Well, the ice is broken on my first international biathlon racing experience! And it was definitely an interesting one. To begin with, it was a new type of race for me, what is called an individual race in biathlon. That means that you shoot 4 times—prone, standing, prone, standing—but instead of doing penalty laps, you get one minute added to your time for each missed target. For this reason it’s known as the shooters race, since it’s highly beneficial to hit lots of targets. For the women, it was a 15k race made up of five 3k loops.
I was pretty excited and a bit nervous before my start, primarily because I was worried that I would somehow forget to do something important, or otherwise make some dumb mistake. But I zeroed my rifle and warmed up without getting too distracted by all the colorful uniforms and foreign languages around me. I was starting last in the field of 55 women, and decided that my goal was to place higher than my bib number. Secretly though, I was hoping to shoot reasonable well and actually be somewhere in the middle of the pack.
But alas, it was not to be. To begin with, the range here seems to be in a wind tunnel. Even when its not windy anywhere else, the range is windy. And I’m just not very comfortable shooting in wind. On top of that, the flurries that we’ve had pretty consistently since getting here decided to pick up into a full-fledged blizzard just in time for our race. The big fat flakes made the skiing slow too.
I skied a pretty hard first lap, trying to keep up with the girls lapping in front of me, and then missed two in my first prone shooting. Which could have been worse, I thought. I knew that everyone would be missing a lot on a day like this. But then in my second standing I did what’s called “dirtying”—I missed all 5. It was sort of embarrassing, but I also had to sort of just laugh. As I skied by the penalty loop, I was at least happy that it wasn’t a penalty lap race! After that I’ll admit it was hard to really stay super psyched, especially as I was getting passed every few minutes, and struggling along in the slow snow. 15k felt like a really long way to ski with a rifle on my back!
In the end, I finished with 11 penalties—tied for the second worst shooting in the race. I was also almost 16 minutes off the leader—meaning that I also skied and shot a lot slower than the leaders.
But with a whopping 53rd place, I beat my bib!
It certainly wasn’t the most exciting way to make my international debut, but it was definitely a learning experience! I’m definitely realizing how fast the girls are here—it’s a whole different league! And its impressive and inspiring. Its also made me realize how important it is for U.S. athletes to race over here—the level of competition is just so totally different, and its hard to comprehend that difference until you see it.
And now I have three more races to try to have some fun and hopefully improve upon this one! Really its not a bad starting place, since I can only go up from here!