The range at Jericho played host to another set of biathlon NorAm races this past weekend. I missed the first ones right after Christmas because of a cold, so it was exciting to finally get down to race on what is essentially our home biathlon course. We go down there quite a bit to train with Algis and it’s always fun to race at a venue that you know so well. The forecast for the weekend was bitterly cold and we prepared by basically packing every single article of the warmest ski clothing available. Plus hand warmers, key to keeping your trigger finger warm.
Saturday was a sprint race, which in biathlon means two shooting stages and 7.5 km of skiing for the women. Susan won and Hannah came in 2nd!
Susan only missed one target on Saturday but neither Hannah or I were particularly happy with our shooting. I went 3-3, meaning I missed 3 targets each in prone and standing. That’s pretty bad for me in prone. I went hard and felt good skiing, though. As I crossed the finish line and tried to catch my breath, Algis was standing there and John Madigan checked my bolt and waited patiently for my bib.
Bent over my poles, I asked Algis, “What happened to prone?” I knew he had been looking through the scope and I thought maybe I hadn’t taken the wind into account.
“What happened to prone? Let me tell you what happened to prone.” Algis is one of the nicest people I know but he couldn’t hide the frustration in his voice. “You didn’t do what you train! You slowed down, became cautious. Your range time was almost a minute. You tried too hard to hit the targets.”
“Was it the wind?” I asked, “I took a click.”
“No, it wasn’t the wind. Your misses were all over the place.” He patted me on the shoulder, releasing me to take off my bib and go get warm.
Whoops. A range time of a minute is a good 20 or more seconds longer than I have in training. After cooling down, changing my clothes, and getting something to eat I went back to chat again with Algis. He talked to me about needing to act with confidence on the range, being sure of every action. Slowing down because it’s a race and you’re afraid of messing up will guarantee that you do mess up.
And that, right there is the big reason I love biathlon. I love the fact – even though it can be agonizingly frustrating – that shooting is so mental and that the smallest of changes will be the difference between missing a target and hitting one. Perhaps it is because most of my personal athletic history was in gymnastics, a sport where the changes required to stay on the beam instead of landing in a heap on the mat are too small for most people to see. Shooting is pretty much exactly the same and I love that you have to pay such close attention to it.
Needless to say, Hannah and I were both looking forward to another chance to improve our shooting the next day. Sunday’s race was delayed by an hour to allow the temperatures to warm up to a balmy 0 degrees. Using overmitts and hand warmers, I managed to keep my trigger finger warm and I went into the range thinking “confidence. confidence. confidence.” Coming into the first prone stage I kept my normal cadence and only missed one! In the middle of my next ski lap Algis ran over to me and told me to take two clicks up, even though I had had four hits they must have been low. Back at the range again I took the correction, dropped into position, and fired off five rounds. Only one miss again, but this time it was the last one, guess I got a little too excited. Still, I was really happy with my prone shooting. (Standing was still rough, I definitely have a lot of work to do there…) Even more importantly than hitting targets, Algis told me later that I decreased my range time in prone by 20 seconds. So Sunday was a good race, and with no frost bite!
Next we head to Lake Placid for one more weekend of NorAms.