going to make the races smooth. There was also some salt usage in the snow just to top it off. All three days had hard pack and fast conditions. We were anticipating a drudge through the slush on a 1.2km loop. Instead we raced on a full 3.3km loop. The effort that went into making a ribbon of hard packed snow on a landscape of brown was appreciated.
Not unlike the past couple of years the races were pretty similar. It kicked off with a sprint format, followed by a true pursuit, then the glorified mass start style race. While the conditions differed from my expectations the relaxed atmosphere that I expected was exactly how I thought it would be. The warm temps and sun only encouraged the laid back feeling among the athletes that made it out. All this combined with the pending last race of my career in the back of my mind made the three races feel surreal.
Still, once an athlete always an athlete. I landed in late on Monday. I booked my hotel on what was the cheapest- big mistake. I also didn't rent a car and had to carefully talk my way into a transport. Nevertheless, I had a bed and never missed a race start. The results were irreverent, but that didn't stop me from doing some combos and high intensity training during March in preparation. I was pleased with the ski speed in all three races. I liked the course profile and conditions, but with that altitude and time of season there was no promise that I would be able to do much damage on ski speed, so good ski speed was a sign that I'm not that old yet. Shooting, after all these years, was still my weak-point. There were a few good stages in the three races, that proved how long I've been doing this and the rest made me feel like I was 16 years old again. Such is life. Not once did the successfully hit targets feel lucky or undeserved.
There is a lot to be said about the last stretch of the final loop during the mass start. Even fully exhausted I couldn't help but appreciate a foreign feeling of knowing this was the end. That was a new one. This is where there is a lot to be said about... all of it. There is lot more to be said then there is to be said about the this year's US Nationals. So obviously that will have to wait for another day. Some of it will be positive, some of it will not. There is no regret for my decision. It sure did feel much more last minute than I thought it would based on the reaction my followers have had. The truth is, this decision was 97% made two years ago. The remaining three percent had it's reasons.
It has been a long and strange trip. It was as much mine as it was for the supporters of me that never gave up through the highs and lows. For now, I'm in Bozeman Montana for a semi vacation. I was already out west, so why not kill two birds with one round? With that said, I'm going to enjoy the brief moment in moving from the non real word to real world transition.
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