Well, it's been about six months and I still haven't decided what the post athlete life is like. By now it should have been clear, right? The contrast from what the average day consisted of a year ago to what it is now is clear. The decision to retire was in the works back in 2016, but I never gave much thought to how I would feel afterwords. It wouldn't have mattered much, there was no realistic way of sustaining the full time athlete life anyways. Still, there is a lot to be said about this change of pace.
Firstly, if you're wondering what an average day is like for me now, it's nothing extraordinary. I was based out of southern Maine. I enjoyed the work of landscaping but the job wasn't sustainable and a small part of me was missing the county. If you're not from here, you wouldn't understand. I was suggested to look at a job opportunity at a business in Presque Isle. In the end, I took the offer. And just like that I was back in Aroostook county. No tics and no traffic. The job, in short, is a warehouse gig. It's consistent and for the most part I know what I'm getting into at the start of the day. This is part of the contrast from past years. If my task is to show up, do my job and go home, then I'm in. After 16 years of of grinding it out with no promise of success or pay off this is the change I've always wondered about. Simply going home to the same place for more than a month at a time is a nice difference. I've long since forgotten what that's like. I hope this sheds some explanatory light on why I opted for such an uncharacteristic work change.
Oddly enough, the biathlon world is not completely lost to me. Training volume won't be hitting 20 plus hours a week anytime soon, but it's kept in check. I've given the running track at CHS a few good interval sessions, the Stockholm weight room is a popular go to, and I would love to bike more, but I'm going to need a new bike at some point, so in the mean time distance training is running only. The glory of not having to reach training obligations hasn't worn off yet. If I don't feel like going for a run, I simply won't. Still, after 15 years of pursuing a top level in one the most physically demanding sports in the world, it's not easy to fully let go of the progress made.
For the longest time I assumed I wouldn't want to have anything to do with the sport after retirement. When asked if I would ever consider coaching I scoffed the notion off. That assumption lasted a few months before I started to seriously reconsider. The goal of living a quaint a simple life is still in the lead, especially given my new job requirements, but I'm oddly less resistant to the idea of contributing back to the sport as before. And what would you know, it looks like Russell will be an assistant coach of sorts to the UMPI XC ski team the season. I've never been much at turning down opportunities. When this particular one came up it didn't seem too invasive of my time and the more I think about the experience attained with some world class coaches over the years, the more I think that sharing that knowledge is feasible. This is coming from someone who usually avoids social gatherings so there must be some really worth while knowledge on the table.
There are so many memories and stories. Many of them are only interesting to me, while a few are note worthy. I can remember suffering through a flight for the first time with a cold and sore throat on our way to Fairbanks. My ears hurt so bad I couldn't hear anything. There was the first trip to Europe for World Jrs in 2004. They were in France that year. I got left behind during training one day and had to asked a complete stranger to give me a lift back to the hotel. Then there was that time we crashed what might have been a wedding party in Croatia. That took place in the middle of what was the best training camp of all. I can remember waiting in the make shift terminal in Sochi for our departing flight. Everyone was so hungover and eventually just resorted to sleeping on the floor. At a glance it looked like a room full of dead people. For a few years in there, every October brought me to Soldier Hollow, Utah. That was always the last big training block of the year. One year in particular the camp ended with a Saturday Halloween. Shenanigans ensued. Then there was the time I got lost running around in the Adirondacks for seven hours. So on and so fourth there are far too many stories and memories to elaborate on here.
Maybe it will take a full year before the depth of it all sinks in. In the meantime everything is doing well. Despite the 40 plus hour work week and lack of travel it feels like I have more freedom than I've ever had. About this time a year ago I would have been so tired that walking up the stairs was a risky idea. Now I can see pay checks being deposited on my account like a normal adult. Weird, huh? In an effort to keep this update succinct I'll leave it at that. But rest assured there is so much more to the last 16 years of my life than I can elaborate on. One of these days it's bound to all click and come full circle about why everything panned out the way it did.