Day in the Life of a “Biathlete”

FasterSkierDecember 14, 2009

After Bozeman, instead of flying home with the rest of the team, I stopped in Minneapolis and caught a ride up to Grand Rapids, MN with some other biathletes to go to the biathlon world team trials in Mt. Itasca.  I just couldn’t resist putting biathlete in quotation marks in the title, because although I’ve been practicing shooting quite a bit this summer and fall, I still feel like I have been training as a skier, and then practicing shooting on the side.  My challenge here in Minnesota is to try to combine those two things, which can be quite a challenge when you ski hard and come in to the range really out of breath.  What it comes down to is that there’s really just a lot more to a biathlon race than a ski race.  It can be more exciting than ski racing, and also more frustrating, and certainly more complicated.  To give you all an idea of what biathlon racing is like, I thought I’d share my yesterday with you.

8:30: Get up, eat breakfast, get everything together.  Don’t forget your rifle, cuff, ammo, boots, poles (skis are already at race site where everyone’s skis were waxed by the coaches with the same wax).

9:45: Get ride to race course.  The bank thermometer reads -14 F.  Planned ski testing time is 10:30-10:50, followed by zeroing at 11:00,the men’s race at 12:00, and the women’s start at 12:45.

10:00: Hear that the whole schedule has been pushed back an hour so it can warm up more.

10:15-11:15: Play cards, snack, waste time.

11:30:  Ski test time.  Get your two pairs of skis from the wax room where they’ve been locked up over night, pick the one that seems faster, bring them to the start corral, where they must be checked in by 11:50.  This is all to ensure that everyone has the same wax on their skis.

12:15:  Go back outside for zero.  Zeroing is when you shoot on a paper target to make sure your rifle is properly adjusted for the day. You have to do this in your race top, because you don’t want to adjust your arm cuff afterwards.  So you freeze. Make sure to reload your magazines afterward, and get your rifle checked in at the start corral.

1:05:  Head back outside to warm up.  Even though you’ve been skiing on and off for the last hour and a half, you ‘re not warmed up.

1:45: Race start!  Double check your rifle before the start, make sure bolt is closed and magazines are full.

First loop:  You feel great! Lead the pack around the 2.5 k loop of man-made snow, and into the range for the first shooting.

First prone shooting: Shoot a bit slower than the other women, but you hit them all! No penalties!

Second loop: you should  be in the lead, but instead you accidentally follow the men’s course right when you leave the range, and it adds an extra loop on, and about a minute of time.  You feel dumb, and are now just behind the women who just did penalty loops.

Second prone shooting: Come in feeling more tired this time, and miss two targets.

Third loop: do two penalty loops, then try to stay motivated out on the steep hills.

First standing shooting: You feel really wobbly and take too long trying to steady yourself between shots.  You miss three.

Fourth loop: Ski three penalties, then head back onto the course.  You’re a bit further behind, but you know you only have one more loop left, so you try to stay motivated.

Second standing shooting: You shoot a bit quicker this time, and with more confidence, and it pays off! You hit them all.

Last lap: You bypass the penalty loop and head straight onto the course.  You can see another girl ahead of you and try to hammer it in.  You can tell you’ve gained a lot on two of the girls ahead of you, but don’t quite catch them.  You come in 6th, only 12 seconds out of third.

Afterward:  You feel dumb for going the wrong way, but otherwise are quite happy with your race.  You skied and shot well.  You just have to work on staying on course and shooting a bit quicker, and you’d be right in there.

So that was how my second race went.  So far I’ve been 6th in both races, and have been quite happy with how they’ve gone.  I feel like my shooting practice has actually paid off, and skiing back at sea level is feeling quite nice.  I’m still working on remembering all the different things I have to do for biathlon though.  I think its good practice for me–as many of you know, I can be a bit spacey at times. :)


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