Ridnaun to Russia

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.

Thanks for Checking in!

Leif

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