Thursday, December 19, 2013

Le Grand Bornand, France and beyond!

It was such a nice experience racing in Le Grand Bornand. I had never spent any time in France, and I feel awful to say I had always heard French people were not very friendly but it was completely the opposite: Everyone said 'bonjour' on the street, helped you out with directions, and were the friendliest people around. It was also fantastic weather, great snow conditions, and an absolutely gorgeous area, making the week in Le Grand Bornand perfect.

Mum, Dad and I drove, after a morning exploring castles in Brescia, Italy to Le Grand Bornand. It was such a delight to find our apartment was situated just across the road from the racing track. Since New Zealand does not have enough athletes for the relay, my first race was on the Saturday, giving me 4 days to train, prepare and explore. We had a hilarious trip to Geneva one afternoon where the GPS took us into the city on the truck route, finally parked, and then payed 40 swiss francs for 3 coffees and 3 scones at a very posh hotel right on Lake Geneva, finishing off the trip by getting lost in the middle of the city in the car during rush hour, and driving back to Le Grand Bornand. But it was nice to see Geneva and some of the country side, which usually is not possible due to the racing schedule.

I was bib number 72 for the sprint race on Saturday, with Adele Walker from the Great Britain team starting bib 74, 1 minute behind me. In this race the minimum I had to do was make 15% behind the leaders to keep my place on the World Cup circuit. I had a very strange feeling going into this race as it could mean the end of my career. I started the race with Mum and Dad cheering from the sidelines, and told myself whatever happens, happens. Mum had been asking me a few days earlier that, if I don't make my qualification, what will I do? Maybe I should come home and get a job. I couldn't quite wrap my head around ending my career in the middle of the season, retiring from biathlon so suddenly, and going straight into the working world...but what else could I do? I cannot afford to race IBU cups as the start money does not cover the cost of accommodation, and if I don't make 15%, I cannot start on World Cups. The answer balanced completely on my performance in this race.

I came in for prone shooting, and missed 3 targets out of 5. There was no wind, and no reason for this to have happened (at the end of the race, my dad told me all my shots were to the right of the target), bringing it down to me and my positioning. After three times around the 150m loop, I went out with fear and adrenaline cursing through my body. "This is the end. I have never made 15% with three misses out of 10, and I still have standing shooting to go". At that moment, I had nothing to lose but to put my head down and give it my all. And at that same moment, I finally felt like I was racing. I felt the love for the sport that I had not been feeling in my last races. The summers disasters and stresses, the hours I had put in, and the unconditional work and support my family and friends had put in for me to be here all bundled together as I went into my second loop.

I came into standing shooting almost, but not quite, thinking my dream and career was over. Lane 22 stared at me, so I scooted in there thinking "I turned 22 at the last Olympics. Maybe it's a good omen". And it was - I hit all 5 targets and had the 3rd fastest standing shooting time. The urgency to get out of the range and onto the track was so intense it was on the border to frantic. At this moment I realized I am passionate about biathlon, and I am not ready to end my career just yet. The importance of that 15% became so apparent at that moment that is kicked me into a gear I had not felt in a long time.

Upon finishing, we had no idea if I had made the 15%, but mum and dad, despite the 3 misses, agreed that there was a difference in this race. I looked like an athlete out there. Not that I didn't before, but there was something different about the intensity of my race. A few minutes later, it was confirmed that I had made the 15% re-qualification (13.5%), and that my career in biathlon was not quite over. The relief that flooded over me at that moment, and to have my parents there with me, is a moment I will never forget.

Now remember, I did not make anything spectacular. I made the necessary 15% that every athlete must make to be on the World Cup. But with no financial support from New Zealand, no coach and no wax tech, asking Swix to prepare my skis the day before the race, and always struggling to get around Europe- I am proud of this result. I am not embarrassed to say I am not the fastest or the strongest, but I am still able to qualify and re qualify for the World Cup circuit, which I guess is a feat of it's own. As I am not winning races, I need to recognize the, albeit small, but important successes in my career.

Before the race, IBU television asked me about my Olympic qualification, my chances and how I was feeling about it. (As you all know, New Zealand has set the biathlon Olympic qualification much harder than the IOC- I must achieve 50% of the field three times in the world cup before Christmas, where the normal Olympic qualification is 2 times 20% in an IBU cup before the Olympic Games). I had difficulty responding to the question from IBU television as I had not made the Olympic qualification and this was my last race before Christmas, meaning I  would not be competing at the 2014 Olympics. Now that I have qualified for the next three world cups though, Biathlon New Zealand has approached the NZOC to ask for an extension in the qualification period, which would give me three more chances for Sochi.

Now that I am going to be in Europe for the next set of races, I decided to stay in Europe for Christmas. Not only could I not afford to get a return flight to Canada, but I often get sick when traveling, and a Christmas in Italy sounded quite enticing! I flew to London for 2 days, where I walked for 8 hours through the city, ate from vendors, and was trampled by the immense crowds of Christmas shoppers. The city is just amazing anyway, but at Christmas with the lights, it is just stunning. I flew into Pisa yesterday, and am now back at my base in Frassinoro, Italy- near Modena. This weekend I will be racing a Cross country Europa Cup in Valle d'aosta, just to keep the body moving.

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year! I might need to call on some of you to roll me from Italy to Germany as I will have eaten so much delicious Italian Christmas Food! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

World Cup 2 and 3

The Murphy gang was reunited on Thursday lunch time after 7 months apart! The Parental unit arrived after 2 days traveling and were there to help me with the heap of development gear from the IBU for Biathlon New Zealand, which I desperately needed! Mum and Dad to the rescue :)

The next day was the 7.5km sprint. It was great to arrive on the range and have my dad there all ready with the scope to zero me for the race (along with Ginge from the GBR team!), and my mum in the start area, guarding my rifle and even giving my leggies a little rub before the start! It was so funny. It was snowing in Hochfilzen for the women's race, with a little wind, but nothing crazy. I missed 1 in prone and 2 in standing, finishing 3 mins 40 seconds behind and 15.7%. For me to re qualify for the World Cup, I need to get 15% - behind, so I missed the qualification by 7 seconds- Dang! It was also great to have an Italian friend, Ilario, to help me test my skis, and Brikko Maplus for waxing my skis for the race! THANKS GUYS!

On Saturday night, we attended the IBU awards night and 20 year reunion dinner with the British team. It was great to meet up with all the coaches and team leaders, and the food was great. To end the evening off, Dad had the great idea to do a conga out of the VIP tent, so keep your eyes open for 3 crazy Murphy's doing the conga line out!

On Sunday at 5 am, the Murphy's found themselves in the rented car, packed to the rafters with gear, and heading to Seefeld, Austria for me to race a 5km skate FIS race. We arrived one hour before the start, so it was perfect timing to warm up, get my bib, and chat with the Hungarian team who THANKFULLY waxed my skis for me! THANKS HUNGARY- The skis were rockets! I finished the race in 49th out of 116 women, 1 min 27 seconds behind, and 124 FIS points. Considering the lack of sleep, no breakfast, and no ski testing, I was very happy with the race, and it felt good to be moving and grooving again! After a coffee on the deck of a cafe while watching the women's Pursuit race, we jumped in the car drove to Brescia, Italy where we spent the night and explored castles in the morning! Very cool, and nice to be running in the streets of Italy with my mum.

After a hilarious drive through Italy with dad as driver and mum as navigator, we found our way to the Mont Blanche tunnel, through Annecy, and to Le Grand Bornand, France. We have a wonderful apartment, which is located 300m from the stadium and trails, and fell right into the wonderful french lifestyle- The first morning I saw 3 men with baguettes...just saying :)

This week has been filled with training with dad on the range, skiing with mum around the loop, exploring new towns, and a $50 coffee in the Hotel Angleterre in Geneva.

Today the Canadian women placed 4th in the relay, which was very exciting, being half Canadian- CONGRATULATIONS! The next race for me is on Saturday at 10:30am, which is the sprint race. It is so beautiful here that I think everyone is so happy no matter what happens with the results!!!

After these races, I have no idea what I am doing! I am not sure if I am going to Canada for Christmas, or staying in Europe. I think I will make the decision after the weekend :)

Take care, have fun and smile!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Idre IBU cup and Ostersund World Cup!

After my glorious Moose hunt in the middle of nowhere of Scandinavia, I jumped in the car with the nicest person in the world, Niclas from Normark, and drove 5 hours North to Idre, where I met up with the Polish team and Federico. For 14 days we trained on a 400m loop, which after 10 days was extended to 1km, to prepare for the first set of IBU cup races happening in Idre. What was great is we had a cute little cabin, which was probably twice as big and 10 times warmer than the shack we had in New Zealand, so I cooked for myself and baked for the Polish massage therapist and wax techs as payment for helping me out. Not the same as money, but a lot more nutritious and made with love :)

The first race in Idre could not have had better conditions. -5, a nice breeze, and perfect tracks. The first race, out of 109 woman, I was lucky starter number 1! Wahoooo! I do not usually get  nervous, but I will not lie that I was a bit frantic with bib number 1 in the first race of the season. After zeroing with the British team (Thanks guys- I owe you some baking!), and warming up, I headed to the start gate and before I knew it, was out on the course. Yeeeehaaawwww! I came in for my first prone- 4 hits! Yesssss! I was pretty tired though and could definitely feel the weeks training load leading into these races in my legs. Next was standing and I hit 5/5! Out on the course for the last loop and then into the finish. I made the 15% and qualified for the world cup- great :)

The next day was very windy, making it a bit more of a challenge for us biathletes out there shooting. I was told I had very bad luck by some of the coaches, missing 3 in Prone and 4 in standing. It was a rough one, but I had felt a bit better on my skis, so I saw it as a positive step in the right direction....wrong!

The next day we drove 4 hours to Ostersund! I love Ostersund- its a city filled with cafes and shops and things to do. While I am in Ostersund I live with my friend, Pekka, who has a house very close to the stadium, so it is perfect. Ostersund was quite ridiculous- 2 races were cancelled, and 1 postponed. It was a little frustrating as for the 15km Individual, it was supposed to be on the Wednesday, but 1 minute before the start they decided to postpone it because of the crazy weather. In the end, maybe a good thing, but still frustrating as all the skis were prepped, zeroing of the rifles was finished, and everyone was warmed up! All well, the next day we were all out there again, getting ready for the race. I arrived at the range to zero one hour before the start and asked the Netherlands coach if she wouldn't mind zeroing me- she said it was no problem, which saved my life!  I was starter 74, so by the time I started, some girls were almost finished. The 3 km loop is a nice one- I quite like it-and the conditions were okay considering the lack of snow! I had some focusing problems in my standing, but I was very happy with my prone, hitting 10/10, but missing 6/10 in the standing.

The next day, we were out there once again to race the sprint. It was very windy and very difficult conditions. I was starter 53, which was really nice to be in the middle of the group. As soon as I started, I felt great. My skis were made perfectly (thanks BRIKO MAPLUS wax!) and felt so fast on the course. Coming in for my first prone, and it was very windy. It is difficult for the small nations as we shoot our rifles in at the other end of the range to where we shoot in the races, and the range in Ostersund is especially tricky as the wind goes a different direction from one end to the other. I came in for prone, and corrected my sights for the wind change- in the end, that was not necessary. I ended up over correcting and all my shots were in the same spot to the right of the target. In the end I missed 7/10/ It was very frustrating as I felt like I was finally racing!

I did not qualify in the top 60 for the pursuit, meaning I had 2 days until flying to Austria. I was thrilled to have 2 of my Swedish sponsors at the races- Norma ammunition and 42Store. We went for a great dinner all together on Saturday, and 42Store surprised me with a new computer! Now I actually have a working computer to update my blog! Yahooo!

I am now in Hochfilzen, Austria. The first race is on Friday with the 7.5km sprint. Everyone please cross your fingers that my Mum and Dad will make it here from Canada on time!!!!!!

Take care, have fun and smile! Thank you for all your love and support,


NORMA ammunition