• Maddie Phaneuf

Season Wrap

Okay, I know I did a horrible job updating this blog during the season. To be totally honest, blogging just hasn't been my top priority and it doesn't bring me a ton of joy. I've naturally been updating less and less on here, so if you're missing out please feel free to follow my social media accounts where I update way more frequently. Here's my Facebook page and my Instagram account.

I haven't fully processed this season yet, but I'll start with this blog. It felt like such a rollercoaster of a season for me. I went over to Finland at the end of November for a training camp with the team, which also was used as a "trials" process to choose the final World Cup team roster for the start of the season. I had some solid training there and wound up being chosen as one of the athletes to head to Kontiolahti, Finland for the start of the World Cup season. I was so excited to finally be racing this early in the season and get an opportunity to race on the World Cup scene again - I hadn't raced a World Cup since the 2016/17 season!

In Kontiolahti training under the lights!

Racing in the 15km Individual

Photo by Nordic Focus

It was definitely a great experience to be in Kontiolahti, I had never raced this early in the season before, so I was interested to see if my body was ready for it. I had the opportunity to race in the 15km Individual, and the race was half good/half bad. I shot pretty well, which I was happy with, but my ski speed just wasn't there. I felt pretty tired and the course was hard for me. I tried to just focus on the good points from the race, but definitely felt a bit discouraged with my ski shape.

I didn't get any other opportunities to race while in Kontiolahti, and by the end of our two weeks there I was so ready to head south to Austria for more sunshine and mountains! Spending almost a month in Finland during November/December was really dark, literally, not much sunlight. My body didn't take that very well, I was feeling really depressed by the end of our time there and I just wanted to go home if I'm being honest.

Once we got to Austria I felt a little better, there was much more daylight and the mountain views made me happier. While in Austria I didn't get another opportunity to race, so my coach and I had a meeting about what would be best for me. We made the decision together that I should travel back to the States and get in a good training block in order to prep for the IBU Cup season. I'm so happy I made this decision, because I just felt so exhausted while in Europe. I felt like I wasn't getting in solid training, my body was tired all the time, and I was just lonely.

Austrian mountains

Can't get enough of them...but also, where's the snow?

Got out with Susan and flew her kite, it was a mood booster for sure!

I traveled back to the States in mid-December, and joined my teammate Chloe for some solid training. The snow wasn't the best while I was home, but we got to use the new facilities at Mount Van Hoevenberg, and they did such a great job at making snow and grooming in order for us (and everybody else!) to have some great early season skiing.

So happy to have a full 30 point range to train on!

It was nice to be home, see friends and family, but I'll be honest I was really struggling mentally in December. My body felt horrible during most training sessions, I just felt exhausted. I wasn't sure if there was something wrong with my health, or if my summer training was just too much and my body was overtrained. It was worrying me, and my mental health took a plummet. There were moments where I considered just hanging up my skis and rifle and moving on. Ultimately I figured I'd head back to Europe, do some IBU Cup racing and if I was absolutely miserable I could always just come home early and be done.

Thankful to have gotten some family time while at home

It's funny to reflect on the season and seeing just how up and down it can be. I think it's important to highlight that, because I did have some really great days this winter and I'm glad I flew back over for the IBU Cup, but it's also important to know that I did have really low days this winter. Anyway, just a thought.

I flew back over to Europe in early January, where our first races would be in Germany for two weeks. The conditions were amazing, it pretty much snowed every day we were there, it was great. I really like the course in Arber, Germany...I've had some solid races there during my career, so I was excited to be back racing there. The first week of racing wasn't anything special, I didn't feel amazing on the skis which was what I expected considering how I felt when I was home, and with traveling internationally the legs tend to take a beating. The second week was a little better! I was feeling better on the skis finally, which boosted my confidence, and I ended up cleaning the Sprint race and placing a best-ever result of 4th! I was only ~3 seconds off of the podium, and I couldn't believe it. It was such an incredible feeling to realize I am competitive internationally, and I have the skills to place myself at the top of the results. I will remember that day forever, I'm sure of it.

Beautiful ski with the team

Back to racing!

SO happy to be in the flower ceremony for the first time on the IBU Cup

Thankful for this team

After racing in Germany, the team headed to Poland for Open European Championships. My first ever IBU Cup in 2015 was at this venue, and I hadn't been back since so it was nice to return to Poland and race. They had good snow coverage and the course was a pretty fun one! Unfortunately, I felt like absolute garbage racing. It was frustrating because I felt like I was finally getting my ski legs under me after the second weekend of racing in Germany, so I'm not really sure why my body decided to just feel crappy. But, what can ya do? I tried to stay positive, but it was hard, I definitely felt a little depressed during my time in Poland. I was happy to have ended the week of racing on a higher note though. My teammate Lars and I raced the Single Mixed Relay and put together a good performance. I ended up tagging off to him in 3rd for the final leg, and ultimately we dropped down a handful of places, but I was proud of us for being in the mix for most of the race! It was awesome to see, and definitely a little bit of a confidence boost.

Racing in Poland, aka riding the struggle bus

Photo by Golden Goat Productions

Masked pre-race relay selfie

Following Open European Championships we had about two weeks before the next set of IBU Cup races. My teammates and I traveled back to Germany for a little training camp and some recovery. It was nice to be back in Germany and get some physical and mental recovery from all of the racing. We stayed and trained in Arber, the place where we were prior to Poland, so it was nice to be in a familiar place. The conditions weren't as good as when we were there before, they had some warm temps and rain, but the venue did a decent job at holding onto the snowpack.

Time to recover!

Foggy ski with the ladies

Not all days are great ones...very soggy ski with the team

And we're ready to race again! Next stop, Slovakia

Following our training camp in Germany, it was back to racing! We headed to Osrblie, Slovakia for a two week block of racing on the IBU Cup. I was kind of nervous to go to Slovakia because I've historically never had great races there. The course is challenging, and I tend to get kind of depressed in this location because in years past they hadn't had great conditions and you're kind of just stuck up at the venue because the hotel we stay at is right next to it.

Jogging with the team

This year was different! I was in a pretty good mental state and felt really strong on my skis. Overall the racing was solid, and I had my best ever result - 3rd place, my FIRST international podium! I was absolutely over the moon, and it didn't really feel real. I placed 3rd in the 12.5km Short Individual, I ended up having 1 miss out of 20 shots and was skiing well enough to place me on the podium. It was unreal, so exciting, and made me hungry for more. Thank you to all of my sponsors, supporters, and fans that have helped me reach this goal of mine. You are seen and I appreciate each and every one of you!

Another highlight from the two weeks of racing in Slovakia was my leg in the Women's Relay. I was the first leg for our team, and I shot fast and clean and was in 2nd place for most of the race! I ultimately tagged off in 4th right with 2nd and 3rd place. I was really proud of myself for having such a solid race, and was shocked when I saw that my shooting times were 20.8 seconds for both prone and standing! I've definitely shot standing in that time, but that was unheard of for me in prone. I was very psyched! I was also proud of my teammates for fighting during the rest of race, and it was fun to be on course cheering for them - especially my teammate (and roommate) Lucy, who was racing her first ever relay.

First podium!!!

Happiest girl, and thankful for my amazing teammates!

Our Women's Relay team, all smiles

The races in Slovakia were my final races of the season. I went into the races knowing that, so I was really giving it my all. I'm happy with how my season ended, and was very excited to head home and get some much needed R&R.

Once home, I unfortunately caught COVID. I'm guessing I picked it up while traveling, even though I was being as safe and smart as I could. And on top of COVID I also developed Strep...just a double whammy! Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, to get me to really take a break and recover? But it was a rough few days, followed by some really chill hanging out with my boyfriend and his pup. I finally got out of mandatory quarantine this past week and I feel like a normal person again. I've been trying to get some skiing in before the winter is over, but after two weeks of doing nothing I was pretty tired and sore after a long ski. Hopefully my body will bounce back so I can do some big adventures!

Overall, this race season was a rollercoaster. There were some really great races, some pretty awful ones, days where I couldn't even get out of bed because I was so depressed, days where I felt so happy to be alive, just a big mix of everything this winter! When I really reflect on the season though, I think this may have been one of my best race seasons to date. I finally felt like I was skiing at a competitive speed, my shooting was fairly solid overall, and I ended the season hungry for more. I'm excited to get back to training again, and can't wait to see what next season brings. But until then...I will be resting, eating good food, connecting with my friends and family, and just living life. I hope you all do the same! Thanks for reading this much needed update, apologies for the length, you're a real trooper if you made it this far.

- MP