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Posts Tagged ‘biathlon’

The Jericho Experience

17.Aug.2011 by Susan Dunklee

Snowflake Photographs by Snowflake Bentley

Jericho: a small Vermont town made famous by “Snowflake” Bentley, the first man to photograph snowflakes back in 1885 and discover that no two are ever alike.   Over 125 years later, Jericho’s winter heritage is still going strong, even in the summer.  Every August, I travel to Jericho to join a crowd of snow-loving biathletes.  We train at the biathlon facilities of the Ethan Allen Firing Range (a military base) and we stay in the barracks.  When are not busy training, we explore the surrounding community, from the ridges of Mt. Mansfield to the shops and restaurants of nearby Burlington.  Over the course of a week or so, we catch up with friends that we haven’t seen since last season’s snowflakes melted.

The Ethan Allen Firing Range is named after Vermont’s well-loved hero and independent-minded leader of the Green Mountain Boys during the Revolutionary era.  It houses the Vermont National Guard and is famous throughout the US for its Mountain Warfare School.  The base encompasses 11,000 acres along the western slopes of Mt. Mansfield and Bolton, and the frequent percussion of artillery training can be heard echoing off ridgelines for miles.

One of the most memorable parts of Jericho training camps is barracks life.  During the recent camp, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the spacious officer’s quarters with the rest of the National Team, but most of the younger athletes were housed in the more traditional barracks.  Over the years, we have all put in our time there.   The experience gives us a glimpse of what army life must be like.

Imagine a big open bay with two long rows of bunk beds.  There is no privacy and space to store the contents of your duffel bag and all your training gear.  At night, the bathroom lights and exit signs spill light into the sleeping bays.  Athletes in the bottom bunks sometimes experiment with draping extra blankets around their sleeping space to form a dark cave.  Every time someone crawls out of bed to go pee or talks in their sleep, the entire room can hear.  Industrial-sized fans buzz all night long, circulating hot, humid, stifling air from the open window, which is barely better than having no fans.  For those of us unadapted to such conditions, it is very difficult to sleep well and recover from hard training.

During my handful of visits to Jericho, I’ve learned to fall back asleep after I hear drill sergeants bellowing outside my window at 5:00 A.M.  I prefer to wake up a little closer to 7 and head to the dining hall (wearing closed-toed shoes of course, it’s a military rule).  After breakfast, I join my teammates in our van and we drive a ½ mile straight uphill from the barracks to the biathlon range.  The van chatters over washboards, struggling to maintain enough momentum to make it to the top of the hill going the speed limit (20 mph).  Our van’s dust cloud settles over clusters of junior athletes whose coaches make them run up the steep hill for a warm-up before practice.  I’m glad my coaches don’t make me do that routinely.

The Jericho biathlon range and ski trails rank among the finest facilities in the country. In the past, Jericho has hosted large international competitions and the club still frequently hosts important events such as junior world team trials.  Jericho’s range is one of a handful in the country with paved trails for summer rollerski training.

A stadium scene during race day.  (Photo: Judy Geer)

A stadium scene during race day. (Photo: Judy Geer)

Training at Jericho provides a great opportunity to practice the transition from skiing to shooting and vice versa.  Transitions are a complicated process requiring lots of practice to perfect.  For example, while approaching the range you need to slow down, glance at the wind flags, take some deep breathes, remove poles, look for an open point and check its corresponding target downrange, and open the sight covers and bolt, and then set-up on the shooting mat.

The venue also features superb rollerskiing.  Its trails that flow naturally over challenging terrain.  They snake through the woods dipping, climbing, and twisting around corners.  I feel much safer rollerskiing on isolated trails like these than trying to avoid traffic out on the roads.  The only obstacles we run into are camouflaged soldiers who randomly pop out of the woods during their land navigation training and woodland critters.  Recently wildlife highlights: a mother doe and two spotted fawns frozen in the middle of the trail and a daring turkey that strutted under the targets during a shooting clinic for beginner biathletes.

One common complaint about Jericho is the weather.  Even a perfect summer day always feels hotter and more humid than seems reasonable, despite the base’s mountain setting.  The local landscape creates its own weather patterns, and they tend to be more extreme than the rest of the state.  For example, incoming clouds from the west get caught on Mt. Mansfield and create violent thunderstorms and hail.  The weather, combined with the relentless biting flies can make some workouts feel absolutely miserable. Luckily, the base has a saving grace for mugginess: a couple swimming holes in the Lee River.   We just have to remember army rules: never walk anywhere alone and never walk through the base wearing only a swimsuit.  Luckily, they haven’t outlawed swimming itself.  After practice we cool off in freezing stream water and hope we won’t climb out with any leeches attached.

Another method for cooling off on those hot August day.  (Photo: Sara Studebaker)

Another method for cooling off on those hot August days. (Photo: Sara Studebaker)

By late evening, the heat finally relents a little bit.  If you were to walk out the front door of our barracks at dusk, you’d see soft spots of LCD lights dotting the facing hillside. They could almost be mistaken for fireflies except for the accompanying murmur of conversations.  A closer inspection would reveal about 20 soldiers (and a bunch of athletes) sitting in the dewy grass and talking/texting on their cell phones.    One corner of that hillside boasts up to three bars of cell service despite the rest of the base having none.    With no internet on base, “cell phone hill” is in very high demand.

To get our daily internet fix, we drive into Jericho Corners in the mid-afternoon.  Across from the historic Old Red Mill and Snowflake Bentley museum, sits a cafe and bakery called The Village Cup, or “Athlete’s Cup” as we fondly refer to it.  We visit so frequently that by the end of our training camp we start to feel like regulars.  Instead of napping all afternoon to recover from training, we eat generous slices of raspberry pie or chocolate torte and cruise Facebook.  We compose blog entries to a background of classic tunes, such as Cat Steven’s Wild World.  It’s a pretty quiet place, but one day, a teammate (who himself is a multi-time Olympian) returned all excited because he had spotted a celebrity on the back porch: a member of the band Phish.

Another favorite off-base escape is the Jericho Country Store, located in Jericho Center.  Our most common objectives are fresh sandwiches and soft-serve maple ice cream. However, as the oldest continuously running country store in VT, this small establishment boosts many curiosities.  Every nook and corner is filled with something interesting, such as old-fashioned glass jars full of candy, a checker game set up on a barrel table, specialty soaps, greeting cards by community artists, local beef, all sorts of historic signs and pictures, and antique post office boxes.  (The store still functions as a post office).  After finding some sort of yummy treat, we wander across the street to sit under a tree on the town green to savor it.

The culmination of the annual Jericho training camp is a couple of rollerski biathlon races, hosted by the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club.  These races are technically “Rollerski Biathlon Nationals” but they often feel more low-key than that.  Many athletes view them as a way to get some practice racing in during the summer months.  However, this year the races were important.  They served as part of the trials process to determine who will represent the US in European competitions in November/December.

Me, on the starting line (Photo: Elizabeth Geraghty)

Me, on the starting line (Photo: Elizabeth Geraghty)

How did the races go for me this year?  Not as well as I had hoped, but they certainly weren’t a disaster.  I was able to ski hard despite the heat and had some of the top rollerski times both days, but I struggled in the shooting range.  Results from the two races can be found on host Ethan Allen Biathlon Club’s website:

http://www.eabiathlon.org/results2011RollerskiBiathlonSprint.pdf

http://www.eabiathlon.org/results/2011RollerskiBiathlonPursuit.pdf

One reason I enjoy racing in Jericho is that I consider it my home course.  I first ski raced in Jericho trails at the young age of eleven for the New England Bill Koch Championships and I also competed there for high school state championships.   The Ethan Allen Biathlon Club is the parent club to my home biathlon program in Craftsbury.  The Craftsbury Outdoor Center often sends a crew of volunteers for the races.  It’s been wonderful the last couple years to see so many GRP teammates and coworkers help out and bring home more enthusiasm for the sport.  I often have an additional fan club of family and friends cheering me on, which is a rare experience when we spend most of the winter racing in Europe.  Dear fan club, next time I’ll make sure I let you know if the race start time changes to something earlier than posted- sorry about that.  This year was special because my cousin, Jesse, who is in the Guard and happened to be training on base, stopped by unexpectedly.

Hands down, my favorite thing about spending time in Jericho is the community.  The August races and training camps are the only time during summer months when the majority of the US biathlon racing community assembles together in one spot.  There are very few people in the United States who understand biathlon and can relate to the experience of being a biathlete.  When we come together it is an empowering experience for everyone involved.   The entire US National Team competes alongside juniors, beginners, the National Guard teams, and older masters groups.  On a given year, racers and coaches might hail from New England, New York, Pennsylvania , Minnesota, Wisconsin,  Colorado, Wyoming, Washington state, and Alaska.  We often see representation from the eastern Canadian providences as well, such as Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

Some faces of Jericho. L to R: Major Parsons (military), Bjorn Bakken (US Biathlon intern), Eric Tremble (Ethan Allen club coach), John Madigan (Ethan Allen club's director), Pat Coffey (former Ethan Allen coach, now national team coach), Corrine Malcolm (national team athlete)

Some faces from Jericho. L to R: Major Parsons (military), Bjorn Bakken (US Biathlon intern), Eric Tremble (Ethan Allen club coach), John Madigan (Ethan Allen club director), Pat Coffey (former Ethan Allen coach, now national team coach), Corrine Malcolm (national team athlete)

Once the racing crowd dissipates, the locals remain.  The National Guard’s biathlon team and the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club (civilians) use the range year round.  These groups are made up of amazing people who are passionate about the sport and never fail to be friendly and helpful.  I always enjoy sharing the range with the Guard athletes and the club team.  Many thanks to Major Parsons and his crew from the Guard who create a welcoming environment on the base and maintain top notch facilities.  Thanks also to the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club and their numerous volunteers for both hosting high quality races and for promoting the sport to people in the local community.

Another flake captured by Snowflake Bentley.  I wonder if the concept of man-made snow ever crossed his mind?  One of the reasons Jericho's ski trails are so reliable in winter is their snow making system.
Another flake captured by Snowflake Bentley. I wonder if the idea of man-made snow, something Jericho is capable of now, ever crossed his mind?

Jericho: a small Vermont town made famous by “Snowflake” Bentley, the first man to photograph snowflakes back in 1885 and discover that no two are ever alike. Over 125 years later, Jericho’s winter heritage is still going strong, even in the summer. Every August, I travel to Jericho to join a crowd of snow-loving biathletes. We train at the biathlon facilities of the Ethan Allen Firing Range (a military base) and we stay in the barracks. When are not busy training, we explore the surrounding community, from the ridges of Mt. Mansfield to the local farmers’ market. Over the course of a week or so, we catch up with friends that we haven’t seen since last season’s snowflakes melted.

The facility where we train and stay is the Ethan Allen Firing Range, which is an army base in Jericho, VT. Named after Vermont’s well-loved and independent-minded hero from the Revolutionary era, the Ethan Allen Firing Range houses the Vermont National Guard and is famous throughout the US for its Mountain Warfare School. The base encompasses 11,000 acres along the western slopes of Mt. Mansfield and Bolton, and the frequent percussion of artillery training can be heard echoing off ridgelines for miles.

One of the most memorable parts of Jericho training camps is barracks life. During the recent camp, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the spacious officer’s quarters with the rest of the National Team, but most of the younger athletes were housed in the more traditional barracks. Over the years, we have all put in our time there. The experience teaches a partial appreciation for what army life must be like.

Imagine a big open bay with two long rows of bunk beds. There is no privacy and no good space to store your duffel bag and all your training gear in it. At night, the bathroom lights and exit signs spill light into the sleeping bays. Athletes in the bottom bunks sometimes experiment with draping extra blankets around their sleeping space to form a dark cave. Every time someone crawls out of bed to go pee or talks in their sleep, the entire room can hear it. Industrial-sized fans buzz all night long, circulating hot, humid, stifling air from the open window, which is barely better than having no fans. For those of us unadapted to such conditions, it is very difficult to sleep well and recover from hard training.

During my handful of visits to Jericho, I’ve learned to fall back asleep after I hear drill sergeants bellowing outside my window at 5:00 A.M. I prefer to wake up a little closer to 7 and head to the dining hall (wearing closed-toed shoes of course, it’s a military rule). After breakfast, I join my teammates in our van and we drive a ½ mile straight uphill from the barracks to the biathlon range. The van chatters over washboards, struggling to maintain enough momentum to make it to the top of the hill going the speed limit (20 mph). Our van’s dust cloud settles over clusters of junior athletes whose coaches make them run up the steep hill for a warm-up before practice. I’m glad my coaches don’t make me do that routinely.

The Jericho biathlon range and ski trails rank among the finest facilities in the country. In the past, Jericho has hosted large international competitions and the club still frequently hosts important events such as junior world team trials. Unlike many of the US’s biathlon venues, the Jericho range has paved trails for summer rollerski training. Apart from a couple venues in the northern tip of Maine, it is the only place in the northeast where we can rollerski into a fulled-sized range.

Training at Jericho provides a great opportunity to practice the transitions between skiing and shooting and then shooting to skiing. Transitions are a complicated process requiring lots of practice to perfect. For example, in the approach you need to slow down as you enter the range, glance at the wind flags, take some deep breathes, remove poles, look for an open point and check its corresponding target downrange, and open the sight covers and bolt; all before hitting the shooting mat.

The venue also features superb rollerskiing with trails that flow naturally over challenging terrain. They snake through the woods dipping, climbing, and twisting around corners. I feel much safer rollerskiing on isolated trails like these then trying to avoid traffic out on the roads. The only obstacles we run into are camoflagued soliders who randomly pop out of the woods during their land navigation training and woodland critters. Recently wildlife highlights: a mother doe and two spotted fawns frozen in the middle of the trail and a daring turkey who strutted under the targets during a shooting clinic for beginner biathletes.

One common complaint about Jericho is the weather. Even a perfect summer day always feels hotter and more humid than seems reasonable, despite the base’s higher elevation. The area creates its own weather patterns, and they tend to be more extreme than the rest of the state. For example, incoming clouds from the west get caught on Mt. Mansfield create violent thunderstorms and hail. The weather combined with the relentless biting flies can make some workouts feel absolutely miserable. Luckily, the base has a saving grace for mugginess: a couple swimming holes in the Lee River. We just have to remember army rules: never walk anywhere alone and never walk through the base wearing only a swimsuit. Luckily, they haven’t outlawed swimming itself. After practice we cool off in freezing mountain stream water and we hope we won’t climb out with any leeches attached.

By late evening, the heat finally relents a little bit. If you were to walk out the front door of our barracks at dusk, you’d see soft spots of LCD lights dotting the facing hillside. They could almost be mistaken for fireflies except for the accompanying murmur of conversations. A closer inspection would reveal about 20 soliders (and a bunch of athletes) sitting in the dewy grass and talking/texting on their cell phones. One corner of that hillside boasts up to three bars of cell service despite the rest of the base having none. With no internet on base, “cell phone hill” is in very high demand.

To get our daily internet fix, we drive into Jericho Corners in the midafternoon. Across from the historic Old Red Mill and Snowflake Bentley museum, sits a cafe and bakery called The Village Cup, or “Athlete’s Cup” as we fondly refer to it. We visit so frequently that by the end of our training camp we start to feel like regulars. Instead of napping all afternoon to recover from training, we eat generous slices of raspberry pie or chocolate torte and cruise Facebook. We compose blog entries are to a background of classic tunes, such as Cat Steven’s Wild World. It’s a pretty quiet place, but one day, a teammate (who is a multi-time Olympian) returned all excited because he had spotted a celebrity on the back porch: a member of the band Phish.

Another favorite off-base escape is the Jericho Country Store, located in Jericho Center. Our most common objectives are fresh sandwiches and soft-serve maple ice cream. However, as the oldest continuously running country store in VT, this small establishment boosts many curiousites. Every nook and corner is filled with something interesting, such as old-fashioned glass jars full of candy, a checker game set up on a barrel table, specialty soaps, greeting cards by community artists, local beef, all sorts of historic signs and pictures, and antique post office boxes. (The store still functions as a post office). After finding some sort of yummy treat, we wander across the street to sit under a tree on the town green to savor it.

The culmination of the annual Jericho training camp is a couple of rollerski biathlon races, hosted by the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club. These races are technically “Rollerski Biathlon Nationals” but they often feel more low-key; many athletes view them as a way to get some practice racing in during the summer months. However, this year the races were more important. They served as part of the trials process to determine who will represent the US in Europeans competitions in November/December.

How did the races go for me this year? Not as well as I had hoped, but they certainly weren’t a disaster. I was able to ski hard despite the heat and had some of the top rollerski times both days, but I struggled in the shooting range. Results from the two races can be found on host Ethan Allen Biathlon Club’s website: http://www.eabiathlon.org/results/2011RollerskiBiathlonSprint.pdf http://www.eabiathlon.org/results/2011RollerskiBiathlonPursuit.pdf

One reason I enjoy racing in Jericho is that I consider it my home course. I first ski raced in Jericho trails at the young age of eleven for the New England Bill Koch Championships and also competed there for high school state championships. Jericho is the closest biathlon race venue to my home and the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club is the parent club to my home biathlon program in Craftsbury. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center often sends a crew of volunteers for the races. It’s been wonderful the last couple years to see so many GRP teammates and coworkers helping out and bring home more enthusiasm for the sport. I often have a fan club of family and family friends cheering me on, which is a rare experience when we spend most of the winter racing in Europe. Dear fan club, next time I’ll make sure I let you know if the race start time changes to something earlier than posted- sorry about that. This year was special because my cousin, Jesse who is in the Guard and happened to be training on base, stopped by.

Hands down, my favorite thing about spending time in Jericho is the community. The August races and training camps are the only time during summer months when the majority of the US biathlon racing community assembles together in one spot. There are very few people in the United States who understand biathlon and can relate to the experience of being a biathlete. When we come together it is an empowering experience for everyone involved. On a given year, racers and coaches might hail from New England, New York, Pennsylvania , Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington state, and Alaska. We often see representation from the eastern Canadian providences as well, such as Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. The entire US National Team competes alongside juniors, beginners, the National Guard teams, and older masters groups.

Once the racing crowd dissipates, the locals remain. The National Guard’s biathlon team and the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club (civilians) use the range year round. These groups are made up of amazing people who are passionate about the sport and never fail to be friendly and helpful. I always enjoy sharing the range with the Guard athletes and the club team. Many thanks to Major Parsons and his crew from the Guard who create a welcoming environment on the base and maintain top notch facilities. Thanks also to the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club and their numerous volunteers for both hosting high quality races and for making the sport accessible to all levels of athletes around the community.

Ruhpolding

15.Feb.2011 by Susan Dunklee
Our homebase in Ruhpolding

Our homebase in Ruhpolding

When I was a college ski racer, February felt crazy.  It was the culmination of 6 weeks of winter carnival racing season, in which we raced every Friday and Saturday and missed a day and a half of class every week.  Staying healthy, keeping caught up with school work and making time for ski training required super human time management skills.  Now, as a full time biathlete with nothing to worry about except training and racing, February is a piece of cake.   However, this year there weren’t any February biathlon races on the domestic schedule expect for the World Cups.

So what is a biathlete to do?  If you are Lauren, you make the pilgrimage up to Fort Kent and forerun the World Cup.  (Check out a neat article about the TV test race that she helped out with: http://fasterskier.com/2011/02/19-miles-of-cable-and-one-espresso-machine-how-biathlon-gets-on-television/)  If you are Hannah, you prepare to go kick some butt at the Birkie, America’s biggest ski race.   If you are a US Junior biathlete, you might decide to stay in Europe following Junior World Championships for a couple extra weeks to race in Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.  Another option is to rent an RV or “Wohnwagen”   for 3 weeks and follow the German race circuit, which is what the Barnes twins and MWSC’s BethAnn Chamberlain decided on.  (Read about their adventures here: http://bambambiathlon.blogspot.com/).  Since I already had a plane ticket to Europe for U-26 Championships at the end of the month, I decided I’d fly over a week early and rendezvous with the Juniors and the Wohnwagen posse in Ruhpolding, Germany.  A weekend of German Cup racing sounded like a perfect tune-up before heading down to Ridnaun, Italy for U-26s.

Juniors Raleigh, Casey and Ethan enjoying a spring-like day from the top of a Bavarian cow pasture.

Juniors Raleigh, Casey and Ethan enjoying a spring-like day from the top of a Bavarian cow pasture.

My friends in the WohnWagen.  Notice the impromtu drying rack they created to deal with Ruhpolding's rainy weather.

My friends in the WohnWagen. Notice the impromtu drying rack they created to deal with Ruhpolding's damp weather.

Ruhpolding is a biathlon Mecca.  Every January, tens of thousands of spectators descend on this tiny town to watch the World Cup.  Biathlon paraphernalia lines the shelves of local shops.  Biathlon is Germany’s most popular winter sport and many of their top athletes live in this region.  As I was traveling in, I had no shortage of people volunteering to help carry my giant ski bag, rifle case, heavy backpack and overflowing tote bag when I changed trains in Traunstein.  They all wanted to know where I was coming from and they wished me good luck in Ruhpolding.

Four Ruhpolding World Championship hopefuls for 2012.  They've got the countdown timed to the second.

Ruhpolding is the site of the 2012 Biathlon World Championships. I'm hoping to be back next year...

With beautiful rugged mountain peaks on all sides, Ruhpolding is one of my favorite biathlon venues to visit.   However, last weekend I understood why the World Cup team nicknamed the town “Rainpolding.”  On the first day of the German Cup races, it down poured.  We went through several changes of clothes and still were drenched and cold.  Nonetheless, it was a successful day of racing.

Dave Gieck flew in from Wyoming to help USBA athletes with race support.  Thanks Dave!

Dave Gieck flew in from Wyoming to help USBA athletes with race support. Thanks Dave!

We competed in an unusual race format: a sprint race with extra relay rounds.  We were allowed to hand-load up to 3 extra bullets to try to knock down missed targets, so very few people had to ski penalty loops.  In addition to the Germans, we had a bunch of Brits, a Norwegian, and a Canadian in our race.  I had some of my better shooting of the season, requiring only one spare round, and I finished 2nd, one second behind my US teammate Lanny Barnes.

Race volunteers at equipment control staying dry inside.

Equipment control volunteers stay dry under cover.

The following day we competed in a mass start.  We rarely get to ski in mass starts at NorAm races at home, and never against an international field, so it was a valuable experience.  I got a little distracted during the first shooting stage when we approached the range in a big pack, and it caused me to miss 2 targets.  I spent the rest of the race playing catch up, but I was able to focus better in the range for the remaining stages.  Lanny had another good day and cleaned her fourth biathlon race in a row- that’s 60 consecutive hits during competition.

The American junior men were put into the senior men’s race for the mass start because they would have made the junior’s field too big.  Craftsbury’s Ethan Dreissigacker had some of the better shooting of the field during both days of racing.  He can be seen here winning the double pole sprint off the starting line in front of German Olympian Michael Rosch (#187).

The American junior men were put into the senior men’s race for the mass start because they would have made the junior’s field too big. Craftsbury’s Ethan Dreissigacker had some of the better shooting of the field during both days of racing. He can be seen here winning the double pole sprint off the starting line in front of German Olympian Michael Rosch (#187).

On Monday, we drove to the town of Schleching to drop off skis at Bauer Rennservice.  Muck Bauer gave us a tour of his ski grinding workshop and sports and shoe store.  Muck grinds all the US team’s skis.  Check out this giant poster of Tim Burke decorating his store.

On Monday, we drove to the town of Schleching to drop off skis at Bauer Rennservice. Muck Bauer gave us a tour of his ski grinding workshop and sports and shoe store. Muck grinds all the US team’s skis. Check out this giant poster of Tim Burke decorating his store.

Watching the Ft. Kent WCs on Eurosport was our favorite entertainment for the first few days.  Now that those races are finished, we’ve taken up puzzling.  Here Grace, Casey and Kelly are hard at work.

Watching the Ft. Kent WCs on Eurosport was our favorite entertainment for the first few days. Now that those races are finished, we’ve taken up puzzling. Here Grace, Casey and Kelly are hard at work.

Bitter Cold Biathlon

25.Jan.2011 by Lauren Jacobs

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!

Hannah racing to victory in Saturday's race.

Hannah racing on Saturday.

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!

I must be finishing here because I dropped my overmitts after the last shooting stage.

Sunday's race set a personal record for the most layers worn in a ski race.

Hannah skiing wicked fast on Sunday.

Hannah skiing wicked fast on Sunday.

My Dad and I after Sunday's race. I actually was trying to smile here but my face was too frozen to make it happen.

My Dad and I after Sunday's race. I actually was trying to smile here but my face was too frozen to make it happen.

Next we head to Lake Placid for one more weekend of NorAms.

Story from the Range

6.Nov.2010 by Lauren Jacobs

Since we arrived in Finland, Hans and I have been able to shoot a few times at the range here in Muonio. Shooting in the cold and on skis was definitely an adjustment for me. I had a lot of trouble zeroing and settling down the first couple of times we did easy combos. Another factor that contributed to my unease was the fact that we are sharing the range with the entire Swedish national biathlon team. That’s just a little intimidating! They have probably six coaches doing everything from pulling ropes and sweeping mats to timing intervals and watching the shots. Which means they also see us shooting. I think it makes me really concentrate on what I’m doing, which has to be a good thing.

Anyways, the story I want to share is from my fourth time shooting. We were doing max classic intervals, four times about 3 minutes long, and perfect for a shooting session. Hans and I definitely didn’t have room to pack a scope in our luggage, so we have been using a sort of public scope that lives in the range house here. This means we share it with other teams that didn’t bring a scope and the morning of our intervals we were sharing with some Belarusians. As I went back to look at my shots through the scope the coach said, “If you trust me, I will help you zero.” Sounded like a great offer to me and I said sure.

“Take ten clicks to the left and five to the right.” My first reaction was to say “ok!” because that’s just what you say when a coach tells you what to do. But on second thought I became very confused. Ten to the left and five to the right? Why wouldn’t I just take five to the left? Maybe he messed up his English and said right but meant up or down. I paused. And then asked him what I had to do, again.

“Ten to the left and five to the right.”

I started to question him, “Umm…but isn’t that just…”

“Yes, yes, just do as I say. Your sight isn’t moving.”

So I did what he told me to do and, of course, it worked! I had no idea that sights could kind of get stuck and not move, so if you over compensate the clicks a little it can get them back on track. I shot a few more clips to confirm and the friendly Belarusian coach told me a few times, “This is great shooting! Very good groups.” That bolstered my confidence a bit and I went on to do the intervals feeling very good about my shooting.

Basically that little story sums up one of the big reasons I love skiing. In general, everyone is super friendly and willing to help others out. Okay, I know that’s wicked cheesy but it’s true.

I still don’t have any photos from the range, so I will leave you instead with a few of the giant swans that live in the river by our cabins.

Appropriately named, these are Tundra Swans.

Appropriately named, these are Tundra Swans.

Hannah and I ran around to get some photos of these guys but they hopped in the current and really took off.

Hannah and I ran around to get some photos of these guys but they hopped in the current and really took off.

Stay tuned! I’m sure we’ll have some good stories from the race tomorrow!