After immersing himself in skiing for the last 25 years, Lowell Bailey, a US Biathlon team veteran, is well practiced in the art of mid-afternoon naps between training sessions. A little over a month ago, however, his naps have taken on a new meaning. Midday naps no longer mean he curls up under a blanket in bed or on the couch to watch television until he falls asleep. Instead, for the past six weeks, Bailey falls asleep while watching his one month-old daughter, Ophelia Jane Bailey, fall asleep on him.
“One of my favorite things is she really likes sleeping on either [my wife’s or my] chest and the feeling of having an infant just totally fall asleep on you, like completely passed out, there’s just nothing like it,” Bailey said recently on the phone.
Bailey and his wife, Erika, who have been friends since elementary school and were married a year ago, have already introduced Ophelia to the norms of nordic skiing, including outdoor adventures and the paved path of Lake Placid’s rollerski loop.
“We took her out on the rollerski loop the other day and introduced her to the biathlon loop,” said Bailey, 35, who’s lived in Lake Placid since he was 10. “My wife Erika and I, we’ve tried to introduce her to as many Adirondack outdoors experiences as we can, so we’ve taken her out to the lake and on hiking trails.”
In terms of training this season, not much will change for Bailey other than his decision to stay closer to home. This year, Bailey opted to skip the US Biathlon’s annual European training camp, taking place in Ruhpolding and Oberhof, Germany from Aug. 21 to Sept. 11. Rather than travel abroad during those dates, Bailey will remain in Lake Placid and train at the local venues with the US Biathlon Development Team.
“We have great training venues and training opportunities [in Lake Placid], so it’s not really a sacrifice other than the fact that I don’t get to go to Europe and train on some of the other world-class venues out there,” Bailey explained.
While expressing his gratitude for his trainers, coaches and manager for helping him with the transition to parenthood while simultaneously remaining committed to his training, it’s the one closest to Bailey who has enabled him to continually pursue his athletic ambitions.
“The biggest person that I can thank is my wife Erika because you know, as much as I’d like to think I’m doing a lot of the work, she’s really been there for Ophelia and for me and allowed me to do the training that I need to do,” Bailey said of his wife, who is currently on maternity leave from her job with a nature conservancy.
Bailey plans to stay on the (International Biathlon Union) IBU World Cup circuit all season long, and may have the opportunity to have his daughter on the sidelines watching him race.
“At this point, we anticipate that Erika and Ophelia will be able to come over to Europe for some of the world cups,” Bailey wrote in an email.
Part of his motivation to continue with his training and biathlon career involves the potential he sees for the U.S. at international levels of competition as well as the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“I think US Biathlon is at an unprecedented level right now internationally,” Bailey said. “We’re more competitive than we’ve ever been and it’s so exciting to be a part of the National team right now. [Our] potential as a four-man relay team, I think everyone is pretty excited to get to the season and see what we can do. I mean, we were within seconds last year of the podium in the relays on multiple occasions. That’s a big goal and focus of mine looking forward to this season.”
On top of focusing on relay podiums this season, 2017 World Championships in Austria, and the 2018 Olympics — all while also remaining a dedicated dad to his baby daughter — this year, Bailey is an active member of the Bridger Biathlon Club (BBC) Board of Directors. Late this spring, a few members from the BBC, based in Bozeman, Mont., approached Bailey about joining their nonprofit and Bailey agreed.
“Seeing the US Biathlon Team, the success that I’ve witnessed from the men and women of the national team over the last ten years and the progression from really a no-name nation to one of the top nations in biathlon, as that has occurred I’ve become more and more interested in what the what happens after this current crop of national team athletes retires,” Bailey said. “Susan Dunklee, Tim Burke, you know these are people that have contributed a huge amount to the progress and success of US Biathlon. So the question for me has become, how do we maintain and build on that?”
“We’re more competitive than we’ve ever been and it’s so exciting to be a part of the National team right now. … I think everyone is pretty excited to get to the season and see what we can do.” — US Biathlon’s Lowell Bailey
With a connection to US Biathlon’s staff and resources, Bailey hopes that his work with local clubs like the BBC will promote and empower youth into the sport and further build upon the success the program has had over the past few years. He plans to travel to Bozeman in August to meet with fellow board members for the first time and expects to return once or twice more this year.
“I’m trying to help with the communication between US biathlon and a local club like Bridger Biathlon,” he said. “The youth stage is one of the most important stages and I think it’s critical that kids get a balance, or that they witness a balance, of something that’s fun, but also hard work and challenging … Whether they go on to be Olympians or healthy empowered individuals in their communities, I don’t see any downside to it.”
Training for international levels of competition, the Olympics, alongside being a father and acting as a liaison between US Biathlon and local biathlon clubs like the BBC makes for a busy schedule, which begs the question, how does the new dad handle it all? According to Bailey, one word: balance.
“I think it’s all about balance and I think the key to it is I love everything that I’m doing,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have all of these aspects of my life and all of these things in my life. So then it becomes less like work and more like fulfillment.”
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.