After three races back in Europe, I feel like I’m finally starting to find my game again. The week started with a U.S.-only team time trial, which was a good reminder for my body of what it feels like to race. Although I wasn’t able to dig deep into the red zone, I felt that with a few more races I’d be comfortable doing so. And in shooting 1-1 I felt reassured that taking two weeks off from shooting wasn’t a bad thing.
On Saturday I raced in the 15km Individual race of IBU Cup 4 in Forni Avoltri. It snows each night here but strong wind the night before the race dropped pieces of the trees all over the tracks, giving the snow the appearance of stracciatella gelato. Over the course of the race I could feel the skis slowing considerably, but it was helpful to hitch a ride with a later start number whose skis were less dirty. The wind was strong and gusty in the range but I made the appropriate corrections to result in only one prone miss. There is a good sized climb leading into the range that requires some pacing, and I made the mistake of skiing hard to the top of it before my first standing, resulting in three missed shots, but I redeemed myself with clean shooting in the second standing stage. Unfortunately, four misses does damage in an Individual. On the bright side however, I felt like I was able to keep an even pace throughout the race, something I struggled with in December.
Sunday was the sprint race, half as long as the Individual but at a much faster pace. I warmed up for nearly an hour after waking up with some tightness in my muscles, and despite being a little nervous about cramping during the race, I felt better than I have in a long time, with enough snap to push at all points on the course. With only one miss in standing I managed to finish in 25th place, only about five seconds out of the top-20.
I’m excited about where things are going from here, because better results are improving my attitude and increasing my desire to continue racing in Europe. I’m looking forward to finding that groove where the racing and recovery process comes naturally, without apprehension.