Well the last few days has seen quite a scenery change for me… I spent last week, bathed in sunshine in the mountains of northern Italy. This week, I’ve traveled to the frozen tundra of Siberia. Yes, it is quite a big change.
The U26 European Championships took place last week in Ridnaun, Italy. I had spent a few days before the championships started, training in nearby Antholz, and I was originally only supposed to start in the Individual race. However, the individual was a bit of a disaster, so I ended up starting in the Relay also.
Racing the individual was meant to be a sort of tune of for the World Championships. My coach Armin and I drove from Antholz to Ridnaun (about an hour) the morning of the race. I felt fine, perhaps I was a little stressed testing skis, but I calmed down before zero and was fine before the start. The first half of the race went pretty good for me. I always tend to start out individual races on the slow side, and today was no difference. But I was getting faster and faster, and feeling better as the race went on. But then all of a sudden it all came unraveled. I started feeling a pain in my stomach, almost like a side-ache but in a different place. It just got more and more painful, until it was excruciating just to breath in or out, and I had to pull off to the side of the trail and stop my race.
I’ve never quit a race before, and at the time, I felt like a big failure. But the race doctor told me I had pinched a nerve in my back, and that he wasn’t surprised I had to stop right away. So I guess I got that out of the way. After two days of rest, I had no pain in my lungs and I was ready to start the relay.
But the relay was a similar race of disappointment for me. Though I had no pain and skied just fine, I had another first. The first penalty in a relay, actually two of them… I had never before had a penalty in a relay before. It should be easy to hit 5 targets with 8 bullets, and in my eyes its unacceptable to have a penalty in a relay. Usually I am good in relay “pressure” situations, indeed I was known as “relay man”. But I guess it has to happen every once in a while. Relay man is dead now, but life still goes on.
So, after a few easy days of training in the sun, I was off to Siberia. A 3 hour drive to Munich, sitting in lines for 3 hours checking in bags and rifles with the host of other teams, and a boiling hot 5 hour plane ride with no sleep, I was in Siberia. Oh, and it was 4 in the morning. One of the most miserable travel experiences I’ve had yet. But I’m here now, I’m even caught up on sleep I think, and I’m ready to race.
The first races start on Thursday, with the Mixed Relay followed by the Sprint and Pursuit on the weekend. I will try to update often this week, maybe even with pictures if I can get my act together… cross your fingers.
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