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Canmore Races

9.Dec.2014 by Mike Gibson

15973553805_ab830d501e_oAfter a long training season and a few cold induced cancellations, our racing season began! But first, let me back up a little.

The first weekend was full of canceled races due to the bitter cold, and it left a few of us a little bitter ourselves.  Never the less, Monday rolled around, and with temperatures warmer (but just barely) Eth and I tried to put in a good speed session.  With cold, slow, squeaky snow – it turned into a brutal workout.   As we were driving away, we caught a glimpse of someone throwing explosives from a helicopter to set off avalanches.  So that was pretty sweet. Wednesday, we all (CGRP, MWSC, USBA X/B/D team) piled into cars and drove into Banff National Park to ski at Moraine Lake. Our car thermometer said it was -24 C when we started.  I was under dressed.


It’s not much more than a groomed access road, but makes for some fantastic classic skiing.  Yes, biathletes still like to classic ski.IMG_0797 At the end of the grooming, there was a sign warning us about avalanche danger ahead.  We decided it wasn’t worth testing out.


This is Lake Louise.  It’s just up the road from the trail, has a gorgeous hotel where we changed, and -most importantly- sells coffee and hot chocolate.   Somewhere inside, sitting on a radiator, drinking a cup of coffee, I started to thaw.

Which brings us to the weekend.

First Sprint 2014

Temperatures warmed up to just around freezing, and the races went off without a hitch.  Saturday, Eth and I did a 10k sprint.  Neither of us felt great, but I had a fun time pushing against Casey (pictured above).  He is skiing well, and I struggled to keep in contact with him.


Sunday was warm and sunny.  This is a picture of people zeroing their rifles before the race.  Ok, it’s mostly a picture of cool mountains.

The picture up at the beginning, and the race pictures were taken by Jacob Ellingson. Check out some more photos here. If you want.

Sunday was a 15k Mass Start, which was interesting because there is a new format for starting this year.  As the photo at the top depicts, there are three lanes of skiers, and we can start skiing immediately. Gone are the days of the double pole start.


Here is Ethan leaving the range.

And here I am, leaving the range and catching up to MWSC athlete Brian.

Eth and I both wish we were higher up the results, but also agree that this was a really fun race.  The whole field was pretty close, and he and I skied together and fought it out on the last two laps.


Both of us owe a huge thanks to these guys.  Seth (Maine Winter Sports Center) kind of adopted us for the two weeks.  He helped us get two and from the venue, zero rifles, and in general was our foster coach. I tried, but couldn’t keep Travis (National Guard Biathlon) from helping us with our skis. Thanks guys.

We just got to Grand Rapids, MN, met up with Liz and Miro, settled in, and did some much needed laundry.  Next up, IBU Cup trials!



Biathletes Abroad

30.Nov.2014 by Mike Gibson

Canmore: Week 1

Ethan and I have been in Canmore, Alberta for just over a week now.  The skiing has been quite nice, though the biathlon trails were starting to get a little rocky.  Our training here has been really beneficial.  Maine Winter Sports Center is here and has been helping us out tremendously.  We got to jump into some fun relays, and also hammer out some race pace intervals with Casey Smith and Patrick Johnson.  All 20 of the Americans up here (CGRP, MWSC, Johnson, National Guard, and a contingent from Minnesota) gathered for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner.  Eth and I contributed just over 10 lbs of cheesy garlic mashed potatoes.  There were no leftovers, or pictures taken, apparently.

Since here, my HR monitor watch will no longer turn on, and both Eth and I have broken the firing pins to our rifles. What’s a firing pin?  A firing pin is a STUPID piece of metal inside the bolt of a rifle, without it, the rifle will not shoot.  Ask Bob Lee Swagger, he swaps all his firing pins before he leaves his house.


Most people know Canmore for the amazing mountains, and they would be correct.  Distractingly gorgeous. Apple was probably thinking about Canmore when they introduced the pano setting on your iPhone. Here is the view from our hotel room just after sunset.


This is looking down onto the biathlon range and stadium.



This is the opposite direction as the picture above: in the biathlon stadium, looking up. The billowing clouds are from Canmore’s extensive snow-making operation.



What people don’t realize is that it isn’t always like that. Training on Friday was a little raw.  -2 F and 30 mph winds.  Photo by Skip Smith


Our race Saturday was canceled because of this:


So we decided to get a late start, bundle up like Randy in A Christmas Story, and go classic skiing.



All smiles.  Cold, swaddled in all the merino wool clothing I own, and not racing, but smiling. Thanks, Kat Howe, for the picture.

Sunday rolled around, and we were optimistic for a race start.  I’ll admit, the forecast I saw probably didn’t warrant optimism.  The high was -3 and it quickly dropped again after that.


Our truck’s thermometer on the drive to the race venue (in C not F).  On a scale of Casey to Kat, my facial expression was probably closer to Kat. Photo: Kelsey Dickinson.


The race was delayed an hour, but we kept ourselves busy.  Heads Up! is an iPhone game modeled after Charades.  It’s frustrating to feel good and be excited to start the racing season, only to be held back by the weather. I was headed down a morose path, but pulled back by a solid hour of this game.

(Video from Betsy Smith)

The race was eventually cancelled. I again found myself dawning every article of clothing I packed, clipping into my bindings, and hoping I wouldn’t get irreparable frostbite.

It is a few days after Thanksgiving, but I still have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for the support of the GRP, Craftsbury, Concept 2, and my family.  I am thankful firing pins can be replaced.  I am thankful for the frostbite fighting powers of Dermatone.

This next week is supposed to get warmer, and we have two more races scheduled this weekend.  Wish us luck (that the races will be held)!

Mammoth Biathlon

13.Apr.2014 by Mike Gibson

The 7th annual Mammoth Winter Biathlon was great- if you like skiing, guns, and sunshine.


The Mammoth Winter Biathlon is the biggest biathlon race in North America (by volume, not necessarily competitiveness), and it is easily the most fun.  I was flown out by the man who puts this race on to help with shooting clinics, act as a range safety officer, and then compete in an exhibition race, hilariously entitled the ‘Uber Elite.’ California – in general – has had a sub par snow year, so instead of hosting the races at the Nordic venue, the race organizers built a range on top of the mountain. It is a little hard to see in this photo shamelessly taken from a Google search, but the range was at Outpost 14 (the white box on the right side of the image).

The dedication and manpower available from the volunteers and organizers was staggering.  Hosting a biathlon race requires a lot of equipment – targets, ropes, shooting mats, timing equipment, sound systems, etc.  Not only did the organizers acquire all of this, they moved it up a mountain – 9500 ft high- and also surveyed and excavated a 20 point shooting range.  I was truly blown away with the passion and excitement for my sport.

Photo Mar 22, 12 11 40 PM


Having the races on top of the mountain made for a breathtaking venue, but racing at 9500 ft is challenging.

Photo Mar 22, 1 29 47 PM

Most days I decided to ski up the downhill trails to the venue, but on race day I hitched a ride on the Sherpa.

My race was not my most glorious.  I don’t have much experience racing at that kind of altitude.  Not only is it taxing aerobically, but the lack of oxygen – exacerbated by the the strain of racing – actually begins to impair your vision.  It was a fantastic way to learn how to handle the extremes.

Photo Mar 24, 4 11 05 PM

I have an old friend now living in Mammoth Lakes, so I extended my stay by a few days to see him.  His dad was visiting that weekend, and I was so happy to have both of them cheering for me in my race.

Photo Mar 24, 4 34 54 PM

The three of us went for a relaxing hike/walk up around Convict Lake.  In classic western style, the derivation of the name ‘Convict Lake’  comes from a bloody shootout in 1871 between convicts, escaped from a Carson City jail, and the Sheriff tracking them down.  I’m not kidding.  Apparently there is a movie loosely based on the story.

I spent the next few days running and soaking up some Vitamin D before eventually venturing up to the local XC center.

Photo Mar 27, 2 20 43 PM


The trail system isn’t immense, but it was immaculately maintained.  All the trails meander around beautiful lakes, high in the mountain pass.

Photo Mar 27, 1 48 37 PM


On this ski, I realized Mammoth is a little mind-numbingly gorgeous.  Monotonously stunning.

Thank you, Mammoth Biathlon, for hosting a tremendous event.  I hope you invite me again in the future.



Home, Home on the Range

18.Nov.2013 by Mike Gibson

Hello internet, it’s Michael. I’m finally breaking radio silence.

With flurries in the forecast, and a man-made loop ready to be rolled out, Ethan and I have been doing our best to get a mini range up and fully operational.  I know what you’re thinking, ‘I thought there was a biathlon range at the center.’  Or possibly, ‘Well, then where did they hold that race?’ Hopefully not, ‘I thought this post was about a movie.’

The truth is, a range is a crucial part of any biathlete’s training, and while dry-firing is important and beneficial, there is no substitute to skiing on snow and shooting bullets.  Also, if you clicked that link, you can see just how exhilarating a dry-fire training session can be.  Sorry about that 1:59 of your time wasted.  You can probably see now why, with our trails about to open (!), we got a little excited to extend the small range on the lower soccer field.  The wood for this project was milled on our land, and most of it grew less than 100 feet from the structure (you can check out the logs strewn haphazardly below).  So that was pretty convenient.

Some trees were in the way.  We made a little mess.

Han gave us a helping hand with screwing in the decking.

Precision supervision.

Most of the logs were small enough for Eth and Me, but we had to recruit some help for one or two.






Taking a moment to gaze into the sunset.


Ropes are hung and steps made.  Now we just need that early snow loop.