Green Racing Project Blog Header Image
  • Craftsbury Outdoor Center Logo
  • Concept2 SkiErg Logo
  • Podiumwear
  • Start Skiwaxes
  • Rudy Project
  • Ibex Outdoor Clothing
  • Mammut
  • Caldwell Sport
  • Sauce Headwear Logo

Posts Tagged ‘Ruhpolding’

Telemark Turns and Half of a Pinecone

21.Jan.2015 by Susan Dunklee

“Don’t forget to also have fun, Susan.”

These were my father’s parting words of advice when I left Vermont after the holiday break and headed to Oberhof, Germany to continue the biathlon season. Over the years, I’ve noticed that my dad intuitively understands what motivates me to compete. His comment, and the fact that he felt the need to make it, caught me off guard. What was he seeing that I wasn’t? Of course I’m having fun, aren’t I?

But at practice a couple days later, I found myself wondering. It was “Oberhofing” out, a combination of freezing rain, fog and biting wind. After just a few minutes of skiing, I was shivering, encased in a shell of ice. As I lay down on the sopping wet shooting mat and struggled to load a magazine with numb fingers, the question began to creep in: why am I doing this?

IMG_1015.JPG
Lots of rainy weather: I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned my rifle so many times before in a two week period.

IMG_1020.JPG
Lowell racing in rainy Ruhpolding. (Photo: USBA/NordicFocus)

The rest of that week I continued to struggle. On race days, I went through the motions and did my normal routines, but it felt like a difficult chore. It wasn’t simply the uninspiring weather that threw me into the funk. I felt burnt out going into Christmas after racing while sick and probably didn’t give myself enough time to recover. Plus, while my results so far this season have been solid, I wasn’t living up to my own high expectations. Despite putting forth my best effort everyday, I didn’t come away feeling satisfied. Clearly something was missing. Biathlon turned stale because I was forgetting one of the key ingredients: fun!

And so the next World Cup week became a quest to find the fun again. Along the way, I looked for inspiration from my teammates, our staff, my competitors, and the thousands of Ruhpolding fans.

For the first day of training at Ruhpolding, I came up with two unusual goals and shared them with my coach. I felt a need to be a little goofy and creative, and to spice up my normal routines.
Goal One: Incorporate some telemark turns into the training.
Goal Two: Find an object somewhere at the venue and bring it back to decorate my hotel room; something that might make me smile when I see it.
Mission accomplished: I curved some big sweeping tele turns down the Fischer-S hill and rescued a chewed-up half of a pinecone from the middle of the ski track. It wasn’t the prettiest looking pinecone (or šiška as Gara our Czech wax tech called it), but interesting nonetheless, and a reminder that perfection is grossly overrated.

The best part about racing at Ruhpolding and Oberhof is the ambiance. Few other stadiums attract such huge crowds of passionate, drinking, singing, flag-waving fans. It’s a scene. They arrive hours early so they can find a good spot to watch and they’ll brave any sort of weather. Their enthusiasm is contagious and racing along the fan-lined fences is like skiing through a tunnel of pure sound. It’s easy to find zen-like mental focus when you can’t even hear yourself think.

IMG_1013.JPG
Ruhpolding’s stadium has capacity for over 13,000 people.

IMG_1016.JPG
Thousands more line the course. Photo: Hannah Dreissigacker

One evening, I was hanging out with the women’s team and we were chatting about various things we were each struggling with. Annelies came up with an idea to do some art therapy together. We started with a blank piece of paper and took turns drawing for 30 second bouts until we filled it up. Here’s what we came up with:
IMG_1009.JPG

Perhaps my favorite moment from the week came during the men’s relay. Heading into the first exchange, Team USA was leading thanks to an incredible performance by Lowell. The TV cameras zoomed into the the second leg athletes waiting for the tag off. Our youngest guy on the the team, 19 year-old Sean, stood there grinning from ear to ear.

IMG_1019.PNG
He was about to be tagged off to in the lead with the fastest guys in the world chasing after him. These guys were much older, stronger, and certainly more experienced than him but he was welcoming the challenge. In Sean’s smile, I recognized an attitude more important than results can ever be. It was the same spirit that brought me so far in biathlon in the first place, but one I had misplaced recently. It was a perfect reminder of what I really should be striving after.

IMG_1017.JPG
Competing in the mass start at the end of the week and feeling back on the right track (photo: Hannah Dreissigacker)

A Home Away From Home

3.Sep.2013 by Susan Dunklee

35 weeks per year. That’s the amount of time I spend on the road away from Craftsbury for racing and training with the national biathlon team. A big chunk of that time (the entire winter) is spent in Europe, thousands of miles from family, friends and familiar culture. Luckily our team has a home base that we visit a lot, a place where we feel very comfortable: Ruhpolding in Bavaria, Germany.

Between World Cup racing, winter break and our annual summer European training camp, we usually visit Ruhpolding 3 times a year. Several of our team’s staff live in the surrounding area and we have gotten to know them and their families. After staying at the same hotels over and over again, we have also gotten to know the people who run them. We know where all the grocery stores are in the surrounding villages and the layouts of each one. Bavarian-specific phrases and words like “habe die Ehre!” have become part of the team’s frequently used vocabulary and we are scheming how we might procure a pair of Lederhosen or a Dirndl for everyone on the team.

20130901-204436.jpg
Enjoying life in the beautiful village of Inzell! We are in the middle of our summer European camp and just finished two weeks of training in Ruhpolding.

20130901-204103.jpg
Enjoying a day off from training

20130901-203540.jpg
Food and beer: always a central part of life in Bavaria

20130901-203020.jpg
Sometimes hanging out at the table after dinner we were visited by the local fauna. This hedgehog lives under an outdoor grill.

20130901-204348.jpg
One afternoon we visited a local mill to buy some flour and grains for bread baking. It has been in operation for over 500 years! (Yeah, I’m an American. That type of thing impresses me.)

20130901-203411.jpg
A view of antique milling equipment on display inside.

20130901-203659.jpg
Entering the Ruhpolding stadium.

20130901-202906.jpg
Skiing under the mountains

20130901-203936.jpg
Ruhpolding’s stockpiled snow- saved every year for the World Cup races in case Mother Nature refuses to cooperate.

20130901-204214.jpg
Sara made some friends as we skied up the Roßfeldstraße. They ran after us along the fence line as we rollerskied away. Some scenes from the Sound of Music were filmed at the top of this mountain road. Unfortunately we skied up on a cloudy day and couldn’t enjoy the view.

20130903-211212.jpg
More friends! I took a short break to say hi on route to a mountain alm. (Photo: Sara Studebaker)

Update from Germany

4.Sep.2012 by Susan Dunklee

For the past couple weeks, I have been training in Germany with the USBA national A team.  We have spent time at some of the winter World Cup venues and shared the ranges with European national teams and club teams.  The first couple weeks were in Bavaria, training at  Ruhpolding.  This week we are training in eastern Germany at Oberhof and using the indoor ski hall a lot.  Unlike camps back home, we have almost all of our team staff together onsite, including coaches, wax techs, physios, etc, most of whom live in Europe. 

One of my favorite things about being over here in the summer is that we can get out and see a lot of the surrounding area.  In the winter race season, we are lucky if we see more than the venue, the hotel and maybe the grocery store.  

20120904-224205.jpg

In Bavaria we stayed in the town of Inzell, at the foot of a mountain.  Our cabins had a pool out front, which helped us survive temperatures in the mid 90s.  The pool was chemical-free and had recirculating water- the plant life along the edges filtered the water and kept it clean.

20120904-130419.jpg

The valley was very green and idyllic, with lots of small farms.  In some ways it reminded me of Craftsbury.

20120904-132213.jpg

20120904-131043.jpg

Former Craftsbury and Dartmouth teammate Chelsea Little came to visit on her way to start grad school in Sweden.  We spent an afternoon at Konigsee near Berchtesgaden (photo: Sara Studebaker)

20120904-224316.jpg

The team experienced all sorts of interesting Bavarian foods during our two weeks.  Pictured above is Schweinshax’n, or roasted ham hock.  My favorite meal was smoked trout, served whole.  The most interesting was a lean unidentified chunk of meat that tasted a lot like corned beef.  After I ate it, I was told it was cow tongue.  

20120904-220526.jpg

Training at the range.  We shared the facility with many other teams, including Germans, Ukrainians, and a large group of French juniors.  (photo credit: Chelsea Little)

20120904-131131.jpg

Rainy days call for bright colors…

20120904-132536.jpg

… and not just for us.  I found a whole hillside crawling with 6 inch long Fire Salamanders one rainy morning.  This sighting was very special for me.  When I was in kindergarten, I used to have a pet salamander a lot like these (it was an Eastern Spotted Salamander), and back home it is really usual to spot them in the wild. (photo credit: Wikipedia).  

20120904-224428.jpg

We spent one afternoon at the University of Salzburg’s indoor shooting hall.  They hooked our rifles up to various force places and lasers that recorded things like trigger pressure and the path our barrels trace over the target.

20120904-130744.jpg

My favorite afternoon recovery workouts involved hiking through alpine cow pastures to mountain alms and maybe ordering a coffee or beer.  The Stoisseralm high above our cabin had a great view looking down onto Salzburg.  On the way back down we took breaks to pick blackberries and blueberries.  (photo credit: Sara Studebaker)

20120904-130350.jpg

Mountain yoga over Inzell with Sara

This past weekend we relocated to Oberhof, where we spend our mornings training on snow in the ski tunnel and our afternoons training outside.  We are working closely with our team techs to test new skis for the coming season.  

20120904-130519.jpg

Ski hall from above (photo credit: Thueringen tourism website)

20120904-130702.jpg

The view from inside.  The smaller branches depart from the corners of the hall and the loop is surprisingly hilly.

A Day I’ll Never Forget

16.Mar.2012 by Susan Dunklee

I like to describe biathlon as an emotional rollercoaster.  For athletes, the highs are very intense and the lows can feel devastating as we seek to have the “perfect race.”  I rarely come close.   Many different pieces must come together on the same day.  I lucked out on a special day in Ruhpolding, Germany.  Many pieces came together for me when it counted the most and I placed 5th at World Championships in the Individual race.

Racing in Bib #1 meant being alone on the first loop. Photo: NordicFocus/USBA

Racing in Bib #1 meant being alone on the first loop. Photo: NordicFocus/USBA

I usually prefer being seeded about 1/3 of the way through the race field so that I can ski around the fastest competitors.  However, in these Championships I was not destined to have a normal starting number.  Earlier in the week, I started the Sprint last with  bib #118.  For the Individual, I had the opposite  experience and was assigned bib #1.  So much for sticking to routine.  I felt a little nervous, but Hannah pointed out a positive: “you’ll get to be famous, no matter how you race!”

A few of the 30,000 fans packed into the Chiemgau Arena. Photo: Jonne Kahkonen

A few of the 30,000 fans packed into the Chiemgau Arena. Photo: Jonne Kahkonen

Despite a few extra nerves, I enjoyed myself at the starting line.  I hadn’t put much pressure on myself for the Individual.  Going into the Championships, I believed the Sprint was my best chance for doing well.  The Individual is usually my weakest race because it is more of a shooter’s race and each missed target results in a costly one minute penalty.  That said, it is a race where anybody can have a good day if they shoot well, and I knew that included me.

My parents, Stan and Judi made it over to Europe to watch. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

My parents, Stan and Judi made it over to Europe to watch. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

I later heard that the film crews found my parents in the crowd and showed them on the big screen as I started.  Once upon a time, my parents used to cross-country ski race for the University of Vermont.  My father also competed in the ’76 and ’80 Olympics.  Since then, they have turned into elite level fans who will arrive at the venue 5 hours before race start to claim a front row spot along the fence. Over the course of the championships, they befriended (i.e. were adopted by) several other spectators around them. One afternoon they even returned with German flags painted on their faces.  I told them that this was only acceptable if their new friends started sporting stars and stripes.  However, I must give them credit for turning their section of fence into a giant American cheering section.

Cleaning prone. Photo: NordicFocus/USBA

Cleaning prone. Photo: NordicFocus/USBA

Any serious biathlete can clean (hit all their targets) during practice, even during high intensity workouts.  However with the pressure of a race, shooting becomes a lot more difficult.  I find that the more I want to hit my targets, the less likely the paddles are to fall.  Until a few weeks ago, I had never cleaned a race.  I finally cleaned an Italian Cup Sprint the week before World Championships, which was a huge boost for my shooting confidence.

During the Individual, I felt like I couldn’t miss my targets.  I was very careful and deliberate in the range, taking a little extra time to nail my set up.  Once I was confident it couldn’t be better, I focused on having a smooth trigger squeeze.  During the second stage I missed a single target, which actually shocked me.  The shot looked good, felt good, and I had followed through.

The final loop was all about hanging on. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier

The final loop was all about hanging on. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier

Halfway through the fourth (penultimate) loop I skied under a jumbotron and heard the announcer mention the “surprising leader of the race so far… American Susan Dunklee.”  Hearing that sent a jarring shock of adrenaline into my system and my heart jumped into my throat.  I had known I was having a good race, but I hadn’t dreamed that I might be leading!  All I could do at that point was put all my focus into climbing the hill ahead of me.  I hoped my head would clear by the time I arrived in the shooting range.  Thinking back, I don’t really member what was going thru my head during the last standing shooting.    I remember feeling completely relaxed and all 5 targets turned white.  It was incredible!

The work wasn’t done.  Skiing was very challenging, especially in the later loops.  Warm temperatures over the past several days had created lots of deep, slushy snow and my legs felt like toast.  On the last loop, all our coaches and staff were yelling that I was in medal contention.  The crowd was roaring too, and I felt blasted by a tunnel of sound with no place to escape.   I tried to ski faster, but I couldn’t find my highest gear.  It still ended up being the race of my life.

At the finish line. Photo:NordicFocus/USBA

At the finish line. Photo:NordicFocus/USBA

I smiled up at the crowd from the finishing pen and they went crazy.  It surprised me to see them so excited.  They seem to like seeing the Americans do well.

A new experience: Sitting in the leader's lounge until I got bumped from the medals. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

A new experience: Sitting in the leader's lounge until I got bumped from the medals. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

Pat, one of my primary coaches the past several years (and a Vermonter!), watching my last standing shooting with both the video stream and live results. Photo: Pat Coffey

Pat, one of my primary coaches the past several years (and a Vermonter!), watching my last standing shooting with both the video stream and live results. Photo: Pat Coffey

It was really cool to hear how many people had been watching the races live from back home.   Apparently my little cousin Camerin went to school after watching and spent show-and-tell explaining skiing and shooting to her friends.  I was psyched to hear about that.

The evening awards ceremony in downtown Ruhpolding. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

The evening awards ceremony in downtown Ruhpolding. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

The race didn’t really sink in for me until I got off the awards stage.  My teammates, my parents, and all our staff were there.  Everybody was so excited and it was very special to share that moment with them.  We had pictures and hugs all around.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the week. Post awards ceremony with teammates Lanny and Annelies. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

This is one of my favorite pictures from the week. Post awards ceremony with teammates Lanny and Annelies. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

My teammates helped me pick out a souvenir to remember Ruhpolding. I decided on a Dirndl (traditional Bavarian dress).

My teammates helped me pick out a souvenir to remember Ruhpolding. I decided on a Dirndl (traditional Bavarian dress).

A couple of months ago, our coach Jonne promised the women’s team that if any one of us placed in the top 10 on a World Cup then we could all dye his hair any color we wanted.  We went searching for cool colors…

Small Bavarian towns don't have a lot of color options but we found something suitable.

Small Bavarian towns don't have a lot of color options but we found something suitable.

We all decided to tag along with some temporary pink dye on relay day. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com

We all decided to tag along with some temporary pink dye on relay day. Photo: Chelsea Little/Fasterskier.com