Before the USA Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championship Team Trials kicked off this week (Dec. 27-30) in Anchorage, Alaska, FasterSkier caught up with the Maine Winter Sports Center (MWSC) biathlon program for a workout to help prepare athletes for the heat of the competition season. The workout can be done once or twice per training cycle and may be easily adapted into a cross-country workout.*
FORT KENT, Maine — What could be better than a rugged set of intervals with Northern Maine’s finest. How about a rugged set of intervals with a rifle?
Though not everyone can handle shooting with a simultaneously high heart rate, Seth Hubbard, biathlon director and head biathlon at the Maine Winter Sport Center (MWSC), said a head-to-head shooting workout is essential for biathletes looking to improve both their skiing and shooting.
“What we’re trying to do is recreate the pressure of coming into the range of a competition with other racers around,” Hubbard said on the phone.
In order to mimic the high stakes and stress of a race, the workout itself involves a 4 x 1-kilometer mass start, with shooting and 150-meter penalty laps to follow each 1 k interval loop.
“What it does is it puts a lot of pressure on shooting well. You want to shoot fast, but you also want to hit your targets because the penalty loops, in comparison to the 1 k loops, are a pretty large percentage of the [workout],” Hubbard pointed out.
The shorter-distance interval loops allow athletes to push the pace without overexerting themselves too much prior to upcoming competitions, while also providing a practice scenario for shooting with a high heart rate and high pressure.
“This is a workout we use as we get closer to competitions to mimic race efforts and race stress level,” said Hubbard, “It is also something we’ll use periodically throughout the year just to stay in touch with that stress of a shooting competition.”
Brendan Cyr of Caibou, Maine, currently a post-graduate biathlete at the MWSC who plans to attend St. Lawrence University next fall, said the workout strengthened his preparation for the Youth and Junior World Championships trials taking place this week in Anchorage.
“I like the workout because I get to practice shooting with a very elevated heart rate,” Cyr said during an in-person interview. “The head-to-head racing is also great preparation for competitions because [my teammates and I] generally hit the mats at the same time and have the added pressure of shooting with other athletes around.”
Current MWSC biathletes in the program, in addition to Cyr, include Brian Halligan, Cody Johnson, Hannah Streinz, Mikaela Paluszek, Maddie Phaneuf, and elite athlete, Russell Currier.
With a smaller team compared to previous years, Hubbard looks to expand the breadth of their program, as well as its depth.
“We don’t just want to push to get numbers if they’re not going to be the people who are going to mesh well with the program and mesh well with the area,” Hubbard said.
He added that the MWSC program continues to seek dedicated athletes willing to grow individually and athletically in the hillocks of northern Maine.
“Whether or not they’re going to be the next Olympian, we want to draw in and develop more mature athletes. Mature in the sense that they’ve developed — as an athlete and an individual — a better understanding of planning, process, commitment, and goal setting, whether those are in life or skiing.”
The Workout: Head-to-Head Shooting
Warmup: 20-25 minutes easy Level 1 skate skiing
Intervals: 4 x 1 k mass start with shooting and 150-meter penalty laps after each 1 k interval (depending on the amount of targets missed). Skiing should be continuous.
– Shooting format is prone, prone, standing, standing
– 1 k interval effort/pace should be race pace or just above race pace. “You’re trying to get race intensity experience — something that’s going to be a very challenging intensity to be shooting at,” Hubbard explained.
Cool down: 15-20 minutes easy Level 1 skate skiing
*Cross-country adaptation: Instead of shooting in between each 1 k interval, take approximately two minutes of rest before beginning the next interval piece.
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.