Not the start I had envisioned for my first World Cup stop of the season. I didn’t seem to be able to pull anything together and perform on the day. Don’t get me wrong there were several very positive conclusions and realizations throughout the week. It was just there were more questions, ponderings and ill-timed situations then positive ones.
The first race was more of a perfect storm of ill-timing then of near perfection. First up I struggled on the range. My first shot was actually a perfect shot but it hit with such force it flipped the paddle up but rebounded and fell open. All within an instant. I saw it happen but wanted to get through the bout before dealing with it. As I neared my last shot I was thinking more about dealing with that first shot than I was focused on the last; which I then missed. I mishandled the situation, I had never had issues on the range like that and didn’t deal with properly. I skied only the one penalty loop that I knew I had missed. With the situation not being dealt with properly all official recording had me with two misses and because I only did one penalty loop I was assessed a two-minute penalty for a missed penalty loop. The night before the race the temperature had stayed above zero so the trails never froze and were a mess of soft, slushy slop. Not my ideal snow conditions. I’m a big boy and ski with more power then light and tempo. Couple this snow with it being my first race here and under a severe dose of Jet-lag, it was not pretty or fast skiing from me. As though I needed a little more adversity in the race, my second bout of shooting was crazy windy. I mean wind conditions that all biathletes have nightmares about. Changing direction, gusty and everything else. I, at first was quite happy with the fact I slowed down waiting for more ideal conditions as opposed to my norm of faster shooting. It didn’t help at all. I would end up missing three shots. And I swear somehow that penalty loop had a head wind everywhere within it and with the softest, wettest snow. I guess I’m happy it all decided to go wrong in that one race!
The following day was a Cross Country Relay where I was skiing the anchoring skate leg. There are very few opportunities where we get to race together. The last time being at World Championships last season. We finished fourth that time. Well we did that again, finished fourth but we were the third nation (Russia were first and second this time around). Things were coming together and I was looking forward to the next few races.
After two days off I was on the start once again for the Biathlon Individual. I was feeling much better and started right in the mix of the race. As the race went on I stayed right up there with the leaders. The wind had completely died off making for some very good shooting all round. I was through three bouts clean (I wanted to finally get that clean four bout race). In my final bout I had two solid shots then a stupidly wild miss, finishing up with two more hits. The clean race slipped through my fingers once again. With the one-minute penalty I was just out of reach of a podium spot.
Next day was the Freestyle Sprints. I was skiing well technically but I had no top end speed or full power. In the sprints I was just lacking those two things too much. I qualified in tenth position, though that was a bit disappointing. I saw the heats as an opportunity to rise up the order and go for a spot in the final. I came close. The top three positions would go through from the Semi. As my semi entered the finishing stretch four of us were there. We were coming to the line almost four abreast too. As the finish line neared I was still a little behind, so went for a big lunge for the line. Let’s say I need to work on my lunges. As I was swinging my leg around to fire it forward for the lunge I caught my ski tip and came down hard across the finish line. Ending up with my face right on the red line. So I ‘crashed’ out of the Sprints crossing the line in fourth. But I did move up to eighth place.
There had been a little bit of a cold going through the team. I had done a lot to try and keep from getting sick. Maybe I had been fighting it all week. With wet conditions and a lot of racing my body was pushed just too much. The next morning, I woke up with a small tickle in my throat and a stuffy nose and after a rough night of sleep too. I went for my morning run, feeling pretty good in terms of my body. I had to weigh the pros and cons. I could race maybe have a good race or already fighting the cold and not race well. I could race and it might be enough to fight the cold right off (an unlikely scenario but it goes happen every so often). Or because I raced it would go full nuclear and I’d be out for a good week. I decided to not start the race, rest for the day and try to get healthy. My plan was to go to a training camp after the World Cup and stay in Europe instead to going back to Canmore. I wanted to use the camp to be better prepared for the final World Cup of the season in Finland. Not having to deal with Jet-lag twice more. I hope sacrificing one race in Germany will allow me to benefit from the training camp and race well in Finland.
So far the choice is working. I’m getting healthy and I’m able to train here in the Goms Valley, Switzerland. Some may remember I spent a couple of training camps here before. It has been a few years since I last visited but its as beautiful as before. It’s great to recharge, get healthy and prepare for the last push of the season in paradise.


One Comment so far:

  1. George says:

    The xc racing life, diverse conditions & challenges! Thank you for having a write up on your races! Canadian well wishes for great races in Voukatti!! Go for the Gusto, Mark!
    Fan George!

Leave a Reply